Tag Archives: Michael Caine

Super(cool) Spies

‘Kingsman’ makes other spy flicks look old, slow and tame

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Kingsman: The Secret Service

Starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson & Michael Caine

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

R

Move over, James Bond—or get blown off the road. Some new supercool spy guys—and gals—have just laid claim to the multiplex, and they make just about everything that came before them look old, slow, tame and even lazy.

Kingsman: The Secret Service, based on a 2012 Marvel Comics-distributed series, takes the spy game to wildly adventurous, dizzily fun-tastic new heights of both homage and spoofery. Colin Firth, the Oscar-winning British actor best known for his roles in dignified historical dramas (The Kings Speech; A Single Man; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) makes his smashing “action-lead” debut as Harry Hart, the top agent in this international intelligence agency of high-ranking, impeccably dressed, lethally trained gents organized in the mid-1850s as a latter-day Knights of the Round Table to “preserve peace and protect life.”

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Taron Egerton & Colin Firth

Newcomer Taron Egerton is “Eggsy” Unwin, the streetwise London lad whose fate leads him into the ranks of the Kingsman elite. And Samuel L. Jackson plays, well, basically Samuel L. Jackson, as an evil, lisp-y philanthropist billionaire whose altruistic façade hides a super-sinister plan of global domination.

Michael Caine is aboard as the Kingsmen’s top dog; Mark Strong has a key role as his senior officer; and Algerian-born dancer Sofia Boutella makes a memorable impression as the high-hopping villainess Gazelle, who slices and dices foes to ribbons with her razor-sharp prosthetic feet. Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill—of Stars Wars fame—plays a college professor appearance is a bit of an inside joke that will delight readers of the comic book, which featured a character with the actor’s name.

The action is frenetic, super-stylized and sometimes gleefully hyper-violent. During fight scenes and other adrenaline-pumping moments, director Matthew Vaughn (Snatch; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and cinematographer George Richmond keep the camera moving, zooming, sweeping, bobbing and weaving, then speeding up and slowing down the film to increase the visual intensity.

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Sofia Boutella & Samuel L. Jackson

The fan-boy comic-book crowd will lap it up, but mainstream audiences will find plenty to like about Kingsman, too—its nonstop plot is full of cheeky British humor, meta spy-movie satire, and jabs at politics, government, celebrities and everyone’s greed for the latest with-it technology. But be warned: It definitely earns its R rating—especially in its final moments, when it dives into a particularly randy joke. It may be just to cap off its playful naughtiness with a real zinger, or perhaps it’s seeking something more profound, a profane parody statement about how spy movies have always “debased” their female characters.

KSS_JB_D69_06371_rgbSpy movies have also always been about gadgets and secret-agent do-daddery, and here Kingsman goes all-out: Bulletproof umbrellas, exploding cigarette lighters, shiv-toed shoes, holographic eyeglasses, lethal fountain pens, electrocution signet rings. And the suits! When it comes to fashion, the Kingsmen are the coolest cats around—and, in one of the most extensive merchandise marketing tie-ins of any movie ever, almost anything you see onscreen (suits, ties, shoes and—yes—umbrellas) can be purchased in special Kingsman product lines.

See the movie, buy the suit—and get me one of those indestructible umbrellas!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Time Warped

Matthew McConaughey stars in mind-bending deep-space yarn

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Interstellar

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway & Michael Caine

Directed by Christopher Nolan

PG-13

Outrageously ambitious, deliriously far-out and epically geeky, director Christopher Nolan’s sprawling Interstellar is a space movie with one foot on the ground and one in the stars, a story of both humanity and the heavens, with a thumping heartbeat driving its spewing intergalactic fountain of dazzling, digitized special effects.

In this mind-bending yarn about gravity, time and the power of love, Matthew McConaughey plays a family-man space cowboy on a mission to save the Earth. As its story unfolds, sometime in the not-so-distant future, our planet’s resources have been all but exhausted; the world’s a big dust bowl. McConaughey’s character, Cooper, a former moon-exploring astronaut, is selected for a top-secret, last-ditch NASA dash across deep space to chase down a probe signal that may possibly signal a new planetary home.

Big problem: The widowed Cooper will have to leave behind his sage old dad (John Lithgow) and his two young children, teenage son Tom (Timotheè Chalamet) and spunky young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Even bigger problem: Once he takes off, Cooper doesn’t know how long how he’ll be gone—or if he’ll be able to return.

INTERSTELLARCooper tries to reassure Murph—he gives her an old-school wristwatch and tells her that whenever she looks at it, she can know he’ll be looking at his, too, wherever he is, up there in space, for however long, until he comes home. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Nolan, whose other films include the Batman Dark Knight trilogy and the mind-scrambling Inception, sets off an explosion of images and ideas as the tale unfolds both “on the ground” and “out there.” We’re taken through a space “wormhole,” a shortcut expressway compressing and expanding space and time, to a watery planet prone to monstrous tidal waves, where every hour counts for seven years of Earth time, and another that’s so cold, even the clouds are solid ice. We watch as Cooper, whose own aging has been halted by the time-warp of space travel, sees video feeds of his children grown into adults (Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck)—and bitter that their father has apparently abandoned them, “decades” ago.

INTERSTELLARAnne Hathaway plays one of Cooper’s fellow explorers—a key role in more ways than one because of her connection to her NASA scientist father (Michael Caine) back on Earth, and also to someone the astronauts will meet on their journey to the outer reaches of the cosmos.

Along the way, we’re introduced to some lofty concepts: Are we alone in the universe? Is it possible to go backward and forward in time, or to make it stand still? Is love a quantifiable force? Nolan lays out a narrative path between Odysseus, Albert Einstein and Buck Rogers, then paints it with bold cinematic brushstrokes inspired by the masters—Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, John Ford.

It doesn’t always work, but man, is it ever something to see. It gets pretty trippy (and even a bit hokey) in the end, and at nearly three full hours, it’s quite a journey. And this rip-roaring Rip Van Winkle rocket tale is unlike anything else you’ve seen at the movies this year, if ever. Hang on for the ride and you may come out on the other side feeling a bit wobbly and time-warped yourself.

And afterward, you might never look at the tick-tock of your wristwatch the same way again.

—Neil Pond, Parade and American Profile Magazines

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