Tag Archives: Guy Ritchie

2017 in Review – June

“Guys, It’s okay. He just wanted his machete back!”

Six months ago, Brooker challenged himself to watch 365 films in 2017. At a rate of one-a-day, it seemed like a challenge that should be do-able but almost certainly would hit a hiccup or two along the way. At the half way point of the year, he’s well on his way to completing a challenge… With a couple of months in hand, too.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Colossal Geezers

Awight you pwopa nawty boys, oi oi! Brian Plank joins Steve Norman and Owen Hughes for a top, top podcast this week. We’ve got a review of Guy Ritchie’s new movie, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. It’s sick, bruv. Banterific. As well as the Kaiju drama(?) comedy(?) action(?) indie(?) flick, Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway.

Continue reading Failed Critics Podcast: Colossal Geezers

Failed Critics Podcast: Alien: Covenant

This week Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by regular Failed Critic Andrew Brooker as they delve in to Ridley Scott’s latest instalment in the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant, complete with Spoiler Alert as well as a spoiler free review.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Ghostbusters


Welcome to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast, where the traditionally entirely-male line-up has been replaced, with hosts Stephanie Norman and Olivia Hughes, and their guests Andrea Brooker and Brianna Plank – and if anything, it’s an improvement over the originals.

The re-imagined, re-booted, re-failed foursome review the comedy film that seemingly hasn’t been able to escape public opinion over the past fortnight (for both good and bad reasons) – that is Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth.

The Ghostbusters appreciation doesn’t stop there for one of the guests, as prior to our main review, Brooker enthused over fan-doc Ghostheads, which is available on Netflix. As, coincidentally, is the latest Netflix Original, the sci-fi fantasy drama Stranger Things, which receives heaps of praise from both Steve and Owen. We’re all about the praise on this episode apparently as Brian also lavishes some on Guy Ritchie’s spy-comedy from last year, The Man From UNCLE.

There was even room this week for the group to discuss the Emmy nominations and for Steve to not mess-up the quiz!



The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)

The Man From UNCLE“For a special agent, you’re not having a very special day are you?”

After reviewing Mission: Impossible 5 the other week, and being thought of as extremely old by a certain podcast host who invited me to share my memories of the M:I TV show because he’s not old enough to remember it, I promised myself I wouldn’t write my The Man From U.N.C.L.E review with stories of my love of the TV show and watching it on random afternoons with my nan. But seeing as no one else I know seems to have ever heard of the adventures of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin (a name I will only type once, because boy that squiggly red line is long), I am also around 97% sure that I may have just read a Wikipedia article about the TV show and dreamt about actually watching it.

So I will absolutely not be talking about how U.N.C.L.E ran for four years in the mid-sixties, slowly going from mostly serious espionage to slapstick parody. I won’t be able to tell you that it starred Robert Vaughn; a lot of people know him nowadays from BBC’s Hustle and David McCallum; who, apart from other sixties TV shows, I only know him from The Great Escape (apparently, he’s in NCIS, but as we’ve established, I’m not actually THAT old!) and I certainly have no idea about the show and how it turned the world’s Cold War fears on its head by teaming up a Russian and an American agent working for a spy organisation run by a British intelligence officer who, between them, would rescue innocent people caught in the crossfire and save us all when the bad guys tried to take over the world.

Another in a long line of old TV and film favourites being remade for modern audiences, Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E sees Man of Steels Henry Cavill and The Lone Ranger’s Armie Hammer buddying up as the unwitting multi-national spy super team; put together mere hours after they’ve been at each other’s throats in 1960’s Berlin trying to extract a valuable asset in the worlds continuing nuclear arms race.  Cavill’s Napoleon Solo, a suave ex-con recruited into the CIA because of his extraordinary skills as a professional thief, has found himself on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall on a mission to get Gaby Teller (the always brilliant Alicia Vikander) the daughter of an important nuclear scientist out of Germany and back to his superiors where she can help locate her missing father.  At the same time, the pair are being chased by Hammer’s almost super-human Russian agent, Illya Kuryakin (ok, I’ll type it twice, but that’s it) a man on the exact same mission, but has been briefed on Solo’s background and given orders to kill him if necessary. Escaping by the skin of his teeth, Solo leaves the Russian embarrassed and unsuccessful in his mission and goes on about his evening of being suave, sophisticated and charming.

Now teamed up, the spy’s must use every means at their disposal, including Gaby Teller, to stop an impending nuclear disaster, dismantle a shady criminal organisation and, if at all possible, not kill each other in the process. 

In true 1960’s TV and film fashion (or so I’ve heard, I’m not very old after all, practically a foetus), the pair and their ward trot about Europe undercover in an attempt to get to the bottom of a mystery that could easily bring about the end of the world.  Chasing terrorists and crazy German doctors alike, the pair find themselves woven into a web of cold-war conspiracies and half-truths as they galavant around the most fashionable time in our recent history to bring justice to he world.  Constantly trying to one-up each other, working together while trying very hard to work separately in the most mismatched buddy cop movie you’ll see this year, the reluctant partners edge closer to the mysterious organisation, their polar opposite skill-sets begin to compliment each other and what started as a forced partnership slowly develops into the perfect crime fighting duo.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E does a splendid job playing to its weaknesses.  It was always considered a bit of a James Bond rip-off (fun fact: Bond creator Ian Fleming was involved in the creation of U.N.C.L.E) and Ritchie takes that feeling and runs with it. Unlike films of its ilk like Mission: Impossible or The Saint, we are not treated to a modernisation of the U.N.C.L.E story. Instead, the filmmakers decided to keep it the film rooted in the show’s 1960’s heritage and that not only separates it from the rest of the films of this particular variety, but fits perfectly into the film making style of its director. Anyone that’s seen Ritchie’s early work, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch, will easily recognise the same film style in U.N.C.L.E all these years later.

The bright colours and high class fashion of the idolised 1960’s is on full display here; with Guy Ritchie and his production crew’s attention to detail working wonders in transporting us back fifty years and allowing us to bask in the light of the film’s transcontinental setting. Invoking everything from early TV spy shows like the movie’s inspiration to the Moore and Connery Bonds that we all know and love, Man From U.N.C.L.E is a splendid two hour romp through the espionage thrillers of the past, seen through Guy Ritchie’s Instagram filter directing style and our own rose-tinted memories of the sixties.

I’ve read reviews since I left the cinema that slate U.N.C.L.E for its lack of star power and direction. I don’t think I could disagree more. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer may not be the world’s biggest stars or the kind of names you can put on a poster to guarantee box office numbers, but they do a brilliant job of bringing Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin (DAMMIT!) to the big screen and while their star power may not be that of Tom Cruise or George Clooney, one could very easily argue that neither was Daniel Craig before he was bond, but look at him now.  Cavill’s suave and slick American thief is the perfect partner for Hammer’s hard-as-nails Russian sledgehammer and together the pair form a formidable team in the struggle to keep the world safe.

Don’t let the naysayers put you off. The Man From U.N.C.L.E is a great way to spend a couple of hours.  It’s brilliant fun, it’s the most un-blockbuster-y blockbuster we’ll see this summer and I would gladly go and watch it again tomorrow if I didn’t have such a busy schedule of afternoon naps and filling my cardigan pockets with Werther’s Originals to tackle.

Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

Guest contributor John Fitzsimons tells us why IMDB Top 250 film Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrells turned him into a RIGHT FAHKIN’ MUG!

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a film that does strange things to people.

It prompted a chap in my class at school to phone me – twice – within an hour of finishing the movie to explain the plot. It convinced Hollywood that Vinnie Jones could act.

Most troubling of all, it led to me adopting the accent of an East End geezer.

This wasn’t an immediate thing. After all, the film came out in 1998 when I was still at school in East London, so had something of an accent anyway. But it was when I went to University in sunny Southampton in 2002 and sat my new friends down for a watch of the movie that it turned me into a tragic, bespectacled Ray Winstone tribute act.

The story itself is nothing revolutionary. A card game goes wrong. A group of friends end up hugely in debt to the sort of chap you don’t want to owe money to. And they only have a week to pay it off. Hilarity ensues.

But it’s the way that story is told. There’s a real swagger to the film, the sort of cocksure arrogance that was all over the place in the days of Cool Britannia. If ever a film smelt of Lynx Africa, it was Lock, Stock.

The film-making itself is very slick, with the sort of camera angle flourishes that – for better or worse – are synonymous of Guy Ritchie films.

And then there’s the dialogue. It’s punchy, it’s memorable, it’s funny. I’m a sucker for a film that’s quotable in everyday life, and lines from Lock, Stock very quickly became standard fare down the pub. Honestly now, who among us hasn’t seen a bargain down the shops or online and responded: “It’s a deal, it’s a steal, it’s sale of the fucking century!”

The music also deserves a mention. There has rarely been a more perfect soundtrack. From the opening montage and Ocean Colour Scene’s 100 Mile High City to James Brown’s The Boss via Dusty Springfield’s Spooky, every song perfectly fits the characters on screen and the mood at that moment.

If Quentin Tarantino had been born in Bow he would have made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

There are a number of stand-out performances in the film. Jason Statham was the epitome of gravelly cool – if I was Kelly Brook, I would have slept with him too. You’d never believe this Dexter Fletcher was the same guy from Press Gang and that awful spell hosting Gamesmaster, while Frank Harper’s Dog is a genuinely unsettling thief with a mean golf swing.

The cameos are great too: Rob Brydon’s parking attendant, Sting as a bar owner and Danny John-Jules (better known as Cat from Red Dwarf) in a fabulous scene spoofing the excesses of cockney rhyming slang.

But really, the movie is all about one man.

Vinnie Jones was an untalented hacker as a footballer, and he’s not much better as an actor. Yet he is by a distance the best thing in this movie as Harry the Hatchet’s debt collector Big Chris.

He oozes charisma and menace, bringing the pain to anyone who doesn’t pay their debts or dares to swear (or even blaspheme) in front of his son, Little Chris. It’s not just the violence though – Jones demonstrates some beautiful comic timing and is clearly relishing every second. It’s difficult not to get caught up in that.

Great films don’t just leave a mark on their audience; they also influence other filmmakers. Just as Blair Witch Project led to a flurry of handheld footage movies (which are still rife today), Lock, Stock also saw a revival in the British gangster movie.

Sadly, many of these feature Danny Dyer. But genuinely brilliant films like Layer Cake simply would not exist if not for Lock, Stock. That’s a fantastic legacy.

As for me, it didn’t take long to realise I sounded like an absolute berk. Besides, when I read the philosophy texts I was supposed to be studying, the voice in my head did so in a Cockney accent. Cogito ergo sum, you mug.

John Fitzsimons is the editor of personal finance website lovemoney.com and writes about things other than money to keep him sane. His wife still hasn’t forgiven him for subjecting her to Green Street simply for the chance to hear Frodo sing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”.