Movie Review – ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ Is a Big Step Backward.


When Matthew Vaughn left the X-Men franchise after the roaring success of X-men: First Class, you could say I was puzzled. He single-handedly brought back a dying franchise to life. Why would he abandon a good thing? It didn’t make sense. Things got even more strange when it was announced later he’d adapt, write and direct an obscure comic book into a movie called Kingsman: The Secret Service.

At the time, I figured no one would care and the movie would end up a flop. Of course, I was incredibly wrong. Vaughn figured out how to pull a rabbit out of his hat again and turn an obscure comic into a breakaway movie hit. The beauty of the first movie was its reckless abandon and willingness to go all out despite the consequences. Ironically, this was also its Achilles Heel. It went a little too far sometimes to the point of absurdity.

In light of that, it feels like Kingsman: The Golden Circle pulls back on the reins and plays it safe. That’s not to say it isn’t over the top. It certainly tries to do some ridiculous things but they all pale in comparison to the tone and style of the first. Unfortunately, that’s not even the main problem. The Golden Circle does what no sequel should do – It shouldn’t copy its predecessor’s beats and plot. Not even the characters got a good arc to make the story compelling or necessary. While Vaughn can direct a movie well, and piece it together into a fun and exciting ride, the sum total is a big step backward.

Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, and directed by Vaughn, Kingsman: The Golden Circle starts off shortly after the first. Eggy (Taron Edgerton) is a full-fledged Kingsman taking on the name Galahad from his former protege. However, when a mysterious group destroys the Kingman headquarters, he and Merlin (Mark Strong) must travel to Kentucky to seek the help of the Statesman to fight back.

If there’s one thing Vaughn does well, it’s keeping an audience engaged. Whether through an action scene, humor, or compelling dialogue, it’s rare to sit through one of his movies and feel bored. He knows how to entertain and it’s a gift that shouldn’t be ignored. We’re all looking for an escape when we enter the theater, and if that’s what you’re looking for, Vaughn provides.

With that said, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a fun, sometimes funny, and entertaining spectacle. The special effects, action scenes, and wild antics are enough to please a casual moviegoer who just wants to see a spy film and not much else.

Unfortunately, that’s all this movie really offers.

Instead of doubling down and diving in deep to discover more about the Kingsman organization, Kingsman: The Golden Circle literally bombs the whole thing and decides to move on to a new face and a fresh start in the Statesman. Except, the Statesmen are essentially just the Kingsman but with cowboy hats, belt buckles, and lassos. Pulling a big narrative punch and destroying an entire spy organization felt like it should hurt more. But it just didn’t. Because of that, it became a forced and unnecessary plot device to make Eggys feel on his own.

Once they meet up with the Statesman, the plot is almost identical to the first movie. The biggest offender being a villainous evil organization run by a murderous drug dealer named Poppy (Julianne Moore). Like the first movie, she holds the world hostage and the Kingsman (and Statesman) must stop her before she kills everyone off. It’s all horribly predictable and frustrating.

For having such an unoriginal story, you’d think they’d find a way to whittle the time down to not make it feel long. However, the opposite happened. With the Statesman being thrown into the mix, a lame subplot involving the original Galahad (Colin Firth), and one too many action scenes, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is longer than the first in both perceived and actual time. The last thing you want is for the climax to feel boring but I couldn’t help but almost yawn and get restless.

Out of all this, the most frustrating piece is the lack of an arc for the main character Eggy. In the first movie, he had a near perfect arc, going from street hooligan to secret agent but also learning about how to be a man, have manners, and conduct himself correctly. In this, he doesn’t have an arc at all which only adds to the feeling that the movie doesn’t measure up.

When you make a sequel, the hope is the new addition will be a necessary, relevant, and worthy continuation of a good story. In this case, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is none of those things. While it holds your attention and keeps things entertaining, it doesn’t make a compelling case for its existence. Because of that, it makes you wish they’d just left things with the first movie and called it a day.

 

Grade: 4/10

 

Photos courtesy of: 20th Century Fox. 

Coming Soon – April Movies that Aren’t ‘The Fate and the Furious’

Much like January, April is mostly a dead month in the film world with one big blockbuster film that’ll overshadow the rest. In this case, The Fate and the Furious takes the top spot. It’s highly likely it’ll dwarf the box office like an all-consuming black hole.

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A Case Against Disney Cartoon Remakes

Originally, I was going to write up a review about the upcoming Beauty and the Beast live-action remake, but the more I considered it, the more I realized it was better to take a different direction.

The Beauty and the Beast remake is essentially a frame-for-frame copy of the cartoon. That isn’t to say that changes weren’t made, but overall, the cartoon to live-action transfer is fully complete to ignite millennial nostalgia. It’s a gorgeous CGI-display of Emma Watson’s Beauty prancing in the open fields and Dan Steven’s Beast growling and mostly being angry until he’s not supposed to be anymore. Musical lovers will gush at all the wonderfully choreographed singing and dancing scenes and Disney fanatics will be perfectly happy accepting this newly repackaged gift. In other words, there’s nothing I’m going to tell you that will change your mind about seeing Beauty and the Beast, with one exception.

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The Most Anticipated Movies of 2017

The new year has arrived which means plenty of movies to look forward to in the coming weeks and months ahead.

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Movie Review — Why Not See ‘Why Him?’ This Holiday Season?

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It’s no wonder why James Franco has the wrinkles of a smile burned into his star-studded face; he’s played more stoners, scoundrels, and screwballs with an insatiable grimace than anyone can count by this point, and he’s hilarious at doing so. His role as Laird Mayhew in the typical “father v. fiancée” formulaic comedy is the most recent installment to this repertoire of character-types – in fact, it is perhaps his latest and greatest addition.

The strength of his performance comes not only from his surprisingly well-developed character; it also stems from how the other cast members interpret their characters and play off one another, including Bryan Cranston as Franco’s sworn-father-figure-enemy. Tightly wound Ned Fleming (Cranston) is compelled by daughter Stephanie (charmingly portrayed by Zoey Deutch) to give her eccentric boyfriend a chance, to that he reluctantly agrees. Although this commonly adapted and re-adapted formula risks suffering from some overused lines and gags – Why Him? isn’t of exception – the charming chemistry between its cast elevates the could-be tired comedy to a new level, where it preserves the integrity of even some of the more plainly-crude-and-stupid humor in the film.

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Movie Review — Make Way, Make Way! ‘Moana’ is Calling You!

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It is no secret that a multi-media conglomerate such as Disney can turn out successful films one after the other. However, there is something to be said for the development and progress the production company has made in its endless bounds towards a more inclusive and culturally rich repertoire.

Moana, the latest installment in the Disney princess movie franchise (although that in itself is up for debate, as the film’s title character will object) is a credible marker in the strides Disney had made – from the gorgeous production design to the catchy tunes that will most likely be playing on repeat, the film reminds us of the wonderful capacity for storytelling and narrative design the production company possesses.

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Movie Review — Seeing ‘Shut In’? Maybe Just Stay In… Instead

A film that sets up anticipation for thrills, but keeps its audience in a dull suspense for two-thirds of its performance, Shut In is certainly ambitious, but it falls prey to lack of commitment.

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Movie Review – Despite Blemishes, ‘The Accountant’ is a Diamond in the Rough

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For directors, filmmaking is like a puzzle they piece together, but sometimes pieces either are missing or they don’t fit exactly the way they need. Director Gavin O’Connor has all the right pieces for The Accountant, from a lead actor in Ben Affleck, solid supporting actors in J.K. Simmons, Anna Kendrick, and Jon Bernthal, and a fantastic cinematographer. The most important and vital piece that refuses to fit is the script, and while it sometimes works, it just doesn’t want to go in all the way, failing to make The Accountant a masterwork.

Written by Bill Dubuque and directed by O’Connor, The Accountant is about Christian Wolff (Affleck), an introverted, autistic man gifted with the ability to do advanced math, but struggles to socialize. When he’s tasked with uncooking the books for a new client, he discovers a thread that unravels, putting people in danger and rising the body count. In the meantime, the Treasury Department lead by Ray King (J.K. Simmons) does everything they can to track Wolff down.

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat.

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Movie Review — ‘The Magnificent Seven’ Doesn’t Match the Original, But Still Full of Thrills

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Westerns and remakes run at the core of Hollywood tradition so much that it’s surprising it took the studios this long to get to The Magnificent Seven. Originally a remake of the cinematic classic Seven Samurai by legendary director Akira Kurosawa, The Magnificent Seven tells a story that deeply resonates because it has all the right ingredients: underdog heroes, revenge, righteous indignation, and standing up to ruthless villains even when the cards are stacked against you.

While Director Antoine Fuqua does his best retelling a classic and making it his own, he struggles to combine his signature style of a visceral, gritty, and grounded reality with the over-the-top action and silly humor this western requires. Too often these two voices are noticeably at odds, but it’s not enough to derail the narrative. Fuqua provides a solid experience with a thrilling opener and a satisfying end that’ll make it worth the trip to the theater. All in all, the remake is on par with the classic, updating to modern audiences, and bringing along beautiful cinematography in the process, but this remake is not able to exceed the original.

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Movie Review — Despite Many Positives, Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Never Reaches Its Potential

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On paper, Snowden looks like an American cinema classic in the making. Oliver Stone is at the helm with a solid screenwriter and cinematographer and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the lead actor surrounded by a fantastic group of supporting actors. The story is a real life spy thriller with real-life consequences that can speak about relevant topics. Unfortunately, despite the intriguing story, solid pacing and cinematography, and Levitt’s best performance to date, Stone doesn’t seem to know how to piece this story together with awkward tonal changes, preachy politics, a love story that runs out its welcome, and a tacky, eye-roll inducing resolution.

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