Tag Archives: show

‘Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ Convoluted But Cool

imageSomewhere between the style of “Mission: Impossible” and the wit of James Bond lies “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

Based on the ’60s TV show of the same name, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” stars Henry Cavill as CIA agent Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as KBG agent Illya Kuryakin. Against each of their wills, the two must team up to stop an organization from building a nuclear bomb. Guy Richie directs and co-writes as Alicia Vikander and Hugh Grant also star.

This film was originally supposed to come out this past January, but it was pushed back until August. Neither month usually indicates studios having faith in the films that are released during them, so the fact that “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is not a complete train wreck should be a victory within itself. What’s more, is the film is a fun, light-hearted take on the early spy films, with just enough style to overcome its lack of substance.

One of my biggest gripes about Henry Cavill in “Man of Steel” was his American accent. It never felt authentic, as if the British native read “How Americans Talk for Dummies” and just walked on set. In “U.N.C.L.E.” (boy, that is getting annoying to keep typing), Cavill is able to give an almost satirical spin on the classy, suave American secret agents, and it works to his benefit. If you’ve ever watched “Archer” (which if you haven’t, I highly recommend you do), Cavill’s Solo is pretty much a real-life version of the show’s titular character: a smooth-talking womanizer who almost always has a Scotch in hand.

Paired with Cavill is Armie Hammer, using a somewhat awkward Russian accent. I like Armie in most everything he does (we’re on a first name basis because we’re good friends), but I have to wonder the logic behind the casting here. British actors portraying American characters is nothing new (see: this film), but whenever Americans, or most any nationalities, really, use Russian accents it is almost always mocked. Hammer and Cavill have passable chemistry, but they never mesh the way the film wants them to.

Director Guy Richie has always been known for style-over-substance, and he makes no effort to change his ways here. The film looks great and features quick dialogue with editing to match, but those things come at the expense of a wooden, recycled plot. It’s a tale you’ve seen a hundred times: two feuding people must put aside their differences in order to defeat a common enemy. It’s nothing new and the film never tries to throw any twists in the formula.

Most of the action is shot very well, including a fantastically entertaining (if not a bit misleading) opening car chase sequence. Richie knows where to put a camera, and Cavill and Hammer are able to sell their stunts.

How much fun and enjoyment you get out of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” really depends on your ability to overlook simplicity. Cavill gives a charming and humorous performance and the set pieces of 1963 Rome and Berlin provide eye candy, but some of the other performances are over-the-top and the plot is cliché cardboard. In mid-August you can’t expect much from movies, but if you are just looking for a good, simple time at the cinema, then “U.N.C.L.E.’s” your uncle.

Critics Rating: 6/10


‘Entourage’ Movie an Immense Letdown

Entourage_film_2015_posterWell, “Entourage” may have gotten bigger, but it certainly isn’t better.

“Entourage” is a continuation of the TV series of the same name, and stars the main cast, including Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, and Jeremy Piven. When movie star Vince Chase (Grenier) goes over budget on his directorial debut, agent-turned-studio head Ari Gold (Piven) must secure financing from a billionaire investor (Billy Bob Thorton). Showrunner Doug Ellin writes and directs.

I was late on the “Entourage” bandwagon but once I watched it, it instantly became one of my favorite all-time series, and Piven’s Ari Gold remains one of the best characters television has ever produced. So for the past six months I have been waiting patiently (or impatiently) for the feature length adaption. I loved the show, I love Hollywood, I love Los Angeles; what would go wrong? The answer: apparently a lot.

Throughout its run people referred to “Entourage” as “Sex and the City” for guys, and that point is even further emulated because now we have a feature length film adaption of a series that clearly did not have the substance to become a feature length film adaption. There is the overarching plot of Vince’s film, but really most of the movie is just scattershot. Each character has a side mission or two that they get to go on, and it almost always ends with them shaking it off and saying, “well, it’s no big deal”, which makes you realize that side story was only in the film to get the running time up to an acceptable theater amount.

There is one part where an embarrassing video gets leaked online of one of the characters, and they are ignoring the other guys’ calls and go into the doctor’s office screaming about how they’re sad and desperate. But they then get one phone call (about an event they knew was coming), and suddenly are all peaches and cream. It is just unfulfilling.

The biggest problem I probably had with “Entourage,” however, is that is just isn’t that funny. Look, I love comedies; some would say to a fault (I still stand by my recommendation of “Let’s Be Cops”). But this movie, despite Ari’s offensive rants and the two dozen celebrity cameos, just didn’t have me cracking up all too often. And many of the times I did laugh, it was because of a reference to the show, so viewers who go in cold having never seen an episode will not get the joke.

The film looks great, that I can’t deny. Every shot is colorful, sun-kissed, and neon-soaked, and it makes this pretty to stare at if nothing else. It will certainly please people like me who are obsessed with Los Angeles.

Seeing the old faces was comforting, but overall, I am hugely disappointed with “Entourage.” It was clear in season eight of the show that they were running out of stories to tell, so maybe that should have been an indication to retire the franchise there.

The “Entourage” movie is like a high school reunion: you show up wanting to see some old friends, but after a half hour things start to get stale, and you realize that you just don’t have much to say. Only difference is “Entourage” is that friend who forces a conversation for an hour and 44 minutes.

Critics Rating: 4/10



‘SpongeBob’ Sequel Does Source Material Justice

SB-2_posterMy childhood remains intact!

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” is the second big-screen adaption of everyone’s favorite ocean sponge, following the 2004’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” [realizes it has been 10 years since the last film and slowly stares up into the sky as “Dust in the Wind” begins to play]. Instead of rescuing King Neptune’s crown, SpongeBob (again voiced perfectly by Tom Kenny), Patrick and company must this time retrieve the Krabby Patty secret formula from a pirate (Antonio Banderas). Paul Tibbitt directs.

When they first announced they were making a second SpongeBob movie, I got excited. SpongeBob and Harry Potter are the two staples of my childhood, and the first SpongeBob film remains one of the funniest kid’s films ever made (my humble opinion). However when I began to learn more and more about this sequel, I became worried. The trailer painted it to be almost completely CGI, and I was really concerned the film would be more of the recent kid-pandering, dumbed-down Sponge humor.

However after seeing “Out of Water”, I was happily surprised that about 80% of the film is the classic animation, and the film itself finds the rhythm, tone and references that made the original film and early seasons, hits.

Let’s get one thing straight: this is nothing but one big episode of SpongeBob SquarePants stretched to fit a motion picture runtime. There are so many nods to the classic episodes (like Patrick yelling “Finland!” after getting concussed) that it serves as an homage for long-time fans like myself, but it also has many other references people not familiar to the character will love (I lost track at the amount of Stanley Kubrick jokes in here).

The sign of a truly great child’s film is that it has jokes for all ages, not just kids, and “Out of Water” has just that. Sure, there are the butt jokes or simple things like a character yelling, “your brain is made of cotton candy!” that will have grade-school kids chuckling, but there are quite a few Family Guy-esque jokes in this movie too, including one back-and-forth with SpongeBob and Plankton that had me laughing out loud.

As funny as the film can be, it is just one stretched episode of SpongeBob, and at times it shows. Some scenes run a little long, and while the overarching message is about teamwork, other than that the movie really isn’t *about* anything. It is just SpongeBob and his friends involved in several (kind of trippy) montages while singing songs. At this point, though, what else could you really expect?

The series’ creator Stephen Hillenburg, who left the show at the completion of the first film, returns here to write the story and executively produce, and his presence is felt. The film has the sense of fun and wit about it that have been missing in recent years. Is this as good as the 2004 film? Not by a long shot, no, but it isn’t the train wreck I at one point feared.

If you don’t like SpongeBob then “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” probably won’t convert you, however if you are a fan, old or young, then this is colorful, hyper fun (if you couldn’t tell, I fall into the latter category). If you’re a parent who takes their child to see this, you’ll enjoy yourself. If you’re a 20-something like me who grew up on SpongeBob, then this is a fantastic trip down nostalgia lane. And if you’re a kid who currently watches SpongeBob…well first off, I doubt you’re reading this, and second, go watch the first three seasons; they’re much better than what they air for you guys now.

Critics Rating: 6/10