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Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Kingsman: The Secret Service was one of the most pleasant cinematic surprises of 2015. Based on Mark Millar’s mildly misanthropic comic book, director Matthew Vaughn improved upon the source material, adding style, pathos and whimsy; a trick he also pulled off with the film adaptation of Kick-Ass. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is also a surprise but, sadly, this time around it’s not such a pleasant one.

Set a year after the events of the original, The Golden Circle wastes little time in literally blowing up the status quo. In short order, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) loses his home, place of work, a bunch of coworkers and dog. Teamed up with Merlin (Mark Strong) the pair travel to America to meet the Statesmen, the US equivalent of Kingsman, who fight the forces of evil with laser lassos and weaponised spittin’ tobacky. Yee-hah and so forth.

The 141 minute film is required to perform a balancing act where it gives our leads a proper story, introduce new characters in the form of Tequilla (Channing Tatum), Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) and Champagne (Jeff Bridges), plus concoct a satisfying villain, Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) with a nefarious plan for world domination. Sadly it fails at many of these tasks, with baffling pacing decisions that make the main action feel truncated but a scene where Eggsy has to finger bang Clara Von Gluckfberg (Poppy Delevingne) at Glastonbury (to insert a tracking device, natch) drags on interminably.

That’s not to say The Golden Circle is without its moments. When the film takes a minute to breathe the character work is solid. Taron Egerton, Mark Strong and Colin Firth are all reliably excellent, although the inclusion of the latter takes up way too much screen time. The action is frenetic and well-directed, but nothing comes close to topping the gleefully splattery church massacre from the original. Julianne Moore’s Poppy starts strong, and includes some semi-subversive chatter about the war on drugs, but ultimately squanders the opportunity.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle seems less interested in skewering spy movie tropes and notions of class in favour of including celebrity guest spots, like an initially amusing but ludicrously overplayed Elton John cameo. It’s a film that manages to be sporadically engaging but is too bloated and unwieldy to hit the mark like its predecessor. It’s unfortunate because you get the feeling there’s a good film in there, somewhere, but it’s buried under a landfill of winking self congratulation and unnecessary callbacks. If the Kingsmen return for a third outing hopefully they’ll think to include the services of a judicious script editor next time.

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Ballad Of Youth: The Making Of Flirting

With a new print of the 1987 Aussie teen film classic, The Year My Voice Broke, set to screen at the Adelaide Film Festival, we take a look back at the making of the film’s under-celebrated sequel, 1991’s Flirting.
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Dawson City: Frozen Time (Sydney Underground Film Festival)

Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

Bill Morrison (Decasia) is a filmmaker whose experimental avant-garde work is often more at home in art galleries than in multiplexes. However, with his new film Dawson City: Frozen Time, Morrison has embraced a more conventional documentary style, and has made his most accessible, and arguably most moving film of his career.

The film begins in 1978 in Dawson City, a town on the Yukon river in the remote northwest of Canada. During the demolition of a building in the historic town centre, workers uncovered a treasure trove of lost film reels, which contained, amongst other things, rare footage of the infamous 1918 baseball world series, and numerous feature films that had long been thought to be lost forever. In order to demonstrate the significance of this find, Morrison takes us back to Dawson City’s founding and tells the story of the city, a history which is fascinating even without the connection to these lost films. However, Morrison also uses this history to tell a story about the early days of cinema, illustrating the revelatory effect that these films would have had on the audiences who once viewed them.

Set to a magnificent score by Alex Somers (known for his work with Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Ros), Morrison weaves together material from the lost films, together with archive photographs and other early film footage to tell the story of how these films survived decades buried in the ice.

However, while the story is both mesmerising and intriguing, what is most captivating about the film is Morrison’s ability to use ancient, decaying footage to conjure an emotional response, and to say something powerful about the nature of the passing of time. Dawson City: Frozen Time is truly an ode to the power of cinema, and deserves to be seen by film lovers everywhere.

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Adelaide Film Festival)

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This is an extremely strange and unsettling film – which is not to say that it’s consistently good. It hits the ground running with a close-up of an operation, but then becomes maddeningly – but evidently deliberately – mannered and distancing.

The central characters are wealthy heart surgeon Stephen Murphy (Colin Farrell) and his opthalmologist wife Anna (Nicole Kidman). They like to have sex whilst pretending that Anna is under general anaesthetic. Both of them speak in a flat deadpan manner, employing staccato phrases whether discussing the mundane or the important. So, for no apparent reason, do many of the other characters, who include the couple’s two children. It’s rather as if they’d consciously based their styles on that of the young David Byrne, circa “Psycho Killer”. It’s also hard to work out whether the effect is meant to be intermittently funny, and harder still to suspend disbelief.

So far, so-so. But Stephen has a friendship with Martin (Barry Keoghan), a distinctly odd – even in this context – and obsessive teenager whose late father was one of Stephen’s patients. We become mildly curious as to exactly how all these people relate to each other.

And then – ah, but that would be telling. Suffice it to say that at a certain point the story suddenly gets much more engrossing, even as it becomes absurd.

The music is effective, the widescreen cinematography is striking and the plot is, shall we say, unusual. And whatever its other strengths and weaknesses, there is at least one scene you are guaranteed to remember.