Tag Archives: Colin Firth

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)

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Movie reviews: ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’ booms, ‘Blair Witch’ busts

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“Bridget Jones’s Baby” (R) 3 1/2 stars (out of four)

A stellar cast and clever writing makes for a bountiful arrival with “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” the third and presumably final chapter of the “Bridget Jones” movie trilogy. Beginning in 2001 with “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and continuing in 2004 with “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” the third trimester finds Bridget (Renee Zellweger) on her 43rd birthday, still single and very alone.

Convinced by a co-worker that she needs to sexually liberate herself, Bridget first sleeps with a handsome American online love guru Jack (Patrick Dempsey) at a weekend music festival, only to fall into the arms, once again, of Mr. Darc

y (Colin Firth) one week later. Despite using what she thought was protection, Bridget finds out she is pregnant, but doesn’t know by which man. First trying to covertly discover which man is the father, Bridget eventually confesses what’s up to Jack and Darcy, who, without any idea who the father is, both vie for her love.

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Fans of the “Bridget Jones” series will no doubt love “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” while those new to the trials and tribulations of Bridget will be filled in with flashbacks of Bridget and Darcy so the narrative makes sense. Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver was written out of the new film, but in a creative sort of way that he remains in spirit. Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones and Emma Thompson are wonderful in their key supporting roles.

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“Blair Witch” (R) 1 star (out of four)

The more things change the more they remain the same with “Blair Witch,” the second sequel to the micro-budget indie-turned-blockbuster hit “The Blair Witch Project” from 1999. Another “found footage” movie, the only difference between “Blair Witch” and the original film is that the footage is culled from memory cards this time around instead of videotape. Otherwise, the set-up and execution is exactly the same (and no doubt bloodier and more violent).

Convinced by YouTube footage that includes a glimpse of a woman he believes is his sister, Heather Donohue (the woman in “The Blair Witch Project”),  James (James Allen McCune) assembles a small crew of friends to venture out into the desolate woods of Burkittsville, Maryland, to find her.

Hear Tim’s reviews of the films on “The KQ Morning Show” with Tom Barnard and Michele Tafoya, starting 13 minutes in.

Well aware of the legend of the Blair Witch, James — accompanied by the couple who discovered the YouTube footage – and his crew, document the search with GoPro-like cameras and a drone, telling the tale, essentially, from their point-of-view. Their first night in the woods, the search party begins to hear strange noises and eventually, screams, which escalates into a violent night of terror at the house shown at the conclusion of “The Blair Witch Project.”

Trudging through the footsteps of the first movie, “Blair Witch” was no doubt an ill-advised film project, because essentially, it’s a remake of the 1999 original. Mercifully short at 89 minutes, “Blair Witch” is proliferated by shaky cam movements from beginning to end, even though there are no real scares to be had for the first 50 minutes.

The sad thing is, once the terror begins and the crew takes flight through the woods, the action and camera movements  are so manic that it’s hard to tell just what exactly is going on. Covertly filmed under a different title and surprisingly revealed at this summer’s San Diego Comic Con, “Blair Witch” should have remained a buried secret.

Movie reviews: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’

Fifty Shades of Grey

“Fifty Shades of Grey” (R) 1 1/2 stars (out of four)

For those skeptical of the hype surrounding the film version of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” you may be disappointed to find out that it isn’t laughably bad. That’s not to say it isn’t bad – it very much is – but just bad in a boring, overwrought soap opera-eqsue  sort of way.

There are some laughs, to be sure – some intentional, some not – and without them, “Grey”  would have been completely without color. Inspired by “Twilight” fan fiction, “Fifty Shades of Grey” – based on the first book in author E.L. James’ international best-selling erotic trilogy – fares far better than the promising-but-eventually-dreadful vampire novel-turned-movie series, especially in the lead actress category and the perpetually mopey Kristen Stewart.

For the uninitiated, “Fifty Shades of Grey” follows the “unusual behavior” (as the MPAA describes in its ratings block) of Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a steely billionaire businessman who takes a curious interest in Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), an English literature student who fills in for her sick roommate to do

an interview with Grey.

Challenging the control freak Grey’s answers, Anastasia suddenly becomes the intense focus of the 28-year-old magnate, and a bizarre courtship begins. Even though Christian is reserved, devoid of emotion and proclaims he “doesn’t do romance,” Anastasia becomes mesmerized with him, only to learn that he wants her to become a “submissive” to his “dominant” in his secret, lurid practice of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism), which he acts out in his swanky apartment’s “playroom.” Intensely pursuing Anastasia, Christian – who is clearly damaged goods from previous BDSM and childhood traumas – imposes a literal contract on the woman, which, if she signs, will effectively bind her to fulfill his every desire at any time, no questions asked.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” had the odds stacked against it going in, considering that director Sam Taylor-Johnson was given the daunting task of delivering an R-rated interpretation of a novel deemed by many to be pornographic.  Instead, Taylor-Johnson reportedly tried to make “Fifty Shades” a love story; a baffling interpretation in that it involves sickening behavior that includes beatings (albeit consensual) with a belt, among other bizarre, sexually-infused, control-driven practices.

It’s that behavior during the movie’s 20 minutes of combined sex scenes that’s clearly the most disturbing thing to come out of “Fifty Shades.” Thankfully, there’s at least one laughable moment in one of the “playroom” scenes, where Christian strokes Anastasia with a peacock feather before lashing her (in a ridiculous slow-motion sequence) with what appears to be a softer version of a cat o’ nine tails.

Of course, it becomes clear that Anastasia’s quest is to cure Christian of his deviance and heal his pain, which apparently will play out as the film saga progresses. Right now, though, as a standalone film, Christian essentially comes off as a sexual predator who won’t stop stalking the innocent Anastasia until he gets exactly what he wants.

As for the film’s sex scenes, while there’s a fair amount of skin shown, there’s no full-frontal nudity involved. In addition, there’s really no intensity there, and quite frankly, the scenes are quite boring.

The big surprise of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is that Dakota Johnson – daughter of acting stalwarts Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith – is actually pretty good as Anastasia. She certainly wasn’t the first choice of readers to play the virginal, dowdy character (Alexis Bledel topped a lot of fan polls), but Johnson clearly captures the innocence and vulnerability required of the character, although her reactions to experiencing sensuality are a bit overdone.

The person likely to emerge most damaged by “Fifty Shades of Grey” is Dornan. While he has killer looks, he just doesn’t have the sort of charisma to command the audience’s attention. True, Christian is not supposed to be the most emotional person in the world, but as performed by Dornan, the character is pretty much robotic. Fans who hoped for the casting of Matt Bomer in the title role will leave the theater lamenting “what might have been,” had the “White Collar” and “Magic Mike” actor been cast in the role.

Not surprisingly, “Fifty Shades of Grey” abruptly ends with a cliffhanger, hoping to create some sort of feeling of anticipation for the first sequel “Fifty Shades Darker,” which reportedly has already been given the greenlight. Instead, it left this writer, anyway, with a confused feeling of, “What is the fuss all about”? Despite that, the movie did keep me questioning what could possibly lead a person down such a sick path, and what could lead another person to almost blindly follow them. With any luck, those questions will be answered in installments two and three. For the time being, my understanding of what “Fifty Shades” is about is just as grey as ever.

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“Kingsman: The Secret Service” (R) 3 1/2 stars (out of four)

“Kick-Ass” director Matthew Vaughn kicks ass again, this time with “Kingsman: The Secret Service” – a dizzying action comedy homage to James Bond and other British super-spy stalwarts like “The Avengers” with a comic movie book twist.

Based on Dave Gibbons’ and Mark Millar’s “The Secret Service” graphic novel series, “Kingsman” stars the always great Colin Firth as Harry Hart, a veteran agent watching his underground British spy organization dwindle in numbers. After the death of one of his closest colleagues, Harry recruits Eggsy (an impressive Taron Egerton) – the streetwise son of a late spy who saved his life during a spy mission 17 years earlier – to compete for a spot within the Kingsman despite being a social misfit amongst a group of privileged recruits.

Harry his boss, Arthur (Michael Caine), and ace Kingsman trainer Merlin (Mark Strong) must act fast, though, because Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a megalomaniacal American billionaire tech genius, is concocting a shrewd marketing ploy to weed out the world’s population via an invention that involves millions of his unsuspecting customers.

While its first mission is to entertain with over-the-top action, “Kingsman” is also smart and daring – as co-writers Vaughn and Jane Goldman take satirical aim at the far left and the far right extremes of American society, and sparing no one in the name of political correctness. One target, who won’t be revealed here, is particularly shocking – and while the person isn’t identified by name, you’ll know exactly who he is when you see him.

Blazing through its two-hour and nine-minute run time, “Kingsman” has all cultural sophistication and gadgets and weaponry associated with the Bond films, combined with the hyper-kinetic action and comedy that punctuated the insanely entertaining “Kick-Ass.” Vaughn clearly has an eye for casting great actors, too (the winning cast includes an amusing turn by Mark Hamill); and like he did with “X-Men: First Class,” the filmmaker strikes a perfect balance between the narrative, the movie’s dazzling fight choreography and wondrous visual effects. Get locked and loaded for one of the craziest spy movies you’ll ever see: “Kingsman” is a real blast.

Tim Lammers is a veteran entertainment reporter and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films for “KARE 11 News at 11” and various Minnesota radio stations.

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