All posts by Tim Lammers

Movie review: ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” (R)
Taron Egerton and Colin Firth are back but with less-impressive results in ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” another James Bond-on-steroids-type of tale following the out-of-nowhere success of “Kingsman: The Secret Service” in 2014. Skillfully adapted from the hit “Kingsman” comic book, the first “Kingsman” big screen adventure felt completely fresh and unexpected, while “The Golden Circle,” while entertaining, just doesn’t seem to possess the pizazz of the original.

Egerton is back as Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, a street-smart punk who was recruited in the independent intelligence organization The Kingsman to become a superspy. But since his mentor, Harry Hart  (Firth), seemingly met his fate during “The Secret Service,” Eggsy had to quickly assume the mantle and code name (Galahad) left vacant by his superior, and complete new missions with his faithful support tech, Merlin (Mark Strong).

This time around, Eggsy and his fellow Kingsman are caught in the crosshairs of Poppy (Julianne Moore), the world’s most-powerful drug cartel boss who wants recognition for the illegal industry that she’s come to dominate. After Poppy virtually eliminates The Kingsman organization in one-fell-swoop, Eggsy and Merlin enact the organization’s “Doomsday protocol,” which leads them to America and the Statesmen – the U.S. version of the Kingsman – to uncover Poppy’s location and her deadly plan to change forever the U.S. war on drugs.

It’s evident from the very first scene that “The Golden Circle,” directed by “The Secret Service” helmer Matthew Vaughn, is going to employ the same, hyper-kinetic brand of filmmaking that made the first film such a blast. But in between, the story seems to stretch itself too thin and lulls as it introduces several new characters, namely the Statesmen – including Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Pablo Pascal and Halle Berry – to the fold.
While the film bills an impressive list of stars for the film, Moore, Berry and Pascal get the most screen time and make the best of it, while Bridges and Tatum are reduced to a handful of scenes.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is Elton John playing himself, kidnapped by Poppy as sort of a pet rocker whose sole purpose is to entertain the off-kilter criminal. He’s funny in every scene he appears in, and (via the help of stuntmen, naturally) has some action moves, to boot. Like “The Secret Service,” there’s no doubt inspired moments like Sir Elton’s in “The Golden Circle,” just not enough of them to justify the film’s overlong 2-hour 20-minute run-time.

Lammometer: 7 (out of 10)

Copyright 2017 DirectConversations.com.

Tim Burton Book 2
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Interview: Dylan O’Brien talks making of Vince Flynn’s ‘American Assassin’

It’s a Friday afternoon — exactly one week before his new film “American Assassin” is slated to open in theaters nationwide — and actor Dylan O’Brien is waiting patiently to attend the premiere of the film in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Normally, it’s not the sort of place big premieres outside of Hollywood take place, but this time it’s warranted because St. Paul is the hometown of the Vince Flynn, the late author who created the New York Times best-selling Mitch Rapp novels, including “American Assassin.”

In a phone conversation before the premiere, O’Brien said he expected the premiere — which was attended by Flynn’s widow, Lysa, and their children; producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura; and many of Flynn’s family and friends — to be one of the most emotional events he’s experienced to date. In short, O’Brien was honored to be there to represent the film and commemorate the life and accomplishments of Flynn, who died of cancer in 2013 at age 47.

“Honored is the perfect word for how I feel. It’s going to be really nerve-wracking,” O’Brien said. “It’s really going to be an emotionally-charged night in a way and I’m just really happy to be here, honored to play the character and honored to bring it to his hometown and celebrate.”

Originally released in 2010, “American Assassin” is actually the 11th Mitch Rapp novel, which serves as a prequel stor

y of Rapp before he becomes the expert CIA agent that readers came to know in the books preceding it.

The film version of “American Assassin” chronicles how a 23-year-old Rapp — who lost his parents in a car accident at age 14 — is recruited to become a counterterrorism agent after he suffers another deep personal tragedy at the hands of Islamic terrorists. Michael Keaton also stars as Stan Hurley, a grizzled black ops veteran who trains Rapp; as well as Sanaa Lathan as CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy; and Taylor Kitsch as Ghost — a mysterious figure on the verge of starting a deadly nuclear conflict in the Middle East.

O’Brien has been down the road of adapting well-known books into films before, having starred in the big screen adaptations of “The Maze Runner” novels. For “American Assassin,” the actor said he informed himself of who Mitch Rapp was in reverse, essentially, since he didn’t read any of Flynn’s work before he got the role.

“The script was my first introduction to the role, then obviously I did my research and read about all of the books and the character,” recalled O’Brien, who filmed “American Assassin” after recovering from traumatic injures he suffered during the making  of “Maze Runner: The Death Cure.” “I even went to fan pages to read comments on the character just to get an idea of who the guy was outside of the script. Once we got doing it, I really wanted to build him from the ground up and come from me with the thought that I understood this guy.”

O’Brien said her felt his approach to came from a “really original direction.”

“My goal first and foremost was about really humanizing the kind of cold-hearted Mitch we see in the books. Everyone who knows the books describes him as this cold, ruthless and brutal killer, and I can see why,” O’Brien explained. “But I also saw so much more underneath. I was really excited to bring all these layers underneath to life.”

O’Brien, 26, said that readers of the “American Assassin” novel will notice changes from the page to the screen adaptation, mostly because of the shift in time periods. The actor said the move was made largely to give the story more of a contemporary feel, especially in the age where terrorism is at the forefront of people’s minds.

Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Lysa Flynn and Dylan O'Brien at the St. Paul premiere of "American Assassin." (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for CBS Films)
Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Lysa Flynn and Dylan O’Brien at the St. Paul premiere of “American Assassin.” (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for CBS Films)

“You get changes with all adaptations, obviously, and this one’s no different, especially considering how the times have changed with what the book deals with and what we deal with in the movie, “O’Brien noted. “We’re updating and modernizing those situations and events, and done some other major things, too, by adding a major character to the film version. You want book fans all over to approve and hope that what you’ve done still captures that spirit, and hopefully they’ll sign off on those changes, especially in Vince’s hometown, and especially from his family and friends.”

Luckily, O’Brien said, Lysa Flynn was a part of making the film happen, and having her seal of approval meant everything to everybody on the production.

“It really started with Lysa. It’s been the biggest blessing to have her so on-board the entire time with her endless support,” O’Brien said. “She just brings such a warmth to the entire process. She was so happy and so grateful just to come to the set to see the story brought to life. That’s made the process so much easier for us, too.”

Movie Review: ‘IT’ has everything you could hope for

See Tim’s review on KARE-TV (NBC) with Adrienne Broaddus in the video above.

“IT” (R)

Pennywise the Dancing Clown is back and as terrifying as ever in “IT,” the hotly anticipated big-screen adaptation of the best-selling Stephen King novel. Coming in at a whopping 1,137 pages, the novel was originally adapted as a two-part TV miniseries in 1990 with Tim Curry as Pennywise, who planted himself in the nightmares of the youths of the day.

Now, 27 years later – the same time increment in which Pennywise returns to wreak havoc in the fictional town of Derry, Maine – Bill Skarsgard (“Hemlock Grove”) is Pennywise, a shapeshifting clown who feeds on the fears of kids and manifests himself in different ways to terrify members of a group of pre-teen misfits (known as The Loser’s Club), who are constantly being targeted by bullies.

Pennywise’s first victim is Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), who is lured to the opening of storm sewer and meets a grisly fate. With his body pulled into the netherworld of the vicious clown, Georgie is presumed dead by everyone but his older brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher),  who along with his buddies St

anley (Wyatt Oleff) and Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), as well as new Loser’s Club members Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Mike (Chosen Jacobs) search out to find him –well-knowing they could be next.

“IT” has it all – jump scares, horrifying imagery, a foreboding atmosphere, a decrepit haunted house and ghoulish characters. At its heart, though, it’s a 1980s-like coming-of-age tale, a la the Stephen Spielberg movies of the ’80s and Rob Reiner’s brilliant 1986 adaptation of King’s novella “The Body,” which was retitled “Stand by Me.” “IT,” in fact, is also loaded with unexpected humor, which takes the edge off the otherwise terrifying narrative. One thing is for certain: “IT” doesn’t disappoint.

Interview: Elodie Yung talks ‘Hitman’s Bodyguard,’ ‘The Defenders’

Following her stunning turn as Elektra Natchios on the second season of the Netflix series “Daredevil,” Elodie Yung is in high-demand in both film and television. And as luck would have it, Yung has not one, but two projects coming out Friday. She will return as the newly-revived Elektra in Marvel’s superhero mashup “The Defenders, ” and in a pivotal role opposite Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in the high-energy action comedy “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”

A French actress whose work includes supporting turns in director David Fincher’s remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Yung’s breakthrough role in American cinema came as the lethal martial artist Jinx opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” With her skills and a burning charisma, Yung was also able to showcase her talents in “Daredevil” opposite the titular character played by Charlie Cox.

More: Elodie Yung talks ‘The Defenders’

In a phone conversation from Los Angeles Tuesday, Yung said she’s certain her role in “Daredevil” and reprisal of it in “The Defenders” had something to do with her being cast in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” but not necessarily for the kick-ass skills she’s known for.

“One project is always linked to the previous one, but I’m not sure really how this is, but I guess the producers were aware that I could handle a physical part, although the part I have in ‘Hitman’ is not as physical as what I had to do as Elektra,” Yung said. “But I got that part, and I’m glad that I was part of a comedy, as well, which is a bit of a change for me. Still, I got to run and shoot people on this one, which I don’t do in ‘The Defenders’ because I use swords and sais for weapons.”

Yung stars in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” as Amelia Roussel, a French Interpol agent once romantically involved with ex-CIA Agent Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds). When her transport of a world renown hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) was asked to testify against a Russian dictator (Gary Oldman) at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Amelia calls upon her ex-boyfriend (now a freelance “AAA-rated executive protection agent”) to guard and transport Kincaid to the trial.

The problem with the transport is Bryce is still in a personal and professional tailspin from the breakup with Amelia. He’s also dealing with the fact that he was fired from the CIA after botching a major assignment, and maybe most troubling, the infamous hitman he’s guarding has tried to kill him 27 times before.

Perhaps the biggest departure on “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” from Yung’s previous work was not only that the film was a comedy, but that she had a chance to help create the laughs. Because Reynolds and Jackson are masters at improvisation, director Patrick Hughes and the actors invited Yung to be a part of it.

“It was great. A week before we started shooting, we had some rehearsals. Patrick said, ‘OK, we’re going to change a few things,'” Yung recalled. “But as we were going through things, we realized that we were pretty much changing everything. I realized, ‘This movie is going to be a whole different game and I’ll go with the flow, and I’ll have to be prepared to respond and go back and forth with my partners since I have the freedom to do whatever feels right for my character.'”

For her part, Yung said Hughes allowed her the freedom to speak in her native French, even using words to rival Jackson’s prolific use of the mother F-bomb.

“When I got the part, they didn’t ask me to have an American accent. They were very happy with my own voice. So, when Amelia gets into an argument with Bryce, I was like, ‘Listen, Patrick, if you really want me to be upset, and since we’re assuming Amelia is French, you have to let me swear in French. Let’s just try that. Let me be as I am when I’m in an argument with my boyfriend,'” Yung recalled with a laugh. “It was French swear words coming out of my mouth, which they thought was really funny, so we kept that running thing throughout shooting to make my character more real — I probably didn’t match Sam in the movie, but I still had the chance to say some fun French words.”

Photo: Netflix

While the swear words were flying between Reynolds and Jackson in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (along with blood, bullets and a lot of punches), in reality, Yung said, you couldn’t find a pair of nicer guys to work with, which made her experience on the film even more enjoyable.

Ellen Ripley Alien Sixth Scale Figure

“I felt very comfortable with them straight-away because they’re gentlemen and because they love their craft,” Yung, 36, said. “We have these ideas of actors being very famous and we put them on pedestals and are scared of that, but really, they have their careers because they love their job and love their craft and they are constantly looking for ways of improving a scene, but in a generous way. It’s not just about their characters, but about a scene. It was about everyone working together, and I was very comfortable voicing my opinion and trying things. It was a very safe and sharing work environment.”

Copyright 2017 DirectConversations.com.

Tim Burton Book 2
Click book cover for info on how to buy!