Posts Tagged ‘jeff bridges’

Colin Firth, Taron Egerton


141 minutes | MPAA rating: R

For a movie that isn’t actually about anything, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is ridiculously diverting.

Those who saw the original “Kingsman: The Secret Service” a few years back will be treated to more of the same, only on steroids.  This sequel is bigger, faster, noisier and funnier than the original.

Plus, this time around writer/director Matthew Vaughn shows a surer hand at balancing the movie’s over-the-top violence with a refined comic sensibility.

Things begin with our hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton) trying to juggle his duties as a member of the super-secret Kingsman security apparatus against his romance with Tilde (Hanna Alström), an honest-to-God Swedish princess.  For a former car thief with a taste for a white rapper wardrobe (sweats, ball caps), Eggsy has come a long way in a brief time.

But it all comes crashing down when the entire Kingsman operation is destroyed in one fell swoop.  The only survivors are Eggsy (who was having dinner with the King of Sweden when it all happened) and the bald, tech-savvy Merlin (Mark Strong).

What happened? Well, an international drug lord named Poppy (Julianne Moore) and her Golden Circle gang are clearing the deck prior to a big push for world domination.  A nostalgia freak, Poppy lives in seclusion in the Cambodian jungle in her own private theme park…imagine Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. redone with a “Happy Days” theme.

She’s even kidnapped Elton John (playing himself) so that he can perform her favorite hits at will. (This year’s best bit of celebrity casting.)

Seeking allies, Eggsy and Merlin travel to Kentucky where they encounter the Statesmen, their Yank counterparts, a band of American free agents posing as a distilling concern.  These cowboys — literally…we’re talking Stetsons, boots and electric bullwhips capable of slicing steel — have names like Champagne (Jeff Bridges), Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Ginger (Halle Berry).

Oh yes…the Statesmen have been providing shelter to an amnesiac who has suffered a rather nasty bullet wound in the noggin.  He is, of course, Harry Hart aka Galahad (Colin Firth), Eggsy’s mentor and a fatality (or so we thought) in the first film. (I’m not giving anything away here…Firth is all over the ads.)


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Chris Pine, Ben Foster

Chris Pine, Ben Foster

“HELL OR HIGH WATER” My rating: A- 

102 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Hell or High Water” is about two brothers on a crime spree. But David Mackenzie’s film has a lot more on its mind than mere suspense and thrills.

Imagine the Coen Brothers’ “No Country for Old Men” filtered through the sensibilities of a Bruce Springsteen ballad about sibling tensions and economic alienation, enacted by players who in some instances are giving their best perfs ever, and set against a bleak West Texas landscape so carefully rendered you may find yourself trying to spit out the dust.

And although it was filmed a year ago, it  damn near serves as an ethnological study of Trump voters.

The film begins with a bank heist.  Brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) pull on ski masks and barge into a branch of the Texas Midlands Bank in an oil spot of a rundown town. Brother Tanner is clearly enjoying his power over the employees and customers — a bit too much, actually. He has to be admonished by his sibling after pistol whipping a slow-moving bank employee.

Because Ben Foster has so often played eye-rolling loonies, we assume that his ex-con Tanner is the criminal mastermind behind the unfolding series of bank robberies. Actually it’s the low-keyed Toby who came up with the plan to steal  money from the same bank threatening to foreclose on the family’s run-down ranch.

Estranged from his wife and two teenage sons and way behind on his alimony, Toby hopes to pay off the mortgage with the bank’s own money. At least he’ll be able to leave the family spread to his boys. Heck, there may even be black gold under it.

The brothers have a system, hitting different branches at off hours, then burying the getaway cars out on the back 40. They launder the stolen cash by gambling at an Indian casino up in Oklahoma.

But it’s a given that at some point the hair-trigger Tanner will deviate from the plan and throw the entire enterprise into jeopardy.

Because there’s a relentless lawman on their trail. Jeff Bridges is Marcus, a crusty old Texas Ranger facing an uneasy retirement. Marcus has been catching crooks for so long that he thinks like them; he’s just waiting for one little screwup.

In the meantime he passes the time making politically incorrect observations about the heritage of his long-suffering half-Commanche partner (Gil Birmingham).

That’s the plot.  But the screenplay by Taylor Sheridan (who most recently gave us the first-rate drug war saga “Sicario”) is noteworthy for all the other stuff going on just below the surface. (more…)

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Place_at_the_Table-620x348“A PLACE AT THE TABLE” My rating: B+  (Opening March 15 at the Tivoli)

84 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

How can one in six Americans not know where their next meal is coming from?

I mean, this is the land of plenty where supermarkets routinely throw out millions of dollars in perfectly edible food because they’re nearing their expiration dates or the produce is bruised.

Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush’s “A Place at the Table” provides an easy to understand (if not easy to stomach) overview of how we got to this sad state of affairs where even those who do have meal money often opt for high-calorie, low-nutrition foods.

This doc blends a reasoned approach (no indignant grandstanding) with extremely slick presentation (excellent cinematography, a killer score by T-Bone Burnett).  The results aren’t exactly grab-you-by-the-lapels dramatic, but seeing this film pretty much guarantees you’ll never look at the American diet in the same way.

“Table” examines the crisis of “food insecurity” by focusing on families in both small towns and big cities.

The film traces the history of farm subsidies, created in the last century to preserve family farms.  Of course, today farming is largely a corporate affair, but those agribusinesses still suck up subsidy money.

Jeff Bridges

Jeff Bridges

Just as bad, most of that money is funneled into the production of certain crops (wheat, corn, rice), thus artificially depressing their prices. As a result, poor families can afford heavily processed fast food but not fresh produce, which is more expensive.

And there’s yet another problem: In many urban (and even rural) areas, there simply are no groceries offering fresh food. Everything available is out of a can, a box or a freezer.  Eating unprocessed food on a few dollars a day is impossible.

The bigger story, of course, is that in our current economy families that thought themselves middle class now find themselves among the impoverished. (Even more insulting is the case of the hard-working mom who earned $2 too much to qualify for food assistance.)

“A Place at the Table” even boasts of a little star power, thanks to the presence of Oscar winner Jeff Bridges, who two decades ago created the End Hunger Network.

We’re due for a big national discussion of hunger. This is a good place to start.

| Robert W. Butler


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