The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Guy Ritchie)
An atrocity of one of the great TV shows from the 1960’s. Where to start? Well, the two leads, Henry Clavill and Arnie Hammer, have zero chemistry together as a team. Throughout the movie they just seemed uncomfortable in each other’s presence. Then there is the story which never feels menacing enough, though it involves the threat of a nuclear bomb being stolen. There are some good lines and droll humor here and there, but unfortunately, our two “heroes” cannot deliver the lines with any sense of ironic humor. The film is based on the 1960’s hit TV show, but the resemblance between the show and this film in non-existent. There is no T.H.R.U.S.H., no U.N.C.L.E. organizations and barely any camaraderie between our two spies who seem to hate each other for most of the film. The film is a complete bastardized version of the show. It desperately wants to seem hip and cool, of course it does, it has Guy Ritchie directing, It’s not. It’s just painful. The ending clearly sets you up for a sequel which I suspect will never be made.
The End of the Tour (James Ponsoldt)
Superbly written film based on David Lipsky’s book. There is really no plot just two men, David Lipsky (Jessie Eisenberg), a writer working for Rolling Stone magazine, following and interviewing David Foster Wallace (Jason Segal), a newly anointed king of the hill author during the final days of his latest book tour. In the course of the film they discuss art, depression, addiction and life in general. The dialogue and the way the two actors interact is what makes it fascinating. They hit all the right notes. Nothing ever feels artificial. I am not familiar with Wallace or his work, but from what I have read Jason Segal nailed his speech pattern perfectly. This is the kind of small film that will not be conducive to a large audience. It’s basically watching two men talking for the entire length, but oh is it fascinating to watch and listen too.
Ricki and the Flash (Jonathan Demme)
I had reservations about Meryl Streep portraying a rock and roller. After seeing this film I am still not convinced, but she did convince me that she could handle the songs. The film is an uneven work that strains for a happy ending and gets it at the cost of believability. The wedding sequence just rings out with the sounds of falsehood. What’s best about the film are some of the scenes focusing on the family’s domestic interactions with each other. What make it doubly sad is the film is directed by the usually reliable Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia and Something Wild). On the whole, it’s worth seeing, but Meryl and company won’t be at the Oscars this year except as presenters.
Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev)
Though provoking, bleak, hypocritical tale of corruption by a government over the powerless people under their control. Kolya lives with his wife and son in a coastal area of a small Russian town. The Mayor, via the courts, is forcing Kolya to sell his house, auto shop and land and not be paid a fair price. Kolya brings in an old Army friend, now a well-connected lawyer friend from Moscow to help fight the corrupt Mayor. It starts to turn ugly when the lawyer and Kolya’s wife have an affair. But this is only the beginning of Kolya’s spiraling downward decent into hell. Beautifully acted and photographed.
Fading Gigolo (John Tutturro)
John Turturro attempts a Woody Allen style comedy that even co-stars Woody himself. It’s a good thing because Woody delivers the best lines. The film starts off at a fairly decent pace, but about 50 minutes or so in begins to drag, especially when Woody is not on camera. Overall, the film does not hold together despite Woody and a good cast that includes Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara. One of the more unbelievable twists in the film is that these two beautiful ladies play two women who have to pay for sex. Stone who is in her mid-50’s looks amazing, as does Ms. Vergara.
Parole Girl (Edward F. Cline)
Despite the improbability of some of the situations, this is an enjoyable, if unexceptional, B- programmer that starts out as a revenge tale, but slides into a romance. It moves along at a nice pace for its short 67 minute running time. Mae Clarke and Ralph Bellamy have a nice chemistry together. The best lines though belong to Marie Provost as Clarke’s buddy in the pen. Whenever she is on screen she practically steals the film. Mae Clarke who always seems to be getting physically abused in one way or another, mostly by Cagney in The Public Enemy and again in Lady Killer, is once again roughed up here, slapped in the face by Bellamy.
Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa)
Absolutely my favorite interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Akira Kurosawa has made an exquisite meditation on the nature of power and the effects of dark secrets, twisting our tragic “hero” into a frightening monster. A masterpiece not to be missed. Kurosawa manages to translate the Bard’s poetic words into visual imagery keeping the dialogue to a minimum. A stunning film that is a must for all.