Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017): Comic Book Genius

Co-written by director Matthew Vaughn (who shares authorship with Jane Goldman) and based, again, on the comic series written by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbon, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the remake that Kick-Ass 2 should have been.

In short it is catchy, uber-violent, on-point and, despite the brilliant wire-work violence and gun play, damned funny. It is, of course, somewhat topical in places but it works for all that.

Vaughn cheekily has two of his leads, Merlin (Mark Strong) and Eggsy (Taron Egerton) make a joke so topical that unless you are English you won’t get it.  After the organization is blown to smithereens by baddie Julianne Moore (who plays Poppie) Merlin and Eggsy perform the “Doomsday Protocol.” 

This involves drinking almost an entire bottle of Kentucky bourbon. Eggsy realizes that the bottle itself is a clue and tells a sozzled Merlin that they will have journey to Kentucky. Merlin replies “Kentucky? I love fried chicken!”

It was, in the ’80’s anyway, the way the local denizens referred to the Colonel’s eatery, aka KFC in the UK. “You fancy a Kentucky?” was how one suggested eating Kentucky Fried Chicken, “back in the day.”

This “in-joke” set up the rest of the film beautifully and Vaughn managed to include stereotypical jokes about Americans, aka “Yanks” and the English “stiff upper lipped-ness” along with other bits of irreverent humor. The comedic moments mixed nicely with the oh so over the top violence and “Bond-ian”gadgets that filled the movie.

Anyone who has seen the trailers already knows that Colin Firth is back as the original “Galahad” and Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry and Narcos star Pedro Pascal, who manages to look a bit like Burt Reynolds and sound like Nathan Fillion, all make up the American Contingent. 

Strong reprises his role as Merlin, Roxy “Lancelot” reappears, albeit briefly and the brilliant Michael Gambon is Michael Caine’s replacement for a short while.

Kingman: The Golden Circle is adrenaline pumped, glorious escapism at its finest. Like “Kick-Ass” (Vaughn’s first uber-violent film based on a comic.) this sequel combines the best of all worlds. A certain grim humour combined with spectacular wire-work, cracking CG and stunts that match almost anything done on a real Bond film.

Sir Elton John has a splendid cameo and proves that, given the right conditions, he can act his little cotton socks off.  Moore makes a better villain than Samuel L. Jackson’s weak-stomached bad-guy, who actually seemed to kill Galahad in the first film.

(Sadly, this film marks the last appearance of the excellent Swedish actor Björn Granath.)

The cinematography by George Richmond, who worked on the first film, is seamless and practically perfect.  Everything snaps, crackles and pops in the fast paced sequel and it nearly takes your breath away with a pace that makes the two hour and 21 minute film speed by.

(On a side note: The keen eyed viewer will notice something very familiar about the Kingsman tailor flag outside the shop. Think Kick-Ass and you will get it immediately.)

Halle Berry makes a great American counterpart to Strong’s Merlin and it was nice to see Eggsy’s mum, played by Samantha Womack turn up again. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is enough of a treat that one can forgive his miscalculation with Kick-Ass 2. All is forgiven Mr. Vaughn and we await a third installment in this franchise.

“Kingsman 2” is a full five star bit of entertainment that enthralls and captivates throughout. It is well worth sitting through and proves that Vaughn’s films are fun and clever.

As the film is rated ‘R’ the language is a tad coarse as is some of the humour. We strongly urge you to see this in the cinema, although it is a bit loud, to get the full impact of this outstanding sequel.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014): Matthew Vaughn Spy Gold, Bruv

Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service
The second Kingsman: The Secret Service begins, the viewer can see Matthew Vaughn’s fingerprints all over this gold spy film adapted from another Mark Millar comic…bruv. The Money for Nothing music in the beginning along with the graphics, explosions and action interwoven with opening credits alone makes this film head and shoulders above the other action comedy films on offer. While this film is not a complete win, the idea of using a London “thug” as protagonist aka super spy material, “innit blood,” is a bit annoying and was used in Attack the Block as a device.

Granted, the character portrayed by Taron Egerton can be seen as a “victim of circumstance” but then so are most of the lads in prison who really come from that part of London. Ignoring the reality of gang members and focussing on character portrayal and storyline, Egerton has to be praised for the authenticity of his actions, delivery and pronunciation while playing the young “almost” gangster “Eggsy” who is lifted out of the borough like “My Fair Lady.”

Directed and co-written by Matthew “Kick-Ass” Vaughn Kingsman: The Secret Service has a perfect blend of humor and making fun of stereotypes, brilliantly choreographed fights and shoot-em-ups, and an over the top villain and hero. Colin Firth is spot on as the “silver spoon suppositoried” super-spy “tailor.” With his “John Steed” umbrella and Bond-ian spy toys and weapons, Firth’s Galahad is a top notch super spook who works for a private organization.

Samuel Jackson as the squeamish (cannot stand the sight of violence or blood) villain who is attempting a global cleansing of the planet since he cannot stop Global Warming may not be to everyone’s taste. His lisping delivery is very funny though, and as super big bad Richmond Valentine, Jackson feels a little like an Americanized Richard Branson with a speech defect.

The violence in the film is just like that in the 2010 film Kick-Ass and watching the church scene with its stylized mayhem and Firth’s Galahad taking out all the “Westboro” types in the chapel makes one realize just how brilliant the Hit Girl scene must have been in the 2010 film before it was edited down to seconds versus its original length. The success of the scene is helped by the action taking place against the backdrop of the guitar solo from the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic em>Free Bird.

In terms of memorable actions scenes, it simply does not get any better than this. Unless, of course, one includes the latter scene of Eggsy fighting his way through a legion of guards throughout a warren of hallways while Strong’s Merlin shouts out directions.

Kingsman: The Secret Service has a roster of actors whose pedigrees and skills are impressive to the extreme and even the film’s cameo performances are noteworthy. Sir Michael Caine, playing the head of the organization, Firth’s character is named Harry Hart, which feels like a nod and wink to Caine’s Harry Palmer “back in the day” (and brother if that is not the case, it should be), is excellent as always. Mark Hamill as the kidnapped professor looks like he is doing an Eddie Izzard impression and enjoying the hell out of himself while doing so.

*Side note The scene in the beginning where the villain tells Professor Arnold, “honestly, this whiskey is amazing…you will shit,” is pure Vaughn and it sets the tone of the film beautifully. Also, it should be mentioned that the line “Are you taking the f***ing piss” is English for “Are you f***ing joking” or alternatively, “Are you having a laugh?”*

Along with the big names, like Mark Strong, Caine, Jackson, and Firth, you have Guy Richie regular Geoff Bell and the surprise appearance of Eastenders actress, and former Eurovision contestant Samantha (Janus) Womack. The actors all deliver and Strong proves that not only can he do “American gangster” (“Mommy, I want a Kick-Ass party.”) but he can deliver an excellent Scot as well.

Kudos to newcomer Sophie Cookson as Roxy, the possible love interest and female Kingsman. This very capable young English actress only started working in the industry in 2013 and is one of those who bears watching.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is the sort of film that Vaughn does extremely well. Based upon a comic, Mark Millar again, and one that allows the director to show those tightly edited fight scenes and twisty plots that are ever so slightly tongue in cheek. This is a 5 out of 5 star film that can be purchased or rented on iTunes and other streaming services right now. If you loved Kick-Ass, you will adore this film. Don’t mith thith one.

Before I Go To Sleep (DVD Review)

Poster for the filmIt is amazing to think that the first thing I ever saw Colin Firth in was a 1985 made for TV film called Dutch Girls. Equally amazing is that the one actor who completely blew me away in this London Weekend Television production was actor Timothy Spall and not Firth. The next feature I saw Firth in, he played a murderous maniac. The film was Apartment Zero. The DVD was picked up for a song in a shop in Cornwall whilst on holiday and “Mr. Darcy” became a firm favorite from that moment on. Now, in Before I Go To Sleep, Firth plays opposite Nicole Kidman and he comes dangerously close to stealing the show.

This was another film that was missed when it opened in cinemas last year. Presumably the film did not perform up to expectations and it was not showing at a lot of theaters in Vegas. Watching the DVD, it is hard to see just why it was received so poorly. Granted, there are a few plot holes but not having read the S.J. Watson novel the film is based upon these were not so glaringly obvious that they destroyed the film.

The film is about 40 year old Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) who is an amnesiac that, after she goes to sleep, forgets everything. Where she is, who she is and so on. Her husband, Ben (Colin Firth) looks after her and leaves notes and directions scattered throughout their home to help his wife cope. Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong) is a neuro-psychologist who is attempting to help Christine recover her missing memories.

According to her husband, Christine lost her memories after a horrific car accident. Nasch says that she was found naked and badly beaten. The whole film keeps the audience wondering, along with Kidman’s character, whom to believe. As pointed out, in the book’s reviews, the original tale was a clever mixture of everyday events blended with a surreal amount of tension and fear.

The film, directed by Rowan Joffe (28 Weeks Later, The American), who also wrote the screenplay, does a good job keeping at keeping the viewer guessing. Kidman delivers in the film and her performance, along with Strong’s and Firth’s is top notch.

It is hard to understand why the film got such mixed reviews when it opened. This English thriller hits all the right notes and while it does not revel in its Englishness, the film could have been set anywhere, it does add a certain something to the events. It may well be that the movie was too clever for many to see the adroit way that the puzzle is trotted out for the audience.

Another problem could be the short-term amnesia plot device. Certainly it has been done before, Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film Momento, where Guy Pearce knocked it out of the park with the mystery thriller and then Adam Sandler, along with Drew Barrymore, who played the whole thing for laughs with 50 First Dates in 2004.

It is nice to see Kidman shunning the glamorous look while playing a woman trying so desperately to remember her past. The film keeps the twists and turns coming as each new bit of information just raises more questions. By the time the film ends, the viewer doesn’t trust anyone at all.

The cinematography, which is brilliant, and the lighting combine to give the action a deliberately murky look and feel. This is a delightful gem of a film well worth watching, if for no other reason than for Kidman and Firth’s interaction. The addition of Mark Strong, proves once again that the Brits really do corner the market in the world of acting.

Available on Redbox and other video streaming services along with Amazon, et al, Before I Go To Sleep is a real 4 out of 5 star film. A cracking movie that will keep you guessing until the climax.

Nicole Kidman: Marmalade, Paparazzi and Money

Nicole Kidman: Marmalade, Paparazzi and Money