Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

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Dir: Matthew Vaughn

Writer(s): Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goldman

Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Sofia Boutella, Mark Strong, Sophie Cookson, and Michael Caine

Synopsis: A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Director Matthew Vaughn once again adapts a Mark Millar graphic novel (previously adapting Kick-Ass) with Kingsman: The Secret Service. The movie brings a lot of the well-established tropes we have seen in other spy films form the past, but brings them in modern times and adds a highly stylized Millar and Vaughn-esque violence, cleverness, humor and cheekiness.

 

The films follows Gary Unwin aka ‘Eggsy’ (Egerton) who is good-hearted but a bit reckless, as he steals a car from a friend of his mother’s abusive new boyfriend and ends up in jail. He ends up getting out of it from Harry Hart aka Galahad (Firth) who turns out to be part of an elite group of operatives/modern-day knights known as The Kingsman. Harry sees the value and potential in Eggsy and sets him up to enter the training program to see if he is Kingsman material. Problem is, a wealthy tech magnate with a speech-impediment, Valentine (Jackson) and his razor-footed henchwoman Gazelle (Boutella) are ready to unleash a powerful weapon to start a new world order.

 

Again, Kingsman has a great sense of knowing what it is, but doesn’t get too tongue-in-cheek about it. It makes references to other spy films and non-spy-films but never beats you over the head with it or looks at the screen to let you in on the joke. Vaughn knows what he is doing and adds the combination of well known tropes and brings them into modern times with new technology. But, at the same time Vaughn knows how to have fun with the subject material and knows when to go over the top. Of course, it is based on a graphic novel so the hyper stylized violence is there – like it was in Kick-Ass and the sequel – so don’t be surprised when the violence or anything is a bit over the top.

 

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When it comes to the cast, well, they are what makes the film shine. Newcomer Taron Egerton brings equal parts of charisma, toughness, and vulnerability to ‘Eggsy.’ Whether it’s ‘Eggsy’ going though the crazy tests to becoming a Kingsman or dealing with bullies and his mother’s boyfriend, Egerton holds his own and arguably be a big star one day. He even holds his own with on-screen veterans like Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Michael Caine. Another newcomer to the scene is Sophie Cookson, who plays Roxy – another Kingsman recruit – also hold her own being the only female during the recruitment process and has her moments to shine.

 

Colin Firth plays Harry Hart aka Galahand (his codename), who, yes, has his moments to kick some major ass in the film. We know that it has become a trend in Hollywood now to give older actors a “restart” in their career to become action heroes after Liam Neeson did it so well in Taken. Firth plays Harry as the proper English gentleman that carries himself with the outmost prestige, but when it comes down to fight, he goes all out. Which comes into play in one of the biggest action sequences in a church (more on that later) and a standout one at that. I, and many others, would never have seen Firth as an action star, but he does pull it off here in Kingsman.

 

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Samuel L. Jackson is really having fun playing Valentine. He gives him a lisp – which Jackson apparently actually had – and is a blend of recent villain and old school Bond villains. His main weapon is a technology-based one but he uses mountain-based secret lairs and has a lovely but equally lethal henchwoman that does all his dirty work, since he can’t stand the sight of blood, by cutting off people bodies parts with her razor-sharp prosthetic legs. Sofia Boutella plays said henchwoman named Gazelle (yes, her name is Gazelle) and beside the fight scenes holds her own with Jackson.

 

The other supporting cast is rounded out by Mark Strong and very small role by Michael Caine. Caine plays the head of the Kingsman and pops in and out of the film to fill us in and drive home some of the more important scenes. Strong plays Merlin, the man overseeing the Kingsman recruits and eventually helps out with the final act. It’s a shame there isn’t more of Merlin in the film because he definitely is a great character. Also, for comic book and nerd fans alike, Mark Hamill pops in for a small role too.

 

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Now, I haven’t read the original source material so I don’t know if this particular scene is in the graphic novel or not, but Millar is known to push the boundaries in this work. The scene I’m talking about is the church scene that you can see in the trailers which involves Harry going at it with the churchgoers. Without going too much into spoilers, it is the first time Valentine uses his weapon and we see the full effect of it. Harry happens to also be effected and goes into full blown berserk mode, which shows how dangerous the weapon can be and how effective a killer Harry is. The basis of the scene is in question and could have some people talking. I don’t know really what to think about the scene. On one hand, the scene is a highlight action sequence (and in one take no less) and in the other, is the scene justified? Is Valentine just picking one random spot or is trying to prove something? Again, up for debate, but you argue that the scene is freaking great to watch.

 

All in all, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a ton of fun. It brings aspects of old spy films but brings them into modern times and flips them on their head. The cast and action to great to watch and overall it’s funny too. It won’t be for everybody and besides the church scene, there is another scene near the end that will make people laugh (I know my theater with me did) but it shows how far Valentine’s plan went. If you walk into Kingsman anticipating a good time, chances are you are going to get it. Also, there is a mid-credits scene which is a nice way to end the film.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service

4.5 out of 5

Jupiter Ascending Review

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Dir: The Wachowskis

Writer(s): The Wachowskis

Cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Douglas Booth, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Tuppence Middleton, and Eddie Redmayne

Synopsis: In a bright and colorful future, a young destitute caretaker gets targeted by a ruthless son of a powerful family that live on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

The Wachowskis broke on to the scene with their smash and cult-hit The Matrix. Everyone fell in love with them, and then they started to go downward with a lot people after the sequels to The Matrix and Speed Racer, even Cloud Atlas had fans divided. Nonetheless, The Wachoski siblings have always been passionate about their projects and put a lot of work into creating the world and trying to get the audience into the world as much as possible. All of that can be said for Jupiter Ascending, problem is the film falls flat in areas and while there are highlights, ultimately the film is nothing more than an tiny bit average film.

 

The film follows Russian immigrant Jupiter Jones (Kunis), who works as a house maid but unbeknownst to her, she possesses the same genetic makeup from a powerful galactic royal family the Abrasax’s. She then finds out that she has some rights to Earth, (yes, the planet Earth). Because of this Jupiter is targeted by the three Abrasax siblings; Balem (Redmayne), Titus (Booth), and Kalique (Middleton). Lucky for Jupiter, she had a hybrid soldier turned mercenary in Caine Wise (Tatum) to help her. Unfortunately, they get caught up in a family feud and have to try to survive with the help of only a limited few.

 

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Again, Jupiter Ascending isn’t a perfect film and while it has some great things about it, it fails to capture on those things to help it move forward. The set design and costumes are beautiful to look at and add to the  whole building a bit, in the sense that you get where these characters are coming from and how they go about their life, but that’s all they are there for, to look pretty.

 

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Even some of the cool straight sci-fi stuff, like Caine’s gravity boots are really cool to see the first few times, but after a while they lose a bit of their specialness. The guns make the sound you would think sci-fi intergalactic weapons would make, and while cool to look at, they stop using them around the first half of the movie. The ships are another story. One of the main ships the characters use is nice to see fly through the streets of Chicago and destroy any building in sight, but once they get into actual space it, again, lose something at it even though the design of the ship looks great.

 

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The real problem with Jupiter Ascending is the story itself. While it’s nice to know what the creatures are and how everything works for these galactic characters, sometimes it is just better to let the audience enjoy the film and everything around it. I don’t really consider this nitpicky, just an observation because we see other films that don’t explain every single thing and still turn out to be good. I get that the Wachoskis are trying to get us invested in this world, but by the end of the film only a few things they explain turn out to be important and relevant.

 

The cast here is okay. It’s a nice change of the norm to have a female hero in a big sci-fi film like this with Mila Kunis playing Jupiter. Kunis gives Jupiter an equal level of being naïve, determination, and some unfortunate lack of seeing the bad in people. Let’s just say she gets caught in pretty much the same situation twice in the span of a half hour. Channing Tatum’s Caine Wise is a soldier that has wolf DNA in him, which gives him the fearlessness of a wolf and will do anything to protect Jupiter. His character isn’t just in it to protect her either, even though there is a somewhat forced love story, Caine does have a motivation to helping Jupiter.

 

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The other supporting characters are kind of forgettable. That’s not a knock on the actors playing them, it is just that they don’t really do anything and don’t really get fleshed out that much. Sean Bean is one of the noticeable supporting characters as he plays a character named Stinger, who has a history with Caine and tells Jupiter –and the audience – what is really going on.

 

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The Abrasax siblings don’t really do much. We get a quick scene of them all together, the only scene mind you, and then they disappear with the expectation of Balem. Redmayne looks to be enjoying himself chewing up the scenery while talking in his above whispering voice and occasions shouting. Out of the three siblings, Redmayne’s Balem is the most fleshed out character, even though he has about twenty minutes of screen time. Douglas Booth’s Titus is the “playboy” of the three and does something kind of creepy which you’ll know when it happens. Tuppence Middleton’s Kalique Abrasax is really just kind of there, she only serves one purpose of telling Jupiter what the Abrasax really do; she is the weakest of the three.

 

All in all, Jupiter Ascending isn’t a perfect movie, but there is some fun to it. You can get lose in the action scenes, especially the Chicago scene (maybe I’m biased), but there are a lot of characters that show up and do nothing for the film and then disappear – which includes two bounty hunters. Visually the movie is great to look at and while the story fumbles with itself, you’re going to have at least some fun watching it, kind of.

 

Jupiter Ascending

3 out of 5

February Movie Releases

So how are those New Years Resolutions coming along?

 

Just kidding!

So let’s talk about some movies shall we? February is going to go by fast it looks like, and there seems to be at least one major movie that is going to make every fan happy. Let’s take a look shall we

 

(All release dates are based off Box Office Mojo and IMDB and all movies are either nationwide releases or large limited releases)

 

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6th

SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water: I was on the borderline of the whole SpongeBob phase in my life, so I really don’t have any interest in seeing this. Also the live-action, cartoon and CGI combination always feels weird to me and doesn’t always look great. Maybe I’m just becoming a grumpy old man.

 

Seventh Son: This was supposed to come out last year in January but production delays made the movie get pushed a whole year. Now the movie also has the tag of “By the Studio that bought you…” some would say that’s sign the studio doesn’t have a ton of faith, but his is also the last movie Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. did together before they broke off their working relationship. Overall the movie looks okay and has a descent cast. Hopefully it’s at least enjoyable.

 

Jupiter Ascending: The Wachowski Siblings are back and are bringing universal action with them. The film will follow a human woman (Mila Kunis) who is a target of The Queen of the Universe and is protected by two warriors (Sean Bean and Channing Tatum). Based on the trailers the movie looks pretty cool and looks like it’s going to have some great special effects. And, come on, it’s the Wachowski’s

 

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13th

The Last 5 Years: Based on the musical, a struggling actress and her novelist lover illustrate the struggle and deconstruction of their love affair. The movie stars Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. I honestly didn’t hear about this movie until I started doing this list and it also has a limited release, but I don’t think I’ll be catching this one.

 

What We Do in the Shadows: This came out during film festival season and got some descent buzz from the festival crowd. Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi who are responsible for Flight of the Conchords and The Inbetweeners, respectively, and they bring a horror comedy about vampires. I never got around to watching either show, so I don’t know their kind of humor, but maybe I’ll get around to watching this one.

 

Fifty Shades of Grey: Yes, it’s finally coming out. Based on the book, Fifty Shades of Grey already came with a history, for the lack of a better term, but the movie also had some troubles to get off the ground. Originally set to star Charlie Hunnam as the lead, he dropped out due to scheduling conflicts (although some say that isn’t true), then we got Jamie Dornan to fill his shoes. Fans aren’t too happy as they had their own dream casting but nonetheless, the movie is coming out. Get ready guys, you’re girlfriends and wives are dragging you in.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service: Based on the Mark Millar comic book and directed by Matthew Vaughn (who also directed Millar’s Kick Ass), the movie looks pretty good. I mean we’re getting Colin Firth playing secret agent, and by the look of it gets to kick some ass. What more do you want?!

 

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20th

The DUFF: I didn’t know this was based off a book, but the movie follows a high school senior who instigates a social peaking order after finding out she’s a DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her popular friends. It’s not really marketed to me, or marketed at all until mid-January it looked liked, but the cast is filled with pretty faces and big names like Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell, and Allison Janney.

 

The Lazarus Effect: Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Evan Peters, and Donald Glover star in this as medical students discovering they can bring back patients from the dead. Of course, they use it on one of themselves (Wilde’s character) after an accident. The trailer gives off a weird vibe – aka not so great movie – but the other problem I have with the movie is that it really gives away a character death. I know other movies show or hint at character deaths but this one goes all out and shows it! Not a good sign in my book.

 

McFarland, USA: Kevin Costner is sticking to the sports dramas based on true stories apparently. McFarland, USA has Costner playing a coach who decides to coach cross country in a California town that is down on its luck and no one believes in. The trailer gives the movie the typical, against all odds feel, but sometimes those movies aren’t that bad and inspiring to watch.

 

Hot Tub Time Machine 2: This was supposed to come out in December until The Interview decided to come out, and you all know how that turned out. Nonetheless, the sequel will come out and I have a strange feeling that it won’t be good. I’m sure it will be funny and have some great moments, but there is something about the trailer and the TV promos that give off that vibe.

 

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27th

Everly: Selma Hayek is the titled character and has to fend off a wave of assassins sent by her ex, who happens to be a mob boss. The movie looks like a straight out action film that has the action set in Everly’s apartment.

 

Maps to the Stars: I didn’t know about this movie until I did this list. The film is directed by David Cronenberg and stars Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Olivia Williams, and Robert Pattinson. The synopsis: A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity, one another and the relentless ghosts of their pasts.

 

Focus: Will Smith and Margot Robbie – future Suicide Squad co-stars – star as con artists who get involved in something they can’t control, as well as possibly falling for each other. The film still hasn’t convinced me, but we’ll see.

 

What movie are you looking forward to more this month?