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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Hell or High Water: Movie Man Jackson

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Almost anything can be done with ruthless determination. Brothers Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) and Toby Howard (Chris Pine) have begun to rob banks in small towns of Texas. Robbery and crime comes easy for lifelong convict Tanner, but Toby, with no criminal record to speak of, is a little taken aback by the action. But it needs to be done in his mind. He owes a ton of child support to his ex-wife, and the Howard farm is up for foreclosure.

On the trail of the brotherly due is soon-to-be-retiree ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges). Though unsaid, he’s actually a little afraid of retirement and relishes this one last opportunity to sink his teeth into something substantial with his Hispanic/Native American partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham). This is old fashioned cops and robbers. Who’s in the right?

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Is the Western making a comeback? I don’t believe the traditional Western genre will ever be like it once was, but it does feel like Hollywood has been fusing the genre with more modern genres moreso than ever. Enter Hell or High Water, a movie that doesn’t carry Western in its genre listing but is pretty much so. It will be hard for any upcoming Western to top the final product here.

Director David McKenzie (Perfect Sense) manages the proceedings here. The Texas—technically, New Mexico–backdrop isn’t flashy, but there is something striking about it. But he may be outshined by the screenplay turned in by Taylor Sheridan. Debuting with last year’s Sicario, the man has quickly established himself as a talented writer in less than a year’s time.

Nothing about Hell or High Water is truly original, but in a way, that makes what Sheridan accomplishes all the more surprising and impressive. At the core, this is a movie about inequality, the 1% versus the 99%. It is a theme that is as old as the beginning of time, and one that is ever-popular in recent years from The Dark Knight Rises to Money Monster. But it is subtle, such as the billboards that the brothers find on the road that bring up debt and quick cash. The script gives reasons to care about the main characters; they’re actually people with believable motivations. And on a basic sense, the characters are just entertaining to hear talk. This isn’t an action-heavy piece, as even the robbery scenes are muted. Dialogue definitely is at the forefront. With a title like Hell or High Water, one might expect nonstop heaviness and grit. What is surprising is how much humor is injected in the movie and how it actually is effective, and its characters are made more endearing for it.

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Each of the three main actors, Texas drawls and all, turn in impressive performances. He may not be a lead character in this, but Gil Birmingham flashes great chemistry with Jeff Bridges and their ride-along relationship is entertaining. Bridges himself is a better version of what Tommy Lee Jones’ character was in No Country for Old Men. He understands the situation at hand instead of being taken aback by it, and his zeal for wanting to get the job done is a treat to watch.

The dynamic that Ben Foster and Chris Pine show is electric. Character-wise, Tanner should be a guy that is impossible to root for, and yet he isn’t. Ben Foster does stellar work with the role, and gives heart to a semi-unstable character. It is Chris Pine, however, who comes out of this one as the talking point of the film. I’ve always felt he’s had it in him to do this quality of work, and his Toby is likely the high point of his career to this point, and the end scene that is reminiscent to Heat‘s iconic De Niro/Pacino moment seals the deal, his character’s plight, and why.

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Hell or High Water is high tide for the Western genre. Coming near the end of the summer, it feels like the perfect catalyst to lead into a (hopefully) good fall movie season.

A-

Photo credits go to usatoday.com, thefilmstage.com, and ew.com

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Seventh Son: Movie Man Jackson

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“You live in a world now where nightmare and legend are real.”

In a world where nightmare and legend are truly real, only a certain man can save it. And not just any man, but a seventh son of a Seventh Son. Master John Gregory (Jeff Bridges), a seventh son, is a spook, essentially a protector of his town from the dastardly demons, ghouls, shapeshifters, and the like. Father time waits for no one though, and Master Gregory has been actively trying to find an apprentice to fill the eventual void. Problem is, none of them have survived long enough to learn the trade.

It takes another seventh son to ensure the continued safety of the land, and Gregory recruits Thomas Ward (Ben Barnes) as his heir apprentice. For Tom, he’s going to have to grow up fast, as the baddest witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) has escaped confinement to wreak havoc once again. Destiny beckons, and it is time for Tom to answer the call.

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Development hell. Whether a movie, album, television show, video game, or otherwise, the term usually spells doom for said project. Like anything, there are exceptions. However, if the troubled project is lucky (or maybe unlucky) enough to reach the light of day, often it can be seen why it had so much tumult around it. Seventh Son, a movie conceived in 2011 and mired in its share of development hell, shows why throughout.

Seventh Son isn’t completely worthless. At times, it does look respectable with solid CGI and functional action, directed by foreign filmmaker Sergey Bodrov. This is truly a film that looks better, not amazing, but better, when stuff is happening be it battles, shape-shifting, etc. This is a film that looks terrible when characters are doing nothing more than standing idly in the background talking to one another. The characters are superimposed against skies and environments that are not convincing whatsoever. Where did the budget go?

Admittedly, yours truly just isn’t a huge fan of fantasy/sword & sorcery-type films, save for a few exceptions such as the original Conan the Barbarian. Really, the story in this film isn’t jumbled or unclear, but it is devoid of even a shred of originality. At the end of the day, it is the standard good v.s. evil that exists in some form everywhere, with a large helping of the chosen one realizing their destiny tale.

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It works OK for what it is, but for something that was likely intended to be the start of a franchise, it is very surprising that hardly any attention is given to expanding the characters or even the town they inhabit. Unless I missed it, the town’s name wasn’t even mentioned here! The film is based on a novel, and it is possible the novel never states where it takes place. Still, it feels odd that nothing is ever really known about this town or the mythos of its inhabitants.

All of this just further speaks to the main issue of the movie: Save for a few scattered moments, all in all it is just quite dull, lacking any flair or intrigue. As stated before, a main part of this is the coming of age aspect. It is a little flat for one reason: The star is already of age, literally. I’m not saying that Ben Barnes is an old-looking guy at 33, but he isn’t exactly easy to buy into as a teen who seems to be written as no older than 18. It is just a really puzzling casting decision. Kit Harrington, who appears here briefly—and forgettably—would have at least looked the part more. As it stands, Barnes fails to bring any charisma, chemistry with his romantic counterpart, or screen presence to the role.

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While Barnes is the main character, the reliable ones are played by Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore. Neither’s role is enough to bump this up to an average level, but they are enough to save it from a failing one. Bridges is the war-tested type here as the guy who’s been through all of the trials and tribulations to last a lifetime, with some goofiness thrown in with a weird accent for good measure. Julianne Moore is an adequate villain, and she does what she is able to. For as talented as Djimon Hounsou is, he seems to be in a comfort zone as a henchman in the last few flicks he has been in, this included.

With so much swords, sorcery, and otherworldly aspects, the last thing a fantasy movie should be is a bore. But that is what Seventh Son primarily is. Perhaps it would have been better to leave this in development hell.

Grade: D

Photo credits go to screenrant.com, aceshowbiz.com, and joblo.com.

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