The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.The Man from U.N.C.L.E. while not as wildly successful as it could have been was, in my opinion, an awesome movie that was truly underappreciated. No doubt for the intensely blatant innuendo of a gay relationship that, sadly, didn’t actually exist between the two main characters.

D4D_3324.dngStaring Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, the CIA and KGB’s best agents respectively in 1963. Both are known for dubious actions but are, for the most part, intensely loyal to their countries. They first meet in Berlin when they are sent after the same woman, Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) for the same reason. Gaby’s father, an important person in the development of nuclear weapons, has gone missing and is believed to have been taken by the cunning villainess Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki). Both are told to do the same thing, reclaim the Dr.’s research and eliminate the other in order to make sure that it doesn’t fall into enemy hands.

I’ve mentioned, to many people, that this movie could have easily slashed Debicki and Vikander from the film and I would have been completely fine. Both women, while playing D3S_2026.DNGhugely important roles in the plot are simply negligible to the relationship between Cavill and Hammer’s characters. The sexual innuendo is ever-present and the sexual tension is practically palpable throughout the film. Aside from being the basis for the entire plot (Gaby Teller) and the one running the show (Victoria The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 8Vinciguerra) both women also serve to remind us that Solo and Kuryakin are one hundred percent heterosexual. Can you imagine a big budget film with two white male leads actually being heterosexual without sex having to be used to remind us? Oh you can? Oh that’s right, we use sex to make sure you understand that a character is not heterosexual! Aside from that, their relationship starts out hostile (as can be The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 1expected of enemy spies who have tried to kill one another in the recent past) but over time Solo and Kuryakin learn important, intimate really, details about one another that evolves their relationship over the course of the film. If it weren’t for that whole “I want to blow up the world for reasons that don’t make sense other than I’m certain it will somehow net me a profit” thing, than the relationship between the The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 10two spies would have been the entire plot. And I would have had absolutely no problem with that. I think the movie would have been far more satisfactory if that had been the case but it was still in awesome movie. It had high comedy points while at the same time it always was able to deliver on the drama of the situation that the trio were in. It pays direct homage to the television series it was based on and has a fantastic love affair with the sixties, especially fashion and style. All in all, this is a movie that you should sit down and enjoy without delay. I know I’m going to.

 

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Catch That Kid

Catch that KidBefore you really even knew who the hell these three were, there was a little movie called Catch That Kid which featured young actors in main roles. Now, of the three of them, you’ll easily recognize Kristen Stewart and Corbin Bleu and some (like myself) will recognize Max Thieriot before their breakout roles in Twilight, High School Musical, and a slew of films for Max Thieriot. Catch That Kid is an entertaining movie that may not have impressed critics or filmgoers at the time it was released but then this movie was intended for the typical moviegoer. It was about preteens, who would invariably rather sneak into an R-Rated flick. It also doesn’t help that it was released during the dump months for movies (January through April, October unless you’re a horror movie, and September if you’re not good enough for the Summer or Winter), specifically it was released in February of 2004. But what it lacks in planning it makes up for in execution.

Maddy (Kristen Stewart) is the daughter of Tom (Sam Robards) who climbed Mount Everest and his success has imbued a love of climbing in his young daughter. However, Tom fell a rather large distance during one of his climbs, and the fear of something happening to Maddy has prompted Tom and Molly (Jennifer Beals) to demand that Maddy never climb again in order to protect her. This being a young adolescent, of course, entirely disregards her parent’s more than reasonable request.

Catch that Kid 3Her two best friends are Gus (Thieriot) and Austin (Bleu) and both of them have major crushes on Maddy as they come into that time of their lives were love triangles are entirely appropriate, possible, and unfortunately expected in a movie that could spend its time on… anything else. The three of them are avid go-carters and enjoy spending time with one another to the point that Maddy (as a step away from the norm) is well aware of their feelings towards her.

That fall that I mentioned earlier comes back to haunt Tom as it caused internal injuries that doctors were either too incompetent to find or he simply didn’t go to a hospital after falling nine stories, and will be left paralyzed from the neck down if he doesn’t get an experimental procedure costing around $250,000. Here in comes the plot, of which either adults are stupid, bank security is not up to code, or something that could scarily happen in real life.

Catch that Kid 2Maddy decides to rob the bank her mother works in so that she can come up with the money to save her father, her hero. It just so happens her mother has built a security system for the bank that she works for. Just so you know, Maddy’s mother did very much attempt to get a loan from the very bank she works at, only to be coldly dismissed by her boss Donald Brisbane (Michael Des Barres).

Catch that Kid 1Maddy is able to convince Austin and Gus into helping her and they, rather ingeniously, plan a heist that would make the IMF (Mission Impossible) proud. Like I said, this movie is entertaining and you might just need a bit of this in your life right now. Also, it is absolutely awesome to see some of these actors in roles long before they made it into something that would explode their careers.

28 Days

This is one of those films where you have to make sure you’re grabbing the right one, as this film came out first but it has a name to a similar movie that is definitely not a drama.

28 Days

28 Days is a film about addiction and how to overcome it, staring Sandra Bullock as Gwen Cummings who lives her days loaded with alcohol, “VIKaDEN” as our lovely receptionist Betty calls it, and any number of mood altering substances. Raised by an alcoholic mother who may or may not have died from alcohol poisoning, Gwen is the younger of two sisters and the story comes to a head when she accidentally ruins her sister Lily’s wedding by giving a horrific speech that claims Lily (Elizabeth Perkins) is marrying her husband as a consolation prize, destroying their cake, and then subsequently steals their limo and crashes it into the side of a house.

28 Days 1Amazingly, she’s given the choice between rehab and jail because this is a movie and in movie-land crimes are forgiven and consequences are enjoyable if you’re willing to let go. Thankfully it isn’t like this for Gwen at first. The rehab facility is not what she wants to do, not only because she “doesn’t have a problem” but because of the chanting, the sharing, and the no electronics rule. Being separated from her boyfriend, Jasper (Dominic West) isn’t the best thing either, at least in her mind, and for these reasons Gwen decides to sabotage herself and get thrown out.

There’s just one problem, not completing the program the way they have laid it out means that she will face real consequences and go to jail for her sentence. Gwen doesn’t take this well but she finally starts to get this program and decides to take it seriously from now on.

28days2Around this point we are fully introduced to some of the other characters in the rehab, like Gwen’s roommate Andrea Delaney (Azura Skye), Eddie Boone (Viggo Mortensen), Gerhardt (Alan Tudyk), and Roshanda (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). They each play a part during the film, drawing Gwen into this world where she must self-accept, self-forgive, and she finally understands that she does have a problem and she must start to change what she is doing.

28 Days 2It is a sad story all around but it features an uplifting message that one should never give up, no matter how much is stacked against you. Sandra Bullock has always been able to keep me invested in a work, whether it was a drama, comedy, or romantic-comedy. She is quirky and interesting as an actress and a person and this is one of those films that is important for people to see.

Jaws

A lot of people think that sharks are dangerous to humans, and while a shark bite tends to be fatal, their representation in film is grossly inaccurate. Jaws is one of those films and while it’s a good story, even the author of the book (yes, it was a book first) regrets having written it as it has led to the near extinction of certain species of shark.

Jaws

Jaws made the summer blockbuster a thing, go ahead and say what you will, it’s the truth. Without Jaws we would have to wait for who knows how long for a movie with a huge budget, an ensemble cast, and as good an excuse plot as our screenwriters can muster up in six to nine months!

Follow Police Chief Martin Brody (played by Roy Scheider) the day after a young girl’s remains have been found washed up on the beach… in pieces we think. They never do show us thank god. Poor, poor Chrissie made the unfortunate error of going skinny dipping the night a killer shark decided to show up and eat people… why? I… I don’t think they ever really gave an answer that merits repeating.

Aside from that, of course, this is a Summer Resort town in New England, so of course everyone is going to ignore the person whose job it is to provide safety to an area alongside a wealth of evidence because it would kill tourism. If a place is that dependent on the beach as a draw… I don’t even know any more. Moving on.

Everyone ignores Brody until another victim drops, a young kid, and obviously it is Brody’s fault for not having shut down the beach even though the… Logic? Anyone? If the Mayor forces you to disregard your job and someone dies, shouldn’t it be the mayor’s fault? No, just checking.

Jaws 1

Herein lies the stupidity. Everyone now knows about the shark so how do we end the story? Yes! You stay out of the ocean! Do they do that? Of course not. That would require some semblance of intelligence. At least the victims in a slasher film don’t know they’re being brutally butchered one by one until there are like… three people left. This town has warning, evidence, and enough bodies that you’d believe common sense would intervene at some point. Alas, common sense is a superpower these days and so a few more people needlessly die because the plot demands it.

Really, Jaws is a silly movie but it’s a good silly movie. The characters are likeable, for the most part, the part makes sense, sometimes, and the… Treat it like an action film and come for the destruction and you should be just fine.

Movie Poster jaws-3-photos-1

Of course, there are also a slew of unnecessary sequels that vary on quality. I tend to like 2 and 3 but 4… 4 is nonexistent of course. There is no Jaws 4, believe me, I’m a writer!

Far From the Madding Crowd

Every once in a while I get a feeling and that feeling leads me to watch movies I otherwise normally wouldn’t watch. That feeling has rarely, if ever, let me down.

Far From the Madding Crowd

I remember sitting in the theater, several times in fact, and the trailer for Far From the Madding Crowd (Madding not Maddening) would play and it would catch my attention. The first time I quite easily forgot it, period pieces aren’t always something I find myself interested in because I can’t identify with the time period, hell sometimes I can’t even identify with this time period. By the second or third time of seeing the trailer, and a bit of research, I decided to see this movie, and at the point at which I did see it I was quite aware that it was an adaptation of a book. But it isn’t the first adaptation, or the second or third even. No this was the fifth time that this novel was adapted for film, with the fourth one being an adaptation of an adaptation (a comic serial).

This had me asking myself; what was so damn special about this story?

So I went to go see it by myself, not about to ask someone else to sit through something they probably wouldn’t enjoy, and I found myself engrossed in its tale. The beauty of the scenery which delicately portrayed Victorian England. Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan, and for a long time I seriously thought that this was Katie Holmes) is a young woman who has lived with her aunt for a while, working on the woman’s farm for a living, and is quite the independent woman in a time of subservience to men simply for having a pair of breasts. One day, while riding her horse, she loses her scarf and a handsome, and successful, sheep herder named Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) finds it and returns it to her. A flirtation begins between the two of them, and Bathsheba joins Gabriel as he is training his new sheepdog how to herd sheep. Their flirtation, going both ways, leads Gabriel to propose to Bathsheba who promptly rejects the proposal as she wants someone who could actually tame her, and she knows that he never could.

Very shortly thereafter Bathsheba and Gabriel have a reversal of fortune, Gabriel’s new sheepdog does what he does in an absolutely horrific manner and Bathsheba inherits her uncle’s entire estate. This leads Bathsheba on an interesting ride as she is now in charge of a household staff on grounds that cover (if I recall correctly 1000 individual acres next to another estate with 1000 acres) a lot of ground and a fortune all her own. It is here we meet two more suitors of Bathsheba, the mature bachelor next door William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) and Sergeant Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a bad boy of sorts.

You can probably guess where that leads.

But the point of the story, even with the underlying plot of Bathsheba being pursued by more men than Bella Swan, is that Bathsheba is fiercely independent and doesn’t want to give that up. Her story isn’t unlike that of many young women today, and I believe this is a grand and powerful tale that may take a while to build up but is still worth your time.

The Boy Next Door

The Boy Next DoorThere is a stigma, almost always appropriate, against teachers dating students. It’s horrific for elementary students through high school students and simply frowned upon by faculty when professors/instructors date college students. However, this stigma is entirely dependent on the ick factor that is all but certainly biologically ingrained in our DNA to protect children (remember when twelve was the marrying age? Neither do I). This may seem like a rant, and in some cases it is, because while I completely against pedophilia I found the basic inciting incident of The Boy Next Door to be unbelievable at best and laughable at worst. It is blatantly pointed out that Ryan Guzman’s character (Noah) is nineteen when he goes to the high school where Jennifer Lopez (Clair) teaches English. Suddenly the stigma is cast aside because, while we are looking at a high school student having an affair with his teacher, he is well above the age of consent and almost to the age of majority (depending on which state you live in because they may or may not be the same thing!).

I totally understand what goes through our minds when we think of older women sleeping with younger men (for some reason it’s never the same things for when and older, and often uglier, man is sleeping with a younger woman *cough, cough*Hugh Hefner*cough, cough*), but he’s an adult and so is she. Thus I couldn’t really get behind her logic of it being wrong outside of her just being a teacher and him being a student… So by the time it was revealed he was a psychopath I was really thinking… REALLY?!

Now that we’ve gotten past that I have to say I’m really digging Ryan Guzman as of late, he’s really starting to come up in the world of acting from Pretty Little Liars (SQUEE!) to two of the Step Up sequels, he’s going places. Jennifer Lopez, in my not so humble opinion, is always a gem even in the strangest of movies I find her in. Now then, I must admit I was surprised to find Kristin Chenoweth in this movie, but it was really refreshing to see her do something (Last time I saw her was on Glee and before that it was Good Christian Bitches, God rest it’s soul). This is clearly Ian Nelson’s first big role, seeing as how a cursory scan of the rest of his work gave only minimal mention of his efforts in his other work, but he played the child of impending (actual?) divorce quite well. John Corbett (From Sex and the City) is also just as good, only he’s playing the philandering father trying to get back with his wife because…. Whatever the reason he did it quite well.

Even though I tore the inciting incident of this film to shreds I really, REALLY loved it. Give it a try and you may be pleasantly surprised, too.

Woman in Gold

Woman in Gold showed me that movie theaters still can fill up with people, considering for the past several months I’ve found myself in theaters with only a smattering of people. It’s funny, but it happens. Woman in Gold, though, was a movie that deserved to be experienced by everyone. It was a touching film on a difficult subject; restitution.

Woman in GoldThere are people to this day that still refuse to believe that the holocaust never happened and while that is a problem in and of itself, that countries… states with more power than the richest people in the whole world now refuse to return precious items to those who suffered the most is absolutely unforgivable. Woman in Gold is the true story, regardless of how “true” it is, of a woman whose goal was to get back what was hers, and nothing more.

Maria Altmann (played by the talented Helen Mirren) lived in Austria during World War II and was one of those who were most affected by the invasion by Nazi Germany. Her families possessions were stripped, catalogued, and stolen by those who would continue to oppress the Jewish people for decades to come. This film takes place decades after the war, but it features frequent flash backs to this time so you can see, feel, and understand the pain she went through. The majority of the film takes place in the nineties as Maria and her lawyer, Randol (Randy) Schoenberg (played by Ryan Reynolds) continue to fight against the Austrian government to retrieve prized familial possessions which have now become State Treasures.

Seeing a government abuse its power simply so it can erase years and decades of crimes is bad enough when you only have the cliff notes, but seeing it unfold over time makes that pain tenfold. The trials, depositions, deals, and so on become tiring the longer they go on as the Austrian government seems to do everything in its power to further beat down Maria because to Austria they see a priceless antique painting and to Maria she sees her aunt. In my opinion Maria should be able to use the painting as a dining room table and it shouldn’t make a damn difference to anyone. It isn’t priceless because of what it’s been through to the state of Austria, it’s priceless because of the horrors it saw throughout decades of separation from its rightful owner.

Maria was never in it for the millions that she would be owed, she truly only wanted the painting of her aunt back.

This movie was powerful and it is one of those where a review simply cannot ever do it justice. The power of a movie isn’t always based in the dialogue or the acting, sometimes it’s simply based in the message that is being told.

Th Age of Adaline

The Age of AdalineI have always loved Blake Lively, from before she showed up as our main character in Gossip Girl she has been one of my favorite actresses. Getting to see Blake Lively headline a movie, for what seems like in forever, is a treat in and of itself. The Age of Adaline was a beautifully scripted film, her pain from agelessness is something that we can identify with even though it is realistically impossible. That’s a sign of a good script, great director, and an actor who knows how to pull from the material given them to bring a character to life. It’s a process that we don’t always get to glimpse at, but when the finished product is good you know deep down that it all went in the right direction.

Adaline is a young woman, the first birth in 1908, and she grows up as an ordinary person, who marries, has a child, and then dies. It’s the last part, however, that is anything but ordinary. Her death is completely final until a bolt of lightning strikes her car, submerged in water, and does something to her body that will cease the ravages of time, as our narrator put it so eloquently. Unfortunately, being ageless has its drawbacks. While we only see it happen a few times, it’s clear that when someone questions her youth and beauty, which are those of a woman in her twenties when she is supposed to be in her forties, that Adaline finally realizes there is something different about her. It is completely cemented for her when a police officer pulls her over, doesn’t believe her and confiscates her driver’s license. This begins our tale, as Adaline moves to a new place for the first time only to learn her first mistake, always change your name.

Adaline lives decade after decade, changing her name and slightly altering her appearance so that she can go through her seemingly endless life without issue. But as you can imagine, this is a lonely existence for a person, and when you have to go through life watching the ones you love die that loneliness is only emphasized.

This is a dramatic romance, through and through, despite the fantasy elements interlaced with it, it is clear that this movie only uses it to enhance its plot rather than detract from it.

Michiel Huisman plays Ellis, the most recent man to capture Adaline’s affections and the romance that primarily drives the plot of the film. Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, and Amanda Crew are supporting players in this film, and while each has their part they are minor when compared to Blake Lively and Michiel Huisman, as is per use in a romance film.

Furious Seven

Furious Seven 1Seeing someone’s final work of art, and even if other works come out after this one I’ll always see this as his final work of art, can be hard. Paul Walker left us too soon, as do so many other people in our lives. To be able to continue on with those who are still here is a blessing, and the magic of film can keep someone alive for decades to come.

Furious Seven was an incredible movie and in my personal (screw humble!) opinion it was the best of the series. Discarding heists, which had been the subject of four, and focusing on the familial connection (which has been the subject of them all) allowed this film to soar. The characters are grieving the loss of one of their own, as Tokyo Drift finally comes into continuity, Han is dead and it appears someone is now hunting them down in revenge for what was done to Owen Shaw in Fast and Furious 6.

Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham, shows exactly why it is he has become a huge icon in the action film industry. When we see Jason Statham mow down through an army its believable not only because of the character’s credentials, which are explained in passing, but because this is what Jason Statham always does in his films. He is a walking reign of terror for anyone who happens to get in his way and each and every time the main characters come up against him there are bodies in their wake and some of them come dangerously close to joining the unfortunate extras around them. Whereas Owen Shaw (played by Luke Evans in a cameo from the previous film) had a small team that rivaled each character in personality, style, and attitude, Deckard needs none of this to propel him forward as a hurricane force of villainy with a singular goal in mind; kill Dominic Toretto and anyone he knows.

Once again the government comes to Dominic Toretto, and his team, for help and after Deckard Shaw comes dangerously close to killing off Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky). With targets on their back and their beloved home blown to smithereens, Dominic Toretto agrees to the shadowy groups’ help and he, Brian (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Tej (Ludacris) set out to find a notable hacker known only as Ramsey who has a powerful program called God’s Eye that makes Thorngate from Scandal look like child’s play.

This film takes our team across the world in the pursuit of their goals and involves some of the craziest stunts I’ve ever seen performed on film. Seriously, dropping cars from an Antonov was freaking crazy!

 

Snowpiercer

SnowpiercerWhen I wrote about Unstoppable, I’ll admit I thought it was a silly train movie. Possibly the silliest I had ever seen. Then I watched Snowpiercer and, don’t get me wrong, it’s a good, serious movie, but it features some of the same flaws that most apocalyptic films have in spades.

The characters, many of whom were played by well-known actors who are coming up in the world, molding their craft, and starting to branch out into different roles and genres. The special effects were absolutely stunning, bringing to life a beautiful world frozen over while the titular train itself was no pushover in the aesthetics department. The plot was interesting and engaging and, as always, the science doesn’t make any sense (but we can ignore that because it’s a movie). As I said before, Snowpiercer is a good movie and it is a serious one at its core, but while I was watching it, I had this feeling the entire time that it was silly.

All that remains of humanity is on a single train that is in perpetual motion through the frigid wasteland that is Earth. The rich live closest to the engine while the poorer (especially those who didn’t pay to get on the train) live in the back where they are treated abhorrently. In a time when 99.9% of humanity is dead, I absolutely freaking love that social economic status can still dictate the type of life you’ll live… in a train, in a freaking eternal winter for the rest of your life. We are never given any implication that there is any way for one to increase their status, so you’re basically stuck where you paid for, forever. This includes any children you may have, despite them having never had the choice or chance to make a better life for themselves.

It’s flawed but then again it’s a movie and it’s trying to explain a certain philosophy to us. Chris Evans, better known to the world now as Captain America is our main character Curtis (Although, for me, he will always be Jake Wyler – the Jock from Not Another Teen Movie, yeah you know that movie like the back of your heart! Although there was that time he acted alongside Scarlett Johannson, you know the film, The Perfect Score). And while he is the centerpiece of the film, this is just another example as to why a strong supporting cast can make or a break a film. In this case, a lot of the characters lacked substance but were still effective and engaging when you got to see them shine. The subtle emotional nuances between them is what held my attention.

Jamie Bell plays Edgar, Curtis’ second-in-command, and their relationship is the crux of the first half of the film. At times it feels like Edgar idolizes Curtis a lot more than simple hero worship implies, but then again this could have just been me. Other supporting players include Octavia Spencer as Tanya, a mother whose child is taken early on and is the reason she decides to journey through the treacherous train, Tilda Swinton as Mason, the Minister who constantly reminds the people of the tail that they’re worth little more than the shit they eat, Song Kang-ho as Namgoong Minsu, the specialist who designed the security for the train and is the McGuffin the characters are after in the beginning, and Go Ah-sung as Yona, the specialists’ daughter who was born on the train and seems to possess some sort of precognitive ability.

It might be silly, in my humble opinion, but I actually did enjoy it. I do believe that Snowpiercer deserves your attention and appreciation.