REVIEW: “THE KING’S MAN” (2021) 20th Century Studios

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Having seen this one over a month ago, but not being able to even speak about it till Dec 6th, made me almost forget I’d even seen it. Or maybe that was just a wish that didn’t come true. Having highly enjoyed the original Kingsman: The Secret Service, and even somewhat Kingsman: The Golden Circle – I found myself looking forward to it’s prequel “THE KING’S MAN” as I was looking forward to some high paced fun. Instead for the first 45 minutes of this film I felt like I was in seventh grade history class and we had a substitute teacher who decided to show us a film all about what led up to WWI and who Rasputin really was. And not in a good way, but in an almost odd, campy way.

It starts with father and son, the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), the title character, and Conrad (Harris Dickinson), and wanders slowly through the beginnings of their relationship. Fiennes’ Duke of Oxford is at the right hand of King Edward (Tom Hollander) just as WWI is about to break out between England, Germany, headed up by Kaiser Wilhelm, also played by Tom Hollander, and the Czar of Russia, also played by you guessed it, Tom Hollander. Add in Rhys Ifans as Grigori Rasputin, the team of servant spies, including Polly (Gemma Arterton) and Shola (Djimon Hounsou), who are part of the few who can protect the Crown, and Matthew Goode as Morton, the good guy/villain. Add in a lot of camp with it’s first fun, action moment coming in right around the 60 minute mark, where by then three people had walked out of the screening, but Rasputin finally gives us this, and moments where you can actually see Fiennes action double take over, then this is your movie.

Honestly the main issue with The King’s Man is the script. It’s all over the place type jumbled and difficult to keep up with what the plan was because of everyone involved. The first half of this film feels like it’s moving slow because of everything that is being set up. Then, once they get into the actual story, it loses its footing, goes off the rails and tries to get into way to many storylines all at once. It felt like Conrad and the Duke’s relationship played a more important role than saving England from villains. In the end, both narratives end up fizzling out and the film never really creates any emotional connection to the original Kingsmen agency, or even father and son story which it goes into huge depth trying to explain to you in the first hour as well.

It was nice to see the who developed the agency as it at least gave Arterton a strong take in it all, but the story wasn’t executed well enough to make it as enjoyable as the others were. I think it there might be the camp who didn’t like the first two that will enjoy this one, and those that enjoyed the first two more, maybe won’t have the same feelings on this one and share mine. Who knows. But I can credibly say the campy nature of the espionage and the cheesy dialogue did not suit the era at all, which made some moments incredibly awkward and just overall, not my movie.

Grade: D+

‘THE KING’S MAN” is coming to theaters Wednesday, December 22, 2021

REVIEW: “THE DARKEST MINDS” (2018) 20th Century Fox

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Starting us off somewhere in the future, “THE DARKEST MINDS” throws us in into a world where 98% of American kids were wiped out by a mysterious disease called IAAN aka Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration. 10-year old Ruby Daly (Heaven Hightower) is one of the survivors and is taken along with other survivors of the plague by the government and put them in a camp – yes, it is eerily reminiscent of not only what has happened in the past, but what is happening right now in the US.

Here, the kids are classified by color, based on the special ability that they possess: Greens are geniuses. Blues are telepathics. Golds have electrical powers. Reds and Oranges are rare, but are also considered dangerous and terminated on site. Ruby is diagnosed an Orange, but thanks to Cate (Mandy Moore), a doctor from the resistance Children’s League who helps Ruby escape the camp. From that point on, she has to discover how to use her power in order to survive.

Ruby (Amandla Sternberg) now a teenager, finally escapes her camp – she meets and makes friends with a group of fellow runaways, namely Zu (Miya Cech), Charlie ‘Chubbs’ to his friends (Skylan Brooks) and Liam (Harris Dickinson). They seek out and find refuge in EDO, a camp for survivor kids. And of course, as in every YA film, a romance blooms between Ruby and Liam, while Chubbs provides the comic relief third wheel and Zu gives us a ‘silent’ performance that isn’t terrible.

I went into this film not knowing that it was based on the first book of a young adult book series written by Alexandra Bracken. Her “The Darkest Minds” series started in 2012, and shockingly is now already into its fifth installment. Maybe had it been done then vs. now it might seem as something new. As it was, this whole film felt like a ‘Maze Runner/Divergent’ retread. And that my friends, is wherein the problem lies with “The Darkest Minds,” it comes out too long after this trend has run out of steam.

Up and coming young actress Amandla Sternberg has lovely quality and screen presence about her and I don’t think it’s far-fetched to predict that she’s got a great career in front of her, though hopefully something with a bit more ummph to it.
Harris Dickinson, who impressed me so much with both ‘Beach Rats’ & his portrayal of J.Paul Getty Jr.,in ‘Getty’, sadly disappoints here playing rebel leader and Ruby’s love interest. Patrick Gibson is the villan of sorts, Clancy Gray, the son of the US President and a fellow Orange who took a special interest in Ruby, steps it up some and helps make the last 35 minutes of this film interesting. Mandy Moore just gave me a “This is Us” mom-vibe for her role and Bradley Whitford as US President Grey, a nasty character that could probably give Trump a run for his money. Which brings us down to our least used star whom I love, Gwendoline Christie. She only has a few scenes as Lady Jane, a bounty hunter chasing runaway kids, but made them work.

Watching “The Darkest Minds” gave me a “been there, done that” feeling. I could not help but see it as just another rehash of all the previous YA adventure series. But what started off quite terribly, picked up the last 35 minutes to make it not a completely wasted watch as it did have its own twists, particularly regarding a certain power that only Ruby can perform. But it will take sequels to explore how this story will proceed from the familiar set-up it has begun with here. But again, it’s 2018 – and the time for this YA genre is long past it’s due date. I predict this one will be in and out of theaters before your mind can go dark.

Grade: C–
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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, August 1, 2018 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
‘THE DARKEST MIND’ IS NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE // WORLDWIDE RELEASE STARTING FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2018