Kingsman: The Golden Circle – ★ ★ ★ ★ Theatrical Review

Kingsman: Golden Circle


Is there a difference between an action-comedy and a comedy-action movie?  Last night I watched Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and while I really enjoyed it, it did not live up to the first film.  The first Kingsman movie was more action with comedy mixed in, the second one was a lot heavier on the comedy.  What was formerly tongue in cheek nods became over the top, bordering on silly and juvenile.  Kingsman: The Golden Circle had quite a different tone than Kingsman: The Secret Service.  I previously compared Kingsman to the different eras of the James Bond films and I know the Kingsman films were created initially because the writers and director noticed how serious films in the spy genre had become, so maybe this tonal shift was intentionally done to mimic how the Bond films changed as they transitioned from Connery to the later Moore films.  Octopussy could have been a really good film, but Roger Moore’s Bond ends up running around foiling the bad guys dressed as a clown…


The film starts off pretty much at top speed, with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) involved in a car chase and fight pitting the new Galahad against failed recruit Charlie (Edward Holcroft) from the last film.  Yes, Charlie miraculously survived the mountaintop battle where Merlin activated the chips in all of Valentine’s cronies to save the world, but now he has a cybernetic arm and is working for The Golden Circle, the largest drug cartel in the world.  The Golden Circle is run by Poppy (Julianne Moore) who is tired of living in seclusion away from the prying eyes of the law.  She wants to legalize the drug trade around the world so she can be recognized as the successful, legitimate businesswoman she is. They’ve poisoned their own drug supply creating a plague known as “Blue Rash” and will release the antidote worldwide when the president of the United States legalizes drugs.  The Golden Circle need to eliminate Kingsman (or should that be Kingsmen?) so the plan will succeed.  Unfortunately the president wants all the drug users in the world to die, so he can win the war on drugs, and is just stringing Poppy (and the world along).  With the Kingsman’s headquarters destroyed, and all agents except Galahad and Merlin (Mark Strong) killed, they have to follow their doomsday protocol which leads them to Kentucky, home of Statesman (or is that Statesmen?).  Statesman is the American version of Kingsman, and instead of their codenames being knights, they’re drinks.  Eggsy and Merlin arrive at Statesman and are attacked by “Tequila” (Channing Tatum) who thinks they’re there to rescue the lepidopterist, a man who was clearly an agent for some organization, but has lost his memory after they rescued him from a church riot where he had suffered a gunshot to the head…


I was really glad to see that Colin Firth was back as Harry Hart, and not just in a cameo or flashback, but I really wish they hadn’t shown him in the trailers at all.  It could have been a great surprise, and a great reveal, but apparently someone in marketing doesn’t like giving surprises to the audience.  The two organizations team up and after Harry is found and his memory is restored, they battle Poppy’s bad guys across the globe in search of her headquarters and the antidote.  The action comes fast and furious and the stunts, gun-play and fight sequences seek to top those in the previous film (which were pretty high to begin with).


I will admit that The Golden Circle wasn’t as good as The Secret Service.  The story was strong enough and the action was impressive, and overall the film was very entertaining, but it was not on the same level as the first one.  It had very big shoes to fill and expectations to meet, and it came close, but was not without its flaws.  It seemed like there were a few too many “big names” getting in on the action given the success of the first film.  Jeff Bridges played Champagne, or “Champ”, the “Arthur” of Statesman, Halle Berry as Ginger Ale was their “Merlin” and you had Channing Tatum dropping in to be affected quickly by Poppy’s virus.  Of the big name actors, Halle Berry had the most significant amount of screen time, and her character wasn’t involved in any of the action scenes.  There clearly will be a third Kingsman movie, I just hope they don’t water it down like other franchises have by filling it with cameos and stars in small, filler roles.  All that aside, I did love how they worked Elton John into the story.  Poppy had kidnapped Elton John while Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine had been kidnapping and recruiting celebrities during the events of the first film.  She figured his kidnappings were the perfect cover for one of her own, and she now had Sir Elton prisoner to perform for her whenever she wanted.  Elton John was hilarious in the film; getting some fight scenes some comedy scenes, the obligatory musical number, and he delivered what is probably one of the best jokes of the entire film.


Because of how much I enjoyed the first film, I wanted to see the sequel as soon as possible and that means a trip to the theatre, and I’m glad that I did.  I went with a friend and it was nice to have someone to discuss it with afterwards and to share the laughs and the whole experience with.  We’re not prudes by any stretch of the imagination, but we did both notice how the language was amped up compared to the first film.  We also noticed that we were the only ones laughing at a lot of things too.  Perhaps our humour is heightened compared to the rest of the audience, or perhaps our senses of humours are just a lot more twisted than the audience.  My friend said she overheard someone muttering something about not getting two and a half hours of their life back as they were leaving, which kind of made us laugh.  The comment seemed to come from a very laugh free area of the theatre.  You know, regardless of what they did, they’d never get those two and a half hours back anyway.  They could have taken a nap, went for dinner, killed a dragon, at the end of it those two and a half hours would still be gone.  I enjoyed the night out, and wouldn’t have wanted to spend those two and a half hours any other way….

Bottom Line: I was a little surprised at how the film wrapped up, I really expected it to end with Harry becoming the new Arthur.

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Captain Underpants: First Epic Movie – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

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Even though I haven’t read any of the books, I decided to give Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie a spin, and I’m glad that I did.  It was funny, well animated, well voiced and a good, silly little movie.


Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch voice George and Harold, two young friends who like to hang out together and draw and write their own comic books.  They have also been a thorn in the side of their principal Mr. Krupp (voiced by Ed Helms) for years, constantly pulling pranks and upsetting the order he demands in his school.  One day, when they’re caught and Krupp has absolute proof of their guilt, threatening to place them in separate classrooms, thus destroying their friendship the pair have to act fast.  With a cereal box prize hypno-ring, they hypnotize their principal into thinking he is the greatest superhero ever: Captain Underpants (a hero of the boys’ own creation).  Of course this new hero has no powers, he’s just a bald, overweight middle-aged man stripped down to his tighty-whities…and wearing his office curtain as a cape.  Tra-la-laaa!  Through a fluke of circumstance, mean Mr. Krupp fired a teacher and Captain Underpants’ secret identity or Mr. Krupp hires a crazed evil scientist (that wants to eradicate laughter worldwide) to replace him.  It’s up to Captain Underpants and his sidekicks George and Harold to save the day from Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll).


Okay, the humour was pretty juvenile, but so is the target audience.  There were a lot of good laughs, and a lot of potty humour laughs, but there was also a lot of intelligent humour hidden amongst the other jokes too, making Captain Underpants a lot of fun.  Kevin Hart really has a great voice for animation, and the rest of the casting was equally impressive. Given the title, I assume they’re setting up for more films in the series which wouldn’t be a bad thing, and the way the film ended certainly invites a sequel.  The whole creation of Krupp/Captain Underpants is pretty clever, (and the movie addresses this) for Mr. Krupp to become Captain Underpants under hypnosis, he must know who Captain Underpants is, so that means he’s read the comic books the boys had written.  There are billion dollar super hero franchise films that don’t catch little plot points like that. 

I have no idea how faithful to the books the film was, but from what I gathered it was a combination of aspects from several stories, still I think that Captain Underpants fans would be happy with the film.

Bottom Line: They’re kids books, but I’ll probably read the first one….

Guardians – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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At the height of the Cold War the Soviet Union developed a top secret program to give them an edge in what they thought would be the future of war; they were tasked with creating superhumans in Project Patriot.  A scientist involved in the project goes rogue and creates a clone army and tries to take over the world, so it’s up to these superhuman operatives to come together and stop him; they are the Guardians.


The bonus features on the DVD told a lot about this movie.  First, comic books (and comic book superheroes) aren’t big in Russia, so this movie was not trying to compete with the Marvels or the DCs of the world, and they weren’t trying to compete with a $300 million movie, they were just trying to make the best movie they could with the budget they had.  As a superhero movie, it was definitely a B, maybe even a C, but justified by those previous statements, they get an A for effort.  The special effects were quite good, there was a lot of CGI in the film for obvious reasons.  The characters were not fleshed out very well, but the powers they gave them and way they used them were quite interesting.  You had Arsus (Anton Pampushnyy), the were-bear with a mini-gun; Khan (Sanjar Madi) with razor sharp sickles, and he was either really fast or could teleport, it was a bit confusing at times… Kseniya (Alina Lanina) has no memory of how she got her powers of invisibility; and Ler (Sebastien Sisak Grigoryan) who seems to be the elder statesman and leader of the team can control rocks.  The whole project is overseen by Mayor Elena Larina (Valeriya Shkirando).  Quite a few of the command staff of Project Patriot seemed to be sexy Russian women….not necessarily a bad thing.


Arsus looked really cool, and would evolve into different degrees of were-bear-ness….  The mini-gun was a fun touch.  I really liked how they used Ler’s powers over rocks (I suppose that would be geokinesis).  At first he just threw them at people and levitated them, but then he started to attract them to his body, making rock armour, giant rock fists like the Thing from the Fantastic Four.  Loved it, that was super original!  Things like that made up for a few of the flubs they made on the script.  At one point the team is walking across a bridge structure and are being shot at by snipers, why not have your girl turn the team invisible before walking out in the open like that?  They already explained that was in Kseniya’s power-set… I think this is where the lack of exposure to these types of stories hurt their film.


I could see this becoming a minor cult classic because it’s quirky, fun, decently made, and they tried.  I can’t stand it when someone tries to force their film into cult-classic status by purposely making a bad movie.  A great number of cult classics may be bad, but they truly intended to make a good movie.  Guardians was a good movie and a fun watch; not the best, but it wasn’t trying to match up to the best.


Bottom Line:  It may not have been a big time super hero movie, but it did adopt the tradition of an after the credits scene.  I’d certainly watch a sequel if they made one.

Goon 2: Last of the Enforcers – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Oh how I’ve missed this team!  The Halifax Highlanders are back on the ice, and I can’t believe it has been five years since Goon!  The whole gang was back, with a few new faces as a labour dispute in the big leagues has sent a lot of talent to the Eastern Maritime Hockey League.  Doug “The Thug” Glatt (Seann William Scott) has been made captain of the team, but the team isn’t doing that well.  When they play the first place team from Reading, Doug gets his clock cleaned by an up and coming star who delivers a beating unlike any Doug has ever suffered.  With an injured shoulder, Doug retires from the game he grew to love and the team he loved.  Though the injury is unfortunate, it may not be all bad though, as Doug and Eva (Alison Pill) are now married and expecting a baby.  Of course, even without Doug, the team must go on, and team owner Hyrum Cain (Callum Keith Rennie) makes some trades and acquires his son and star player from the Reading Wolfdogs, Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), who also happens to be the one who made Glatt retire.  Cain is talented but reckless and dangerous, both on and off the ice.  With he hears how the Highlanders’ locker room is falling apart, Doug looks up his old friend/nemesis Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber) to teach him how to fight left handed so he can get back in the game…. of course he does all this without telling his wife, so you can guess how that will play out…  Cain is eventually traded back to his old team and a collision course with Doug and the Highlanders with the final playoff spot on the line.


Jay Baruchel co-wrote both this film and the original Goon, but he makes his directorial debut with Goon 2: Last of the Enforcers, which turned out to be another really good hockey movie. It’s clear he’s a fan, and wants to do right by the game and the fans.  My only complaint about the first film was Baruchel’s Pat Houlihan character.  I thought he was over the top and needlessly crude.  This time around he’s still crude and over the top, but he was actually funnier, also there’s far less of him on screen, likely because Baruchel had to dedicate his time to the directing.  Sadly though there was a character that seemed to fill the role in Pat Houlihan’s stead, and that was Elisha Cuthbert as Mary, a character thrust into the film for seemingly no reason except to be the crude friend (this time being a friend of Eva’s).  Her casting may have been a favour from Baruchel, they did work together on Popular Mechanics For Kids in 1997 and she is married to Dion Phaneuf (former Toronto Maple Leafs captain?  Currently playing defence for the Ottawa Senators…. a hockey player).  In fact, I’d have to say that I really didn’t enjoy the cameos that were scattered throughout the film.  T.J. Miller seemed thrust into an improv role as a sports reporter which kind of gave us some exposition into what was going on with the team, but seemed to be trying to hard to be funny.  Jason Jones felt much the same as Doug’s boss at the insurance company he works at before getting back into the game.  I did like James Duthie and Tessa Bonhomme in their roles, which they fit perfectly.  Duthie plays the lead sportscaster opposite Miller and Bonhomme plays a sports reporter.  In real life, Duthie is a sportscaster and host of a variety of hockey shows on TSN, Bonhomme is a Canadian Olympic gold medal winning hockey player and is also a sportscaster for TSN.


Once again I was very impressed by Seann William Scott, I loved the heart he brought to the character and the film overall.  Goon 2 to me was a “returning hero” story, as Doug is first broken and then has to rediscover himself, rebuild himself and come back to save the day.  I’m a sucker for those stories (as bad as Highlander 2: The Quickening is, I still love the bit at the beginning where weak old man Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) gets his powers back).  I was very happy to see Marc-André Grondin back as Xavier LaFlamme too, I hadn’t heard that he was in the film.  Kim Coates was just as phenomenal as he was in the first film as Coach Ronnie Hortense and of course Liev Schreiber is always a nice addition to any cast.


For a first time director, Baruchel did a very good job, obviously he’s intimate with the script and the characters, but I really liked some of his camera work.  He had an excellent eye for the on ice shots, and seeing how they did some of them in the bonus features of the Blu Ray was really cool.  One camera rig was setup on a base, with hockey pucks attached to each corner and pushed along the ice with a snow shovel-like handle.  I love that kind of innovation!  More than just a simple hockey movie, more than just a sequel, Goon 2 is another great comedy with light drama and a lot of heart.  It also takes a very real look at the game, and the role of the “goon” in the current day.  Is there still a place for them, or do they end up forgotten and suffering from post-concussion symptoms?  Will they become a circus act, fighting for the enjoyment of “fans” in an event like the film’s “Bruised and Battered” competition?  I don’t know, but I did enjoy how Doug Glatt approached the role and his own future in the game.  The scene where Doug sets his stick against the wall in the hallway was beautiful, and reminded me of the scene in the first film where he wipes off the team logo on the floor of the locker room.  Those are the scenes that made me love these films.


Bottom Line: After watching Goon 2, I played several games of PS3 hockey.  When does the season start again?
Also, I love that they had an “after the credits” scene.

Victoria – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Victoria was a gimmick film, plain and simple.  It was shot in real time and in one long continuous take, without any cuts, without any re-dos.  On that front it succeeded fairly well.  As a story, it was a little lacking.  Victoria (Laia Costa) is a young Spanish woman living in Berlin, who after a solo night at a club meets up with four guys who describe themselves as “real Berliners” and offer to show her the true city and where to have a good time.  They get some beers and head up on a roof, smoke some cigarettes and eventually split up.  Sonne (Frederick Lau) has really taken a liking to Victoria and takes her back to the cafe she works at that she needs to open in a few hours.  As they flirt and chat one Sonne gets a phone call from one of the guys from earlier in the night called Boxer (Franz Rogowski), he needs Sonne’s help for something, and arrives at the cafe very agitated.  Boxer was in jail before and owes the guy who protected him while he was on the inside.  Now he needs Sonne to help him with some sort of illegal activity to pay back that debt that requires a four man team.  When one of the group is way too drunk to be of any use, Victoria agrees to be their getaway driver.  Crime and punishment come quickly as we creep into the early hours of morning.


From a filmmaking point of view, Victoria was ambitious and I’d have to say a success.  The film was 2 hours and 20 minutes, so they didn’t just try and rush through their “one take” experiment, they grabbed it by the horns and went all out.  Watching it though, I noticed a few clever little tricks they did to get their cast a little bit of rest.  I applaud the effort and the skill involved in making it, the planning, the organization, the timing all were impeccable.  Having a loose outline for the script and improvising a lot of the dialogue really helped make this film happen.  All that said, the film was great, but the movie wasn’t.  If it was filmed as a traditional movie, it would have had a more polished script which would have helped a great deal.  All in all, I’m glad I watched it though.


Bottom Line:  My biggest complaint was the DVD didn’t have subtitles, and for that I blame Mongrel Media.  Let me clarify though, it was subtitled when the characters were speaking German or Spanish, but there was no subtitle track or closed captioning for the English dialogue.  For a film like Victoria, there were no boom mics to pickup the sound, so a lot of the dialogue wasn’t very clear.  Being able to “cheat” and have the subtitles on would have been a nice option.  Also for such an experimental film, I was very disappointed that the DVD had no bonus features.

Sense of an Ending – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

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How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to tell us our life is not our life. It is just a story we’ve told about our lives. A story about our lives told to others, but mainly to ourselves.


One of the closing lines of the film sums the story up so well.  Jim Broadbent plays Tony Webster, a man who has retired to run a small camera repair shop in order to keep himself busy.  He’s divorced, but on good and friendly terms with his ex-wife Mararet (Harriet Walter).  Their daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery) is pregnant and close to giving birth.  One day he receives a letter from a solicitor telling him he is owed an inheritance from the mother (Emily Mortimer) of an old girlfriend Veronica (played by both Charlotte Rampling in the present day and Freya Mavor as the young Veronica).  Tony tells us a story about his first love (mainly by relaying it to his last love), how they met, and how they broke up.  About meeting her family, and about meeting his best friends in school.  About how his friend Adrian fell in love with Veronica and about how he committed suicide.  Veronica’s mother Sarah, has left Tony Adrian’s diary in her will.  How did it come to be in her possession?  Why did she leave it to Tony?  Why is Veronica preventing him from getting it?  As Tony recalls the past, and reacquaints himself with Veronica and other old school friends, the blanks are filled in, and things are not how he had remembered it, and his distorted view of history takes its true shape once evidence of the past is revealed.


This was an interesting look at how we remember the events of our own lives.  We often “mis-remember” things, or embellish or omit details, especially when dealing with sensitive or painful memories.  When I tell the stories, I’m pretty sure everything was my ex-wife’s fault, but if I think back and concentrate really hard, I probably can remember doing one or two things wrong too…  That’s kind of what happens with The Sense of an Ending, Tony remembers a version of events that paint himself in a better light, not that it has really harmed anyone to this point, it has just been the version of history he’s been living with, and that allows him to sleep soundly at night.  As we learn the whole truth (and what we assume is the actual truth) from the film, we see that there are things that went on that he didn’t even know about, but we don’t see Tony as being an evil person, who has lied his way through life.  With his eyes opened, it actually becomes a coming of age story for this sixty year old man who learns how to deal with his past, and he tries to better himself in his own future.


The story was very well written, and was based on the book of the same title by Julian Barnes.  It was a compact tale, but I can see how some viewers could find it a little hard to follow with the flashbacks, memories and mis-remembered memories.  Jim Broadbent is tremendous as Tony and quietly delivers a powerful yet subtle performance.  His Tony is a bit of a curmudgeon, but still likeable and relatable.   I also really liked Freya Mavor (The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun) as the young Veronica, I just wish she was on screen a bit more.  Charlotte Rampling was also excellent as the rather aloof, and somewhat nasty older Veronica.  Director Ritesh Batra previously directed The Lunchbox, which I also quite enjoyed.


Quite enjoyable, and surprisingly not that heavy handed even though I guess the takeaway from the film is that we should all take an honest look back at our own lives.


Bottom Line: Hey, I’m finally caught up on my reviews!

Security – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

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Antonio Banderas plays Eddie, a retired army captain who has been out of work for two years since being discharged.  He probably suffers from PTSD and hasn’t seen his wife and young daughter in a year either, but he finally lands a job as night security in a mall.  The mall is set between two towns with high crime rates.  Drugs run the towns, so the drug users regularly try to break into the mall to steal anything they can sell to feed their addictions.  Eleven year old Jamie (Katherine de la Rocha) is a key witness in an upcoming trial who escapes to the mall when the US Marshall convoy bringing her to the trial is ambushed by a small army of criminals led by Ben Kingsley.  The small five person security detail now have to fight off the heavily armed criminals and assassins until help can arrive, help they aren’t even sure is on the way.


This wasn’t the best movie, but I did enjoy it, even though it drew on a lot of tropes and wasn’t overly original.  You had the retired military guy who has to take charge and lead the untrained troops, you had the mysterious bad guy, the super strong bad guy, the quirky and diverse group of good guys, and of course the protect a child trope.  The action was pretty good and the fights, while not always believable, were action packed.  It brings to live the fantasy of fighting off bad guys in a mall using anything you could find as a weapon.  The defenders have a few mall issued tasers, some archery equipment from the lousy sporting goods section of a department store, they mount a webcam on a remote controlled car and basically try to become lethal MacGyvers.  Banderas does a believable job taking charge of the situation and leading the security guards, and Ben Kingsley plays a fantastic and understated bad guy.


My only complaint really was the ending, and it’s not so much a complaint as something I wish they’d done, something I think could have made the movie better. Naturally the good guys come out on top, though not unscathed.  At the end of the film the FBI (or the US Marshalls, I can’t remember) arrive with paramedics and take care of the bad guys and the injured.   We see Eddie next in the hospital talking with Jamie about the trial and where she’ll go afterwards, then we see Eddie meeting back up with his own wife and daughter.  All pretty predictable.  I just wish they ended it like the old Dirty Harry movies, when Eddie is sitting at the edge of the ambulance, the cops are all there and everything is wrapped up, pull the camera back, get a big wide shot of the mall parking lot full of law enforcement and then fade to black.  Leave the family resolution stuff to the imagination.  Ah well, I’m not the director.


Bottom Line: Guilty pleasure admission, I really like the new rebooted MacGyver.

Kung Fu Yoga – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

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China meets India in the latest action/comedy/adventure film from Jackie Chan.  I enjoyed Kung Fu Yoga a lot more than I did the last Chan film I watched, Railroad Tigers.  This time out, Jackie is a famous Chinese archaeologist (call him Jack) who has been contracted by a university in India to discover the resting place of an ancient treasure that was lost after a battle where a Chinese general and his army assisted the true rulers of India in an war against a hostile Indian general.  The treasure is naturally  being sought after by two sides; the bad guy is Randall (Sonu Sood) whose character is a descendant of the bad guy from the battle thousands of years ago, the good guys are Jack, two of his TAs,  Nuomin (Miya Muqi) and Xiaoguang (Yixing Zhang), a treasure hunter/tomb raider named Jones (Aarif Rahman) and the beautiful Indian archaeology professor Ashmita (Disha Patani) and her assistant Kyra (Amyra Dastur).  They travel from the ice caves of Tibet to the streets of Dubai to a mountain temple in India in search of even greater treasures.  Randall seeks the treasure to claim power for himself, Ashmita seeks it to give to the Indian people, and Jack seeks it for its archaeological importance.


Jackie Chan’s films are interesting to say the least.  There are are several different types now, in the past he did the classic kung fu, hardcore action films (New Fists of Fury, Police Story) , then he moved on and started doing family friendly action films and action comedies (Rumble in the Bronx, Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon) and recently he has done historical dramas (1911, Dragon Blade, Railroad Tigers) this was definitely in the realm of the family friendly action films, but not quite an action comedy.  Sure, the CGI lion in the back seat of the car he steals for a car chase was pretty funny, and there was a lot of comic relief in the film, but there was more action to it.  The hunt for the treasure leads to a big fight scene in the ice cave, and the discovery of the the first treasure.  There was some double crossing as Jones steals the treasure to sell it to the highest bidder, leading to a big chase scene.  The car chases were full of exotic cars and exotic scenery… and the CGI lion of course.  Randall kidnaps Kyra and Nuomin, holding them hostage for the treasure, which leads to them being rescued by a reformed Jones and Xiaoguang, but the bad guys get the upper hand again and have Jack and Ashmita (who is not really a professor, but the heiress of the ruling Indian army who had the treasure originally) lead them to an even bigger treasure which leads to an even bigger fight and showdown at a golden temple.  When the treasure promised by ancient prophecy turns out to be scrolls of scientific knowledge, the bad guys accept it and everyone dances!  Bollywood style!


Now, I haven’t seen a lot of Bollywood movies, but do they all just end with people resolving the conflict and dancing?  I guess if they do, writing the ending is a bit easier, but it seemed rather sudden.  I thought quite a few things in this movie happened a bit to quickly as well.  The team discovered the whereabouts of the ice cave on their first attempt, the bad guys hideout was easy to find, solving the puzzles to get to the right temple was pretty quick and easy, and then the final resolution that led to the dancing happened pretty quickly as I said.  The film was clearly pulling a lot of things from the Indiana Jones stories, but even Indy didn’t get it right the first time, every time.


Chan himself was enjoyable, and while he was involved in most of the action he was involved in fewer of the fight scenes.  He makes these films fun though, and that’s what I’m watching for.  The rest of the cast weren’t as capable as Jackie, especially the Indian actresses.  They were fine in the action scenes, but their acting wasn’t the best.  The villain of the piece was rather one dimensional, but he did deliver a better performance, even though the script didn’t give him a lot to work with.  And for a film titled Kung Fu Yoga there wasn’t a whole lot of yoga, even with Muqi Miya who is known as China’s most famous yoga instructor; she did deliver a good performance though.  The script still was the weakest thing in the film, but I could get by that for the most part to simply enjoy it.


Bottom Line: I saw a trailer recently for The Foreigner with Jackie Chan, and it looks really good!

The Hippopotamus – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

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Based on the book by Stephen Fry, The Hippopotamus follows disgraced poet Ted Wallace (Roger Allam) who is commissioned by his goddaughter Jane (Emily Berrington) to investigate a series of unexplained miracle healings that have supposedly occurred at Swafford Hall.  Jane has terminal leukemia but appears to be cured after a visit to the house.  Swafford is the country mansion of Wallace’s old friend Lord Michael Logan (Matthew Modine).  Wallace and Michael had a falling out some years ago, but he’s still part of the family, so he is given pretty much free range over the grounds where he meets with Michael’s wife Anne (Fiona Shaw) who apparently was cured of asthma.  The family is rounded out by the Logan’s teenage son David (Tommy Knight) and his older, more rational brother Simon (Dean Ridge).  David who is Ted’s godson, also wants to be a poet.  he house had always entertained various guests, but now they seem to be coming not for the English countryside but for the miracles.  The guests who  know how the miracles are performed, include a rich woman (Lyne Renee) brings her awkward teenage daughter (Emma Curtis) to be “cured”, and flamboyant theatre director Oliver Mills (Tim McInnerny) seeks a miracle for his heart condition.  Ted may be a drunk, and a lousy sleuth, but he has a fine nose for people, and something at the mansion smells rotten.  He soon discovers that everyone believes David has the “healing touch” and is responsible for the miracles.  It first manifested years ago when he saved his mother from a near fatal asthma attack with just a touch to her chest, now he continues to heal not only with his touch, but with his divine essence, a more powerful, more concentrated application of his healing powers.


The Hippopotamus was an extremely British film; dry wit, snappy dialogue, and the absurd magnified by a stiff upper lip.  Very enjoyable, but if you’re not a fan of British humour, you likely won’t enjoy it.  I laughed quite a bit throughout the story.  The performances were good, and I really think that Roger Allam fit the role perfectly.  Even though the film was set in the modern times, it still felt like an Edwardian mystery at times and that kind of lured me in.

Bottom Line: It seems that David naively did believe in his own healing powers, but he could have just been a horny teenager knowingly seducing everyone with the lure of his “magic” semen.

Colossal – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Colossal may have been billed as a sci-fi comedy, but the “comedy” part may have been a little misleading.  Yes, there were some comedic moments, and some hilarious moments too, but boy did it turn a corner and get very dark all of a sudden!  When Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is dumped by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens),  she leaves her life in New York City, and moves back to her small hometown where she meets back up with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) an old friend from school.  Oscar never left the town and has taken over his late father’s bar.  Down on her luck, Gloria accepts Oscar’s offer of a waitressing job, which might not be the best idea for a girl whose alcoholism had already cost her her job and her boyfriend.  She soon takes to drinking in the back room after the bar closes with Oscar and two of his regulars Joel and Garth (Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson).  Unable to walk the entire way home, Glora starts sleeping on a park bench in front of a small play area.  When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon.  Somehow, at 8:05 am, whenever Gloria walks through the playground, the monster appears in South Korea, mimicking her steps and movements. Realizing what she is doing, Gloria struggles to stay on the wagon and away from the playground so she doesn’t hurt anyone else, but Oscar doesn’t make it easy.


So, now that turn to the dark side (SPOILERS highlight to read): It seems Oscar has been stalking Gloria for years after she left their small town, keeping tabs on her relationships and her career, seemingly waiting until she would come back and he might have a chance with her.  When the group discovers that she is manifesting the monster in Korea, it gets weird, but even weirder when Oscar steps into the playground and projects a giant robot onto Korea as well.  Was he mad with power, or was he mad all along?  Oscar now threatens the South Koreans with giddy disregard in his drunken states, and becomes particularly nasty when he learns that Gloria spent the night with Joel.  After a tense confrontation, Gloria gets Oscar to leave the park, but Oscar is jealous, and an alcoholic.  Later that night at the bar, he demands that Gloria have a drink with him, and even threatens her by saying he he will go to the playground in the morning if she doesn’t drink with him. It is clear that Oscar wants to have her and to control her.  He issues her an ultimatum basically, stay with him or he’ll smash South Korea.  To finally free herself from Oscar (and her drinking problem) Gloria flies to Seoul and enters the area where her monster appears, sparking the monster to appear in America at the playground where she (as the monster) grabs Oscar…


Colossal was incredibly original, but it was more than just a quirky little concept film there was a much deeper message and meaning to it, and that all happened once it turned that corner I spoke of earlier.  Both Hathaway and Sudeikis give strong performances, but once that corner is turned their performances get even better.  While I knew Anne Hathaway was an excellent actress, Sudeikis was a pleasant surprise when he elevated his game to match the Oscar winner.  The film was
a big metaphor for addiction and the pain that addictions like alcoholism can cause.  The film also explores how those addictions can hurt those around us, and even people who are not directly around us.  The people of Seoul are definitely innocent in all this, but still feel the effects of Gloria and Oscar’s drinking, and they’re on the other side of the world.  The consequences of all our actions are real.  Ultimately Colossal deals with overcoming our inner demons and dealing with the decisions we make in our lives.  It does so in a clever, sometimes humourous way which makes it entertaining and thought provoking at the same time.  Colossal really is a “hidden gem”, and was definitely worth watching.


Bottom Line: Even though it didn’t go into much science-fiction detail, Colossal does show us the origin of Gloria’s monster and Oscar’s robot.

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