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Man From U.N.C.L.E — A Retro Spy Comedy Of Manners (That Works)

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Man from UNCLE


The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had me nervous for few reasons. First, it could be a departure from the television series that was completely character based. It was a show in which you liked Robert Vaughn as the American James Bond imitation Napoleon Solo, even though he was stiff and had a nose-in-the-air accent, or you didn’t. The same went for his Russian sidekick Illya Kuryakin, except in contrast Kuryakin was played by an immensely likeable David McCallum. Even though he was playing a Russian with a wilting Celtic brogue, he had a winning personality that was quirky and sexy.

Worse, however, the movie could stay true to the show, which was somewhat boring, unless you happened to like the characters, who created a definitive team.

Of course, if the movie tried to replicate the Vaughn and McCallum pairing, it could get weird fast. The movie might turn out to be Henry Cavill imitating Vaughn who was imitating Sean Connery as Bond. And it could be Armie Hammer imitating McCallum, who was a tough act to follow.

Turns out, the movie is all of the above and it works. Cavill plays a very stiff, impeccably dressed Napoleon Solo, who has the added dimension of being a convicted super-thief whose skills were so terrific, the CIA springs him from jail to do their dirty work. And Hammer plays a likeable Kuryakin, who is also stiff. He plays the part as a seething, go-to-work Russian spy, who also has some skeletons in his closet.

Now we just need a leading lady. The television show started with Stephanie Powers as the Girl From U.N.C.L.E., named (by author Ian Flemming, no less) April Dancer, but she was muscled out by McCallum, who proved to be more popular.

The movie relies on the talents of Alicia Vikander as Gabriella Teller, who Solo extricates from East Berlin with Kuryakin on hot pursuit.

How the movie works is that Solo and Kuryakin start out with competitive contempt for each other and do their best to out-smart, out-muscle and out-spy each other throughout the film. It makes for some comic relief and brooding tension at the same time. It’s a deft touch by screenwriters Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram.

OK, let’s get down to brass tacks. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a classic wait-until-it’s-a-rental movie, but it is a terrific date flick, too. It’s fun, absorbing, well played with enough plot twists to keep you guessing and a defiant absence of cliches. In short, it’s a triumph that avoids every pratfall I had feared going into it.

The way it works – without giving away the plot – is that the story is all retro. This is a look at 1962 as if it were an iconic time in the world of international espionage. Seems funny to look back that far – my childhood years – and say this film works because it’s a retro-fit to those treasonous times. But, it does. Kudos, especially to Ritchie, who wrote, produced and directed the film. See it in theaters if you can or rent it when it comes around again.

Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Robert DeNiro de-agedHave you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. ????

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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