REVIEW: “KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (2017) 20th Century Fox

Standard

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” picks us up after the events of the first film where we were left ‘Firthless’ with the demise of Harry (Colin Firth). Or were we? Kicking off with an extremely high-paced opening scene with Charlie (Edward Holfcroft) whom we thought had met his end as well as one of the blown-up henchmen for Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), pops up in a “Let’s Go Crazy” taxi-car fight scene with Eggsy (Taron Egerton). Eggsy, now a full fledged Kingsman after the death of Harry, is called into action after a deadly missile strike rocks the organization and leaves him and Merlin (Mark Strong), as the last men standing. With little to no resources to seek retribution and in clear need of assistance, they find a ‘drunken’ clue which leads them to find and turn to “The Statesman,” whom are essentially the American verion of the Kingsman and are based where else, but in the good ol’ whiskey-making state of Kentucky. The Statesman come off as good ol’ country boys who love good whiskey, country music and all things America. Channing Tatum does a spin at cowboy here playing Tequila, Jeff Bridges as the main honcho Champ (short for Champagne), Halle Berry is none other than Ginger as in Ginger Ale and Pedro Pascal is – you guessed it – Whiskey. Together, they must stop Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), our drug lord villianess du’jour, who has formed an organization called ‘The Golden Circle’ from which she is planning to unleash a deadly disease called the ‘Blue Rash’ thru all kinda of recreational drugs. Holding millions of lives for ransom, Poppy wants to negotiate a deal from the President of the United States (Bruce Greenwood), who is pretending to acquiesce to the demands, but is secretly not going to follow thru as he feels he will then be rid of the scourage of these people. (Doesn’t that last part almost sound as if it could be true…)

There are many twists and turns here with the plot and while maybe everything doesn’t hit the nail on the head – most do. The film itself seems to know at times, how ridiculous it can be and how like the first one, walks a fine line of going over the top or not. One too many fight scenes or one ridiculous gagdet to many, can throw a wrench in all of it. As a result, the jokes land very well for the most part. And while it might not hit the benchmark as much the first Kingsman did, it does well with how it sets up each character. For instance, Julianne Moore simply knocks her villian role out of the park, coming off as both creepy and yet downright sweetly psychotic. With her love of 1950’s memorabilia set-up of the middle-of-the-jungle, Poppyland is complete with 50’s diner, movie theatre includes a kidnapping of Elton John, in a fun spin here, whose only purpose is to play & sing what Poppy wants. The only thing that is not modern about her operation is her use of robots (Including robot dogs) because she claims they obey orders better than humans do.

Egerton and Strong along with Holcroft do very well once again as the main leads. Some of the bigger name supporting cast such as Berry, Tatum and Bridges, are relegated to smaller roles giving them less screentime than I expected. Hanna Alström as Princess Tilde is now Eggy’s girlfriend and this gives her a bit more to do here also. But alas – it is Pedro Pascal and his lasso that steal the show here. In a “Manners Maketh Man” bar scene that rivals any so far, he whips his way through a bar with the best of them.

Overall, Matthew Vaughn gives us yet another crowd pleaser with “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and crossing my fingers we will get another one …eventually.

Spoiler – at the end of the film, the POTUS is impeached.. showing us anything is possible! 😉

Grade:B-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening ~ Thursday, September 14, 2017 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE will be released in theaters on Friday, September 22, 2017

Advertisements

REVIEW: “HAIL, CAESAR!” (2016) – Universal Pictures

Standard
Hail-Caesar
All Hail Caesar!!!
This Coen Brothers satire of old school Hollywood is a perfectly done mix of what our imagination might conjure up of what the Aqua-musicals or dance sequence films from the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ could be if they were done today.
hail cesar 4
The film centers around physical production/studio head Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin. Mannix is a fixer at the fictitious Capital Pictures in the 1950’s. This involves him dealing with numerous egos, including their box-office superstar Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) and Aqua~movie starlet, DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johannson). Not long after the film begins, Whitlock is kidnapped and Mannix begins his quest to get him back with some surprising help along the way from young western actor, Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich).  
hail cesar 5
With a top notch billed cast, you do tend to notice that some of the names receiving top billing, are only in it for short pieces of time or literally there for only a ‘blink-and you missed it’ moment – as such is the case with Jonah Hill’s character Joseph Silverman. Besides that odd glitching, all the supporting cast as a whole are just plain good and you don’t get a bad performance from anyone as even the normally so wooden Scarlett Johannson plays her small part well and unannoying.   Aside from the names mentioned, you’ll also see Ralph Fiennes being spot on as director Laurence Laurentz, Tilda Swinton doing hysterical double time as bickering twin gossip columnist sisters, Thora & Thessaly Thacker. Channing Tatum for whom I must say,  I love where he is taking his career with roles like this, truly dazzles with his singing and dancing number that is so beautifully done it makes you not only yearn for those times of past, but want them back if he keeps doing this.
hail caesar 1
Brolin is fantastic in the lead role and turns what could be a very unlikable character into a very endearing and sympathetic one. The real find among the cast is Ehrenreich. The character of Hobie Doyle is simple enough but Ehrenreich manages to turn him into one of the more amusing and interesting characters you’ll find in this film.
hail caesar 2
All in all I truly enjoyed the film as a whole and I’m guessing all Coen Bros. fans will thoroughly enjoy it.  However as a second note, my guest didn’t like it as much and he made a good point.  That he didn’t ‘get’ all the innuendos of some of it and said the general public as a whole might not either as it might have that ‘going over their heads’ problem.
For me, I highly recommend this Golden-Age romp through the glory days of Hollywood..
Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies
Review Screening: Tuesday, February 2, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures 
Nationwide release: Friday, February 5, 2016

REVIEW: “MAGIC MIKE XXL” (2015) Warner Bros.

Standard

Magic mike
Well it’s been three years since “Magic Mike” (Channing Tatum) retired from his life as a male stripper, now running his own struggling custom furniture business and he decides to reunite with what’s left of his old team with plans of bowing out once and for all after a final performance at a big 4th of July weekend stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, FL.

What happens along the way is what truly makes this a much better film than the first one with one or two exceptions – one of them being no Matthew McConaughey as emcee extraordinaire “Dallas” this time round and as expected Jada Pinkett Smith as “Rome” cannot even come close to filling his shoes. (If you watch Gotham at all, it’s almost the exact same character portrayal here). Two, no Alex Pettyfer and it’s perfectly fine as you don’t miss him in the slightest.
magic mike all
Magic Mike XXL is in essence, a comedic guys road-trip movie with a lot of dancing, a couple hits of ecstasy & lucky for us, there is at least one stripping scene per stop ensuring us all a good time on the road with these boys. At points its hard to care that they throw caution to the wind and just pause the plot entirely when so much effort was put into making each stop outrageous, hilarious and insanely sexy. If your only reason for coming to watch just to see hot, sculpted men, you will not be disappointed either.
magic mike bomer
The film wastes no time reuniting what’s left of Mike’s old male stripper team. Matt Bomer plays “Ken” – the charming pretty boy of the team – who shows off some of his strong Broadway vocal ability here in a version of “Heaven” that slays everyone. Kevin Nash is back as “Tarzan” the big guy who can’t dance but loves to paint. Adam Rodriguez is “Tito” who along with Gabriel Iglesias’s “Tobias” is unsure of his future prospects. The stand out of these guys might just be Joe Manganiello as “Big Dick Richie” who on top of being built like a god, is the most unexpectedly funny member of the team with a convenience store challenge to die laughing for and sure to be new tag-line of the year “How much for the cheetos & water” scene you can’t help but love. Leading the supporting cast is Amber Heard as “Zoe” who at first simply appears to be Mike’s love interest though in the end she is revealed to be much more than that in being a central part of the finale in an very unexpected way. Add in Stephan ‘Twitch’ Boss as “Malik” doing some absolutely amazing dancing routines and Donald Glover “Andre” singing like no other and you just can’t help but smile and enjoy yourself.
magic mike joe
Once the road trip gets going, the film spends most of its time just observing the guys hanging out as they travel from place to place running into obstacles along the way, but always finding time to dance and/or take their clothes off. The guys are all charming and with a somewhat low-stakes plot, XXL’s laid back ideals are perfect for a movie that is really contingent on the audiences likability of the cast and that we are able to engage with their characters. The film provides us endless opportunities to do just that as like them we do and not just as sexually alluring beefcake.
magic mike tatum
In the end, this movie is just fun. That is just about it. Well…except I would be totally remiss to not mention one little last tidbit in calling out the spectacular cameo strip off that Michael Strahan gives as “Augustus” – it’s almost beyond words it’s so fun!!
There is no dramatics here or Oscar-worthy performances. But what there is are a lot of smiles, oodles of good fun & laughter, some really great singing and fantastic choreographed dancing. To sum it up there will definitely be a “Tsunami of dollars” made opening weekend from this one!!

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Screening Monday, June 27th at The Grove/Pacific Theatres courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
Nationwide release – Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

“FOXCATCHER” (2014) ~ REVIEW Q & A w/Steve Carell & Dir: Bennett Miller

Standard

Foxcatcher
I am not going to even pretend that this movie didn’t disturb me somewhat. I purposely didn’t read too much about the film so as not to spoil anything before I went to the screening and I would suggest to all to not do so either because even though it’s easy to look it up and see what happens, not knowing was mind-blowing to say the least. That being said, I knew it was about wrestling..that much was plainly apparent. Having being a wrestling-stat girl in high school (whooohooo 🙂 ) gave me a helping hand as I understood and could follow that part of the film along well which was a plus. But to describe this as simply a ‘wrestling’ movie would be doing it a complete dis-service as it’s more a characterization film than anything else.

“John du Pont” (an unrecognizable Steve Carell) is a very rich man..heir to the du Pont fortune, with some very clear ‘mommy issues’. He is obsessed with all sorts of odd things; birds, trophies, military grade weapons, tanks ~ pretty much anything but the horses his mother likes, and wrestling..Olympic style wrestling to be precise. He is also a man who calls himself ‘Eagle’ or ‘Golden Eagle’ all clearly for his own benefit as no one actually calls him this as it’s really a moniker that he made up for his own ego. foxcatcher 2

In this obsession with wrestling steps in Gold Medalists and brothers “Mark Schultz” (Channing Tatum) and “David Schultz” (Mark Ruffalo). We can see from the start that Mark Schultz is a monosyllabic loner, interested only in wrestling. He sticks out his jaw in neanderthal-like fashion and mumbles his way through a speech for a bunch of elementary school kids, talking about patriotism. It’s when the school secretary makes out the check that we realize that it was supposed to be Dave giving the speech all along. In contrast to Mark’s hulk and bulk, Dave is small, affable and completely at ease with himself and with others. As they train together it is clear that the older brother’s job is that of father, trainer and anger manager. Their lives are inextricably linked all the while being poles apart.
foxcatcher 1
Alone in his dingy flat, Mark receives a mystery phone call from someone on behalf of John du Pont inviting him to Pennsylvania. With the world championships looming and the Seoul Olympics three years away, Mr. du Pont offers Mark an incredible opportunity to train and live on his estate. Mark snaps up the offer, but Dave declines. This is where the sinister du Pont sees his chance to mold and corrupt his oh-so-naive and seemingly dim-ish protege. Giving him luxuries never before experienced, but also turning him into a addicted cocaine & alcohol abuser, finally taking his control freak persona too far by slapping Mark in the face when he fails to follow his commands. And of course rebellion ensues at that point from Mark as it would with probably anyone at that point. foxcatcher 4

Much has been written about whether Carell could escape his comedy persona for this out of the box role, but he really steps up to the plate here and completely embodies du Pont with the perfect amount of creep and mental instability. With his prosthetic nose, tiny teeth and grey skin, he looks as if he could have been poisoned by the chemicals that made his family’s fortune. This tiny friendless man lives under the thumb of a clearly dominate mother “Jean du Pont” (Vanessa Redgrave), whose goal of trying to impress and aim to please her constantly falls short. du Pont seems to be an in-the-closet rich, mentally unbalanced gay man, whose interest in wrestling is the creepy way he craves the physical contact he enjoys with the other team participants and the control he can exert over it all being their benefactor of sorts.
foxcatcher 3
Foxcatcher shows us the corruptive, toxic and devastating power warp side of how some people with money can take advantage of that situation in all the wrong ways. When Mark states that his brother can’t be bought, we watch du Pont digesting this information. Not long after, lo and behold, Dave and family are there comfortably ensconced on the estate, just as Mark is on his way out. But throughout his time with du Pont, Dave never sells himself and he is the one character for whom the allure of money holds no power, while Mark turns and almost on purposely loses a treasured spot in the Olympic trials in his own way of pissing off the now hated du Pont. While Ruffalo is good here, I felt he was a bit too old to make the role convincing for me. If Mark states he is only 27 at the beginning and even by say a much older brother standards, Dave could be 37..So Ruffalo, at real age 47, while still a good performance, just doesn’t come off right for me in this role whereas Tatum & Carell both really blow me away.

While Foxcatcher has slow drawn out parts and pauses, there are also many aspects that combine to make this a very good film: the three leads’ performances, the design, as du Pont’s home gradually empties of his mother’s equestrianism trophies and fills with eagles and arms; the sounds of grunting wrestlers, birds and helicopters – and the long paused out silences. This film takes us on the Schultz brothers’ journey and leads us to the terrible ending denouncement in this subtle and horrifying and true-story parable of what money can and can’t buy.foxcatcher SC 4

Having a follow-up Q & A with Director: Bennett Miller & Actor: Steve Carell was not only eye-opening insight into the film, but yes, with Carell you know you are always going to have a bit of a laugh no matter the hard-line subject matter of the film. While Miller had some good notes to share including the fact that “the full story is even stranger, Miller said; in fact, he noted, the movie “dials it back” in scenes that showcased du Pont in full freak mode, firing guns on his estate and otherwise behaving erratically.” He came off as a bit abrupt in annoyance almost to the point of rude at times even interrupting Carell during his answers. But lightening the mood some was Carell with his opening answer to the moderator Sneider who asked about the artistry behind Carell’s dramatic transformation into his characterization of du Pont, to which Carell jokingly replied, “There was no hair and makeup.” 😀 Then noting a few points: “The weirdest thing about it was not necessarily watching it happen and then looking in the mirror and saying, ‘Ooooh, I’m a different guy,’ but it was how other people reacted to me once I was in all of that stuff,” Carell said, recounting how his driver was disturbed by him in the du Pont makeup. “He would tell me on the drive back to the hotel, ‘Man, I just don’t like being around that other guy.’ foxcatcher SC 1
“Du Pont had a very specific manner about him and a very specific physicality, and those things, I think, conspired to push other people away from him. He was off-putting, and it had the same effect with me naturally on set — I generally ate lunch by myself — but I think it ultimately was a good thing to have that kind of separation from the other actors.”
Foxcatcher SC
All in all I liked the film. But more so than that, I liked the performances again, especially strong by Tatum & Carell and that will have me giving a higher grade overall to the film.

(Wrap Oscar Screening on December 11th at Landmark Theatres (Westwood) Foxcatcher is playing in theatres nationwide).
Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

(See grading scale)