Review: ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ Is Entertaining, But It’s Not Very Good

2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was a bit of a surprise hit — it took a somewhat-unknown actor (Taron Egerton) and put him at the center of a film that was part ultra-violent shoot-em-up, part Bond satire, but also part Bond homage. Based on Mark Millar’s Kingsman comics, it was a delightful bit of popcorn entertainment that was also surprisingly bloody and gruesome in parts, if comedically so. If there was a downside to it, it’s that it rushed through its script, but worse, it took its depictions of women to pretty unpleasant places, particularly at the end, where a woman gifts the protagonist with anal sex as a prize for rescuing her. It’s a nasty, unpleasant, and weirdly misogynistic attempt at humor that ultimately darkened my opinion of the entire movie.

Well, now we have its sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle and, well, it essentially takes all of the elements of its progenitor — the extreme violence, the wacky villains, the satirical homage to Bond, the unpleasant use of a woman as sexual gratification as a plot device — and ratchets it up. Tori Preston recently wrote about how the film is essentially critic-proof, and it’s easy to see why people feel that way. If you loved the first one, there’s a very good chance you’ll love the second, regardless of what I write.

And truth be told, there’s a lot to love! The story is as nonsensical as before — this time, a sweet, plucky drug lord named Poppy (Julianne Moore) has seized control of the world’s drug trade and is threatening to unleash a plague on the world’s drug users unless drugs are legalized (it’s a bit of a murky line of reasoning, but stay with me). As part of her plan, she infiltrates the Kingsmen Secret Service agency and essentially decimates it, leaving only protagonist Eggsy (Egerton) and tech guru Merlin (Mark Strong) behind. They turn to their American counterparts, the Statesmen (who operate out of a Kentucky bourbon distillery instead of a British tailor shop) for help in finding the antidote and stopping the villainous — if oddly adorable — Poppy.

It’s farcical hogwash from start to finish, but it’s mostly fun. Egerton is charming and engaging, and Mark Strong’s Merlin is a terrific character, a role-player suddenly thrust into the driver’s seat. The Statesmen — Jeff Bridges as their leader, Champagne («ChampP»), Pedro Pascal as Whiskey, their chief operator, Channing Tatum as young up-and-comer Tequila, and Halle Berry as Ginger Ale, their tech support — are all quite fun. Tatum has a blast with his goofy southern accent, and Berry plays the straight-laced Ginger with just enough tongue in her cheek. Bridges sort of gruffly mumbles his way through the film as he does with all films now, and Pedro Pascal is Pedro fucking Pascal, meaning he looks amazing even with a silly mustache and moves like a goddamn sex cobra through his fight scenes.

And really, the action choreography is the best part of the film — it’s gonzo stuff, all set to ludicrous speed. Using every piece of scenery as a prop, switching efficiently between slow- and fast-motion, director Matthew Vaughn makes it all looks effortlessly fun. Everything about it is bonkers — from killer robot dogs to deadly cable car battles, to an absolutely ridiculous chase scene at the film’s very start, the film is at its best when the pedal is pressed firmly to the floor. It’s when the action lets up that Kingsman starts to suffer, and that’s a real shame. The dialogue isn’t as crisp or engaging as it was the first time around, in no small part due to the reduced presence of Colin Firth’s Harry Hart, who really was a phenomenal piece of the first film. The writing isn’t as fun, and even though it’s a joy to watch Julianne Moore chomp her way through her scenes with gleeful aplomb, she doesn’t really have much to do. So while the action has been dialed up to 11, it often feels like everything else is muted and tired. It’d be one thing if the slower moments were simply less exciting, but unfortunately, they’re often clumsy and tired, if not outright boring.

To make matters worse, the film really does itself a disservice in the way it treats one of its female characters. It’s worth spoiling, so you know what you’re getting into — in an effort to infiltrate The Golden Circle (the name of Poppy’s cartel), Eggsy has to put a specific kind of tracking device on the girlfriend of one of their members. For reasons that are explained, but not acceptable, the only way to attach this particular nanodevice is to… insert it into a woman’s vagina.

I mean, come on, Vaughn.

This laughably (but not in the ha ha way) causes a moment of conflict for Eggsy, who is seriously dating the Swedish princess he rescued (she of the anal sex prize) from the first film, but ultimately ends with a seduction scene that is just really, really unnecessary and unpleasant. I’m sure some will be able to explain it away as a sendup of the Bond film seductions, but it didn’t read that way. It read as little more than Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman using a woman as a sexual prop in order to titillate, and it’s an ugly blemish on the film.

So. Should you see Kingsman: The Golden Circle? That’s a difficult question. There are undeniably good parts to the movie, but I don’t know that I’d call it a good movie. The bad parts are pretty bad, the story is ultimately nonsense, and there’s a lot that simply bogs it down. It’s often too impressed with itself to the point of parody. But it undeniably has some terrifically entertaining action sequences, and the cast all seem to be having a hell of a good time. I suspect mileage will vary wildly on this one, but overall the negatives too often outweigh the film’s positives.


How Long Can ‘The Good Place’ Possibly Sustain This?

Last season, Mike Schur’s The Good Place debuted with a phenomenal concept — Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) finds herself wrongly sent to «The Good Place» after her death — and we, as viewers, spent most of the season wondering how long that premise could possibly be sustained. It seemed like the end of the runway was always two or three episodes into the future, tops. Yet, Mike Schur managed to find news and exciting wrinkles, and not only did he extend the life of the premise, the show improved as it moved on.

Then that killer season finale twist arrived: Eleanor was never in «The Good Place,» she was in the «Bad Place» all along, and making her think otherwise was Michael’s (Ted Danson) torturous form of hell.

Well, that’s it, right? That should have been the end of the show.

Except that Michael zapped Eleanor’s memory, and decided to reboot the exercise.

The Good Place 2.0 began last night, and hell if Mike Schur didn’t pull another rabbit out of his top hat. (How many rabbits does he have in that goddamn thing, anyway?) This time, Michael attempted to keep Eleanor away from her friends — Chidi, Tahani, and Jason — and while the first two episodes compressed an entire season into an hour, it also offered a fresh perspective because now the audience is in on the joke. Now that we know it’s the Bad Place, we get to experience the show from the perspective of Michael and the rest of the demon actors, who are trying to pull one over on Eleanor. Eleanor remains the focus of The Good Place, but we’re looking at her from an entirely different perspective.

Last season, it was Eleanor trying to outsmart the clueless Michael, but now it’s Michael trying to fiendishly outsmart Eleanor. We understand from the outset that Chidi, Jason, and Tahini belong in the Bad Place, and now we know why, but even as they wear their sins on their sleeve, so to speak, we also know of the heart underneath. There’s an unbreakable bond between them that clearly mind erasure cannot break.

The trick now is to rewire our brains to view Michael as the villain. From Michael’s perspective, we also learn about the unspeakable conventional horrors of the Bad Place, like penis flattening and enormous butthole spiders. But here’s the twist: If Michael doesn’t pull off his Good Place 2.0 gambit, he’ll be shot into the sun, so even though he’s the bad guy, we find ourselves pulling for him in way similar to the way we sympathized with Eleanor last season.

If Schur had simply decided to reverse the point of view, my guess is that he could have pulled it off for an entire season with a minor wrinkle here and there to keep it fresh — the hilarious joke writing alone could sustain most of the season. But hell if that motherfucker didn’t exhaust 2.0 in the first hour and reboot again. Is that how this season is going to work? Is he just going to reboot every few episodes and try again? How long can that last before it gets old? How could Mike Schur possibly sustain that?

In other words, here we are again, right back to believing that the end of the runway is two or three episodes into the future, at best. By now, however, I think we’ve learned never to underestimate Mike Schur.


Katy Perry’s Up To No Good, Ricky Williams’s New Mugshot & A Washington Capitals Zamboni Gravy Boat

Instagram Photo

Raise your hand if you’re excited for Rams-49ers. NFL Network will make it feel like the Super Bowl. Wall-to-wall coverage. You’ll also get Temple-South Florida over on ESPN. It’s a shame that CFB doesn’t look at nights like this and fire off a solid ACC game. Maybe something like NC State-Miami. Oh well, sports fans will still act like Rams-49ers is something important.

I’m not sure what Katy Perry’s up to here

Lawrence O’Donnell has a meltdown for the ages (go to 4:00 mark & keep watching)

Ricky Williams smiles for new police mugshot

A Washington Capitals Zamboni gravy boat!

Buy Jeremy Shockey’s penthouse

Saban lap dog Cecil Hurt is mad about bad Bama home games

Florida Man: Gimme money or I’m gonna whip it out

Here’s Victoria from Ohio State!

Bama Kids Are The Best Video of the Month

Burger of the Day

Sports Gossip, Sexy WAGs, NFL and Hot Cheerleaders: BustedCoverage

So Maybe Ryan Phillipe Is Not Such a Good Guy, Plus Lawrence O’Donnell Loses It In Leaked Rant

So, maybe Ryan Phillipe’s not such a good guy? He’s being sued for allegedly attacking his ex-girlfriend, but the police aren’t buying it, but the police aren’t buying it for the wrong damn reasons. Also, Phillipe has always given me the skeeves. Lainey breaks the case down wisely. (Lainey)

Unhinged rants between commercial breaks are not the sole purview of asshole conservative anchors, it appears. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell also went ballistic on his staff during a tape of his show back in August. Here’s the leaked footage, and I’ll say this: He yells like I do when I get angry with the kids, which is to say: They have zero fear, because it’s hard to take my anger seriously, even if it’s genuine. Same with Lawrence O’Donnell; it’s more funny than shocking. Looks like he had a really bad night. (Mediatite)

It helps that O’Donnell didn’t call anyone a sexist or racist name during his off-air rant (mostly, he just fumed). The same can’t be said for Kathy Griffin’s neighbor, CEO of KB Home Jeffrey Mezger, who called Griffin a lot of sexist, homophobic names, and even made fun of her bald head, which she shaved in solidarity with her sister, who died of cancer last week. So … yeah, this guy is clearly the worst kind of asshole. (Dlisted)

So, Jennifer Lawrence once yelled, «We’re all going down» on a flight once. Haven’t we all felt the urge to do the same? I guess the difference is, we’re not super famous people so we have to fight the urge. Not JLaw! (Celebitchy)

Who the hell is Emilia Wickstead and why is she looking at me like she’s about to swallow my soul? STOP IT. (GoFugYourself)

Damon Lindelof’s The Watchmen is happening for HBO (I’m of mixed emotions. I don’t care about another Watchmen adaptation, but I love Damon Lindelof unreservedly, so …) (Vulture)

Season 8 of The Walking Dead returns next month, and lemmie tell you something, people. It’s gonna be different this time. DIFFERENT. (Uproxx)

It was a bad day for breakups, folks: Lawrence Fishburne and Gina Torres have parted after 14 years of marriage, and Rachel Bilson and Hayden Christensen have also split (Yes, they were still together, and no, Bilson isn’t married to Ashton Kutcher, and no, I have no idea what happened to Jake Lloyd). (Marie Claire)

Zach Snyder is done with the DCEU for good, it seems. He’s planning on adapting Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, BECAUSE OF COURSE HE IS. (FSR)

A fifth Game of Thrones prequel is now being developed by HBO. Wait, what? There were already four? Christ HBO. (/Film)


24 Times Coach Taylor Seemed Too Good to Be True on Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights won over fans for plenty of reasons, but Coach Taylor (aka Kyle Chandler), in all his «clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose» glory, is toward the top of the list. For one thing, there’s his incredible halftime speeches, which could sometimes make you cry and sometimes make you want to jump up and chase after your dreams. And, yes, he’s also pretty easy on the eyes. (Let’s get real: hot Tim Riggins moments weren’t the only scenes to make fans swoon.) Since we could all use a break, keep reading to relive the 24 times Coach Taylor seemed almost too good to be true.

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Even Sam Smith Would Get Chills From This «Too Good at Goodbyes» Dance Routine

Kyle Hanagami has choreographed some of our favorite dance videos, but his latest might just be his best yet. Set to the sound of Sam Smith’s emotional new single «Too Good at Goodbyes,» Kyle’s students each take turns delivering a hauntingly beautiful dance routine that pairs perfectly with the heartbreaking lyrics. Watch the video above and be sure to stick around until the ending to see the last couple, whose dance routine will send chills down your spine.

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36 Photos From the Toronto Film Festival That Are Almost as Good as Being There

The Toronto Film Festival officially kicked off last week, and it’s already yielded plenty of star-studded appearances. Celebrity couples like Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman showed off their sweet romance on the red carpet, while Angelina Jolie had the support of her kids at the premiere of her film The Breadwinner. Jennifer Lawrence also returned from Paris with boyfriend Darren Aronofsky to promote Mother!, and Lady Gaga premiered her new documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two. Keep reading to see even more stars who’ve popped up at the film festival!

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It’s Been a Good Day: The DREAMers Are Saved AND Manchild Martin Shkreli Is Headed To Jail

Great news here:

I think we all knew that border security would be a part of the deal, but the fact that The Wall is not is great news. As long as this gets through Congress, this is amazing news for 800,000 undocumented Americans.

Update: Shit.

As if the world needed further proof that Martin Shkreli is a manchild, he offered $ 5,000 to anyone who would pull Hillary Clinton’s hair during her book tour. Now he gets to not pass Go, and not collect $ 200, because he’s going to jail. (WaPo)

I love advice columns. I read them daily with my morning coffee. Sometimes they make me feel better about myself. At other times they hit me right in the gut so that I forget about my coffee until it’s too cold to drink. This was one of those times. This advice is so, so good. (RoleReboot)

It’s New York Fashion Week and Naeem Khan BROUGHT IT. I mean, he always does. But still. (GFY)

A mama giraffe and a baby giraffe with leucism (a genetic condition that «may display ghostly traces of their normal patterns»). How cool is tha…you’re not even reading this; you’ve already clicked over haven’t you? (Atlas Obscura)

Rebel Wilson won her defamation lawsuit against Bauer Media. Unlike the above, she does get to pass Go, and collect all the monies. (Dlisted)

The CIA doesn’t want to release Osama bin Laden’s vast porn collection. How big of a Venn diagram overlap do you think there is between his collection and the one Ted Cruz has? (The Cut)

During an interview with BBC Radio 4, Liccy Dahl said that when Roald Dahl first wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie was a black boy. Can we get THIS remake, Hollywood? I’d love to see Caleb McLaughlin in the role. (The Guardian)

How cute is Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr? So cuuuuute! (Lainey Gossip)

Kristen Bell is a gift to humanity. Her spirit and generosity during hurricane Irma made me tear up more than once. (Celebitchy)

Today is #CannonBookClub Day! Please join Cannonball Read’s discussion of Khaled Khalifa’s In Praise of Hatred. What is your meaning for hatred, and is it something that you could use to center yourself as the narrator does? Do you see rising sectarian tensions in your country or community? Join the CBR gang, and tell them what you think. (Cannonball Read 9)

I think we all deserve to watch this beautiful video. (5Things)

2047 APOLOGUE — a concept performance by Zhang Yimou featuring KINETIC LIGHTS from WHITEvoid on Vimeo.

Ursula lives in Chicago and likes potatoes very much. You can follow her here.


Tommy Lasorda’s 90th Birthday Party Seemed Like a Good Time

Last Sunday’s Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation celebrity poker tournament was a bit more special than usual as the event doubled as a surprise early birthday party for Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda, who turns 90 later this month. You can watch partygoers serenade ol’ Tommy before Larry King pops in to hand him a mic:

We told you guys a week ago that Tommy is officially back after a health scare, and that certainly was the case on Sunday with the ladies flocking over to the birthday boy. Hell, it looks like Tommy even found himself on a Snap filter:

Fancy Dodgers themed-cake, of course:

Tommy shows off his custom Dodgers coat, poses with Larry King:

Sports Gossip, Sexy WAGs, NFL and Hot Cheerleaders: BustedCoverage

Good Luck Getting Through These Pictures of Insecure’s Dro Without Passing the F*ck Out

The second season of Insecure gave us a few new catchphrases (like «wine down»), a fire soundtrack, an emotional finale, and some of the finest eye candy to grace our screen all year (bare butts, anyone?). One particularly handsome introduction to the show was Sarunas J. Jackson, who plays Dro, a smokin’ hot childhood friend of Molly (Yvonne Orji) who basically dropped our jaws from the second he appeared on screen. In real life, Sarunas happens to be both extremely tall (6’8″, to be exact) and super hot — and we’ve rounded up 28 photos of him that will turn you into a sopping wet mess. Keep reading at your own risk.

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