August 16th, 2015


... Versus Spy

Another day in G.R. which flirted with, but I don't think it achieved, 90°F. I need to take the 1996 Blazer Teal Machine in and get the A.C. recharged. So we stuffed the walker and handicapped hangtag in the 1999 Bravada to head out on Saturday.

I'm not sure I've posted reviews for everything we've seen this summer, but you have to go back to the end of April and Ex Machina (DW) (LJ) to find a live action film we've seen and I've blogged about that is not: A Reboot, A Sequel, A Comic Book or A Disneyland Theme. I'm not totally complaining, as we've been entertained and it IS Summer Blockbuster Season. But, here we go again...

Second weekend in a row with a 1960s TV spy show rebooted to the big screen. As a kid I didn't watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. much, but I certainly knew who Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin were -- I had friends who had the steel lunchboxes! Mrs. Dr. Phil had to come home and start watching episodes of HU$TLE with Robert Vaughan on her Kindle Fire HDX. (grin) And of course David McCallum has a whole new career as Ducky on NCIS -- in fact one of the best straight lines by Gibbs ever in the series was in answer to the question, "What did Ducky look like when he was young?" "Illya Kuryakin."

Mission:Impossible ran for some 9 seasons -- U.N.C.L.E. only for 4. I'd always heard that U.N.C.L.E. was supposed to be a sendup of James Bond. But Wikipedia points out Ian Fleming was involved in the creation of U.N.C.L.E. Who knew?

The audience for the movie U.N.C.L.E. was definitely older. I'm not sure we were the youngest people in the small afternoon crowd in the theatre, but then again -- we have A.A.R.P. cards these days. (Membership is cheap enough and I got a nice messenger bag as a promo.) (grin)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. [PG-13]
Holland 7 Theatre 3, 4:40pm, 2×$6.00

This movie isn't so much about the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, as it is an origin story. What intrigued us so much in the previews was the whole 1960s Euro mod classy style. Oh, the dresses, the hats, the sunglasses -- the CARS. All those 1960s movies sent in Europe, especially the Bond movies, and not an American or Japanese car in sight.

Still, this Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are NOT Robert Vaughan and David McCallum. Kuryakin was always second fiddle in the TV show. Here we have the American and Soviet spies fairly evenly matched and they have every reason to hate each other as detailed in the long opening sequence. This is a marriage of convenience to prevent nuclear disaster -- it's a 60s espionage movie after all -- and these two men don't trust each other. There are some amusing exchanges in their impossible to win game of oneupsmanship.

The two main women are great fun and very stylish. OMG the eyelashes. I guess this movie passes the Bechtel Test as they do have a conversation together -- about building nuclear bombs. Our head villainess, the blonde, is deliciously ruthless -- though she does suffer from usual evil leader long taunting conversations. And I was suspicious of how quickly they turned the civilian woman into an adjunct to their operation.

We're great fans of Hugh Grant, and in a big nod to .007, it is British intelligence and the Royal Navy and NOT the CIA and US Navy who are here to save the deal. International cooperation in Europe, you know. Indeed, as the Royal Navy commandos go in on their high speed inflatable boats, it's hard not to hear Hugh Grant in Love, Actually:
Natalie: [talking about her ex-boyfriend] He says no one's gonna fancy a girl with thighs the size of big tree trunks. Not a nice guy, actually, in the end.
Prime Minister: Ah! You know, um, being Prime Minister, I could just have him murdered.
Natalie: Thank you, sir. I'll think about it.
Prime Minister: Do. The SAS are absolutely charming. Ruthless trained killers are just a phone call away.
Bond movies also had many boat chases -- and the one here is typical of the whole old U.N.C.L.E. humorous flavoring of Bond. In particular, there is something I've always wanted to see go wrong in a desperate boat chase. And of course we have the Classical Nazi Torturer™, but with a few novel twists. And there's an amusing bit where one of those long conversations characters have in the middle of the big set piece action series actually goes awry in the background. There is a bit of an Inglourious Bastards vibe and I had to check to see if Guy Ritchie had done that -- no, of course not.

Guy Ritchie employs a number of split screens and rewinds to see the rest of action, which makes the action not quite so serial. Well, he made his Sherlock Holmes movies stylish and with critical rewinds, too.

As fun as Mission:Impossible 5 was, I would have to say that U.N.C.L.E. was the better movie with its 60s styling. But M:I 5 is probably the more faithful TV reboot. All that said, we would probably see another U.N.C.L.E. installment. Especially if it features the dastardly Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity.

Stay for the beginning of the end credits, which is almost a Shakespearean dumb play about the "second Istanbul" mission.


Trailers: As the trailers were running, they were a different lot than we've seen this summer -- and it occurred to us that the audience demographics were probably a factor. Skewing older. Bridge of Spies is a Spielberg flick with Tom Hanks, of course, as insurance lawyer brought in to negotiate the trade to get Francis Gary Powers back in the early 60s -- Powers of the famous U-2 incident. Early 60s Cold War drama, with lots of paranoia, sabre rattling and dark doings in East Berlin. Looks like fun. Burnt is a new chef movie. Ooh, food porn! Kitchen conflicts! Michelin stars! YES, CHEF! Everest -- existing trailer. The Intern -- well this is odd. Vaguely looks like a sequel to The Devil Wears Prada (2006) with Robert De Niro as Anne Hathaway, and Anne Hathaway as Meryl Streep. Not really. Wikipedia shows there's been a lot of cast changes. But there is some humor having Bobbie playing a 70 year old intern at a fashion magazine. If the jokes don't get too juvenile, this could be poignant -- Prada managed to be better than the comic punchline.

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal


Yesterday, the 15th of August, was the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the surrender of Japan.

Also this month, the 70th anniversary of the use of the only two nuclear weapons in war.

Despite everything, we have managed not to trot out the nuclear weapons again. And Japan and Germany are our allies now.

The fragile European peace, which morphed into the Cold War after WW II, has also reasonably held, at least in Western Europe.

It is hard in 2015 to fully understand what WW II was. On any side. That hasn't stopped us from trying. Books and movies abound of WW II themes. Many more than of Korea, Vietnam or the Gulf Wars.

Of course, with the anniversary of the end of the war, my first thoughts go to the 1946 The Best Years of Our Lives, which gives serious thought and realism about what happens to the American soldiers after they return home.

And the aftermaths of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still continue to this day.

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal


Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the end of WW II, and even though words failed me, I still posted a reminder (DW) (LJ). But I also realized:

I had missed the 150th anniversary of the end of the U.S. Civil War.

Partly, that's understandable, given the actual history as noted on Wikipedia -- namely, which end to commemorate:
Initially, Lee did not intend to surrender, but planned to regroup at the village of Appomattox Court House, where supplies were to be waiting, and then continue the war. Grant chased Lee and got in front of him, so that when Lee's army reached Appomattox Court House, they were surrounded. After an initial battle, Lee decided that the fight was now hopeless, and surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, at the McLean House.[168] In an untraditional gesture and as a sign of Grant's respect and anticipation of peacefully restoring Confederate states to the Union, Lee was permitted to keep his sword and his horse, Traveller. On April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, a Southern sympathizer. Lincoln died early the next morning, and Andrew Johnson became the president. Meanwhile, Confederate forces across the South surrendered as news of Lee's surrender reached them.[169] President Johnson officially declared a virtual end to the insurrection on May 9, 1865; Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured the following day.[1] On June 23, 1865, Cherokee leader Stand Watie was the last Confederate General to surrender his forces.[170]
And then there was 2015.

That Confederate flag. Which Confederate flag? What does the flag stand for? What was the Succession all about?

There's been a whole lotta of people decrying History! Honor! Family! Which is one thing. But declaring the Succession wasn't about slavery... That the end of slavery ended the problems for blacks in America...


How short-sighted. How ridiculous. How privileged. How racist. In 2015?

Today's Sunday Doonesbury comic strip on the new revisionist history Texas textbooks -- makes me wonder if the Civil War is really over. If the United States really won the war.

If we, the people, actually won the war.

No wonder I missed the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. It was buried under the mud and filth being shoveled on it.

What date does one choose to commemorate the end of a war which is still going on in the hearts and minds of some of our so-called citizens? Who aren't just about honoring their past, their families, but actively wish to cause pain and terrorize other citizens of this country with a symbol of their oppression.

I don't know.

And it makes me sad.

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal


31 days of August.

That makes August 15½th, a few hours ago, the halfway point.

In just a little over three weeks we will have Labor Day. And the next day classes begin again at Western Michigan University. The grind begins anew.

It is a beautiful August day here in West Michigan. The sky is blue. The temperature is 89°F, once again Not Ninety. At least so far.

Under other circumstances I would be out with my cameras and long lenses, maybe over at the crowded lakeshore. Or chasing trains, except it's Sunday.

At home, though, it is August bug noise season. The last few nights when I have gone to bed after 4am, the bugs have still be going -- and loud enough that I think the bedroom window needs to be closed. But it is closed.

Every morning I check my temperature. But the new Walgreen's thermometer I got a few weeks ago beeps so quietly, I had to do a repeat to try to hear its DONE tone, because the bugs outside were so loud.

Right now I have headphones on and Mrs. Dr. Phil has Bluetoothed her Kindle Fire HDX to Echo and is playing podcasts while she cooks. And I can still hear the bugs.


There are reasons why we haven't mowed the yard in over ten years...

And we have peaches. Flaming Furies and Red Havens. And big local tomatoes.


It's lovely.

It's August.

It's summer.

Limited availability, your mileage will vary, check your newspaper for current listings, offer not valid in all fifty states...

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal