He SAID: Lights… Camera… Kingsman!

Scott F Evans

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a welcome respite to the weaker, post-Oscar cinematic offerings we normally get in February. Directed and co-written by Matthew Vaughn (and loosely based on the comic book miniseries Secret Service by Mark Millar), Kingsman is a fun, R-rated action comedy. On the surface it seems like the film is a parody of the long running James Bond franchise, but Vaughn’s film has a lot more on its mind than just poking fun at the venerable series.

Kingsman is sold as a spoof of the 007 series. But it has more in common with the mid 1960’s Bond knockoffs like the Flint and Matt Helm series, or The Avengers, and The Man from UNCLE television shows. There are similarities in tone to the Roger Moore Bond films, but Kingsman is much broader. It’s a farce, and there’s an absurdity that is fully embraced. It doesn’t run from or downplay some of the more ridiculous elements on display. But unlike (and much better than) the Austin Powers series, Kingsman is also a surprisingly effective action film.

The film is centered on a team of elite British gentlemen spies, all code-named after King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. When one of them is killed on a mission, the remaining Kingsmen must nominate a replacement to fill the empty slot. Here’s where this film separates itself from other spy movies. It asks the question, “What makes a gentleman, genetics or environment?” It’s also not afraid to take a kingsmandefinitive stand on the matter. Modern action heroes all fit an identical type: the boorish rebel, unshaven in designer leather and shades. Kingsman goes the opposite way and presents us with elegant, dapper protagonists. They’re all decked out in bespoke double breasted suits and eyeglasses that nod back to the 60’s era spy Harry Palmer.

Colin Firth is clearly having a ball as Harry Hart, codenamed “Galahad”. Playing completely against type, Firth is urbane, refined and lethal… deftly handling many ofkingsman3 his own fight scenes. Also turning in an excellent performance, Samuel L Jackson as billionaire Richmond Valentine. Jackson is clearly channeling Russell Simmons in style and speech with his trademark baseball caps and slight lisp. Valentine is genocidal, but he’s sort of got a point. Michael Caine (the original Harry Palmer) shows up as Arthur, the leader of the Kingsmen.

Mark Strong is also good in the relatively thankless role of Merlin, the “Q” of the Kingsmen. Relative newcomer Sofia Boutella plays Gazelle, Valentine’s assassin henchwoman. She’s good in this mostly physical role. With her legs digitally kingsman6replaced with CG blades, she gets many of the fun action sequences.

The standout of the film is Taron Egerton as our main protagonist: Kingsman trainee Eggsy Unwin. He’s a low class street punk whose father was an agent. Egerton wisely plays him with just enough crassness, that he doesn’t lose your sympathy. You cheer his arc from street kid to refined gentleman.

The script, co-written by Jane Goldman, is witty and filled with spy movie references. Still, the film never really feels derivative. Even if it does occasionally travel down well-worn paths, the film is so charismatic and lively that you immediately forgive it.  Kingsman is neither empty-headed action nor pretentious musings on class. It’s able to expertly balance the two and deliver on both fronts.

kingsman7Vaughn nails the pacing of the film. He keeps the story moving without shortchanging character and plot to rush to the next action scene. He lets us actually connect with his leads (a rarity in modern action cinema). This movie has also introduced a new perspective on shooting and editing action… that might just become the new ‘bullet time‘ (See: tech used in the original Matrix movie that became so overused that it eventually became a joke and was abandoned altogether).

kingsman8The scene is a lengthy hyper-violent melee in a church. The final version is edited to look like one long take. It manages to look kinetic, but not confusing. Vaughn impresses in Kingsman… and makes me thankful that he turned down the trite X-Men: Days of Future Past to direct this fresh take on the spy genre.

RATING: Theater

We SAID: The New Bohemian

Staff Writer

Remember when being a bohemian or a hippie meant thrift store threads for a couple of bohemian2pennies and a general detachment to all things worldly? Not anymore. In true fashion, the industry has co-opted the style (and significantly raised the price) in such a way that completely obliterates earlier interpretations of the flower-child lifestyle.

The latest interpretations from Chloe will set you back anywhere from $2,000 to nearly $6,000. Same for haute-couture hippie standard Etro. The new tiered patio dress runs little more than 3 Grand.

And that’s just the clothing. Accessories like bags, bangles and the quintessential multi-stone necklace are also for sale at prices that would make the (stereotypical) patchouli-drenched set cringe. Glam shoe maker Giuseppe Zanotti went chunky for the current season with a selection of heels that look more like they came out of the back of a thrift bohemian5shop than a fine department store.

The good news is, it’s not necessary to pay such a pretty penny to look like you barely register among the fashion set. There are cheaper offerings from tbohemian4he likes of Vince, Haute Hippie and Johnny Was. And if those prices are still a bit steep ($150-$500), don’t worry. The current designs can easily be co-opted at an actual thrift store for a fraction of the price. You won’t get the designer label prestige, but if you’re a true hippie, you won’t want to anyway.

He SAID: That About Sums It Up…

Christopher M. Enis

“This is it, tonight is kinda special.”
Yeah, that came from an old beer commercial but it fits the Oscars, too. Awards Season un-officially comes to a close with “the most glamorous time of the year”. I usually don’t do the Red Carpet shows, I don’t know what to think of them, really.  But this year, I thought I’d step outside of my comfort zone and watch. What did I think?
  • Robin Roberts looks awesome. She’s a bad ass and I love her.
  • Margaret Avery is 71 and looking damn Shug (Color Purple joke, I’m old).
  • Lady GaGa wore a dress that took 2 months to make and her glove game is strong… like super-hero strong.  She was sporting red gloves that look like they were bought at Comic-Con. Okay.
  • Speaking of superheroes: Captain America (Chris Evans) showed up with a friend, whom he wanted to make sure everyone in the world knew wasn’t his date.  So ladies, you still got a shot because his Oscar homie doesn’t?  I don’t know… I’m confused.
  • Zoe Saldana was trending because she had twins and was looking “gorgs” (I think that’s a thing the kids say these days), one week after  Iggy Azelea quit social media because people went in on her butt cellulite – and Beyonce’s Army went on the rampage because some untouched photos  “leaked” (by whom, the KGB?). I’m glad that someone is getting some love about their looks. That is, until they see Saldana breast feeding at a Tim Hortons or something and she’ll be getting hated on, too.  Social Media is dysfunctional as a family reunion when your uncle shows up with his new boyfriend and he didn’t tell his wife about him.
  • Scarlett Johanssen showed up, and all folks could talk about was her hair.  I’m certain that the majority of these people were women. I’m just saying.
  • Is there anyone in Hollywood above the age of puberty that Kevin Hart is taller than?  I think that even Prince is taller than that dude.
  • Melanie Griffith and her daughter, Dakota Johnson, showed up together.  I bet that seemed like a good idea at first. But after about 50 interviewers asking Mom if she’s seen/will see her daughter’s first big starring role (which is a fair question I suppose), someone might be rethinking their life choices. That role just happened to be in 50 Shades Of Grey and… gosh… who wouldn’t want to see their kid in a BDSM film?
  • Common brought his mom. What a good son.
  • John Legend brought his supermodel wife, Christie Teigen, who was wearing a super-duper-hot-to-death dress with a slit so high, you could almost tell what religion she was.  I ain’t mad, though.
  • Chris Pratt and his wife are so funny, attractive, cute, cool…God, I hate them.
  • Ms. Lupita wore a dress made out of pearls.  Man, the bathroom break is going to be epic.
  • The Team Oscar 2015 segment was nice. I do believe the children are our future.
  • So the Oscars Red Carpet show became this:  I…I can’t.  I’m out.

She SAID: Oscar Best

Terri Kennerson

We know that it’s amazing when you win, we know that it’s an honor just being nominated… but what we really want to know is how you made the biggest impact on the carpet (Sorry Reese. We promise to be more oscarbestsubstantial with our concerns in the future). Oscar night is damn near a national holiday (sort of like Super Bowl for the sports fan) for lovers of pomp, circumstance, and all things Hollywood. So we are thrilled that you’re over the moon to be presenting, nominated, winning… but seriously, who are you wearing?

Anna Kendrick stole the carpet by being among the first to arrive. Her peach Thakoon gown immediately raised the bar for everyone who came after. She  looked completelyoscarbest2 gorgeous and comfortable all at once. Often the guests do the most or not enough, and the effect is either overwhelming or completely forgettable. But Kendrick struck the perfect balance. We love.

Not to be outdone, Rosamund Pike freshened up a rare rainy LA day by literally wearing a bouquet of red roses. Her Givenchy frock would have fallen flat on a lesser figure. It may have even come off as cheap. But the combinoscarbest1ation of simple hair and statement makeup offset the gown, and projected an unusual combination of no-nonsense structure and fairytale whimsy.

Lupita decided to go one step further and wear as many pearls as one could be fit on a single dressoscarbest3. Her custom Calvin Klein creation featured 6,000 pearls of different sizes. We’re sure the dress weighed a ton, but Lupita carried it as if it were made of air. Her effortless hair and shimmering makeup worked more to enhance in the unusual creation, without being overshadowed by it.

And the ultimate comeback kid (even if he didn’t take home the golden statue, he’s still a winner), Michael Keaton, clearly hit the gym and got some real fashion sense while he was away. Keaton hung his Ralph Lauren tuxedo in such a way that makes us truly appreciate tailors, and wish that more people would employ their talents before showing up to Hollywood’s biggest party.

 

 

He SAID: Jupiter DESCENDING

Scott F Evans

Jupiter Ascending is the seventh feature film from the Wachowski siblings. It was originally scheduled to be released right in the middle of the 2014 blockbuster season, but was delayed until February 2015. The official reason was that the film wasn’t finished. That additional time was needed to complete the more than 2,000 visual effects, and mount a stronger marketing campaign. I suspect that studio execs saw early cuts and lost faith in the project, and dumped it into a February release spot (all the while praying for a surprise hit in a blockbuster-free season).jupiter

No one’s prayers were answered. And that’s not really a surprise. The truth is, if the Wachowski’s had spent as much time on the script as they did the effects and marketing, this would have been a better film.

Jupiter Ascending’s biggest crime is that it’s boring. It’s a heady, sprawling sci-fi epic, but it’s not even remotely interesting. I found myself fighting sleep several times during the film due to total disinterest in the adventures playing out in front of me. From the pompous dialogue to the incredibly miscast leads, Jupiter Ascending fumbles at everything but its superb production design.

jupiter4Maybe it’s because nothing here is original. Let me clarify. Ascending has an “original” screenplay and isn’t a reboot or sequel… nor is it based on a comic book or line of toys or old television series. But for two hours, we’re subjected to reheated plotting, character types, action bits and spectacle. Everything in this train-wreck of a film has been done before… and better. Take the 1980 Flash Gordon, 1997’s The Fifth Element, and 1999’s The Phantom Menace and you’ve basically got the core visual elements of Jupiter Ascending. Because it takes itself way too seriously, Ascending has more in common with the Star Wars snooze-fest than the other two fun, schlocky movies.

Jupiter Ascending is essentially a fairy tale: beautiful heroine comes from humble beginnings but soon jupiter1learns that she’s actually royalty. Her messenger and savior is a strapping young hero… who fights his attraction to her that he may better do his job. Grafting this simple story onto a sci-fi premise would be fine, but the Wachowski’s (who wrote as well as directed this quagmire) also wedge in a bunch of convoluted nonsense about genetic reincarnation, dynastic real estate holdings, and human harvesting. And I haven’t even mentioned the rest of the overly designed world presented here. Even though this muddled world is clearly important to the Wachowskis, none of it really matters to the audience because we never connect to it.

jupiter3Jupiter Ascending wants to be so significant and clever that it forgets to be fun. Like The Phantom Menace, the story is stuffed with a bunch of intricate plot details that don’t propel the narrative. It’s just pomp and circumstance wrapped up in a flawless CGI bow.

All of the elements are there, but the siblings seem afraid of it all. Channing Tatum plays Caine Wise, Ascending’s hero. Wise is a half canine, half albino bounty hunter. His main piece of gear is a pair of anti-gravity boots. He used to have wings but was stripped of them when he bit a royal… or something (we don’t really care). Mila Kunis is Jupiter Jones, a Russian cleaning lady who agrees to sell her eggs to buy an expensive telescope. Her genes also put her in line to be Queen of the planet Earth. Get it? Jupiter “ascends” to a throne that no one on the planet knows about. Academy Award nominee Eddie Redmayne plays Balem Abraxas, the film’s lead villain. He delivers 99% of his dialogue in a hoarse, barelyjupiter2 coherent whisper. The other 1% is shouted in hilariously inopportune moments. There are characters who seem to be part elephant, others with mouse ears, faceless guards who wear capes and have guns instead of arms, dinosaur men that wear cool leather jackets, and an out of place comic sequence dealing with intergalactic bureaucracy that’s culled straight from much better films. With all of this goofy shit in play, one would think Jupiter Ascending would embrace the ridiculous style over substance nature of it all, but no. This film is two hours of charm free ostentation.

If all you really need to entertain yourself is a couple hours of CG effects and designer clothing eye candy, then maybe you’ll enjoy Ascending. There have been articles published on the internet urging people to go see this film despite its glaring flaws. They suggest that fans of the genre should not only support big budget original sci-fi like this but also support the Wachowski’s because of the geek cred they built up with The Matrix series. That’s nonsense. The Wachowski’s can be good filmmakers, but after bombs like Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas, and now Jupiter Ascending (where they had almost complete creative control and hundreds of millions of dollars to waste), maybe it’s time for them to scale back. Maybe they need to do a bid in director jail or work under much tighter restrictions to get back the spark that allowed them to make Bound and the first Matrix. Besides, Guardians of the Galaxy did it better.

RATING: Cable… on a day when there’s nothing else on TV.

 

He SAID: Texturize

Staff Writer

We’re ready to make some big changes with everything from home to davidharringtonhair style. It’s time to shed those Winter layers and get ready to Spring into a new look. Hairstylist David Harrington says the secret to this season’s hair, is texture. “I feel that you’re going to see a lot of short textured hair.texturize1 We’re moving away from the disconnection of last year, to boy short on the sides and a short textured top. It’s something you can shape up with a bit of styling paste,
and run out the door.”texturize3
If you’re not ready for the big chop, textured locks look great on medium length hair as well. “A bob length look is great, but layers are key to release the texture of the hair. For some people that means adding soft curls to a style. But if you’re lucky enough to have natural waves, you can just add some light gel and go on about your day.”

If your hair is realltexturize4y long, then you’re already ahead of the game. Harrington says the style stays the same for long hair, and hasn’t really changed even as trends do.

“Long hair is long hair… long layers never go away. I think you’re going to see a 70’s inspired look this Spring, with center parts and wavy natural looks for really long hair.”

And what about color?

“Color-wise, we’ve  moved away from the ombre look. Instead, you’ll see more natural highlights this year. The more subtle the highlights, the better. The overall effect is meant to be beautiful and natural… like you were born with it.”

*A stylist with over 20 years experience, David Harrington has styled for Gucci and Escada. His artistry has been seen in Los Angeles Magazine, and on Entertainment Tonight, Univision and the British GQ Awards.