“KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE” (2015) 20th CENTURY FOX

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Watch out James Bond ~ the “Kingsman:Secret Service” is in town!!!
Kingsman

Starting off my 2015 with a early preview screening of this oh!so!fun! fantastic joyride of a film is just what I needed. Simply put, I LOVED IT! and I’m thinking spy movies will NEVER be the same.. 😀 This film truly injects the fun & thrills back into the spy movie genre as it’s a ridiculously entertaining action comedy that will certainly be hard to top – not just by the other parodies but yes, by the actual spy movies themselves. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is enjoyable, well-made action film with a fair dose of humour, lots of slicked along style and panache’ ~ yes I said panache’ because that’s the only word that comes correctly to mind with it’s wonderful style & wardrobe fashion sense, but it’s definitely made by, for, and about people who’ve seen far too many Bond films…and yes, you can count me as one of the latter. 😀 kingsman colin in front of suit store

And while I won’t give away any spoilers….”Kingsman” is the story of a streetwise London youth named Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) who is rescued from his life of petty crime and run-ins with the law by a posh secret agent named “Harry Hart/Galahad” (Colin Firth) and trained to be a new generation of spy working for a top secret privatized spy operation aka “The Kingsman”. How fun is it to see Colin Firth so polar opposite type-cast as a bad-ass and a good one at that?? REALLY FUN ~ I mean who knew??!! Certainly not me as who could even come up with this idea and make it work so well. Matthew Vaughn is who. Truthfully, Vaughn has cast his film fairly perfectly. Firth is game and great in his yes albiet, computer-aided fight scenes with his delivery of the dialogue spot on and with Egerton a naturally charismatic presence with smarts behind his cutesy smile. The always wonderful Mark Strong plays gadgetmaster “Merlin”, while Michael Caine is brilliant, although brief, as “Arthur” head of Kingsman. kingsman colin  taron

Samuel Jackson goes for broke here and strikes it big-time in riches as a over-the-top billionaire Steve Jobs type in villain form, “Richmond Valentine”, and supported wonderfully by henchwoman “Gazelle” (Sofia Boutella), who sports a pair of sharpened-and-bladed prosthetic legs and slices & dices her way through the film with them as divinely mad as any deadly dentures Richard Kiel ever wore as ‘Jaws’ or Harold Sakota as ‘Oddjob’ with his deadly flying top hat in Goldfinger. kingsman blades

But the biggest surprised nestled within “Kingsman” (and trust me, there are a bunch) might be the fact that it isn’t just some knock off doodle of a film. This is a hugely entertaining, heartfelt out and about thrillride!! It’s that bold, unique and whipsmart about what it puts out. There’s a real emotional through-line and Eggsy is a terrific main character, one you want to root for far beyond the boundaries of this film. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a total blast. This is a movie, after all, where the villain sets his diabolical scheme in motion to the disco grooves of KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Give It Up.” I mean come on..what are you waiting for??? that alone should dictate that you see this movie at least twice! And though the action may be ludicrous at times, it’s also hugely engaging and delightful. Yes, the design is full of tributes and nods to other films and other bits of pop culture, but it also creates a logical world for itself. The tone of the film is spice but with a dose of sour but not in a bad taste way, it’s ‘knowing’ yet rarely cynical. And the British-isms of it aren’t lost or sanded down for an American audience. Firth is a killer, but never a brutish bad guy and Eggsy’s up-from-the-bottom determination to do good is clear in every scene, as Egerton pulls off loads of charm in his acting and skill in his action work. kingsman taron water

The whole plot is delivered with a dash of wink and pizzazz, with such bits of wittiness that even at one point Harry Hart/Galahad is conferring with Valentine and notes how much he misses “fun” spy movies. The genre, according to him, has become too stuck in “real world” politics all the while we note that this discussion takes place while the two characters are eating Big Macs of course, because hey, why not right? The movie is very much a throw-back fun return to the splashy, colorful films of the sixties that emphasized outlandish gadgets, deadly vixens and global plots where people push buttons and thousands could possibly die. kingsman big macs

With its fashion-forward flair — the film may borrow liberally from the Roger Moore 007 era, but there’s also a touch of Patrick Macnee’s gentleman spy character ‘Mr. Steed’ from “The Avengers” thrown in especially with Firth’s character. But all in all “Kingsman: The Secret Service” feels like a well-made gentleman’s suit, with superb cut, distinctive colour, and excellent flair. You get all the required gear of an action film, the gadgets, and delights ~ but you also get a good dose of sly winks at how ludicrous it all is yet also how parts are just out-and-out genius. It’s fakes a stiff upper lip but also constantly raises an eyebrow in amusement. It’s full of fun Bond-isms, little bits such as when Eggsy orders his martini with “gin as that’s the way it’s meant to be, shaken for 10 seconds while looking at a closed bottle of vermouth” I mean how can we not laugh out loud at this. (yes, Bond fans will know exactly what I am talking about here)

It’s like Kingsman is perfectly perched at just the right pop cultural moment as this is most likely the perfect moment to give the middle finger to the genre, and start a whole new, self-aware fun franchise in the process. The jokes are sharper, the plotting swifter, the violence more shocking. the sexual innuendos way more prominent as it deconstructs the old school spy genre while also celebrating it and it does so with wit and intelligence and style and yes again, panache.
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It’s clear that as a Director, Vaughn is able to handle world-class actors here getting them to loosen up and play, in ways that feel engaging and new. Sam Jackson’s lisping villain is a genocidal madman who gets weak-kneed at the sight of blood, all the while being able to turn new-comer Egerton, who is all rough-around-the edges charm and brittle good looks, into a movie star with charisma and magnetism. Most will talk about how great it is to see the star of “The King’s Speech” kick ass, but truly Egerton is the real revelation here as he is pure magic in this film.. Mark my words Taron Egerton ~ breakout star of 2015.
All in all, Kingsman:The Secret Service is a thoughtful, exciting, whip-smart spy adventure that doesn’t let its smart-ass post-moderism overwhelm its playfulness or its heart. And lest we forget..we are thoroughly reminded throughout the film of it’s own quote ~ “Remember the suit is a modern gentleman’s armor and we’re the new Knights.” Do I want a sequel? My only response is HELL to the YES!!

Grade: A-
@pegsatthemovies

(See grading scale – as yes, usually an A would be regarded as an Oscar-worthy pic for me, and while this isn’t that..the fun level is so high..I couldn’t go any lower!)

First Advanced Screening in Los Angeles at AMC Century 15 on Thursday, January 8th, 2015.

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Review: “INTERSTELLAR” (2014)

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interstellar
So had a few extra hours on Thanksgiving and yes, I finally saw “Interstellar” and boy was it LOOOOONNGGG really really long. Which would be fine if the first two hours were something special moving at a pace faster than the tortoise and the hare race. Mind you I pretty much love all of Christopher Nolan’s movies starting with the 1st one I really remember, Memento, which I thought was just so damn brilliant. Love the Batman franchise, loved Inception and actually got it (well okay..kinda got it) 🙂 But this one raises a few questions for me..one of the most notable is why does he like Anne Hathaway aka Anne – don’t forget the ‘E’ aka Anne Hackaway, so much?? She was the worst Cat Woman ever, and does no favours in this movie either..so why? ok..well as I will most likely never have that question truly answered..let’s move on.

At the beginning we meet “Cooper” (Matthew McConaughey) who is a widowed farmer/ex-astronaut, his young daughter “Murph” (Mackenzie Foy) who believes her room is haunted by a ghost who is trying to communicate with her; his father-in-law, with whom they live, “Donald” (John Lithgow) and his son, who is almost as an after thought, “Tom” (Timothee Chalamet). I say afterthought because the story heavily focuses on Cooper’s relationship with his daughter throughout the entire movie as they even label it as a sort of interstellar 1‘father/daughter’ story, and I almost felt bad for the son as he isn’t prominently featured at all. But I guess that’s neither here nor there as we move along through their story where there is a school reprimand involved, which leads into a school suspension whereas Cooper & Murph then have the time to be ‘discovering’ that the ghost is actually sending them coded messages that gives them the coordinates to find which takes them on the journey where they find the secret bunker so-to-speak of NASA. See the world is almost at an end and with crops blights left & right, taking away food this planet will never see again, time is running out to figure what to do next and possibly where to go.

In steps “Professor Brand” (Michael Caine) and his daughter “Amelia Brand” (Anne Hathaway). Prof. Brand explains to them that a wormhole apparently created by alien intelligence, has given what’s left of Earth’s inhabitants hope for survival and that NASA’s old ‘Lazarus’ missions have noted 3 different planets orbiting the Black Hole ‘Gargantua’ that are potentials for human habitation.

To cut a really long story as short as can be done because I will be honest, not only would it take pages to describe the entire film (as some reviews have done..ZZzzzzz), the first two hours of this movie did not wow me in the slightest and somewhat dragged on. As they mount a mission to find which planet is best. The mission named ‘Endurance’, is where Cooper joins Brand’s daughter, biologist Amelia; scientists “Romilly” (David Gyasi) and “Doyle” (Wes Bentley); and robots TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) and CASE (voiced by Josh Stewart). The TARS & CASE robots were pretty much my favourite ‘characters’ of the movie btw.. so to sum it up..they enter the wormhole and head to Miller, but discover the planet is so close to Gargantua that it experiences severe gravitational time dilation: each hour on the surface is seven years on Earth. It’s inhospitable to humans as it is covered by a shallow ocean roiled by enormous tidal waves. As Amelia attempts to recover Miller’s data, a wave hits, killing Doyle and delaying the shuttle’s departure. When Cooper and Amelia return to Endurance, 23 years have passed.interstellar 2

On Earth, the now-adult “Murphy” (Jessica Chastain) now a NASA scientist assisting Brand who, on his deathbed, Brand admits he already solved the problem and determined the project is impossible and he covered up his findings and put his faith in a “Plan B” As Murphy tries to warn her also now adult aged brother Tom, (played by Casey Affleck), and his family that it’s almost at the end of time and they must move on she concludes that Brand’s equation could work with additional data from a black hole’s singularity. (yes I had to look up this last sentence :))
Low on fuel, Endurance can only visit one more planet before returning to Earth. After much argument the team votes for Mann’s planet, but they find it to be icy and inhospitable. “Mann” (Matt Damon) reveals that he knew Plan B was the mission’s goal all along, and faked data about his planet so Endurance would rescue him which of course goes awry, and Damon’s odd character turn here as a villianous bad guy fails and he’s gonzo! interstellar 5

As they are nearly out of fuel, and this is truly where I got the most frightened as there is a moment where you think that Hackaway’s character Amelia, is going to be the last person left to live. Frightening truly frightening thought for most of us, and yes I am being completely facetious here..or am I.. ha! It’s also where the movie FINALLY started to pick up some and get to the brilliant part as they emerge in an extra-dimensional “tesseract”, where time appears in different dimension with portals that show glimpses of Murphy’s childhood bedroom at various times. Cooper then realizes that the wormhole and tesseract were created by a future form of humanity transcending time and space, so he was the one and now again, that did and can communicate with Murphy as the “ghost” and try to save humanity. Using the gravitational waves they discovered early on a watch, Cooper transmits TARS’s data to the adult Murphy through Morse code, allowing her to solve Brand’s equation and evacuate Earth.
Years later, Cooper awakens aboard a NASA space habitat and reunites with the now elderly Murphy (Ellen Burstyn), who has led the exodus and Earth is to be saved. Lastly, Cooper does have to go out on one final mission, to find Amelia who is still out there on Edmunds planet. hmmm.. Do I see a sequel here?!! 😀

There are no stand-out performances here. McConaughey, coming off a fantastic 2013 with crazy good performances isn’t going to get any nominations for this role as it’s rather basic. Thankfully Chastain steps up to the plate to relieve us of the agony that is Anne Hathaway (Hackaway) and as the young Murph’s, Foy also does quite well. Visually, as expected, the film can be quite stunning, but mostly only once they get into space. I appreciated Interstellar’s grand ambition and the fact that Nolan took on astrophysics and a major studio gave him $200 million to do it. If anyone could try to tackle relativity and the space-time continuum in a narrative, it’s Nolan and his intellect as a director. But, alas it proved too much to take on and make sense of, even for him. It’s is however an interesting effort worth seeing just for its concept in general, though some may end up feeling merely puzzled, which, as my friend Leif noted, knowing Nolan’s oeurve is probably the whole point.
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Grade: C+

#peggyatthemovies
(See grading scale)