I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Editor
This year’s counter-programming for single dudes and those independent enough to go out on Valentine’s Day weekend without their ball and chain is Matthew Vaughn’s KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, 2015’s first cinematic-bolt of electricity.
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. It’s only icing on the cake that the film offers a lot of impressive action for those who are coming off of the box office killin’ AMERICAN SNIPER.
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. In one scene involving an agent taking out a church full of crazies, the camera pulses with a life that has not been seen in such a way before. In 2008, Guy Ritchie explored this hyper approach in ROCKNROLLA, but Vaughn has recognized its full potential, causing KINGSMAN to ooze with style and attitude.
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.
One of the coolest things about KINGSMAN is the casting of Firth, who doesn’t generally venture down the entertainment picture road. Normally we see him hamming it to the sky in his latest Oscar bait role. His biggest films to date are THE KING’S SPEECH (2010), which won him an Oscar, the musical MAMMA MIA! (2008) and Robert Zemeckis’ animated take on A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2009). Firth’s role as Harry Hart is a breath of fresh air, plus it’s certainly a fun thing to see him playing a James Bond-like character finally.
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. I mean, who doesn’t love good old fashioned Robert Rodriguez style weaponry?
KINGSMAN has all the right gadgets. So forget Mr. Grey and his toys. Go enjoy fifty shades of awesome this weekend with THE SECRET SERVICE!
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE opens tonight.