Film Review: Hannibal Rising (2007)

Also known as: Hannibal 4, Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask, The Lecter Variations (working titles)
Release Date: February 7th, 2007 (France)
Directed by: Peter Webber
Written by: Thomas Harris
Based on: Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris
Music by: Ilan Eshkeri, Shigeru Umebayashi
Cast: Gaspard Ulliel, Gong Li, Rhys Ifans, Dominic West, Kevin McKidd, Richard Brake

Young Hannibal Productions, Carthago Films S.a.r.I., Dino De Laurentiis Company, The Weinstein Company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 121 Minutes

Review:

“Rudeness is an epidemic” – Hannibal Lecter

One of the Hannibal films has to be the worst and well, this is it.

I thought that it was incredibly boring and really, really underwhelming. So much so, I figured that there was no way that Hannibal Lecter’s creator, Thomas Harris, had anything to do with this. So I was a bit taken aback when I saw that Thomas Harris wrote this script, based off of his own novel.

In his defense, I don’t think that this is particularly bad but it just didn’t feel like it was the same Hannibal Lecter that I’ve now known for decades.

The acting in this was pretty middle of the road but Rhys Ifans was probably the best performer in this, as the story’s primary antagonist. Ifans is always damn good, though, so this should go without saying.

I guess after seeing this, I just realized that we didn’t need a Hannibal origin story. We know he’s fucked up and this actually takes some of the character’s mystery away. Okay, maybe it takes a lot of that mystery away. I liked his background just being casually hinted at and that we, the audience, had to fill in the blanks with our own mind.

I wasn’t a big fan of these characters, their motivations or any of this.

Ugh… there really just isn’t much else to say. This was boring with bland performances and it didn’t feel, at all, connected to the title character.

Rating: 4/10

Film Review: Bingo Hell (2021)

Also known as: Bingo (working title), Welcome to the Blumhouse: Bingo (alternative title)
Release Date: September 24th, 2021 (Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: Gigi Saul Guerrero
Written by: Gigi Saul Guerrero, Shane McKenzie, Perry Blackshear
Music by: Chase Horseman
Cast: Adriana Barraza, L. Scott Caldwell, Joshua Caleb Johnson, Richard Brake

Amazon Studios, 85 Minutes

Review:

This popped up on the homepage when I fired up my Amazon Firestick. It was free with Prime Video and I thought that a horror film about bingo-holics fighting some sort of monster in their bingo hall might be fairly entertaining for 85 minutes.

Sadly, this wasn’t fun or all that entertaining. It did seem to have some heart in it and it clearly had a message it wanted to deliver but it missed its mark, even though it was a bit heavy handed with it.

Granted, I did like this poking fun at the hipster brand of gentrification that has taken over many neighborhoods surrounding bigger cities. But that seemed to get lost once the biggest threat to the neighborhood became a bingo-obsessed demon.

Anyway, the acting isn’t bad, per se, but it also isn’t great. It’s kind of a mixed bag from actor-to-actor but most of the key characters do an alright job. Richard Brake really stands out, as the villain, but he’s pretty solid in those sort of roles, anyway.

The main actress, Adriana Barraza, reminds me of every older Mexican and Cuban lady I’ve met growing up in southern Florida. So there is a personal, emotional connection I have to her. I get her motivations and how she wants to keep the community the same and sees all her neighbors as her family. However, by the end, her rantings and ravings get tiresome and while I like seeing her go ape shit and blasting stuff with a shotgun, by that point, I was mentally checked out and exhausted by the character and this film, which isn’t even 90 minutes.

Everything in this feels cheap and it really didn’t need to. It just looks like it was filmed on phones with homemade steady-cams. Additionally, the special effects were pretty amateurish and they added effects where they weren’t necessary like to the neon sign outside of the demonic bingo hall.

I thought that the plot was weak and it didn’t really maximize what it could have with the ideas it wanted to explore. This was really just a cookie cutter demon story thrown into a bingo hall and tied to bingo balls and demonically possessed cash.

Some things in the movie were also irritating, like when the kid opens up one of those money blowing vacuum vaults, puts a Zippo inside of it, which doesn’t immediately blow out, and then all the money magically turns into an inferno. I don’t know, maybe just pull the plug on the machine and then drop a lighter in.

While I initially liked some of the characters in this, it became a tough film to get through, even at just 85 minutes.

Rating: 3/10

TV Review: Ray Donovan (2013-2020)

Original Run: June 30th, 2013 – January 19th, 2020
Created by: Ann Biderman
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Marcelo Zarvos
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Paula Malcomson, Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, Steven Bauer, Katherine Moennig, Pooch Hall, Kerris Dorsey, Devon Bagby, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon, Graham Rogers, Susan Sarandon, Elliott Gould, Peter Jacobson, Denise Crosby, Frank Whaley, Hank Azaria, James Woods, Rosanna Arquette, Sherilyn Fenn, Wendell Pierce, Ian McShane, Katie Holmes, Leland Orser, Aaron Staton, Fairuza Balk, Embeth Davidtz, Richard Brake, Lisa Bonet, Stacy Keach, Tara Buck, Ted Levine, C. Thomas Howell, Donald Faison, Lili Simmons, James Keach, Adina Porter, Jake Busey, Sandy Martin, Zach Grenier, Alan Alda, Lola Glaudini, Kerry Condon, Kevin Corrigan

David Hollander Productions, The Mark Gordon Company, Ann Biderman Co., Bider Sweet Productions, CBS, Showtime, 82 Episodes, 45-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Lots of people talked this show up for years like it was the second coming of The Sopranos. I wanted to wait for it to end, as I typically binge things in their entirety. With this show, that was probably the best way to view it, as so many things happen with so many characters, that it would’ve been hard remembering all the details over seven years.

I wouldn’t say that this is anywhere near as good as The Sopranos and I also don’t have as high of an opinion of that show as most people do. Granted, I did still like it quite a bit when it was current.

Ray Donovan follows Ray Donovan, a badass uber masculine guy that works as a Hollywood fixer. However, his entire family is complex and interesting and this isn’t so much about Ray being a fixer, as it is about his family’s criminal behavior and their turbulent personal lives.

The show does a remarkable job of pushing its characters to the point of you hating them but then finds a way to make you realize you love them. It’s a show that actually has a lot of mini redemption arcs but it also shows, within that, that people tend to surrender to their nature even if they want to work on themselves.

Ray is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever seen on television but that can also be said about several other core characters, here

I think in the end, my favorite character ended up being Eddie Marsan’s Terry, the eldest Donovan brother, as he was always trying to do the right thing by his family, even if they often times found themselves doing really shitty things.

I also liked Bunchy a lot but by the end, his constant bad luck and terrible decisions became exhausting.

The first five seasons are really solid, even if the fourth was a bit weak. The show kind of lost me in season six, where it moved from Los Angeles to New York City and didn’t feel like it had much of a point. Plus, there are things that happened in season six that made the show jump the shark for me.

The only thing that really saved the last two seasons was how damn good Sandy Martin was once she entered the show.

Overall, I enjoyed watching this and if anything, it showcased incredible performances by stellar actors playing really fucked up but endearing characters.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Sopranos, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Justified.

Film Review: Batman Begins (2005)

Also known as: Batman 5 (working title), Batman: Intimidation (script title), The Intimidation Game (fake working title)
Release Date: May 31st, 2005 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Mark Boone Junior, Jack Gleeson, Richard Brake

DC Comics, Syncopy, Warner Bros., 140 Minutes

Review:

“But I know the rage that drives you. That impossible anger strangling the grief, until the memory of your loved one is just… poison in your veins. And one day, you catch yourself wishing the person you loved had never existed, so you would be spared your pain.” – Henri Ducard

When this first came out on DVD, I watched it almost weekly for a few years. I loved this film and to me, at least at the time, it was the greatest Batman film ever made. Hell, before the DVD release, I think I saw this at least three times in the theater.

I would end up liking The Dark Knight even more but the Nolan trilogy started with this film and it was a great introduction to his more serious and realistic Batman film series.

In retrospect now, I like the 1989 Batman slightly better but it’s magic was undone by the later films that followed and even though it took eight years, Batman Begins was the cinematic reboot that we needed after the Schumacher Batman pictures.

This film is so good, as are the ones that follow, that I’ve kind of accepted that no one will ever make a Batman film series as great. Frankly, these are the best films that Christopher Nolan has made and while the first film in a trilogy can often times feel like a practice run, this one is fairly close to perfect.

My only real gripe about it is that the pacing feels a bit disjointed at times. But there is also a lot of story and a lot of characters to balance here. I think that Nolan got much better with that in the next film. These aren’t things that break the film in any way but if I can’t give this a perfect score, I feel that I should explain why.

This is still energetic and every scene feels necessary. But it also feels like so much was wedged into it that it could’ve actually benefited from an extra 20-30 minutes. And that’s not something I’m usually a fan of, as I love 90 minute running times and this picture is already well over two hours. But when a film is this good, I never seem to mind that it requires more of my time.

Nolan got the best possible performances out of all of the actors involved and everyone in this is absolutely perfect. This was well cast and even Katie Holmes, who was replaced in the sequel, pulled off the best performance of her career. Normally, I wouldn’t put her at the same level as everyone else in this movie but she held her own and I was disappointed that she was recast in The Dark Knight.

In closing, this is a stellar motion picture where everything just works in the right way from the direction, cinematography, acting, the musical score by Hans Zimmer and the great character development.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Film Review: 3 From Hell (2019)

Also known as: Los 3 del infierno (Mexico)
Release Date: September 15th, 2019 (Fantasy Filmfest – Germany)
Directed by: Rob Zombie
Written by: Rob Zombie
Music by: Zeuss
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Richard Brake, Sid Haig, Danny Trejo, Dee Wallace, Daniel Roebuck, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Emilio Rivera, Clint Howard, Richard Riehle, Sean Whalen

Capital Arts Entertainment, Spookshow International, Saban Films, Lionsgate, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Um… some old broad next door saw me gut that bitch. Um, think we should think about rolling out of here soon.” – Baby

Well, it took fourteen years to get a sequel to The Devil’s Rejects. If I’m being honest, the previous film had a perfect ending and it didn’t need a followup. I’m also not sure if Rob Zombie ever intended to do a third film. It feels like this was more or less done for fan service to get back on the good graces of those who liked his early movies, as everything since his Halloween remake hasn’t been received very well by most.

That being said, this is better than his more recent movies but it is definitely the worst of The Firefly Family Trilogy. Also, this is left open for a possible fourth movie but it should’ve ended with the second because you can only milk a cow so long before you start getting pus.

The problem I have with this film is two-fold.

First, this plays like the seventh movie in a row where Rob Zombie is basically creating a vehicle just for his wife. It’s more of his, “Look, guys! Isn’t my wife hot and crazy?!” The thing is, I initially liked Sherri Moon Zombie but she has been used to death and the focal point of all of Rob Zombie’s films that I’m kind of over it. Actually, I’ve been over it since Halloween II. She’s not a good actress and every character she plays is pretty much the same with her crazy dial adjusted to whatever the scene calls for. But I get that she is a main character in this film series. But maybe seeing her return to this role would’ve actually been welcomed had she not been the star of every movie Zombie’s directed since The Devil’s Rejects.

My second problem is that this is a movie with multiple personality disorder.

The picture is really two films wedged into two hours. With that, this doesn’t have what feels like a traditional three act structure but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Where this is bad, however, is that the first half is terrible, almost cringe worthy minus a few highlights. The second half is much better but it still isn’t up to par with the two films before it.

The first half of the movie deals with the family members surviving a shootout that definitely should have killed them, their time in prison and then their eventual jailbreak. This excludes Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding, however, as he is executed. This was primarily due to Sid Haig being in poor health and only being able to film for one day on set. Sadly, he passed away a few weeks back but he did go out with a bang and delivered the best dialogue of the picture. Luckily, for Haig fans, he has two more movies slated to come out next year.

The second half of the film sees Otis and Baby with their cousin Winslow escape to Mexico, where they think that they’ll be safe from the national manhunt that wants to see them brought to justice, once again.

I mostly like the second half and it at least woke me up from the slumber of the first hour.

In Mexico, we see the family hole up in a shitty motel brothel with some other rough characters. However, their hideout vacation is quickly invaded by a Mexican cartel in lucha libre masks that want revenge for something that Otis did. So we get a big war between the Firefly Family and the lucha cartel in a rundown Mexican brothel. In some ways the setting is pretty much a rehash of the confrontation the family had in Charlie’s brothel in The Devil’s Rejects, except there is a lot more action, the extra flair of the Mexican locale and it feels more like a western standoff.

I think that the one saving grace of the film is Bill Moseley, who hits it out of the park once again, as Otis. But I also really enjoyed newcomer Richard Brake, who played the new, third member of the family. While he doesn’t makeup for the severe lack of Haig’s Spaulding, he was still a fun character with a lot of charisma and he meshed well with the dynamic of Otis and Baby.

3 From Hell is the weakest chapter in the trilogy. That’s mainly due to the first hour and frankly, that half of the film could’ve been edited down to a half hour. This would’ve benefited from being a 90 minute movie instead of a two hour one.

Ultimately, it’s bogged down by scenes that didn’t need to be there because they didn’t advance the plot. This should’ve rolled forward at a swift pace and not have started out as such a slog to get through.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the two films before it: House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.

Film Review: Mandy (2018)

Release Date: January 19th, 2018 (Sundance)
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Written by: Panos Cosmatos, Aaron Stewart-Ahn
Music by: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Bill Duke, Richard Brake, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouere, Sam Louwyck, Hayley Saywell

SpectreVision, Umedia, Legion M, XYZ Films, RLJE Films, 121 Minutes

Review:

“You are a vicious snowflake.” – Red Miller

Everyone is raving about Mandy. Most of the comments I’ve seen have painted this as a modern surreal horror masterpiece. Well, it’s definitely not a masterpiece but it was a serious mindfuck and pretty enjoyable.

It’s almost two movies though, perfectly split down the middle and broken into two solid hours.

The first half of the film is romantic, sweet and then very fucked up and disturbing. It tells the story of Red and Mandy, shows their love for one another but also brings in the evil Jeremiah Sand and his cult. Sand has an obsession with Mandy, after seeing her walking through the woods.

The second half of the film deals with Red, having watched his woman burn alive due to the actions of Sands’ cult, walk into the mouth of hell for a one man revenge killing spree. And as enchanting and mesmerizing as the first half of the film was, this is where shit really hits the fan and it’s a balls to the wall blood feast.

What makes the film so surreal is the mixture of it’s bizarre plot and evil characters along with the use of color, lighting and overall cinematography. This mixture of narrative and visuals makes this feel like early David Lynch meets recent Nicholas Winding Refn. It’s a pretty interesting marriage of styles but at the same time, that alone can’t carry a film and this thing is more drawn out than it needs to be.

There isn’t as much action as the trailer might imply but the action is pretty good where it occurs. This is a bloody film and it really hits a raw nerve in several places. But one could make an argument that this is style over substance. I won’t necessarily say that but I will point to the fact that the things I found most interesting weren’t really expanded on or fleshed out enough, in my opinion. I definitely felt like I needed to know more about Sand and his minions.

The film’s score by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, this was his final film, was a perfect compliment to the film’s visual and dark allure. Jóhannsson’s work here magnified the effect of key scenes.

This is definitely a memorable film that I know I will watch again in the future but it isn’t so compelling that I’ll fire it up again anytime soon. I do, however, wish that I could have seen this on the big screen.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow.

Film Review: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Release Date: October 22nd, 2013 (London premiere)
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: Christopher Yost, Stephen McFeely, Christopher Markus, Don Payne, Robert Rodat
Based on: The Mighty Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Zachary Levi, Alice Krige, Chris O’Dowd, Richard Brake, Benicio del Toro (cameo), Chris Evans (cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 112 Minutes

Review:

“I will tell Father you died with honor.” – Thor, “I didn’t do it for him.” – Loki

Unlike the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I have revisited lately, Thor: The Dark World wasn’t as good as my memories of it.

I do remember being pretty fond of it when it came out but it just doesn’t seem to fit well within the overall MCU when you take what came after it into context. Sure, it gives us the red Infinity Stone but not much else here is all that important. But I guess seeing Thor and Loki play off of one another is always, at the very least, amusing.

In the end, this is the worst of the three Thor movies. But it is not all that bad. It’s certainly better than The Incredible Hulk and Avengers: The Age of Ultron. It’s just a film that wasn’t all that necessary. The relationship between Thor and Jane doesn’t matter after this movie, the secondary characters are sort of forgotten except for Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), who at least makes one more appearance.

This was just a movie where no one really seemed to be all that into it except for the actors playing Asgardians. Hemsworth was great as Thor, Hiddleston is perfection as Loki and Odin is a commanding Odin. Natalie Portman obviously didn’t want to be in this and acted as such. Christopher Eccleston, who I was excited about seeing as the villain, just dialed in his performance and is one of the most forgettable MCU villains to date.

The film was dry, mostly boring and even the fantasy worlds that they traveled to weren’t very imaginative or fun. Other than Asgard, all the other realms in this just looked as bland, dry and awful as a sand sandwich.

The Earth stuff was all overcast and rainy. I know that this takes place in London but c’mon… the magical realms were dark desert; Earth was grey industrial wetness. This isn’t an exciting film to look at.

While I guess it was about time for Marvel to introduce the Infinity Stones (or at least more than one), there are better ways this could have been done. Sure, I wanted a second Thor movie and it would have been a good place to bring in a new Stone but the execution here was lackluster. This whole thing should have been rewritten.

For a film about traversing through magical realms, outer space and battling fantastical shit, Thor: The Dark World felt very small and confined.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: ThorThe Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok

TV Review: Mob City (2013)

Original Run: December 4th, 2013 – December 18th, 2013
Created by: Frank Darabont
Directed by: Frank Darabont, Guy Ferland
Written by: Frank Darabont, Michael Sloane, David J. Schow, David Leslie Johnson
Based on: L.A. Noir by John Buntin
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Jon Bernthal, Milo Ventimiglia, Neal McDonough, Alexa Davalos, Jeffrey DeMunn, Robert Knepper, Jeremy Luke, Gregory Itzin, Edward Burns, Dana Gould, Simon Pegg, Ernie Hudson, Patrick Fischler, Richard Brake

Darkwoods Productions, Swiftly Productions, Michael DeLuca Productions, TNT, 6 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Frank Darabont was the man that brought The Walking Dead to the small screen back in 2010. Unfortunately, he was the showrunner for only a short time. AMC fired him after two seasons and it actually angered some of the cast members who were close to Darabont. He took two of those actors with him to this show, which became his big project after being let go by AMC.

Darabont went to TNT with the idea of adapting the book L.A. Noir for television. He cast Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead‘s Shane) as the lead and also got Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale from The Walking Dead) to play a pivotal role. Sadly, this would not become the runaway success that TNT had hoped for after Darabont smashed cable records with The Walking Dead.

Mob City is much better than decent but it also didn’t exist long enough to truly find its footing. The way in which it was released also probably hurt it. It came out in the middle of the Christmas holiday television season with episodes played back-to-back like two hour movies over the course of three weeks. It was treated more like a miniseries than a show and this may have confused people and just got lost in the holiday shuffle.

The real problem with Mob City, however, is that six episodes just aren’t enough to really get invested in it. I didn’t feel invested in The Walking Dead after its very short first season, either. Imagine if all you ever knew was season one of The Walking Dead. It has evolved into a much different show over time. Even though a small sample size created a long lasting legacy for AMC, a small sample size is just a small sample size and it didn’t work the same way for TNT’s Mob City.

Mob City told a quick story over its six episodes but it was just enough to get you interested on what this show could be over the long haul. It even ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, as you know that there is a bigger story just on the horizon. Unfortunately, we’ll never get that.

It is hard to give a show a fair look with only six episodes. Mob City was intriguing and offered up some really cool bits in its short run. The shootout on the carousel in episode three was magnificent. The end of the season was also great. But ultimately, there just wasn’t enough time to really get to know these characters or to be able to sink your teeth into a show that felt like it had riches to bestow on its audience. But kudos to the writers, because these characters left you wanting to get to know them much more intimately.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: The Black Dahlia (2006)

Release Date: August 9th, 2006 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Josh Friedman
Based on: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Mia Kirshner, Mike Starr, Fiona Shaw, Patrick Fischler, Rose McGowan, Troy Evans, Pepe Serna, William Finley, Richard Brake, Kevin Dunn (uncredited)

Davis Films, Millennium Films, Nu Image, Signature Pictures, Universal Pictures, 120 Minutes

Review:

“She looks like that dead girl! How sick are you?” – Kay Lake

For a modern noir picture with a cast this star studded, The Black Dahlia was a real disappointment. It had some positives but it mostly falls flat and is an example of style over substance.

This is not a good example of the work Brian De Palma can do. He is one of the best directors of his generation but this really misses its mark, which is unfortunate, as the subject matter is great and the talent he was able to get in this picture was impressive.

Josh Hartnett is the main star of the picture but his role feels pretty weak. I don’t feel like it is Hartnett’s fault, I feel like it is the direction of De Palma and the emotionless script. However, Hillary Swank, who is more talented than this film is able to show, is kind of just in this movie. It doesn’t really matter that it is her.

Although, everyone else does seem to work with the material. I thought that Aaron Eckhart and Scarlett Johansson were really good in their scenes and Patrick Fischler, a guy who is in everything but doesn’t get the notoriety he should, knocked his scenes out of the park. You also get to see Mike Starr and Troy Evans, two guys who do a lot of cop type roles but always bring their best to the table.

The real scene stealer however, is Mia Kirshner, an actress I’ve been mesmerized by since first seeing her in The Crow: City of Angels, a film where she was the only positive other than the murderous psycho biker played by Iggy Pop. Kirshner truly owns her role in this picture and it may have been the best she’s ever been. She’s really the only character in the film that you feel any emotion for. Honestly, it’s been eleven years since this came out and she should have gotten more prestigious roles but maybe her work was overshadowed by this being such a lackluster film.

Now, despite the overall film falling short, the visuals are top notch. The cinematography is unquestionably superb. Everything within the film feels true and authentic, even the bizarre K.D. Lang performance that pops up in the middle of the movie.

The narrative and the big reveal at the end were all pretty poorly strung together, though. It just made the film too bizarre and frankly, pretty fucking stupid and just really annoying after sitting through this two hour mess.

Typically, I like the work of Brian De Palma. This one just misses its mark.

Rating: 5.25/10

Film Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Release Date: December 13th, 2014 (Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Based on: The Secret Service by Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons
Music by: Henry Jackman, Matthew Margeson
Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sofia Boutella, Sophie Cookson, Mark Hamill, Richard Brake

Marv Films, Cloudy Productions, Shangri-La Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 129 Minutes

Review:

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Harry Hart

I missed this when it initially came out in the theater a few years back and then it sort of got lost in the shuffle of time. However, I’ve really heard nothing but great things about it since it came out and I wanted to give it a watch now that its sequel is coming out.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed and in fact, I was really impressed with the film but I guess I can expect great things from Matthew Vaughn after he gave us Layer CakeKick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. Plus, this thing had a solid cast with Colin Firth, Sam Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Mark Hamill, Sofia Boutella and impressive newcomers Taron Egerton and Sophie Cookson.

It is impossible to not compare this film to the James Bond series, as it is a gadget-filled British action spy thriller. The main difference, is this is more of a comedy and features a young spy coming into the fold. Kingsman, though, is a much hipper take on the genre.

You see, as James Bond was forced to evolve into a more serious series at the beginning of the Daniel Craig era, the jovial spirit of the franchise has been missing. It is understandable that it had to change, as films like Austin Powers were parodying it to the point of no return and the Pierce Brosnan era (no fault of Brosnan’s) had gotten too hokey and playful for its own good.

Kingsman brings us back to that classic Bond energy without being overly cheesy. It somehow found the perfect balance between serious and playful for the modern era. It is also cooler than the modern Bond movies and a lot more interesting. It fills the giant void that has been gone for a long time and it has kind of cemented itself in there. In fact, the James Bond franchise could learn a lot from this film.

Parts of the movie, however, are a bit insane and very stylized. The thing is, it works to this film’s benefit. Kingsman knows what it is and it really embraces itself, for better or for worse. That being said, its self-confidence permeates with something truly genuine and fantastically bad ass. It has gravitas that the uber serious modern Bond pictures don’t have. And don’t get me wrong, I generally like the Craig Bond films but Kingsman is the true throwback to the classic era of spy thrillers, even if it brings its own refreshing take to the table.

The entire cast is extraordinary and there really isn’t a weak link. Taron Egerton was perfect casting as the main character, Eggsy. Samuel Jackson, Michael Caine and Mark Strong each had a great presence. It was cool seeing Mark Hamill and Sofia Boutella, now most famous as the newest version of the title character in The Mummy.

It is Colin Firth that really takes the cake in the picture, though. This is a great role for him, a man who has played just about everything and won an Oscar in the process. Honestly, as much as I loved him in The King’s Speech, this is now my favorite Firth role.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a wonderful experience, especially for old school James Bond fans that have been yearning for something in that classic style. While this is a very modernized take on the genre, it truly knows its roots and it balances the new with the old pretty seamlessly. Most importantly, the film is exciting and fun.

Rating: 8/10