The King’s Man

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/22/22;
20th Century;
Action;
Box Office $37.11 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for sequences of strong/bloody violence, language, and some sexual material.
Stars Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Djimon Hounsou, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Daniel Brühl, Charles Dance, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joel Basman, Valerie Pachner.

After two movies focused on the adventures of the spy agency known as Kingsman, writer-director Matthew Vaughn explores the origins of the organization in The King’s Man.

Set against the backdrop of World War I, the prequel weaves a clever tale centered on a conspiratorial cartel whose mastermind, The Shepherd, manipulates Europe into the devastating conflict. The cabal consists of several villainous figures from world history during the time period, including Rasputin, Mata Hari and Lenin. The war itself is explained as the extension of a childhood feud between three cousins who would grow to be King George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

In an inspired bit of casting, all three rulers are played by Tom Hollander, who previously played George V in the British miniseries The Lost Prince, as well as his great-great-grandfather George III in the John Adams miniseries.

At the center of it all is Orlando, the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), a pacifist and humanitarian who vows to use his resources to do what the governments of the world cannot — to expose the hidden villain behind the war and restore a measure of peace.

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Vaughn’s highly fictionalized retelling of World War I is a fun romp through history that incorporates actual events into its greater narrative. While the twists and turns sometimes make for a weirdly paced film, it does offer some thrilling action sequences and eventually gets where it needs to, layering some references to the previous films along the way.

The Blu-ray includes a comprehensive hour-and-a-half behind-the-scenes documentary called “The Great Game Begins.” There’s also a 16-minute breakdown of the silent knife fight sequence that takes place on a battlefield at night.

The 26-and-a-half-minute “Remembrance and Finding Purpose” is a heartfelt look at organizations that help wounded veterans re-adjust to society through art and sport.

Finally, the disc includes the film’s red-band trailer.

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Walmart is selling an expanded 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack with an exclusive DVD bonus disc containing two additional 15-minute featurettes. “Spymaster: Conspiring With Matthew Vaughn” offers the cast singing the praises of their director and his approach to filmmaking, while “Weaponized Cinema: Film Propaganda in World War I” offers a historical look at how film evolved into a political tool during the first World War.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Fox;
Action;
Box Office $100.23 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material.
Stars Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal, Elton John, Edward Holcroft, Hanna Alström, Poppy Delevingne, Bruce Greenwood, Emily Watson, Michael Gambon, Sophie Cookson.

Director Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the follow-up to his 2015 secret agent pastiche Kingsman: The Secret Service, offers a lot of fun action scenes and new characters, but doesn’t leave quite the same impression as its predecessor.

Having graduated to Kingsman agent after saving the world in the last film, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) has to team with his organization’s American counterparts, the Statesman, to confront Poppy (Julianne Moore), the mastermind of an international drug empire looking for legalization in exchange for a cure to her tainted narcotics.

The introduction of the Statesman, who operate under the cover of a successful distillery, allows the film not only to touch upon the booze versus hard drugs debate, but also allows Vaughn to engage in his love of Americana. He seems particularly fascinated by Country-Western motifs, given the cowboy influence on the Statesman agents’ fighting styles, references to John Denver music and an abundance of banjo twangs in the soundtrack.

The movie also dials back the meta-humor so abundant in the first movie, in which all the characters seemed fully aware they were in a spy movie. The characters are as over-the-top as they ever were, and Vaughn remains as willing as ever to bend the boundaries of good taste, if not outright blow through them. While the action serves the story well, the movie doesn’t really yield any sequences as transcendent as the first film’s church fight or finale.

The production design is exquisite, from the Statesman’s Kentucky headquarters shaped like a bottle of their signature Whiskey, to Poppy’s remote jungle retreat styled to look like any small American town from the 1950s.

The Blu-ray includes several featurettes that run about two hours in total and offer a really good look behind-the-scenes of the making of the film, with the typically candid Vaughn once again the highlight of the various interviews.