Blu-ray Tuesday: ‘KINGSMAN’, ‘THE DUFF’ & ‘SERENA’


Preston Barta // Features Editor

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Stars: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Sophie Cookson and Mark Hamill

Presented as an action-comedy take on the old James Bond flicks, the film was adapted from the Mark Millar (KICK-ASS) and Dave Gibbons (WATCHMEN) comic book THE SECRET SERVICE. It tells the story of a spy organization that recruits a young lad (a charming Taron Egerton) into their competitive training program as a global threat emerges by some techie (a scene-stealing Samuel L. Jackson).

We’re all probably familiar with this storyline, as it has been done countless times: a nobody becomes a somebody and saves the world. Yes, while this is true, they all probably don’t have as much spunk and pizazz as KINGSMAN. Vaughn (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, 2011) assembles an impressive cast to turn KINGSMAN into its own living and breathing thing.

Its spectacular, over-the-top fight scenes share a common ground in some instances with the popular chop-shop film THE RAID (2011), mainly for the sheer visceral intensity and putting audiences right into the thick of it. With all its madness, KINGSMAN still manages to have some heart. It is, in a way, a think-piece on class war and importance of legacy. What it says about our technology overrun world is enough to spark a debate with those who tag along for the ride with you. There is as much brains as there is soul, and it has no problem expressing both.

The film is, of course, preposterous in the extreme, but those who are fans of Vaughn should know what they’re in for. KINGSMAN has so many pros and is so much fun that you can easily overlook the minor shortcomings (even one really over-the-line part involving rear entry with a princess), because in the end, the film has a baddie who has blades for legs.
– Preston Barta

The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes:

  • 1080p, 2.39:1 HD Video
  • DTS-HD-MA 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, and English Descriptive Audio
  • English SDH and Spanish Subtitles
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service Revealed
    • Panel to Screen: The Education Of A 21st Century Super-Spy
    • Heroes And Rogues
    • Style All His Own
    • Tools Of The Trade
    • Breathtakingly Brutal
    • Culture Clash: The Comic Book Origins Of The Secret Service
  • Galleries: Behind-The-Scenes, Sets and Props

THE DUFF | 101 min | Rated PG-13
Director: Ari Sandel
Cast: Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell, Ken Jeong and Allison Janney

In THE DUFF, “designated ugly fat friend” ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT star Mae Whitman plays the gatekeeper to her more popular and subjectively more attractive friends. This a horribly vapid notion to live by, but in a high school this type of cruelty probably isn’t that difficult to find. Luckily, the film articulates that this shallow and offensive concept is inherently wrong.

The film basically acts as a vehicle for Whitman to showcase her weird, cult-film loving “DUFF-ness,” and while she’s an unconventionally talented actress who tries to sell the hell out of this character, we settled into a slightly above average teen comedy.

With a likable cast of supporting characters, including the animated candor of Allison Janney (JUNO) and absurd wit of Ken Jeong (THE HANGOVER). Although this film has a message it’s trying to communicate to it’s audience, the film doesn’t quite transcend the genre like EASY A or MEAN GIRLS did a few years back.

THE DUFF has a visual style that places you in the lexicon of the teen psyche, with self-referential hashtags and slang. This isn’t the best teen comedy out there but it’s definitely not the genre’s worst.
– Cole Clay

The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes:

  • THE DUFF Hits the Red Carpet
  • Extended Gag Reel
  • Bringing the Book to Life
  • Teen Comedies and THE DUFF
  • I am THE DUFF
  • THE DUFF Files

SERENA | 109 min | Rated R
Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Sean Harris and Ana Ularu

SERENA was near the top of many lists of books to read before they’re movies, and for this one, it’s for good reason. What has distinguished SERENA from other novels of the romance genre is the nuanced way in which it weaves in sociological commentary. With the film, however, Ron Rash’s acclaimed novel gets unfair treatment and ventures into melodramatic nonsense.

So just when you thought the pairing of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence couldn’t get any better (especially after generating sparks in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK), they let you down by uncomfortably walking around in a story about a newlywed couple set on building a timber empire in the North Carolina woodlands.

SERENA is quite simply a flat period romance that possesses very little chemistry and misfires on all cylinders. After watching it (with its incredible Academy Award-winning talent behind and in front of the camera), you can’t help but feel that somewhere in what you saw there was a decent movie that got lost on the cutting room floor.
– Preston Barta

Extras on both Blu-ray and DVD include:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Dissecting The Characters
  • The Story & Set
  • Interviews With Cast & Crew
About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.