The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Review: Old-Timey Action Adventure

 

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is based off the television series of the same name in the 60s.  Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), is a CIA agent tasked with locating Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of Hitler’s former rocket scientist, Udo Teller (Christian Berkel).  This mission came to him when Udo mysteriously disappeared from where he was living in the United States – leading the CIA to believe that someone must have taken him for the valuable skills he has.  By having Gaby in their custody, they believe she will help locate him.  Tasked with the same mission, a KGB agent, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer),  was to locate Gaby as well but terminate Napoleon if necessary.

After being chased relentlessly by Illya, Napoleon and Gaby eventually escape to safety – happy he would never see the KGB agent again for a while.  Unfortunately for him, USA and Russia had decided to join in a partnership to locate Udo and his plans before it got into the wrong hands.  Along with Gaby, the trio goes undercover to infiltrate and get acquainted with the mysterious Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki); whom they believe have Udo in custody.

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“I look suave, don’t I?” Source: Warner Bros.

The plan goes south when Gaby sells them out to the Vinciguerras. Napoleon gets caught and sent to Gaby’s Uncle Rudi (Sylvester Groth) to be tortured and killed while Illya was made to run from their clutches.  Knowing that their cover has been blown, Illya tracks Napoleon to save him before Uncle Rudi does anymore damage.  The duo are then rescued by Alexander Waverly (Hugh Grant), an MI-6 operative who reveals that Gaby was an undercover agent under his employment.  Together, they rescue Gaby from Alexander Vinciguerra (Luca Calvani) and kill Victoria before she could load the warhead onto her buyer’s submarine.

Having retrieved the back-up disc with Udo’s research on it, Napoleon knew Illya was bound to confront him about it and possibly kill him.  To prevent either of them from killing each other, the two decide to destroy the disc so that both countries won’t be able to have the upper hand.  While enjoying their evening drink, they are joined by Gaby and Alexander who tells them that they’ve been re-assigned to a new international organization under his command.  He then deploys them on a new mission to Istanbul under their new codename: U.N.C.L.E.

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“Can’t believe I have to deal with these 2 egotistic blokes.” Source: Warner Bros.

First and for most, let’s get this out of the way.  ‘U.N.C.L.E.’ stands for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.  I got this imprinted in my brain ever since I saw the acronym and I have to share this little information.

I’d have to say… I was initially a little hesitant about this movie despite the fact that I do love the retro looking stuff and have a little crush on Henry Cavill.  My parents were excited for this because they’ve seen the television show when they were really young and were quite acquainted with the characters.  I however, just wasn’t sure how a 60s TV show was able to translate onto a big screen.  I mean Hawaii Five-O is a great reboot but that’s on television.  So to put it plainly, I had some expectations.

But boy did this film exceed my expectations.  There was action, comedy and a tinge of romance that kept me thoroughly entertained throughout it’s running time.  The comedic dialogue was delivered on point and sometimes, they didn’t even need to be said.  The musical interlude during Napoleon’s sandwich scene was comedic enough to bring laughter.  The clever use of musical score led the movie to retain its 60s television vibe on the big screen.

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“Well, I think he’s quite dead now.” Source: Warner Bros.

Guy Ritchie is one of my favorite directors and needless to say he doesn’t disappoint.  I liked the 60s sequence of his directing for this film which really gave it that authentic feel – kind of paying homage to the television series.  The cast doesn’t disappoint either with the great chemistry between them that delivered quite a performance.  Armie’s straight-face comedic dialogue was delivered on point as well.  My favorite scene was the part where he was about to give one of Vinciguerras’ guards KGB’s infamous ‘The Kiss’.  Kudos to that guard being able to stand up so straight with his eyes closed!  Major props to all the actors for being able to deliver their dialogue like they were really from the 1960s.  Especially Elizabeth and Henry.  They sound just like how I imagined the villain and CIA agent of that time would sound!

My only pet peeves which probably aren’t that big of a deal was Armie and Alicia’s accents.  At times, it seemed a little inconsistent and you could hear Armie’s American accented ending to a sentence or Alicia suddenly sounding a little British.  They are minor stuff but for me, I kinda catch on to it if I hear it once or twice.  The other pet peeve was the tightness of Henry’s pants.  Yes, I know – I should have my eyes elsewhere but seriously!  Henry’s pants are tight!  How does he run around with tight dress pants on!?  It does not make sense to me and I was rather distracted by it.  Unless it’s made of some sort of elastic material, I’m pretty sure the pants will tear at some point.

All in all, The Man From U.N.C.L.E is a must-watch in my opinion.  I’ve never enjoyed an action movie this much before! I’m kinda hoping to see a sequel if possible.. So, Guy, I’ll be seeing part two on the screen soon, right?

Rating: 

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Inside Out Review: I’m feeling so much emotions right now

Inside Out is a film about the little voices in an eleven year old girl’s head.  Since she was born, Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), had always led a happy life – thanks to the collective efforts of her emotions led by Joy (Amy Poehler).  As the only cheery one of the group, Joy often took it upon herself to give Riley a great day.

When Riley’s family made a move to a new town, leaving her familiar surroundings behind, Joy sought to make the transition bearable for Riley.  But things took a different turn when Riley’s father (Kyle MacLachlan) starts missing out on time with her and her mother (Diane Lane). Despite Joy trying to keep the emotions in control, Sadness (Phyllis Smith) starts to behave not according to Joy’s plan.  She creates a core memory of Riley against the better wishes of Joy.  Unfortunately, her plan goes awry and both Joy and Sadness gets sucked up and transported to the long term memory storage.  Having lost two of them, Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader) and Anger (Lewis Black) tries to help keep Riley’s emotions running normally – only to have things go from bad to worse.

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Source: Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures

While trying to find a way back to headquarters, Joy and Sadness start to see the slow destruction of Riley’s personality traits.  With every decision Riley makes, each personality island that had been constructed since she was young starts to crumble and fall apart.  Knowing that they had no time to lose, Joy and Sadness had to work together to find the fastest way back to headquarters.  On their way through Riley’s long term memory storage, they meet her imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind).  The trio embarks on a journey together to hopefully catch the Train of Thoughts back to headquarters.

Joy and Sadness eventually make it back to headquarters just in time to stop Riley from making a big mistake.  Giving Sadness full control, she reunites the family together before Joy comes in – making the very first joint core memory together and bringing balance back to Riley’s emotions.

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Source: Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures

This is by far one of my favorite films from Disney Pixar.  Yes, it got me sobbing in a rather ugly way, but I liked that it showed me that it is okay to feel sad.  There is nothing wrong with crying when you want to.  Just because it is frowned upon by society as a weakness doesn’t mean you should draw a chalk circle and ask Sadness to stay inside.

Not everyone likes the idea of being vulnerable and sad.  Often crying is a sign of weakness but in the case of Inside Out, it is knowing that Sadness is part of a person’s emotions.  Without Sadness, there can’t be Joy.  And, Joy learnt that the hard way.  Through falling into the forgotten memories pit, she gets to view the core memories from start to finish.  She sees the sad emotions Riley had felt before the happy emotions took over.  She realized that one couldn’t function with the other. I for one am an advocate of this feeling.  The emotion that pilots me is generally Sadness because I am a crier.  But I usually feel happy after a good cry.  In a lot of ways, this movie taught me to cherish the emotions that I feel.  If I feel like crying, I should cry.  If I feel like laughing, I should laugh.  These emotions are what makes me – me and no one can tell me otherwise.

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Source: Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures

The one thing that I didn’t quite like about the film was Bing Bong being somewhat forgotten.  After his big and touching sacrifice (yes, I cried like a newborn baby), I would have thought Joy would remember him somehow and try to find a way to have Riley remember him.  But instead, Bing Bong was forgotten (despite Joy making him a promise that she won’t let that happen again).

Who’s your friend who loves to play? Bing Bong, Bing Bong! His rocket makes you yell ‘Hooray!’ Bing Bong, Bing Bong! Who’s the best in every way, and wants to sing this song to say Bing Bong, Bing Bong!  JOY – HOW CAN YOU FORGET HIM!?

Inside Out is a touching film that makes you want to embrace your emotions in a public setting – crying and laughing.  You are also likely to suffer from side effects that will have you flooding with feels at the mere mention of Bing Bong.

Rating:

starstarstarstar

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Review: Making the best of a bad situation

 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

With a quote from The Tale of Two Cities was how Me and Earl and the Dying Girl began.  Based off the novel of the same name by Jesse Andrews is a story about Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann), a self-proclaimed socially adaptable yet oddly cynical teenager, and his journey through a ‘doomed’ friendship with a Leukemia-diagnosed school mate of his, Rachel Kushner (Olivia Cooke).  Along with his colleague and friend, Earl Jackson (RJ Cyler), Greg unknowingly exposes himself to experience highs and lows that he would otherwise never go through.

Having learnt that Rachel had been diagnosed with Leukemia through his mother (Connie Britton), Greg was thrust into beginning a friendship with Rachel, whom he would not have considered.  Being a social blender, Greg had distant himself from ever making friends with anyone in his school with the exception of Earl, whom he had known since kindergarten.  He would never talk to a group for more than a minute and he never ate in the cafeteria – to avoid getting associated with one group in general.  So, when his mother made him initiate a friendship with Rachel, he felt compelled to have to break his own rules.

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“Honey, we’re just asking you to accept your dad’s relationship with his cat.” Source: Indian Paintbrush

One of his strict rules included not showing the private films he made with Earl to anyone.  Because of his negative view of himself, Greg always labeled his films as terrible and no one was to view them at all except for him and Earl.  Having visited Rachel, Earl lets her in on the secret fact that they were film-makers.  Excited and intrigued by this, Rachel asks to view one of their films which Earl gladly obliged.  Greg was uncomfortable with the decision at first but took it in his stride as Rachel slowly starts viewing more than one of his films.  However, the breaking point came when Madison (Katherine C. Hughes) comes to Greg and Earl during one of their film-making sessions and asks them to make Rachel a film.  Pressured by the moment, Greg agreed; even though he didn’t have any intention to do so.

What came next was the struggling process of making the right film for Rachel.  A week turned into a month and Greg still wasn’t done with the film.  All hopes of wanting to make this a surprise also went up in smoke when he discovers from Rachel, that Earl had told her about it.  Greg starts to feel his world crumble around him as he begins to lose control over his life.  Rachel had given up Chemotherapy and on their supposed friendship.  Earl and him no longer talk to each other.  The film still wasn’t done.  And his acceptance to Pittsburgh University had been receded.  Everything that Greg had once been able to hold together had fallen apart.

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“We are such an odd couple, aren’t we?” Source: Indian Paintbrush

After a meltdown at home with his mother, Greg goes back to school the next day in hopes of catching up with the assignments he had missed. His teacher, Mr McCarthy (Jon Bernthal) tries to help Greg make sense of what he was going through but when he tells Greg that he was a good kid, it triggered Greg’s denial of being thought of that way. He cuts school and heads home to where his father (Nick Offerman), tells him that Earl dropped something off for him.  He goes up to his room where he sees a post-it note with the words ‘I’m Out’ scribbled on it and a flash-drive underneath.  He plugs the flash-drive into his computer where he views a message from Earl for Rachel.  Through this message he learns why Earl had treated Rachel so differently from others.

On prom night, Greg decides to visit Rachel where he presents her with a corsage and the movie he made for her.  After which, Rachel went into a coma and passed away 10 hours later.  Through this friendship, Greg finally learns what it was like to care for someone who cared for him; even when they hardly knew each other well.  Like what Mr McCarthy told him, even if the person wasn’t around anymore, there were always new things to learn about the person.  And Greg finally understood what that meant.

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“Meat and robes. Check.” Source: Indian Paintbrush

I really enjoyed this film and that’s not just because I’ve read the book.  The core of the story, for me, was about a teenager who learns to care about someone else even when he explicitly expressed his unwillingness to.  It is the little things that one does for a person that changes that person’s life.  In Greg’s case, he never knew how much joy and comfort he was bringing to Rachel by just talking to her or spending time with her.  It was the little things he said or did that put a smile on her face.  He didn’t know that he was helping her just as much as she was helping him.

Even though their friendship began on a forced note, Greg slowly grew to like Rachel in a platonic way and was starting to care for her albeit his horrible way of showing it.  In most ways, he cared about the people in his life but he just didn’t know how to show it.  It’s fair to say that eventually, Earl and Rachel helped fix his problem.  Through learning how Earl had been so candid with his message to Rachel, I’d like to think that it somehow started to make sense for Greg – that he needed to grow up and be a part of life and its daily struggles.

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Olivia Cooke is simply marvelous in this film. Source: Indian Paintbrush

The part that moved me deeply was the film Greg had made for Rachel.  Though it might have seemed like one of those nonsensical artsy film, it was pure and simply meant for Rachel.  He showed her the things she cared about – her mother, Earl and him, along with other things that were painstakingly put together by him.  In some ways, I think Rachel passed away peacefully with a lifted mood.  Greg’s kind gesture to her was something she felt and even in her final hours, she knew that she had made a difference in his life, just as he had in hers.

The splendid performance from the cast leaves you feeling like you are a part of their story especially Thomas Mann and Olivia Cooke, who were brilliant in their portrayal of the two main characters.  The vulnerability of their characters showed just how good their skills were.  Being able to pull the audience in is a huge feat, especially when it is tough viewers like me.  But their portrayal pulled me in for the start and I instantly felt like I was a part of their story.  Needless to say, I definitely see more leading roles in their future for these two!

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is truly a remarkable film helm by a wonderfully-written book.  A thoughtful film that gets you thinking just how much of a difference you can make in a person’s life with even with the smallest gesture.

Rating:

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