Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

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Are you sure I don’t look like a dick?  With their headquarters destroyed by missile strikes launched by power-crazed international drug dealer Poppy (Julianne Moore) and the world held hostage, members of Kingsman find new allies when they discover a spy organization in the United States known as Statesman. They’ve been holding a lepidopterist (Colin Firth returns as Harry) in their Kentucky distillery (a cover) since he got shot in the head a year previously and appears to be suffering from retrograde amnesia. He thinks he’s a butterfly collector and has no recollection whatsoever of being a spy. In an adventure that tests their strength and wits, the elite secret agents from both sides of the pond band together to battle Poppy and save the day, something that’s becoming a bit of a habit for Eggsy (Taron Egerton) … I’ve never considered genocide especially ladylike. With its retro stylings (London gentleman vs. Fifties-obsessed villainness), drink vs drugs, its nod to Michael Caine’s heyday (those spex), cute dogs, a meet-the-parents scenario, bombs and ultra-violence there’s something for everybody in this comic book sequel. Channing Tatum joins in the fun as the cowboy on a mission, with Jeff Bridges heading up the allied US spy gang and Mark Strong back as Merlin accompanying Egerton (with that awful white-Londoner-doing-black-argot shtick that is SO irritating) doing the superspy thang. Then there’s Poppy’s predilection for human burgers and kidnapping celebrity musicians. It’s cheeky, rude and fun. Somewhat. Not to throw rain on the parade, it’s a shame that writers of such creativity as Jane Goldman and (director) Matthew Vaughn don’t do something properly challenging instead of rehashing this nonsense. That’s two and quarter hours of my life gone in an exhausting tribute to special effects and let’s face it, this isn’t Lawrence of Arabia. Sigh. Hey, hey, Elton. Language. Okay, well, as fabulous as your catalogue is, I think I want to hear some Gershwin

Girls Trip (2017)

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How the fuck could I compete with pillow talk? Best friends lifestyle guru (the new Oprah) Ryan (Regina Hall), gossip journalist Sasha (Queen Latifah), divorced nurse Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and party animal Dina (Tiffany Haddish) are in for the adventure of a lifetime when they travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Music Festival years after graduation. Along the way, they rekindle their sisterhood and rediscover their wild side by doing enough dancing, drinking, brawling and romancing to make the Big Easy blush.  The ladies discover that Ryan’s husband Stewart (Mike Colter) is cheating on her and he turns up at their hotel but she already knows because they’re in counselling and her brand would be hurt blah blah blah …  Dull, Dumb, Dim and Trite, as I like to call them, are otherwise talented, funny, intelligent fortysomething women but hey this is the movies and they have to renegotiate their friendships in the context of social media, jealousy, money, failed pregnancy, drink, drugs, sex, pissing on people from a height or whatever you’re having yourself. They’re black so portraying them as utterly idiotic sleaze merchants is okay then. It’s equal opportunities for all. Yawn. Is that the time? Yup, time’s up. I’ll say.  A besmirchment upon one of my favourite towns. The absinthe that makes the women hallucinate should be handed out with the movie. Unbearable. Written by Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver from a story by them with Erica Rivinoja. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee.

Tamara Drewe (2010)

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Life sure comes easy for the beautiful.  Famous twentysomething journalist Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton) returns to the small Dorset town she grew up in and causes a stir. Once an unattractive teenager known as Beaky due to her big nose, she’s had a rhinoplasty and transformed herself into a beautiful girl. She is the object of attention for three different men: Andy (Luke Evans) a local handyman and her former boyfriend who she hires to do up her late mother’s home which he believes was stolen from his family; Ben (Dominic Cooper), a drummer in a rock band she interviews whose girlfriend has left him for the singer; and Nicholas (Roger Allam), the lauded crime writer who along with his long-suffering wife Beth (Tamsin Greig) runs the local writers’ retreat hosting several wannabes and crime writing weekends.  Bored teenagers Jody (Jessica Barden) and Casey (Charlotte Christie)  decide to break into Tamara’s fixer-upper and start sending emails in an attempt to make Jody’s idol Ben fall in love with her instead and their interference triggers a disastrous series of events … At once satire, romcom and farce, this sly social comedy works on every level due to fantastic writing and performances. Posy Simmonds’ comic strip (turned graphic novel) reworks Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd in a contemporary setting and tilts its particular irony (and mockery) at several targets. Visiting writer Glen (Bill Camp) has spent a decade writing a book about Hardy and his findings are a commentary on the goings-on as well as providing inspiration for his romantic aspirations leading to a tragicomic conclusion his subject couldn’t have bettered. Well adapted by Moira Buffini, this is smart adult entertainment. Directed by Stephen Frears.

Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)

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Nobody was actually holding out much hope for this, were they?  And it’s been a long time since we first met Renee as Bridget, the second film notwithstanding (and that’s being nice…) But in a year that’s been staggeringly unimpressive movie-wise the chance to catch up with a woman who feels less like myself now and more like an old friend was, well, pretty enticing. Even if the whole bloody story is in the title. So no surprises. And that’s the point. (Except, and we don’t wish to burn our feminist britches, Bridget’s face looks distinctly different in this sequel from shot to shot depending on the lighting. Just saying. And she’s way thinner. How? We never find out!) She’s forty-three (a year’s been shaven off…), given up the cigs, single,  the hot producer on that news show with a terrific alpha presenter for a friend (Sarah Solemani, who’s v. good) determined to get Bridget shafted, as she euphemistically puts it. But it all kicks off with Bridget literally switching gears by changing the soundtrack to her life from All By Myself to Jump Around. And that’s what she does. After attending the funeral of Daniel Cleaver who’s gone missing. There are a lot of Russian models there. Obv. And Mark Darcy (Firth looks so much older…) with wife Camilla (because that’s now the universal name for the bitch who ruins life for the Queen of Hearts, innit.) Bridget has a funny one-nighter with American Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey) who turns out to be a billionaire mathematician with a winning formula for romance. Everyone’s grown up except Bridget so there are children and husbands and busy lives for all those lovely friends whom we see in short scenes and then … there are those couplings. When Darcy turns up solo at a christening …  well! It’s a country house, the beds are big… With a result that troubles mum Gemma Jones running for the parish council on a family values ticket. And a long game of Who’s the Daddy ensues. Rather tasteless. Just like Mamma Mia. Part of the story’s eternal problem is of course dry old Darcy – even Jane Austen made it clear that the finest thing about her hero was his huge house and his great fortune. Elizabeth Bennett had her on the prize and it wasn’t him, it was what he possessed. And it takes a lot to bring a smile to Fielding’s interpretation of him. Oh well. Bridget never could choose a man. There are funny swipes at television production, celebrity human rights cases, gay families (not offensive, swear), pre-natal classes, workplace politics (a great scene with Lily Allen’s F**k You Very Much used so brutally well!) and the uneasy relationship between the horrifically repressed Darcy and the endlessly charming Qwant. Emma Thompson put a draft together after the previous versions by Helen Fielding and David Nicholls were nixed and gave herself a role as an ob-gyn. Sharon Maguire (Fielding’s BFF) is back on directing duties and Ed Sheeran gets a small funny ginger role. Year summary: one funeral, one music festival, one christening, two shags, one pregnancy, practically no calories or alcohol …  It’s all much as before. And for that we should be insanely thankful. Welcome back Bridget! It’s been way too long.