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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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2015 Music in Movies (Part 1)

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(Clockwise from left: Jason Moran (Selma), Common and John Legend (Selma), Hans Zimmer (Chappie), Henry Jackman (Kingsman: The Secret Service))

Another end of year brings another installment done by yours truly in Movie Man Jackson. For those unaware of what this end of year feature is all about, think of it as a spotlight on some of the best musical pieces I found in films that I viewed during the year that were, save for a few, released in 2015.

Don’t consider this a ranking, but again, just a series to give some attention to some musical work I found to be compelling, catchy, mesmerizing, etc. in said films. Don’t consider this a comprehensive list, either. I try to see everything I can, but of course, a big film (or two or three) with a killer score may not always be found here, not because I don’t like its music, but because I simply didn’t watch the film. In my opinion,  I cannot honestly blurb about what I liked/felt about the song chosen without watching the actual film—kind of like watching a film! Context is important! Feel free to let me know in the comments sections as to what I need to listen to and what, if anything, I got right!

A few short notes:

  • Again, for the most part, the songs I’ve selected appear in movies that were released in the 2015 calendar year save for 1-2 movies.
  • All of the songs I’ve selected appear in their respected movie. Some movies will have the official motion picture soundtrack as well as the official motion picture score. The score will (almost) always appear in the movie, whereas the soundtrack may appear here and there.
  • Generally, the songs I have selected are from the respective scores. But, there are a few selections I’ve chosen from the soundtrack, because said song adds to the movie immensely.
  • Not always, but some tracks from the score directly reference specific points in the movie. So, there may be slight spoilers!
  • I will link to every musical piece, but I don’t control if and when the piece gets taken down from YouTube 😦
  • I’m no musical whiz, nor know every exact instrument (though I do still play the trumpet from time to time :)), I just try to highlight what I really enjoy about the featured selection/selections, sometimes grouped and looked at more collectively than individually.
  • I’ve tried to start at the beginning of the year and work through it, though there may be the occasional film OST that I finally got around to listening to that makes its appearance later in the series.

Make sense? Let’s get it started!

Selma

Bloody Sunday

Composed by Jason Moran, this track, starting with the piano for a good solid minute and then introducing the strings, paints the picture and sets up the horror of the task that Dr. King and the SCLC have to go through in order to be heard. It is very somber piece, but a determined one as well, as the bass drum reflects the grit and the resilience of those in the march.

Glory

Of course, no series would be complete without the song that won the Oscar for Best Original Song last year. John Legend and Common takes a look at the events that the film is portraying, but just as important, connecting them to the troubles with race in present day. The lyrics are simple: We are not there, but we’re working to it, and the hope is once we achieve it, it will be glorious. The perfect song to end Selma on.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Love Me Like You Do

That sound you hear is all of my street cred going out of the door after posting this track. But seriously, Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t a great movie, but its soundtrack, overall, is a positive. In my original post, I said that while I liked the soundtrack, it felt a little too bubbly to me, considering the subject matter of the story. Now, upon further review, I don’t have as much of a problem with it, maybe because I finally understand that FSOG, despite its heavy subject matter, is really just a teen love story (I didn’t read the book) seen from the perspective of Ana, like this song by Ellie Goulding is written from. Of course she’s going to be enamored with a super rich and suave guy, even if he’s a little singular in his tastes.

 Kingsman: The Secret Service 

Manners Maketh Man

Skydiving

Calculated Infiltration

Every spy franchise needs a notable theme, and if Kingsman becomes a franchise (looks like it will), this motif will be the one that people equate with the franchise. The tracks, making heavy use of brass, are equal parts regal, but chaotic as well. Henry Jackman, also the mastermind behind scores from Big Hero 6, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Kick Ass, appears to be very comfortable scoring action films.

Focus

Sofa Rockers (Richard Dorfmeister Remix)

Sympathy for the Devil

Focus may become redundant with its twist on twist, “con-ception” game by the end of its runtime, but it is hard to deny that is just so smooth, stylish, and effortless in doing so, and the soundtrack really sets that up. The song by the Sofa Rockers is played when Nicky (Will Smith) is teaching Jess how to be a great con. The other song by The Rolling Stones puts a period on what is one of the best gambling scenes of recent memory in movies. They, like many other tracks in the soundtrack, doesn’t pop out, but it is reflective of its main characters in that the less attention drawn to themselves, the better. But, they get under your skin.

Chappie

The Only Way Out of This

A Machine That Thinks and Feels

Mayhem Downtown

Hans Zimmer has described his work on Neill Blomkamp’s latest as “The Chappie Elektrik Synthphonia.” That should tell you everything you need to know about the score, which is nothing organic. Like Chappie himself, the sounds are synthetic, and kind of grimy like the slums in Johannesburg, especially the hard-hitting numbers that reflect the more violent parts of the movie. But, there are also subdued moments that aren’t so breakneck like in A Machine That Thinks and Feels and Firmware Update, designed to replicate the childlike wonder that Chappie experiences. This Zimmer score is not like most of his other, more traditional, scores. The pulsating sounds could sound like a mess to some. But, I think it is another strong entry into Zimmer’s discography.

Furious 7 

Vow for Revenge

Brian Tyler wastes no time in establishing from the get-go that Furious 7 is going to be a tale of vengeance. This track feels like a cold dish of revenge, establishing Statham’s Deckard quickly as a badass. If that doesn’t do it, it segues nicely into Juicy J’s Payback. From here, we’re on a collision course between Dom’s crew and Deckard.

 

Paratroopers

Furious 7 (theme)

Though Fast Five is the high point of the series, take a look at Fast & Furious 2009 and the groundwork for what it is now can be seen, evolving from a small scope into a full-blown global one. The score changes with the transition in the series as well, big and robust with a ton of edge still. Though a small observation, I think it is no coincidence that in most of the best movies of the franchise (F5, F7, some actually love TD), almost all have been scored by Brian Tyler (3, 4, 5, 7), who has a knack for blending electric sounds with classical instruments.

Farewell

See You Again (movie version)

And now, the one-two combo that left more than a few eyes misty at the end. The piano just sets things up beautifully—you know it’s coming—leading up to the collaboration and emotionally resonant ending performed by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth. I opted with the film version, not that the real version isn’t amazing, but there’s something perfect about the lyrics in the film version that the radio version almost has, but doesn’t quite have. It truly is For Paul.

Photo credits come from vibe.com, allmusic.com, disney.wikia.com, and uaudio.com.

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Kingsman: The Secret Service: Movie Man Jackson

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“If you’re prepared to adapt, you can transform.”

Whether you’re kicking butt, or just hanging out and such, if you’re a Kingsman, you are always doing it in impeccable style. Kingsman: The Secret Service focuses upon a secret organization that values manners and style just as much, if not more than combat skill. During one high-pressure mission in 1997, high-ranking member Harry Hart (Colin Firth), loses one of his colleagues and feels responsible for it. To atone somewhat, Hart pays a visit to the deceased’s widow and young son, leaving behind a medal with an engraved phone number that promises to give help in dire situations.

Fast-forward to the present day, and troubled but talented young man Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton) is now the sole possessor of that medal. When Eggsy finds himself in a pickle, he makes the call and is saved by Harry, while finding his connection with the organization. With an opening within it for a new “lancelot” agent, Eggsy is put into a rigorous selection process with several others candidates. As this is happening, a mysterious threat begins to rise under rich man Richard Valentine’s (Samuel L. Jackson) lead, a threat that has global implications.

samuel

Even though it may be fun to rib about when it occurs, not every film that is pushed back from its original debut date has an automatic destiny of doom. Now more times than not, delays do little to salvage the final product, but every now and then a postponement does what it aims to do: Smooth the rough edges, fill loose holes, etc. Kingsman: The Secret Service bucks the trend of the traditional low quality that comes with films being pushed back into the period of “Dumpuary,” and brings a solid crowd-pleasing good time to an old-school template.

Really, the reason behind the postponing is unknown. It is very possible that Kingsman is the exact same movie now that would have released months ago, and the delay was for strategic box office reasons. Regardless, perhaps I should have had more faith in Matthew Vaughn, the director who restored/brought two different comic-book franchises to life in Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class and does so again here. Vaughn again serves as an architect, giving weight and intrigue to a story, world, and characters lifted from its respective comic.

Seen early on in the movie through its characters, world, story, and even score, it is undeniable that there is an affectionate soft spot for the spy tales that came before this. Pieces of Bourne and 24 are evident, but let’s face it: the Bond franchise is the inspiration for much here, elements both shaken and stirred into parody and tribute. Yours truly has never been a crazy 007 or spy movie super fan, so sometimes it is hard for interest to be had with them. Kingsman’s story isn’t amazing, and from time to time it is all over the place tonally, but one aspect it does have going for it is unpredictability. That alone keeps interest throughout.

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All of the previously mentioned is well and good, but if there is one thing Vaughn can take to his grave, it is the fact that he knows how to exhibit balls-out and over-the-top sequences of action. In these scenes of complete anarchy, there’s a frenetic fluidity that exists to them. It is a pleasure to watch, but a bit below undeniably satisfying. Why?

Yours truly usually isn’t a bloodhound (I’m more of a pug), but it was somewhat surprising that little to none of the red stuff was present in the notable moments. While I do believe that blood for blood’s sake gets old also, it is very odd to see a body sliced in half with no messy aftermath, and this continues. Maybe that plays into the whole lack of seriousness here; this very much feels like a fabricated world compared to something like Kick-Ass. That too had unbelievable happenings, but was grounded and built upon the idea that when fantasy moonlighting meets everyday real-life, the consequences are not pretty and rather brutal, which made for more satisfying and impactful action. At the end of the day it might just be a personal preference.

Part of the draw of Kingsman is witnessing actors in nontraditional roles. Look no further than Colin Firth as a dapper, erudite, dry-witted individual who only throws down when he has to. Firth is a hell of an actor, but seeing him look so effortless in combat is mindblowing. Also flipping the script from his usual work is Mark Strong as one of the good guys lending support to the youngsters. He may not have a ton to say, but his presence is noted. The most meta-roles belong to Samuel L. Jackson and Sofia Boutella as the blade-legged Gaselle. Every cliche and commonality found in villains appearing in spy movies is present with Jackson these two, and it is pleasant fun, if a tad overused as this progresses.

firth

Credit has to be given to Taron Egerton, not first-billed on the marquee but showing a lot to many witnessing his work for the first time. It would have been real easy to not care for and maybe even dislike his character of Eggsy, but his character is written well and Egerton brings a load of charisma to support it. He may be one to watch with the requisite star look and ever-developing chops.

Though there may be a few blanks fired here and there, Kingsman: The Secret Service is hyperactive, irreverent, and does what it wants to do. Kingsmen may have there own rules, but this film plays by its own set.

Grade: B

Photo credits go to vixenvarsity.com, forbes.com, and nydailynews.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson.