Kingsman: The Golden Circle-Movie Man Jackson

Yet another reminder to stay away from drugs. Fully settling into his role as a Kingsman secret agent, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), balances protecting the free world with being a serious boyfriend to Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström), the woman he saved in his initial mission. Things are going well until an old foe resurfaces, and as a result, the UK headquarters of the Kingsman are reduced to rubble and ashes.

Suffering mass loss of life, Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong), seemingly the only Kingsman who survived, are left to find aid in their United States brethren known as the Statesman. There, they are introduced to the group’s leader Champagne (Jeff Bridges), and agents Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), Tequila (Channing Tatum), and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). They’ve all been targeted by an equally secret major drug organization known as The Golden Circle, led by Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), a woman looking to finally get the respect she deserves as an entrepreneur even it means putting the entire world’s population in danger. Of course, it’ll come down to Eggsy and company to save the world and look dapper doing it.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle isn’t going to convert those who disliked Kingsman: The Secret Service. It does carry some of the pitfalls of being a sequel, which can be summed up as “too much (fill in the blank)” Bloated-ness, ‘been there, done that,’ shock value and other words come to mind. But, at the core, this is still the same irreverent movie in the same vein in the same style. Make of that what you will.

It’s fair to wonder if some of the dislike towards The Golden Circle can be attributed to what its trailer suggests. What is suggested is a fairly big role for the Statesman, especially Channing Tatum, that never materializes. On that front, the sequel is disappointing, and the presence of Tatum thrown to the wayside. However, Matthew Vaughn returns to direct and co-write the sequel, and that is a good thing. Admittedly, there’s a lot to take in on this second dip, and without a doubt, 2:21 is a tad bit long for this production. But despite the number of subplots going on that include parallels to a particular commander-in-chief, amnesia, and betrayal to name a few, Vaughn and Jane Goldman manage to tell a story that gels just enough to avoid becoming incomprehensible.

While the franchise is only two films deep, it is clear that one doesn’t come to the Kingsman franchise to get realism. Vaughn’s quick-cuts, 180 pans and fast/slow framerate show up again, and arguably make the action just as good overall, if not better than, the first film. Gadgets once again are in plentiful supply, and no stone is left unturned on that front. The only real piece of this film that could be classified as “grounded” are the relationships, mainly of Eggsy, Merlin, and the returning Harry (Colin Firth).

Their scenes give Kingsman: The Golden Circle an unforeseen amount of emotion. It’s a shame then, when Vaughn and company go towards shock value to get a rise out of the audience. Akin to the final scene from the first installment, two scenes in particular aiming for dark laughs stand out as just crude and disgusting without serving anything upon further review to move the narrative forward.

Like many sequels, the cast in The Golden Circle is beefed up considerably. Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Jeff Bridges, and the previously mentioned Channing Tatum all appear. Unfortunately, though their presences are appreciated, only Pascal gets anything to do of note, regulating the rest of these talented individuals to what essentially amounts to glorified cameos. Julianne Moore puts in a fun performance, but the writing for her character leaves something to be desired. Her megalomaniac entrepreneur needed a layer of menace to be memorable; instead, Moore more often comes off as a basic psycho b**ch.

The Golden Circle, despite the addition of the Statesman, still belongs to the Kingsman and their troika threesome. Taron Egerton is super-comfortable as likable as Eggsy, Mark Strong—ahem—strong as Merlin, and Colin Firth playing his amnesia-riddled Harry with the requisite uncertainty. The question rages on of whether Harry’s return should have been better hidden (it should have), but there’s no debate that this franchise benefits from having Firth.

Gold is still gold, even when tainted. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is definitely not 24 karat quality, but shines enough to still be relatively valuable and occasionally captivated.

B-

Photo credits go to YouTube.com and collider.com

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Logan Lucky: Movie Man Jackson

Easiest way to break a family curse? Get rich. For decades, the Logan family has been categorized as perpetually unlucky. The most recent heirs to these presumptions are the Logan brothers. Jimmy (Channing Tatum) was once an all-state quarterback before a career changing leg injury, and Clyde (Adam Driver) lost an arm while doing a tour in Iraq. Together, they reside in the dead end Boone County, West Virginia; Clyde bartends, while Jimmy does basic construction work under the Charlotte Motor Speedway track.

His job is lost when HR determines his injury is too severe to continue working. Out of money and facing the real prospect of not seeing his daughter, Sadie (Farrah McKenzie) consistently with his ex moving across West Virginia lines, Jimmy concocts a plan to solve all their issues. That plan is stealing from the vault the lies under the track. A crew is going to be needed, consisting of Clyde, sister Mellie (Riley Keough), and the notorious Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), along with others. Pull it off right, and this “Hillbilly Heist” will go off without a hitch.

Guess who’s back…back again. Soder’s back…tell a friend. Well, I guess he was never truly gone filling his time with various side projects, but Logan Lucky marks Steven Soderbergh’s official return to feature filmmaking after a four-year hiatus. People looking for a WOW! return won’t get that with Logan Lucky, but a two hour, fairly zippy and passable crime movie will have to do.

One could make an argument to call Soderbergh the father of the modern-day heist movie after Ocean’s Eleven. Anything from Fast Five to The Italian Job to even Inception owes at least a little to Soderbergh’s remake. Logan Lucky is essentially an Ocean’s movie scaled back notably in locale and in tone. The West Virginia and NASCAR setting lends itself to different cinematography and setpieces. Soderbergh and his longtime cinematograher “Peter Andrews” certainly make it easy to get lost into this feature. Composer David Holmes, also a longtime collaborator with the director, makes some solid, offbeat tracks to accompany what is see on film.

 

Logan Lucky is perfectly competent, right down to the montage revel that so many of these types of films have. However, it is levels firmly under those heist movies mentioned previously. Not so much for the actual direction (which is great), but the overall emotion of it all. Logan Lucky pitches itself light, but there are enough scenes of sentimentality/drama that attempt to tug at the heartstrings when in actuality, they kind of miss their mark. This is a small piece of a bigger problem in Logan Lucky. Simply put, there are no noticeable stakes or compelling reasons to care enough for what may or may not happen. The film also runs a few false endings, and the ending chosen isn’t as strong as one or two that came before it.

In his return, Soderbergh packs a wallop of all-star talent, with varying results. The best performance is without a doubt Daniel Craig’s, the first time in a long long time in which the actor known as 007 is so not the cool collected guy seen not only in James Bond movies, but a lot of the roles he’s played outside of that. Tatum and Driver as the Logan brothers forge a believable brotherhood and are the only two characters with backstory that comes to light in the 2nd half. The level of humor derived from Logan Lucky will boil down to how quick the country bumpkin shtick will wear down for each viewer.

Other appearances in the cast are made by Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Macon Blair, Seth MacFarlane, and Hilary Swank. Most are celebrity cameos, with not enough screen time or character writing to be anything else, but, they add name value and don’t bring down the production. MacFarlane and Swank feel off in this movie; Seth going for the pure comic relief but failing throughout, and Swank perhaps being too stern and rigid as the FBI agent tacked on in the last 20 minutes.

It’s hard to be like Mike and come back immediately into the game like you never left it. Logan Lucky is a reminder of Soderbergh’s talents, even if he’s a little rusty.

C+

Photo credits go to usatoday.com, nerdist.com, and cinemavine.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Hail, Caesar!: Movie Man Jackson

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Never play with the future. Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), is a studio head—a fixer, actually—for Capital Pictures in the 1950’s. His main job is to protect Capital Pictures’ stars, sweeping unsavory life details and anything that can generally hurt the image of the studio. It isn’t an easy job having to deal with the issues superstars Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), female equivalent DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), or up-and-comer Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) bring to the table, but it has provided Mannix with a comfortable living.

It has also presented Mannix with much stress at times, and a less than fulfilling home life. The stress only increases when Baird goes missing off of the set of Hail, Caesar!, a film that is destined to be a critical and commercial success with its robust production. The only lead that gives Eddie any indication as to where Baird is comes from a group known as The Future, who have abducted the superstar, and are requesting $100,000 for his release. What do they want with him, and what do they want as a group?

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Over the years, no matter what they’ve done, directors Joel and Ethan Coen always seem to have at least some modicum of humor in their films. Even in grim features like No Country for Old Men or True Grit, there’s a little laughs to be found. Hail, Caesar!, the most recent directorial effort from the brothers, finds its humor in the Hollywood film industry of the 1950’s. It generally is an amusing view, but carries the feeling upon viewing that it is nothing more than fluff.

Hail, Caesar!, like the movie with the same name featured in the movie, features amazing production. It’s obviously very early in 2016, but this appears ripe for nominations in production and costume categories. The 50’s on a major movie set are fully realized. And, it doesn’t hurt to have famed cinematographer Roger Deakins lending his hand/lens/eyes to the production. The lighting, how recorded movies appear, and everything as a whole just adds to the immersion of seemingly watching something in the respective decade.

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And there are laughs to be had with a good deal of it, being quirky, ridiculous, and farcical. While it may not be as funny to one who did not grow up with the 1950’s and/or has no working knowledge of those films, those who aren’t up to speed with every industry development in that decade (like yours truly), are not left out in the cold. Some of the humor simply derives from seeing Clooney, Fiennes, Johansson, Tatum, and the like, appear, kind of similar to Tropic Thunder.

Hail, Caesar!, while fun, does lack something that the Coens usually deliver: A sound script. The central story is a mystery, but the details are revealed early, thrown in with some political commentary about the times. As such, since there really aren’t that many twists (even the one twist is meh), the second half does make the movie drag. Part of it is a lack of coherence. All of the short scenes of the films within the film that are shown are wonderful, but when it comes back to the central story, it doesn’t click, because some of these characters have no bearing on the main story, or come in somewhat shoehorned.

In a way, I thought of Grindhouse when watching this; namely, the trailers that showed before that feature, and thinking how those trailers would be as full length films. Only difference is, these moments are actually embedded within Hail, Caesar and occasionally disrupt the flow of the feature, but the thought is the same.

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The plot disappoints, but the thespians don’t. Aside from a strong Josh Brolin, whose Mannix has some depth and realness to him, all other characters are of the one-dimensional and in some cases caricature variety. Here, though, that isn’t such a huge issue, because of the source material that the Coen brothers are working with. It just means, by design, you’re always seeing Clooney, Johansson, Tatum, etc. in fancy period garb having a good time. Even in a star-studded cast, the standout coming out of this is likely to be one of the lesser knowns in Alden Ehrenreich, absolutely nailing it with his cowboy persona trying to make it as a more dramatic star.

Would that it were so simple? Hail, Caesar! is, in essence, a simple and light, somewhat satirical but overall harmless, tribute to a Hollywood of yesteryear. Though the phrase might not be one typically thought of when watching a Coen film, their latest is “All style, no substance.”

Grade: C+

Photo credits go to YouTube.com, collider.com, and blogs.indiewire.com’

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22 Jump Street: Movie Man Jackson

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“Ladies, nobody gave a s*** about the Jump Street reboot but you got lucky.”

What is the next step after successfully assimilating into high school, and stopping a drug outbreak? Doing the same thing in college. 22 Jump Street starts off exactly as pointed to at the end of its predecessor, in which Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) mentions that our heroes Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are going to college for their next mission. Sounds cool, expect it is of the online variety.

It does not take long for this to change though. A new drug known as WHYPHY is threatening to run rampant on a nearby campus, forcing the tandem to go undercover again amidst younger people. Their partnership, once unbreakable, begins to show signs of fracture when college clearly seems to be more up Jenko’s alley. To infiltrate the dealers and find the supplier once more, they will have to be on the same page.

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Going to try and keep this relatively short and simple. 22 Jump Street is definitely more of the same. Following a similar setup to 21 Jump Street with only the mildest of plot tweaks and flip flops, it will not win any awards for originality. But is that important here? No, not at all!

Once again, and it is ad nauseam at this point, the film knows what it is. It’s a sequel that probably shouldn’t even exist must like the first, but it does. As Deputy Hardy (Nick Offerman) outlines within the confines of the film, the first assignment (movie) was successful, which means more money has to be poured into the next assignment (sequel) to make it bigger and more substantial. It may be a rehash, but this is how these things go.

It is this meta-ness and self-referential humor that this installment brings to its arsenal once again, poking fun at the absurdity of the premise, the existence of sequels, and even Hollywood itself. Eventually, this reminder that everyone is in on the joke does wear a bit thin after a while in my opinion, but it is a fabric of the franchise.

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Even with the referential humor which is pretty funny itself, 22 Jump Street works because it is just funny consistently from beginning to end, which is the first goal for any comedy. Sure, some laughs are bigger than others (and there are some big ones), but the mild laughs keep investment in the movie and keeps hold of attention. And it is not just the meta humor either. Tons of physical gags, verbal banter, and reactionary comedy work just as well, if not better.

The constant hilariousness can be attributed to three people: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, and Ice Cube. As a duo, Hill and Tatum as Schmidt and Jenko have something special in the way of chemistry, like two basketball players utilizing the pick and roll so effectively because they know where the other is almost always going to be. The movie does allow for the two to be separated at times, and it is during these times where both get to shine respectively in their given situations. Also, the movie delves more into their relationship and why it doesn’t always work, giving Jenko and Schmidt character aspects that the audience can relate to.

As a benefit to everyone, Ice Cube’s role is definitely larger in this sequel. He is back as the stereotypical angry black captain, spitting his profane insults and mean mugging faces to our favorite tandem, which is just as gut-busting as before. This time however, he must become more a part of the mission, for support reasons and personal reasons, the latter resulting in arguably the funniest moment in the entire film. The rest of the cast comes off as more miss than hit. Not to say that they are completely devoid of amusing moments, but they are more one-note, compared to the supporting characters of Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, and Brie Larson from the first.

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Though the premise is the same, it has been improved upon. Directors Christopher Miller & Phil Lord make sure that this sequel is tighter, mainly in its pacing and presentation. This movie never drags and moves along at a brisk pace. Additionally, the action sequences look like more attention was spent on them, and they too are spaced throughout as opposed to the last third of runtime, giving the movie a true comedy-action feel. Depending on how many times the trailer has been seen, it may make the events of the movie slightly predictable, so keep that in mind.

All in all though, 22 Jump Street is easily the best comedy of the year to this point simply because at the core it succeeds in making you laugh, and laugh a lot. Can’t ask for much more.

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to forbes.com, acesshowbiz.com, and movieplusnews.com.

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21 Jump Street: Movie Man Jackson

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“Are you ready for a lifetime of being absolutely badass mother****ers?”

High school. You may have peaked in it, or you may have suffered through it. At any rate, once you are done, you never are forced to go back…unless it is part of your job. This is the situation Jenko and Schmidt find themselves in during 21 Jump Street. Way back in 2005, Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) were but a few of the average high school stereotypical students. Jenko is the average dumb jock, while Schmidt is a socially inept but smart dude.  Being on complete opposite ends of the high school food chain, it isn’t exactly shocking to see these two never interact. The off times they do, it goes as one would expect.

Enter 2012, and the two find each other in the police academy. Instead of remaining in high school mode, both end up helping the other with weaknesses they struggle with and ultimately forming a bond that leads to their graduation. After an odd mishap one day on patrol as bike cops, the duo is reassigned to the 21 Jump Street division, a program revitalized from the 80’s. Led under the direction of the always-angry Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), this tag-team is assigned to go undercover as high school students in an effort to snuff out a new drug known as HFS. Sounds easy enough, but 2012 in high school is nothing like 2005.

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If you have never seen the TV series sharing the same name of this film, do not fret. In all honesty, the only link the show and its remake share is the title. The 2012 version of 21 Jump Street eschews the seriousness and drama from its predecessor and opts for a lighter and humorous take. From start to finish, laughs are to be had at a pretty consistent clip.

Within the first few minutes, it is evident that this movie never takes itself too seriously. Whether it be through a simple moment of the main characters locking eyes over expertly timed music cues reminiscent of iconic 80’s movies, or expecting the obvious explosion to occur after shooting numerous flammable objects, it pokes fun at itself, the implausibility of the scenario, and staples of the buddy cop genre. The film also gets commended for going in an unexpected direction. At its core, I got the message of change in the fact that nothing stays the same and what was once cool can easily become outdated. It would have been real easy, and lazy, to keep Jenko as the ultra-suave and straight man while sticking Schmidt as the loser with no chance at progression. Thankfully, it goes a different route.

This “meta-ness” alluded to previously extends to the duo themselves. The stereotypes that Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum embody here are in a way what others think about them in real life. Hill to a lot of people is or at least comes off as an insecure and occasionally douchey guy, and Tatum for the longest time (perhaps still) was only thought of as eye candy with not much to offer anywhere else. Maybe I am looking too much into this, and if I am so be it. It’s just something that worked into my mind when watching.

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Being able and willing to take shots at yourself is well and good, but the characters and the actors playing those said characters still have to be interesting enough to make it matter. Luckily, they are in 21 Jump Street. Jonah Hill has proven his comedic ability previously before this, but he is in top-notch form here. Not so much a shock to see him score so many laughs, but it was refreshing to see his character with a fair amount of heft. His character allows for more connection with the audience, as many have been there at some point in time.

Channing Tatum is the real revelation in the film from a comedic standpoint. He gets many great lines and serves them up with exceptional delivery. He is really shaping as a versatile guy in Hollywood, something I never would have thought possible during his roles in Coach Carter and Step Up. As a duo, their chemistry was infectious and appeared natural, which is a must for buddy cop films.

The supporting cast is nothing to scoff at though. Rob Riggle, Dave Franco, Ellie Kemper, Brie Larson, DeRay Davis, and a few others bring humorous moments to varying degrees. But Ice Cube as the police captain steals the show as Captain Dickson every time he appears on screen. Based on a stereotype like Tatum and Hill’s characters, he is consistently angry throughout the movie in the most over-the-top way. His delivery and timing is flawless, and whenever he spars with Jenko and Schmidt is a riot.

As a whole, the dialogue and writing is pretty strong, if occasionally overdependent on the F bomb. For the most part it works more often than not, and it it pretty realistic of what is heard in most high schools. There were just a few times where it came across as a crutch, but it is to be expected with a R-rated comedy. What wasn’t expected in the way it was carried out happened to be the last third of the movie. Unlike the previous thirds, the last 30 or so minutes serves more as an action movie. Not that there is not still comedy to be had, but the tone obviously shifts and it is a bit jarring to see blood spraying and bodies dropping.

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More of a re-imagining than an remake/reboot, the film incarnation of 21 Jump Street is good entertainment through and through, bolstered by self-referential humor and a strong (covalent) bond between main characters. Maybe going back to high school isn’t such a bad thing.

Grade: B

Photo credits go to sonypictures.com, movieforums.com, & totalfilm.com.

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