Monday, May 18, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Kingsman is a odd movie to me. The previews turned me off of it quite a bit, and frankly I had no real interest in seeing it. However the buzz around it was surprisingly very positive. Much like John Wick, another film I passed on, it started to become this film that I had to see. If for no other reason then to see if I was correct in my initial thoughts or not. I can honestly say after seeing it, the preview is a good representation of the final product. However, I was to harsh on it at first, the things that I didn't like in the preview grew on me as the movie went on. It was a little cheesy, and the action was over the top. The main character looked very out of place, but that was part of his role. Samuel L. Jackson looked stupid and was annoying, but he was the villain so it helped make me dislike him. It was a movie that didn't take itself to serious, and even poked fun at that fact. And in the end, one that I truly enjoyed, far more then I thought I would.

The Kingsman were tailors for very influential people during a period of war. A lot of their kids went off to war and never returned. This left a company of rich tailors with no heirs, and a desire to fix the world so other families did not have to go through the same hardships. They formed a secret society and became gentleman spies of sorts. The movie starts off in modern times and is about Samuel L Jackson's character trying to fix the world. I won't spoil that for you, but he is collecting influential people and trying to win them over. In these attempts he kills a Kingsman without knowing who they are, and this opens up a spot for a new member to join. The movie follows Taron Egerton's character "Eggsy" as he tries to become the next Kingsman. As well as dealing with Jackson's plan and his desire to save the planet.

This is a action movie plain and simple. It does have a good plot, and the story works much better then my poor description may lead you to believe. There are a lot of English accents, which may or may not be a issue for you. If you watched attack the block and had no issues understanding what was being said, you will be fine. If the quicker speaking moments just left you staring blankly at the screen....well maybe turn the subs on. There were only a few times I had no clue what was being said, but that could simply be my lack of exposure to people who speak in that fashion. Jackson also gets a pretty neat accent, and I now choose to believe that is his normal way of talking.

If you research this movie online, one thing is constantly brought up. There is a church scene that was edited out in some countries, and simply edited down in others. It is a shame some didn't get to see the entire scene play out. It was easily the most memorable part of the film, and it also really showcases what the film is all about. Over the top and stylish violence, simply for the sake of entertainment. When we see fighting in this movie, we get some crazy camera angles. We see a first person view from the kingsman spy glasses, a view of the top of the gun similar to a video game. Cameras attached to the actors bodies as they fight. They really went over the top with these sequences and they made the movie that much better. Bodies would fly unrealistically when hit, and there was flipping and bullet would have easily been to much in most movies. However the set the tone of this one very quickly, and the action fit right in. I heard a lot about how brutal and gory this movie was, but after seeing it I felt let down. Not to say I enjoy that in my films, but it was non existent in this one. Yeah you see some blood, but not much and it is only briefly shown.

I really enjoyed the story, and how it was presented. All the characters were fun, and there were some cool inclusions such as Sofia Boutella as Gazelle the amputee ninja. Apparently she does have legs in real life, that shouldn't be disappointing to find out, but it is. I also enjoyed Obama being in the movie, even if they never showed a good shot of him. If you are a republican, you will get more out of his role then the democrats. I may have jokingly told my wife that her father would love this movie after Obama's scene. The movie also did a great job of developing all the different roles, and by the end I can't think of anybody who really didn't get that treatment. Little things like showing 30 seconds here and there of Eggsy and his sister for example. It makes a scene later on mean more as you know about their relationship and how much he cares for her.

I am trying to think of a negative about this movie. I really can't, it was action perfection. It didn't take itself to serious, it even mentions that in the movie. They had catchy diolgue, and some of the best fights I have seen in a while. It reminded me a lot of the movie Wanted, which I loved. But unlike that movie, this one had much better pacing and was far superior in the long run. It also didn't have any magic string that told them who to kill, so that was a plus. And we got a amazing Firework display at the end that you simply have to see. There is a cool moment where two characters are talking about their childhood and how they loved the old Bond spy films. One wanted to be Bone, and the other wanted to be the villain. The movie really is about that, the love of the old spy films. It has the fanfare you would expect from something like that, the absurdity that was associated with them. The over the top villian with the swanky layer in the side of a mountain. And some how it is able to pull it all off.

The Kingsman is not only one of the best action films I have seen recently, it is one of the best I have ever seen. It mixes a classic spy tale with Colin Firth's character Galahad, and a more modern tale with Eggsy. If you love violent visual films, go watch it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

I was looking through my review history, hoping I had something written on the first Avengers movie I could look at. I don't recall my exact feelings on it, but according to my wife it was not overly positive. I only ever saw the movie once, so that probably is accurate. It would also explain why I was not excited about this Avengers movie. I had a few problems with the first one, nothing major that I recall. I didn't like how various characters were handled, but it had good action and visuals which will win most over in the end. It also served as a origin story of sorts for the team. Not for the individuals themselves, but for the team coming together. They did tie it into the story, but it did drag it down a bit in my eyes. The new movie does introduce new roles, but they really didn't have much back-story to go over which allowed it to move at a better pace for the most part.

The story for this movie revolves around Tony Stark and his arrogance. He wants to create a "Armor around the world" which he tries to do by use of a AI or artificial intelligence. Bruce Banner and Stark create the Ultron AI using technology from another world and it ends up creating a crazy muderbot with Tony's personality and quirks. It wants to save Humanity by forcing them to either evolve or die out in the process. In the end, his plan simply comes down to wiping everybody out and seeing what rises from the ashes. The avengers decide to stop him, and the fighting commences.

While this movie does not have to talk about how the team came together, it does decide to elaborate on some of the back stories we have not explored yet. We get a few sequences that show off Black Widow's past and some details to explain how she became who she is today. We get a very forced Hawkeye dynamic that seemed only there to explain the sudden romance between Widow and Banner after the last few movies have been very much about her and Hawkeye being together. We get a few details about the two new characters of Pietro and Wanda Maximoff. They leave out who exactly their parents are which was disappointing given who their father was. But since Fox owns the rights to that character, it was not un-expected. Their powers are also acquired in a different way due to fox owning the rights to "Mutants" sadly, but none of that really detracted from the film. Ultron is also explored with his new origin story, which was one of the few gripes I had with the film. We are getting a ant man film very shortly, and it features Ultron's creator Hank Pym. So why they felt the need to have Stark and Banner create him instead just confuses me.

Ultron was also given Starks Personality, which caused him to make jokes which seemed odd given the character. In the books Ultron is cold and meticulous. Seeing him making jokes and trying to inject humor into scenes where it had no place was jarring at times. I understand the whole idea of a AI is to make it less robotic, but it was part of the only real problem I had with the film. The movie is a action flick, but it also wants to be a comedy. Every few moments they are making a new joke, or doing what they can to make sure no scene is serious the entire duration. It just felt like it took away from certain moments and made it hard for me to enjoy what was going on. That is not to say some of the comedy didn't work well. Captain America is part of a gag that runs throughout the entire film and it was always enjoyable. Thor's few lines in the film usually had me smiling, and even Banner had some good moments in his own awkward way. If it fits the character, and makes sense, I am fine with it. Ultron was a good character, but having two Tony Starks was just to much for me. There was also a potential rape joke made by Stark that got some internet buzz a few days ago. It went entirely over my head since I had no clue what prima nocte meant. So I have no clue if it really was as offensive as some people are making it out to be. After reading up on what it actually means, I would say people are being to sensitive. That is just Stark's personality. If the 3 Iron Man movies, and the other Avengers one had not clued you into that....well now you know.

The two new Characters of Scarlet Witch and Quick Silver were big news before the movie came out. Honestly I don't even recall them ever going by those names in the movie, but they probably did at one point. Quick Silver was Pietro and Witch was Wanda. They were introduced in the last Captain America film in the final sequence. In the comics they are mutants like the x-men, however Fox has those rights so they had to come up with something new for this one. So they gave them a similar back story to Captain America. They are the product of Science and experimentation. Pietro has his classic powers of Super Speed, and Wanda gets a odd mix of Jean Grey powers instead of her normal comic stuff. She can move things with her mind and invade people thoughts and bring their fears to the forefront. Wanda was easily one of my favorite things about the movie. Her new powers were very well used, and red effects they had with them were fantastic. I also loved how they had her move like she was in a horror film. She would walk backwards in a twitchy manor, and it was perfectly creepy. Also her fear based powers led to some of the cooler parts of the movie. And she served to prove the one fact that the first Avengers film missed so heavily. Hawkeye is the best Avenger, and that is a fact. Wanda is able to seemingly go toe to toe with every Avenger except Hawkeye, and that made me happy. Pietro and Hawkeye also have a rivalry going throughout the film, and they created some of the more memorable scenes together. Easily the funniest part of the film for me involved the two of them, as well one of the more impactful ones. Everybody will compare the Avengers Pietro to the one from the last X-men movie seeing as how they are two very different versions of the same character. For me the Avengers one wins hands down. Yes the x-men movie had that great scene in the kitchen, but Avengers made the character much bigger and allowed him to do so much more. The two new roles for me really added so much to this film, and was one of the main reasons I really enjoyed it that much more then the first.

I was reading on another site a article that talked about how this movie compared to Superman in a very specific way. It was funny because it was something I very much disliked about that movie. In the most recent Superman movie, well Supes pretty much kills civilians and it is just ignored. There is no way he caused that much destruction without some causalities. It is also a very big thing in Supes character, he protects life. So when Avengers goes out of its way to deal with civilian casualties, and even brings up the fact that they are fighting in a way to endangers people, it really made me happy. They try to relocate the fight if they can, if not they do what they can to protect the people even if it puts them at risk. It was great to see, and I hope other super power movies in the future follow suit.

The movie is very action orientated. It does have some down time in the beginning, but once the main plot kicks off it just goes full force until the finale. The action is very well done, it always is with marvel. Iron Man's suite looks fantastic, and his big scene with Hulk that we have been seeing in all the trailers does deliver. The Avengers that got little screen time in the last film get their chance to shine in this one. Hawkeye is a major focus, and Black Widow gets some good action in. Captain America has a great fight with Ultron in the city. If you are a Thor fan however, sorry to say he gets very little screen time and isn't really a huge factor in this film. If you are looking for a action film you can just relax and watch, this will easily deliver.

Age of Ultron was a great film that I found myself enjoying far more then I thought I would. I loved the new roles with the exception of Ultron himself. And I liked how they tried to incorporate some of the different characters from the other marvel movies as well. We get Warmachine and Falcon for example. The story was stronger then the first films, and I love how the Avengers movies have some world ending events. It really sets them apart from the other movies in the franchises. The action was great and frankly makes me wonder how other big hollywood films like the hobbit can get it so wrong. Avengers who got pushed to the side in the first film not get their time to shine. Captain America, Hawkeye, and Widow all get bigger roles, which made me quite happy. Widow and Hawkeye also get forced stories that kind of made that last point weaker, but in the end I was happy with how those characters were used.

If you liked the first Avengers, this one is better. You will enjoy it, and it sets up the new one Infinity Wars, quite nicely. If you are worried about which other marvel movies you need to see to get the full picture, I would suggest Cap 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy as well as the obvious original Avengers. Cap 2 will explain the state of shield and what is up with Fury and some other characters. And Guardians goes into the whole infinity stone thing which will be the primary focus of the next film. They also are injected into this one, so Guardians will get you up to speed on he basics of that. It also makes the final sequence make sense. If you want to you could also add Cap 1 as it introduces the cosmic cube which does make a very brief appearance in some form, but it is not necessary.

Around the 20 second mark we see a lady in nightwear and a kid. She shows up in other trailers to, this caused a lot of speculation as to who she was and if she was important. For the fun of it, I will address it in a non spoiler fashion. Yes she is important, but not in the way you think she would be.