Eight Reasons I Adore The Man From U.N.C.L.E (2015)

I have so many favorite films (and books for that matter) that the word favorite seems in danger of losing it’s impact and meaning. But I can’t help that I genuinely love so many of the stories I watch and read that I want to re-visit them over and over again.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is one of my many film loves. I never get tired of watching it and often use it as a cheery tonic when I am having a bad day. It’s just so much fun.  Instead of doing a review, I thought I would mix things up a bit and tell you why I adore it so much.

  1. HENRY CAVILL – This is one of the few movies Cavill is in that I love. And it’s not because he can’t act, but for some reason he is cast in films which I just don’t think are very good. Still, even when he played Superman in Man of Steel, a film which was so convoluted that I didn’t know what was going on half of the time, I enjoyed watching him during its long running time. Honestly, I would watch him paint a wall. And yes, I’m just shallow enough to admit, that sometimes a movie can be saved by its’ eye candy. Of course, that is not necessary in this film. And thankfully, Cavill for once, ends up with a really fun role as American former thief turned playboy spy Napoleon Solo.

2. ARMIE HAMMER as ILYA KURAKIN -Here’s another piece of eye candy I enjoy, but unlike Cavill, in The Man from U.N.C.L.E I actually watched him for the role he played. Maybe it’s because I’m always drawn to Russian characters in any film, but I genuinely loved the reticent, loner, Russian spy. Cavill’s Solo, may appear to be the main character, but I think it is really Ilya who grounds this film and its story,  keeping it from becoming ridiculous. 

3. A RELUCTANT BROMANCE -I love a good bromance and this is one of my favorites. The fact that Solo and Ilya are spies for Cold War enemy nations who are then forced by their superiors to work together adds a nice spin to the somewhat unwilling friendship that develops between them. Maybe friendship is too strong a word. Thanks to their profession, both men are used to working alone, are highly suspicious and unwilling to trust anyone. But they do develop a fun rapport and mutual respect as they learn to rely on each other while still maintaining loyalties to their countries and keeping a wary eye on each other.

From a rocky start…
…to a reluctant partnership.

4. QUICK & WITTY DIALOGUE – One of my laments about modern film is that it often lacks the snappy, smart dialogue I appreciate in classic film. That is certainly not the case with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. There are one line zingers, combative repartee, serious conversation hidden behind a blase manner, all the things that make a dialogue driven film so enjoyable for me.

Napoleon Solo: I absolutely hated working with you, Peril.

Illya Kuryakin: Your a terrible spy, Cowboy.

5. THE 60’s FASHION -Since this film is actually based on the original television series of the same name, it retained its original time setting in the 1960’s. Both of the main female characters get to wear amazing clothing pieces and accessories inspired by this decade. Alicia Vikander, who plays Gabby, gets to wear the most fun, colorful items. When I watch this film, I like to pretend that I’m her parading around in that awesome wardrobe. Our villainess, Victoria Vinciguerra also benefits from this film wardrobe, becoming the mannequin for sleeker yet still gorgeous styles.

Channeling Jackie O

6. A FEMALE VILLAIN! -Film villains are usually men. I like to see a female “bad guy”, but I believe they are really hard to get right. Many times, they tend to overcompensate and can come across as a caricature or they act so bitchy that you can’t even enjoy watching them on-screen. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. avoids these pitfalls and delivers a cold, calm, calculated villainess with the power and smarts of a male villain while still displaying her femininity. Actress Elizabeth Debicki, makes Victoria so much fun to watch as she slinks around the screen. Even though you know you should hate her, you also kind of want to applaud her guts and determination.

Dressed to kill

7. THE 60’s AGAIN -I love how this movie is very much like the caper films of this decade. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, accomplishing the result of being downright entertaining. And although I already mentioned the fashion, the rest of the film has a very 60’s feel as well, from the European settings, colors, tongue-in-cheek humor and more. I enjoyed seeing the use of split screens which is something you rarely see in modern films but was pretty prevalent in the 1960’s.

8. FUN SCENES – I love when a film has memorable scenes which stick with you and help you remember the film long-term. This one has at least two and I honestly can’t choose which one I like best, but if you watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. keep an eye out for the hotel wrestling scene between Ilya and Gabby. The escape scene with Solo and Ilya, with Ilya using his motor boat skills and Solo calmly sitting in a truck watching Ilya trying to lose the armored guards is also a lot of fun.

Just a little drunken midnight wrestling

If you haven’t seen The Man From U.N.C.L.E then you are in for a real treat. There are so many things to love and discover about this film. (And did I forget to mention Hugh Grant has a small role??) It was left open-ended for a potential sequel, which after a mediocre showing upon its initial release didn’t seem likely, but may still happen. At least it hasn’t been ruled out and I for one am keeping my finger crossed. So check out this guilty pleasure and let me know what you think. (Trust me, you’ll thank me later!)

Our oddly matched, yet intrepid trio.

Watch: On DVD, Amazon, or with a Cinemax subscription.

Film Review -The Promise (2017)

 

The Promise is set in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey, during the early years of World War I. Young Mikael Boghosian comes from a family of apothecaries, but his real dream is to leave his mountain village to attend medical school in Constantinople so that he can return to doctor his people. This dream has always been out of reach. That is until he betroths himself to a local girl in order to gain her dowry for the school fees. He plans to complete a three-year medical degree in two, and then return home to marry her. He believes he will learn to love her eventually.

In Constantinople, Mikael boards with a wealthy relative. Then he meets Ana  a fellow Armenian raised in Paris who has returned to her home country with her American reporter boyfriend Chris Myers. Although an immediate attraction between Mikael and Ana stirs…

To read the full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

Foreign Film Friday -Departures (2008)

SUMMARY

Japanese film Departures tells the story of Daigo a professional cellist who loses his dream job with a Tokyo orchestra. In debt, and with no other options, Daigo makes the decision to move with his wife Miko, back to his hometown to live in the house he inherited from his mother.

While job hunting, Daigo finds an ad for a job assisting in departures which promises good pay with no experience required. Upon arriving at the business which he thinks is a travel agency, he discovers from the owner that the ad is a misprint. The position available is actually as an assistant to help with “departures”, more commonly known as an undertaker.

The owner hires him on the spot despite Daigo’s hesitancy to work with the dead. Being unsure that he will keep the job and embarrassed by it, he does not inform his wife about the details of his new position.

But as time passes and Daigo is mentored by his employer, he begins to understand and value the importance of a job which helps grieving friends and family members send their loved ones off with a beautiful farewell.

“One grown cold, restored to beauty for all eternity. This was done with a calmness and precision and above all a gentle affection. At the final parting, sending the dead on their way, everything done peacefully and beautifully.”

REVIEW

For a film which focuses on death, Departures is surprisingly moving. Although the subject matter is both sad and serious, the message of the film and the journey Daigo experiences in his position, is both positive and optimistic.

One thing which really touched me is how the film portrayed the death of Daigo’s long earned dream of being a professional cellist. It is only after he releases this dream that he finds his true calling. Working with corpses is not most people’s idea of a fulfilling and meaningful job. Yet Daigo learns that although he is handling the dead, it is really life that he helps to celebrate. His work helps to bring closure and peace to those who mourn.

Because Departures is a film which celebrates life, the human relationships take center stage. Daigo still struggles with his father’s abandonment of him when he was young. And he grieves the fact that he missed his mother’s funeral because of his busy lifestyle. With his boss acting as both mentor and father figure, he learns how to accept and honor all lives, even those who lived imperfectly.

Daigo’s relationship with his wife also plays a major part in his transformation. Although she willingly accepts his decision to move their lives back to his home town, she balks at his newly chosen profession. Mika is entirely loving, supporting and accepting of Daigo despite the fact that he makes decisions without consulting her. She finally gives him an ultimatum, which reveals the depth of his commitment to his new life.

Although this is a deep and serious film, there are some humorous moments as you might imagine with this subject matter. The funniest scene is Daigo’s first assignment where he must help his boss prepare the body of an elderly woman who had died in her home remaining undiscovered for many days. I could sympathize with his disgust on entering her filthy home and his gag reflex upon seeing her decaying form.

A final highlight of this film for me was the window it provided into Japanese culture. It always fascinates me to see how other people live in comparison to my own way of life. The Japanese countryside is also pretty stunning and I felt like I had traveled to Japan directly from my living room.

CONCLUSION

Departures is a deeply touching story which portrays the dichotomy of life and death. In portraying the sadness of death, Daigo and the viewer learn how to appreciate the gift of life and to live it more fully.

This film is available to stream on Amazon and iTunes.

Classic Films and their Modern Remake Counterparts

I am passionate about classic film and introducing it to a new generation of viewers. Many people are under the mistaken impression that classic films are boring or dated. That may be true for some films, as culture and mores change and grow. But there are still many classics which are enjoyable and still relevant. This may be why Hollywood occasionally dips into its’ archives to retell a story that has already been told.

In order to pique your curiosity and interest, I am sharing this list of enjoyable classic films and their more modern counterparts…

To see the list, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

Foreign Film Friday -Romantics Anonymous (2010)

When the opening credits began with a French version of the song I Have Confidence from the Sound of Music, it set the tone and immediately convinced me that I would love this film.

A French-Belgian film originally titled, Les Emotifs Anonymes, Romantics Anonymous introduces us to Angelique, a woman crippled by shyness. We see her faint in her group meeting, for which the film is named, but she works up enough courage to attend her interview with the owner of The Chocolate Mill.

When we first meet Jean-Rene, he is introduced to us and to Angelique as a mean man, but it turns out he is also socially challenged and unable to deal with many simple human interactions. Although the interview between these extreme introverts is awkward, Angelique manages to impress him with her knowledge of chocolate and he offers her the job. The only problem is that she thinks that she will be making chocolate and he just hired her as a sales representative to help boost the shop’s faltering sales enough to keep it out of bankruptcy.

On her sales rounds, Angelique discovers that although their buyers think the chocolate is good, it is not exceptional and neither does it live up to current trends in the market. But she has a secret. Angelique is a gifted chocolatier who has had extreme success in the past with her chocolate recipes. The trouble is that she sold her chocolates anonymously. But with the shop in jeopardy, Angelique is convinced that she can help.

In the midst of the chocolate shop story line is a concurrent one about the relationship that develops between Jean-Rene and Angelique. As you can imagine, with their personality challenges it is a very awkward and bumpy path they travel. They are immediately stricken by one another, but their own insecurities keep cropping up as obstacles.

However, it is this relationship that dares them both to conquer their fears. Their attempts at stepping outside of their comfort zones are sweet and poignant.

I love how Jean-Rene’s therapist and Angelique’s support groups play such an important role in their personal growth. The weekly assignments the therapist gives to Jean-Rene lead to some humorous scenes as we watch him struggle with completing them.

Angelique seems to have less of a struggle than Jean-Rene and I adore how she uses I Have Confidence as her theme song and life motto when she encounters situations which scare her. It is a beautiful homage to a well-loved film.

I also appreciate how this film made a love interest and hero out of a middle aged man with a Roman nose and receding hairline. Most American movies are populated with heroes who are macho men that are too good looking to be true. By using actors and characters who look like your average person on the street, the viewer is better able to relate to them. I have never seen a male protagonist whose appeal was in his weakness.

As usual for a romantic film made in France the scenery in the background is both charming and breathtaking. I could move into the hotel room with the golden wallpaper, elegant antiques and warm wooden accents and of course the little shops and cafes make me want to idle away an afternoon.

Aside from a scene of implied physical intimacy, this is a clean film which I wholeheartedly recommend. It is currently streaming on Amazon.

Eight Reasons I Loved Beauty and the Beast

At this point, everybody and their dog has seen or at least knows the story of Beauty of the Beast. The last thing the internet needs is another review. Despite the few quibbles I had with Disney’s latest version, (the CGI Beast and wolves, just…no and what was up with Belle tucking her dress up to show off her bloomers? Weird) I found it absolutely enchanting. So, I thought I would share eight things I loved about Beauty and the Beast none of which have to do with the title characters or their romance.

  1. Old Songs -It was such a pleasure to hear the familiar and famous songs of the animated classic.  It brought a feeling of nostalgia and connection and it was fun to see the song and dance choreography portrayed in a feature film.
  2. New Songs -Honestly, I didn’t love two of the three new songs, but I did appreciate what they added to the film. I did love the Beast’s solo Evermore and thought the song itself was romantic and beautiful.
  3. Gaston & LeFou -These two were one of the highlights of the film for me. Despite the controversy behind LeFou’s character, I loved how Josh Gad played him. He made me giggle. Luke Evans nailed, the arrogance, self-absorption and manipulative anger of Gaston. I really thought his was the strongest performance of the film.
  4. Phillipe the Horse -Perhaps it was just me, but Phillipe the horse seemed like a character in itself. Somehow that animal displayed personality and some acting skill. I was more worried about Phillipe than Belle when they were attacked by the wolves.
  5. Unintentional Homage to a Classic Musical -Again, maybe it is just me, but did anyone else think that the scene of Belle finishing her song on the hill outside of town, looked remarkably like the scene of Maria singing The Hills Are Alive in the Sound of Music? It literally looked like Belle was plopped down into the Austrian mountains outside of Salzburg.
  6. Honored Other Versions -I didn’t realize this while I was watching the film, but after doing some research I found that this new Beauty and the Beast honored past film and stage versions by incorporating parts specific to each version.
  7. Backstory -I saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway once and was haunted by so many questions afterwards. Thankfully, the film version expanded the story and gave more depth and detail, particularly to the Phantom’s story, answering some of those questions. Beauty and the Beast received similar treatment and I loved having a fuller picture of both Beast’s and Belle’s pasts.
  8. The Big Reveal -I know at some point in the marketing lead up to the release of this film, I came across the names of the actors who were in Beauty and the Beast. But aside from a few glimpses at the start of the film when I saw Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci, I had no idea who was voicing the inhabitants of the castle. So, when the spell is finally broken, and the characters became human, it was a big reveal for me to see which actors played which part. I had reactions like, I KNEW that voice sounded familiar (Ewan McGregor) and Oh my gosh, he’s so perfect as this character (Ian McKellan), or Wow, I did not expect that (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and finally, Oh, I love her so much! (Emma Thompson) And even though I knew Dan Stevens was the actor behind the Beast, in the opening scene before the curse, he is so covered in makeup as be to almost disguised. So when the Beast was transformed into human form again, it was still the first time we see the real Beast. And can I digress briefly and just say how much I love Stanley Tucci?! He is reminiscent of the character actors of Classic Hollywood and steals scenes in every film he’s in. He’s fearless as an actor and I’m always thrilled when I see him pop up in a film.

Beauty and the Beast is a film that I will want to watch again and again. I really can’t wait to see which animated fairy tale Disney will choose to remake next. I think it would be really interesting to see how they would film The Little Mermaid.

What about you? Which Disney animation tale would you love to see on the big screen?

Reviewing a Family Favorite -The Man From Snowy River

An Australian western set in the 1880’s, The Man From Snowy River is the story of young Jim Craig who was born and raised in the mountains. After an accident that kills his father that also leads to Jim’s horse escaping to run free with a pack of wild horses, Jim must leave the family homestead to seek work and respect in the lowlands.

He finds a job with wealthy cattle rancher Harrison and meets Jessica, Harrison’s strong willed daughter. The boss assigns Jim to menial tasks, earning disdain from other ranch hands. But he finds relief in his developing friendship with the boss’s daughter who shares his love for horses.

When Jim and Jessica make the risky decision to break and train Harrison’s new and expensive colt, it leads to a confrontation with Harrison. Jim is fired and Jessica runs away from her father’s harsh hand and the threat of finishing school.

Jealous ranch hands then frame Jim for the release of the colt. Jim must prove his honor and integrity by rescuing Jessica and also recovering the colt which now runs with the Brumbies. This is the same group of wild horses which his own horse has joined and which has roamed freely for many years.

To read the remainder of my review for this beloved film, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

TV Series Review -Signed, Sealed, Delivered

 

In the last couple of years the Hallmark channel and it’s sister the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel have done an excellent job in filling and growing the niche market for clean, family entertainment. I have been a faithful viewer for many years now and find that some of their productions are better than others. In my opinion, their series Signed, Sealed, Delivered is one of their very best.

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED SYNOPSIS

Signed, Sealed, Delivered has a unique premise which focuses on a group of postal detectives. The tight-knit foursome work in the DLO (Dead Letter Office) of the Denver post office. They are assigned with the task of tracking down and delivering mail which is usually so damaged that the recipient is undecipherable. These assignments usually take them out of the office into the world at large and the mysteries they solve often relate to their own personal journeys.

 

Please join me here at The SIlver Petticoat Review for the rest of the Signed, Sealed, Delivered review.

Foreign Film Friday – The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Based on a novel of the same name, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is a Swedish comedy film.

SUMMARY

Allan Karlsson is the 100 year old man of the title, who has lived a fascinating life as an explosives expert. His work has taken him all over the world and introduced him to many important people. It has also put him right in the center of many historical events. This all happens despite the fact that he lacks a true awareness of the gravity of his actions and choices. He is not stupid, but retains a certain innocence which shelters him from fear, doubt and disappointment. Allan lives by his mother’s advice to take life as it is.

On the day of his 100th birthday, Allan climbs out of his window and takes off with no plan or destination in mind. He stops at the local train station to buy a ticket for as far as his money will take him. While waiting for the train, a young, dangerous man rushes in to use the bathroom and asks Allan to hold his suitcase. Allan then boards the train with the mysterious suitcase still in hand to head off on his last adventure.

Along the way, Allan makes friends out of strangers and begins to acquire his own unique family. All the while, he is unaware that some very angry and dangerous men are pursuing him, intent on recovering their suitcase full of cash.

REVIEW

I loved this film! I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard. Allan’s unique blend of blissful ignorance and his ability to be in the right place at the right time, leads to some downright hilarious moments. His lack of guile makes him the perfect straight man in this black comedy. Allan acts as the catalyst for all the crazy moments and sequences that occur.

His example of fearlessly pursuing a new adventure despite his age, attracts new friends and experiences. In fact, I wouldn’t mind having a friend like Allan. His story is proof that age does not have to limit us and that life isn’t over until you are dead. As long as you breathe it is never too late to start again.

RECOMMENDATION

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is rated R for language and violence. If you don’t mind this and you are a fan of black comedy or just need to escape it all with a good laugh, then I can’t recommend this film enough. It is available to stream on iTunes, Amazon and YouTube. It can also be purchased on DVD.

 

Film Review -Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Welcome back to director Mel Gibson. It has been ten years since he last directed a film and boy did he pick a great story for his return.

SUMMARY

Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a medic who served in WWII but who refused to carry a weapon.

Desmond Doss grows up in a home with an alcoholic father whose experiences in WWI haunt both him and his household. Thanks to his religious beliefs and a few personal experiences including a confrontation with his own father, Desmond is adamantly opposed to violence.These views are severely challenged when he joins the army as a “conscientious co-operator”. He feels compelled to be a part of the war, but refuses to carry a weapon. As a medic he wants to help save lives, but the Army does not know what to do with a soldier who won’t even touch a gun. Desmond faces mockery and extreme peer pressure from the men in his company and his commanders for his convictions, but he refuses to compromise.

Eventually, he is shipped with the rest of his company to Okinawa to participate in a bloody, difficult battle against the Japanese which has already claimed mass casualties. Doss’ convictions and true strength are tested during this battle and his actions will show his men what he is made of.

MY THOUGHTS

This is just the kind of story I love, one which portrays the heroism and courage of an ordinary man against all odds. Mel Gibson has never shied away from graphic violence and he certainly doesn’t sanitize the cruelty of war. For this reason, this film was hard for me to watch, because the reality of war and its’ brutality is on full display. Yet, it is in the worst of circumstances that true heroes manifest themselves. Desmond Doss’ courage and commitment to his beliefs has stuck with me in the days since I watched this film. Despite all the challenges and difficulties presented not only by war, but by his fellow soldiers he never compromises and keeps his promise to save lives including those of his enemies. His grit, determination and honor are inspiring and a true testimony to how one person can make an enormous difference.

Andrew Garfield does an amazing job as Desmond Doss. He doesn’t just play Doss, but becomes him. He is a man of faith and gentleness, yet stubborn strength and rebellion against the status quo. The other actors are also very well cast and I particularly enjoyed Vince Vaughn as Doss’ direct superior Sgt. Howell who manages to provide this serious film with its’ few moments of levity. In fact, my favorite scene of the whole film has both Garfield and Vaughn in what I call the magic carpet ride. It’s pretty awesome.

CONCLUSION

If you aren’t disturbed by graphic war violence I would encourage you to watch this film. I am betting that the story of Desmond Doss will inspire you like it has me.