Kingsman: The Secret Service

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a ton of fun! It’s action-packed and full of surprises. It moves at a frantic pace and never slows down until its final postscript. Like last year’s Lego Movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a better movie than we usually get in February.

Harry Hart (Colin Firth) aka Galahad is the dapper, well-dressed ops director of the secret spy organization that works out of a men’s clothing store in London. The versatile Firth is, as the British say, “spot on” in this role.

Following the death of a colleague in a 1997 mission, he gives a medallion and contact information to the man’s young son Eggy. Years later, now in his early 20s, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) needs help getting out of a jam and calls Galahad who takes care of the situation. When Kingsman agent Lancelot (Jack Davenport) is killed in action, Galahad recruits Eggsy to try out for a position. The competition is tough and Eggsy works hard to succeed.

When the film’s villain Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is introduced, he is apparently a good guy, an environmental warrior. But his method for saving the planet involves eliminating much of the world’s human population. He scores good will by giving the entire world free wi-fi and internet—but there’s an evil motive to his generosity.

Galahad consults with Kingsman chief Arthur (Michael Caine) who suggests Galahad learn more about Valentine. At their first meeting, the dinner scene is a classic. (I’m tempted to share more, but… alas, no spoiler from me.)

K:TSS recalls early James Bond films, but in a more appreciative fashion than the Austin Powers movies did. As Q does in the Bond films, Galahad introduces Eggsy to amazing spy devices. Villain Valentine has an impressive mountaintop lair, complete with an airplane landing strip in a cave. And there’s the promise of a sexual payoff for the story’s hero, a la 007.

Kingsman: The Secret Service contains numerous memorable and bloody fight scenes. They are cartoonish and, in many case, quite funny. Director Matthew Vaughn (who also directed X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass and Stardust) has created a film that looks good and has plenty of clever bits. Like the woman with the lethal Oscar Pistorius prosthetic feet, the exploding opening credits and the high-speed chase scene where the car being chased travels in reverse.

Kingsman: The Secret Service delivers the goods. I like it a lot.

 

 

Dark Shadows

It’s simple: if you are a Depp fan, you must see “Dark Shadows.”

“Dark Shadows” is not Tim Burton’s best film. It has flaws. But it has Johnny Depp in a meaty role as the vampire Barnabas Collins. Depp is the reason to see the movie.

Another good is Eva Green as the witch Angelique. She looks great and she has fun with the role.

The two share a lovemaking scene that’s a classic. It’s not particularly sexy, but the way they literally bounce off the walls is ridiculously outrageous. At the end of their tryst, the room looks more like the site of a violent brawl than that of a hookup.

The story is set in 1972. After spending over two centuries underground in a casket, Barnabas is dug up by a construction crew. As he encounters modern life, he experiences some amusing culture shock.

We, the audience, get to enjoy our time travel backward 40 years to the cars and culture of ’72. “Deliverance” and “Superfly” are on movie marquees; the Carpenters sing “Top of the World” on a TV show. (One notable anachronism: Lyrics are recited from Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” which did not come along until 1973. And the Raspberries 1972 hit “Go All the Way,” which played over the closing credits, was not the original hit version—shameful!)

Since Barnabas spurned Angelique’s romantic overtures in the 1700’s, she turned him into a vampire and sent him to his 200+ year dirt nap. When he comes alive again in ’72, she’s still around and still desiring Barnabas.

Another reason to see the movie is the amazing 15-year-old Chloe Grace Maretz as the daughter of the ’72 era matriarch of the Collins clan. This young woman (best known for “Hugo,” “Kick-Ass” and “30 Rock”) sparkles on the big and small screens. With the right role, she could be an Oscar winner by age 21.

Add in Alice Cooper performing “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and you have another hook to lure you in.

“Dark Shadows” is uneven and may fall short of some expectations/anticipations. But I like Depp, even in his less-than-awesome movies, and he’s fun to watch here.