Friday, December 25, 2015

Like its elderly characters, ‘Youth’ is slow-gaited but has rewarding moments

By Steve Crum
There is a whole lot of meditating and reflection aka deep thought going on in Youth, a dramedy that has already been heralded and crowned at Cannes. I cannot give the film that much praise, but there is a definite point of view expressed here, albeit a bit depressing. The search for life’s truth by both Youth’s elderly and youngish adults is rampant in this film, as its 124 minutes crawl along in search of answers. 
Youth is a handsomely photographed, well acted movie. It is also distant and uninvolving. The lack of emotion of the characters’ demeanor is perhaps best characterized by the sex play between a long-married couple, which occurs in the woods as Michael Caine’s Fred Ballinger and Harvey Keitel’s Mick Boyle hide behind a tree to observe.  Previous to the husband and wife’s woodsy display of lust, they were sullen and hardly said a word to each other. Perhaps that is Italian director Paolo Sorrentino’s point. (He also wrote the screenplay.) By the time a married couple is way past retirement age, the passion becomes play acting, and the sexual act is mechanical with rehearsed sound effects. 
The problem with Sorrentino’s unwavering premise it that an audience watching his story has to endure a dozen or so such emotionless characters who seem to be searching for their lost passion of life, libido and otherwise.
For central character Fred, a successful composer-conductor, coping with his depression takes some unique turns—from hand conducting cattle through a chorus of mooing on a hillside to soaking in an indoor pool with his pal Mick as they ogle a 20-something, nude Miss Universe who has chosen to join them at the pool’s opposite side. 
Mick and Fred are vacationing at an upscale resort, which somewhat resembles the Grand Budapest, and located in the Swiss Alps. Clientele is mixed, but heavily seniors. So many elders are there, in fact, the resort keeps doctors and nurses on staff for regular health checkups. At times the resort appears to be an assisted living abode. A rather plain Jane prostitute sits in the lobby, on call for any older gent in need of her special aid. What a logical, original touch.
Early in the story, Fred is visited by an emissary of Queen Elizabeth who requests he conduct for her his beloved operatic composition, “Simple Songs,” but it is not to be. The real reason why he refuses is eventually disclosed, but it now appears Fred is bitter, antisocial, and solidly retired. His long time pal Mick, however, does want to perform again—and the sooner the better. He wants to direct a new film, and several writers have checked in at the resort to be a part. Two actors show up regarding the movie, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) and Brenda Morel, played by Jane Fonda in coarse, unflattering makeup. Fonda is pretty terrific as the outspoken actress. 
Rachel Weisz is very effective as Fred’s daughter, Lena, who is her father’s assistant. She is also married to Mick’s philandering son. 
Throughout Youth, the young adults essentially ask, “What is life?” as their elders wonder, “What was life?” “I’ve grown old without understanding how I got here,” Fred laments. By film’s conclusion, we and Fred better understand. 

GRADE on an A-F Scale: B-

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Heartfelt ‘Brooklyn’ is terrific 1950’s love story linking Ireland and USA

By Steve Crum
Brooklyn is a nostalgic, funny, sad, and overall heartfelt drama of a young Irish lass who emigrates to New York City during the 1950’s. Central to the story’s theme are love, family and homesickness, ingredients perfectly blended and served by director John Crowley. Nick Hornby adapted the screenplay, based on Colm Tóbín’s novel of the same name. What a truly lovely film. 
This is the first mainstream feature by Crowley, even though Brooklyn will no doubt be exhibited exclusively in so-called art houses as it opens today. It really should be seen by everyone, even though the cast lacks general name recognition. Its leading stars, Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen, are recognizable if not by name. Ronan began as a child actress, garnering praise for her work in Atonement and The Lovely Bones. Cohen’s background is notably in the cast of TV’s Smash. They both turn in Oscar worthy performances here. Cohen is very reminiscent of a young James Dean or Marlon Brando. 
The two name actors in Brooklyn are both splendid here in supporting roles: Jim Broadbent (Topsy-Turvy) and Julie Walters (Educating Rita). Broadbent plays the Irish Catholic priest, Father Flood, and Walters is Mrs. Kehoe, the landlady of the boarding house in Brooklyn where Ronan’s Eilis Lacey stays. 
Then there is Domhnall Gleeson as Eilis’ later day suitor, Jim Farrell. Gleeson is second billed, probably because he gained famed by portraying Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter series. This is not saying he is not fine in Brooklyn, but second billing is a stretch, considering the breadth of his role. Far more deserving is the terrific turn by Emory Cohen. 
The plot is simplistic but layered. Ellis Lacey (Ronan) reluctantly follows her sister Rose’s advice to venture from their Irish village to America to pursue a substantial career. We later occasionally see Rose (Fiona Glascott) when the two are reading each other’s letters. Occurrences on board the ship transporting Eilis show how naive about life she is. But she befriends an experienced shipmate who clues her in on expectations and how to survive homesickness. “Sometimes it’s nice to talk to people who don’t know your auntie,” she tells Eilis. Like many small towns then and now, her town in Ireland has a gossip mentality.
Incidentally, Eilis’s processing scene at Ellis Island pleasantly grabbed me. It is rather refreshing to witness immigrants being politely and expediently welcomed to the USA. 
The Catholic Church has planned her travel and settlement venue, including an Irish-American boarding house for young Irish ladies. The local priest has even paid the tuition for Eilis’s night school so she can become a bookkeeper. Eilis works days at a department store, and her life is controlled if not mundane. Then she meets a young man, who is Italian-American. The story proceeds from there, including a third act when Eilis has to return home to Ireland for an emergency. Life altering decisions ensue.
There are so many fine period and cultural touches in Brooklyn, from set design and clothing to mores about dating, church dances, and family loyalty. 
Above all, Brooklyn is a love story about two very likable, deserving souls.

GRADE on an A-F Scale: A

Friday, October 16, 2015

Kudos to Spielberg, Hanks for taut Cold War thriller, ‘Bridge of Spies’

By Steve Crum

One would think that with credentials like being co-written by the highly regarded Coen Brothers, starring Oscar winner Tom Hanks, cinematography by Oscar winner Janusz Kaminski, and under the direction of the already legendary Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies would be a an “A” grade motion picture. Lo and behold, it is just that. What superb, must-see storytelling Bridge of Spies certainly is. 

“Inspired by true events,” Bridge of Spies plays out like a meticulously calculated Cold War thriller full of what old school movies and books would have labeled “intrigue.” Spielberg and his writers (Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen) certainly embrace the intrigue, particularly the frustrating secrecy that necessitates one country spying upon another. In this case the countries are the USSR (now Russia) and the United States. The story opens in 1957, and evolves through 1962 during Bridge’s 141 minutes. 

The story opens with a rather innocent appearing oil painter going about his daily life in Brooklyn, setting up his easel both in his modest apartment as well as curbside on the street. He is being stalked, and we do not know why. Incidentally, this is the first of several beautifully directed sequences. It turns out the painter, Rudolf Abel, is a Soviet spy, and the stalkers are FBI agents. Abel is wonderfully played by Mark Rylance—a laid-back, infrequently humorous, Oscar caliber performance. 

Abel is soon arrested for espionage, and readied for a rapid trial and conviction. Realize that the USA tenor of those times was violently anti-Communist via a country that had been ignited with Red hatred since the end of WWII. Even so, some semblance of civility and justice prevailed regarding Commie spies. To that purpose, a pro bono attorney is chosen to defend Abel: James B. Donovan, played by Tom Hanks. The fact he has sparse expertise in criminal law was undoubtedly why he was chosen. His role is to appear to defend Abel, and nothing more. That drastically changes, hence the central conflict, when Donovan decides to truly defend the spy, and not simply be part of a lynching. 

Cut to CIA training headquarters wherein civilian pilots (curiously referred to as “drivers”) are being instructed on flying the newly commissioned U-2 airplanes that are equipped with huge lenses in their bellies to photograph Soviet military bases. One of the drivers is Francis Gary Powers. It is no spoiler to say he is eventually shot down over the USSR, and captured.

So the crux of Bridge of Spies is the interplay of two governments, and the wherewithal of exchanging one for the other on the Glienicke Bridge linking East and West Berlin. Donovan is involved as negotiator, and his frustrating and labored back and forth deal making between the United States and the USSR turns out to be fascinating entertainment. 

In the process, the setting often shifts to the building of the Berlin Wall. Scenes were shot in Wrolcaw, Poland, which obviously still looks like East Berlin of 55 years ago. This and other period sequences suggest a near documentary visual style. Spielberg successfully did likewise with Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List

Although the film’s setup might sound overly complex and bogged down with laborious dialogue, rest assured the conversations are crisp, and the overall pace rapid. 

Kudos to Amy Ryan as Donovan’s wife, Mary; Austin Stowell as Francis Gary Powers; and to Alan Alda in a thankless role as Donovan’s law agency boss. An additional plus is given to composer Thomas Newman, who supplies an appropriate low key score. Newman was chosen to replace long time Spielberg collaborator John Williams, who had to bow out due to medical reasons. 

Bridge of Spies is a huge production featuring dozens of actors in elaborate sets, but there is a small scene that stays with me. It takes place in the hall outside a U. S. courtroom where photographers are snapping photos of Donovan and his client Abel. They use period press cameras, requiring large flashbulbs—which the photographers repeatedly flash, eject, and let fall to the floor before reloading another bulb. As the entourage eventually moves out of the area, everyone crushes flashbulbs underfoot. Spielberg captures that moment, and stays on those hard soled shoes crunching and shattering.

GRADE on a scale of A to F: A

Friday, September 18, 2015

Depp delivers jarring, chilling mob boss portrayal in “Black Mass”

By Steve Crum

By December’s close, let us hope Johnny Depp’s incredibly menacing performance in Black Mass will not be lost among the onslaught of end of the year Oscar nominations. Depp’s superb work here is a major turnaround in a career fallen to hats and Halloween costumes. 

But Depp has been physically made over in other ways. To match the real life felon he portrays, Depp’s hairline is way back, semi-bald, and his teeth are rough hewn. Such is the way James “Whitey” Bulger looked when he committed an alphabet list of crimes in South Boston during the 1970’s and ‘80s.  

Black Mass, directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), is a true story covering Bulger’s infamous career from Boston’s Irish mob enforcer to his eventual rise to kingpin. Based on Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill’s book of the same name, the screenplay is by Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk. The script is particularly noteworthy in its use of a semi-documentary storytelling. From the outset and throughout, various informers are shown being audio taped at FBI headquarters as each tells his own witnessed story of murders and mayhem Bulger committed. Flashback to each particular crime scene. Let me rephrase that to “each graphically violent crime scene.” There are brutal punches thrown in Black Mass, along with stranglings, shootings, and stabbings. Hey, it’s mob business as usual, except this time it’s Depp’s Whitey who is the homicidal epicenter. He is a sociopath whose paranoia and mistrust prove deadly even to long time friends. 

Even when Whitey becomes boss of essentially a death squad, he seems to enjoy literally taking hit man duties into his own hands. Or trigger finger. Let’s just say that when Depp in on screen, which is often, that is when Black Mass cranks it up emotionally. Whitey is always on edge, quick to react, and forever looking to be offended in some way. In many ways he is reminiscent of Joe Pesci’s psycho killer in Goodfellas

Nearly as great as Depp is Joel Edgerton as John Connolly, Whitey’s childhood pal who has grown up to be an FBI agent stationed in Boston. Connolly strikes a deal with his boss (Kevin Bacon) to have Whitey serve as informant to rid Boston of another mob, the Italian mafia. This serves to eliminate competition, and frees his Winter Hill Gang to run rampant without FBI interference. Call it controlled corruption. 

Dakota Johnson plays Bulger’s live-in girlfriend, Lindsey Cyr. She is also the mother of his son. Like everyone else in Bulger’s life, except his own mother and young son, Cyr is at risk of harm around Whitey. Benedict Cumberbatch is Whitey’s brother, William, a respected Massachusetts State Senator. 

We have seen it hundreds of times in crime dramas on TV and in movies: deals are struck with very bad people to bring down extremely bad people. That sums up the scenario in Black Mass.  The outrageous outcome of actual lawyer-made deals relating to Black Mass is exemplified in the closing tag lines. It is the world in which we live, folks.  

There is a memorable sequence about 2/3 through the movie that proves why Johnny Depp should be Oscar nominated. Whitey is alone with Connolly's wife. I will not spoil it except to identify it as Depp’s thermometer scene. Hands down, you will never forget it. Creepy and stunning. 

GRADE on a scale of A to F: A-

Monday, August 24, 2015

Once upon a time there were two Jean Harlow movies

By Steve Crum

Fifty years ago this summer, Harlow beat Harlow. But in the end, Harlow beat Harlow

Let me explain.

Paramount Studios had planned a biographical movie based on the life of MGM star Jean Harlow for a long time. John Michael Hayes’ script would particularly focus on her rise from a feminine foil in silent Laurel and Hardy comedies through her heyday as a featured player and ultimately star at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in such films as Red Dust and Grand Hotel. The story would include her private life love affairs, marriages, and untimely death. It would also cover the rocky relationship with her mother and stepfather. The film would be released as Harlow

While Paramount filmed its Technicolor, widescreen Harlow glitz, an independent movie studio across town, Magna Pictures, was shooting its own version on Jean Harlow’s life—to be called Harlow. Karl Turbey’s script would be directed by Alex Segal. Gordon Douglas was helming Paramount’s Harlow.

The race was on to see which same-named movie would open first. 

Carroll Baker was the Technicolor Jean Harlow, while Carol Lynley was Harlow in black and white. Paramount’s movie was  shot using celluloid film stock; Magna’s release was thriftily  shot on videotape and then transferred to film. The process was touted as Electronovision. The latter was supposed to look like a live television production from the early 1950’s. It definitely looks low budget, except for its stellar cast. In fact, both movies have impressive casts. 

The Lynley Harlow is supported by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Ginger Rogers (her last film), Barry Sullivan, Lloyd Bochner, Hermione Baddeley, Audrey Totter, John Williams, Jack Kruschen, Robert Strauss, Sonny Liston (!), and Cliff Norton. The great Nelson Riddle contributed to the score. 

A bizarre scene occurs in the MGM studio commissary at lunch, wherein Harlow (Lynley) approaches a table occupied by Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (Jim Plunkett and John J. Fox) and Al Jolson (Buddy Lewis, hammily played in blackface). Jolson’s one line includes him ogling Harlow and shouting, “Oh, Mammy!” It is logical to see Stan, Ollie and Jean lunching together at MGM, but what the hell is Jolson doing there…and in makeup? He was a Warner Brothers star at that time. 

Released May 14, 1965, the Lynley Harlow never lived up to its ad catchphrase: The Picture The World Has Been Waiting To See! Even though it was rushed to release over a month before the Baker Harlow, no one rushed to the movie theatre. To this day, few have seen it.  

This is by no means implying the Paramount Harlow was or is a classic. But it has had staying power…in part due to Carroll Baker’s highly publicized (especially in Playboy magazine) sex persona that began in 1964’s The Carpetbaggers. Her erotic image helped Paramount’s Harlow become a financial success. 

Audiences seeing Baker’s Harlow, after it opened June 23, 1965, were dazzled by the full color images of Angela Lansbury, Red Buttons, Raf Vallone, Peter Lawford, Mike Connors, Martin Balsam, and Leslie Nielsen. Neil Hefti supplied the music, and Bobby Vinton sang the movie’s theme song. Period costumes were by Edith Head. Producer Joseph E. Levine made sure his Harlow was promoted to the max. 

Levine’s Harlow was months in the making, while the videotaped Harlow at Magna took eight days. 

Neither movie is above average.

Only one of the two versions is remembered at all. Modern audiences would draw a blank at either film's existence.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Best & Worst of Upcoming Movie Releases, According to My Favorite Film Critic

By Steve Crum

These are my lists. Everyone has his or her own tastes, his or her own quirks and nuances regarding what is humor, what is horror, what is music, what is acting, what is entertaining. My tastes certainly influence films I review, but they are not all encompassing. A film review is a matter of balance as well as personal preference. I try to perceive what a movie’s audience would think of the film being reviewed. And I want my reader to know what I thought. Objectivity and subjectivity level out if a review succeeds. 

However, back to this piece, these are my lists. I have not yet seen any of the movies opening from September to December, 2015, so no objectivity is required. They reflect my personal tastes based on 68 years of living, including the viewing of thousands of films, many of which I have written reviews. I don’t have to justify my choices, but then again, I might. From 75 films being released over the next four months, these are the ones I can’t wait to view…and ones I could care less to see. [They are listed in no particular order. Opening dates are noted.]
Crum’s Top 15 Most Anticipated Fall Movies [out of 75 releases]

1. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS…Dec. 18: The franchise relaunches, and I am an entrenched fan. The definition of a true movie event. 

2. OUR BRAND IS CRISIS…Oct. 30: The premise engages me. Sandra Bullock plays a political strategist hired to get a Bolivian president re-elected. Add Billy Bob Thornton to the mix.

3. SUFFRAGETTE…Oct. 23: The struggle to get women’s voting rights in England, circa 1912, hooks me. Baiting the hook are Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan.

4. TRUTH…Oct. 16: Depicting the 2004 “60 Minutes” scandal that prompted the firing of a CBS producer and degradation upon Dan Rather, the movie stars Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett. 

5. STEVE JOBS…Oct. 9: Most enticing is that Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay. It’s also about the creative process, Mac computers, and Jobs himself. Michael Fassbender (as Jobs), Jeff Daniels, and Kate Winslet star. 

6. ROCK THE KASBAH…Oct. 23: American rock music manager Bill Murray backs an unknown singer on Afghanistan TV. Barry Levinson directs. 

7. BRIDGE OF SPIES…Oct. 16: Three reasons this is highly anticipated. First is its director, Steven Spielberg (his 29th feature film). Secondly, it stars Tom Hanks. Hanks portrays the lawyer who tries to free an American U-2 spy plane pilot from the Soviets during the Cold War. That plot description is reason 3.  

8. SPOTLIGHT…Nov. 6: Based upon the Boston Globe’s reporting of child sex-abuse allegations involving the Catholic Church in 2002, this could be a a powerhouse film. Co-writer Tom McCarthy directs Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo.

9. TRUMBO…Nov. 6: Bryan Cranston stars as Dalton Trumbo, an award winning screenwriter branded a Communist and blacklisted during the paranoid 1950’s. Helen Mirren and Elle Fanning are featured. 

10. SPECTRE…Nov. 6: James Bond movies are more than a guilty pleasure for me, and here comes Daniel Craig (again) as 007…but in a Bond backstory. Proven elements reinforce the franchise, including director Sam Mendes and actor Christoph Waltz. 

11. JOY…Dec. 25: David O. Russell. There, that is enough motivation for viewing. He directs his favorite actors Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro in a story of…who cares? I’ll be there. 

12. THE REVENANT…Dec. 25: I became an Alejandro G. Iñárritu groupie after seeing his brilliant “Birdman” last year. This time it is a true adventure set in the 19th Century about a trapper left for dead in the wilderness, but manages to survive. Leonardo DiCaprio stars. 

13. IN THE HEART OF THE SEA…Dec. 11: Ron Howard directs Chris Hemsworth in this 19th Century sea tale based on a story that inspired “Moby Dick.”

14. BONE TOMAHAWK…Oct. 23: OK, I am a sucker for westerns. This is one of two released this season—and both star Kurt Russell. His hero reportedly battles cannibals. Savvy, Kemo? 

15. THE HATEFUL EIGHT…Dec. 25: Even the title of Quentin Tarantino’s western take is a layered joke. A follow-up to “The Magnificent Seven” it is not, however. It stars Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, among others.

Crum’s Bottom 10 Least Anticipated Fall Movies [out of 75 movies]

1. THE INTERN…Sept. 25: The cast is great (Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway), but this comedy looks trite and predicable. 

2. MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS…Sept. 18: The second in what appears to be a franchise is not up my blind alley. Dylan O’Brien is back as the young man desperate to manipulate a labyrinth. Its cousin “Hunger Games” doesn’t appeal to me either. 

3. BLACK MASS…Sept. 18: Here is Johnny Depp looking and acting psychotic mean, which is a major career move. (Yes, he once played John Dillinger.) I gave up hope on Depp 10 movies ago. 

4. THE LAST WITCH HUNTER…Oct. 23: Protect me from watching movies about dungeons, dragons, witches, and games of thrones. Add this Vin Diesel fantasy-adventure wherein he battles evil forces in present day New York City after killing off the Queen Witch.

5. CREED…Nov. 25: Is another Rocky Balboa movie worth it? Probably not, but that did not stop Sylvester Stallone reprising his Italian Stallion persona (now elderly) to train Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis, to box. I throw in the towel ahead of time on this one. 

6. THE NIGHT BEFORE…Nov. 25: Just in time for the holiday season comes another “comedy” about arrested development young men. This time some buddies are going on one last bender in the Big Apple before having to settle down and behave like adults. Seth Rogen is the poster boy for a movie like this, and he stars. 

7. ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP…Dec. 23: I’ll pass, even though this newest Chipmunk installment is probably OK for my grandkids. 

8. DADDY’S HOME…Dec. 25: Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg play dad and stepdad, respectively, who compete for the attention of two children. Once again, two adults suffer arrested development. 

9. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION…Oct. 23: This sixth movie of the never ending series is supposedly the finale. If it makes money, which it probably will since it promises even more brutality, the franchise will continue to bump in both the night and box office. 

10. JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS…Oct. 23: “Based on the neon-pop ‘80s animated TV series….” Stop there. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Avoid ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’, especially if you liked the TV series

By Steve Crum
Remember the 1964-68 TV series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.? If you do not, this lackluster redo bearing the same moniker might be passable entertainment. Those who liked the TV series should avoid this new take. It’s new, yes, but in no way improved. In fact, it is barely recognizable as a Man from U.N.C.L.E. template. 
In fairness, producers of the 2015 U.N.C.L.E. stress that it is “based on” the old TV series. Translated, that means the three main characters, Napoleon Solo, Illya Kuryakin and Alexander Waverly, are back for the spy ride this time around. Oh…and both versions have a matching title. Outside of Solo and Waverly being respectively American and British, and the Soviet Kuryakin, that is pretty much the similarity. Then again, both the TV series and this movie are set in the Cold War 1960’s. 
So this take is 50 years retro, going a bit further back than the TV series time frame. Solo and Kuryakin are at the outset enemies operating on respective sides of the Berlin Wall. That makes The Man from U.N.C.L.E. motion picture a prequel. 
Ian Fleming, James Bond’s creator, suggested both the Solo character as well as the overall spy concept for the TV show. Five decades later, Guy Ritchie (who also directs) and Lionel Wigram adapted the original concept into an action film that mixes action, intrigue and humor—a combo that the TV series worked well. Unfortunately, those elements don’t quite jell in this 2015 wannabe. Dialogue tries to be James Bondish tongue-in-cheek, but more often becomes awkward innuendo. Particularly notice an implied sex scene with Solo (Henry Cavill). 
Speaking of Cavill, who has recently played a stoic Superman as well as bumbling Clark Kent, his Napoleon Solo is dapperly dressed (as was Robert Vaughn in the original) and mannequin-stiff. (Vaughn was never so proper.) That is doubly bothersome because of Cavill's hunky physique. I could not help thinking of him as Clark Kent without glasses, in this case unhesitatingly hopping into bed at the drop of a negligee.  Casting another towering stud, Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, is somewhat problematic as well. David McCallum (TV’s Illya) he is not. Then again, who would want an exact duplicate of actors? Not me. I just expected more brain than brawn here. 
The first third of the movie moves along with the enemy secret agents literally at each other’s throats over the rescue of garage mechanic Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander). The plot involves both sides trying to get to her German scientist father first. Solo and Kuryakin’s reluctant teaming up occupies the second act, while by Act III, the two spies have become friends and compatriots. That is when Hugh Grant’s Mr. Waverly enters. He eventually becomes the head of the spy agency. Again, this is before the U.N.C.L.E. agency of the title has been conceived. (That stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement…for those taking notes.) Calling this movie The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is misleading. Naming it The Future Men from U.N.C.L.E. is probably too cumbersome, but truthful. 
It is an odd coincidence that Armie Hammer starred as the masked man in 2013’s bomb, The Lone Ranger. Not faulting Hammer, but that rehash of the radio and TV classic was skewed as well. It should have been renamed Johnny Depp’s Tonto Movie
Like the TV original, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie is not a spy spoof like Get Smart! or In Like Flint. That is a given. But a few more laughs placed in a more clever script would have helped. In addition, inserting Jerry Goldsmith’s classic TV theme, even burying it in the crawl, would have been a fitting homage for this TV codger. 

GRADE on an A-F Scale: C-