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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.