Tag Archives: Matthew Vaughn

“KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE” Review (✫✫)

The name’s Eggsy. Agent Eggsy. 

For any of you who are planning on going into the moviemaking business, always keep one thing in mind: your audience. While most of them might be fairly desensitized and will enjoy senseless amounts of gore and violence, one or two of your audience members might not enjoy it as much, and indeed, might be so revolted by it that it affects their view of the whole picture. Does it really ruin all of the fun for everyone if you just tone down the blood and gore one or two notches? Just a few scenes can ruin a whole movie for your viewer, just like it did with me.

I know, I know, the movie probably wasn’t made for me since I’m being Mr. poopy pants by saying “ew” to blood. Can you blame me though? The MPAA rated Kingsman: The Secret Service R for “sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content.” They didn’t indicate how disturbing it was, or even how frequent and over-the-top it was either. Adding the word “intense” to any of the film’s rating descriptors would not have been inaccurate.

The plot is based on a Mark Millar comic series The Secret Service. A young man named Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) is a troublemaking rebel who steals cars and gets into fights when his mother’s jerk of a boyfriend isn’t beating him up. His many delinquencies land him in jail, where he is told he’s going to spend the next 18 years of his life.

Yes, I know his name is Eggsy. Go ahead and laugh. I’ll give you a minute.

Eventually, he is freed by Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a tailor who has a thing for good manners and tall pints. What Eggsy doesn’t know is that Hart isn’t really a tailor at all: he’s a british spy, working for a secret service called “The Kingsman”, the same service Eggsy’s father worked with before he died saving Harry’s life. Now feeling a need to repay Eggsy’s father, Harry gives Eggsy a chance to become a Kingsman himself: to change his destiny and become the “gentleman” his father always wanted him to be.

The film is written and directed by Matthew Vaughn. If you know anything about Vaughn, its that his films have a very strong reception to his core audience, which I guess is… who, exactly? Masochists? His films have received an equal amount of both support and controversy in the past, including among them Kick-Ass and X-men: First Class. I myself am not a fan of him. Kick-Ass was a morally degenerate and violent escapade even worse than this movie, including horrific scenes of torture and child violence. First Class on the whole wasn’t controversial as it was incoherent, ignoring the rest of the series canon like it was a reboot instead of the self-purported prequel it was selling itself as.

But I don’t look at the director as much as I look at the film itself. What was this movie trying to be? An action-comedy. Did it succeed in that? On the whole, yes. Kingsman: The Secret Service is a humorous and stylish escapade with cartoonish violence and action equivalent to that of a Mortal Kombat video game. It had two goals here: being funny and exciting. It fulfilled both.

There was a lot I liked here with Kingsman. First off, the film was casted well. Egerton’s spunky rebellious attitude clashes well with Firth’s firm sense of structure and order, and makes for some good scenes with strong comedic dialogue in them. Mark Strong is a solid supporting character here, serving here as an adept tech assistant instead of the usual villainous roles that he does in his movies. Samuel L. Jackson was perhaps the funniest as the film’s main antagonist. In a career where Jackson spitballs lines of dialogue like bullets in films like Jungle Fever, Pulp Fiction and The Avengers, it’s both unexpected and refreshing to see him here talking with a lisp and with a sour distaste for blood. What kind of baddie doesn’t like to look at blood and give lengthy villainous monologues?

The action, while preposterous, is both stylish and exciting. Characters punch, stab, flip, grab, kick, and shoot each other in skillfully choreographed positions and movements, taking each other out in uniquely different styles that I haven’t seen before. Imagine a cross between the usual James Bond martial-arts fighting with the gunplay you’d see in a Die Hard movie. That’s the type of combat you see in Kingsman: The Secret Service, and its a rare visual treat that got me really engaged into some of the movie’s greater fighting sequences.

All in all, I was really enjoying Kingsman: The Secret Service until it got into the third act. Then it took a nosedive straight into the pavement.

I’ll try as hard as I can to describe this without giving many spoilers. In one scene, a church congregation starts slaughtering each other after the pastor delivers an incredibly racist and prejudiced sermon that I think is supposed to resemble the ramblings of Fred Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church. This is one of the more violent and disturbing sequences in the movie, with neck snapping and people stabbings and body contortions into convoluted shapes that I didn’t even think was possible for a dead human being. The scene, while stylish and entertaining, was also equally disturbing and out of place. I laughed out loud, but I didn’t know if it was out of enjoyment or shock.

Another scene involved a mother stabbing a door in a Jack Torrance-Shining style, trying to kill her one-year-old crying daughter. That one was too much for me. I don’t like seeing child violence or distress in movies. Unless you’re having it in there to make a point about parentage or childhood trauma, scenes like that aren’t ever necessary to a movie.

Overall, we have a really cohesive film that on the whole works really well. What backfired was simply one or two scenes that severely clashed with the film’s overall vision, moments that took me out of the fun I was having to make me insanely sickened and disgusted at what was going on the screen.

The last out-of-place scene was one where a woman was asking Eggsy for anal sex. I think that’s a metaphor for something.

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“X-MEN: FIRST CLASS” Review (✫✫)

Pretend G-men trying to skip out of class.

The very first shot of X-men: First Class is the exact same scene of the Holocaust, frame-by-frame of the very first X-men movie directed by Brian Singer. Not a good way to start off your movie by copying another one, isn’t it? The very next scene after briefly skipping through that one is a young Charles Xavier’s encounter with a young, hungry blue-skinned mutant named Raven who was trying to steal food from his refrigerator. Talking to her in a very sincere, comforting voice, he assures her that she doesn’t have to steal, and reaffirms it by saying that she’ll never have to steal again. Touching. I wonder how this conversation went over with his mother?

Years pass, and we’re reintroduced to the characters we’ve come to know for the past few movies now. Erik Lenshurr (Michael Fassbender), the man soon to become Magneto, is out on the hunt, looking for the man who killed his family and tortured him as a child back when he was a Jew in the concentration camps. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is now in college with the now much more mature Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), who is pursuing his masters degree in psychology.

There’s a mutual enemy that unites these three individuals together: Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a menacing and conniving mutant with the ability to absorb and redistribute energy. That means a grenade can explode in his hand and he can transfer the explosion straight into you with a touch of his finger. Shaw is the man who tortured Erik back when he was a young child, and Xavier discovers a sinister plot that Shaw is setting to unveil upon the world. Erik and Charles combine their resources and their efforts to form a mutant team to work together and stop Shaw.

And how exactly does Shaw plan to carry out this giant, dastardly plan? By conspiring and coercing the Cuban Missile Crisis among nations, that’s how. How original. I wonder if these guys considered overthrowing the Chinese government while they were at it?

Hypothetical question. If you hear the term “prequel” being used, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me, its the word “beginning”. Beginning, as in, the start of the story. Beginning as in, the start of a legacy. Beginning as in, filling in the holes of all the ambiguous stuff we were told in the original trilogy, and beginning as in making sure everything fits into a nice, nifty little package by the time the end credits roll.

As a superhero blockbuster alone, X-men First Class succeeds. It’s exciting, it’s visually stunning, it features everyone’s favorite X-men that they’ve come to know and love, and it has enough comic book lore in it to make even Kevin Smith giggle with glee. As an action movie meant to please summer movie lovers, it is fine. As a prequel to the critically-acclaimed series that it is based on, however, it is utter and absolute failure.

Three of the biggest goofs that completely and utterly frustrated me. 1) There were flashback scenes in X2, X-men: The Last Stand, and Origins: Wolverine where Xavier is clearly seen as to being able to stand. Yet at the conclusion of First Class (spoiler alert!) Erik deflects a bullet into Xavier’s spine, permanently paralyzing is legs. 2) In the first X-men, Professor X audibly said to Wolverine that him and Magneto helped build Cerebro together, while in this movie it is very clear that a mutant named Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) was the one who built it instead of them. Magneto’s helmet also didn’t exist prior to X-men, whereas here it already does. And lastly 3) a cameo appearance of a certain three-clawed mutant meeting Xavier and Erik about halfway through the movie at a bar. Wouldn’t they have remembered him thirty years later, especially since one of them is a telepath?

These ignorances to the plot show me that instead of providing an accurate prequel to a highly-revered superhero series, the filmmakers were more interested in letting loose and having fun rather than making something straight-laced and refined. I’m all for fun and high-octane action movies, but if you go in ignoring everything else that happened in the movies previous to your own, you’re being disrespectful to the franchise.

Oh, the cast was more than exceptional, I won’t deny that. McAvoy portrays the younger Professor X wonderfully here, passing himself off as a sort of young Patrick Stewart that’s more reckless and immature than his older self. Bacon is smug and charismatic as Shaw, and even though his role wasn’t as compelling as Ian McKellan’s was in the original trilogy, it still served its purpose in the film.

I especially enjoyed Fassbender’s performance as the angry, relentless, and grief-stricken Erik Lenshurr. The staple performances in the series overall belong to Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, there’s no doubt beyond that. Still, Fassbender gives it his all here. You notice the effort he extends here, the passion and the fire he instills in this character. McKellan’s rendition of Magneto was calm, collective, and calculated, a great foil to the equally intelligent but more morally aligned Xavier. Here, Fassbender is neither calm nor calculated. He is simply a raging, hateful man, a mutant who has been in pain and alone all his life, desperately seeking some sort of way to fill the emptiness within his cold, solemn heart. I genuinely liked and appreciated his take on the character, even though he bends missiles in one scene that look about as realistic as a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

“But wasn’t it fun?” is a common argument I get from a lot of moviegoers. “Fun” is such a subjective word, and can mean any one of different things. In the aspect of simple, plain, straightforward blockbuster fun, I guess this movie satisfies. The problem is I didn’t go into X-men: First Class expecting a brainless blockbuster. I went into this expecting this to be exactly what it claimed to be: a start to the X-men’s journey, an insightful and hot-blooded prequel that showed perspective on how their story began. This wasn’t even close to being a prequel, ending with more questions where there should have been answers. Fox has already announced that a sequel is currently in the works to be released sometime in 2014, and here I am, thinking that these kids need to go to summer school before even thinking about going into the second semester.

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