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Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
February 19, 2015

First appeared in print in The Rhino Times, Greensboro, NC.


Kingsman, SNL, Demousing

When Colin Firth showed up on talk shows this past week, I had no idea what movie he was promoting. What with all the talk about that big-budget porn movie However Many Shades of Grey it was much easier to tune to other channels or watch something we had recorded.

But Colin Firth is the English actor who owned Darcy in Pride and Prejudice as no other actor has -- and that includes Laurence Olivier. Firth could do cold and austere as well as Olivier -- but then he did warm and solicitous in a way Olivier never brought off, in my opinion.

When it comes to the English romantic hero, Americans have settled on the Hugh Grant for boyish charm (even as the Prime Minister in Love Actually) and Colin Firth as the dignified grown-up (despite his shy, stammering turn in the same movie). Both actors have shown they can cross over and do the other guy's shtick, of course. Still, when Colin Firth is promoting a movie, I pay attention, at least until I find out whether it's for me or not.

It was in that interview that I heard the title Kingsman: The Secret Service for the first time. As they talked, I couldn't tell whether it was a sort of Bond-movie reboot or a Bond-movie parody. Mike Myers's heavy-handed, utterly unfunny Austin Powers movies proved that you can't really parody movies that start out by parodying themselves. So I figured -- Colin Firth is getting older, and he takes what work he can get.

Then they played a clip of a scene in a British pub, where, for reasons unknown, Colin Firth's character deftly beat up a gang of thugs, while a young man looked on with growing admiration.

This is not the absurd, deliberately stupid parody of Mike Myers. Instead, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, the screenwriters of Kingsman, have done what the best parodies always do: They make the parody work first as a perfect example of the genre they are spoofing.

In other words, Kingsman: The Secret Service is one of the best secret agent movies ever made. Only a couple of the Bond movies are in the same league.

Like the Bond movies, both the villain and the spy agency are over the top.

But the villain, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), represents a genuine worldview: Anti-human environmentalists, who believe humans are a virus infecting the world, and the only way to heal the world is to eliminate the humans.

So Valentine is going around the world making offers to world leaders that they can't refuse. Literally -- either they get aboard with Valentine's program, or they suddenly disappear from public view and find themselves imprisoned in cushy high-security cells.

Valentine is also aided by an attractive double amputee called Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), whose feet have been replaced by razor-sharp blades; we first meet her when she drops onto an opponent from above and slices him in half from head to crotch. It is horrifying yet absurd, and in my view she far outshines Odd Job or Jaws as an enforcer for the bad guys.

Those who sign on with Valentine get an implant that allows him to monitor all their conversations and activities. It will confer immunity on them on the day of cleansing, but it provides an additional bonus they aren't aware of: If they start to say and do things that Valentine disapproves of, the implant blows up, completely obliterating their heads.

Working to try to uncover and oppose Valentine's plot is Kingsman, supposedly a bespoke tailor shop, but really a high-tech spy agency that does not serve any government at all -- but works to maintain good order in the world.

Since this is what all the most monstrous organizations believe they're doing (only the definition of "good order" varies from group to group) I sincerely hope there is no such secret organization in the world. Though come to think of it, now that America has abandoned its role as protector of democracy and freedom, maybe we should hope that there's some secret organization to take up the slack.

But there isn't.

Still, it's fun to watch how the idea develops in this very smart movie. While the high-tech devices that the spies are equipped with are often absurdly impossible -- a bulletproof umbrella? Really? -- the ideas in this movie show that the writers actually know something about the world and care about having their movie make internal sense.

And maybe it's simply a relief to finally have a movie in which the insane believers in the "threat" of "human-caused global warming" are the dangerous force that must be opposed. Samuel L. Jackson plays Valentine as a combination of Bill Gates and George Soros ... with a lisp. (One which disappears too often, alas; American actors are not trained in accents and speech impediments the way the Brits are.)

Along with that over-arching save-the-world plot, however, there is an even-more-interesting one about a young man named Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, played by the excellent Taron Egerton. This is his first major film, and he proves himself capable of sustaining our interest and sympathy.

Eggsy grows up in working-class London, so when Colin Firth recruits him to vie for a place in the oh-so-posh Kingsman organization, Eggsy doubts his ability to pass for a gentleman. But Colin Firth's life was saved by Eggsy's father, and so he's determined to repay that debt by raising Eggsy out of his unpromising life and into the heady-but-dangerous world of international espionage.

Much of the movie is devoted to the training that new Kingsman recruits go through. It's quite a malicious course of study, and many of the best plot twists take place within the training routine.

I don't want to tell you any more of the story because it's so much fun to watch it unfold and take the many surprises in stride. This movie is fun the way Guardians of the Galaxy is fun -- you can't really believe in it, but it's so enjoyable along the way.

I must warn you, though, that the filmmakers stupidly put a lot of completely unnecessary F-words in the script -- which is the main reason for it to have an R rating. When you consider that this film is a natural for the 12-16 male demographic, it's simply insane to release the movie with language that bars them from the theaters.

There's also a deeply offensive sex "joke" at the end involving a Scandinavian princess (Hanna Alström), which relies on the assumption that all men are faunching to have anal intercourse, an idea so stupid and unfunny that you can only cringe. But this unfortunate incident is brief and easily overlooked. Still, somebody involved with writing this script clearly needs therapy -- or a new set of friends.

Colin Firth is wonderful in this movie -- as is Michael Caine, who gets to have one speech in his native cockney dialect. I would name more of the actors who gave fine performances, but as with most movies, it's impossible to remember most character names, and the pictures provided with IMDb's listings never look very much like the character in the movie.

So I can't tout the fine performances of the many young actors who make so much of this movie work so well, because I can't tell them apart in the online sources. But don't worry -- you can certainly tell them apart in the film itself, and all are excellent.

Mark Hamill plays a substantial role, not just a cameo, but when I was told this I could hardly believe it -- when did he show up in the film?

It's important to remember that Hamill no longer has the boyish look he had in Star Wars. It's not just the traffic accident that marred him between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back -- there's also that little matter of nearly forty years having passed. Not everyone can hold on to their youthful good looks into their sixties as I have done. But in Hamill's case, they also load him up with facial hair and makeup so it may surprise many viewers to see in the end credits his name beside the name of the character he plays.

Kingsman will not, of course, get anything like the press coverage of that movie for women who dream of having rich twits dominate them sexually; but for those of you whose taste does not run to pornography, Kingsman gives you a far more entertaining and smart movie experience.

*

Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th anniversary this past Sunday night with a highly-rated show that reminded us of everything we loved and hated about SNL.

There were brief appearances by many celebrities, some who once were part of the cast, and some who made guest appearances. Some of them were excellent, and some were awful. And when they did new live sketches, some were occasionally funny and others never were, but they all went on way too long. Yep, that's Saturday Night Live.

On the Tonight Show and Late Night on Monday night, hosts Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers -- both SNL alums -- talked on and on about how wonderful the night was, though as a nondrinker who is not impressed by celebrity name-dropping, I have to admit that little of what they described sounded like fun to me. But it was plain that they enjoyed themselves immensely, and it seems that the producers did a good job of bringing together all the people we've known and loved who aren't already dead -- and we had clips of those.

One SNL alumna, however, was very conspicuous by her invisibility. Victoria Jackson was one of my favorites on SNL. Her shtick didn't really fit with their sketch comedy format, so they never knew what to do with her -- but that is true of the way Chris Rock and many other gifted comics were underused or misused during their tenure on the show. And she offered some of my favorite moments during her six years.

Victoria Jackson was invited to the event and she attended; but instead of being seated in the main room with other cast members, where the camera might pick her up, she was seated for most of the show in the overflow room, with people who weren't actually on-camera talent. She was the only cast member treated that way.

In an interview with Rusty Humphries on his new Rusty Humphries Rebellion show, Victoria Jackson speculated that it's not just because she's a Christian conservative -- they had some token conservatives in the main room. She thinks she was shut out because she has dissented from the gay agenda, and that is the most unforgivable sin in American public life these days. If you aren't immediately compliant with every part of that program, you are erased, as much as possible, from the entertainment community -- unmentioned, unseen, gone, dead.

This is the era of hate groups, and you have to give Muslim extremists credit for not pretending to be tolerant. The Leftaliban, by contrast, claims to be "tolerant" while showing zero tolerance for anyone who does not bow to their thought police. They don't behead or burn or blow people up, because they don't have to; they can erase you because they control most access to the media.

That's why, when you saw the 40th anniversary show go out on the air, Victoria Jackson didn't exist.

By the way, I'm happy to see that my favorite talk-radio host, Rusty Humphries, is back on the radio after a year of web-only and print appearances. Rusty is always entertaining, always smart, and despite the fact that he's way more doctrinaire conservative than I am, he is open-minded and tolerant -- which means that in the classical sense, he's way more liberal than, say, Jon Stewart. (Forgive me for saying that, Rusty, but my readers know what I mean!)

Where can you find Rusty Humphries Rebellion? The easiest way is to head for WashingtonTimes.com, which hosts the podcast of his show. Check it out, free of charge, at http://www.washingtontimes.com/communities/rusty-humphries-rebellion . Even if you disagree with Rusty's viewpoint, he has interesting guests -- and when he interviews them, he lets them have their say and treats them with respect. That by itself is refreshing indeed!

*

I've learned over the past few years that squirrels aren't the only mammals that thrive on what I put out for the birds.

We never had a persistent mouse problem until I started feeding birds on the patio. But apparently, the creatures cleaning up every scrap of spillage every night were not the possum and raccoon whose interspecies bromance brought them to our patio every night.

It was the mice. And when the weather got cold, they came up from the crawlspace to scamper about in various places where they weren't welcome.

Where could cute little mice possibly not be welcome? Our house, that's where.

There's a deep dread of mice dating back from the earliest time that humans tried to store food for the winter. Mice have the ability to consume three times their body weight in grain every day, while pooping out fourteen times their weight into the same place.

Yes, mice poop where they eat, but what makes it all so awful is they eat what we eat and then poop all over whatever portion they accidentally leave us.

For thousands of years, mice could cause a winter famine that could kill you and your family. So yeah, we screamed "eek" when we saw mice, because it meant we might die.

Now not so much. But old fears die hard. And mice are still voracious. (By the way, I completely made up those statistics about how much they eat and how much they poop. But they feel true.)

We don't own a snake and I'm allergic to cats, so we have to do our musicides ourselves, using decorous traps that hide the little bodies. Even so, my wife can't stand to pick up the traps when they're heavy (and smelly) with mouse corpses.

Our regular pest guys did a good job, but mice are clever and persistent, and we finally found out about All Natural Pest Elimination, guys whose role in life is to block every mammal-sized entrance to your house and crawl space.

Where possible, they do it without killing anything -- for instance, the flying squirrels living in our attic were removed by plugging every aperture they were using but one. That one gap was replaced by a one-way exit door. They could leave, but then they couldn't come back. The result? No flying squirrels, and yet they're all still living somewhere. (Sorry, neighbors.)

Mice are another matter. It's hard to remove them without killing them. We thought of playing Little Nicky or Mortdecai for them until they fled, squeaking in agony. But no. We were kinder than that -- we merely lured them with peanut butter and then slaughtered them in diabolical death traps.

All Natural Pest Elimination can be reached at 336-288-8868. If you really need your house to be made impermeable to mammalian pests (other than humans) -- or need to have somebody capture a particularly obnoxious animal intruder and take it away, our experience is that these guys know their business and do it efficiently and at a fair price.


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