Matthew Vaughn

Photo Credit: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

After years of horrendous spoof films such as “Scary Movie 5” and “A Haunted House,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service” serves as an exhilarating, hilarious revitalization for the genre. The film’s stunning action, witty humor and enjoyable performances make it an early candidate for most enjoyable picture of the year.  

After a tough street kid named Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is caught joyriding, he gets bailed out by a mysterious and well-dressed man who claims to have known Eggsy’s deceased father. The mystery man, Harry Hart (Colin Firth), sees potential in Eggsy and reveals he worked with Eggsy’s father as an agent for the Kingsmen — an espionage group dedicated to stopping anyone who threatens the world. Deciding he has nothing to lose, Eggsy begins his training as a Kingsman. Meanwhile, Harry investigates the activities of tech tycoon Richman Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and his assistant Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). As Eggsy fits into his role as a Kingsman agent, he and Harry must thwart Richman’s plan to unleash chaos upon the world.

Director Matthew Vaughn, who directed the ultra-violent superhero satire “Kick-Ass,” returns with more grisly mayhem. The violence is indeed bloody, but the humor in Vaughn and Jane Goldman’s script evens out the ridiculous body count. The film’s wit can make the goriest scenes funny, including a sequence where the heads of several dignitaries under Richman’s control explode in synchronized fashion. Though he includes several graphic scenes, it never feels like the director takes the violence too far.

Another of the film’s more enjoyable aspects is its creativity. It’s clear the gadgets in the film take inspirations from the wonderful toys that James Bond uses in his war on crime. From exploding cigarette lighters to bulletproof umbrellas, the technology pay homage to classic spy technology while also giving the film a special touch. Of course, the Kingsman agents, who prove that it’s possible to fight crime while impeccably dressed, are a deeply amusing part of the movie. Although inspired by other fictional espionage groups, the Kingsmen feel fully fleshed out.  

The action is beautifully choreographed and expertly shot. Unlike quickly-edited fights in mediocre action flicks, it’s incredibly easy to absorb the frantic motions in every brawl. Every punch is shot for maximum clarity. Vaughn possesses a sixth sense for organizing shootouts, so the audience sees every bullet hit its mark. The greatest example of his mastery involves a scene where Firth decimates waves of crazed people in a church, using everything from knives to a pipe organ.

Egerton turns in a solid performance as Eggsy, whose transformation from street thug to suave Kingsman agent is well-paced and investing. Firth shows off his comedic edge as the cultured yet deadly Harry. There’s something amusing about an esteemed Oscar winner knocking out teeth and breaking arms. The villains are just as cleverly written and entertaining as the heroes. Jackson is charming and hilarious as the scheming Valentine, all while speaking with a lisp that would make Mike Tyson proud. Boutella gives a breakout performance as a deadly femme fatale with bionic legs.

“Kingsman” is simply a brilliant comedic film that uses Vaughn’s successful formula of mixing violence with wry humor. It offers memorable characters who never have a boring moment. The action is remarkably fluid and serves as an example of how excellent directing can make tense moments even more exhilarating. A love-letter to both spy and parody films, “Kingsman” serves as one of the most creative and enjoyable films of the year so far.

Movie Review: X-Men: First Class

The massive cast of "X-

Photo Credit: AP Exchange | Daily Texan Staff

Genre: Action, Adventure
Runtime: 132 minutes
For those who like: Thor, Green Lantern
Grade: A

Since “X-Men” debuted in 2000 to massive box office success, it’s been credited with shaping the modern superhero genre. After a tremendous sequel, the series faltered; first with a mediocre third film and then with an abhorrent prequel based on breakout character Wolverine. “X-Men: First Class,” another prequel to the series, is not only the best film in the series since “X2,” but is also summer filmmaking at its best — a smart superhero film with strong, well-acted characters.

Following an opening scene ripped from the first “X-Men” film, “First Class” chronicles the early ’60s when Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) assemble their first team of mutants to stop the nefarious Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who is relentlessly pushing America and Russia to the brink of nuclear war.

With prequels, there’s always a chance of the film falling short simply because we know where the story is going. Charles Xavier will always end up in a wheelchair and Erik Lehnsherr will always become Magneto. Director Matthew Vaughn, fresh from last year’s memorable “Kick-Ass,” makes the smart move of staging the film as a tragedy, sending the characters on an unstoppable collision course with their destinies and letting the audience watch the pieces slowly fall into place. Vaughn’s brisk pacing and strong character work makes the slow march to a predetermined destination entertaining and surprisingly suspenseful.

The film’s massive cast is almost flawless. James McAvoy more than fills the shoes of Patrick Stewart. The radiant Jennifer Lawrence is compulsively watchable, even when buried under a layer of blue makeup as the perpetually conflicted Mystique. Nicholas Hoult stands out as the quiet, ashamed Hank McCoy. That’s not even mentioning the strong turns by Rose Byrne, Oliver Platt and many others. The only weak link is

’ Emma Frost, mostly thanks to the icy delivery that Jones manages to call acting, but director Matthew Vaughn wisely sidelines her for most of the film’s second half.

Despite the amount of talent on display, no one shines more than Michael Fassbender as Erik. Fresh from a memorable turn in “Inglourious Basterds,” Fassbender oozes movie star charisma, especially in his early scenes, which play like a classic Bond film. Fassbender steals every scene with minimal effort and his slow descent into villainy is truly something to behold.

A big summer action film is nothing without good action sequences, and Vaughn delivers here as well. The film’s mutants all have uniquely cinematic powers and it’s a sight to behold when they come to blows, especially in the film’s climax. Two fleets of American and Russian warships are on the verge of firing on each other while the X-Men face down their first formidable antagonist.

After the massive misstep of the past two films, “X-Men: First Class” almost single-handedly redeems the once laughable franchise, thanks in no small part to director Matthew Vaughn and the fantastic Michael Fassbender. Despite working with a recipe for disaster, “First Class” manages to be one of the most ambitious, intelligent and purely entertaining films of the summer so far.