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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Stephen McDade

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

James Bond was never this cheeky.

After a mission ends up disastrously and leaves a fellow agent dead, secret service agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) makes a promise to the man’s family, especially to the young baby, that he will look after them and be there when they need him the most. Fast forward a couple years later, and that baby, is now a young man named Eggsy (Taron Egerton), who has problems with his mom’s trashy boyfriend, the local bullies that seem to always be on his case about everything, and most importantly, the law. After landing himself in the slammer, Eggsy meets the man he met as a baby, who then recruits him for a secret training-session where he, and many others, will be fighting for the position of being a loyal, noble Kingsman. And honestly, the world needs Kingsmen more now than ever, what with millionaire tycoon Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) setting up an evil plan that threatens society as we know it. But with a bit of tuning-up and order thrown into Eggsy’s head, he might just be the one to stop Valentine, all before it’s way too late and there’s nobody left to save.

Matthew Vaughn makes fun movies. Regardless of whether or not you like those fun movies, it can’t be argued against that no matter what stories he decides to take, Vaughn always finds his own, unique way of electrifying them any way he can. That said, there’s a lot of people out there who just don’t care for his work – especially Kick-Ass. Though I quite liked that movie and felt like it was an honest superhero movie, where it seemed like there was no such thing with Marvel and DC hanging around, constantly trying to one-up one another, there’s plenty of people who don’t feel as I do. And that’s fine. I’m used to the rest of the world not agreeing with me on everything I believe in; it helps make me a lot more popular at parties, if I’m being honest here.

"Hey, thir. Nithe to meeth youthe."

“Hi, thir. Nithe to meeth youthe.”

But those who hate Kick-Ass, have to admit that Vaughn, for all that it’s worth, at least tried to spice everything up as much as he could. You could argue that he goes a tad bit over-the-top in certain instances and doesn’t really know whether he wants us to think of a situation as seriously as it’s intended to be, or just scoffed at and not taken seriously one bit, and I wouldn’t argue against you. But for some reason, Vaughn’s movies are fun and they hardly ever bore.

Which is sort of why Kingsman is a bunch of fun to sit back, watch and enjoy, even while stuff is constantly exploding and being shot at. The problems that seem to have followed Vaughn practically everywhere he’s gone in his career, where everything he features is so ridiculous and over-the-top, that it can’t at all be taken seriously, actually work quite well here. The whole movie, for what it’s worth, is essentially one big “yeah, whatever you say, bro” – scenes that seem so over-dramatic and nutty, are made a lot better by the fact that Vaughn has placed Kingsman in this world where everything crazy, is known to be as such. Therefore, rather than trying to explain it all for the people at home, the movie just lets us know right away that it knows it’s being ridiculous and allows you to make up your own mind as to whether you’re down for the ride, or not.

If you are, I can assure you, it’s a fun ride. If not, then piss off!

And that’s mostly where all of the fun can be had with Kingsman; it never wants to take itself too seriously to the point of where it’s dismissive of all its unexplainable, highly improbable acts that occur throughout, but it’s also never too goofy to where it turns into a parody of itself, or better yet, a Bond movie. In fact, if there was some problem to be had with this movie, it was that I felt like the humor didn’t constantly click as well here, as it does for a a movie from someone like, I don’t know say, Tarantino, or an earlier-version of Robert Rodriguez.

Those two film-makers have found their inherently genius ways of combining both bloody, shocking bits of violent, with subversive humor that clearly loves itself, but is also quite funny. No offense to Vaughn, because he clearly has a solid funny-bone located in his body, but he’s no Tarantino; he may be a bit better than Rodriguez nowadays, but then again, so is my dad when he’s had about four beers in his system. What starts out as a James Bond-ish parody flick, soon turns into it’s own comedy that sometimes hit, solely due to the fact by how knowing it is of all its ridiculousness, but then when it tries to sprinkle the funny throughout all of the in-your-face action sequences, it doesn’t always connect well.

Once again, that’s not to say that this movie’s action isn’t fun, or at least worth getting smiley-faced over – because it definitely. There’s actually one scene that takes place inside of a church that goes from normal, exposition-filled scene, to absolutely balls-out, wild and crazy action scene that goes nowhere you’d expect it to actually go to. It then ends in a shocking manner, but I won’t spoil it for you any of you here. I’ll just say that the movie is fun, just not as funny as it thinks it ought to be.

I’ll leave it at that.

"Daniel Craig? Oh, what a hack!"

“Daniel Craig? Oh, what a hack!”

Another element to Kingsman‘s success with most of this wacky material is that its cast is more than willing to commit whatever sorts of heinous it needs for them to do, and still be able to make it all cool with a smile or a smirk soon following. Colin Firth, in what seems like the role he’s been waiting nearly 30 years to play, gets a chance to show the world what it’d be like if he ever got the chance to play Bond, and it’s pleasant to watch. Of course, Firth’s charming and cunning as ever, but there’s also a certain bit of anger and aggression lurking beneath this character that makes you believe he’s a ruthless, sometimes toothless killer. When he’s called upon to act like so, that is.

Same goes for Samuel L. Jackson as Richmond Valentine, another pro who seems to be relishing in a role that he’s been wanting to play for some time now. You could say that Jackson’s doing an impersonation of Mike Tyson, what with the lisp and his goofy-demeanor and all, but there’s something more to this character that made him one step above most action-movie villains we normally see. He has an evil plan to get rid of most of the humans on the face of the planet, which is so that he can save the environment from turning on society and destroying Earth itself. It’s an evil plan, no getting around that, but it’s one that has some ground set in reality and for that, it’s worth noting.

The rest of the cast is pretty fine, too, with mostly everyone having a grand time with this wild material. Taron Egerton proves as a suitable protagonist with Eggsy, and gives us the impression that bigger, better things are to come of him; Michael Caine isn’t in this nearly as much, but is still such a class-act, that he brings plenty of dramatic-weight to any scene, just by showing up and doing his thing; Mark Strong, believe it or not, isn’t actually playing a lying, conniving, sniveling baddie like we’re so used to seeing him get type-cast as and it works well because the lad’s quite charming when he isn’t twisting his mustache; and Sofia Boutella, in a movie filled to the brim with male counterparts, somehow finds a way to stand-out as Gazelle, a bad-ass villain who has a set of deadly-pegs for legs and proves to be more deadly than Samuel L. Jackson’s actual, main villain.

You go, girl!

Consensus: Its tongue falls out of its cheek a few times, but for the most part, Kingsman: The Secret Service finds ways to keep things exciting and fun, even if it is completely over-the-top in ways you may not be able to imagine.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

One of these things does not quite look like the other.

One of these things does not quite look like the other.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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Black Sea (2015)

Submariners are the new pirates. Thankfully, no Jack Sparrow.

After all of he and his buddies get laid-off from their jobs, a submarine captain named Robinson (Jude Law) catches wind of a possible way to make plenty of dough. The only problem is that it’s from a sketchy backer (Tobias Menzies), who may or may not be exactly who he says he is. However, Robinson isn’t taking any chances because what he really wants is that money so that he can get himself, as well as his lads, back to see their families. So, Robinson gets a rough, ragged and culturally diverse group together and lets them know right away that he won’t put up with any sort of shenanigans going on/around the submarine. Problem is, after he tells them this, he also lets everybody know that they’ll all get equal shares of whatever it is that they find in the sea. Which brings up the question: If people know that there share’s get bigger, once some crew-members die-off, then will they commit any sort of wrongdoings? Well, Robinson and the rest of the crew are about to find out first hand, which wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t at the bottom of the pitch black sea itself.

"It's either my way, or the highway! Or, erhm, wherever we stop for air next!"

“It’s either my way, or the highway! Or, erhm, wherever we stop for air next!”

Submarine thrillers, more or less, depend on one element and one element mostly to get its viewers paying attention: Claustrophobia. It works in all of the biggest and best movies in a submarine, and with good reason – normally, people don’t like enclosed spaces they can’t get out of. It doesn’t matter if they’re watching it, or simply witnessing it from a first-hand account, if you are able to create the allusion that you have to be up close and person with the walls that surround you, or else you’ll have to perish, then you’ve already done your job. People will instantly freaked-out and very tense.

This is the element that director Kevin Macdonald uses, but it’s not the only card he shows. Rather than just showing the audience these enclosed-spaces, with plenty of men sweating, Macdonald also takes time to focus on the dynamics amongst the crew that may, or may not, bring everything to ahead. That the crew is split-up between Russians and non-Russians, already gives you the impression that anybody could flip out on another person, because they may have misconstrued something in the wrong manner.

But once again, Macdonald does not stop there. And a part of me sort of wishes he did.

Because while the movie has plenty of excitement going for itself with the constantly yelling, running, crashing, shooting, and explorations into the deep blue sea, there are moments where it feels like maybe Macdonald and writer Dennis Kelly aren’t totally comfortable with just having these various characters argue and threaten one another to create tension. Instead, there’s got to be more twists added-on that maybe, just maybe, these guys are doing this all for nothing? Or maybe, these guys don’t have anything else to live for, so in a way, this job was nothing more than a swan song for all parties involved? Either way, the story gets a little too wrapped up in itself and it made me wish that Macdonald and Kelly trusted themselves enough to know that the simple they kept it, the better it was. The more that they threw on, only complicated matters much worse.

However, there is something to be said for a submarine thriller that is able to be just that, thrilling, without ever feeling like it’s re-inventing the wheel that’s been steered so firmly many times before. Macdonald doesn’t get into the mechanics of this submarine, as much as he just shows what works, why and how it can work for the group. It’s a simple understanding between the audience and the director that we don’t too often get in movies such as these; more special because Macdonald himself doesn’t seem to want to throw any of his intelligence on the audience members who may not know a single thing about submarines except that they go deep underwater and stuff. Macdonald shows an appreciation, almost an adoration for these submarines, but he never forces us to follow him and his love for them – simply, he just wants us to watch as these chums all try their hardest to pull off the greatest heist in submarine history ever.

The face you just can't trust.

The face you just can’t trust.

That said, Macdonald gets a lot of mileage out of his cast, most especially Jude Law in the kind of unattractive, challenging role we’ve been seeing him taken as of late. As Captain Robinson, Jude Law uses a Scottish-accent that may seem like no biggie at first, until you realize that it gives him this kind of hard-edge to make you think that this guy’s seen it all in the world, been through hell and back, and is just trying to make a living, regardless of if it is a simple one or not. With this role and the title-character in Dom Hemingway, Law has proven himself to be a far-better, more talented actor than most of us maybe had taken him for in the past. Sure, he’s still got his good looks, but he’s also getting up there in age and it’s finally about time that he’s at least approached this aspect of his life, and allowed for it to play-off so well in his career-choices.

In other words, I’m interested in seeing what “old-head Jude Law” has to offer.

Though Law’s definitely the one to pay most attention in this flick, he isn’t the only one who leaves a mark as there are character actors aplenty in this ensemble and all of them put in great work. Ben Mendelsohn, as you could suspect, plays something of a trouble-maker early-on, only to then slightly turn the other cheek and become something of a nice guy, even if he’s one you know to never fully trust, no matter how many times he says to grab his hand and pull-up; Konstantin Khabensky is one of the Russians here who doesn’t speak much English, but leaves you with the impression that he wants the same thing as his non-Russian counterparts want, and are just as capable of pulling-off some evil acts of vandalism as well; and Scoot McNairy, despite clearly being the odd duckling out of the whole group, fits in well as the whiny, annoying member who had to come along for the ride, but also works as the voice of reason well enough to put this whole story into perspective and remind all of these characters who they are all on this mission for in the first place – their families.

Consensus: Without trying to change the game of submarine thrillers, Black Sea is a tense, rather fun piece that focuses on all aspects of its story well enough that it makes the finale all the more effective, even if the twists do get a tad over-zealous with themselves.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Marcellus Wallace's dirty laundry?

Marsellus Wallace’s dirty laundry?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Yeah, those “other” Marvel heroes are just a bunch of pricks anyway.

After he sees his own, cancer-riddled mother die in front of his own very eyes, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is mysteriously captured by a spaceship. 26 years later, an older Quill, now sporting the name “Star-Lord” and dancing around to vintage pop-tunes on his Walkman, discovers a strange crystal ball that is apparently very dangerous and serious, considering it triggers off a group of evil people to come after him. So much so, that when he eventually gets into town and sell the thing for whatever money he can get, he ends up getting in a brawl with a woman by the name of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), as well as a giant tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and a talking raccoon they call Rocket (Bradley Cooper). The stunt eventually lands the foursome in prison, where they meet all sorts of trouble and unlikely pals, especially in the form of Drax (Dave Bautista); but what they end up finding out is that the artifact they were all fighting over, is being sought out after by a very powerful, very evil Kree radical named Ronan (Lee Pace) and his noble band of trustees. Together, the five decide to put away their differences for the time being and do all that they can to save the galaxy, one David Bowie track at a time.

Going into this flick, I wasn’t expecting much. Honestly, that moreso has to do with the fact that every Marvel movie since the Avengers, has either been ranging from “mediocre”, to “hey, it’s fine and it’s fun, so what’s the harm, yo?”, and also the fact that it seems like, especially after this whole Ant-Man debacle, that Marvel is becoming more of a lackey-boy for the ultra, super, duper, powerful kingpins that are Disney and their ways of making people do what they want, when they want, and how they want.

“Don’t offend the kiddies!”, Disney may say. Or, something that seems to be more common, “Please do make sure that it ties-in with the AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D.! And by ‘please’, we really mean, ‘do it, or else we’re going to fire your ass and find somebody else who is willing to take orders and be happy with it!'”. And though some of this may seem overly-dramatized by yours truly, there’s something in me that feels like Marvel is just starting to become more and more like what others want them to be, rather than what they want to be, which, at first with Iron Man, seemed to be: A kick-ass, fun-as-hell, hilarious and exciting superhero movie that you could take the whole family too; as well as grand-mom and grand-pop if you got stuck with them over the holidays.

That's the thingy they need to find. That's all you need to know.

That’s the thingy they need to find. That’s all you need to know.

But that’s where James Gunn comes in and absolutely gives a big, old, flying “FUCKA YOU!” to Disney and Friends, and shows them that if it’s his movie, it’s going to be his rules and his ways of having fun. Which, for the most part, means we get a whole bunch of strange, slightly off-kilter gags and pop-culture references including Kevin Bacon; metaphors that aren’t metaphors; Jackson Pollack; the art of dancing; and, best of all, calling a raccoon, everything else that isn’t a raccoon. If that sounds very strange to you, then yes, you are at least somewhat sane. And if that sounds especially strange to you being that it’s all packed into a Marvel movie, then yes, you are even more sane and, would you like a cookie?

What I’m trying to get across here is that Gunn’s humor is a weird one and although some of it’s a bit tamer now so that the PG-13 can sit and stay with the movie, it’s still hilarious and nearly perfect for this world that he’s created. That this other “realm” (for lack of a better word without saying “galaxy”), is a wide, never ending and seemingly bizarre matter of space that seems to have a bucket of surprises waiting at every corner, shows Gunn is able to not only build on his characters and the action-sequences, but also this world that he’s created. Which, yes, for a Marvel movie, is very strange, yet, totally works.

Most of that has to do with the fact that each and every character we get here is likable, fun, vibrant and exciting in their own measly, little ways, but most of that also has to do with the fact that Gunn is the kind of writer and director that has a sense of humor that can work for practically anyone. Okay, maybe if you check out his first two movies (Slither and Super, which I definitely recommend), don’t necessarily back me up on that statement, but taking away all of those and just leaving this here movie as his one and only true example, then I’d have to say it’s a pretty impressive one.

Gunn’s funny, he knows he’s funny and he’s going to let us know about it every step of the way. However, whereas most of the other Marvel movies wink their eyebrows so much so that it seems like they’re going to have to be surgically put back into place by the end of its two-hour run-time, GOTG (short for the title, if you’re nitwit) is a different beast: It’s a funny movie, yet, doesn’t try to make you laugh in a charming way. It’s just weird and since it soaks up the sun and basks in its own weirdness, it’s hilarious to watch and listen to, as well as have an awfully fun time with.

Because, yeah, guess what??!?! Guardians of the Galaxy is a damn fun movie!

See, because while I’ve been going on and on so aimlessly about this movie’s humor and how effective it actually is, there’s an element to this movie that works, and can probably be shared among the rest of the Marvel crowd: It’s a fine action movie, if you want to look at it like that. There are hand-to-hand fights; spaceships flying throughout the sky and shooting each other; sword-duels; girls beating the crap out of each other; girls beating the crap out of the opposite-sex; raccoons shooting big-ass guns; walking, talking trees causing havoc; and etc. The only thing that’s missing was the only known wrestler in this movie giving somebody a Batista Bomb, but that’s for another movie, I guess.

And since I just mentioned a certain character in this movie, I think it’s best to now use that as a segue into my next part of the review which, unsurprisingly, also happens to be about the best element to making this movie work as well as it does: The characters and the actors that portray them. Because Gunn’s movie/script is a rather odd one, not only does he need a cast that has a comedic-bone anywhere located in their body – he needs a cast is absolutely able and willing to go that extra mile into trusting that his every move, is not only a benefit to them, but a benefit to how this whole movie plays out. “Well obviously, Dan. You no-sense-piece-of-shit”, you might retort back to me, but I have a reasoning for saying this.

Take the idea of a-list stars such as Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel doing voice-work here – not only are they big names that people flock out to the movie theaters to see – but you’d expect them to do more than what they’re given. In the case of Cooper, he voices Rocket as Brooklyn gangster, where it’s sometimes too hard to even recognize he’s doing the voice-work in the first place; as in the case of Diesel, all the dude has to do is say “I Am Groot” over and over again, and, occasionally, yell, scream and holler with that low-pitched bass we know he can do so well. Sounds crazy enough? Well, yeah, but that’s sort of the point. Also not to mention that Cooper and Diesel, with what they have to do, do it so amazingly well that I wonder just how the heck Gunn thought of them two in the first place. And even if he didn’t, then kudos to the casting-department on this decision!

Oh, and that he's the villain, too!

Oh, and that he’s the villain, too!

But an even bigger kudos should be given to them for giving Chris Pratt the star-making role the dude deserves, this time, as one Peter Quill. Or, as some of you may, or may not know him as, “Star-Lord” (and yes, that’s it’s own, whole joke, too). Pratt’s been a lovable presence on the screen for quite some time; rather it be the large one, or the small one, the dude’s shown us time and time again, he has the chops to not only give us a cool-as-hell character, that has a winning-personality. Here, Pratt’s able to utilize the warm, lovely charm he oozes so well on Parks and Rec., but is also able to use some leading-man prowess we have yet to see him do, yet still shows he’s capable of actually having it in the first place.

But he’s not a pansy of a character. He’s a bad-ass dude that knows how to get himself out of situations, even while he doesn’t always think them perfectly through. Same goes for Zoe Saldana as Gamora; not only does she get to be an ass-kicking lady with a mouth on her, she doesn’t let that be her only trait and has a personality that goes almost hand-in-hand with Quills’. And though people were initially rioting over the casting-decision of having Dave Bautista play Drax, needless to say, the dude’s great in it as he shows everybody he can definitely act, be funny and best of all, remind everybody why he was in the profession that he initially chose in the first place.

Altogether though, this movie mostly works because these characters, in their own, little, unique worlds, wouldn’t ever seem like they do fine together. That’s sort of the point, however, Gunn allows them to work off of one another and it’s probably the most fun-part of this whole movie. Sure, you can give me as many mind-numingly loud and outrageous scenes of stuff exploding, while other stuff is exploding elsewhere, and I’ll crack a grin or two. But if you can give me characters that I want to get know better, spend more time with, and just never leave the presence of, then you can count me in, take my money, sleep in my bed, bang my wife, whatever. As long as you can give me that, then I’m all fine and dandy.

And to have that spliced together with the best Marvel movie since the Avengers is, well, exactly all I could ever ask for and ever want.

More Batista Bombs next time, though. Please.

Consensus: Hilarious, exciting, and well-written, Guardians of the Galaxy is a downright good time that features some top-tier performances from a cast you’d be surprised works so incredibly well in the first place, yet, in the world of James Gunn, anything seems possible.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

The best line-up in a "line-up" scene since the Usual Suspects, and it's not even in the actual movie!

The best line-up in a “line-up scene” since the Usual Suspects, and it’s not even in the actual movie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz