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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MISS SLOANE review

Oh my god, I love me a good Jessica Chastain movie… but since she’s amazing in anything and everything that she’s in, that’s never a problem. Though to be perfectly honest, as much as I love this woman’s talent, I can tell this movie won’t really be up my alley. Political thrillers are for smarter people than I am. But hey, you can always appreciate good performances and Chastain looks like she’s going to own this shit.

As you can tell, I’m a Chastain fan all the way. I fell in love with her when I saw INTERSTELLAR (2014) and have been a fan of hers ever since. She was even my favorite part of HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (2016). I know it most likely wasn’t her doing those Black Widow stunts, but she was still a highly enjoyable character. More than happy to support her work in this. In supporting roles, we have Gugu Mbatha-Raw (FREE STATE OF JONES [2016], CONCUSSION [2015], and BELLE [2013]), Mark Strong (KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE [2015], GREEN LANTERN [2011], and KICK-ASS [2010]), and Alison Pill (HAIL, CAESAR! [2016], GOON [2011], and SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD [2010]).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing is John Madden, known for the Marigold Hotel films, THE DEBT (2010), and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998). Penning the screenplay is Jonathan Perera, making his debut. Congrats, sir. Composing the music is Max Richter, known for MORGAN (2016), TESTAMENT OF YOUTH (2014), and ESCOBAR: PARADISE LOST (2014). Finally, the cinematographer is Sebastian Blenkov, known for a lot of films I’ve never heard of.

Overall, I can’t say anything about the story, but… ah, y’all know why I’m seeing this.

This is my honest opinion of: MISS SLOANE

(SUMMARY)

“In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. Known equally for her cunning and her track record of success, she has always done whatever is required to win. But when she takes on the most powerful opponent of her career, “The Gun Lobby”, she finds that winning may come at too high a price.” – Wikipedia; “Miss Sloane”

(REVIEW)

Apologies for the use of a secondary source to summarize the film, but as I stated above political thrillers are hard for me to follow. The best that I could follow, story-wise, was that Sloane is taking on the challenge of… gaining political votes for a bill that will make it harder for dangerous criminals to get their hands on powerful firearms, but not to abolish them completely. As far as the story states, this is a feat that hasn’t been accomplished. When Sloane’s firm thinks it’s a losing battle, her firm’s competitors seek her out and she accepts, taking most of her crew with her, with the exception of her most trusted partner and protegé, Jane (Allison Pill), who stays behind, causing them to be rivals. The rest of the movie is Sloane tracking down all the political figures that will give them the go-ahead on the bill and rooting out any traitors who might sell their strategy to Sloane’s competitors. Maybe that’s exactly what the story is, but I don’t want to risk putting it up there without some politically-minded folks pointing out everything that I missed.

But enough of that, I loved this movie! I have no idea where this movie is going wrong with everyone. IMDb has it at a 6.1/10 and RottenTomatoes has it at a 69% (both as of 12/12/2016). I mean, the best I can guess is that there’s some unrealistic politics somewhere that’s obvious to those that know the game, as opposed to a dude like me who wouldn’t be able to tell a lobbyist from his ass.

But let’s get down to the star attraction: Chastain. Prepare for a thousand variations of man-squeeing, because… *deep inhale* OH MY GOD, SHE’S INCREDIBLE!!! Seriously, she’s got my award for baddest bad-ass bitch in my book. Chastain is constantly surrounded by old men in business suits who have their idea of how things should be and telling people how to achieve their visions, whereas Sloane is right there pushing back with greater vigor, and showing that there is another way to do things and she’s going to make that a reality. Which makes her so much more interesting because she’s not afraid to do the controversial thing, like selling out her own team to progress the cause. She’s cold, calculating, ruthless, she’s that perfect kind of character that you never know is really on your side. She’s that kind of person that believes that the ends justify the means. She also has a subtler side that knows that when she sells out someone that she respects, it’s wrong and she doesn’t like the looks that she gets. And because she’s been this way her entire adult life, there’s the faintest of regrets of who she could have been, but never regrets what she became.

After a little digging, I discovered that my guesses were right. As this is a political film, much of the hate surrounding it is due to its political stances. Inaccurate statistics and numbers and all that. Hey, if that’s your thing, I can’t voice an opinion. However, small reminder to those not familiar with me, I’m not a political person. I didn’t go into this movie for the politics. I wanted to see Chastain command the screen and that’s exactly what I got. The politics went over my head and I allowed this to be dramatic junk-food, if that’s even possible to do. So yeah, is it great? Eh, maybe not. But is the star great? Oh hell yeah. Her support is great. Mbatha-Raw, Strong, Pill, they’re all very good as well, but Chastain is clearly the meat of the story and that’s all I needed to care about this. The politics, blah blah blah, who cares? If you’re a fan of the cast like I am, give it a shot. It’s worth it. But if you’re political… yeah, you might wanna pass on this one.

My honest rating for MISS SLOANE: 5/5

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