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

Man From UNCLE

Although it’s been met with mixed reviews and box office indifference, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. flick is easily the best I’ve seen this year. It’s clearly not for everyone, but to me, it feels like Guy Ritchie called a meeting and started it off by announcing “Alright fellas, we’re going to make a movie that this guy Rocko will be into.” It’s made up entirely of things that I specifically am mad about, and I love every second of it.

First things first, regardless of what you think of anything else: The soundtrack is killer. Every tune is used to full effect, every song is evocative of the scene it aurally augments. Itstead of feeling like the sounds are dropped in, the soundtrack itself is a character. It’s got a lot of obscure tracks from Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, Solomon Burke, Louis Prima, and a host of Europeans making their take on that R&B skirt shake that keeps me (as well as plenty others globally,apparently) getting up in the morning. The next judo swing in the one-two punch is original instrumentals by Daniel Pemberton, made up of a fever dream take on the classic Lalo Schifrin and Ennio Morricone sound that will never grow old. The collective effect is that it does something weird to your right foot if you’re listening while driving. It suddenly grows heavy and makes you press harder on that gas pedal.

Although heavily stylish, nothing feels extraneous in Man From U.N.C.L.E. There’s not one scene that doesn’t serve the story. And while the story is made up entirely of things you’ve probably seen before, tropes that weren’t even new when the original show was back in 1964, the execution of those angles are fresh as daisies. Every time I felt like I was about to see something utterly familiar, I was surprised by the ride the movie took me on.

One thing that helped in that regard is that in works of Spy Fiction, and this is especially so in Spy-Fi, the hero is often incalculably cool, calm, collected, and infallible. By expanding the focus to two leads, they’re allowed to have failings that otherwise might not work to serve the story. Napoleon Solo is a bit square and occasionally incapable. Illya Kuryakin has anger control issues. They both fuck up, but between the two of them, they’re never quite fuck-ups.

There’s two criticisms I keep seeing of this film. One is that the show is old and people don’t remember it, so why see the movie? That’s too stupid a concept to even address and borders on being offensive, so I’ll move on. The other is that it’s not a faithful enough take of the show. I disagree with that, too. I don’t think it’s even a remake so much as an origin story and a prequel. The movie drops with a sequel hook that will probably never stick, but you can just watch season one/episode one of the show, and you’re good to ingest many more hours of fun with Solo and Illya.

Funny thing. Critics keep slamming the new Bonds as being too self serious and poorly staged for modern times. Here at last is a period piece that doesn’t take itself all too seriously, that managed to weave a story with jokes that isn’t a joke itself post Austin Powers, and it will be gone from theaters about 20 minutes from the point that I post this.

But hey, it got made. I saw it. So should you.


On The Record At VinylFest


This weekend is the third annual VinylFest, and the second On The Record panel.

Last year’s was a big success, and this year’s line-up is another good one. Here’s some quotes from the panelists.

Dave Rucinski, Gubbey Records:
“Gubbey Records releases, promotes and documents isolated and eclectic music exclusively from Louisville, Kentucky based artists on physical formats such as Vinyl Records, Analog Cassettes and CD. I love vinyl because it is a physical format (which I think the public is still very hungry for), the artwork is large and if the record is cut properly, has superior sound quality.”

Bryan Puckett, Little Heart Records:
“God, vinyl just smells good. A new CD smells so clinical. Sterile, like a doctor’s office. Vinyl has that smell. At this point one of my biggest hopes for VinylFest is that it’s going to smell like living in my record collection.” On Little Heart Records: “I think we’ve carved out a niche market here in the city. We focus a lot on younger bands and the punk and hardcore sect, though I’ll give any band or musician a chance. I’m really excited to be involved this year to show everyone who may not have checked us out in the past what we’ve been up to the last ten years.”

Ben Jones, Better Days Records:
“From a stores standpoint, there is no vinyl resurgence. We have never left the medium. It has just evolved from a two decade void where technology replaced physical product to being replaced again with an older technology, that is, records made way to cassettes and CDs, then, to MP3 and now kids are going back to records, CDs and tapes. It is a nostalgia move, in many ways. The industry has a problem with more than two formats dominating. Right now, it is MP3s, CDs and vinyl, in that order. The music lover is realizing that the warmth and “snap, crackle and pops” associated with vinyl has its own rhythm. It adds an extra dynamic in the soundtrack of our lives. Industry wise, it still goes back to the industry finding a balance. For us that knows the game, nothing really changes. It is all about making money not art. Record companies will follow the trend for as long as it remains profitable. The artist that embraced records are being choked by the majors that are jumping on a trend. We know the bubble will burst soon. We see prices rising on new vinyl releases with each new release. By the same token, strain on plants to produce leads to quality issues. One thing leads to another. Meanwhile, we know that people will always love well loved used records. That is where the retail game is played, on a field of used CDs and vinyl.”

Wes Allen, Eastwood Records:
“I love vinyl for it’s clean, natural sound, and the fact that it has stood the test of time and technology and is still as popular.”

We start at 12:30 with a one-on-one with Ben, then the others will join, including Sean Liter of Modern Cult. Following that, a full night of music kicks off with Little Heart and Eastwood recording artists Ricky Morse, Shadowpact, Krosjoint, Fast Friends, The Whiskey Riders, and New Bravado. More info here.