REVIEW: “ALLIED” (2016) Paramount Pictures

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With Brad Pitt’s big return to the screen since his personal life news overtook his career for a bit there, we have him here in “ALLIED” as Max Vatan, a 1940’s wartime intelligence office who finds himself in a predicament with his fellow French Resistance (or is she?) spy and soon-to-be wife, Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard). A predicament I might add that can be figured out in the first 15 minutes of the film as Marianne makes a quote that let’s you know really where the film will end up going if you’re paying attention. And it’s exactly where it goes.

With uneven pacing and script, the film benefits from beautiful cinematography. The weakness in the lack of ability to successfully leave a lasting emotional impact on the audience, is in the writing and executive producership of it all. As we see Max and Marianne do a 30-sec assasination-shoot em’ up scene reminiscent of ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’, and they fall in ‘love’ in about half that time, makes it all a bit unbelievable and undercuts the storyline.
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For films that are not as much about the spectacle as they are the drama between characters and the challenge faced therein, it is important for personal/interpersonal relationships go beyond the screen to directly impact the audience. All the makings were here for a deeply moving cinematic story, but it just doesn’t quite make that transition from the mostly superficial and distant. The ending, which tried to be sentimental is done completely in an overly-compensated, dramatic fashion that comes off very falsly.

Supporting work comes via Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, August Diehl, Marion Bailey, Simon McBurney, and Matthew Goode. With no stand-out performances, and my screening being on a 50/50 basis of who liked it and who didn’t, I think it will do a couple of good weeks and the box office, but the competition along with a slate of excellent films coming out, might drag this one down after that.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening: Thursday, November 17, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
NOW PLAYING IN THEATRES NATIONWIDE

REVIEW: “MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.” (2015) Warner Bros. Pictures

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Director Guy Ritchie starts off with a wonderful, very highly stylized car chase. From that moment on I pinned my hopes that the whole film would be just as good as this sequence. It ends up turning into rather a bumpy ride between plot highs..and plot lows..making it an overall fun, but uneven film.
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Henry Cavill as ‘Napoleon Solo’ and Armie Hammer as ‘Illya Kuryakin‘ are the dymanic spy duo coming from differing enemy camps – Solo being from the CIA and Kuryakin respectively, the KGB, who must work together along with help from German/car whiz girl mechanic/possible double agent (maybe even triple we’re not sure) ‘Gaby Teller’ (Alicia Vikander) to battle the forces of mysterious and evil criminal organization – The Vinciguerra Empire – a rogue Italian group of ex-Nazi loyalists ran by “Victoria Vinciguerra” (Elizabeth Delbecki) & her husband “Alexander” (Luca Calvani). The goal is to uncover the plot to stop them from obtaining and detonating a nuclear bomb.
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Following a fairly standard formula for spy plots that involves good guys vs. bad guys to save the world, here Ritchie throws intrigue to the back burner and instead ramps up the charm and personality of his characters. Each one has their own unique set of traits which set them apart, yet it also brings them perfectly together to create the type of “spy team” with palpable chemistry that works all the way around and delivers to us a most entertaining ride.
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Add in the always witty and charming delivery of Hugh Grant, Jared Harris and Misha Kuznetsov in their respective roles as head of differing agencies and you can’t beat the overall fun that they dish out. 1DE8C234
As with any film of this genre, my motto of ‘your only as good as your villains’ once again applies as I did find those being the only characters the lacking the charm and chemistry of their counterparts, though still stylish, just missing what is truly needed to a baddie, the ability to still like them even though they are the villains.

Ending with the perfect setup for a sequel, I do hope the wonderful stylization remains as do the characters, though with a bit better plot and new villains as it could prove that a sequel might even turn out to be better than an original.

Grade: C
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Screening: Arclight Hollywood – Wednesday, August 12, 2015 – Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Opens Nationwide: Friday, August 14, 2015