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Kingsman: The Golden Circle

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Director: Matthew Vaughn

Stars: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges

Released: 20th September 2017 (UK)

Reviewer: Luke Walkley

Remember the good ol’ days when your parents would sit you down and say ‘We’re not angry, we’re just disappointed’ and then you would reply ‘I’m 26 Mum, let me live my life!’ (No? Just me?) Well, disappointed is probably the best way to describe how I felt after watching Kingman: The Golden Circle.

The sequel to the 2014 hit Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Golden Circle had huge potential to continue it’s predecessor’s legacy of humour and originality yet, two and a bit hours later I was left wondering how it had managed to move so far away from it’s roots.

This isn’t to say that Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a bad film, because overall it’s not, the issue is it’s become just another action blockbuster.

The Golden Circle picks up several years after the events of the first movie. As the majority of the Kingsman and their headquarters are wiped out by deranged drug-lord Poppy (Moore), Eggsy (Egerton) and Merlin (Strong) seek out their US allies, the Statesman. Together the two organisations must work together to take down Poppy and find the antidote that will save millions of people who have been infected by her drugs.

Kingsman: The Secret Service was, as many agreed at the time, one of the most enjoyable films of 2014. It’s unique style and humour meant it had built the foundations for a new generation of spy movie so a sequel was sure to carry the same buzz. It was such a shame then, that after a frenetic first ten minutes, the film becomes a bit of a cliched mess for the overly-long middle act.

The plot of the sequel plays out in much the same way as the original; crazy multi-billionaire threatens to wipe out a large majority of the population for their own slightly-different maniacal reasons, thus meaning the Kingsman must save the day. Except this time they’ve gone all blockbuster-y on us. The introduction of the Statesman allowed for the a new wave of A-Listers, cue Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges, as the US versions of the Kingsman agents. It’s this shift to a more ‘Hollywood’ movie that has caused Kingsman to lose it’s way. Gone is the witty dialogue and chalk and cheese feel of Eggsy and Hary’s relationship and instead we have a largely forgettable script saved only by it’s action scenes.

The ‘manners maketh man’ scene that arguably defined the first film has been repeated with a slight twist and while the fight choreography and style is a great as ever, it’s almost as if Director Vaughn ran out of ideas to make the sequel unique. Even the humour of the first film is not as prevalent.

Despite the largely negative tone of this review so far, there are a few stand-out moments. Mark Strong’s Merlin has a number of great scenes and the action sequences are insane in the best possible way. Egerton delivers another strong performance as Eggsy while Pedro Pascal’s Whiskey is the most enjoyable of the new blood. However the real star of the show in none other than Sir Elton. His inclusion (he has a fair bit of screen time so it’s arguably more than just a cameo) is a stroke of genius, his scenes are, throughout the film, the most consistently funny and rewarding.

The final twenty or so minutes are the movie’s redemption and it serves as a reminder of what could have been. The finale almost felt as though it was made at the same time as the original movie, such is the stark contrast to the 90 minutes the preceded it.

The inclusion of Tatum is largely pointless and serves more as a set-up to the franchise moving forward. It’s good to see Halle Berry back in a larger role and while Julianne Moore’s villain Poppy starts off suitably unstable, she loses her edge as the film progresses and more and more antagonists are introduced.

It’s all too long, too gimmicky and too cliched for me and it’s a massive let-down as it could have been so much better. Perhaps the original set the bar too high? Or perhaps I personally had hoped for more originality. To me, The Golden Circle ended up feeling like every other Hollywood action flick for the vast majority, that is, before it’s great closing sequences.

Manners may maketh man, but sequels don’t always maketh great movies.

Sorry.

 

Editor-in-Chief of Movie Marker. Likes: Scorsese, Spielberg and Tarantino Dislikes: The film 'Open Water' I mean, what was that all about?

Movie Reviews

Bad Times at the El Royale ★★★★

Bad Times at the El Royale feels like a throwback to Tarantino in all his 90’s pomp.

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Director: Drew Goddard

Stars: Dakota Johnson, Cynthia Erivo, Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Lewis Pullman

Released: 12th October 2018 (UK)

Bad Times at the El Royale has seemingly fallen foul of the particularly hectic October release schedule in the U.K. As Venom and A Star is Born dominate the box-office and with the London Film Festival in full swing, El Royale has not received the recognition it deserves.

Boasting an impressive cast, Bad Times at the El Royale follows seven strangers whose stories intertwine at the El Royale hotel in Lake Tahoe. As each person’s agenda for being at the El Royale is revealed, tensions inevitably rises and the characters collide.

From the get-go, El Royale feels like a throwback to Tarantino in all his 90’s pomp. Director Drew Goddard, no stranger to managing madness following his debut A Cabin in the Woods, has crafted an immersive, intricately linked murder-mystery that feels like a grindhouse version of Cluedo. The violence is garish but necessary, the dialogue is short and snappy and the characters are most importantly, interesting. The hardest part of any film with so many moving parts, is making the audience actually bond with those involved. Goddard, who also wrote the screenplay, has nailed this – giving enough back-story for each, whilst holding enough back to keep us learning more.

Between Jeff Bridge’s bad-ass priest, Dakota Johnson’s kill-happy hippy and Chris Hemsworth’s dancing cult-leader, the wider cast have somehow managed to create a credible on-screen dynamic, despite the stark character contrasts. Cynthia Erivo’s soulful singer Darlene is the obvious standout and her interactions with Bridge’s Father Flynn provide some of the most film’s most satisfying scenes. Lewis Pullman’s unassuming concierge Miles is another strong performance deserving of a mention.

The film swaggers along accompanied by its killer soundtrack, which plays a crucial part in the films tonal change from chapter to chapter. It’s dark and violent, yet at times it’s engaging and even emotional. The sharp edits that mash-up the timeline don’t over-complicate the plot, but accentuate the frenzied feeling that Goddard is creating as we head towards the plot’s crescendo.

As expected there are some areas where a film with so much going on inevitably suffers. Jon Hamm’s Seymour is arguably the biggest victim of this, with his character perhaps not utilised as much as it could have been. The film also feels a little too fleshed out in parts, lingering on some of the less necessary aspects and leaving one or two plotlines unexplored as a result.

Bad Times at the El Royale really does feel like a Tarantino movie and that’s no mean feat, Goddard has taken his own style and applied tried and tested techniques to create a compelling, genuinely exciting movie and one that deserves to be enjoyed by a wider audience.

 

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Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – Arctic ★★★★

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Released: 5 December 2018

Directed by: Joe Penna

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir

Reviewed by: Lauren Tina Brady

An expanse of white as far as the eye can see, gently sloping mountains in the horizon, a polar bear pads silently across the snow, pausing briefly to gaze back at the watching man across the valley.

At first Arctic reads as a classic survival narrative; the basic man vs. nature conundrum. I’d recently seen The Mountain Between Us, which draws some very obvious similarities; plane crash, hostile snowy environment, a great expanse needing to be crossed for a chance of survival. However, unlike relying on the pairing of Kate Winslet and Idris Elba for context,  Arctic’s dialogue is bare. This is largely due to the fact that there is only the protagonist for the first third of the film, played by Mads Mikkelsen.

At first it appears to lull you into that false sense of security of knowing exactly how this works out; he sticks to a routine of catching fish, laying out black rocks spelling ‘help’ against the snow and signalling for nearby aircraft. However, crucially, we don’t know who he is. He speaks very little, in both Danish and English. He offers no information to help us piece together a backstory and remains an enigma throughout, which feels fresh. The character becomes more than a person; he becomes the flicker of hope for survival, the spectrum of emotions that occur in the darkest of hours.

There is plenty of drama to keep us on the edge of our seats; he has a chance of escape quite early on – a small helicopter has spotted him and attempts to make it’s way towards him in strong winds leading to a crash. There are two people on board; one is killed with the other, a woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir), who survives but is badly hurt and must be cared for. Suddenly the odds of both surviving are halved; the danger is intensified.

Here is a tale of endurance over survival. This is where Mikkelsen excels; he digs deep to portray every possible emotion through a gruelling and ice-cold journey. He is silent but his face says everything. I laughed in delight, I wept quietly. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing this role.

It’s a feat for Joe Penna, directing his feature film debut. See it for Mikkelsen, stay for the sensitive direction and the stunning cinematography.

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Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – Museum ★★★★

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Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios

Stars: Gael García Bernal, Leonardo Ortizgris, Alfredo Castro

Released: London Film Festival 2018

It’s Christmas Day, 1985. College dropouts Juan Nunez and Benjamin Wilson are ready to pull off an audacious heist that will have authorities searching for professional art thieves for years. Based on a true story, Alonso Ruizpalacios’ film sees the duo attempt to steal 140 priceless artefacts from the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Winner of the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year, Museum explores the mindsets of two would be criminals with nothing to lose.

The tale is narrated by Wilson, played with subtle compassion by Leonardo Ortizgris. Wilson’s role is much like Nick’s in The Great Gatsby, an opinionated and somewhat loyally biased eye through which Juan is diluted. Played by Gael Garcia Bernal, Juan is the film’s focus, a Mexican Cool Hand Luke drifting through his young adulthood. In the hands of another actor, Juan may have come off as entitled, lazy even, but Bernal’s performance layers the character with sympathetic naivety and relatable desire. A perennially youthful, multifaceted actor, Bernal paints buckets of emotion into every micro-expression.

The crime takes place after Christmas dinner, a lively family affair that sees Juan alienated and berated. At first, the silence is reminiscent of the hanging scene from Mission: Impossible; the tension equally palpable. But soon the action changes, pared back to a static style similar to the panels of a comic book. It is a technique repeated throughout the film, the continuity broken up into freeze frames that are not quite motionless, still alive with a touch of movement. Reducing these scenes to a childlike fantasy, Ruizpalacios succeeds in creating the ultimate sense of idyllic, youthful adventure.

Something often ignored in heist films is the aftermath, when the thieves must deal with the fallout of their decisions. Museum’s second act focuses on this aspect, allowing the introduction of an English art dealer, played by the superb Simon Russell Beale. Uncertainty builds from the start of their meeting, as the camera endlessly pans until Juan’s misguided perceptions come crashing down around him. In a script littered with intelligence and comedy, it is a pleasant surprise to see the characters’ raw emotion become the focal point.

Ruizpalacios seems content to pose questions that hang wispily in the air, unanswered: questions of cultural ownership, of morality and greed. He is more interested in the character study at the heart of this story, of a man who commits a crime out of boredom, a sense of nihilism or a desire for adventure, or perhaps a little of all three. It is a fresh idea in a crowded genre, making for a film that is impressive but never quite brilliant, a wonderful adventure that doesn’t aim to blow minds. But does that matter? As Juan says and Wilson relays: “Why let the truth ruin a good story?”, a sentiment Ruizpalacios takes quite literally. Luckily for him, Museum is without a doubt a good story.

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