Sunday, May 31, 2015

Kingsman and Lost River, brief reviews

Kingsman: The Secret Service

You'll have to excuse me for the brevity of this review. I saw "Kingsman" way, way back in October of last year on the Fox Studios lot. Yeah, I got invited to the screening. Why? Because I'm just that cool, I guess. The problem with seeing a new movie super early like that? You have to wait months to properly review it. I wasn't gonna see the film in theaters again as I got everything I needed from that screening. I had planned on writing a review for it right then and sitting on it until February, but... I didn't feel like it.

Fast forward several months... now I just want to review this movie for closure's sake. Only problem, I don't have much to say about it. Matthew Vaughn is kind of a frustrating director for me. You can tell he is obviously talented, but there's a cheekiness to his adaptation of Mark Millar's comic books that I guess I'm just not privy to. I found "Kick-Ass" and parts of "Kingsman" a bit too immature and glib. It makes some obvious riffs on the "James Bond" series, as well as other spy movies cut from similar cloth, but nothing about "Kingsman" made me feel as if it was anything more than just an homage. Colin Firth is fun, Samuel L. Jackson is delightfully strange, but soon after I saw "Kingsman," I just found myself forgetting the entire affair. It's fun, it's likable, but it's a bit too on-the-nose with its references and homages to make it stand out on its own.

Grade: C+

Lost River

"Lost River" is an uneven misfire. There are elements to it that feel very "film school-y" and amateurish. But, I must say, it feels weird to see the way critics are so eager to take this movie down. "Lost River" marks Ryan Gosling's directorial debut and what struck me right away is how unique Gosling's voice is. Oftentimes, when an actor embarks on a directorial debut, it too often winds up feeling like a vanity project. But, Ryan Gosling doesn't even star in this film and he makes no attempts to tell an accessible, easy-to-swallow story. Instead, "Lost River" is just weird. Sometimes it's inspired weirdness, other times its weirdness threatens to derail the entire thing.

But I can't take a movie to task for not pulling off what is a very ambitious undertaking, especially when it comes from a director's debut film. Gosling set this film in Detroit, a city that went bankrupt not too long ago and essentially it feels like its citizens have been "left behind." There are times where I can't tell if Gosling's obsession with Detroit's griminess is something of a perverse nature, or if it's genuine affection. I can see being turned off by a Hollywood celebrity visiting a poor city like Detroit, bringing cameras, and saying "look at how weird and poor this place is!" But I don't think Gosling's really doing that. I think his intentions are genuine, it's just the story that's lacking.

Christina Hendricks stars as Billy. In a town where more and more people are abandoning their homes, Billy seems intent in trying to make it work. She wants to keep her house from being foreclosed and goes through some uneasy lengths in order to make that possible. She has two sons. There's the young, naive Franky. And there's Bones, who spends most of his time entering abandoned homes, stripping out scrap parts, and trying to sell the scraps for cash. But he winds up running into the wrong folks (one of whom is played by Dr. Who's Matt Smith) who are a constant threat to Bones's life.

Lots of strange, interesting elements to "Lost River," but it never really amounts to complete coherency. Then again, "coherency" may not be something Gosling is going for. Instead, he seems more interested in exploring the overall creepy atmosphere of this town. He decided to mix Detroit locals with his Hollywood actors, which sometimes leads to some strong, seemingly improvised moments. But, too often, "Lost River" merely feels like a project, not a movie. Gosling deserves credit for embarking on such a wild experiment, it just never really comes together in the end. Still, I can't help but admire Gosling attempt in creating something so odd. Hopefully, next time he embarks on a project like this, he'll actually have an interesting story to tell.

Grade: C+

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