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The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

DARK KNIGHT RISES

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay),  Christopher Nolan(screenplay)
Stars: Christian Bale,  Tom Hardy,  Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman

The Dark Knight Rises is the concluding part of the Dark Knight Trilogy by Christopher Nolan released in 2012. Four years had passed since the epic The Dark Knight left fans of the franchise satisfied and flabbergasted and although we wanted more I think deep down we all knew this couldn’t be topped.

I previously mentioned in my last review that in 2008 I felt it should have ended with The Dark Knight as I felt that instalment couldn’t be matched never mind surpassed. By 2012 I was interested to see where “Rises” could take us and to be fair I never went into the IMAX theatre thinking this was going to be better than it’s predecessor. In fact my expectations were contained for the time being.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here. Is The Dark Knight Rises better than The Dark Knight or Batman Begins? Of course it isn’t. Is it a bad film? Of course it isn’t. Is its conclusion satisfying to the audience? Well…..perhaps. (I’ll come to that)

Before this review grows arms and legs I’m not going to compare this movie with its previous instalments any further as I feel it’s unfair and to be honest, it’s a pretty great film when you isolate it from the other two.

Christopher Nolan has a real knack of throwing the audience right into the thick of it and here is no exception. The opening shots of the aeroplane flying over a beautiful landscape (partially Scotland I may add) gives us the big reveal on who the villain is this time and Tom Hardy’s “Bane” is a force to be reckoned with. Hardy packed the pounds on to “fill” the role and really looked a menacing figure with the famous breathing apparatus but with a slightly peculiar voice. If fans moaned about Batman’s voice previously then a lot of justification on the criticism of the voice effect on Bane’s mask was correct. Again on a first time showing you may miss some dialogue because of this and I admit I struggled at times. Having viewed this movie several times it is fair to say that some of Bane’s lines are easily quotable now and again, we as fans just love to nitpick don’t we?

8 years have passed since Harvey Dent was murdered and Batman took the blame for this event in hope that Dent’s “White Knight of Gotham” would give the people hope and remembrance on what Harvey stood for. Since that night Bruce Wayne became a recluse (with a limp and a cane, due to injuring himself) and hung up the Bat Cape. With a fund raising function at Wayne Manor Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) poses as a maid who under the strict instructions of Alfred is to deliver dinner to Bruce’s quarters with a key to access a room leave the tray and leave immediately. That wasn’t going to happen as Selina had other plans in breaking into Bruce Wayne’s safe. Although we are lead to believe that she is after Martha Wayne’s pearl necklace, she is in fact after Bruce Wayne’s finger prints.

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle is never mentioned as “Catwoman” throughout the movie but it is heavily hinted through newspaper clippings “The Cat Burglar Strikes Again” etc. Also the wardrobe for the character is similar that to a cat complete with goggles that double up as little cat ears when placed on top of her head. Hathaway really excels in this role and is a far cry from her role in “The Devil Wears Pravda” Selina is hard, cold and knows exactly what she wants and warns Bruce that a storm is coming. Hathaway really fits into Nolan’s Dark Knight vision and it’s fair to say she was perfectly cast in the role as witnessed in those opening scenes for her character.

Bruce Wayne really took a step back in The Dark Knight compared to Batman Begins (sorry I’m not comparing, honestly I said I wouldn’t do that) but The Dark Knight Rises is drawing from the origins of Batman Begins when it is revealed where Bane came from and what his plan is for Gotham and Batman. If the Joker physiologically tormented Batman, Bane’s intents were physically. Bruce Wayne having been in seclusion for so long and pointed out by Alfred wasn’t the same person he was. Alfred’s concerns for Bruce where heartfelt and feared Bruce becoming Batman again because Bane’s stature and more so his training with “The League of Shadows”

The Dark Knight Rises takes us on a journey on Bruce Wayne’s spirit and will and how this character must rise to take on Bane. I’m not going to detail keys sequences for anyone who hasn’t watched this movie but the scenes in the “pit” really is where the key to where Bruce was physiologically and where he was physically also.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt was an excellent addition as Blake to the already superb cast and carried those composition sequences perfectly. The character of Blake is key to the movie and is the connection between all of the characters, you could say the character is the master of ceremonies and has a fitting set up at the end of the movie that Christopher Nolan threw in there for the fans which although is a little cheesy is a nice touch and leaves us wondering “what next for this character?”

In summary this movie was never going to top the previous sequel but surprisingly links more to Batman Begins and bookends the Trilogy perfectly. On the whole Christopher Nolan gave us a near perfect Trilogy which is an achievement after the last incarnation (Batman and Robin (1997) left a bad taste in fans mouths. Spanning 7 years from beginning to end showed the commitment from the director and now having been involved and adding input into the DCU’s version as an executive producer highlights his fondness for the character and cares enough to still be involved although Ben Affleck’s “The Batman” is again another take on the character. For fans it’s a pleasure to revisit the Nolan Trilogy and for me I can’t recommend it enough. Thank You Christopher Nolan.

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The Dark Knight (2008) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

THE DARK NIGHT

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay),  Christopher Nolan
Stars: Christian Bale,  Heath Ledger,  Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy

Christopher Nolan really did leave us hanging at the end of Batman Begins (2005) with the Jim Gordon / Batman scene at the very end teasing the audience with the “has a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card.” with what we could look forward to in the next instalment of “The Dark Knight Trilogy”

Within those three years slowly but surely little pieces of information began to leak online on who would portray “The Joker” and it’s no great secret that when Health Ledger was announced it caused a bit of backlash amongst the fans that hadn’t been seen since pre-internet days of Tim Burton’s announcement that Michael Keaton was portraying Bruce Wayne in the 1989 version of the caped crusader. In fact, we as fans still haven’t learned our lessons for in 2013 a similar backlash happened with the announcement of Ben Affleck taking the Wayne mantel in the upcoming sequel to “Man of Steel” that would soon becoming title “Batman Versus Superman”

We need not worried as most folk know about Ledger’s now iconic portal of “The Clown” and more importantly the tragedy surrounding the actors untimely death on 22nd January 2008 aged 28, six months before the premier of “The Dark Knight”

The hype and publicity surrounding the release of the movie in the summer of 2008 probably would have tainted the movie in a way that with all the publicity into Ledger’s death may in fact leave a massive shadow hanging over the sequel. Going into the theatre to watch the follow up to Batman Begins, any fear of this was put to bed within the first 10 minutes of the movie as we watched a bank heist taking place and The Joker’s reveal was straight to the point was also shocking as we see and hear this portrayal say “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you stranger” the theatre may have been in complete darkness but you couldn’t sense the audience rubbing their hands knowing what was in store for the next couple of hours.

One thing I noticed and have always applauded Christopher Nolan for was the focus is taken away from Bruce Wayne in the movie. Batman Begins was always about Bruce Wayne and the development of that character so much so they didn’t give us one of the “main” villains in the opening instalment (although The Scarecrow was excellent) as the Director was in every sense rebooting the franchise. In “The Dark Knight” this was never going to be the case. Here we saw a man “Who just wanted to watch world burn” in The Joker and also we see the Rise and Tragic Fall of Harvey Dent who went from “Gotham’s White Knight” to “Two Face” gradually and even more so tragically.

The pacing of this movie is something that has always impressed me, from those opening IMax designed shots moving over the city to the end is so consistent and the tone never changes although there are some lighter tones of dialogue, particularly with Bruce and Alfred or Bruce and Lucius Fox but overall the darkness of the film accompanies the audience throughout its duration.

Christian Bale did receive a little flak for his Batman “voice” in this movie and I can understand that on the first viewing you might miss a few of his lines due to his voice but overall it really is just nitpicking as Bale’s Wayne is really finding it difficult to deal with a man who has no plan and has nothing to lose. Also his portrayal of the billionaire’s personal life an in particularly the relationship between him and Rachel Daws continues to develop. The actor again shows us all why he was cast as Bruce Wayne in the first place and barely puts a foot wrong throughout.

Health Ledger as previously mentioned, it is very difficult to say where after this performance would have taken him. Receiving posthumously an Oscar for best supporting actor in his portrayal of the The Joker was bittersweet and heartbreaking as his performance was up there with the best of them and to this day his lines are still as memorable as they were 9 years ago. Ledger takes the character in a different direction from previous incarnations of the legendary villain. Not as much theatrics or parlour tricks but a more edgier and gripping portrayal is witnessed as the actor turns “The Clown” into a really disturbing figure that even the “Mob” fear.

Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. Could I think of anyone else to portray the new DA in Gotham? Well no. In fact I don’t think Eckhart has come close to reaching these heights before or since this movie was released. Eckhart’s performance matches Christian Bale’s scene for scene and the character gives Bruce Wayne hope that the day of Batman being Gotham’s saviour is coming to an end, much to the delight and relief of Wayne. Eckhart’s performance is terrific is his almost whiter than white portrayal of a good man wanting to better his city and rid Gotham of the disease that was slowly dragging it back down to the days of Falcone. Eckhart’s “turn” is almost as tragic after losing everything becoming “Two Face” I have to admit I was excited when it was announced that “The Joker” would be the villain in this instalment, but admittedly I was concerned that having Two Face in there too may be a little overkill. My fears were put to bed after the first viewing of the film as the handling of the character was more sympathetic and tragic than the out and out villain of the movie.

Again the supporting cast of Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy was very similar to Batman Begins with all these characters playing their parts for the right amount of time and used correctly. Even Maggie Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holms for the part of Rachel didn’t really distract in anyway and that’s down to good writing and obviously the acting of Gylenhaal who had a larger part to play than Holms did in Batman Begins.

Overall this movie is perfection and I didn’t think Batman Begins could be topped if I’m being honest. The tone of this film is trademark Nolan and Hans Zimmer’s collaboration with James Newton Howard is a piece of art itself adding to the already darker tones and adding to the feel and texture of the movie. As most of you know this is the middle part of the trilogy, but I couldnt help but feel at the time how this movie would be equalled or bettered with a concluding part to it as in 2008 I really felt this movie hit the Dark Knight’s peak and I have to be honest and say in 2008 I didn’t want another one after this as I did regard this as a masterpiece and anything after it would be inferior. If you haven’t seen this movie yet I can’t recommend it enough as it is in my all time top 5 movies to see.

Batman Begins (2005) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

BATMAN BEGINS

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Bob Kane (characters), David S. Goyer (story)
Stars: Christian Bale,  Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy

Batman Begins opens with young Bruce and young Rachel playing in the grounds of Wayne Manor when Bruce accidentally falls down an old well landing in a cave full of Bats. Here we realise his fear and this plays well later and throughout the movie and basically is the theme of this first instalment of The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Let me take you back to a time when Batman, The Caped Crusader, The Dark Knight etc etc wasn’t cool. I’m not talking about BvS here either, as Batman was one of the plus points of that movie. No I’m talking about….. the year is 1997 and Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin is released. Enough said? Well not really, some consider that incarnation of DC’s Superhero almost killed the franchise and if you witnessed this train wreck I wouldn’t hold it against you for thinking that way.

So when Batman Begins was announced I have to admit I wasn’t overly keen devoting much time back into the Saviour of Gotham City. I personally felt that not enough time had passed by at this point and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one thinking things were still too raw to even go there. The choice of Director wasn’t exciting me enough either because in 2005 I think my only Christopher Nolan movie that I had viewed was Memento which although is a good film, I wasn’t sure if Nolan would be able to handle such an occasion (The Rebirth of Batman you say?) bare in mind up to this point the only other movie I had heard of him doing was Insomnia staring Al Pacino and Robin Williams that I had gone back and viewed once I jumped on the Nolan Gravy Train and hadn’t looked back since. The choice of playing the lead role is the young boy Jim from Empire of the Sun and more recently that creep Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Again what the hell are they doing at Warner Bros was my war cry.

You see folks, this is why I write movie reviews and why I don’t attempt writing movie screenplays or scripts. Now my war cry is (out with The Dark Knight) Batman Begins is the greatest superhero movie made ever, yeah hindsight is a great thing and I never claimed to have 20/20 hindsight anyway.

Nolan’s journey for Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is styled on going back and forth throughout his younger years leading up to an established Bruce Wayne complete with training ready to share his fear with his enemies but before then we travel through the terrible tragedy of Thomas (Linus Roache) and Martha Wayne’s (Sara Stewart) murders at the hands of Joe Chill (Richard Brake). An angry Bruce seeks revenge on Chill years later when he is released only to be robbed of killing his parents murderer when one of Falcone’s (Tom Wilkinson) hench woman intervenes and silences stone dead Chill before he even gets out the courtroom. Bruce confronting Falcone only to be set on his way with Falcone taunting the billionaire saying “you got spirit kid, I’ll give you that. More than your old man had. Chill told me the night of your parents murder that your father,he begged Chill for his life….begged….like a dog”

This is the turning point for Bruce as he realises he isn’t prepared to tackle the corrupt in his city just yet and disappears for seven years (presumed dead by the people of Gotham) in this time Bruce seeks direction and purpose ending in brawls and being in the wrong place during a stake out ending up in prison where he practices his fighting on the inmates until a man who goes by the name of Ducard (Liam Neeson) offers Bruce a chance to add purpose to his life and join him in training to become a member of the league of shadows.

The scenery in this section of the movie is stunning and visually beautiful and captures the isolation of these warriors who are cut off from civilisation but insist on controlling civilisation throughout time. The training of Bruce Wayne has never been explored until now on the big screen and this is one of the most enjoyable sequences in the movie, not only for the terrific fighting choreography but the dialogue between Ducard and Bruce and how they differ on how far they will go in terms of vengeance explains on the differences between both of them and you know at some point they aren’t going to agree on something.

We don’t have long to wait until that “something” happens. When Bruce has basically convinced the League of Shadows and Ra’s Al Ghul that he is ready to face the trials to become one of them he is faced with a moral test that will deter whether or not he is ready. When Bruce is asked to execute a local man for theft, Bruce beliefs in the justice system of being triad for his crimes angering his mentors and a battle between the League of Shadows and the young prodigy begins when he refuses to execute the thief.

Now Batman Begins……

The second half of this movie is so nicely set up in a way it’s like climbing a mountain (much like Bruce had to do) to reach the peak to admire the view before grabbing a sledge to slide all the way back down for the sheer enjoyment of it all. That’s exactly what the second half of this movie is like. We begin to see a superhero in the making from working along side Lucius Fox’s (Morgan Freeman) “Applied Sciences” a division of Wayne Enterprises that is basically how Batman gets his suit, gadgets and car…..or in this case “The Tumbler” I always love moments like these in movies whether it be in Bond or more lately The Kingsman. Who doesn’t like gadgets?

Bruce is also reacquainted with his oldest Rachel Daws (Katie Holmes) who is now the assistant DA of Gotham City who is in hot pursuit of Falcone and Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) also known as “The Scarecrow” who is conveniently sectioning half of the mob as part of his experiments into hallucinogenics with fear.

I personally think the “Comic Book” villain of this film is the right choice. Batman Begins is an origins story of not just Batman but more so Bruce Wayne and his story. So it was correct in using “The Scarecrow” as a go between the Mob and the League of Shadows. Murphy almost plays Crane as slightly unhinged and creepy but with an arrogance. Cillian Murphy is a reliable actor who Christopher Nolan uses so well in all the movies he has directed the actor in. The Scenes with The Mob and in particular Murphy and Wilkinson are clever as we begin to see who’s role is who in the grand scheme of things. Wilkinson is a credible Falcone and throws his weight around in the beginning but when we see Dr. Jonathan Crane arrive on the scene we begin to see who is bossing who and there is a slight fear on Falcone with Crane when he describes “The Scarecrow” in the third person that Falcone doesn’t realise are but of the same person. It doesn’t stop there as we then discover Crane is actually a pawn himself for the League of Shadows and Ra’s Al Ghul.

Liam Neeson is that good he doesn’t have to do accents in any of the movies he appears in. As Ducard and as the villain is so persuasive in his theory that Gotham must be wiped and rebuilt that he is able to use villains as The Scarecrow to contaminate the water system in Gotham and using microwave currents to vaporise that water to create a hallucinogenic steam that will send residents of the city into chaos and fear tearing them apart. It’s not only the weak minded that Ducart can manipulate but I sensed that he even had Bruce Wayne thinking about it and convinced him to join the League of Shadows in the first place. This is one of my favourite films with Liam Neeson and his character is well developed as we get a glimpse of his backstory too as well as his beliefs.

Throughout all the chaos in the story it is always comforting to know that in most films you have the calming influence. The character in the movie who can see clearly through the muddy waters and someone Bruce can trust and rely on. The Character is of course Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s Butler. In Batman Begins Alfred is portrayed a little more than just Wayne’s man servant though and in the earlier scenes we discover how Alfred acted as the guardian of young master Bruce and becoming confident to him later in his adult life. Michael Caine portrays the character so perfectly and gives of the vibe that there is more to him than just serving tea to the rich. You can sense (and it’s confirmed in The Dark Knight) that his has seen some action in his younger days and is a tough old nut. That’s down to Caine and his delivery of the character and body language. The scenes between Bruce and Alfred at times are very light in tone to keep that calming presence preserved and there are some touching scenes between them.

The climatic last third of this film is stunning and Christopher Nolan really gives us an insight to ground zero Gotham. The tones and style of this part of the film reminded me of the 1993 film “The Crow” starring Brandon Lee. The City is a dark place in Batman Begins and I just don’t mean the time of day. The people are repressed and almost downtrodden. The villains are sinister and manipulative and this third act really shows you where Nolan is going with this franchise. The battle between Ducard and Batman on the train is so memorable and quotable “I’m not going to kill you, but I don’t have to save you”. What a line eh?

Batman Begins is wrapped up without me giving too much away in the most perfect way that isn’t really a spoiler as we know there are sequels.

Jim Gordon: We still haven’t picked up Crane or half the inmates of Arkham that he freed.

Batman: We will. We *can* bring Gotham back.

Jim Gordon: What about escalation?

Batman: Escalation?

Jim Gordon: We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds.

Batman: And?

Jim Gordon: And, you’re wearing a mask. Jumping off rooftops. Now, take this guy.

[pulling out a file]
Jim Gordon: Armed robbery, double homicide, has a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card.
[shows Batman a plastic evidence bag containing a Joker card]

Batman: I’ll look into it.
[turns away and walks to the edge of the roof]
Jim Gordon: I never said thank you.

Batman: [looks back at Gordon] And you’ll never have to.

As previously mentioned this is almost the perfect comic book film and one that I revisit every couple of years. The casting is phenomenal and balanced and everyone plays their part brilliantly. The Direction of Nolan is one of the greatest witnessed on the big screen and in 2005 you wouldn’t believe could be topped. Even if you aren’t a comic book fan you will enjoy this first part of the Dark Knight Trilogy and it really sets up the two sequels in a way that maintains its tone throughout the larger story and tone of these films. I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t watched this to do so now.

Going in Style (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

GOING IN STYLE

Director: Zach Braff
Writers: Theodore Melfi (screenplay), Edward Cannon (based on the 1979 story by)
Stars: Joey King, Morgan Freeman, Ann-Margret, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin

Reboots and remakes have long been the flavour of the month, whether through a lack originality and/or a desire to retell compelling or just plain humorous stories. Going in Style definitely falls under the latter. It’s a whimsical, geriatric, heist movie remake of the 1979 original, starring Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin as disenfranchised pensioners fighting back against the establishment.

Hidden Figures director Ted Melfi lends his writing talents to the screenplay and although it’s not the most fantastic or riveting film you’ll ever watch, it definitely has its good moments and a serious thematic message underneath. Most notably, about the ruthlessness of today’s financial establishment and the complete disdain they have for ordinary, working class people. Which is precisely where our trio of pension age protagonist find themselves. Joe (Caine) is facing foreclosure on his home after his New York bank triple the mortgage repayments he’s lumbered with using a teaser rate loophole and with mere weeks to rescue situation, he finds himself with little or no options. So when his bank is robbed during a meeting with his smarmy, cowardly bank advisor Chuck (Josh Pais), it plants the seed in his mind.

A short while later, this fanciful idea of a heist is given further impetus when Joe and his two buddies, Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) discover that their ex-steel industry employer is moving its operations abroad and dissolving their pensions, leaving them in a perilous position, potentially relying on the state for handouts. Despite their new found hardship, Willie is fairly dubious of the idea and Albert (the cynical realist of the three) isn’t even entertaining it. Which to be fair, following an utterly disastrous robbery attempt on a supermarket is the logical conclusion anyone would take. Joe, remaining unflustered and determined however and viewing the heist as his only chance of keeping his home, does his best to coerce the two into it.

Despite a reasonably successful attempt from Melfi at imbuing the film with an underlying satirical attack on greedy banks (it wasn’t anywhere near as good as Hell and High Water), it’s still an escapist comedy at heart with a main story arc, that quite frankly, is not to be taken too seriously. And so when the three decide to seek the assistance of a professional criminal through Joe’s weed smoking (collecting?), son-in-law, Murphy (Peter Serafinowicz), you don’t blink an eyelid. They trio are regularly viewed upon with humorous contempt by the younger peers they encounter throughout and, as is usually the case in today’s society, often ignored completely, which aids them in slipping under the radar as the plans for their clever heist come together.

Despite some obvious weak points in the film. I.e. The forced injection of predictable, slapstick humour at certain points or some of the less than believable aspects of the story. There’s one facet which carries this film out of the banal and unremarkable, and that’s the palpable chemistry between the leading three and performances of the strong supporting cast. Arkin is arguably the standout of the three, his character Albert developing from a grumpy, sax player who Joe describes as “waiting 20 years to die” into someone with a blooming love interest and a renewed purpose in life. Meanwhile, Caine and Freeman are fantastic, delivering pitch perfect performances as the disenfranchised pensioners come buddies. Their interactions together are often funny and heartwarming. Christopher Lloyd does well in his cameo as the eccentric Milton, whilst both Ann-Margret and Matt Dillon also put in solid showings, the former in particular as Annie.

I made reference to Hell and High Water earlier and there’s definitely many parallels with that fantastic film here. Both feature the threat of foreclosure; the robbing of a bank/s for morally good reasons, that leave the viewer rooting for the robbers; strong satirical themes aimed firmly at the financial establishment and both choose to heavily focus on post-recession society and the effects on the most vulnerable within. The former is a far superior film, of course, light years ahead of the latter, but they’re in very different genres and it’s unfair to compare beyond the superficial similarities. This is not a bad little film at all though. I looked forward to watching it purely down to the cast alone and I wasn’t disappointed. I particularly loved how it broke down the heist in the final twenty minutes or so. As a fan of the tv show Hustle, which liked to explain the different heists in the same way within each episode, this definitely had a similar feel.

Ultimately, it’s not the greatest film in the world, but it’s an entertaining, light hearted, popcorn flick with excellent performances from some acting legends and is absolutely deserving of a viewing. Whether that be at the cinema or a few months down the line in the house.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

KINGSMAN

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Jane Goldman (screenplay), Matthew Vaughn (screenplay)
Stars: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine

With Kingsman: The Golden Circle coming out this September I thought I would go back and rewatch “The Secret Service” which is now 3 years old (where did the time go)

A quick recap sees Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin played by Taron Egerton being taken under the wing of Harry Hart played by Colin Firth who is a spy for the British Secret Service with assistance from Arthur (Michael Caine) and (Merlin) Mark Strong who up against the villainous lisping Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) who although hates the sight of blood and gore holds a vision of mass biological warfare through…….SIM CARDS??? Stay with us.

Kingsman pays homage to the James Bond films rather than parodying it in the style of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Based on the Mark Millar comic book littered with hid creative quirkiness and with Vaughn’s film-making, has left a stylised-spectacle of ultra-violence much in the same fashion as their other successful franchise “Kick-Ass”.

Fans of Bond and Kick-Ass are certain to love it, as through rollercoasters of action, comedy and espionage. Just like the colourful, gadget ridden Bond films of the 1960’s (always the best bit about spy films are the gadgets) Kingsman is very fun to watch, with ‘wham, bam, thank-you ma’am’ style of mayhem, one- liners and a stylish soundtrack all over it.

Portraying the lead character of ‘Eggsy’, Taron Egerton  who proves to be an outstanding actor as he brings the character to life with an energising vibe of a comparing ethic of a housing estate lifestyle against the english gentleman’s class. I previously reviewed Egerton’s performance in the Eddie the Eagle movie and again for such a young actor oozes confidence in the role he portrays and isn’t fazed working alongside established actors like Firth, Jackson or Caine and was exactly the same in his screen time with Hugh Jackman in Eddie the Eagle movie.

Alongside, and tackling the mentor, come father type role, is Colin Firth, who based on previous filmography alone could easily be classed as the U.K.’s most typecast actor (well probably apart from Hugh Grant). Until now, Firth was at the top of every romantic film directors list and comes along Kingsmen: The Secret Service and the mould is broken as he is lethal with most weapons, his fighting style is convincing and his sharp wit shines throughout the movie. Not to sound negative towards Firth as credit must go to the writers and the choreographers for taking the “blandness” out of the actor. But it’s down to Firth at the end of the day on how he delivers the character and he absolutely nails every scene.

‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ contains some very memorable characters and the three standouts has to be Samuel L. Jackson, who is clearly having the time of his life as lisping villain Valentine and you can tell he is enjoying playing the villain once more with a very dark and nasty humour you can’t help even just for a moment you hope he wins the day (as if).

Michael Caine very much like ‘Now You See Me’ has very limited screen time and perhaps is correct for the role in the movie as Arthur who is overseeing the Secret Services missions but doesn’t have really much to do other than show his presence in some of the crucial moments as a somewhat ambiguous sort of character.

Mark Strong who comes across as a likeable guy plays Merlin who I think is attempting a Scottish Accent in the movie is basically Kingsman’s “Q” Strong who I thought did a terrific job in Kick-Ass as  Frank D’Amico and as Jim Prideaux in the 2011 remake of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) I felt was a little under used. Unlike Caine’s role that agreed with deserved the amount of screen time. I felt the character of Merlin could have been explored a little more and there appeared to be great chemistry in the limited screen time between Strong and Egerton. Although with the upcoming sequel “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” perhaps that is the reason Strong had limited screen time for the relationship between Harry and Gary to blossom and just maybe this film was just to set him up for a bigger role in the sequel.

Kingsman: The Secret Service marks the third film in a row that director Matthew Vaughn has adapted from a comic book background. His two previous being Kick-Ass (2010) and X-Men: First Class (2011) that were both excellent films and in the case of the later is one of my favourite X-Men films. The thing about Kingsman is that the James Bond influence present and the graphic but yet stylishly shot violence that was also present in Vaughn’s previous movie Kick-Ass, this film not only pays respect to the old spy films of yesteryear and takes the spy genre, and mixes in the superhero and hi-tech elements with some east end of London elements from his earlier productions like “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and with “Kingsman” actually managed to create something even more fantastic, but also comes into it’s own to become a classic for the future in my opinion and hope there is more Vaughn ‘Kingsman’ films coming.

Ultimately “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a good film and overall I think the makers of the movie thought very carefully with how each scene connected and flowed together and the fight scenes that were very well choreographed. Even though some scenes in particular were quite predictable I thought that the combination of the film makers trying not to hard to be too humorous but still being funny and the fluidity was just right. I’m looking forward to viewing the sequel later this year to see where we go with ‘Eggsy’ and no doubt like most sequels we will see Vaughn upping the ante. Highly recommend.

Now You See Me (2013) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

NOW YOU SEE ME

Director: Louis Leterrier 
Writers: Ed Solomon (screenplay), Boaz Yakin (screenplay) 
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine 

Now You See Me is about four magicians brought together by a mysterious hooded figure to perform the ultimate trick.

Each of the four magicians (Eisenberg, Harrelson, Fisher and Franco) are drafted in for their individual talents however these aren’t really highlighted or explored during the film in any great detail, although each are shown glimpses of what they can do in their introductions.

As for the story, the concept is original and the cast is jam packed with all stars giving good credible performances. The only issue I have is the lack of character development.

We don’t get any background information on any of the magicians (apart from Atlas and Henley who used to work together) That’s not to say that there is any lack of interesting characters, each of the “Four Horsemen” bring a very unique style to the movie and the sheer amount of talent present in each scene guarantees that you will be entertained.

As for the visuals, in the early part of the film has our street magicians working their magic while engaging in fast, and smart, patter.

The camera work in the early moments are irritating (moving, spinning, and swirling) and thankfully, this is short lived and dissipates as the movie moves on.

Eisenberg as J. Daniel Atlas has a real knack for playing arrogant, self assured characters (Social Network, Batman v Superman) Harrelson (Merrit McKinney) never disappoints in anything he does regardless of the quality of film (looking forward to seeing him in the Han Solo movie) Along with a solid performance by Fisher (Henley Reeves) and Franco as Jack Wilder playing a lesser role to the other three but who performs a great fight scene with Ruffalo in the last 3rd of the movie. (Like a Gambit v Hulk face off)

What appears at first is Ruffalo’s Character Dylan Rhodes (FBI) reminding me of Tommy Lee Jones’ Sam Gerrard from The Fugitive (1993) hunting the magicians down, but always a frustrating 3 steps behind them.

Rhodes is accompanied by Interpol’s Alma Dray played by the excellent French actress Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds (2009) who I feel keeps calm and grounded against Ruffalo’s character who appears to be losing it at times pursuing the magicians.

The Now You See Me supporting cast of Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine (reunited a year after The Dark Knight Trilogy concluded) are used sparingly but are still used when it matters. Freeman is Thaddeus Bradley a “magic debunker” pursuing the four to expose their intentions and their magic for profit and fame, whilst Caine is Arthur Tressler who is the benefactor and founder of the show hosted by the magicians and is annoyed at Bradley’s meddling.

There is a twist at the end which I felt was a little predictable but I won’t go into that and if you haven’t viewed this movie from 2013 yet, I will let you work it out for yourselves.

Now You See Me is an okay entertaining film, which is worth a viewing. If you are a fan of heist or magic films you’ll enjoy it and may go back for multiple viewings. The pacing is consistent and the actors do a great job at delivering their lines. But to be honest I didn’t think Now You See Me warranted a sequel……or did it?