THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E
Guy Ritchie has given up on Sherlock Holmes (hard to compete with Benedict Cumberbatch's stylish modern revamp on BBCtv, perhaps) and now resurrects the 1960s James Bond rip-off (or was it a spoof?) The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Superhunk Henry Cavill is the new Napoleon Solo with Armie Hammer a rather more dishy Ilya Kuryakin than David McCallum ever was. Hugh Grant, on the other hand, is a rather more stylish Mr Waverly than dear old Leo G. Carroll, although the part has been scaled down: Michael York got a better deal in the Austin Powers franchise; is Hugh's career on a downward trajectory?
The movie gets off to a slow start as the script gives a lot of exposition to establish that we are revisiting the 1960s and the Cold War. We are also treated to some back story on Solo and Kuryakin, making this feel like an 'Origins' story. The main plot, brazenly borrowed from Thunderball, is about a SPECTRE-sized gang of (mostly Italian) criminals intent on stealing a nuclear weapon to sell on to the highest bidder. The mastermind, Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki), must be intended as a female Blofeld but the role is underwritten and underplayed and not different enough from the other female lead (Alicia Vikander) who seems to be working for both sides. There are confrontations and chases and even a torture scene (another borrowing from the 007 canon). The end suggests that this could be the beginning of a series, but I'm not holding my breath.
As they did with Sherlock, Ritchie and his team have gone to great lengths to get the period flavour right, but the performances, especially from the ladies, are much too modern, and the clunky screenplay somehow keeps the movie in the wrong gear. The Austin Powers series did a better job of sending up the early Bond pictures; there's not much humour here. This remake has too much the feel of a 1960s TV series. If that was the intention, then they've got it pretty well right, but in the age of Iron Man and Jason Bourne, audiences surely expect a few more bangs for their buck.
Not the kind of film I usually go to see, but saddled (I mean "blessed") with my partner's children (5 and 7) on a rainy afternoon in Sussex, this seemed an easy option. (They call me 'Grandpa', by the way - out of respect for my age and the fact that I don't quite fit the Stepmom profile.) I think they were less dazzled by it than I was: no shoot- outs, no explosions, no witches and wizards.
Most of the voices were unfamiliar to me (including Riley's and all the Emoticons) although I recognised Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan as Mom and Dad, and Frank Oz in a bit-part. The voices hardly matter: what matter are the visuals and the storyline; both are cleverly conceived and cleverly executed. Maybe some of the areas inside our heads make for slightly indigestible brain-fodder for younger tots, but I was charmed and enchanted. Another superb offering from Pixar that addresses the kid inside all of us.
This is being marketed with heavy reference to Bridesmaids, which had a few 'set-piece' scenes involving all the girls in mega mishaps on the way to the altar. The set-pieces in Trainwreck are mostly bedroom 'train-wrecks', although Amy Schumer's delivery of a funeral eulogy is a high spot and Tilda Swinton's appearances as Amy's uber-bitch boss at the magazine shift the film into a higher gear.
The movie - and Schumer's shrill in-your-face performance, melding all four of the Sex and the City girls - is like a stand-up routine with supporting cast: think Miranda, only much, much ruder and cruder. She's clearly meant to be annoying, which she surely is: I several times wanted to smack her! But she's also trying to warm your heart, which Miranda always manages to do, but Amy does not. There are a lot of laugh-out- loud moments, as there were in SATC, , but Bill Hader came over as too dorky and bland, especially after what we saw of Amy's comic array of one-night-standees. The last half-hour descends into rom-com cliché. Funny, yes, but hilarious (which Bridesmaids was) - nah.