Movie Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E (2015)

Running time: 116 minutes

Director: Guy Ritchie

UNCLEbar640Based on the 1960s TV show of the same name, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., is a reboot/origin story that shows how a CIA agent and a KGB operative have to team up for the first time in the middle of the Cold War to stop a criminal organization from creating and selling nuclear weapons. So, two very different agents, that don’t get along have to learn to work together to save the world. The plot has a very been there, done that feel, but this movie is not as much about the plot as it is about the style and the brilliant chemistry between the two leads.

In 1963, West Berlin, ex-criminal, now CIA agent, Napoleon Solo is sent to help Gaby Teller, the daughter of a mechanic who is working for a Nazi organization, to cross the Berlin Wall. In this role, Henry Cavill proves that he is much more than just Superman. This is the most charismatic he has ever been. Solo’s suave, sophisticated and confident personality also prove that he could have made a wonderful Bond. And let’s be honest, no one rocks the 60s suits like he does.

man-from-uncle-still2However, he is not the only one interested in Gaby. When they are trying to cross the Wall, they realize that Illya Kuryakin, a russian spy, has been following them and is trying to stop them. Armie Hammer, with a pretty good russian accent by the way, stars again in an adaptation of a classic TV show. It didn’t work very well last time with The Lone Ranger but luckily this time, instead of Johnny Depp, he counts with Cavill as his partner and, as I said at the beginning, their amazing chemistry is what really drives this movie.

In the role of Gaby, and after her spectacular portrayal of Ava in Ex-Machina, is Alicia Vikander, who fits perfectly in the group. She brings out different shades of their personalities and serves as the glue that keeps them together without the need of forcing a love triangle to make it work, as it usually happens.

Henry-Cavill-Armie-Hammer-Alicia-Vikander-in-The-Man-From-UNCLE-2015-movieSo the three of them team up and, under-cover, fly to Rome to investigate the leader of this organization, Victoria Vinciguerra. Played by Elizabeth Debicki, Victoria’s motivations are never really clear. It just seems like her whole reason to build a nuclear weapon is simply that she can. Maybe that is all the motivation she needs but I would have liked to see a bit more development there, as well as more from Hugh Grant’s character who was barely in it but added such a nice gravitas to the film every time he was on-screen.

In this day and age where action movies tend to have a convoluted plot, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a refreshing simplistic, yet charming portrayal of the old buddy cop formula that exudes style. I am not going to lie, it is not a perfect movie. It can be too campy at times but it is so much fun to watch. It is silly, witty and it doesn’t take itself too seriously but Guy Ritchie’s slick style fits perfectly with the story and the era of the 60s. This year that we have already had Kingsman: The Secret Service, Spy, Mission: Impossible and Spectre is coming up soon, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. will most likely be swallowed up by the genre but it is still a worth watching movie that I just loved and now that the origin story is out of the way, could have a lot of potential for a sequel.

8/10

Movie Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Running time: 131 minutes

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

mission_impossible-rogue-nation_poster2Rogue Nation starts with the IMF team intercepting an A-400 that is carrying nerve gas to be sold to terrorists. Running out of time to stop the airplane, Ethan Hunt, finds himself hanging on to the side of the plane as this takes off, while his tech guy, Benji, has some difficulty opening the door for him. And, as he did in the unforgettable scene from Ghost Protocol where Hunt had to climb the Dubai building, this time Tom Cruise also harnessed himself to the side of a taking-off airplane. That is commitment to a role and it is definitely the consolidation of Tom Cruise as the ultimate action star.

After Hunt disappears when trying to prove the existence of the Syndicate, CIA chief, Hunley (Alec Baldwin), and IMF agent William Brand (Jeremy Renner), stand in front of a Senate committee and Hunley succeeds in shutting down the IMF. Meanwhile, Hunt has been captured by the Bone Doctor. Here his path crosses for the first time with Ilsa’s, a Syndicate operative who keeps us, as well as Ethan, wondering throughout the whole movie what side she might be on and what her real intentions are, managing to maintain her likability at the same time. Without a doubt, Rebecca Ferguson is the stand out of this film. It is great to see such a good portrayal of a woman in an action movie, where she is elegant, smart, badass but it is also clear that she is in disadvantage in terms of strength. In the end though, her skills make up for it.

ferguson.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxSix months after being on the run, Ethan contacts Benji, now working for the CIA, and arranges for him to attend the opera in Vienna. Simon Pegg, as he did in Ghost Protocol, works brilliantly as the comic relief without ever compromising the tension. The whole opera sequence, puts you in the mindset of Hunt, not knowing what is going on and it is very reminiscent of The Man who Knew too Much by Alfred Hitchcock, with that level of suspense and the use of music entangled in the action. The cinematography in this sequence is simply beautiful.

This movie has breathtaking action pieces one after another. When you finally think you have recovered from Cruise hanging from a plane or the tension of the opera, Ethan Hunt’s next mission is to stay underwater for three minutes. From the start, you know something is going to go wrong but you are not sure what and it keeps you on the edge of your sit and holding your breath as Ethan does for the whole scene. If this wasn’t enough, immediately after we have probably one of the best motorcycle chases ever in an action movie.

mission_impossible_A64F875DED234C2FA196DA05EB2B6613The truth is, there is little wrong about Rogue Nation. For a movie with so many action sequences, the pacing is fantastic and all the characters have their moment to shine. I just wish Jeremy Renner could have had a bigger role or more action because he is so good and always ends up being side-lined. It could have been good to have also more of Alec Baldwin, but that is really knit-picking because for what their roles were in the movie, they were well utilized. The villain, whom in these kind of movies often seems like an afterthought, was effective and compelling. He was intimidating, always being a couple of steps mentally ahead of Hunt, and you bought his motivations.

In the end, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is probably the best movie of the summer and a fun time at the cinema. Maybe it is a bit too long but never gets tiresome or boring. It hardly ever gives you a moment to breathe and, though you know the characters are going to be fine, it still makes you fear for them, making it a thrilling experience. Mission: Impossible is one of those rare franchises that just keeps getting better and better with each new movie.

9,5/10

Movie Review: Fantastic Four (2015)

Running time: 106 minutes

Director: Josh Trank

F42015They say, once you hit rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up. It was difficult to make a film worse than Fantastic Four (2005) and they managed to do it with Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. So one would think that in the middle of the Golden Age of comic book movies and with the extraordinary cast Fox had assembled for the reboot, things would be at least a bit better this time around. Given one of his tweets (that he later deleted) it seems not even director Josh Trank believes that.

Young prodigy, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) joins Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny Storm (Michael B Jordan) to complete a Quantum Gate at Baxter Laboratory. The experiment succeeds and they teleport to an alternate universe called Planet Zero where their physical form is altered giving them shocking abilities. Reed can stretch like rubber, Sue can become invisible, Johnny can set himself on fire and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) is made of rock. Back in earth they will have to learn how to use their new powers and work as a team to defeat a former colleague, Doom.

fftvspot-142157-640x320.pngThe movie starts on a solid note with 11-year-old Reed Richards breaking into the house of Ben Grimm to steal some materials he needs to make his teleporter work. After this, they develop a close friendship and they keep working together in the project. In present day, at the science fair, their prototype attracts the attention of doctor Storm, who recruits Richards into working for him at Baxter Laboratory with his two children, Sue and Johnny, and Storm’s protegé, Victor von Doom to complete a Quantum Gate that will allow teleportation.

Amongst its many flaws, the one that stands out the most is the flatness of the characters. The first part of the movie tries to flesh them out a bit but does quite a poor job. We already know they are going to become a team, so the key part to keep the audience’s interest would be how they will achieve that and building up the relationships. Just as Joss Whedon masterfully did in the first Avengers. Here, despite the great actors involved, there’s nothing they can do with what they are given. Their performances are bland, there’s no chemistry between them and therefore, no interest in what happens to them. They even waste the opportunity to explore Sue and Johnny’s relationship, which could have added a great dynamic with her being adopted.

human-torch-and-invisible-woman-flying-in-fantastic-four-internationalActually, this movie wastes opportunity after opportunity. The scene where they discover their powers after coming back from Planet Zero worked really well and was quite horrific, which is the tone they were going for, but then they skip a whole year without an apparent reason. When we meet them again, they are already training and working for the government. We miss all the conflict and how the characters react and get used to having powers, making Fantastic Four an origin story without the origin part. We don’t even know what it was for Ben to wake up and have become a rock monster. It’s from this point going on that the movie becomes an absolute mess.

The editing is horrendous. Doom, one of the most iconic villains in comic books doesn’t appear until the last twenty minutes and is easily defeated. A great way to, not just waste a great villain, but ruin it. Also, usually in this kind of movies you can always say that even though the story had flaws, the special effects and the action were cool enough to make it entertaining to watch, but the fight sequence is just bad and boring and you can tell from a mile away that it was shot in front of a green screen.

F4Doom2And the problem is not that they were going for a darker tone. That actually quite worked. The problem is that it wasn’t fun. They lost the direction, the characters and in the end, nothing really happens. As hard as it may be to imagine, it only gets worse and worse as the movie progresses. That whole final scene in the new facility was so reminiscent of the ending of Age of Ultron where Cap was cut in mid sentence saying Avengers… assemble, but badly done. The way they come up with the name of the team is simply painful to watch. The dialogue is so cheesy, you actually feel bad for the actors.

It is hard to know who is to blame for this, given that months previous to the release of the film a lot of re-shoots were done (which you can tell because they didn’t even try to match Sue’s wig with Kate Mara’s previous hair color) and Josh Trank wasn’t involved in them. Some would say that it is good that the movie was short but there are a lot of moments missing from the movie that could have been there to be two hours long and might have benefited the film. A lot of cool sequences from the trailers weren’t even in the final product which makes obvious that a big portion of this movie was left in the cutting room floor.

4/10

Movie Review: Pixels (2015)

Running time: 106 min

Director: Chris Columbus

Pixels-2When Aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games and tv shows as a declaration of war and attack the planet using the games as models, President Cooper (Kevin James) has to call in a team of nerds to fight the likes of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. The team is led by his childhood best friend, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad)  and Eddie the Fire Blaster Plant (Peter Dinklage) and counts with the help of Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan).

reparto-pixelsI will start by admitting that this is not the worst movie we have seen Adam Sandler in. However, the bar is set quite low and his character in Pixels is the same kind of character we have seen him play in all of his latest movies. Sam Brenner is an immature man with no ambition in life, who never got over losing the finals in the arcade championships when he was 11 years-old. Instead of going to MIT, he settled for a job as a TV installer and now he needs to overcome that failure and his insecurities to save the world and get the girl. Worst of all is the revelation that those said failures weren’t actually his fault, so in the end he doesn’t have to do anything to prove that he deserves something better and there is absolutely no character growth.

We are supposed to believe that all of a sudden Violet falls in love with him, even though the chemistry between Sam and Violet is non-existent. Michelle Monaghan tries to do her best with what she is given, which is practically standing there with beautiful hairdos and be the romantic interest to the hero. Though she works for the military and is shown she can kick anyone’s ass, there is a need in the script to diminish her by making her hide in the closet to cry because her ex-husband is getting re-married. If truth be told, every single woman in this movie exists just to be a trophy that can be handled to the men at the end.

PixelsAround these two, Columbus has assembled a great supporting cast though in this movie is completely wasted. Kevin James as the President of the United States and Sam’s best friend is fine but doesn’t really have much to do. Josh Gad who is building quite a big fan base with his role as Olaf in Frozen and as LeFou in the upcoming live adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, spends practically the whole movie screaming. By far the best part is Peter Dinklage, who is the only one who bothers to do something different from his previous roles. Of course, there is also a lot of cameos to bring some very much-needed star power to the movie, such as Sean Bean, Brian Cox and Serena Williams.

The thing with Pixels is that it doesn’t know who its main audience is. This is clearly a kid’s movie but the references and the 80s nostalgia aim at adults, though the humour is so dumb it’s hard to believe it is trying to appeal to grown ups. In the end, Pixels had a cool concept, hurt by a lazy script and an awful execution, though the special effects are great. It basically succeeds in every aspect Adam Sandler wasn’t involved in. Pixels is dumb and as boring as watching someone else playing a video game.

3/10