Film Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service is an entertaining spy comedy, very much in the style of director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman’s previous work.

A veteran agent at a super secret spy agency is tasked with bringing in a new recruit for trials. Eggsy does not fit the profile of a regular Kingsman, but the agency has a new threat to worry about…

Kingsman: The Secret Service entertains throughout, with its brand of comedy, action and ultra violence. Based on the comic book, Kingsman has a similar feel to Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman’s Kick-Ass. Those who enjoyed the superhero film will surely admire this latest effort.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a little predictable in its plotting. Nevertheless, the film offers enough charm to maintain its appeal. Kingsman plays with spy movie conventions. at times overtly as a source of humour as well as tension. The villain eschews archetypal traits in a humorous fashion. Protagonist Eggsy is a fish out of water, and this aspect works well in the relationship he has with his mentor.

Violence in the film is so gratuitous that it loses its effect to shock; instead it becomes cartoonish. This is particularly the case with the obvious special effects employed. Comedy is intentionally derived from this over the top violence; especially in a few standout sequences. Action in Kingsman: The Secret Service is good. Matthew Vaughn directs these sequences with the right amount of frenetic energy. The soundtrack is used to good effect.

Colin Firth plays the type of character he is often associated with, however he subverts this image with action. Taron Egerton is well cast as Egsy, bringing a likeability to the character. Samuel L. Jackson is also amusing.

Kingsman: The Secret Service works very well as a diverting action comedy. Although the film does not stretch beyond this, there is little to fault overall.

Stuff To Look At

A plethora of movie trailers and clips on Oscar nomination day, including Avengers: Age of Ultron, Blackhat and Cake

Avengers: Age of Ultron

It all looks very, very bad in sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron. Where are jokes of Loki? From the above trailer, it looks like this Marvel instalment will have a more serious tone. Not that this is a bad thing, as last year’s superlative Captain America: The Winter Soldier can attest to. Avengers: Age of Ultron hits UK cinemas on 24th April 2015.

Selma

So Selma may have been snubbed for several awards, but at least it has received a Best Picture nod from the Academy. Starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., Selma tells the story of his struggle to secure voting rights for African Americans. The film is released in the UK on 6th February 2015.

Cake

Jennifer Aniston may have been snubbed for a Best Actress nomination at this year’s Oscars, but Cake still seems worth a look. A dark comedy, the film focuses on Aniston’s character and dubious relationship with a widower. Cake will be released in UK cinemas on 20th February 2015.

Blackhat

Director Michael Mann delves into the world of global cybercrime with his latest thriller Blackhat. Starring Chis Hemsworth and Viola Davis, the film concentrates on convicted hacker who is helping the government tackle a network of criminals. Blackhat hits UK screens on 20th February 2015.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Following yesterday’s world premiere of Kingsman: The Secret Service, here is a clip from the film. Following the success of Kick-Ass, screenwriter Jane Goldman and writer-director Matthew Vaughan team up again for another adaptation of a comic book. Kingsman: The Secret Service is released on 29th January 2015.

Run All Night

Here is the trailer for action thriller Run All Night. The film is about a prolific hit man played by Liam Neeson. Also starring Ed Harris and Joel Kinnamen, Run All Night is set for release in the UK on 1st May 2015.

Inherent Vice

This clip from Inherent Vice sees Joaquin Phoenix reunited with his Walk The Line co-star Reese Witherspoon. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and with a stellar cast, Inherent Vice hits UK screens on 30th January 2015.

Film Review: Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass 2 offers the same schtick as the first film. Fans of the 2010 film should know what to expect from its sequel.

Two years after the first real superhero Kick-Ass came on to the scene, there are an abundance of superheroes wishing to fight crime. While Dave wishes to team up and continue his crusade, Mindy reluctantly retires her Hit-Girl persona for high school…

Kick-Ass had its flaws, although it was an entertaining movie. This sequel is not as enjoyable as the first film. The narrative of Kick-Ass 2 is heavier. It is a story of adolescence as much as superheroes.

The theme of identity runs throughout the film, as it does in the majority of superhero movies. The identity crisis of Mindy is handled well, and there are some amusing high school sequences. Otherwise the theme of culpability, particularly in the second half of the film, is laid on thick.

Kick-Ass 2 is rather serious in terms of consequences.For the real world setting, there is a lot of death. The fact that there are numerous fatalities negates the power of these. That is to say, the impact of these tragedies is not really felt as it moves quickly on to the next one.

The first film was something of a parody of the superhero genre. This film loses the sense of parody, or commentary really, and is almost entirely assimilated by the genre. There are still some amusing references to comics and superhero films, but Kick-Ass 2 lacks the awareness of its predecessor.

Kick-Ass 2 is an incredibly violent film. The graphic violence seems to be there to shock. The device of a cute young girl using strong language grew tired in the first movie, but it is still included here, presumably as an attempt to generate laughs. Performances are decent from both new and returning cast members.

The first film was enjoyable enough, if over-hyped. Kick-Ass 2 is never boring, but equally fails to satisfy.

Stuff to Look At

A catch up of all the trailers you may have missed for the Easter weekend…

The Big Wedding

Robert De Niro heads an all star cast in comedy The Big Wedding. I wish Robert De Niro was still making films with Martin Scorsese, but there you go. The film also stars Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, and Katherine Heigl, who surely cemented this role in her pact with the devil. The Big Wedding is released in UK cinemas on 29th May 2013.

Oblivion

Above is a featurette on upcoming movie Oblivion. Starring Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko and Melissa Leo, Oblivion is a future-set science fiction film from the director of Tron: Legacy. Oblivion is out in cinemas on 10th April 2013.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness looks very promising. J.J. Abrams’ 2009 update of Star Trek was a great sci-fi action romp, and Into Darkness seems to be following the same path. Starring Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto and Benedict Cumberbatch, Star Trek Into Darkness hits UK screens on 9th May 2013.

World War Z

Brad Pitt stars in apocalyptic extravaganza World War Z. Based on the novel by Max Brooks, Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a UN employee trying to ascertain the cause of a pandemic which is threatening the world. World War Z is released in UK cinemas on 21st June 2013.

Despicable Me 2

Gru is back! But perhaps more importantly, Agnes is back! From the above trailer, Despicable Me 2 appears to have a sound plot. It also features a host of talent, including Steve Carell, Al Pacino, Kristen Wiig and Steve Coogan. Despicable Me 2 is due for release on 28th June 2013.

Kick-Ass 2

Hit Girl is now a fully-fledged teen! Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Moretz return for Kick Ass 2. The sequel, which also stars Jim Carrey, is released on UK screens on 19th July 2013.

Film Review: Super

As an ordinary-guy-turns-superhero film, Super offers more depth than last year’s Kick-Ass. James Gunn’s film deserves more attention than it so far has received.

Frank is a regular guy working at a diner and living with his wife Sarah. When Sarah leaves him for drug-dealer Jacques, Frank is distraught. After a vision, Frank decides to become superhero Crimson Bolt. Although he lacks prowess, Frank is determined to fight crime and win back Sarah…

Super combines action with drama and comedy. Written and directed by James Gunn, the film has an unusual tone. It can quickly leap from humorous to sad. In this way, is has more heart than Kick-Ass; it lacks the whimsical nature of Matthew Vaughn’s film. Instead, the film offers a narrative which is more relatable, and a character who is in turmoil.

That is not to say that the film is entirely serious. There are a number of amusing incidents in Super. However, these tend to be quite darkly humorous. Some of the violence, for example, is comedic in its grotesqueness. Elsewhere, it becomes clear that Frank doesn’t know what he is doing in terms of behaving like a superhero. The cinema scene illustrates this well, and is one of the film’s most memorable sequences.

The mix of live action and animation is effective. Although the film is set in the real world, these animated sections allow it to indulge in fantasy. Moreover, the visceral effects in Super work well. The level of gratuity seems to be more for comic effect than for shock value.

Characters in the film are not typical of the comic book genre. Frank is not a typical superhero in terms of either looks or personality. There is a real sadness to the protagonist, which gives the film an emotional core. Sarah is not a archetype damsel in distress either. Rather than the helpless victim captured by the ogre, Sarah is a drug user who first comes into contact with Jacques through her habit.

Rainn Wilson is excellent casting as Frank. Wilson really embodies the character, and is thoroughly believable in his anguish. Liv Tyler is decent as Sarah, while Ellen Page is suitably energetic and annoying as Libby. Kevin Bacon is decent as Jacques, providing both charm and danger.

Super balances the emotion with humour effectively. For those prepared for something a little dark, it is well worth the watch.

Super is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on 1st August 2011.

Film Review: X-Men: First Class

After X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, there did not seem to be much life left in the X-Men franchise. X-Men: First Class has changed that; it is an unexpectedly good prequel that should do great business at the box office.

In 1944, two young boys with very different backgrounds discover that they have special powers. Years later (in the 1960s), the two meet as adults after the CIA discovers the presence of mutants among the human population. Charles Xavier wants to find other mutants in order to train and help them, but Erik Lehnsherr has his mind set on revenge…

Continuing with the superhero theme after last year’s Kick-Ass, director Matthew Vaughn steers X-Men: First Class with some aplomb. It is tricky to keep a prequel engaging, as the audience is all too aware of what is to come. Vaughn does an excellent job of keeping the audience entertained throughout.

The writing team adds sufficient humour to the film, balancing more dramatic scenes with lighter moments in others. The brief cameos are inspired; a nod to those familiar with the X-Men franchise. The inclusion and omission of characters strikes the right balance. Familiar characters anchor the film; it is after all the back story of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr. However, the screenwriters are wise not to saturate the film with too many well-known characters, choosing instead to introduce a young group that would mostly be familiar to fans of the comics.

Set in the 1960s, X-Men: First Class links the fantasy aspects present with real-life events. This is a masterstroke, as it secures the film firmly in the real world, despite the fantastical forces that appear. The film creates an imagined history from real events, twisting the Cuban missile crisis so that it included the mutants. Throughout the film, references are made to this period and these events; the group are shown watching Kennedy on a black and white television set, for example.

Performances are solid all round, but it is Michael Fassbender who steals the show as Erik. Playing a character so identified with another actor seems like a difficult task, but Fassbender inhabits the role, bringing great presence to the film. James McAvoy is good as Charles, while Rose Byrne is very believable as Moira.

The art direction of X-Men: First Class is great, as is the sound. The only gripes with the film are very minor. The film slackens in momentum once or twice, but recovers quickly. Similarly there are one or two artificial-looking CGI effects, but overall the film is visually pleasing.

X-Men: First Class is the best blockbuster of the year so far. It has set a bar that the upcoming summer blockbusters will have to match.

Film Review: Megamind

There has been an abundance of well-executed animated features in 2010; Megamind is just the latest of these. Although the film is enjoyable and has wide appeal, it may suffer from being released so soon after Despicable Me, as the two films share some striking similarities.

Super villain Megamind has a rivalry with his nemesis Metro Man which stretches all the way back to childhood. When Megamind finally defeats Metro Man, he finds that life is much emptier without a nemesis to fight…

Megamind appears to be a little ‘by the numbers’ in a way it would not have seemed only a few years ago. This is because there have been several animated features this year particularly that mix comedy with action and fantasy in a style that will appeal to adults as well as children. So in this sense it appears formulaic, but only as it comes after the year’s several successful animated features.

Like Despicable Me, the protagonist in Megamind is very much an anti-hero. Although he is evil, we inevitably root for the humorous Megamind to prosper, rather than the stereotypically ‘good’ characters. And just like Despicable Me‘s Gru, Megamind has a change in outlook through the course of the film.

Megamind is entertaining primarily due to its good use of comedy. Megamind’s conversations with his cohort Minion are amusing; these interactions reveal both affection and gentle ribbing. Megamind makes reference to a number of films, including The Karate Kid and Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Most notable, however, is Megamind‘s hilarious spoof of Marlon Brando in Superman. Megamind parodies superhero films, offering a rather skewered version of both heroes and villains of this genre. Nevertheless, Megamind appears to offer a more realistic interpretation of how superheroes would be treated in the real world, than that of Kick-Ass, for example. Metro Man is portrayed as part deity, part celebrity – a believable reflection of the contemporary world.

Will Ferrell appears perfecting cast voicing Megamind, he bring the humour necessary for this role. Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt similarly perform well, although it does feel a bit like stunt casting, particularly in the case of Pitt. Nowadays, it seems a prerequisite to have A list names voicing animated features.

The animation in Megamind is faultless, with the backdrops of the sky appearing strikingly realistic. The 3D element is incorporated seamlessly, although Megamind is a film that would certainly be enjoyed just as well in 2D. The soundtrack is fantastic, featuring classic tracks from Michael Jackson, AC/DC and Guns n’Roses.

If Megamind had been released a few years ago, it would definitely be one of best animated films in that year. Given the plethora of superb animated features this year, however, Megamind runs the risk of being forgotten. An enjoyable watch, nonetheless.

Film Review: Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass is a very enjoyable movie, combining entertaining action sequences, a good dose of humour and a fitting soundtrack. Nonetheless, that does not mean to say there aren’t flaws in Matthew Vaughn’s film.

Kick-Ass tells the story of Dave, a geeky teenage boy who decides to become a superhero after becoming disenchanted with the passive reactions of people to crime. He dons a ridiculous scuba suit and takes to the streets of New York to fight crime. Things get a little more complicated, however, when he encounters some real life superheroes…

The beginning indicates a reflexive film, with Dave asking his friends why no one in the real world has tried to become a superhero. Along with the knowing references and jokes, Dave makes it clear in his narration that he has no typical superhero back story. The superheroes he meets, however, do.

This is part of the problem of Kick-Ass; what starts as a humorous take on the genre proceeds to follow many of the stock conventions of a superhero film. Additionally, with Nicolas Cage’s well-publicised interest in superhero comics, Kick-Ass at times feels like a vehicle for him to act out his superhero fantasies.

Fighting crime and the fame that come with it only seem to be of interest to Dave/Kick-Ass until he gets with the girl of his dreams. The moral here seems to be that nerdy fanboys are only interested in comics as they do not have much else going on in their social lives. The film does nonetheless stress the importance of new media for a would-be superhero; the YouTube segments show a startling verisimilitude. Bearing this in mind, the heavy presence of Myspace seems odd, given the overriding popularity of other social networking sites nowadays. But that’s product placement for you.

As other reviews have highlighted, there are other superhero texts that feature ordinary people as heroes. Whilst Big Daddy and Hit Girl would describe themselves as vigilantes, they are also in fact mass-murderers. This sits at odds with Kick-Ass‘s rather lighthearted premise of real life superheroes fighting crime.

As the film points out, there is a very famous superhero who has no special powers, bar his wealth. The real superheroes in Kick-Ass also acquire their advantages through financial means. The big difference, though, is that Batman doesn’t kill dozens of people in revenge missions.