Movie review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Movie reviews

Hello!

Kingsman: The Secret Service came out of nowhere and blew everyone away back in 2014. 3 years later and the expectations are high for the sequel. Can Kingsman: The Golden Circle deliver?

IMDb summary: When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, the Kingsman’s journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US. These two elite secret organizations must band together to defeat a common enemy.

Writing

The Kingsman sequel was written by the same duo who wrote the first film – Jane Goldman and the director Matthew Vaughn, based the characters by the comic book royalty – Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons (the said screenwriting duo has also written Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and X-Men: DOFP together, while Goldman’s solo writing credits also include Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children). I thought that they did a great job on writing The Golden Circle. They ticked off all the necessary boxes for a sequel: took away everything familiar from the heroes (destroyed their home and comrades), made it personal (involved significant others and long lost friends), introduced new characters and locations (Statesman, Poppy’s Land), and had plenty of callbacks to the first film (returning characters, familiar scenes recreated with a twist).

The most interesting new addition was the aforementioned Statesman organization as well as the general feeling of Americana, especially potent in the villain’s layer. This expansion of the Kingsman world to the other side of the Atlantic really worked for me. I loved seeing the differences between UK and US expressed in a fun and comic-book-y way. The obviously American aura of the film also reminded me of Logan Lucky (who also shares a song – ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ and an actor – Channing Tatum with The Golden Circle). Lastly, I loved how, even though the American side of the story/ characters were introduced, the British roots were not forgotten either and remained the focus of the movie.

Speaking about those British roots, I appreciated all the commentary on honor and the right kind of masculinity that this picture had. Its attempt to say something about the drug usage, law, and innocence wasn’t bad either. The villain for this film was just as campy and just as appropriate tonally as Valentine was in/for the last one.

Directing

Matthew Vaughn was back in his element with Kingsman 2. While I have been disappointed by some of his producing efforts (Fantastic Four and Kick-Ass 2), he has never let me down, when he was in a role of the director. The action was just spectacular: highly stylized, explicit, campy, and not at all realistic but just so fun and entertaining! All the gadgets were magnificent and a great parody/homage of the 007/other spy films. The filming style (cinematography by George Richmond) – handheld and smooth rather than shaky with just the right amount of slow-mo – was highly appreciated too and so dynamic (it was so fun I could forgive some wonky CGI)! The British glamour, as well as American ruggedness, were both well realized too. The score (music by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson) was great as well, I especially loved the instrumental version of the already mentioned ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ song. The only criticism that I have for this highly entertaining live-action cartoon was the fact that it’s a bit long – over two hours. If it was chopped down to 2h, the narrative might have been tighter and the criticism would not exist.

Acting

Taron Egerton (Eddie The Eagle, Testament of Youth, Legend, Sing) was great as the lead Eggsy. He had both the coolness and the vulnerability needed for the character. Colin Firth (Magic in the Moonlight, Genius) also came back (wish that wasn’t spoiled in the trailer) – his performance seemed a bit off but his character also acted a bit off. Mark Strong had a lovely arc in the film and one of the best exists of the character I have seen in a while. Hanna Alström also came back as her character. I really did not expect her to stick around for a sequel but the filmmakers kinda took that explicit ending of the first film (and the introduction of her…character) and sort of made into a cute side plotline.

Newcomers included Channing Tatum (Logan Lucky, Hail, Caesar!, The Hateful Eight, Magic Mike XXL, Jupiter Ascending), who had some fun scenes but wasn’t in the movie much. However, the conclusion of The Golden Circle promised that we will see more of him in the 3rd picture. Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall) gave a wonderful performance too: he had the coolest weapon and an awesome death scene (on par with the one on GOT). Halle Berry (DOFP) played kinda a typical role of the behind-the-scenes/tech personnel but I’m excited to follow her journey further. Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water) also had a very minor role in the picture. He was the only actor who just seemed to be included in order to raise the profile of the film rather than to actually have him do something cool. Lastly, Julianne Moore (Mockingjay) made for a great villain. It was so fun seeing her let loose in a role!

In short, I really enjoyed Kingsman: The Golden Circle. It was as good as The Secret Service, so if you liked the first one, the sequel should also please you. Plus, if you enjoy comic book movies that truly feel like a comic book that has come to life, Kingsman 2 is the film for you!

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Kingsman: The Golden Circle trailer

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Movie review: Sicario

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let’s continue a great fall film season and review Sicario! Sicario means ‘hitman‘ in Spanish and if you want to read my other review of the Hitman film, you can find it here. BTW, this ‘hitman‘ is much better than that Hitman.

IMDb summary: An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

Story and Writing

Sicario’s script was written by Taylor Sheridan. He is a TV actor and this was his first screenplay. For a debut script, this one was definitely not bad, however, not what I expected it to be. Trailers advertised this film to be an action/drama/thriller, but for me, Sicario felt like a very violent and realistic documentary. Let me elaborate. Hollywood action films usually have a 3 part structure – introduction/establishment, journey/test, and final/resolution – and their narratives have a deadline. Documentary’s, on the other hand, have no real structure and, as a result, no real resolution. And Sicario is that type of film – it shows the viewers only a glimpse, an episode of life on the U.S. – Mexico border. It also fights a small scale battle and does not try to tackle the bigger problem. All of these choices, made by the creators, to narrow down the huge theme of drug cartels, illegal immigrants and smugglers to a specific event meant that the film was very realistic – it didn’t solve a lifelong problem in 2 hours but it tried to move forward with the solution. I also liked how there was no real resolution in the end and no really happy ending. It’s an open ending and anything can happen after the credits start.

In my Anthropology class, we have just finished studying migration and one of the examples that we discussed was the problem surrounding U.S.- Mexico border. We watched a few documentaries, one of them – Which Way Home (directed by Rebecca Cammisa in 2009) struck me the most because it showed children trying to migrate and look for a better life. While their journey seemed dangerous to me then, now, after watching Sicario, I cannot even begin to imagine what horrors are waiting for them on the way. Sicario was extremely violent and it showed the raw, un-retouched and real violence. It’s definitely not an example of a highly choreographed action flick where no real damage is done. The character’s reaction’s to the violence and also very truthful.

Although this movie didn’t have a lot of action scenes, it’s had an amazing suspense. The viewers were held on the edge of their seats because the future was highly unpredictable and nobody knew what will happen next and what the final outcome will be. There weren’t a lot of clues in the film and the plot might have been hard to follow at times, but this was where the suspense and the feeling of a threat really helped this film, by keeping the viewers engaged even if they did not know what was happening.

Directing and Visuals

Sicario was directed by French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve who has previously worked on critically acclaimed Prisoners and who will also contribute to the currently untitled Blade Runner sequel. On a side note, I’ve only watch Blade  Runner for the first time last night and really enjoyed it, though it was quite hard to get used to the slow pacing since I’m used to science fiction movies to be action-packed.

To my mind, Villeneuve did a great job as a director of Sicario and his style really added to the suspense of the film. I especially liked the shots were the characters seemed to disappear into the horizon. The night vision scenes were also interesting – it looked like you were in a video game, actually trying to find something yourself. I’m guessing that that effect was achieved through green lenses either in production or through green filters in post-production.

Acting

This movie had lots of characters, but it mainly focused on 3 of them. I will also talk about a few supporting actors.

  • Emily Blunt as Kate Macer. With every movie I watch, I become a bigger fan of Blunt. She only popped onto my radar last year with Edge of Tomorrow and Into the Woods (that Oscar nomination should have been awarded to her and not to Meryl Streep). She was also really good in this film, you could feel her character’s hopelessness and desperation. I would say that her character had a negative development – everything went downhill for her, starting with the opening scenes of the film. Next year, Blunt will be starring in The Huntsman (Snow White and The Huntsman prequel/spin-off) and I’m still hoping that Marvel will choose her for the part of Captain Marvel. She has also been chosen as the new Mary Poppins.
  • Benicio del Toro as Alejandro Gillick was also amazing in the film, but that really was not that surprising. I loved the shadiness oh his character and felt kinda bad for him because Blunt’s character did not want to trust him based on his race/nationality. However, in the end, she might have been right to do that. Del Toro is also an MCU actor (on top of being in a bunch of other amazing films), so if Blunt becomes Captain Marvel, they can have a reunion! Benicio will also be a part of Start Wars Episode VIII.
  • Josh Brolin as Matt Graver. Only a few weeks ago, I watched another film starting BrolinEverest – and in that one he played a similar character – kinda douche-bag-y, kinda sinister and way overconfident and selfish guy. Brolin played that role well in Everest, so it was not surprising that his performance was believable in Sicario as well.
  • Daniel Kaluuya as Reggie Wayne was Blunt’s character’s partner. I loved their funny and back-and-forth banter. Kaluuya is not an actor that I’m familiar with, would love to check out more of his work.
  • Maximiliano Hernández as Silvio was a really small character who received quite a lot of silent development, though I still did not feel attached to him and, thus, did not care what happened to him.
  • Victor Garber as Dave Jennings. I was really happy to see Garber in this film because I love him on The Flash and can’t wait for Legends of Tomorrow.
  • Jon Bernthal as Ted. As with Brolin, I’ve also recently seen another movie staring BernthalWe Are Your Friends. He played similar roles in both films, however, he met a sadder end in this one while he succeeded in WAYF. Bernthal is amazing as The Punisher on Daredevil Season 2 and he is even getting his own spin-off show on Netflix.

All in all, Sicario was a great documentary-type film with a lot of suspense and a bit of action. It didn’t offer a clear resolution, but the amazing cinematography and splendid performances from the whole cast made up for it.

The last films, which I’m going to check out this month are The Walk and Spectre. Pan and The Last Witch-hunter will slip from my calendar because I’m getting a super strong The Giver/Seventh Son vibe from their trailers. Bye!

Rate: 4/5 

Trailer: Sicario trailer

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Movie review: Gone Girl + book

Movie reviews

Hello!

Last night, I went to the early screening of Gone Girl, so this is a spoiler warning, because I am going to review this highly anticipated book-turned-movie thriller.

Summary: With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent. (IMDb)

Book + Changes

I have started reading the book by Gillian Flynn when I had 5 days left till the premiere, so I was on a tight schedule. I really loved the first half of the book, but when the big secret was revealed I was kind of skeptical that this was the big plot twist. It was hard to root for Amy when you’ve found out her mental state but I, as a woman, couldn’t be on Nick’s side as well because he was a cheat.
The ending was really weird. They resolved some stuff out and they were still dragging the story out and then it just suddenly ended. What is more, by the end of the book, probably all the readers were on a Team Nick and he did not get a happy ending. I was really happy when the producers decided to create a whole new ending and the third act. Moreover, the author of the book was the one creating the new material, so this was still her imagination and not some screenwriter altering the original material.  In addition, the new ending meant that all the book readers hadn’t spoiled the movie for themselves.

Note: I wrote that part of the review before going to see that movie, so my comment after watching it: they didn’t change a dam thing. I was hoping that there will be a big, grand change but the story played out the same way it did in the book. Of course, there were a few minor changes but that always happens when you are adapting a book to the big screen. For example, in the book we have read what were they thinking after the reunion .In the movie, we are only guessing what is on their minds from their expressions and their actions. I was a bit disappointed that everything everyone was talking about were these big changes and there weren’t any of them.

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Acting

I believe that Ben Affleck was great choice for the role of Nick – the husband. I have firstly acquainted with Ben as an actor in one of the reruns of Armageddon when I was about 8 or 9. After that, I watched him in Daredevil and Oscar winning Argo (I loved Argo – one of my favorite movies ever) and recently, I got around watching – Gone Baby Gone – a directorial debut of Affleck that has almost the same premise as Gone Girl and even a similar name. In the 2007’s Gone Baby Gone a girl goes missing and in this year’s Gone Girl – a grown women. I still need to check him out in Pearl Harbor – I have heard so much about this movie and I can’t believe that I still haven’t watched it. Shame on me.

As much as I knew about Ben Affleck, I was totally in the dark when it came to Rosamund Pike. I haven’t seen any of her movies (or maybe I have and I just don’t remember her which actually is a bad thing for actors). Nonetheless, I enjoyed her performance; she was a believable (SPOILER) psychopath.

Speaking about the supporting cast, Neil Patrick Harris was, of course, the main scene stealer. He is always perfect in every role and this one was not an exception.  And that SPOILER bed scene – that was one of the most powerfully gross scene I have ever seen. The whole cinema was open-mouthed by the time it ended.

Emily Ratajkowski (Blurred Lines music video girl) played Nick’s mistress Andie, she was quite good too, and her role wasn’t that hard but still props to her for trying to move from her image in Blurred Lines. Then again, this time her boobs also played an important role.

The character I didn’t like in the books but really loved in the movie was detective Rhonda Boney played by Kim Dickens. I really enjoyed her performance and was rooting for Rhonda in the investigation. Tyler Perry was nice Tanner Bolt even thought I imagined him in a completely different way when I was reading the book. Carrie Coon also did a good job as Margo – I loved how she almost always stayed on Nick’s side.

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Directing

The movie is directed by David Fincher who is best known for directing The Girl with the dragon tattoo, The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story).  As a long time Facebook user (My name is Lue, and I am an addict), I adored The Social Network and loved seeing Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake in one movie (too much eye candy).  I was never a fan of The Girl with the dragon tattoo book series, maybe because I was too young when I tried to read them. Furthermore, the critics and the general public weren’t really interested in the movie adaptation so it sort of slipped from my “to watch” list. I have read The Curious Case by Fitzgerald and I want to watch the movie but haven’t found time yet.

In Gone Girl, I really loved Fincher’s attention to details. He really made me believe in these characters and the story. Of course, he has to share these praises with both Gillian Flynn for creating this strong material and great actors who brought these powerful characters to life.

Themes

Both the movie and the book explore the problems of the family. They show how parent’s problems affect their children. They portray what happens when parents raise their child as a god: the kid doesn’t want to let his/hers parents down, she/he becomes a perfectionist. However, at the same time he/she might turn into a spoiled brat. The conclusion: raise you kids in a right way (but god knows what the right way is). The second big theme was a relationship between a husband and a wife and domestic abuse. Nick and Amy’s relationship was toxic and addictive: they could not live together normally, but they couldn’t exist separately as well. Relationships are hard and if you want your relationship to succeed both sides have to work together. Lastly, I loved how they portrayed the importance of media in contemporary world. If society loves you, you are innocent. If they hate you, you are screwed.

All in all, I liked the book, I liked the movie. I wish they would have given us an alternative ending but I am still quite satisfied with what I got. I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie received an Oscar nominations for best adapted screenplay and acting.

Trailer: Gone Girl trailer

Rate: 4.5/5

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Photos: Google Images