Weekend Roundup & Kingsman: The Secret Service review

Valentine’s Weekend is awesome this year as it’s a company holiday on Monday for President’s Day, who doesn’t love a three-day weekend right? Hope you had a lovely V-day wherever you are. It was super cold Saturday night so we opted for some scrumptious Thai take-out and watched Nightcrawler, that’s the kind of perfect *night in* for us. I’ll have my full review of the Jake Gyllenhaal film but suffice to say it lives up to all the great reviews I’ve been reading.

It’s not surprising that the Fifty Shades movie shatters box office record, though it’s kind of sad such a movie is so wildly popular. There is no way I’d ever subject myself to what Aussie anchor Lisa Wilkinson calls ‘domestic violence dressed up as erotica’ and I’m convinced her review is far more entertaining that the film:


I re-watched two of my favorite period dramas, Belle and Pride & Prejudice, and my love for both films just keep growing. I did go to the cinema Friday night to see Kingsman: The Secret Service and here’s my review:

KingsmanPoster

I have to admit that the first time I knew about this movie was from this cool poster I saw at a local cinema. It has no info of the director nor the cast but the visual of an elegant closet is so Bond-like and ever so British. But by the time the trailer came out I thought it looked a wee bit silly, and so it wasn’t until the positive reviews coming out that I was excited to see it.

Well, the movie is VERY British indeed, both an homage AND a spoof to the 007 movies, and as a fan of the genre, that definitely appeals to me. Refined British gent Colin Firth plays as one of the Kingsman agents, Harry Hart, who’s as proper as he is bad ass. The first act was basically him recruiting a replacement for his fellow agent who died on a mission in the Middle East. Harry (aka Galahad) owed his life to Lancelot (another code name inspired by British Knights) and thus he felt compelled to recruit his friend’s teenage son, Eggsy (Taron Egerton). The film moved along swiftly and director Matthew Vaughn infused it with tongue-in-cheek humor and a huge dose of riotous fun from start to finish. The whole sequence at a ski resort is very Bond-like, but think Roger Moore instead of Daniel Craig in tone, complete with a gorgeous female assassin wearing razor-sharp blades as prosthetic legs.

Kingsman_Still1

Apparently this was based on a comic-book written by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons (the two also collaborated on Wanted). The story itself is actually pretty solid and not all about silly good fun. There’s a bit of a father/son bond between Harry and Eggsy, and a bit of a coming-of-age story in regards to Eggsy. During one of the intense Kingsman training, Mark Strong‘s character told him to ‘get rid of the chip on his shoulder,’ and Eggsy’s slowly coming into his own as the film progresses.

As the film’s master villain is Samuel L. Jackson, as internet billionaire Richmond Valentine that’s a heck of a lot more entertaining than Tomorrow Never Dies‘ lame media mogul Elliot Carver. He even has his very own henchwoman deadlier than Jaws & Oddjob combined, in the form of dark-haired beauty Sofia Boutella. Jackson is obviously having a good time playing Valentine. He speaks with an amusing lisp (which the actor apparently had in real life) and can’t stand the sight of blood. Of course he has to be some kind of a psychopath hellbent on *saving the planet* as it were, but in his own twisted way. It’s an interesting social commentary on how our addiction to our handphones just might lead us to our own demise. Apparently, the broadcast signal sent by Valentine to those hand phones cause people to become extremely violent.

Kingsman_Still2

It’s yet another fun collaboration between Vaughn and Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class). This could very well be Vaughn’s version of a Bond flick, that is if the Bond producers would allow him to make a hyper violent R-rated film. I knew this would be violent but I didn’t know it’d be THIS violent, I mean there are some intense and extremely bloody fight sequences that made even John Wick seems tame. One sequence inside a church reminds me of this scene in 300 when Leonidas single-handedly fought all those Persians, but without the stylized slo-mo. I do think the foul language & violence are excessive, gratuitous and more graphic than it needs to be, even if the fight sequences are well-styled. There’s one crazy head-explosions scene that’s absolutely bonkers, set to the Pomp and Circumstance Marches no less! You can’t help but laugh in its absurdity and the fact that the filmmakers had the balls to do it. SPOILER ALERT: We’ve seen plenty of scenes of the White House exploding on screen, but never the Commander in Chief himself, especially one who is still in power!

I think what makes Kingsman works is its self-awareness and that it doesn’t to be a heavy movie. It’s ‘boys just wanna have fun’ type of flick, packed with wit, dry humor and of guns & gadgetry. The set pieces are great to look at, especially the Kingsman headquarter that resembles Drax’ mansion in Moonraker. And of course, those sleek, sharp suits that’s practically a character in itself. I saw Sam Jackson in a talk show the other day wearing one of the Kingsman menswear line that’s crafted especially for the film, dang that is some exquisite tailoring. It was fun seeing Mr. Darcy being so ridiculously bad ass here. I read that Colin Firth did most of his own stunts, which is quite impressive and somehow he still looked quite elegant doing it. “Manners maketh man” is his motto after all. I quite like newcomer Taron Egerton here as well, I actually think he might fit the role better than Kick-Ass’ star Aaron Johnson who was offered the role initially. It’s always nice seeing the always-reliable Mark Strong having a bit of fun here and there are also some amusing cameo from Mark Hamill and Michael Caine.

Kingsman_Still3

Overall it’s definitely a fun spy flick that works in a guilty pleasure kind of way. Kingsman is gleefully over-the-top, relentlessly boisterous and unapologetically un-PC. If you’re a fan of Vaughn’s or Guy Ritchie movies, you should enjoy this entertaining twist of the spy genre. Though the ultra violence and some offensive content is definitely not for the faint of heart.

4Reels


So what did you see this weekend? If you’ve seen Kingsman, what did YOU think?

Poster of the Week: X-Men: First Class featuring Magneto & Xavier

Now that Oscar is over and done with (well with some tittle tattle left over it seems), I for one am looking forward to upcoming movies! I better finish my list of anticipated list soon as March is here already, man where did the time go??

Anyhow, if you’ve been reading my blog regularly, you’d know X-Men: First Class would be at the top of my anticipated list. And since in my fantasy world I sort of ‘own’ the movie, it is my duty to promote this movie, right? 😀 It certainly is hard to keep my excitement in check for this one and these two brand-spankin’ new international character posters certainly ain’t doin’ the trick.

The trailer has been focusing on the origin story of the two main X-Men characters, making sure people are aware that these are a prequel to the Bryan Singer’s series, NOT a reboot. Obviously with Singer being the exec-producer and all, I’m sure Matthew Vaughn intends to tie this one to the first two X-Men films, which were well, first class before Brett Ratner came into the picture! Well, that marketing focus has now carried over to the posters. I’m guessing these are the first of more character posters to come.

I like the contrast between the night and day of the setting, emphasizing the dark vs. light struggle between these former best friends. The reflection on the water is kind of a nice touch, but mainly it’s just awesome to see James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender portraying them!

Anyway, if you haven’t already, check out the trailer and additional photos released earlier this year.


What do you think of these posters, folks? Do you generally like character posters, if so, what were your favorites from past movies?

THIS JUST IN! X-Men: First Class trailer is finally here!

I’ve had the X-Men Facebook page up all day long but it’s been a hectic day filled w/ meetings. But when I hit refresh a few minutes ago, voila!! You already know how much I’ve been anticipating this and was hoping this was released during the Superbowl. But now it’s finally here! I don’t want to keep you a moment longer, so behold…

Looks like they’ve also released the official logo, which is the same as the one I posted with the still photos I posted earlier this month.

The Plot:

X-MEN FIRST CLASS charts the epic beginning of the X-Men saga, and reveals a secret history of famous global events. Before mutants had revealed themselves to the world, and before Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Not archenemies, they were instead at first the closest of friends, working together with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to prevent nuclear Armageddon. In the process, a grave rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men.

My initial reaction is OMG! Holy goosebumps!!! I’m really digging the tone that Matthew Vaughn’s done for this film, this certainly promises greatness that Bryan Singer brought with the first ever X-Men film 11 years ago (boy, time flies doesn’t it?) It’s perfect casting to have James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor X and Magneto. I’m glad the film is focusing on the dynamics between the two and how the most bitter enemies sometimes start out as friends. The rest of the cast is pretty good, too: Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence  (one of this year’s Best Actress nominees for Winter’s Bone), Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon and January Jones.

I absolutely CAN’T WAIT to see this one. Now, what do you all think?

Oh lookie here! Cool new X-Men First Class pics and teaser poster

Oooh, my inner fangirl has been so spoiled lately! Forget Spider-man and Captain America, the superhero movie I’m hugely anticipating this year is X-Men: First Class prequel, especially the Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy casting.

You’ve probably seen this banner with all the cast in their mutant suit. As much as I’m excited to see anything from the upcoming flick, I thought the image looks like a bad Photoshop job (that turns out to be a fan-created so that explains the dismal quality). But yesterday, a few additional photos were released that look a heck of a lot better and more realistic. I mean, these people look like they were actually being photographed together. I’m digging the retro 60s look, and I think the cast is great. I just realize Rose Byrne is in this one, I like her. And Jennifer Lawrence has been generating lots of buzz with her performance in Winters’ Bone. I’m also looking forward to seeing the talented young Brit Nicholas Hoult (the one with the glasses) as the young Hank McCoy (Beast).

All photos courtesy of LA Times’ Hero Complex Blog

X-Men: First Class Cast

To see the whole cast list, check out its IMDb page

James McAvoy as Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Magneto

As for the teaser poster, they pretty much went with the ‘X’ emblem route that have been used for the previous X-Men flicks (this one for X:3 with Wolverine’s claws is my favorite). The only difference is this one looks a little more retro with the serif font. If you don’t know anything about this film and what ‘school for the gifted’ means, it almost look like a poster for a Roman swords & sandals film as the whole thing kinda looks like a bronze shield.

I wish they’d just release the trailer already, I mean this movie is supposed to be released June 3rd, you’d think they’ve got at least a teaser trailer of some sort. Just as a comparison, Green Lantern is released two weeks later than this one but we’ve already seen its trailer like a month ago. Well, all we got so far is this trailer description that The Daily Blam released earlier this month. Here are some of the highlights:

● Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellan voice over the opening lines about destiny and which side will you stand for as scenes of each in their previous X-Men movie roles flash until the entire screen flashes from white to black.
● A very young Xavier and Erik meet for the first time, followed by a different angle of the scene from the opening of X-Men in the concentration camp.
● Scene transitions to Erik yelling dramatically as metal tables in the room begin to float around him. Xavier and Mags shake hands with a tall man in a lab coat introduced as Dr. McCoy.
● The words “The other was too far gone” flash as a very pissed off Erik storms through a hallway killing guards as he passes them.

And for more First Class goodies, MSN also got an interview with Michael Fassbender where he discussed his role as Erik Lehnsherr (a.k.a Magneto). You can read it here. I absolutely can’t wait for this movie, though I kinda feel bad for director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Layer Cake) who seemed really stressed out based on this Hero Complex article. Looks like this is the first time he’s got to work against an extremely tight deadline, whilst he’s used to working on small films that might not even find a distributor! I hope that the studios cut him some slack, I mean, I’d rather wait a few more months if need be than seeing this suffer from a rushed production.


What say you, folks? Are you as excited about this movie as I am?

Labor Day Weekend Roundup: Kick-Ass, Expendables, Purple Rose of Cairo

Happy Wednesday, folks! Hope your weekend was a good one. Well, mine was hectic to say the least, part of the weekend I was working on my fantasy movie pitch, speaking of which, have you read it yet?

Well, Clooney is box office king this weekend with The American. I didn’t see it though, I finally saw The Expendables. But just barely ten minutes in, I wish I had bought the ticket to that one instead. After the movie, half my friends who went to see The American while some of us saw the Stallone movie said that they didn’t like it, either. They said it was downright boring and the story is ‘pointless.’ One of them said he nearly fell asleep until the steamy sex scene appeared on screen, ha!

Anyhoo, I also managed to see two other movies this weekend. Instead of posting a full review of each of them, let me just jot down my thoughts on each of them in one post. (Beware, it might contain some spoilers)

Kick-Ass

Plot: Dave Lizewski is an unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, training or meaningful reason to do so.

I admit I was excited to see it as we both have been curious given the rave reviews. Thankfully, we weren’t disappointed! I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite being far more violent than I thought, and most of the brutal scenes were involved Chloe Moretz who’s a mere 13 years old!!

From the get-go, this movie grabbed my attention. Both of us were very impressed by Aaron Johnson’s performance as the high school comic book geek, and was floored to learn that he’s from England! The movie is funny throughout, and watching this scrawny looking kid trying to be a superhero is endearing, I mean the idea might be ill-conceived but he definitely has a good intention. But the story turns out to be engaging and the action sequences well, kicked ass!

Aaron as the nerdy Dave, and in real life

Nic Cage was pretty darn good (a nice change after all the atrocious stuff he’s been involved in) as Big Daddy, an ex-police officer turned secret mercenary superhero who lives with her young daughter Mindy, known as Hit Girl (Moretz). Moretz is quite the scene stealer here, upstaging both Johnson and Cage in a lot of scenes. Mark Strong was playing his usual villain role with panache, and this time with a hint of New York accent?In any case, he’s always good in a role like this, not to mention he gets the best death scene in the movie (like in Robin Hood), but I gotta admit I’d love to see him be a good guy for once.

The real revelation here for me is the 20-year old Aaron Johnson. His American accent was so flawless I would never know he’s not from here, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that once again the actor I fancy happens to be a Brit 🙂 He looks so perfectly nerdy but when I Googled to find out more about him, dorky isn’t what I’d use to describe him at all, in fact, quite the opposite! Then I realized I did read about him playing John Lennon in Nowhere Boy. Looks like we have another versatile young British thespian here, no wonder Andrew from Encore Entertainment thought of him as being a noteworthy young star under 30. I’d have included him had I seen Kick-Ass at the time.

In any case, I’m even more excited about Matthew Vaughn directing X-Men: First Class now, he’s got a knack for stylized actions sequences, as well as ear for a witty dialogue. I was quite impressed with another movie of his, the fantasy adventure Stardust, so hopefully he’ll continue to get more work in Hollywood!

***

The Expendables

Plot: A group of elite mercenaries, the Expendables, are deployed to the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia to halt local pirates from executing the hostages.

Well, I’m not going to say a lot about this one as I don’t even want to think about it. If you read this blog long enough you know I’ve been anticipating this movie ever since I heard about it a year ago. I went in undeterred by the critics and with a low expectation, I mean, with this cast of 80s action stars AND Arnold’s cameo, it’ll be a helluva entertainment, right? Wrong! I came thisclose to leaving the theater even after 15 minutes, which I never experienced before.

I should’ve listened to my friend and guest blogger Ted who said this movie is bloody awful. I don’t expect Shakespeare obviously, but does the dialog have to be THAT terrible? And the action sequences, the saving grace we all hope for, was pretty dismal, too. Despite being all brutal and gory, as to be expected, it just looks cheaply made, not too mention old-fashioned. I mean I get the ‘vintage’ vibe is deliberate, but I didn’t think the action stuff have to look like they’re done 3-4 decades ago.

Believe it or not though, the girls in the movie (there are only two of them) actually fare WORSE than the boys, especially Charisma Carpenter (definitely didn’t live up to her first name as she had none at all). I mean, goodness me, her scenes with Jason Statham made him look like an Oscar contender. I understand that “the appeal of Charisma Carpenter isn’t her acting!” as Andy from Fandango Groovers put it, but come on!

I mean it really is, folks, there is absolutely nothing I could praise about this movie. Sure, the “He wants to be president” line from Sly to Arnold’s character did draw a lot of laughs, but if that is all there is to it, I could’ve just waited for the dvd… or better yet, watch it on YouTube. I thought that at the very least, despite plot holes bigger than Steve Austin’s biceps, I still might get a good comedy out of this, y’know like the A-Team. To be fair though, I did like Mickey Rourke’s character, but maybe because he doesn’t seem to take this role seriously and at least I can understand every single word he is saying, unlike y’know, the leading actor!

The definition of expendable |ikˈspendəbəl| – (of an object) designed to be used only once and then abandoned or destroyed. If only Stallone would treat this movie like that definition, alas, with Expendables 2 in the works, we haven’t seen the end of this, yet 😦

***

Purple Rose of Cairo

Plot: In 1930s, Depression era New Jersey, a movie character walks off the screen and into the real world.

After watching two action-packed movies, I was ready to unwind with something much more mellow. This movie came highly recommended by my friend Prairiegirl as well as Peter from Magic Lantern film blog. Well, thanks to both of them that I came across this gem as it’s an utterly delightful film! I’m not exactly a Woody Allen fan, and considering how dark the themes of his movies of late (Match Point, Cassandra’s Dream), I was surprised at how ‘innocent’ this one is.

It mixes the world of fantasy and reality so seamlessly that as the audience I was swept away by the surreal world of Mia Farrow’s character Cecilia. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed about meeting their favorite character in a movie, don’t we all wish sometimes the person we’re so in love with could just, well, leap off from the screen and actually talk to you? I’m a bit of a dreamer myself, and though I don’t necessarily find solace from the world of the movies, there are times that a scene or character I’m seeing is so bewitching I wish I could be a part of it.

Jeff Daniels wooing Mia Farrow

This is the first time I’ve seen a Mia Farrow movie, but she is definitely perfect as the down-on-her-luck waitress who’s disillusioned on her marriage and living in poverty. But the star of the movie is Jeff Daniels, playing two characters—well one essentially, the actor (Gil Shepherd) and the screen persona(Tom Baxter)—but they’re totally different characters. He projects such warmth and wholesome hunky-ness that’s so endearing. That scene in the bordello is just priceless!

The romance is just endearing and lovely, and even in the short running time (about 1.5 hour), I was immersed in the characters and really wanting to see Cecillia find happiness. The dialogue is a real treat, too, especially between Cecilia and Tom Baxter, no wonder Allen was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 1985 Oscar. I’m kind of glad that Woody himself is nowhere to be found in this movie, no offense to him, but I think he’d kind of be a distraction in this movie

I wish the ending had been more of a happy ending… oh how I wish Gil hadn’t left for Hollywood. But oh well, I guess reality bites… there is no Prince Charming to rescue us like the movies want us to believe.

***

So folks, what movies did you see this weekend? Or if you have any thoughts about any of these movies, let’s hear ’em!

X-Men: First Class – The prequel I’m actually excited about!

In a world where there seems to be no cure for Hollywood’s sequelitis and remakitis, there is one prequel I’m hugely excited about! It’s definitely the one to beat in the box office come next Summer 2011 (June 3rd, 2011 to be exact, according to SuperHeroHype). I know perhaps it’s too soon to predict such a thing, but judging from the never-ending popularity of comic-book adaptation and the kind of buzz this one’s been getting, it’s not that far off.

I love the first and second installment of the movie (until Brett Ratner screwed it up), so I’m naturally drawn to this project and the idea of making a young version of the franchise is definitely appealing. But what gets me leaping out of my seat yesterday was learning about Michael Fassbender joining the cast as Magneto, the former BFF-turned-powerful-foe of Professor X and the X-Men. Earlier this month, it was widely reported that he was to choose between the powerful mutant and a yet-to-be-named villain role in the Spider-man reboot. Glad to see he has chosen wisely.

The casting of James McAvoy as Professor X instantly adds some considerable cred to this project. The 31-year-old Scot has proven his acting chops time and time again in The Last King of Scotland, Atonement, and The Last Station. But he’s also got his feet wet in full-throttle actioner like Wanted alongside Angelina Jolie, so this isn’t his first foray in comic-book adaptations. Patrick Stewart is a tough act to follow as the wise and cultured founder of the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (Xavier Institute) and leader of the pack, but I have faith that McAvoy will do well in that role. The SuperheroHype site offered a clue into the plot of this prequel on the auction info page that offers an exclusive tour of the set:

Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-MEN.

I can’t think of a more talented and winsome actors facing off each other, exploring their initial friendship and the unfortunate incidents that lead to them choosing opposite paths. So far, the other cast members that have been announced include Rosamund Pike (Pride & Prejudice), Amber Heard (Pineapple Express), Benjamin Walker (who’s currently starring in the play Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson in his debut film role), and Kick Ass‘ Aaron Johnson rumored to play Cyclops.

I just re-watched the trailer of the first X-Men movie with my hubby and he recalled how excited we were to see it. Remember, this was back in 2000, before a throng of superhero movies popping up faster than you actually have time to watch them. The only comic-book movies were the circus-y and farcical Batman movies, topped by the abominable that was Batman & Robin [shakes head]. So to see a comic adaptation with real actors with gravitas such as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen and treat it like a serious action drama was a welcome change.

Bryan Singer isn’t returning to direct but will act as producer to X-Men: First Class. The directorial duty will fall on London-born producer/director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust), fresh out of his pretty decent success with Kick-Ass. According to IMDb, he was set to direct X-Men: The Last Stand but dropped out due to family conflicts. Pity, that might’ve turned out to be a much better movie.