Tag Archives: Armie Hammer

Say ‘U.N.C.L.E.’

Fresh young cast revives Cold War themes of ’60s TV show

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The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander

Directed by Guy Ritchie

PG-13

He wasn’t James Bond, but he was close.

Napoleon Solo was a suave, cosmopolitan American secret agent played by actor Robert Vaughn on the hit NBC TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. from 1964 to 1968. Solo was in fact fashioned by writer consultant Ian Fleming, Bond’s creator, to be a small-screen version of his more famous British super-spy.

You don’t have to know that to enjoy this refreshingly retro-fied revival, which takes the name, characters and Cold War setting of the TV show and enhances them to modern-day Hollywood proportions.

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

Armie Hammer (left) and Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill (who’ll reprise his 2013 role of Superman in next year’s Batman v Superman) plays Solo, and Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network) is his Russian partner Illya Kuryakin. Rather than just picking up and running with TV characters established half a century ago, the movie wisely starts fresh and anew. (We don’t even hear the code word “U.N.C.L.E” and learn how it spun off from the CIA, the KGB and other international organizations as a separate super-spook division on its own, until the end of the movie.)

We learn backstories and see how Solo and Kuryakin first meet—not as teammates but as enemies, with cloak-and-dagger orders to eliminate each other if necessary, on opposing sides of the ’60s high-stakes political and military standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Their fateful collaboration makes for the fun in writer/director Guy Ritchie’s witty, snappy, stylish yarn spiced and sprinkled with Nazi fascists, Italian playboys, atom bombs, speedboats, femme fatales, fast cars, double crosses, triple crosses, some snazzy old-school spy do-daddery, and gorgeous, eye-popping fashions. It sometimes looks like the cast of Mad Men left their Madison Avenue ad agency and went into dangerous, daring Euro undercover work.

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Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander (who drew raves as a sexy robot earlier this year in Ex Machina) portrays the daughter of a brilliant German rocket scientist who’s been abducted and forced to apply his skills toward nefarious ends. She joins Solo and Kuryakin in a race—an “arms race,” to use the Cold War term—to find him.

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Elizabeth Debicki

Elizabeth Debicki is wickedly smooth as Victoria, a svelte, blond “lethal combination of beauty, brains and ambition” whose soft, seductive purr and pouty smile mask a deadly bite. Veteran British actor Hugh Grant makes a welcome impression as Waverly, a character whose motives become clear later in the film.

But the movie belongs to Cavill and Hammer, who seem to really enjoy playing off each other in two very different roles: Solo, the ultra-cool, unflappable ladies’ man who can steal almost anything, and Kuryakin, a towering Slavic hunk whose twitchy temper makes his bare hands lethal weapons—and who has trouble stealing even a single kiss. Their banter, comic bickering and constant bouts of spy-vs-spy one-upmanship keep the movie moving along crisply.

There are certainly louder, flashier, bigger spy flicks. If you’re dying for Bond, you’ll get your fix in November with Spectre. But for a classy, sassy bit of cool, Kennedy-era espionage hijinks, this new, revived Man From U.N.C.L.E. certainly delivers plenty of fresh, fun spy kicks—and hints at more to come.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Boys’ Town

Big, bloated, bro-fest-ic movie picks up where TV series left off

ENTOURAGE

Entourage

Starring Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara & Jeremy Piven

Directed by Doug Ellin

R

Based on the 2005-2011 HBO TV series about a young actor and his posse of best friends in Hollywood, this feature-film treatment is targeted primarily—and blatantly—to the same kind of hedonistic horn dogs who make up the movie’s base of bro-main characters.

Tinseltown satire, super-rich success fantasy and chauvinistic sex comedy rolled into one, the Entourage movie takes up where the TV series left off—and doesn’t go much anywhere else. A-list movie stud Vince (Adrian Grenier), newly freed from a nine-day whirlwind marriage, is ready to return to work and now wants to direct as well as act. As usual, his longtime nitwit buddies are all-aboard: Eric, his manager and best friend from childhood (Kevin Connolly); Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), his dim-bulb, struggling-actor half-brother; and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), his driver turned tequila mogul.

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Haley Joel Osment, Emily Ratajkowski & Adrien Grenier

High-strung agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), now running a movie studio, green-lights Vince’s film, a ridiculous, futuristic twist on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which quickly balloons over its $100 budget. The movie’s investor, a rich Texas oilman (Billy Bob Thornton), sends his starstruck son (Hailey Joel Osment) to ride shotgun over the troubled production.

The pencil-thin plot: Will Vince and his crew cash in once again, or will Hollywood finally break the bros?

The Entourage TV show was loosely based, at least originally, on the some of the experiences of actor Mark Wahlberg, who served as executive producer and is now one of the producers of the movie (and has a cameo, with his own tagalong “entourage”). But the movie version plays like such an overblown, oafish wet-dream stream of sexy (often topless) women, caustic one-liners and obscene wealth, it seems adrift in its own alt-universe, like an R-rated, 100-minute Viagra commercial shot inside a VIP strip club operated by light-depraved leprechauns. If you liked Entourage and its freewheeling, high-living characters on TV, you may think they’re even cooler enlarged to cinema-size. Otherwise, you might wonder what anyone ever saw in this pack of boors, mooches, rakes and cads with so few discernable, redeemable skills, talents or virtues or values.

The movie’s attempt at addressing something “deeper”—as Eric confronts his paternity with his pregnant ex-girlfriend (Emmanuelle Chriqui), or Ari seeks peace through spirituality—seems pathetically out of sync with its true, crude flow.

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“Turtle” (Jerry Ferrara) prepares to spar with Ronda Rousey.

To add to the movie’s sense of disorientation from the world in which most people live, an almost endless parade of real actors, sports figures and other personalities breeze through, blurring the lines by interacting with the fictional characters. There’s a lecherous Bob Saget, a grumpy Kelsey Grammer, a ticked-off Jessica Alba, an incredulous Martin Landau, a loopy Gary Busey, plus rapper T.I., director Jon Favreau, actors Liam Neeson and Armie Hammer, comedian Andrew Dice Clay, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Emily Ratajkowski, NFL quarterback Tom Brady, TV personality Piers Morgan, zillionaire Warren Buffett, mixed-martial arts fighting champ Ronda Rousey and many, many more. Blink and you’ll miss someone.

It’s almost like everyone inside Hollywood wanted a piece of the action. The bigger question: How many people outside of Hollywood will want a ticket to this smug, bloated, big-screen, bro-fest-ic boy party?

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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