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

I always get a little nervous when someone tries to take an okay-ish TV series and tries to make it into a blockbuster movie. Guy Ritchie avoided one obvious pitfall by not trying to update the concept; he left it firmly in the sixties, and the movie was better for it.  In case you don’t know, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a pretty run-of-the-mill thriller about two spies from opposite sides of the iron curtain, forced to work together to retrieve a nuclear warhead. It stars Henry Cavill as the ever-s0-slightly camp Napoleon Solo, and Armie Hammer as llya Kuriyaken, the near-superhuman Russian agent.


Alicia Vikander brings the fiery glamour and, refreshingly enough, most of the brains.

And that’s all you need to know really. It’s a two-hour treat of car chases, machine-gun fights, sneaking about and folk running for their lives. The script was passable, as was the storyline (but don’t expect it to stretch you). The musical score is excellent and even though the film was shot all over the shop, Guy Ritchie as screenwriter, producer and director, gives it a very British feel (and Hugh Grant pretty much seals the deal – if that’s not too much bad rhyming).

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. offers no surprises, but is, nevertheless, very watchable.

I’m going to give it seven out of ten.

The Americans is back for another season.

I’ve just caught up with the first three episodes of Season 3, and so far so good. This excellent piece of cold-war drama focuses on the Jennings: a married couple living in the suburbs of Washington DC.


They have two children and run a moderately successful travel agency … and between school runs and dinner parties, they still find the time to kill, seduce and steal secrets on behalf of the KGB.  Both were trained as spy-assassins before being shipped off to the United States, presumably never to return, and ordered to marry and have children in order to give the appearance of a typical, Reagan-era family unit.

I do remember an episode of Elementary that dealt with a similar plot, and I wonder if this is where the idea came from. Not that it matters; this is great viewing. The tension is enough to give you backache, especially now that the couple are faced with the possibility that they will have to train their daughter to become a ‘second-generation’ agent. The acting is brilliant, the scripting superb, and some of the scenes in the first three episodes had squirming in my chair. Things that your typical suburban assassin needs to know: how to fold a corpse into a suitcase and DIY dentistry.

Can’t wait for the next episode.

Movie review: The Fantastic Four (2015) – Not so fantastic

I don’t think I’ve seen a franchise reboot come around quite so fast. The last Fantastic Four movie (Rise of the Silver Surfer) was released in 2007, which doesn’t seem that long. It must be a comic-book thing.
Anyway, Rise of the Silver Surfer didn’t exactly thrill me, so I was looking forward to a fresh start with new characters, new director and the involvement of the same production outfit that brought us the brilliant X-Men series.

Okay, first the good.

This outing was a lot grittier than the previous takes. The characters were vaguely human, which usually makes comic-book films a lot more approachable for more people. The special effects were fairly good (especially the Human Torch sequences), and the interaction between the characters were nothing to write a blog about, but were pretty much okay.

And that was the good.

Unfortunately, while the characters were vaguely human, they were also a little bit dull. There wasn’t much to separate them really. The good guys where good, and the villain was  . . . well . . . he didn’t seem that bad. He went about his master plan to destroy humanity as though he could be talked out of it if someone listened to his problems over a cup of tea and generous slice of chocolate cheesecake.

The film meandered from one inconclusive scene to the next, marking time until the final battle – which was over in a few minutes, and didnt’ really add anything to the film or the characters. To be honest, I was glad it was over.

I got the distinct impression that this film was made to a time budget: It was to run for 98 minutes and not a moment longer. The whole thing seemed very compressed; years squeezed into ten minute set pieces that were frustrating and uninspiring.

On the whole, something of a disappointment.

Three out of ten . . . :-(