Friday, August 14, 2015

Mainstream fun: Guy Ritchie's THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. -- projected so poorly at a local Regal theater that the chain should offer refunds

A silly choice for would-be blockbuster status, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., the latest smart fluff entertainment from Guy Ritchie, is courting a demographic that has no idea of the original TV source material, let alone the history -- politics, culture and fashion -- of the 1960s time period. So money-wise Warner Bros. can write this one off, at least here in the USA. (Worldwide, the film might do a bit better, as audiences abroad may be a tad more "with it.") Still, older patrons will find a lot to enjoy in this alternately fast-moving and stationary spies-and-nuclear-reactor nonsense.

Mr. Ritchie, noted among other things for his homo-erotic playfulness between male characters in everything from RocknRolla to Sherlock Holmes, has either tamped down that tendency here, or else his two somewhat wooden stars -- Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (shown above, respectively, right and left)-- don't have the acting chops to bring this off. So they stick to the script and manage to headline a generally breezy and occasionally subtly funny entertainment.

The funniest of the moments comes as a lakeside restaurant empties out, and the reasons why and how will put a smile on the face of anyone brought up on those cold-war spy films of an earlier decade. For female pulchritude and class, the film uses two interesting actresses, the lately all-over-the-place Alicia Vikander (above) and Elizabeth Debicki (below) as, respectively, the good girl and the bad.

You'll see car chases and foot chases and torture and death -- all served up with very little bloodshed and more than a few laughs. The movie's certainly not great entertainment but it is a pleasant enough version of the distinctly old-fashioned kind we rarely see these days. (Although Mr. Ritchie's use of split-screen effects now and again -- maybe a nod to the movie-making style of that era -- seems pretty useless.)


But now, to get to the reason this movie-going experience was so irredeemably crappy, we must leave the movie itself and address its "print" (or whatever high technology has replaced film as we used to know it). What the audience saw last evening -- Thursday, August 13, at the 7pm showing at Regal Shadowood 16 movie theater in Boca Raton, Florida -- was a complete travesty: a movie shown out of focus for it entire two hour running time.  Not horrendously out of focus, mind you, but just enough so that the quality of the projection resembled that of an over-used VHS video tape from the 1980s. There was not a clear, clean, sharp image in all of its 116 minutes. (The trailers for upcoming movies that preceded the main attraction were, of course, sharp as a tack.) For this, the audience is paying first-run prices?

TrustMovies left the theater after around 30 minutes and asked two nearby ushers what was going on. They came into the theater and agreed that the film was not in proper focus. But because there are no longer "projectionists" in movie theaters, there was no one to fix things. (I couldn't find a theater manager anywhere nearby.) Either Warner Bros. had sent a faulty hard drive to be shown, or something was wrong with the projector in use. Either way, the audience for that performance (and any other that must make do with these particular facilities) is being cheated.

This is particularly galling because the movie was shot on location in some very pretty scenery (not to mention the beauty of the actors on view). Meanwhile, if you're lucky enough to get a decent hard-drive in your local theater, take a chance to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (To learn where it's playing near you, click here.) But be warned: If the image looks drab, muddy and consistently not sharp, head for the manager and demand your money back. Then wait for the Blu-ray or DVD discs to appear down the road. 

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