Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Adriatic Express Affair”

It’s New Year’s Eve, and Napoleon and Illya are hanging out at the train station in Vienna while taking a half-assed stab at doing their job, which in this case means keeping an eye out for a T.H.R.U.S.H. agent named Herr von Kreidel. Mostly, though, they’re playing to their strengths: Illya is looking mysterious and unapproachable while muttering gloomy thoughts about the weather, and Napoleon is ogling girls.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Roundup: Man From U.N.C.L.E., Heather Stewart, Morrissey’s novel, and Sparks

Fall is here! New York is still on the warm side, but the weather seems to be leaning strongly in a general downward direction, and that’s surely a good thing. I’m hiding out in Queens today to avoid Pope-related crowds and confusion, I’m heading upstate tomorrow for a last-minute micro-short vacation, and all is more or less well.

This is the best worst thing ever. I ordered a couple of Man From U.N.C.L.E. paperback novels from an eBay vendor, and he threw in an amazing bonus: a 250-page fully-illustrated hardcover children’s book: “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Calcutta Affair” by George S. Elrick. The illustrator is uncredited, which is a crying shame; there’s a full-color illustration on every page (so, roughly 125 illustrations), and they’re marvelous. The plot, which follows Napoleon and Illya as they battle the evil forces of T.H.R.U.S.H. in India, is strangely brutal for a kid’s book; Napoleon and Illya, so glib and mild-natured on the show, come across as, oh, a wee bit psychotic.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Children’s Day Affair”

Somewhere in Switzerland near the Italian border, Napoleon and Illya zip along in a sporty convertible, patrolling the roads to Geneva as part of security measures for an upcoming gathering of U.N.C.L.E.’s Western Hemisphere Section One leaders. When someone opens fire on them, they leave the car and explore the surrounding woods. In no time at all, Illya finds himself ambushed from all directions by a gaggle of gun-toting young boys in school uniforms. Illya, my love, try not to let small children get the drop on you. It reflects poorly on U.N.C.L.E. when a bunch of preteens can outmaneuver one of its top spies.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Miami Vice Mondays: "El Viejo"

Episode: Season Three, Episode Seven: “El Viejo”
Original airdate: November 7, 1985
Directed by: Aaron Lipstadt
Written by: Alan Moskowitz

Crockett’s attempt to ensnare a trigger-happy drug lord known as the Bolivian goes horribly wrong—a security guard is shot and killed, and in the resulting chaos, a down-on-his-luck elderly gentleman named Jake Pierson (Willie Nelson) absconds with a buttload of the Bolivian’s cocaine. Pierson wants to return the cocaine to the Bolivian for a hefty finders’ fee; to salvage their case, Crockett and Tubbs, in their long-term undercover guises as lowlifes Burnett and Cooper, intercept Pierson and help set up the deal.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Roundup: Duran Duran at Terminal 5, Paper Gods review, Moonbeam City, Glitter Princes

I went to see Duran Duran Monday night at Terminal 5 in Manhattan. Hadn’t planned on going, but a friend couldn’t use her ticket at the last minute, so she very generously gave it to me. It was a pretty stupendous show. I met up with my friend’s friend Jane, who turned out to be delightful company, and we managed to stand very, very close to the stage; my own phone is rubbish, so that photo of Simon (with bonus photobomb by John) was taken by Jane. 

Anyway, the boys looked and sounded great. Fun evening filled with cool people, from the awesome lady passing out free individual bottles of prosecco and pinot grigio outside the door to the woman on my subway train home who identified me as a fellow concertgoer by my wristband and struck up a conversation.

I’ve been having a good time listening to their new album, Paper Gods. Here are my fast and messy track-by-track thoughts:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Foxes and Hounds Affair”

Now in glorious Technicolor!

In Paris, Illya visits a stage magician named Merlin (Andre Philippe), who is in possession of an electronic thought translator, a miraculous device that allows him to read minds. Merlin’s been using it in his nightly stage show; Illya wants to acquire it for U.N.C.L.E. To prove the efficacy of his device, Merlin offers a demonstration. He urges Illya to think of “…some little secret which perhaps only you know.” He fires up the device and probes into Illya’s most private thoughts: “You think of a man. A Monsieur Solo.”

Oh? Do tell, Merlin.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday roundup: All Duran, All the Time

I know I’ve used this photo before, but dang it, it’s one of my very favorites, just for the uber-glamorous half-assedness of it. John and Simon can’t be bothered to put down their cigarettes, John looks on the verge of tears, Roger is hiding behind his sparkler, and Nick, the magical pixie, is busy setting his hair on fire. At least Andy and Simon seem to be having a good time.

Duran Duran’s Paper Gods album is out today, so the guys have been doing a slew of promotional stuff. There’s a good, long interview in The Guardian in which everyone is in fine form. Here's my favorite bit, in regard to filming the Sri Lanka videos (“Hungry Like the Wolf”, “Save a Prayer”, “Lonely In Your Nightmare”):

John: Then Andy fell off a tree into a lagoon and got poisoned. We heard about that for a long time afterwards. That was one of Andy’s favourite resentments: “Oh, that fuckin’ island …”

Nick: I don’t know, I never used to listen to him.

Yep, we know, Nick. Andy wrote a 320-page book about how you never used to listed to him.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Girls of Nazarone Affair”

In Cannes, Illya and Napoleon attempt to contact a Dr. Kelvin, who has developed a serum with miraculous healing properties. To keep it out of the hands of miscreants, Dr. Kelvin has sought the protection of U.N.C.L.E. Oh, Dr. Kelvin, how naïve of you. When it comes to innocent civilians, U.N.C.L.E. doesn’t really do protection. Dangling civilians in front of deadly enemy agents as bait? Hurling civilians directly into the path of danger? Yeah, that’s really more U.N.C.L.E.’s speed. Protection? Not one of their strengths.

Outside a hotel, a champagne-swilling flower vendor is approached by a pair of pretty blonde women in a fancy sports car: sinister Madame Streigau (Marian Moses), and famed racer Nazarone (Danica d’Hondt), who is in town to compete in the upcoming Grand Prix. Madame Streigau asks the vendor to pose for a photo, whereupon she discreetly passes him an envelope, then sticks him with a corsage pin laced with deadly poison.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The A-Team: “The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair”

For some damn fool reason, I thought this would be a good idea.

My affection for the high-energy, unapologetic goofiness of The A-Team is no secret. And while I’ve arrived very late to the nonstop cocktail party that is The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I’ve quickly lost my heart to the show. So, I thought to myself, what could be more relevant to my interests than a very special Man From U.N.C.L.E.-themed A-Team episode? How could this possibly go wrong?

Okay, sure, even on paper, it’s not a perfect match. Mashing up The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (swanky, frothy, sexy) with The A-Team (gonzo, gleeful, idiotic) is like ordering a Kir Royale with a Pabst Blue Ribbon chaser, or ending a jazz recital with a string of fart jokes. Even so, with the right script, this could’ve worked. This could’ve been fun. Hell, it could’ve been cute.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Miami Vice Mondays: "Red Tape"

Episode: Season Three, Episode Nineteen: “Red Tape”
Original airdate: March 13, 1987
Directed by: Gabrielle Beaumont
Teleplay by: Jonathan Polanksy
Story by: Dennis Cooper

While serving a routine search warrant, young hotshot detective Eddie Trumbull (a baby-faced Viggo Mortensen(!) in a blink-and-miss-him role) is killed in an explosion, the latest in a series of lethal boobytraps specifically targeting cops. Eddie’s distraught partner, Bobby Diaz (Lou Diamond Phillips, awesome), vows to seek vengeance for his murder.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday roundup: Randall's Island, eclairs, Demon City, and Spandau Ballet

ß I swiped  this photo of Randall’s Island and the Triborough (RFK) Bridge from my sister’s Flickr account without permission. Sorry, Ingrid.

Happy Friday. I just walked to my home in Queens from my sister’s office at Columbia University, and I’m feeling rather smug about it. From Morningside Heights, I skimmed across the top border of Central Park, then crossed through East Harlem to the 102nd Street pedestrian bridge over the Harlem River, zigzagged across Randall’s Island, then walked over the Triborough Bridge across the East River to Queens. It’s not a long walk, but it’s sort of a weird one—Randall’s Island, home of wetlands, soccer fields, homeless shelters, a hospital for the criminally insane, a sewage treatment plant, and too few pedestrian-friendly pathways, can be tricky to navigate.

(Western Queens, where I live, is lovely, honestly. The proximity to the East River means million-dollar views of the Manhattan skyline, which is a nifty perk. However, it also means proximity to the four, count ‘em, four sewage treatment plants that border the Upper East River. Usually, that’s fine, but on muggy late-summer days like today, it gets a little fragrant. There are many reasons why I’m looking forward to fall.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Fiddlesticks Affair”

I’m still making my way through season one of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It’s still a freaking delightful show. This worked out pretty well last week, so let’s take another in-depth look at an episode, shall we?

At U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, Napoleon and Illya prepare for a new mission by trying to break into a vault. Their attempt is unsuccessful, a fact that is trumpeted loudly by a smug fellow U.N.C.L.E. agent, who seems delighted at the opportunity to take these two spotlight-grabbing show ponies down a notch or two. Illya: “Having been successfully captured and killed on our own dress rehearsal, heaven knows the depths we shall sink to on the real thing.” Then he gloomily misquotes a little Tennyson and slinks off in defeat. Illya, you are a strange but glorious creature.