Kingsman: The Golden Circle (R)

Co-written and directed by Matthew Vaughn and starring Taron Egerton and Mark Strong, the much anticipated Kingsman: The Golden Circle hits theaters today. With their headquarters destroyed, the British spies discover an allied spy organization in the US. These two organizations band together to defeat a common enemy.

Full disclosure: My expectations for this installment were lowered upon seeing the cast on a huge board at a movie theater a couple of weeks ago.  I wasn’t feeling the move across the pond to America and a couple of the costars raised red flags about the level of “cheesiness” I was in for.

I saw Kingsman: The Secret Service for the first time about two weeks ago and enjoyed it. I wasn’t reviewing movies in 2014, but I would have said it earned a solid 8 out of 10 bloops. The Golden Circle didn’t “wow” me as much as The Secret Service.  It wasn’t as “fresh,” naturally.  It also had a lot to accomplish – like reaching back into the first story to meld the two together so that certain events make sense and setting up future installments – all while telling a cohesive, interesting, focused, action-packed story. Because of this, the story was inconsistently successful.

The writing is fine (as in okay).  There were a few lines that descended into crudeness, but such is America.  Some of the bits got stale after a while, but I still laughed out loud at times, along with most everyone else. The political theme gets a bit heavy handed and takes away from the movie’s sense of fun. There was a good balance to the action/adventure/comedy, and The Secret Service was weaved into the story well.  There are some surprises that fans will enjoy (or hate).  As far as the action goes, there’s plenty of it with great stunts, choreography and camera work, and it never gets too gory.  The music is entertaining.  I started to see it in IMAX and I’m glad I didn’t.  As much as I love high quality sound, my ears cannot take the volume at times.  (And not that I don’t love it, but if I hear that John Denver song in a movie one more time this year… This is the sixth movie this year. Let’s not wear it out, shall we?)

The Golden Circle feels over-directed at times in an attempt to make an already “edgy” movie even more so. Some characters are meant to be exaggerated, but too many become cartoonish caricatures of themselves – and not in a particularly good way. Also, when a movie starts out with such amazing, fast paced action and the audience is immediately pulled in, it is difficult to maintain that level of interest throughout 2 hours and 21 minutes. For me it ran a little long, but to be fair, I went to the first show after a night of terrible insomnia – so that very well could have been the cause of my restlessness.

The acting was good. I understand it’s not “the theatre” or anything, but some cast members didn’t fit their role and it just felt forced and unconvincing at times.  Taron Eigerton did a great job of giving us glimpses of the younger, less confident, more vulnerable Eggsy who won us over in the first installment.  Even with some silly and overdrawn plot points, Eggsy manages to keep this ship afloat.

Kingsman: Golden Circle earned 7.5 out of 10 bloops.  It’s a good movie worth seeing on the big screen for the action/choreography/camerawork. It’s a good, mindless, mostly fun, popcorn and/or nachos movie.  The Golden Circle has served its purpose; it has bridged the old and the new, and will make fans look forward to Kingsman 3.  I cannot speak for anyone else, but I’m in.  Hopefully we can all move forward now and the third movie will have a stand-alone story.  If you’re a fan, I believe you will enjoy it.

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Bloops:

1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

Welcome message

 What I’m seeing next…

The Glass Castle – I already saw it.  It is terrific, but I just didn’t finish the review yet.  It will be up shortly.  If you have a chance to catch it before it leaves theaters please do. Woody Harrelson is ah-may-zing.

Battle of the Sexes

Victoria and Abdul

Previous Reviews

Mother!
It
Good Time
Atomic Blonde
Dunkirk
Girls Trip
Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Big Sick
Baby Driver
All Eyez on Me 
It Comes at Night 
The Wedding Plan 
Wonder Woman
Everything, everything
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Raw

Kong: Skull Island
Logan
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness 
Get Out

Hidden Figures
Fences
Moonlight
Hell or High Water
Loving
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Nocturnal Animals
Captain Fantastic
Elle
Jackie
I Am Not Your Negro

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Mother (R)

Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, the much anticipated film Mother hit theaters today. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem star, with Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer rounding out the cast. Billed as a drama/horror/mystery, Lawrence and Bardem are a couple living in this massive country home who somehow wind up entertaining strangers, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer.  The drama exists between Lawrence’s character and every other character in the film, including the house itself.  The horror is that she is unable and at most times unwilling to pull herself out of what is happening to her.  The mystery is, you really never quite know what Bardem, Harris and Pfeiffer are up to.

In theory, this could have been a really great movie.  The idea of it is very cool.  One theme that stands out revolves around the “cult” of celebrity – in other words, the “God-like” worship fans can have for celebrities and how celebrities may let that worship consume and change them. This concept was dealt with in a pretty cool way and is the crux of everything that occurs in the movie.  At least I think that’s what Aronofsky was saying… It’s a bit hard to tell because there was so much going on it all felt muddled.  This movie has vibes from Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, The Amityville Horror, The Shining, Night of the Living Dead and more, so it has this lively potential to go in all these different, thought provoking directions, which makes Mother interesting.

What was less interesting and made no sense, was that Jen’s character dismissed important events; casually suppressed them, and carried on into the next horror as if it were nothing, including happenings in the house and the way her husband and others treated and talked to her.  The polite, gentle nature of her character and her lack of outrage is what moves the story forward, but it is also what weakens the story because it is not believable.  It’s also what annoyed the heck outta me.  Just as an example, I find it improbable that if my house were literally bleeding I would fail to make certain to mention it to my husband, regardless of whatever other chaos is occurring at the time or how crazy he may be acting.  As far as I’m concerned, a bleeding house trumps everything. But maybe that’s just me?

Mother keeps you guessing, but it keeps you guessing for far too long as we watch Jennifer Lawrence pad around this huge house that she is personally renovating, in bare feet.  Although the house is absolutely massive it does not seem as though it is, because we don’t see enough of it.  How many times can one watch J Law go up and down steps, down to the basement, to the front door, to the guest room, to the bedroom, to the bathroom, etc., with a look of simple (as in, you’re a simpleton and when are you going to start carrying a weapon around that house or get the heck out of there, or at least put some damn shoes on!!!?) curiosity on her face?  This movie started at 11:05 a.m. By 11:51 I was ready to walk out.  By 12:16 I had to recommit to stick it out until the end, and there was still 44 minutes to go!  It honestly felt like torture at some points and it was exhausting.

The horror is original, and includes an exciting combination of the average person’s worst fears.  This is what draws you into the movie.  So you are definitely captured by Mother for a time.  If Mother had been heavier on the horror and/or simply edited out some of the repetitive barefoot stair-walking parts of story, it could have been a much stronger film.

I could have counted the number of words that Jennifer Lawrence says in this movie.  Her character was so passive, docile, domesticated and dull I couldn’t relate to her. (Honestly, the bare feet alone nearly drove me mad.  This woman gives new meaning to the term “barefoot and pregnant.”)  With all the things going on in this movie, I would have probably slept in my shoes in case I had to run at a moment’s notice. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are outstanding here. You will want to hurt them both.

Mother earned 6 out of 10 bloops.  It is so-so and could have been better, but it is certainly not all bad.  It has some really interesting and thoughtful elements to it, but it’s just didn’t pull me in all the way (with the exception of the stressful, exquisitely done, horror sequence) and caused me to check the time far too often.  Mother attempts to redeem itself in the last few minutes, but the payoff is weak and not worth the 2 hour investment in a story that feels like it is going nowhere and will never get to the point. I cannot recommend paying full price to see it.  Catch it at a matinee if you must, but I would suggest you wait to stream it.

***Afterthought:

Never had to do this before but I feel the need to revisit this review. 

After posting, it has come to my attention that I somehow “missed the mark” on my review of this movie. Last night I read this Vanity Fair article on the intended interpretation and what is behind the symbolism. The article states that much explanation was given by Aronofsky before early viewings he attended. Was he planning on attending every viewing? I think not. The fact that Mother requires so much explanation, and most people (anyone not connected to the project) would not guess it is about anything close to what he says it is about, indicates he left too much of the story in his head and failed to express enough on film.  In this regard, I feel as though the film fails. Someone else has to “get” what the writer is talking about, sans accompanying texts and lengthy introductions. If I wanted to read about it, I’d prefer it were in a book, rather than a film. I stand by everything included in my review and the score it earned with me stands.

For the record, I do not read or watch interviews about movies before I see them, so that I’m not influenced by the opinions of others before I write. I don’t watch trailers because I do not wish to see the best parts of the movie beforehand. There is no lightbulb moment in Mother where the intended meaning behind it all becomes clear to the viewer. That’s what is missing and why many didn’t/do not get it. I am not the one who “missed the mark.”

***Note: I’ve seen American Assassin, but I’m too tired to review it just now.  Pay the matinee price or wait for it to stream.  You can thank me later!

Thank you for reading. You can scroll down, enter your email address, and never miss a review!

Bloops:

1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

Welcome message

 What I’m seeing next…

American Assassin – Already saw it.  Too tired to complete the review.  Wait for it to stream.  You can thank me later!
The Wild Wedding
Kingsman: The Golden Circle

 Previous Reviews

It
Good Time
Atomic Blonde
Dunkirk
Girls Trip
Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Big Sick
Baby Driver
All Eyez on Me 
It Comes at Night 
The Wedding Plan 
Wonder Woman
Everything, everything
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Raw

Kong: Skull Island
Logan
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness 
Get Out

Hidden Figures
Fences
Moonlight
Hell or High Water
Loving
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Nocturnal Animals
Captain Fantastic
Elle
Jackie
I Am Not Your Negro

It (R)

Written by Stephen King (1986), adapted into a television miniseries (1990) and now remade for 2017, It hits theaters today.  If you’ve never read the book or seen the 1990 version, the local children in the town of Derry, Maine are disappearing one by one, but the phenomenon somehow goes unnoticed by the adults.  A group of seven teens are united by their terrifying encounters with an evil clown that is behind the disappearances and their quest to kill It.

To be honest, I had never seen the 1990 version until about 4 o’clock this morning. (Pardon me, but I was busy giving birth that year and couldn’t be concerned with Stephen King or what was on television at the time.) I enjoyed it, and although I am one who desperately craves original content in film and kvetches about remakes regularly, I immediately understood why this particular movie was ripe to be remade, and the anticipation surrounding this particular remake.  (Oh, and I never have and never will read the book.  Just so we are clear. I’m sure it’s fantastic, but no thank you.  I have enough trouble sleeping at night.)  It’s great material to modernize and make into a movie because the issues covered in the original (set in the early 60’s – the kid’s portion of the movie at least) and the remake (set in the late 80’s) are still relevant (if not moreso, unfortunately) today.  Child abduction is a terrifying possibility that we know more about and have more exposure to and anxiety about than ever (thank you social media).  Couple that with some crazy ass clown who stalks, taunts, manipulates and terrorizes children, and you’ve really got the stuff of nightmares!  These children also face severe and brutal bullying, and abuse in many forms at home (some sort of extremely twisted and weird sexual grooming, coddling nearly to the point of crippling, mistreatment from an adoptive family). Like too many children who must learn to adapt and find their social circle outside of their own homes, these teens build their own family through their friendship and their common connection to It.

So, (teeny, tiny spoiler alert for to those of us who do not watch previews or trailers or read reviews of movies before seeing them, like myself)), the adult versions of these children who were present in the 1990 adaptation are not included here at all. And why should they be?  This was one smart move! It makes the film less of a remake and more of an edited version of the original.  It keeps the movie from running over 3 hours long, as the original did. The loss of all those flashbacks improves the editing process and we get a “smoother” story.  The result is linear, straightforward storytelling.

Not featuring the children as adults also keeps the budget in check with no need to pay big money to hire big stars to draw viewers.  The absence of the “A Lister” adults also allows the budget to be evenly distributed throughout the film as far as effects, cinematography, makeup, wardrobe, those little 80’s details (although I’m sure the nitpickers have already found flaws), and so on – and everything here is done well. The entire budget was about $35,000,000.  Brilliant! There is one line in the movie that lets you in on why It is being remade now (2017) which I thought was a very thoughtful detail as it is a slight change in a detail from the 1990 version.

Don’t get me wrong.  While I found the adult characters sort of annoying the first time around I did appreciate the psychological complexities they displayed as a result of their childhood traumas.  Still, I didn’t miss them here for a minute.

The young, seasoned talent did a great job.  Finn Wolfhard (from Stranger Things) provides the potty-mouth comic relief, and I’m sure he had fun doing it.  Andy Muschietti did a good job directing. Super Kudos to Chase Palmer, Gary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman for having the temerity to remix the work of this storytelling master and come up with the screenplay for It.  I say, let them have a crack at more older material and let’s see what they come up with!

Since this is not 1990’s television there is more graphic gore and more cursing, and I didn’t mind it one bit.  Teens, when they are amongst themselves, believe it or not mom and dad, do and say things they wouldn’t otherwise do or say.  I thought the moments when these kids were being foul-mouthed or just being themselves, being free and acting their age in peace, lent authenticity to the way many kids behave around one another. That is the comfort of friendship. The most refreshing part?  These kids were outside, on their bikes, having fun, having adventures – and there wasn’t one cell phone in sight.  (Remember those days?)  No one had to Google anything or text their mom to say where they were.  Siri or Maps wasn’t used to help navigate.  I loved It.  (Haha – see what I did there?…)

If you want to know more I recommend you go see It.  It earned 8 out of 10 bloops. It is a great movie that shouldn’t be missed if you’re a fan of horror, It the miniseries, the book or Stephen King.  Since “the powers that be” will obviously continue to churn out remakes whether the public likes it or not, hopefully this will help to raise the bar on how a remake should be treated! Take what is good about the original work and use it to build something fresh.

Thank you for reading. You can scroll down, enter your email address, and never miss a review!

Bloops:

1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

Welcome message

What I’m seeing this week…

True to the Game
Crown Heights
Mother

Previous Reviews

Mother!
Good Time

Atomic Blonde
Dunkirk
Girls Trip
Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Big Sick
Baby Driver
All Eyez on Me 
It Comes at Night 
The Wedding Plan 
Wonder Woman
Everything, everything
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Raw

Kong: Skull Island
Logan
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness 
Get Out

Hidden Figures
Fences
Moonlight
Hell or High Water
Loving
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Nocturnal Animals
Captain Fantastic
Elle
Jackie
Florence Foster Jenkins
I Am Not Your Negro