Film Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Release Date: August 2nd, 2015 (Barcelona premiere)
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram, Jeff Kleeman, David C. Wilson
Based on: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris, Hugh Grant

Ritchie/Wigram Productions, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Davis Entertainment, Warner Bros., 116 Minutes

Review:

“There are only two masters in this world: fear and pain.” – Uncle Rudi

*Written in 2015.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was the latest attempt at Hollywood trying to remake an old popular television show into a movie. In a sea of remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels and spinoffs, this film is just as forgettable and unimportant as most of the others. Now, it’s not a bad film, it just isn’t anything memorable or fresh.

The best thing about this movie, is that it is one of those rare films where style actually is substance. Everything about the film’s style makes this movie better than it would have been without it. Guy Ritchie, the director, talked about how in some ways it wasn’t just a tribute to the 1960s television show it was based on but that he also drew inspiration from the original James Bond films starring Sean Connery. I wouldn’t say that he succeeded in capturing that old school Bond magic but the homage was still satisfying.

However, the Bond style that Ritchie tried to recreate here made this film feel more like a wannabe ’60s Bond movie and less like the original version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I feel like this was just a vehicle for Ritchie to make a Bond picture without having the rights to do so.

This movie benefitted from having a pretty good cast. Finally, Henry Cavill showed some personality as the American spy Napoleon Solo – a stark contrast to his almost lifeless performance as Superman in The Man of Steel. Armie Hammer was the scene stealer as the Soviet KGB agent, Illya Kuryakin. Where the character of Napoleon was supposed to be the suave charismatic one, it was Illya that actually was. Alicia Vikander was perfect as Gaby while Elizabeth Debicki was a bit robotic as the villainous Victoria. The Gaby character was definitely the more engaging of the two female leads. Hugh Grant and Jared Harris also show up. Grant is a British spy and becomes the commander of the group while Harris plays the American spy boss with a fantastic accent.

The action is pretty good throughout the film, although some of the more stylistic editing techniques make certain sequences seem rushed. There could be more action but the film never feels too slow. The final showdown between the hero and the villain is more comical than anything and feels like a wasted opportunity in an action film. The comedic death of the villain is ineffective and a letdown.

This is a fun movie though. While sitting through it, it is pretty enjoyable. There just isn’t much to take away from it that would leave you wanting more in the future. Like all attempts at summer blockbusters these days, it sets up a sequel at the end. Everything has to be a franchise now but The Man From U.N.C.L.E. doesn’t have the legs to stand on its own.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: The Kingsman movies and some of the hokier James Bond films.

Film Review: The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

Release Date: February 4th, 2018
Directed by: Julius Onah
Written by: Oren Uziel, Doug Jung
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, Zhang Ziyi, Donal Logue, Simon Pegg (voice), Greg Grunberg (voice)

Bad Robot Productions, Paramount Pictures, Netflix, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Logic doesn’t apply to any of this.” – Tam

I’m not really sure what this jumbled mess was that I just watched but it’s presumably connected to those two previous films with “Cloverfield” in their title. Additionally, it’s supposed to explain how the stories in those films came to be. Yet, this film didn’t even do an effective job at explaining itself, so putting three films and what’s probably going to be an ongoing franchise on it’s back is one hell of a production misfire.

To be brutally blunt, his is a pretty idiotic and pointless film. It has a pretty amazing cast, in all honesty, but everything feels dull and emotionless and it is mindbogglingly stupid.

From a scientific standpoint, this picture has the acumen of a loaf of Wonder bread. It’s got an alluring crust but has nothing inside but flavorless, soft, weightless, bleached material and empty carbohydrates. It’s the basic white bitch of science movies. Granted, so many “science” films are basic white bitches these days. However, The Cloverfield Paradox is the type of movie that will seem profound to people who just fill their news feed on Facebook and Twitter with science articles featuring clickbait headlines yet when you try to talk to them about the article, it’s immediately apparent that they just read the headline and clicked “share”. It’s also apparent that they think science “isn’t settled”, crystals have magic powers, the Earth is flat and gravity is poison created by demonic energy to spoil avocados.

From start to finish, this film is hard to follow. I was never really clear what the hell they were doing in space in the first place. Some crazy insane experiment with a laser beam that fucks up space and time because the Earth has some sort of energy crisis. All the while, this laser is incredibly un-fucking-stable. But yeah, let’s keep firing this thing up right above Earth. Then you have Donal Logue’s character, an author who is on television warning people that this experiment will rip everything apart and fill every Earth in every dimension with monsters and demons. And then “BOOM!” that’s what actually happens because “science, y’all!!!”

A bunch of other weird shit happens and this becomes a movie of WTFs where each one is more baffling and stupid than the one before it. At one point, Chris O’Dowd’s character loses his arm when it is eaten by the ship’s wall. He’s not in pain, it’s just gone. Then it comes crawling back from around the corner and starts giving the crew clues on what to do. Yes, this is really something that happens in this movie.

This film hurt my head. I mean, I felt like a drunk person that was also tripping but not a cool trip. No, it was one of those trips that isn’t horrible but it’s like your whole body feels fussy and irritated and your brain gets all heavy like cement and and just kind of makes you sit, motionless, accepting your fate until the trip finally passes in what seems like days but was actually less than two hours.

Also, this film’s script felt like it was written as something else and then it was retrofitted to “explain” the Cloverfield universe. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t written as a Cloverfield movie when it started, it reminded me of those later Hellraiser films where the studio just altered failed horror scripts into pointless sequels to make a quick buck. The thing is, the Cloverfield universe doesn’t need to be explained. I don’t need the movies to connect or even exist in the same space. They could have all been separate films that just followed a sort of connected theme or style.

As we’ve seen so far, a Cloverfield movie can’t be complete without a monster. We do get one in this film but it is literally just for the last two seconds of the movie, before the credits role. It’s also not a very creative beast, at least to the standard established by the previous two films, which both had interesting creatures.

Despite this film being a total pile of shit, I’m sure everyone watched it on Netflix this week and it will justify a sequel. But that’s Netflix’s formula, they translate views to quality and that’s why their productions aren’t what they used to be. Netflix movies are this generation’s version of “straight to video”.

In the end, this must be put through the unforgiving but always accurate Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Cloverfield films.

Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Release Date: April 10th, 2017 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn
Based on: Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, David Hasselhoff, Ving Rhames, Michelle Yeoh, Michael Rosenbaum, Seth Green, Miley Cyrus (uncredited)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 136 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been greatly anticipating this since the first one came out three years ago. I’ve wanted to see this more than any other Marvel movie.

Unexpectedly, the first Guardians of the Galaxy gave me the experience I had hoped to get with The Phantom Menace in 1999 but found myself gravely disappointed. Guardians truly felt like the real spiritual successor to the original Star Wars trilogy.

With the sequel, a lot of critics and fans seem to be knocking it already. Some have said its “more of the same”. Well, when the first one came out it was really unique. Should the sequel not follow the same formula and style? Was the formula and style only good for one picture? Of course it is going to be similar in style and tone. All the other Marvel movies are a lot more similar to each other than the Guardians films are to the rest of them.

I’ve seen people say that this one isn’t as good as the first. Well, the first film took everyone off guard and surprised audiences. That leaves any film to follow at a disadvantage. One, you can’t surprise them in the same way twice. Two, because of lacking the ability to surprise twice, audiences won’t leave the theater feeling the same sort of awe they did the first time.

To be honest, I like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 more than its predecessor. No, it didn’t leave me in awe in the same way but I didn’t expect it to. It just enriched the mythos and built on the characters that I loved in the first movie. It gave me more meat to sink my teeth into. It also greatly expands Marvel’s cosmic universe, introducing new aliens, new threats, new worlds, new characters and new ideas.

Comic book movies are supposed to be fun, at the end of the day. Even the dark and brooding characters need to put a smile on your face. Got that DC?

Point being, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 puts a big smile on your face. I feel it does this better than the first. The first was the introduction to the universe of Guardians. This gives us something familiar and lived in but the camaraderie of the characters, their family dynamic, their comedic timing, it all just works and flows better in this movie. Plus, the group expands and everyone that comes into the fold is a pretty great and unique character, one of them new, two of them already being in the first picture.

James Gunn’s work on this feels a lot more refined. Marvel probably gave him a lot more freedom this time and he was obviously a lot more comfortable, already having one of these films under his belt.

As good as the art direction and cinematography were in the first film, in Vol. 2 they really up the ante. Visually, this thing is stunning and beautiful. While the first film is amazing to look at, everything in this one is more pristine.

The cast additions, mainly Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone, were brilliant.

Russell was perfect as Quill’s father Ego, the Celestial being that is literally a living planet. When I saw that Russell was cast as Ego, I wondered if he would be Ego, The Living Planet from the comics but I was not disappointed.

Stallone plays Stakar, who is Starhawk in the comics. His role is more of a slightly extended cameo but it is to set up something bigger in the future, as Marvel and James Gunn have big plans for the cosmic side of the Marvel universe.

Another cast addition was Pom Klementieff as Mantis. She was great in the role and is a welcomed new character. There seems to be a link (possibly romantic) between her and Dave Bautista’s Drax, which will probably develop into something more in the third film.

Speaking of which, Drax was just on point in this film from beginning to end. I’d love to see Bautista get more work, as he is the only professional wrestler, other than The Rock, to enter into the acting world and be successful at it.

The relationship between sisters Gamora and Nebula evolves in this chapter and we get to see some closure to their rivalry and a reminder of their hatred for their father Thanos.

Rocket and Groot are even more fantastic in this. Rocket gets more lines and gets to be a lot more bad ass. I thought the Baby Groot thing would become tiresome but Gunn doesn’t hit the audience over the head with it too much. This version of the character was well-balanced between cute and still being cool. Let Baby Groot forever be the template for characters studios think they need to appeal to kids without driving adults friggin’ bonkers.

Star-Lord’s story is focused on his relationship with Ego, his biological father, and Yondu, the man who actually raised him. There’s some serious emotional stuff here, especially in how Yondu has an interesting story arc and he feels the need to save his surrogate son from his real father. In fact, Yondu is the best thing about the movie and he actually gets an amazing sequence that sees him take on his entire mutinous gang of thugs.

The Sovereign, a major threat that is introduced in this film but meant to carry over into the next, were well designed and looked gorgeous on screen. Their world was cool, their style and personalities were quite unique and they end their story in this chapter, on the verge of unleashing a really famous and powerful Marvel cosmic character on the Guardians. We’ll have to wait till part three for that.

We also get a look at another famous cosmic race in the part where Stan Lee has his cameo. If you were a fan of the What If…? comics, you’ll probably be smiling from ear-to-ear.

In regards to characters, I did miss Glenn Close, John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz of the Nova Corps. I also missed Lee Pace, even though Ronan died in the first. But that just adds to the ongoing Marvel villain problem, where they are just all one-shot throwaway baddies. I also would have liked to have seen Benecio del Toro’s The Collector. But hey, we do get a Howard the Duck cameo again. And Pac-Man is in the film… just wait and see.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes all the good stuff from the first and improves and builds upon it. I would have liked more space-faring than what we got but the story and the building of relationships and making characters richer, was probably a better use of time. Regardless, there isn’t a moment where the picture isn’t exciting and doesn’t have you on your toes.

It’ll be interesting to see how this strong branch of the Marvel tree meshes with the Avengers when the two groups come together in the third Avengers film next summer. There were several Earth scenes in this film to keep audiences grounded in that reality, reminding them that this isn’t in a galaxy far away and long ago.

Personally, I’d rather just watch Guardians movies all day over the Avengers stuff but that’s because James Gunn keeps pumping out cinematic comic book masterpieces and those Avengers people just aren’t James Gunn.

Rating: 9/10