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Monday, August 24, 2015

Quick Reviews: Gift For Ricki's U.N.C.L.E.

Fun with post titles...

A key plot twist in The Gift was somewhat spoiled in the trailer. This seems to be happening more and more, and I find it a terrible way to sell a movie. The good thing about this movie, at least, was that there were twists following it. Married couple Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall) have relocated to Los Angeles because of his new job. While shopping they run into Gordon (Joel Edgerton, who also wrote and directed it), aka "Gordo," a (barely remembered) former high school classmate of Simon's. Gordo begins dropping by their home unannounced, usually dropping off gifts. Robyn thinks he's just socially awkward while her husband thinks it's creepy. Things begin to deteriorate. As I said, there were a surprising number of twists and turns that kept me entertained to the end. But the reveal in the trailer, that Simon knows more than he lets on, took away some of the thrill. Plus, Simon -- even at the very start -- comes off as kind of a dick anyway. My grade: B-plus.

Then there's Ricki and the Flash -- which is, sadly, not about this guy...

...but about Ricki, an aging rocker (Meryl Streep) who left her family to take a shot at stardom and ends up playing a regular gig with her band, The Flash, at a little bar in California and working checkout at a market. Then she's summoned home to Indianapolis by her ex (Kevin Kline) due to a crisis involving her daughter (Mamie Gummer, Meryl's daughter). This just strikes me as a vanity project so Meryl and her daughter could play mother and daughter, and so Meryl could sing (both classic stuff and modern hits such as "Bad Romance" -- Meryl does Gaga!) It has some good moments but it's pretty predictable fluff that all wraps up in a neat little bow at the end. And if I'm being honest...which I am, so why do I need to say that? I blame Simon Cowell for saying it on "American Idol." I got it from him. Anyway, I'm rambling...the best acting in this film was done NOT by Meryl but by Rick Springfield, as Ricki's bandmate and would-be lover. My grade: C-plus.

As for The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the big-screen adaptation of the TV series which ran for four seasons from 1964-68, my big question is...why? A TV series that hasn't been in prime time in nearly 50 years is made into a movie and fell well short of the rather modest box office predictions. Did the studio really think anyone under, say, 40 (to be generous) would go and see this? It's set in 1963 and features, just like the TV show, a team-up of American (Henry Cavill) and Soviet (Armie Hammer) spies to thwart a nuclear threat from Nazi sympathizers.

Pick your favorite tag line:
a) A Brit playing an American and an American playing a Russian!
b) Superman and the Lone Ranger save the world!

It's not a bad film. It breezes merrily along, the banter is witty, there's some action and some humor and the boys look good and eventually learn to trust each other. I just can't wrap my head around why it was necessary. My grade: B-minus.

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