STORY WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For Digital First Media
“The End of the Tour”
In 1996, in anticipation of writing a profile of the writer, David Foster Wallace, “Rolling Stone” reporter David Lipsky spent five days with his subject. “The End of the Tour” depicts that experience and the relationship that evolved between the two men.
The film takes place as Wallace (Jason Segel) has just published his much ballyhooed novel “Infinite Jest.” The 1,079-page tome was suffused with narrative density. It reflected Wallace’s extraordinary intellectual acumen. While many hailed “Infinite Jest” as a brilliant masterpiece, others found it unduly solipsistic.
To drum up sales, the publishers encouraged Wallace to go on a tour of bookstores and do readings. Painfully shy and socially maladroit, the author reluctantly agreed to do it, albeit with palpable reservations.
David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) had just published his own novel, “The Art Fair.” Although it elicited glowing reviews, book sales had been somewhat disappointing. Lipsky picked up an assignment to do a story on Wallace. He convinced Wallace to allow him to accompany him on a road trip of the cities that he must visit on the book tour.
Rumors had swirled around Wallace, including that he had reportedly become a heroin addict. Lipsky’s editor (Ron Livingston) at “Rolling Stone,” wanted Lipsky to dig up dirt on Wallace, Would Lipsky succumb to his editor’s desire for a salacious story or provide a more balanced account of Wallace? How will his fledgling friendship with Wallace impact the tone of his article?
“The End of the Tour” is directed by James Ponsoldt. His prior films, “Smashed” and “The Spectacular Now,” also focused on interpersonal dynamics. Segel and Eisenberg both seem well-cast in their respective roles.
Perhaps, most importantly, David Foster Wallace was a spectacularly intelligent individual who was tortured by depression. If the film can capture his inner turmoil, and how it informed his writings, it could make for an interesting vehicle.
Opens in limited release on Friday, Aug. 14. R (for language including some sexual references) 106 minutes. A24 Films.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”
As James Bond became an international movie phenomenon, U.S. television networks sought to cash in on the public’s appetite for spy dramas. The weekly series “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” commenced in 1964 and played for four seasons.
Originally, the intended title for the series had been “Ian Fleming’s Solo.” Fleming had been the creator of James Bond. The adaptation of his novel, “Goldfinger,” was about to be produced by Cubby Brocolli and Harry Saltzman. It featured a character named Solo. Following the threat of legal action, the show’s title changed to “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”
What was U.N.C.L.E.? Originally, its identity was intentionally shrouded in ambiguity. Again, legal issues forced the showmakers to clarify that the organization was not part of the United Nations. Instead, each episode specified that the titular acronym stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. They were battling an evil counterpart, code named T.H.R.U.S.H.
The pilot, revolved around the American master spy, Napoleon Solo, portrayed by Robert Vaughan. The actor was best known as one of the mercenaries in John Sturges’ classic Western, “The Magnificent Seven.”
In the pilot Ilya Kuryakin was a Ukranian agent, who was portrayed by a Scottish actor David McCallum. He was a minor character. As the show morphed from pilot to television series, Kuryakin was elevated to being Solo’s partner. Although they formed a two-man team, the show’s title remained singular, rather than plural.
As the show made its debut, it was the height of the Cold War. However, the show was premised on the notion that Solo and Kuryakin were both working for U.N.C.L.E., a multi-national aggregate of spies from numerous countries. The agency was under the supervision of a tweedy Englishman, Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll).
Besides the recurring three characters, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” featured an impressive array of guest stars. In the first season, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy appeared in an episode, a year before they were paired together on the “Star Trek” series as Captain Kirk and Spock. Before she became Agent 99 on the satirical treatment of the spy genre, “Get Smart,” Barbara Feldon appeared in one episode. Similarly, before he starred in “I Spy” series, Robert Culp appeared on the show. Other guest stars included Jill Ireland (who was then married to McCallum), Ricardo Montalban, Joan Crawford, Janet Leigh, Joan Blondell, Elsa Lanchester, Jack Palance, Nancy Sinatra, Cesar Romero, Vincent Price and Carroll O’Connor. Just for good measure, Sonny and Cher appeared on the show.
The show was wildly popular. On five occasions, additional footage was shot and used to pad episodes into feature length films, which played theatrically. It also spawned a free-standing spin off, “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.,” which starred Stefanie Powers.
Now, years later, the show will be revived as a new film, directed by Guy Ritchie. It will star Henry Cavill (Superman in “Man of Steel”) as Solo, Armie Hammer (“Lone Ranger”) as Kuryakin and Hugh Grant as Waverly. Like the television series, the movie is set in the ‘60s. A shadowy criminal cartel with ties to surviving Nazis have constructed an atomic bomb.
Although Solo and Kuryakin are encumbered with a contentious history, U.N.C.L.E. assigns them to team up. Will the two be able to co-exist and prevent global annihilation?
Opens wide on Thursday night, Aug. 13. PG-13 (for action violence, some suggestive content and partial nudity) 116 minutes. Warner Brothers
Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at email@example.com.