Tag Archives: Halle Berry

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle”

LOUISA: 3.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

From the moment I first saw “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” I knew it was something truly special. It topped my Top 10 Best Movies of 2015 list in the coveted number one slot and after multiple viewings, cemented itself among my favorite movies of all time. To say my expectations for “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” were high is something of an understatement. The original film was a rare one that begged for a sequel and I’m glad we’ve been handed one, but I really wish it was better than it turned out to be.

I want to be clear that while this film is disappointing and mostly lacking in intelligence, charm and wit, it still has its moments and the glorious, hyper violent end action sequence is a ton of fun. But it’s impossible to overlook what amounts to a relentless dumbing down of the entire “Kingsman” franchise in a lame attempt of desperation to outdo its predecessor.

When the Kingsman HQ is blown up by missiles launched by the drug peddling super villain Poppy (a delightfully psycho, hammy performance from Julianne Moore), our hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton), back-from-the-dead Harry (Colin Firth), and loyal sidekick Merlin (Mark Strong) join up with their American counterpart, the Statesman. Champ (Jeff Bridges) runs the secret organization and heads the team, including Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Ginger (Halle Berry). With their exaggerated Southern accents, ten gallon cowboy hats, and bloated swagger, the filmmakers seem to have mistaken Kentucky with Texas. The Statesman crew is enjoyable (although Tatum is completely wasted), but Pascale becomes the scene stealer with his 1970s macho Burt Reynolds bravado.

The film confuses a string of stunt casting with meaningful humor, and overall the project lacks creativity and the pulsing mean streak that made the first movie feel so original. Instead of another smart and snarky send-up of James Bond movies, audiences are forced into two and a half hours of aggressively tiresome repetition (we see characters dumped into a meat grinder twice and an extended, distracting celebrity cameo that quickly wears out its welcome as it balloons into a supporting role) and callbacks to the first film that serve as reminders of the sequel’s role as a pale imitator. Worst of all, the film is missing its clever, subversive humor. The smart satire is tossed out the window in favor of more slam-bang action sequences and animated spy weapons like an electric lasso. It’s violent fun, but it’s missing that spark that made the original film so beloved by film nerds.

Most disappointing is the film’s opening car chase scene, an awkward, CGI mess through London’s streets. I’m so disappointed that real stunt drivers and practical effects weren’t used, making this the second most frustrating animated car sequence this year since “The Fate of the Furious” and the awful looking parking garage bit. Perhaps I should refer to my disappointment as the “Baby Driver” effect: if you’re going to have cars in your movie, then put actual cars in the frame and talented drivers behind the wheel.

Once the plot delves into a truly irrelevant and weird message about the stigma of drug use, it skids off the rails in a spectacular fashion. Instead of steering itself back on track with a trademark crackerjack smugness, director Matthew Vaughn visually says “screw it” and goes full blown overkill, making the film feel like he was hell bent on trying to outdo himself rather than making a quality film. This sequel tries too hard and the film suffers for it. This doesn’t necessarily make “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” a total dud, but it is very disappointing to those of us who are super fans of the original.

“Kidnap”

LOUISA: 2.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Halle Berry, realizing that’s she’s no longer the huge acting draw she once was, has at least found (and embraced) her niche: “Taken” style movies. “Kidnap” is so similar to her 2013 film “The Call” that it’s easy to confuse the two. Berry is great at playing an unhinged woman out for vengeance after a child abduction, and she’s believable and good enough in this one.

When Karla’s (Berry) six year old son Frankie (Sage Correa) is nabbed at the park, the determined mother chases the kidnappers through New Orleans in her red minivan. This mama bear is relentless and won’t stop until she rescues her little boy. The majority of the film’s budget had to be spent on car crashes because there are dozens within the film’s first 15 minutes.

There’s plenty of nail-biting action and even more truly ridiculous situations (I refuse to believe the absent police presence in the movie), but the weak story has enough creative “what would you do in this situation?” moments that it remains interesting. Karla makes some clever decisions that are balanced out with just as many really, really stupid ones. The sometimes violent twists and turns keep the momentum going and once the kid is taken, the film never slows down and speeds along at 80 miles per hour until the satisfying ending.

This isn’t to say “Kidnap” is a great movie because it’s not, but it 100% delivers what it promises and is a strong entry in its genre. Its brief run time (around 90 minutes) does the story many favors because it oddly never becomes tiring. Plenty of surprises are thankfully thrown into the mix of fruitless dialogue that states the obvious (“I dropped my shotgun shells!” and “My boy’s been taken!“) and campy, laugh-out-loud overacting (watch for Berry’s unintentionally hilarious bit in the police station).

Yeah, it’s loud and dumb, so don’t go to the theater expecting high art. But Berry gives it her all, screaming and wailing and swerving her way through the oddly compelling material (especially when she becomes a one-woman killing machine). Switch off your brain because this is trashy, mindless entertainment at its best.

 

“Kevin Hart: What Now?”

LOUISA: 3 STARSMATT: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Kevin Hart is a comedy superstar, a comedian who can command a record-breaking crowd of 50,000 people in a sold out Philadelphia football stadium. “What Now?” is the filmed version of this performance, a standup concert movie that has a few hearty laughs and is sure to please his core fan base.

The movie starts out with an awkwardly unfunny opening bit, an unnecessary parody of James Bond movies that probably looked good on paper but doesn’t translate well to the screen. There are some weird cameos by Ed Helms, Don Cheadle (who gets the most laughs), and Halle Berry; most of the prologue’s storyline was spoiled in the film’s trailers. Once Hart takes the stage with his trademark swagger, things start to heat up.

The stage sets are engaging, changing often to keep things interesting, but Hart himself is so likeable and so confident that he steals the spotlight with his amusing banter. He riffs on everything from his personal life (friends, kids, dad and fiancée) to crazy fans (one insisting on snapping a selfie in an airport bathroom) to sex (there are plenty of racy, raunchy jokes in this R-rated comedy). The jokes run the gamut and while not everything is funny, there are certain to be several bits that strike a chord and will leave you chuckling.

Hart is enjoyable to listen to and fun to watch (he’s physically funny too), but this routine doesn’t really warrant a big screen release and would be better suited for cable. I’d estimate that perhaps 50% of the movie is funny. Of course, it’s not only about the laughs: it’s about the experience of watching it in a theater. This provides a far better communal experience than watching at home (the directors insert just enough crowd reaction shots to really make you feel as if you are sitting right there in the sold out stadium). It isn’t one of the greatest standup movies ever, but it’s a fun way to escape for a couple of hours and presents a good introduction to his brand of wisecracks.

Hart’s humor spans all races, classes and genders, making this an all-inclusive moviegoing experience. This is something that he points out in the film’s ending, saying that “if we can laugh together, we can live together; if we can live together, we can love together.” Truth.

MATT SAYS:

“What Now?” is sure to please fans of Kevin Hart‘s comedy. For the uninitiated, it’s also a good introduction to the comedian and his musings.

Like most of the greats before him, Hart’s comedy is popular because it has a broad, almost universal appeal. In “What Now?” he hits on a number of subjects that most will find relatable: relationships with family, girlfriends and boyfriends; fear of the dark; male-female communications; and how old people deal with new technology. His delivery is natural and conversational, his timing impeccable, and his physicality (both with facial expressions and with the way he moves) is impeccable.

As a concert movie, it’s assembled well. There are just enough crowd reaction shots to help sell the material and make you feel like you’re there, but they aren’t overdone. There’s a communal feeling that you get when you’re attending shows like this one (I was able to catch him on this tour when he came through Vegas) that is captured well on screen and, if you’re sitting with the right audience, can actually translate to the movie theater. It’s actually kind of fun watching movies like this in a (not too) crowded theater where you can listen to other people’s reactions; after seeing a few of these concert films you can really appreciate why they do well in a theatrical release.

While the concert scenes are put together well, what doesn’t work is the narrative framing device that both precedes and follows the actual show. Hart starts the movie in a James Bond-like sequence which has him playing a game of poker against some Russian mobsters. I have no idea why they thought that sequence was a good idea. Hart’s likeable as an actor but the material is just lame and feels like a very flimsy excuse to trot in a parade of cameos from some of Hart’s famous friends (Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Ed Helms). It’s too bad because the poorly-written and unfunny intro fails to warm up the crowd. Fortunately, Hart’s able to quickly overcome this negative momentum when he appears on stage.