KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE quick review

For those not in the know, “Kingsman” is based on a comic book series of the same name. Actually, I think the original title for the comic was “The Secret Service” but changed the name to tie in better with the 2015 film. Fun fact of the day, this comic series actually takes place in the same universe as the “Kick-Ass” comic books, as they’re written by the same writer, Mark Millar. Something about Kick-Ass referencing something that took place in the Kingsman series.

But we’re not here to talk about comics. We’re here to talk about movies. The first film, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2015) was wildly popular with audiences upon its release. It shot Taron Egerton to the stars, gave us one of my personal favorite newcomers, Sofia Boutella, was over-the-top violent, had a fun cameo by Mark Hamill, and was an all around fun time for all. What did I think of it? I thought it was… mostly good. While all of what I said is true, there was one detail about the film that I absolutely hated. The Kingsman training program is, obviously, very hardcore. Few people get through it. But then the final test is to get close to a cute little dog and then shoot it. Do that, and you’re a Kingsman. This pissed me off. The Kingsman prided themselves on being spies, of course, but also being gentlemen. This implies a level of grace, coolness, confidence, class. What’s graceful, cool, confident, and classy about murdering an innocent animal? Eggsy refuses to murder his dog and he’s thrown out of the Kingsman. What sense does that make?! If the dog was trained to fight back without prejudice, then fine, you gotta defend yourself and might teach you a thing or two about trust and betrayal and learning to overcome that kind of grief of killing your friend who tried to kill you. But no, Eggsy’s dog was a cute, innocent pug. Or maybe the exercise could be this: there is no failure in this test. It’s more of a placement thing. Like, okay, you murder the dog, that means you can follow orders to the tee. Field agents need to be able to do that, making you a desirable field agent. If you don’t kill the dog, you’re still a Kingsman, but because you didn’t follow your superior’s direct order, you’re assigned to intelligence work, like Mark Strong’s character, feeding tactical information, but never on the front lines himself. You know, something like that. But no, because you didn’t murder a defenseless animal, you can’t be a gentleman spy. Fuck the Kingsman, man. I never got past this element of the movie, so I personally give it a strong 3/5. As I said, the rest of the film is a load of fun.

But now we have a sequel that I know will be better than the first one. Why? Because comic book sequels have a tendency to be better than their predecessors. Plus, I’m sure there’s not going to be any more “dog murdering” bullshit to piss me off. This movie looks like it’s about the Kingsman getting wiped out by a terrorist organization and it’s up to Eggsy and Merlin, the two surviving Kingsman to work with their American cousins, the Statesman, to bring down this terrorist. As per usual, it looks fun, inventive, and bad-ass. So sign me up, bitches!

Here’s the onscreen talent. Starring, we have Taron Egerton (SING [2016], EDDIE THE EAGLE [2016], LEGEND [2015], and the upcoming ROBIN HOOD [2018]), Julianne Moore (THE HUNGER GAMES: THE MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 [2015], STILL ALICE [2014], BENNY & JOON [1993], and upcoming films WONDERSTRUCK [2017] and SUBURBICON [2017]), Mark Strong (MISS SLOANE [2016], JOHN CARTER [2012], and STARDUST [2007]), and Channing Tatum (LOGAN LUCKY [2017], THE EAGLE [2011], COACH CARTER [2005], and upcoming films with no release dates announced, GAMBIT and VAN HELSING). In support, we have Halle Berry (KIDNAP [2017], PERFECT STRANGER [2007], EXECUTIVE DECISION [1996]), Jeff Bridges (THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK [2017], SURF’S UP [2007], TRON [1982], and the upcoming ONLY THE BRAVE [2017]), Elton John (THE ROAD TO EL DORADO [2000], SPICE WORLD [1997], and 1 episode of TV show NASHVILLE [2012 – 2018]), Michael Gambon (HAIL, CAESAR! [2016], THE KING’S SPEECH [2010], HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN [2004], and the upcoming VICTORIA & ABDUL [2017]), and Colin Firth (BRIDGET JONES’S BABY [2016], NANNY MCPHEE [2005], SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE [1998], and upcoming films MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN [2018] and MARY POPPINS RETURNS [2018]).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Matthew Vaughn, known for KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2015), X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011), STARDUST (2007), and the upcoming KINGSMAN 3, no release date announced. Co-writing the screenplay is Jane Goldman, known for MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (2016), X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, STARDUST, and the upcoming KINGSMAN 3. Co-composing the score are Henry Jackman (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], CAPTAIN PHILLIPS [2013], MONSTERS VS. ALIENS [2009], and upcoming films JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017] and RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]) and Matthew Margeson (RINGS [2017], KICK-ASS 2 [2013], and SKYLINE [2010]). Finally, the cinematographer is George Richmond, known for EDDIE THE EAGLE, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, and the upcoming TOMB RAIDER (2018).

Overall, I’m excited for this. Not out of my mind, but I’m pretty hyped.

This is my honest opinion of: KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

(SUMMARY)

The Golden Circle is the largest drug cartel in the world and no one knows that it’s ran by the nefarious Poppy (Julianne Moore). She, of course, wants to hold America hostage to legalize all drugs or she won’t give up the antidote to her latest drug, which has been secretly inserted in nearly every single drug that the common person can get, which is millions. But before all that, she gets rid of the only people that she knows can get in her way: the Kingsman. Effectively wiping out all of the Kingsman, with the notable exceptions of Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong). Desperate to find help, they seek it in the form of their organization’s American cousins, the Statesmen.

(QUICK REVIEW)

Meh, it’s not bad. Not as good as the first one, but not bad.

What I liked: Moore is usually a welcomed sight in anything that she’s in, so to see her as the villain in a movie like this was a kind of shock. But as far as that’s concerned, she was a lot of fun. Hell, her intro scene is having a dude send another dude through a meat grinder and makes a burger out of him and then makes the dude try a bite. It’s pretty fucked up, but I enjoyed how deliciously sinister she was (no pun, intended, but I’m taking credit for it anyway, so…. pun intended). And I think it’s hilarious that she kidnapped Elton John for her personal amusement, who is also really funny in the film. Kind of wished we saw more of her robotic creations doing shit, but the dogs were enough, I guess.

The comedy is still there, Egerton is charming as always, as are Firth and Strong. There is a sense of fun about the film, so it’s not boring, thank God. The action is awesome and delightfully violent, and pretty creative for the most part. I’ll never get tired of seeing Whiskey’s (Pedro Pascal) laser whip. Now Star Wars can’t put a monopoly on that idea.

But now for the negatives. Despite some solid talent, like Berry, Bridges, Tatum, they’re barely in the film, or barely contribute to the story, making you wonder why they were even in it at all. Which is pretty manipulative because a lot of the marketing surrounds these characters. I didn’t like how the movie kills off the entire Kingsman organization in its second movie. I mean, wouldn’t it be better to see Eggsy and his team take down a rival organization at their peak power to really showcase their tech, their intel, and their bad-assness? Why kill them off in the second film? I don’t get it. The subplot of Eggsy and his girlfriend Tilde (Hanna Alström) is a little annoying. He’s a spy, of course he’s going to be faced with situations of seduction. How would she not know that?

And fine, let’s talk about that controversial sex scene. Honestly, I thought because Poppy (Moore) created a female robot that does the Golden Circle tattoo thing, I figured that the sex scene would be about the robot fucking a dude or something weird like that. But nope, it’s about Eggsy fingering some blond girl who is the girlfriend to Poppy’s main henchman with a tracking device shaped like a condom that he’s supposed to shove up her vagina. Honestly, maybe I’m just a guy about it, but it took me a good minute to figure out at the end of the movie that this was the big ole controversy. I mean, it’s not overly graphic in the fingering, and technically does serve the plot of the story and carries dramatic weight, albeit in the subplot that I barely cared about. But the more I thought about it, yeah, this was unnecessary. A tiny tracking device can be placed anywhere and didn’t need to be implemented like this.

Overall, yeah, not quite as good as the first film, but it’s alright. If you’re a fan of the first one, I can’t imagine you feeling betrayed or not having fun with it. But I do recommend toning down your high expectations if you have them.

My honest rating for KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE: 3/5

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KIDNAP (quick) review

Finally! I can stop seeing this damned trailer.

If anyone frequents the cinemas even half as much as I do, then you’re probably somewhat passably familiar with this film’s existence, but no matter how much time went by, it was never released. As I understand it, KIDNAP has a bit of a shaky history, financially speaking. According to shadowandact.com, the film has been in the works since 2014 and was supposed to be released in 2015. But the distribution company Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy that year, meaning that the film couldn’t be released. Relativity has since reemerged, but still not quite out of the sticks. This movie was pushed back to a February 2016 release, but that got pushed to May… then that got pushed to December… only to be pushed back again to March 10 of 2017. Jesus, I’m frustrated just from writing this out. I can’t imagine how the cast and crew must be feeling. But GUESS FREAKIN’ WHAT?! When March 10 came around, guess whose alarm didn’t go off that day? You guessed it, KIDNAP wasn’t released as planned! What the actual story is behind that latest push, I have no idea, but my excuse of “oversleeping” is much more humorous.

Well, assuming that this movie is going to be released… which, if you’re reading this review, then it must have, what are my thoughts? Aside from “finally, I can stop seeing this trailer?” It… could be alright. On the one hand, if it doesn’t take itself too seriously and is just an action movie for suburban housewives to see a garden-variety middle-class mother go mama-bear on a bunch of assholes who kidnap her son, then this could at the very least be entertaining. On the other hand, if it takes itself a little too seriously, then it probably won’t be very good. Halle Berry hasn’t had the best track record in recent years. Sure, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014) is arguably the best X-Men movie, but not really because of her. In fact, her role was pretty small. Her last good movie was arguably X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003). Was her TV show EXTANT good? I never saw it. CLOUD ATLAS (2012)? Was she the reason it was well-received? THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE (2007)? Never heard of it. My point is, she’s more associated with MOVIE 43 (2013), NEW YEARS EVE (2011), and X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006), none of which were considered good. Though, I’m sure by comparison, LAST STAND is Shakespeare when stacked next to MOVIE 43. Who knows where KIDNAP is going to rank.

Well, let’s take a gander at the cast. I’ve already prattled on about Berry enough, who also produced the film, so… let’s go to support. We have Sage Correa (1 episode stints on TV shows UNCLE BUCK and LIFE IN PIECES), Lew Temple (DESIERTO [2016], THE LONE RANGER [2013], and TV show THE WALKING DEAD), and Chris McGinn (a bit role in TV show ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Luis Prieto, known for unknown projects. Writing the script, we have Knate Lee, who will be writing the upcoming film X-MEN: THE NEW MUTANTS (2018). Composing the score is Federico Jusid, known for EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS (2009 – translated: THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES). Finally, the cinematographer is Flavio Martínez Labiano, known for THE SHALLOWS (2016), NON-STOP (2014), and UNKNOWN (2011).

Overall, not excited for it, but… yeah, thank God I don’t have to see the trailer anymore.

This is my honest opinion of: KIDNAP

(SUMMARY)

Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) is a single mother trying to make ends meet and take care of her young son Frankie (Sage Correa). After work one day, she takes him to the local fair and have fun. However, things take a turn for the worst as she takes a phone call and finds that her son has been abducted. Seeing the kidnappers take him away, she begins to chase after them in her own car, refusing to give up on saving her son.

(QUICK REVIEW)

It’s not good. Four-ish years of trying to get it released and this is the result. By no means awful, but it’s not as good as it could have been.

The set-up is pretty obvious, leave your kid alone for a few minutes and he gets kidnapped. Go figure. I suppose the only refreshing thing is that this movie’s main selling point is that she’s constantly following the kidnappers. Still, a better movie about kidnapped kids would be PRISONERS (2013).

I think it’s nice to see that Karla doesn’t ever really give up, even when it’s obvious it’d be at a point where in any other movie she would. Instead, she’ll drive across a field and luckily end up on the right highway to continue her chase. So the movie is definitely loaded with conveniences. I do enjoy watching how the movie is smart enough to keep throwing obstacles in Karla’s way, like finding a cop who gets axed off, or increasingly low fuel, it’s not horribly structured. And Berry is trying her best to make this performance work and it works sometimes.

Sadly, there aren’t a ton of good things to talk about. Because there’s far too many over-the-top moments; driving in reverse on the freeway without even so much as a scratched up paint job, it’s a wonder why this movie didn’t go for a more fun route. With a structure similar to SPEED (1994), all that was missing was a charismatic actor to go with it. Don’t get me wrong, Berry is a great actress when given the right material, but I feel like her character would have worked better if she was a little more bad-ass. Instead, Karla is a little annoying because too much of her dialog is, “Oh god!” or “I’m coming, baby! I’ll never lose you, baby!” Hell, even the everywoman angle could have passably worked if the script was smart enough to take a page out of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) and just have her act with her expressions. We know she’s a woman who will not give up getting her son, so constantly talking to herself out loud isn’t going to make her character seem more determined.

I also find the police terribly incapable at their jobs here. There is a series of intense car collisions happening and the cops keep either being stupid and put themselves in a situation to get killed, pull over the wrong cars over the radio, it’s shocking to see this shit play out the way it does.

Dialog that’s cringeworthy, stupid character decisions, and even subplots that go nowhere, it won’t be a shock if this movie isn’t received well or do well at the box office. It’s a shame because Berry’s had a rough few years cinematically. Here’s hoping that Kingsman 2 will give her more opportunities in the future. Not recommended. A rental at best.

My honest rating for KIDNAP: a weak 3/5

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