*NEW* KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE REVIEW *NEW*

poster_3118786c

From the people who brought you Kickass. You should know what to expect. A riotous action flick of ridiculous proportions. More please.

A spy organization recruits an unrefined but promising street kid (Taron Egerton) into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program, just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius (Samuel L Jackson).

Kingsman hooked me from the get go with an explosive opener as we watch a Middle Eastern compound detonate to the beat of Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing.

Taron Egerton will certainly be one to watch for the future. He delivered an impressive movie debut as the anti-social Eggsy. This is certainly one of the better films I’ve seen this year. Fun, frantic and relentless.

I always felt Colin Firth could have been a Bond. Now he’s get his chance. Sort of. He was superb. Didn’t do too bad in the fighting sequences either. Who said old dogs couldn’t learn new tricks? He was every bit as charming, charismatic and funny as the 007 counterpart. He worked well with Egerton and made the perfect mentor.

We follow the conniving chav as he endures the intensive but enthralling Kingsman program. The ‘test’ sequences were tense, action packed and flippin’ fun as Eggsy must fight tooth and nail against the more ‘acceptable’ candidates. The class wars in full flow and brilliantly personified in the ultra snobby spies.

For the first hour, it ticked all the boxes from the cracking soundtrack, the manic car chases to the adorable little pug JB.

You couldn’t pick a better villain. Sssssamuel L (The L stands for Motherf**ker) Jackson was brilliant as the maniacal music mogul hell bent on dealing with the Earth’s overpopulation. Even if he is afraid of the sight of blood.

He was the ultimate scene stealer (Isn’t he always?). You couldn’t help but smile at the speech impediment ridden sociopath. His tet-a-tet with Firth was worth watching alone.

A brilliant mockery of every confrontation that Bond ever had with a villain as the pair wined and dined on a McDonalds Happy Meal. You read that right. “Is this the part where I tell you my plan and you escape in a cool way with some gadget?”

I was impressed with the supporting cast. The alluring Sofia Boutella (Street Dance 2) was a perfect henchwoman as the amputee assassin Gazelle. Disposing of any threat with some killer moves.

It took me a while to realize that one of the red herrings was played by Luke Skywalker himself. Mark Hamill was almost unrecognizable with his trampy beard and posh Swede accent. Great to see him in something other than Star Wars.

Michael Caine nailed it yet again. BUT I was surprised at how little there was of him. However, I was happy to see more of the talented Mark Strong. Finally earning a bigger part as Eggsy’s trainer Merlin.

The plot was mental. If anything, it reminded me of a even more messed up take on the hit Channel Four TV series Utopia. The satire behind the influence of media and technology was spot on. The running gag of missing celebrities that refused to comply to Jackson’s demands was hilarious.

HOWEVER, as much as the cast and one liners were on fine form; Kingsman wasn’t perfect. The pace did dip in parts. Especially during the middle act. Some of the ‘revelations’ were far too predictable. That’s not to say that the writers weren’t afraid to take risks.

BUT even when the pace dragged, we were soon rewarded with another chaotic punch em up. The church sequence should offer enough carnage to cure anyone’s blood lust. Trust me.

BUT as the film drew to its ridiculous close, it soon became too much for me. It was too fast, too frantic and that delicate balance of silliness was soon tipped right over.

Despite its flaws, I came out smiling. It was manic, funny and highly watchable. If you loved Kickass, I’m sure you’ll love this.

BUT if you love Bond, I think it will be down to what sort of mood you’re in to see it ripped to pieces.

3.5/5

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON REVIEW

avengers-age-of-ultron-alternate

Did the second instalment do what the first couldn’t?

Was I left fuming yet again? Or did I have to swallow my words?

They’re back. Bigger, badder but better? There’s only one way to find out.

When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron (James Spader), things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans

I will admit straight off the bat. I really didn’t like the first Avengers. I know? SACRILEGE! It just didn’t do it for me. Overlong, mind numbing and overhyped. If not for Tom Hiddleston’s superb turn as Loki and a thrilling 30 minute closing crescendo, I would have given up on the franchise.

I was furious at how rushed the endless superhero entries were. Just to get to the Avengers release date. Okay, the Thor films were fantastic. Hawkeye and The Black Widow didn’t even get an origin story. Iron Man 1 and 3 were good. Don’t get me started on 2.

The numerous Hulk origin attempts with Bana and Norton misfired (I actually liked the Ang Lee blockbuster. What?). Captain America was rushed. I was happy to see more of the superhero fighting in the past. BUT the Winter Soldier sequel did restore my faith a little.

Inevitably after the crazy money that the first Avengers film took, we had another. And after much deliberation and note taking, I can firmly say . . .

Well done, Mr. Whedon. You have won me over.

The opening was racy, fast paced and straight to business. The team finally gelled together and in the zone. The special effects were fast and furious. The overuse of CGI did make things a little too cartoony in parts. But how else are they going to create a nine foot Hulk?!

There were numerous SHIELD references that went over my head in the opening. I knew it had something to do with Marvel Agents of SHIELD but I’m not that big a fan. It might help to recap on Thor or the first Avengers as a certain sceptre is used quite heavily again.

Whedon’s witty one liners zinging left, right and centre like the endless cannon fodder. The banter between the team was top notch. The old fashioned Cap (Chris Evans) telling Stark off for using foul language being an ongoing joke was a particular highlight.

The team dynamic really worked for me and made for great viewing. I mean even the scene in which the gang were trying to lift Thor’s hammer as a drunken party trick shouldn’t have worked but was so funny.

Ultron was a perfect maniacal menace. Spader (Ol’ Red from The Blacklist) applying his gravelly gravitas with aplomb. The animation and detail was excellent.

I liked the brewing romance between Banner/Hulk and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). The lullaby that they use to calm the Hulk was a nice touch even if it reminded me of Shrek and Fiona. But I honestly thought there was always something between The Widow and The Cap? Oh, that cheeky minx. Anyway . . .

Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson made a more convincing couple as the Maximoff twins than they ever did in Godzilla. My only quibble with Taylor-Johnson was that his character Quicksilver was very much like a character in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Evan Peters played him. He ran really fast. What was he called? Oh yeah. Quicksilver. Hmmm . . . Interesting that. Copyright issues were there?

Olsen was always my Kryptonite even if she has been in some terrible movies. But she did the role of the Scarlet Witch justice as did Kickass.

I wasn’t really bored. It just got on with it and zipped along. Dipping only in a few parts to allow some much needed character development on some neglected heroes. *Cough* Hawkeye *Cough* Black Widow.

Renner had taken to the role well. But he was so one-dimensional. I mean, come on Whedon. Surely you’ve seen Arrow? But without spoiling anything, Whedon finally ventured into his background and gave him more depth. He was able to stand out among the ever-expanding roster of superheroes.

The trippy dream sequences that the Witch uses to play on her opponents’ minds was interesting as we got a little peak into The Black Widow’s past; most notably her training.

It was funny, intense, action packed. Great acting (Check), top banter (Check), cheeky Stan Lee cameo (BIG CHECK!). There were a few surprises to be had. BUT I couldn’t help but feel that there were too many characters from the Marvel-verse being introduced. Paul Bettany’s The Vision was an addition that felt like a mish-mesh of everybody else and didn’t really make as much of an impression as I expected.

And considering the huge ensemble, there were a few faces not to make an appearance. Merely mentioned in a passing comment. I’m looking at you, ladies. Ms Portman and Paltrow.

Inevitably it is all left wide open for more. SPOILERS! Behave. BUT this time round, I cannot wait for the next installment. I’m actually a little excited.

Well done.

3.5/5 With grounds to change to a 4

NOTE: Obviously stay behind and endure the relentless credits for a cheeky ten second teaser.