Tag Archives: Jeff Bridges

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle”



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.

“Hell or High Water”



“Hell or High Water” is one of those little movies that comes strolling along out of nowhere and proceeds to knock your socks off. If you are looking for an extraordinarily well crafted film, this is it. It’s not flashy nor splashy (this isn’t an action packed shoot ’em up cops and robbers action flick), it’s a complex, perceptive character study with a slow burning tension. Everything about this movie, from the accomplished lead performances to the insightful script to the phenomenal original score (by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis) to David Mackenzie‘s bold direction, exudes a confident cowboy swagger. I didn’t want this movie to end.

The film is set in modern day West Texas and has a remarkable sense of place (reminding me much of 2010’s beautifully haunting “Winter’s Bone“). Giles Nuttgens‘ dusty, gritty cinematography feels like a broken-in pair of old leather boots, the perfect compliment to the desolate landscape shots of foreclosed farms, lonely roads and abandoned towns. You can practically reach out and touch the desperation.

Here’s a rare movie where worldly, perceptive dialogue and sophisticated character development thrives; the character study is just subtle enough and the writing (from super talented screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, who wrote “Sicario,” one of my Top 10 Best Films of 2015) is whip smart. The story focuses on brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster), the brains and the brawns behind a scheme to rob banks in a last ditch attempt to save their family farm. The criminal duo soon find themselves being chased by Texas Ranger officers Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto (Gil Birmingham). We all know the inevitable showdown is coming, and the tension leading up to the final confrontation left my heart racing.

The performances feel so authentic and are inspired all around. Pine is stunningly effective and makes huge strides in his acting cred with this role. Foster gives another exceptional interpretation of a detestable yet sympathetic character (he’s born to play roles such as this), and Birmingham is marvelously understated as a loyal friend and partner. There’s no denying that Bridges is a national treasure but I really wish he wouldn’t have made the choice to do that ridiculous accent he’s so fond of lately; at some point he starts to come across as a Sam Elliott rip-off. It doesn’t hurt the film and in fact it actually fits with the subject matter — once you get over the initial shock of it all.

“Hell or High Water” presents a story that’s cynical yet hopeful, a universal story that grabs on early and never lets go. This movie is never condescending, doesn’t pander to the audience, and gives me hope for the future of indie cinema’s struggle to get a seat at the Hollywood blockbuster table.


Beautifully photographed by Giles Nuttgens and based on a screenplay by “Sicario” scribe Taylor Sheridan, “Hell or High Water” is a western fable of and for our times.

Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) are brothers who are committing a series of robberies of small-town Texas banks. Toby is the sympathetic mastermind behind the crimes while Tanner is the muscle, and each heist is pulled off with precision. The Texas Rangers, led by Marcus Hamilton ((Jeff Bridges) are hot on the trail of the Howard brothers, but they are seemingly always one step behind.

Directed by David Mackenzie, “Hell or High Water” perfectly captures the desperation of broken families, broken homes, and broken people living underneath the shadow of ruthless profiteers that seek to exploit the ninety-nine percent. Pine and Foster play off one another well, with Foster playing the unhinged sociopath while Pine is the understated father trying to do right by his family. In this world, the lines of criminal versus law-abiding citizen are blurred and morality is a relative concept. It’s hard not to sympathize with the brothers, at least to a point. Their struggles are authentic and of our times, and the conflict between them and the lawmen that pursue them equally so. It is no surprise that the movie is connecting with audiences nationwide.

Just as “Unforgiven” was a singularly new take on the classic western, “Hell or High Water” stands as a potent reminder of the times we live in and the realignment of the classic struggle of good versus evil in an age of “me first” greed and selfishness.