Tuesday, August 25, 2015

THE MAN FROM UNCLE -- THRUSH couldn't kill him but Guy Richie did

THE MAN FROM UNCLE wasn’t just bad. It was downright insulting. I shouldn’t be surprised. It was done by Guy Richie who is the king of style over substance. But this screenplay was so incomprehensible that it was clear Richie didn’t care. There wasn’t even an attempt to fill the audience in or plug up ridiculous logic holes.  

Instead, the screen was filled with slick, glossy, absurd action sequences, and ‘60s tropes. What he was saying was, “as long as I dazzle you with cool shots, fun vintage costumes, and video trickery you're so fucking stupid you will eat it up.” In Richie's estimation we’re just cats who can be entertained by a ball on a string.

I am a huge fan of the television series. I own the box set. I even watched THE GIRL FROM UNCLE (okay, for a different reason but still). As regular readers know, I’m also a major ‘60s freak. (I'll refrain from plugging my book... sorta.) And who doesn’t enjoy things being blown up? So I went in ready to love it.

Ugh!

I’m sorry. First and foremost a filmmaker’s obligation to the audience is to be a storyteller. It is not to fill the screen with almost two hours of retro chic bullshit. Caring about the characters, tracking the narrative is important. Duplicating Twiggy’s wardrobe is not.

Practically every decision Richie made was wrong. By veering so far away from the TV show all he did was alienate fans of the series. So there go the Baby Boomers. And Millennials could give a shit about ‘60s mod style and period detail.  Then for good measure, he does away with the iconic theme song. So he has crafted this multi-million dollar dog’s breakfast that appeals to no one.

The supervillain was as scary and convincing as Kellie Pickler. Henry Cavill was solo -- not Napoleon Solo per se but solo in that he played only one attitude – insouciance… and delivered every line the exact same way. Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin had two attitudes – controlled and rage. Rage was demonstrated by his hand shaking.

My hand was shaking as I left the theater. It’s one thing to make a movie with sincere intentions that falls short. We all fail sometimes. But this was something else. This was a filmmaker who has no regard or respect for his audience. This was a patronizing jerk who believes if you wrap a turd in a piece of shiny paper we’ll eat it and think it’s a Tootsie Roll.

Instead of wasting your time and money with this travesty, go watch the first season of THE MAN FROM UNCLE. Better characters (Robert Vaughn and David McCallum rock), better adventures, better look even – and it was made in black-and-white for probably $2500 an episode.

63 comments:

Jim S said...

Ken, you are my hero. I am too young to have watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. the first time it was broadcast, but I did catch it in the 1970s when Channel Nine from Windsor, Ontario broadcast it at 7 p.m. I would then transistion into that classic CBS schedule that started with All in the Family and ended with the Carol Burnett Show.

Richie completely blew it. Ilya Kuryakin was always a mysterious character. We never knew anything about him. He was just this blonde avenger who was very cool, very collected. Giving him a back story just makes him ordinary and not interesting at all.

For that matter, giving Napoleon Solo a back story makes him ordinary. And for God's sake, Man from U.N.C.L.E. was an action TV show. It was done 50 years ago and the action then on a TV budget was better, more interesting and more engrossing than the action in a movie with a huge budget and all the time to film it.

It shouldn't have been hard. Cool guys fight ex-Nazis. How hard can that be? Plus, how many people actually remember the Man from U.N.C.L.E.? I do, and I am not exactly the preferred demographic, age-wise, that movie studios aim for. Aargh.

Bill Avena said...

Another bit of the 60s beaten to death to sell to an audience who doesn't know how to spell "miniskirt". See remakes of The Italian Job, The Mod Squad...And still no Girl From UNCLE on MeTV.

Aaron Sheckley said...

This is one major thing I don't understand about the movie industry trading on 50 year old nostalgia. They didn't get it with the Lone Ranger, either. If your target demographic is teenaged to late 20's males, why are you making a movie that only has name recognition for people who are at least 50? If you are trying to trade on the name recognition of the product, why do you think your target demographic has even heard of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.?

Just stop, Hollywood. Stop digging in the nostalgia mine to unearth some cobwebby "treasure" that wasn't that good even when it was new. I have to disagree with Ken on this one; I've re-watched some old Man From U.N.C.L.E episodes, and they are laughable for the most part. What seemed hip and cool when I was 12 did not translate well to adulthood.

Hollywoodaholic said...

The spy show that really holds up from the sixties because it is based on personalities and plots and not gadgets is "I Spy." Of course they blew that feature remake, as well. And it's a little tougher to watch the series with the rapist elephant in the room. But here was a show actually shot on exotic locations throughout the world rather than on a backlot.

Ken Houghton said...

"The supervillain was as scary and convincing as Kellie Pickler."

Hey! Kelly Pickler used to be convincing. Not as a "Tough," true, but at least as a person.

McAlvie said...

The problem with remakes is that they completely miss what made the show or movie a classic in the first place. For some reason, instead of neat action and fun characters, they always think we want backstory and angst. Ugh!

etg said...

As someone who did not see the original series: I kind of liked it. It wasn't the best movie of the year, but it entertained me despite its deficits.

As a native German speaker I can assure you: the German language parts made me cringe.

Ray said...

The greatest and snarkiest line in this generally great and snarky review of the film:

"The Man from U.N.C.L.E." -- imagine if Ian Fleming wrote "The Odd Couple," except everyone is impossibly good-looking -- follows our barely cooperating heroes to Italy for more of an escalating game of Just Whip Them Out Already.

On a more serious note: why do 21st century films get the 60s so wrong? John Goodman IS Fred Flinstone but even he couldn't save that particular cinematic train wreck. Steve Carrell couldn't redeem Get Smart (probably because the producers disavowed Brooks/Henry at every turn until the last minute). Bewitched, Wild Wild West, Lost in Space- all with big budgets and most with A-list stars and mostly all steaming piles of treyf.

Only the reboot of Star Trek recently, and the Addams Family duo of the 90s, prove the rule by being exceptions- and those have so much history beyond the television shows themselves that they're outliers, anyway.

Dan Ball said...

I still hold that the best movie remake of a TV show is MAVERICK. While Dick Donner seemed to just barely miss directing the original series, he was the perfect man to direct the feature, with his extensive experience in TV and film.

As for Man from UNCLE, this was a show I always heard my dad talk about when he'd talk about growing up with James Bond stuff. I was aware of it, but never got to see it. Finally, I got a Roku and Warner Archives streamed the entire series for a while and I was able to catch a lot of the first season.

I was pretty impressed by it. A lot of the espionage seemed really plausible and not very far-fetched like with most TV shows and movies. I've seen my share of the original MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and while it can be fun, you've gotta put up with a lot at times. With UNCLE, the plots were more conservative and realistic.

One of my favorite episodes has to be "The Strigas Affair", though. It was shot in 1964, two years before two of its relatively-unknown guest stars would become immortalized on another TV show on another network, not to mention becoming known for their friendship onscreen and off. Who knows who these guys were?

Dixon Steele said...

"This was a patronizing jerk who believes if you wrap a turd in a piece of shiny paper we’ll eat it and think it’s a Tootsie Roll." - Ken Levine, KenLevine.blogspot.com

Probably NOT a quote used on the upcoming DVD jacket...

LouOCNY said...

One of my favorite episodes has to be "The Strigas Affair", though. It was shot in 1964, two years before two of its relatively-unknown guest stars would become immortalized on another TV show on another network, not to mention becoming known for their friendship onscreen and off. Who knows who these guys were?

Hint: One wore fake ears, and the other wore fake hair....

Mike Barer said...

I think they were establishing the characters, it's obvious that a sequel is in the works.

blinky said...

Hey you have to give Guy Ritchie credit for marrying Madonna. Nobody else would do that.

Dan Ball said...

@LouOCNY: Nice!

Ronald G. said...

Sounds like this movie had similar shortcomings to J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movies.

VP81955 said...

I just received coverage regarding my spec script of a romantic comedy set in the present day, but with a retro '60s feel to it. He called the premise "very cool, very unique," adding,

"This idea is commercial, and has loads of potential. It's a 'big idea' that is easily pitched. It's high concept... something so many up-and-coming screenwriters struggle to attain! I feel like you could easily get some very important producers salivating at a chance to read this script... ONCE the script has gone through a MAJOR overhaul."

Above all, he stresses improving the dialogue, which he called "awkward and unnatural...generally speaking, your writing SOUNDS like writing." Out of 100, my screenplay scored a 65 and "pass" -- "Overall, I think this script is a great idea with lots of potential. I just think the delivery fell flat."

Back to rewrite, gang, painful but necessary -- and rest assured, I won't be going to see "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." for tips on dialogue from the all-style, no-substance Guy Ritchie (note the "t," Ken). Then again, so many of the Ivy MBAs who occupy studio exec boardrooms and think themselves the true heirs to Adolph Zukor, Darryl F. Zanuck and Harry Cohn know style, but have no substance, unlike their legendary if "poorly educated" predecessors.

Roger Owen Green said...

"Another TV show on another network" - huh? The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Star Trek were both on NBC; The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. too. Yes, I watched them at the time.

YEKIMI said...

I could hear this turkey gobbling even before it was booked into my theater. Apparently the customers agreed as out of 6 shows scheduled one day 5 were a no-show.

iain said...

Sounds similar to the way Chechik crushed the life out of The Avengers reboot in 1998.

Mathias said...

Alicia Vikander shrines throughout though. The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.?

Mathias said...

Shines. Although I wouldn't mind an Alicia shrine.

Peter said...

It seems audiences are in agreement with you, Ken, given its tepid opening weekend. I've never been a fan of Guy Ritchie's work, though I did enjoy the second Sherlock Holmes film. I was debating whether to see this but I think your review seals the deal that I won't be going to see it. Plus, I loathe Hugh Grant with a passion.

I've started listening to the Kevin Smith podcast you did - not had time to listen to it all in one sitting - and it's great fun. Glad you took up their invitation to appear on their show!

Jim said...

You want a remake that really does understand the Sixties? Check out Michel Hazanavicius' and Jean Dujardin's two OSS 117 films. They get it. Spot on.

Peter said...

VP81955

Don't be disheartened. My first few specs also got feedback that the dialogue was unnatural and awkward. It took a lot of practice till I got to the point where the coverage I got said the biggest strength of my writing was the dialogue.

Someone, I don't know who, once famously said "all writing is rewriting."

Good luck!

Dan Ball said...

@Roger Owen Green: I thought for sure that I'd read UNCLE was on CBS. I just looked it up on Wikipedia and it says NBC, so I stand corrected. Plus, you'd remember that far better than I would. :)

CBS probably owns it now, just like Star Trek's TV rights.

VP81955 said...

To Peter: I'm not disheartened, merely slapped into reality...and that's something we all can use from time to time.

robert short said...

I could not disagree more about your take on the new film. It is interesting to see that negative reviews generate a mass of negative responses. On the group discussions I belong to many, many older fans of UNCLE find that the new film captured the essence of the Man from UNCLE without being a copy of it. To each there own. Personally, though it is a LOOOng shot now, I would love to se a sequel based on this fresh take on U.N.C.L.E..

Anonymous said...

I think the reason they get so many 1960's remakes wrong is because the filmmakers and the studios look at the originals through the lens of today instead of the lens of when they were first on. They have nothing to draw on since movies made from television shows didn't exist before the 1960's.
You can get away with it if you are doing an old theme in a new way (Batman, Superman) but if you are trying to redo UNCLE or the Flintstones, it's not likely to work. if you redo a 1960's show by looking at it through the lens of the time, you can be successful, which is why Ken's Dick Van Dyke script worked so well (altho whether contemporary actors could have pulled it off is another question).
The best example was The Beverly Hillbillies. The show may have been 1962 cornpone humor but it had a couple of things going for it. Great actors who always stayed in character, which is saying a lot, excellent writing especially in the first few years, and for those who were really watching an eye for deft satire of the newly emerging Southern California lifestyle and all the fads of the day. The movie was a bomb because nobody got what the original show was really about

LouOCNY said...

CBS probably owns it now, just like Star Trek's TV rights.

Actually UNCLE the TV show, was produced at MGM,and I believe whomever handles the MGM TV catalog these has those rights.

Trek and UNCLE are sort of related in a way - Norman Felton, the creator of UNCLE, and Gene Rodenberry had worked together on Roddenberry's THE LIEUTENANT, which was a drama about the pre-Vietnam Marine Corps, which starred Gary Lockwood and Robert Vaughan. That show only lasted one season, which freed both up to do the shows we known them for. The Lieutenant had been produced at MGM (and aired on NBC), so when Felton brought them the idea of UNCLE. they embraced it, but passed on Star Trek, most likely figuring that a show like Trek would probably bleed money due to the effects - and they were right.

Victor Velasco said...

My theory on reboots- particularly 60's and 70's but this occurs for all decades - is that somewhere, up the line, down the line, wherever, people latch on to an elusively defined coolness factor (A bit awkward to write but that's what I came up with) Sort of like, 'hey, this old show or movie that was just so GREAT, well, now I'M starring in it (or writing, directing, producing, et al). This remake will be so much BETTER because I'm doing something so COOL...which, ya know I really deserve because, who else could honor this piece except someone who loved it and therefore, totally understands it?' For some of the people involved, I suspect a project like this is some kind of special, higher end ego stroke; almost always turns out to be lose-lose. Worst example, acting division: Steve Martin as Bilko

gottacook said...

One reason studios keep coming up with TV series-based movies is the success of The Fugitive in 1993. But a number of things that made it such a satisfying (and rewatchable) movie are opposite of what goes on today. In particular, the main character's story ended conclusively with no allusion to a sequel. (Yes, I know about U.S. Marshals but that was a result of the popularity of Tommy Lee Jones' character.) Another is that it was satisfying in and of itself, as a movie experience; it was a pleasure to look at, the character motivations were clear, and the actors were well chosen to make the most of their roles.

As for whether to set an adaptation of a 1960s or '70s series in the present day, the wittiest solution - but likely one that can't be used again - was what the 1995 Brady Bunch Movie did: Set the film in the present, but write the family such that they don't realize that any time has passed.

Dave Creek said...

Speaking of THE FUGITIVE, I always wondered if it started as an unrelated script, then had the title attached to it for the recognition factor.

I think part of the problem with some of these other "properties" (hate that word) is that the original writers/producers either have passed or aren't allowed to work on them. So you have people who were never part of the creative process of that show trying to tell new stories about these characters, and having to figure out what made them appealing instead of just knowing. And also having to adapt them to a different medium.

A similar effect was apparent after Aaron Sorkin left THE WEST WING. It was still a good show, but that added "umph" was missing, what one writer called the "Sorkany goodness." I quit watching not because it was bad be because it was so frustrating -- approaching but not quite reaching greatness.

On the other hand, the TREK movies got better once Roddenberry was taken off them, so who knows?

Karl said...

movies made from television shows didn't exist before the 1960's

I can only think of a handful of pre-1960s theatrical films that were derived from TV series. One was OUR MISS BROOKS, released by Warner Bros. in 1956, and based on the popular TV (1952-1956) and radio (1948-1957) sitcom.

Another was MOLLY (Paramount, 1950), based on the series THE GOLDBERGS, which ran for years on radio and for a few years on early television, beginning in 1949.

An I LOVE LUCY movie was made -- sort of -- but never released. It's actually just three episodes of the TV series, with new scenes to link the shows together, and framing footage of a couple going to see the filming of a LUCY episode. It was shelved after the Arnazes made a feature film deal with MGM. It's interesting to see just for the "backstage" framing footage, in which we get to see what the audience saw, including Desi doing a warm-up.

Movies derived from radio shows weren't unusual in the 1930s and '40s. RKO, in particular, made a number of them, built around then-popular radio sitcoms such as LUM AND ABNER, THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE, and FIBBER McGEE AND MOLLY.

Karl said...

Oh, forgot one! DRAGNET, on radio since 1949 and television since 1952, turned into a Warner Bros. feature film in 1954, with stars Jack Webb and Ben Alexander as Sergeant Joe Friday and Officer Frank Smith.

H Johnson said...

I agree with you 100%. I hated this movie for all the reasons you mentioned plus some. But I think you hated it less because you called it a turd. I can pinch a better loaf than this thing and I'm not even in your industry.

Guy Ritchie/Michael Bay. These music video directors somehow talked their way into auteur status and producers keep throwing money at them. The more they spend the worse it gets.

These two tools suck no matter what genre they work with. But the problem with any remake is that unless you can add to the subject property, leave it alone. The arrogance and disrespect that is exhibited time after time makes me sick. Most treasured films and TV shows were of their time. To take the title and look of something and assume we'll buy it is wrong, and exactly as you describe with Man From UNCLE.

Sorry Ken that something you loved was trashed, but you probably should have seen it coming. Guy Ritchie hasn't made a non-puke inducing film in years. He must of blew his whole wad on Snatch and then the Maddonasaurus ate what was left of his brain. Too bad, cause Snatch was cool.

Aloha

Aiden said...

Well, you can't say the MAN FROM UNCLE movie sucked just because it didn't measure up to the original TV series. I've barely heard of the TV show, much less ever seen it, and I thought the movie blew big time chunks.

Oh, forgot one! DRAGNET, on radio since 1949 and television since 1952, turned into a Warner Bros. feature film in 1954

That's interesting. I didn't know Dragnet had been on before the 1960s series.

Donald Benson said...

I got the UNCLE "movies"; a set of two-parters that were spliced together and released abroad (ala Disney). Some tossed in a new scene or two implying Solo had slept with the girl. Many of them float startlingly close to "Get Smart" and "Batman", not only in laughable attempts at Bondian spectacle, but in deliberate comedy. Deliberate attempted comedy.

There was a reasonably entertaining TV reunion movie, which included Patrick Macnee in an engaging turn as the new head of UNCLE. One nice touch was that they pulled some of the old show's better tricks to imply a bigger budget (a remote control plane hijacking without ever showing a plane, for example).

gottacook said...

That's interesting. I didn't know Dragnet had been on before the 1960s series.

My mom had a record (possibly a 45, maybe a 78) of a Yiddish-accented parody of the radio show, "Dregnet" parts 1 & 2, but I never got to hear any episodes of the original until many years later. Here in the DC area, public radio station WAMU has a Sunday night show hosted by Ed Walker that includes full radio episodes (with original broadcast dates) of not only Dragnet but also Gunsmoke, Johnny Dollar, and various comedies.

Dragnet was also remade as an ill-advised Dan Aykroyd movie about 25 years ago.

LouOCNY said...

Karl said...
Oh, forgot one! DRAGNET, on radio since 1949 and television since 1952, turned into a Warner Bros. feature film in 1954, with stars Jack Webb and Ben Alexander as Sergeant Joe Friday and Officer Frank Smith.


The oddity there is that before reviving DRAGNET in the 60's, Webb did a made for TV movie as a quasi pilot....

VP81955 said...

That's interesting. I didn't know "Dragnet" had been on before the 1960s series.

That's where the series gained its greatest renown, as radio's (then TV's) first realistic procedural. Listen to the radio police shows that preceded "Dragnet" (a few of which starred Webb) and they sound hackneyed, silly, ersatz Sam Spade. With "Dragnet," Webb changed all that, creating a truly compelling radio series, all adapted from true stories. (About the only thing about the series that didn't make sense was Webb's Joe Friday as uber-cop, moving from homicide to juvenile to bunco without missing a beat.) The staccato style of "Dragnet" made it ripe for parody, by Stan Freberg and others, but at its best it gave the listener (and later, viewer) a feel for how law enforcement works; it's also a wonderful snapshot of '50s Los Angeles, as it transitioned from Council Bluffs with a beach into a true multicultural municipality. (Dick Wolf was a big fan of the show and later did his own short-lived "Dragnet" revival; alas, Ed O'Neill still was shackled by Al Bundy's ghost, so few accepted him as the new Friday.)

The '60s revival with Webb was passable, but by this time Jack was a bit long in the tooth, and even the presence of Harry Morgan as his right-hand man didn't help things. So Webb concentrated on "Adam-12" and "Emergency!", other procedurals focusing on public servants.

ODJennings said...

My favorite Dragnet moment. Actually 2 minutes and 21 seconds of Jack Webb making a long distance call:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfjwvGREiJA

Mike said...

So, who had the toy car - the Oldsmobile?
Bullet holes in the windscreen and a somewhat conspicuous UNCLE logo on the bonnet. As I recall, the shooting figure leant in & out of the window on pressing the button on the roof. The ring was a hologram image swapping between Solo & Kuryakin. Either myself or a friend had the white model - which I now learn was ultra-rare and fetches about $500. Oh, well.
Not a patch on the Aston Martin DB5 or even the Saint's volvo.

Itching to scratch some THRUSH jokes.

Alan C said...

I never got into the original UNCLE series but was somewhat interested in seeing this. Thanks for watching it so we don't have to! Your review reminds me of the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie. I was so offended that they made Phelps the villain that I refuse to see any of the sequels. It helps that I'm not exactly a huge Tom Cruise fan.

Thomas said...

The 1950s incarnation of DRAGNET is much better than the late '60s revival. Webb is more engaged in the former, and definitely less cranky and grumpy. The latter too often comes off as listening to your grandfather rant and rave about how the world is going to hell. Universal owns both versions of the series and, unfortunately, buried the original '50s series after the '60s series came along, figuring it was all the DRAGNET anybody would ever need, being more recent and in color. A few episodes from the 1950s original circulate on DVD from public domain outfits, in barely watchable quality and usually with the familiar (and copyrighted) DRAGNET theme music removed. Episodes of the radio series are pretty easy to find and are generally in very listenable condition.

LouOCNY said...

There a few interesting things regarding Dragnet vis a vis Adam-12: Dragnet 6X had barely started when Webb's friend/colleague. R A Cinader had the idea for A12,so Webb/Cinaer worke on it so it would be ready for the next season - Webb already had the contacts at LAPD, and casting it would not be a problem, as Webb was already using Kent McCord on Dragnet occasionally, Marty Milner was an old friend, and just finishing Route 66, and for the rest of the cast, all he had to do was call on his usual hangers on like Bill Boyett, Art Gilmore, Virginia Gregg, and so on.

Even though A12 was pretty good, and got renewed by NBC, you could tell the resources at Mark VII were strained - Reed and Malloy could only answer only so many calls that were almost all on the Universal back lot. the scripts were starting to get repetitive also Also, Dragnet's ratings were not so hot after three seasons. So NBC gave Webb a choice: Kill either Dragnet or Adam-12. To Webb's credit, he chose to end Dragnet. Adam-12 got a budget boost, Webb also 'retire' Cinader, and hired a kid hanging around the Universal lot as story editor - a kid by the name of Stephen J Cannell. Cannell shook things up story wise, and Adam 12 ended up running another 5 years.

cadavra said...

Just saw it today and totally agree with you except in one respect:

Period detail? What period detail?

Where are the narrow lapels and skinny ties? Where is the bright red lipstick? Why are they always called "Russians" and not "Soviets?" Nobody "jogged" in 1963, and if they did, they didn't call it that. And how come no one smokes, not even the goddamn Nazis? Not since X-MEN: FIRST CLASS has a major movie felt less like the year it takes place in.

What's really depressing is that 1) Ritchie did this instead of that long-promised sequel to ROCKNROLLA, 2) Armie Hammer can't buy a hit to save his soul, 3) Elizabeth Debicki was utterly wasted, and most importantly, studios will apparently never learn to be faithful to their source. Did they learn nothing from THE LONE RANGER?

Charles H. Bryan said...

To be fair to Guy Ritchie, I frequently am entertained by a good ball of yarn. Or Twitter.

D. McEwan said...

Well, fortunately for me, I'd learned my lessons seeing Ritchie's two abominable Sherlock Holmes movies, movies that also got EVERYTHING wrong. Ritchie would have to pay me to get me to watch another movie from him. at least this movie bombed so tremendously,there will be no sequel.

The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. earned its existence for one episode: "The Mother Muffin Affair," where Boris Karloff, in drag, played a female villain with a letch for guest star Robert Vaughn (Filling in for Noel Harrison for one episode), with whom he flirted mercilessly throughout the entire, hilarious program.

Anonymous said...

They were supposed to be. Itdidn'ttakeitselfseriously. The show was a subtle parody of the genre. That's partly what made it a good show.

craig m said...

I saw it last weekend and what I liked most was the font of its subtitles, and how the subtitles varied in size. I could come up with fainter praise, but it would be difficult.

Breadbaker said...

Two films that worked for me on this basis (not TV, but "sixties sensibility") were Oceans 11, which simply translated the cool insouciance of the original to this millennium, and Down with Love, which totally got the concept of the sixties overproduced and obvious romantic musical comedy, but totally bombed at the box office. It's the latter fact that should have been the signal to Hollywood to stop doing the sixties for their own sake. A lot of that form of entertainment wasn't really that good. People saw Doris Day movies because they didn't have a lot of other entertainment options, not because they were all that well made. If you look at the box offices of anything but the great, big movie spectaculars (Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, etc.), it drops off pretty quickly. And they were competing with only three networks on television. A lot of these movies were just titillating enough to make a date movie without making the parents nervous; without that, no one would have seen them, and when edgier stuff came in about 1967, they disappeared off the face of the earth pretty quickly.

Can you make a Man from UNCLE for 2015? Sure, if you get what made it work in the 60s and also get what would make it interesting today. I'd certainly want some character to state as Cold War verities things we know didn't turn out to be true. "Ilya, Tito has melded the Yugoslavian state into a single nationality; the idea of ethnic strife there is absurd."

michaleen said...

Good job, Craig M! If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

It reminds me of the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode when Larry asked a friend how she enjoyed his movie. She responded, "It was exactly the right length. Not too short or too long."

Dixon Steele said...

Has anyone see one of the UNCLEs lately?

Just caught one of MeTV last week and it wasn't especially vintage.

Anonymous said...

You obviously hate the guy, but his name is Ri_t_chie.

MikeK.Pa. said...

"My hand was shaking as I left the theater." It was probably shaking when you pulled the money from your wallet for tickets. Your hand already knew you were throwing the money away.

I'm amazed that Armie Hammer keeps getting co-starring gigs. How many eggs does he have to lay before H-wood wises up?

cadavra said...

Why are you laying this on Hammer? He's a terrific actor. The fact that his last three films tanked was not his fault, especially as he wasn't even the lead in them. Let's not forget that many of today's top stars also had a string of flops until they landed the one that hit big. His turn will come.

Oh, and Breadbaker, you need to revisit those '60s Doris Day comedies. Many of them are solid entertainments, especially THE THRILL OF IT ALL, SEND ME NO FLOWERS and THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT.

Jake Mabe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jake Mabe said...

This is how I felt, more or less, after leaving the 2012 Burton/Depp destruction of "Dark Shadows."

Yep, I'd seen the TV trailer. Went anyway. To a matinee.

Why, if you're going to do these things, alienate half (maybe more, maybe much more) of the audience primed and ready to see it (especially in DARK SHADOWS' case)?

David said...

Ken, I love your blog and love your reviews but I completely disagree with you on this movie. Admittedly, after reading your scathing review, I went into this with low expectations, but c'mon. This is a classic summer popcorn movie. I never saw the original TV show since I was born in the 80's, but I found this to be a fun, "leave your brain at the ticket counter" good time. Were there logical plot holes? Sure! But can you honestly name a secret agent movie without them?

Henry Cavill plays a smug, womanizing ex-convict turned secret agent. The criticism here is he delivers lines too smugly? He's supposed to be a bit of a jack-ass. He was a convict after all. Does James Bond not deliver pun-tastic lines? Was the tone of Jason Bourne's lines a bit somber? Yes, it comes with the territory of making a secret agent movie.

Armie Hammer's performance as well was very authentic. He only has 2 ranges? Yes, sure. But his character was supposed to be this very stoic, hardened Soviet. Should have he been cracking jokes, crying to emotional songs, and being melodramatic? NO! That wasn't what his character dictated.

All in all I thought this was a great popcorn movie. People in the audience (i.e. not me) were laughing, and even clapping to some of the moments on screen. It's Rotten Tomato score is above 50%, meaning it's not a complete dog turn that Ken suggests it is. Guy Ritchie might not be perfect, but it's far from the colossal failure Ken suggests it is.

Pamela A. Manseau said...

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Todd Allcock said...

As a fan of the original series, I have to say I loved the new movie. I have no problem with "style over substance" in an entertainment film- this was a love letter to 60s spy movies, not Shakespeare. As much as I enjoyed the TV series, it wasn't worthy of the reverence some attribute to it; it was very uneven, and a product of its time that missed the mark far more often than it hit. (Frankly, it was all downhill after the stellar first season.)

The UNCLE film was fun, the action restrained and stylized (rather than over-the-top like the Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible films), the humor worked without making the film too campy, and the soundtrack by Daniel Pemberton was fantastic, although I wished Ritchie allowed him to riff on the original TV series theme. (Apparently Pemberton was a fan of the original theme, Ritchie wasn't.)

The film evoked the spirit of 60s "caper" films as well as the spy genre and provided two hours of pure fun. My kids have made me take then to see it multiple times, and I haven't protested! Each time, although playing to sparsely attended theaters, those who did show up seemed to have a good time.



Anonymous said...

Agree! I would never go see the movie, it just cant be duplicated. The cast of all 3 including mr Waverly, I love them all. Superb acting and I think so much of the person was in the character. I love it, and i do. Remember watching it, but didn't appreciate as i do know. No camera tricks, or wild unbeliveable fight scenes. I notice some of the gadgets have not changed much in recent soy movies, they were just were execut93rd in amore dramatic fashion. I''ve been getting all the seasons from the library. Try that.

Anonymous said...

That's very funny about your hand shaking...HILARIOUS!!!