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

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“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-
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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

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REVIEW: “EDDIE THE EAGLE” (2016) ~ Post Q & A: Taron Egerton & Dir: Dexter Fletcher

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“Eddie the Eagle” is a story about an underdog in every sense of the word.
The story follows Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) from the time he’s a little kid with dreams of going to the Olympics, through his many assorted set-backs, and all the people around him who saw only failure in his future. It also shows the moments when he got helping hands when he most needed it. This movie is about his struggle and for all his sometimes annoying flaws, Eddie is a character that you just cannot dislike.

Edwards, while maybe a somewhat good downhill skier, narrowly missed the Great Britain team for that event for the 1984 Games. To improve his chances to qualify for Calgary in 1988, he moves to Lake Placid, NY to train and enter bigger races, but he quickly finds himself short on funds. To realize his Olympic dream, he decided to switch to ski jumping for reasons of cost and easier qualification as there were no other British ski jumpers with whom to compete for a place.
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He was handicapped by his weight—at about 82 kg (181 lbs), more than 9 kg (20 lbs) heavier than the next heaviest competitor — and by his lack of financial support for training as he was totally self-funded. Another problem was that he was very longsighted, requiring him to wear thick eyeglasses at all times, which sometimes fogged to such an extent that he could not see. Maybe due to all this, Eddie seems a bit dim though his spirit of wanting to be in the Olympics never dies, even as his father tells him his only choice in life is to become a plasterer such as himself.
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Taron Egerton does an excellent job here and really assumes the part of Eddie. Hugh Jackman as ex-downhill skier-turned-coach Bronson Peary puts in a good performance, and manages not to overpower Eddie’s character. Eddie’s parents are also well played, his mother Janette Edwards played by Jo Hartley, gives a particularly poignant portrayal of the never-ending support of a mother. Eddie’s father, played by Keith Allen, is a bit of a caricature, but well acted. Actually, a lot of the supporting cast of characters are caricatures, especially the other ski-jumpers/coaches and the British Olympians/Olympic Committee. But to an extent that serves to emphasize the struggle for Eddie. Also, for those intent on seeing this film for Christopher Walken as Warren Sharp, he has wonderful, albeit, very small role that has impact.

While the struggle of Eddie is emphasized throughout the film, there is also a good dose of comedy thrown into the mix as well. The tone is upbeat throughout, even when Eddie has setbacks. While some of the failures are played for laughs, it’s mostly Eddie’s perseverance that makes this film endearing. It also feels like we’re laughing with Eddie rather than at him, since it seems Eddie’s in on the joke.
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There’s not much to dislike about the film. I absolutely loved the music choices including the score and some timely 80’s song choices. Sure, I think the stakes could have been raised a bit here or there to give an even bigger emotional moment, but I can’t say the film didn’t already bring me to teary eyes at some points. And that to me, is an experience at the movies.

Random tidbit that Taron told us all: Stay tuned for the song at the end credits as the overlying song playing is actually Taron Egerton & Hugh Jackman singing together..yep..you read that right.. Taron & Hugh are singing the closing credits song. I wouldn’t have known it had he not said so.

Grade: B

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POST Q & A WITH TARON EGERTON & DIR: DEXTER FLETCHER
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Hugh Jackman was also supposed to be in attendance, but didn’t make it. Taron more than made up for it as he was nice, fun & entertaining as was Dexter Fletcher. This guy..being my breakout star of 2015.. is just as personable as I thought he would be when I first saw him in the fantastic “Kingsman:The Secret Service”.

Started off with the basics noting that since the project was greenlit till it’s release, it’s been a short 18mos. All a very fast shoot of 8 weeks in Germany at Garmisch-Partenkirchen – the same place where the real Eddie Edwards trained – also with some being done at Pinewood Studios.
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Taron had a chance to meet with the real Eddie before & during filming and when he went to the very first screening of the finished film, he sat next to Eddie, which made him very nervous as it’s harder to portray someone who is still alive. At the end of the screening, Eddie was so moved by Taron’s performance and the film, he was actually crying. Taron noted what a fantastic feeling that was.

Dexter Fletcher is quite the character and entertained us thoroughly before & after the film with his banter with Taron. Both noting, as I did, that Hugh Jackman is really good in this role and a very big man! ha! Also, one-week into production they were told no actors could ski at all ~ so they got a bunch of crazy stunt guys – noting that downhill skiers really have to be a bit crazy to do this sport – who more than willing to do it. Except for Hugh, where at the end of his run, he is actually skiing. As Taron puts it “It’s sickening how good Hugh is at EVERYTHING!”

Fun note from Dexter – in real life, the Finnish skier, Matti Nykänen, actually became a male stripper, then a singer and sadly, turned to alcohol and is now known for some, shall we say, ‘colourful antics’.

Christopher Walken was cast because they had to get someone who coud make Hugh Jackman weak in the knees.. and clearly they did.

One theme that is repeated throughout the movie, is the quote from Pierre de Coubertin (father of the modern Olympics), “The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in Life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” It’s just a little something we all could use as a reminder at times and maybe apply to our own everyday lives.
Cheers..

Review Screening: Thursday, January 28, 2016 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox                                       Nationwide release: Friday, February 26, 2016                 

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

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