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Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Bargain Basement Bond For The Brain Dead
I remember seeing a clip from Kingsman a year before the film came out. It was that great fight scene in the pub and it generated loads of excitement and anticipation in the crowd that viewed it at Wondercon. Who knew that scene was the highlight of the whole movie and it all went down the drain from there like a sludgy turd?
It's simply amazing to me that a film that should have been such can't miss material managed to do almost everything wrong. Dumb, predictable, crude, sexist, unfunny to anyone with an IQ higher than room temperature and violent to the point of grotesque, Kingsman just devolves from scene to scene into a miasma of stupid.
I generally have no problem with movie violence, but Kingsman simply disgusted me. When a film tries to sell itself as a quirky Bond send-up, suddenly dumping a metric ton of Evil Dead-esque hack and slashing (most of which is being committed by the film's ostensible hero) pretty much destroys the tone and makes clear that the filmmakers haven't a clue what they're doing. The pathetic stabs at unPC satire are, likewise, amateurish and eyeroll-inducing.
Probably the single biggest dim-bulb move, however, is systematically killing off anyone in the cast remotely interesting, including the nominal star, Colin Firth, who is denied the dignity of even making it as far as the final half hour (though it's entirely possible he insisted on it after reading through the whole script).
Since everything these days, no matter how vile and utterly devoid of merit it may be, is granted a sequel, we will apparently be getting a Kingsman 2. And how thrilling to know it will star the bland, charisma-free twenty-something leftovers from K1, whose names and faces I'm struggling to recall even though I watched the film less than an hour ago. Yes, nothing says a good time at the cinema like watching the human equivalent of vanilla pudding.
In sum, if you really want to see a Bond-like film, go see a Bond film! Or watch the British Avengers series, or The Incredibles, or track down a copy of In Like Flint. Anything up to and including watching test patterns and infomercials for incontinence care would be time better spent than watching this thing.
The Man in the High Castle (2015)
Imperfect, But Interesting
An ambitious series that starts out exceedingly promising, then wanders in slow circles for ages before waking up and remembering it had a plot to deliver.
Mind you, there's a lot of good about Amazon's Man In The High Castle; it's alternate world is wonderfully intricate and imaginatively detailed, filmed beautifully, directed, cast and acted well, and it addresses compelling questions about freedom, oppression and humans' ability to normalize and adapt to even the most appalling conditions.
Unfortunately, most of it is paced with all the kinetic urgency of melting tar and frequently tries the audience's patience with dull love triangle nonsense and occasional, halfhearted and barely coherent nods to the book's mysticism. The latter is especially vexing as it's presented as something vague and tangential for most of the series, yet suddenly plays a huge, plot twisting and thoroughly confusing role in the finale.
It's also shot through with weird anachronisms that tend to pull one out of the story. I suspect the series will play better for people with little knowledge of WWII and/or Nazi ideology. For others, like myself, however, it's impossible to even listen to the opening theme without bristling and wondering how, in a world where the Nazis won WWII, a song from The Sound Of Music could exist.
The constant use of jazz, swing and blues music, which the Nazis reviled as "deviant" and banned wherever possible is also, shall I say, tone deaf. And suggesting they'd ban the Bible while embracing Huckleberry Finn is just sloppy, stupid and not a little suspect.
I understand there's talk of a season 2 for this series. I'm sure it'll get it. I just hope they use the extended time to fix the problems of season 1. As is, MITHC has the potential to be a great series. Here's hoping it finally realizes it.
A dim-witted series aimed at idiots
The Salem witch trials were an infamous chapter in American history in which innocent people were targeted as witches by their malicious neighbors. Greed (for the land they owned) was the reason behind the accusations, but religious hysteria was the weapon. A series exploring the actual events and the psychology of the people involved, their personal motivations and culture, might have been fascinating. Instead, we get cheap supernatural pap geared toward the lowest common denominator that insults the memory of those who died.
From a ridiculously macho, tough-talking hero to catty, sexpot witches to hilarious woodland orgies to a Mustang Ranch-like brothel smack in the middle of ol' Salem towne, the show is riddled with anachronisms and absurdities. Top it off with daytime soap acting, laughable dialog and low-rent SFX, and you've got a festival of dreadful that could only be enjoyed with a group of witty friends and a lot of alcohol. And I don't think that much alcohol would be advisable for anyone. Miss it if you can.
Pitch Perfect (2012)
The single best thing I came away with after watching this movie was the wild relief I felt knowing that at least I didn't pay to subject myself to it. Some positive word-of-mouth made me curious enough to DVR it. An 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes got me to sit through the whole thing (albeit with a fair amount of time spent pressing fast-forward), just to see if there was something - ANYTHING - that could justify such an absurdly high score.
Short answer: There wasn't.
I'm given to assume it got its high rating only because the studio wouldn't allow any critics to screen it without first producing proof that they possessed an IQ of 70 or under.
If you read the IMDb synopsis, you know the whole movie. Actually, if you've ever seen any film starring characters under 25, you know the whole movie. There is not a single unique idea to be found within a light year of its sorry script. Comparisons to Glee are inevitable, but the truth is, PP is so utterly dull and witless, so aggressively devoid of joy or humor or anything akin to real human feelings, it makes the worst episode of Glee look like Singin' In The Rain by comparison.
Ostensibly a comedy, the film is mercilessly unfunny. Their idea of hilarity seems to run the gamut from projectile vomiting to juvenile puns like a singing group called "The Minstral Cycles" to inserting "aca" into every exclamatory phrase, like, "Aca-scuse me?!" and "Aca-believe it!". Isn't that funny?! Aren't you just gasping for breath from the amusement of it all? ...Yeah, me neither.
The characters, who are either grotesque, shopworn stereotypes or dull, cardboard cutout caricatures, flap about from scene to scene without ever even accidentally bumping into a real human attribute or emotion. They're also supposed to be in college, but the movie is so bent on regurgitating teen film tropes that nothing they say or do is indicative of a person over 15.
You know your film is bad when you feel compelled to reference other better films to move the story along or motivate your characters. For Pitch Perfect, that other better film is The Breakfast Club, which the 2D heroine's would-be 2D boyfriend regards as the most meaningful thing ever. There's a scene where said heroine (she had a name, but really, who cares?) is sitting on her bed watching the flick on her laptop, tears welling up in her eyes to indicate some grand epiphany ...which, under the circumstances, must be her devastated realization of what a GOOD teen movie looks like.
In sum, this is a film I'd recommend only for use as a torture device on terrorists. Badly written, directed and acted with characters as irritating as a rash and music numbers so awful, even the editor's attempt to slice them into bite-sized bits couldn't make them any more palatable. Funny only for people whose sense of humor atrophied at age five and entertaining only for people who've never seen a movie before. I give this a "1" only because IMDb does not allow me to score in negative numbers.