The Shelf Is Half Full

An optimistic geek's blog on comic books, movies and professional wrestling.

Archive for the category “Comedies”

New On The Shelf – Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a 2015 action-comedy film based on the series of comic books The Secret Service by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar. It is directed by Matthew Vaughn and stars Taron Egerton as Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, with Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Sophie Cookson and Mark Hamill in supporting roles. The film is both a love letter to old James Bond films and a parody of them; the tone of the film is generally over-the-top and comical, thought it does have a few moments with some effective pathos. But mostly it’s just a fun time at the movies; violent, crass, utterly ridiculous, but mostly just fun.

kingsman

The bulk of Kingman’s plot centers on the recruitment and training of Eggsy by Harry Hart (Firth), a secret agent who goes by the name of “Galahad” in the secret service known as Kingsman. Eggsy is the son of a former Kingsman who was killed on a mission with Hart, shown at the beginning of the film. In the modern day, he is little more than a street punk who is unlikely to go anywhere except for jail (or the morgue) until he calls in a favor from Kingsman as a tribute for his father’s death. After some convincing, Hart convinces him to try his hand at becoming a member of the Kingsman. He is one of several hopefuls that will be replacing Lancelot, an agent who was recently killed in action.

While Eggsy does his training, Galahad picks up where Lancelot left off, following a trail that leads to philanthropist Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). Valentine believes that humans are killing the planet and is looking to build more moral and financial support for a plan that will be extremely harmful to the human race, but hopefully save the planet. With a trademark lisp and a hatred of blood and gore, Valentine is a quirky megalomaniac villain who definitely feels at home in a movie that spoofs so many tropes from spy movies. He also has a female bodyguard named Gazelle whose feet have been replaced by springboard razor blades. In case you hadn’t picked up on the tone of this movie yet.

Valentine and Gazelle

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a movie that I would consider more “good” than “great”, and there’s nothing wrong simply being a good movie. For me, the good far outweighs the bad; there is a lot of good acting here, the action is well shot and memorable, the film’s humor works more often than not, it has some moments with legitimate tension and emotion. The mentor-student relationship between Harry and Eggsy is one of the better takes on this trope I’ve seen in a while; they have good on-screen chemistry and I found it easy to get emotionally invested in that bond. Colin Firth is an actor I have a great deal of respect for, and it was cool to see him thrive in the role of an action star, something he was definitely unproven in.

Eggsy is a very good archetypal character, someone who is living in a bad situation where nothing seems to go right for him; he’s got a lot of edge to him but it’s also obvious that he cares about his mother and his friends. That loyalty, his willingness to fight, and a desire to achieve greatness makes him a hero that is capable of growing; he feels like a completely different character at the start and ending of this film, but not unnaturally so. Taron Egerton is definitely an actor I’ll be keeping an eye on from now on. Similarly, Sophie Cookson was highly entertaining as Roxy Morton, Eggsy’s friend and primary competition for the role of the new Lancelot. I want to see more of her.

Recruits

Something I do want to address, while being careful not to spoil, is a joke at the end that has generated some controversy among viewers. Being a tribute to and parody of James Bond films, it’s no surprise that sexual conquest is brought up in the movie. Women always threw themselves at Bond, and something similar happens in this film. My view on it is this; people who are offended by a crass joke after two hours of over the top violence and warped humor clearly are in the wrong movie. Secondly, compare the way the male and female characters act in this film compared to how James Bond interacts with say, Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and try to tell me with a straight face that Kingsman’s joke is more sexist.

There’s also a brilliant subversion of “gentleman spy seduces a woman” earlier in the film, and Roxy herself is a character that is never treated as anything less than equal to her peers. I can’t recall a single camera shot that treated her as sexual object, and that’s a good thing.

Overall, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a fun and solid bit of escapism that I would recommend to fans of the spy genre, fans of good action, and those who enjoy campy and over the top humor. It’s not a movie for everyone, but I think the target audience will find a lot to enjoy.

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Always On My Shelf – The Princess Bride

It would be almost impossible to pick one movie that is definitively my favorite. There are so many great ones that are worth talking about and new ones every year that get added to my list of favorites. But if you were to ask the question “What movie has been your favorite for most of your life?” I can pretty easily answer that.

The Princess Bride is a 1987 romantic comedy/fantasy adventure film directed by Rob Reiner, with a screenplay by William Goldman based on his 1973 novel. Although it was a box office bomb when it released in theaters, the film has achieved cult classic status and there are very few people who haven’t seen the film by this point. Most significantly for me, the movie was one of my mother’s favorites and I was introduced to the movie at a very young age. Two decades later, it’s still one of my go to movies when I just want to throw something in and know I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

Westley and Buttercup

While the bulk of the movie’s story is a love story set in medieval fantasy kingdom called Florin, the movie starts with a grandfather (played by Peter Falk) visiting his sick grandson (Fred Savage). He hopes to cheer him up by reading one of his favorite books, giving a hard sell that is one of the most crucial scenes in the movie. He talks about monsters, fencing, pirates, giants, torture, suspense… and true love. It convinces the boy to listen to his grandpa read it, and also serves to calm the nerves of men in the audience who are probably expecting a sappy, cheesy love story that will bore them to tears.

And let’s not mince words here; The Princess Bride is a sappy and cheesy love story. There’s a handsome leading man (Cary Elwes in probably his defining role) and the titular princess, named Buttercup and played by Robin Wright, is straight out of a Disney movie. Fortunately, the two characters have a lot of chemistry with each other and have a lot of odds to overcome. They are easy to invest in and root for and provide a lot of the movie’s charm. It’s a love story done right.

True Love

But The Princess Bride is also an exciting adventure with one of the best sword fights ever put on film between Westley and Inigo Montoya. There’s a wrestling match, a treacherous journey through a swamp that spits fire and inhabited by enormous killer rats, and three men storming a castle to stop ruthless villains. It’s also one of the funniest movies you will ever see, with memorable characters delivering one liners left and right. It’s this blending of genres that makes Princess Bride stand out and very few movies have been able to successfully replicate the formula that makes this such a hit with viewers over twenty-five years later.

While the love story between Westley and Buttercup is the driving force behind the film’s narrative, it isn’t the first thing that I think of when I remember this movie. It’s three secondary characters that are hired to kidnap and kill Buttercup near the start of the film: insufferable brainiac Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), soft-hearted giant Fezzik (pro wrestling legend Andre the Giant) and charismatic Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin). It quickly becomes evident that Fezzik and Inigo are not bad guys, but people looking for work and Vizzini is willing to pay them. The comedic back and forth between the three establish the tone of the film very early on.

Those Three Guys

One of the things I like most about this early portion of the movie is that each of these three characters gets a spotlight scene where they go one on one with Westley, dressed in black as the Dread Pirate Roberts, as he makes an attempt to rescue Buttercup. No, I’m really not spoiling anything with that revelation, it’s pretty obvious that it’s Westley the whole time. Anyway, Westley first goes up against Inigo in a great sword fight where Inigo is established as an honorable man who is also looking for revenge on a six-fingered man who killed his father. Westley is able to best him, but refuses to kill him, knocking him out with the hilt of his sword.

After that challenge, Westley if forced to compete in a wresting match with Fezzik when it becomes clear that the giant could kill him by throwing a boulder at his head. Using his speed and a choke hold, Westley is able to knock Fezzik out. Finally, Westley goes up against Vizzini in a battle of wits. I won’t spoil how this goes down, because if you haven’t seen the movie it’s one of the best twists I’ve ever seen. But each of these scenes is allowed to go down without interruption, allowing us to gain an appreciation for who the characters are and all work to showcase how capable and charming the lead hero is.

Fortunately, it’s not the last time that we see Fezzik and Inigo as they later work together with Westley to rescue Buttercup from her unwanted fiancee Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) and his accomplish Count Reuben (Christopher Guest). Once again, I don’t want to get into the details of how they get through this, but it’s a thrill ride that is worth watching.

Humperdinck

Man that is a glorious crown isn’t it?

The Princess Bride is a movie I have watched probably a hundred times over, and I could readily recite entire conversations from it. But even without my sentimental nostalgic feelings, I would still consider this to be one of the best movies of all time. It’s family friendly, it’s short enough not to overstay it’s welcome, and the characters and quotes are strong enough to stick with the viewer years after watching it. If you have somehow avoided seeing it so far, make plans to remedy that situation. There is a reason that Princess Bride always has a place on my shelf.

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