Kingsman: The Secret Service
I kind of stopped reading comic books a few years ago. I’m familiar with many of the titles that still hang around but they’ve been priced out of my range for continued collection. I have nothing against comic books- they’re just too pricey and I prefer purchasing books instead. So I never caught up on the comic book release for “The Secret Service”- but the truth be told, I probably would not have been caught up even if I were still collecting. I’m not a big fan of Mark Milar- “Wanted” was okay, “Kickass” sucked, and his take on the Ultimate series just reeked of “mature cleverness” (IE, rape, abuse, foul language and other ‘big shock’ in place of compelling story) that dominates the majority of Milar’s work. I’m not a fan. But I didn’t walk in to Kingsman with any previous knowledge of the comic book history or Mark Milar’s involvement and that left me free of the burden of any expectation- and I really enjoyed this film.
Okay, with that out of the way; Kingsman is pretty much a retread on familiar territory. We have a smart alec youngster taken under the wing of an older mentor-type and brought into the world of a super secret spy organization. So we’re pretty much looking at MiB, RIPD, Hellboy formula for deconstruction aimed at the “superspy” Bond-like films of days gone by. They sort of slip into a little bit of satire in the film, but the film straddles a fine line a little too carefully. It self-references the spy genre repeatedly but ramps up the gory violence, downplays the immortality of both hero and villain, and gives a couple of glances into the real world consequences for our Secret Organizations activities. I happen to like those kinds of movies (although some are far more successful than others) so I just sat back and had a shit-ton of fun with this picture.
Brain off. Eye candy. Googly moogly action sequences. Gory violence. Unapologetic series of gruesome scenes and so on so forth- there’s an especially effective scene taking place in a church, one of the most impressive visual spectacles I’ve ever seen. That much information may border on spoiling, but who cares? This movie isn’t going to offer any great revelations or try to trick you with a bunch of twists and turns you don’t see coming- nearly every twist is foreshadowed early enough in the story. It’s not insulting, but it’s not exactly the epitome in shocking storytelling.
4 out of 5.
The Wachowski’s return!!!
Yeah, I wasn’t all that excited myself. They made a good movie, followed up with a couple of lame-duck sequels, followed those up with a couple of lamer adaptations of old material, and are back again with a little space opera yarn-
But this time the story is pretty good. I don’t know if it’s based on any previous work or series of novels or comic books or anything like that, but Jupiter Ascending is a fairly standard action “Hero Quest” with cool visuals. The acting isn’t all that spectacular, with the bulk of any real emotional resonance coming from familiar face Sean Bean in the role of Sean Bean. You sort of want to set a stop watch to what you’re certain will be his eventual demise, though I won’t spoil any details in that regard. And Bean is really barely present through most of the narrative.
Here’s the basic story: A girl with the matching DNA of an intergalactic ruling family’s matriarch is hunted by the surviving offspring of that Matriarch for “reasons” that the Wachowski’s probably believe are deeper than they really are. There’s an alien DUDE (Channing Tatum) who is assigned to find her, protect her, and bring her to outer space, and then stares at her throughout the movie with a set of eyes that say “What will I order at the commissary when we break for lunch?”. The chemistry between the two leads is- I’m certain the word “something “ is as far from a definition as could possibly exist. But the story would have us believe that there’s something between them- I guess? I don’t know.
Things go boom.
The villain comes on the screen and offers an amazing Voldemort impression- truly, it’s spot on. So spot on that he couldn’t possibly be THE Villain in this space opera- he has to be a red herring. He has to be. There’s no way anyone that cheesy could possibly be the masterminding villain behind this unbelievably complex scheme to “Do stuff”. I’m sure he’s a red herring. Right? Anyway, he’s sort of in this silent war with his other two siblings- his sister, who Does Stuff and his younger brother, who also Does Stuff. And then there’s more Stuff- and a brilliant scene that delves into the deep bureaucracy surrounding this Galactic Government body that is never made truly clear but it most certainly exists in some way, shape, or form. And Stuff happens.
There’s a lot of Stuff happening. More stuff… good looking stuff, some aliens, some robots, some lasers, some fighting, and then more stuff. Stuff Stuff Stuff.
In the end, the movie was a good popcorn muncher with lots of “stuff” but isn’t any sort of breakthrough film and isn’t going to shatter new records. It’s a cheap Star Wars knock off with a couple of bad words and violence thrown in so the Wachowski’s could get a steeper rating and maybe lure people in with that “mature content” warning label.
3 out of 5.
What have I been doing?
Not a lot of updates to my blog this 2015- I never did get my top ten lists out for 2014 and it’s probably far too late at this point. And, to be honest, I’m not sure I can actually FILL a top ten list with “Best” movies to come out. The list of films that even stand out in any way is extremely small to me so I didn’t bother- and this year began with my first Stage Directing job for Paper Wing Theatre.
Hey, I put my money where my mouth is- I don’t just write about what I see, I make few things of my own every now and again. I act, I write, I direct, and that’s basically what I’ve been up to this past year with my theatrical home. And the experience was both exhilarating and a little bit humbling. It’s something I definitely want to do again- but in the meantime, my blog’s been a little bereft of my opinions.
And here’s an opinion- I was way too technophobic regarding the Kindle device. I got one for Christmas from my in-laws and the thing rarely ever leaves my side- it’s amazing! I get books- so many books, so many of them free, so many of them just mowed through and so many wonderful stories just wrapped up in my little brain. It’s brain melting and amazing!
And that meant I could download a story written by a friend of mine, someone I intended to review at my earliest convenience- So here it is!
Blackstone’s Captive By Tom Doolan
I’m a big fan of Pulp and this story is as fantastic pulp as it gets when a marauding band of Orcish Space Pirates (!!!) overtake a human space ship. They quickly put the crew down and the courageous actions of a young passenger manages to impress the Orc Captain and the protagonist quickly becomes the titular Captive of the story. It’s definitely an intriguing concept and Doolan writes in the first person from the captives point of view. There are some interesting concepts explored throughout the narrative- the Boy struggles to maintain what he sees as his own humanity and civilized nature yet he’s repeatedly “impressed” with the savage simplicity of the Orcs. Are the Orcs really he Savages he believes them to be? Is his humanity really all that precious?
The writing moves quickly, despite the overly “civilized” flair of the lead character. Captain Blackstone is an interesting antagonist, a black hearted captain with a strange personal code. He’s an Orc who respects strength, daring, and bald-faced courage in the face of danger. But he’s ultimately a violent and unforgiving sort. There’s a strong influence from the older “sweats” of the Pulp genre going on here and I love that.
Ultimately, I thought the story felt like only a small part of a great whole and hope that Doolan returns to these characters at a later date. There’s enough potential here to give way to a decent “Cat and Mouse” chase between the two lead characters and I can’t entirely side with the Protagonist in the direct aftermath of the tale. If you’re looking for some fun, pulpy, and fairly streamlined genre bending in your fiction then a quick download for only .99 cents is the way to go. I’ll be looking into Doolan’s other writings as time and wealth allow, but my recommendation is to put a copy on your own kindle device.
3.5 out of 5.