The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
photo by Daniel Smith / courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Henry Cavill and Elizabeth Debicki in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
A lightly carbonated late-summer nightcap, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
reboots the 1960s TV series about Cold War espionage with winking style and period-adventure savvy. Henry Cavill (Superman
) takes a chance by bringing an old-school, mannered acting approach to American secret agent Napoleon Solo. Get on his wavelength and it works just fine. Armie Hammer is less effective as the stalwart Russian agent, but Swedish actress Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)
is bewitching as an East German defector with ambiguous allegiances. Director Guy Ritchie brings his usual visual playfulness and maintains a tone somewhere between the James Bond, Austin Powers and Indiana Jones franchises. Nefarious Nazis and femmes fatale busting up decadent Italian villas … what's not to like? —Glenn McDonald
Straight Outta Compton
F. Gary Gray’s biopic of N.W.A.
starts well but then runs too long, with a self-serving second half. It opens in Compton, California, circa 1986, a drug-ridden battleground for gangs and the LAPD. Founding N.W.A. members O'Shea Jackson (Ice Cube, portrayed by his son, O'Shea Jackson Jr.), Andre Young (Dr. Dre) and a young drug dealer named Eric Wright (Eazy-E) are joined by MC Ren and DJ Yella to round out their seminal gangster rap group under the auspices of double-dealing manager Jerry Heller, played by Paul Giamatti. Wright founds Ruthless Records to release the controversial debut album that gives the film its title. It struck a chord with a minority group that had long felt marginalized and gave voice to struggles that still exist—“Fuck Tha Police” could have been written yesterday. But the film falters after the group breaks up and its members go solo. Dre and Cube make good while Eazy, Ren and Yella, sticking with Heller, watch their careers plummet. Dre and Cube produced the film, so it’s no wonder it flatters them at the expense of their former colleagues and the soundtrack turns into Dre’s greatest hits. And despite the film’s depictions of debauchery, it never grapples with N.W.A.’s misogynistic lyrics. Blind spots and slanted portrayals aside, this is an epic about a musical revolution and a group whose multigenerational relevance endures. —Neil Morris