REVIEW: “SPY” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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With the release of “SPY”, 20th Century Fox is putting out it’s second spy genre film of 2k15 with the first being the hugely entertaining ‘Kingsman:The Secret Service‘. But Melissa McCarthy’s latest jaunt into comedy had me contemplating if it was just going to be another one where she wears out her welcome by playing the same character-type once again. I’m pleased to report this is not the case and you will find yourself laughing your way through this one. Not only because of the fact that McCarthy is more or less doing character assassinations on most of those stereo-typed characters of her past, but it’s with a strong supporting, hugely funny and entertaining cast which really pulls this film all together.
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McCarthy plays “Susan Cooper”, a deskbound CIA analyst acting as the eyes and ears for expertly named-and-trained field agent, “Bradley Fine” charmingly done here by Jude Law, with whom she is clearly head over heels for, this fact being advantageous for him. When Fine goes missing and the agency is compromised, CIA spy-team leader “Elaine Crocker” (Allison Janney) gives the unassuming Susan a shot at her first field mission to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer. Needless to say, things do not go as planned. Not only does she have to deal with exotic uber-vixen “Raina Boyanov” (Rose Byrne) who has a hilariously homicidal lack of tolerance towards her own henchmen, but her own fellow on-the-outs disgruntled agent “Rick Ford” (Jason Statham) who is essentially part Rambo, part bumbling Inspector Clouseau.
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Every scene between McCarthy and Byrne sparkles and both play their roles spot on, particularly when they are both aggressors. Not content to be mere supporting actresses, both Byrne & Janney have some of the funniest lines in the movie. The jokes come so thick and fast that you’re likely to miss some of them simply because they’re drowned out by your own laughter along with the audiences. Statham is hilarious and is one of the reasons I wanted to see this film so much as seeing him skewer his tough-man persona, swearing poetically and prat-falling left and right in the most unpredictable spots is just one of SPY’s fun delights. My only beef with his part is I wanted more.
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Spy would not be funny if it were simply Susan/McCarthy bumbling from one scenario to another. It helps that her characters here have vulnerabilities; it works because McCarthy is adaptable to every situation she finds herself in and is able to hit all her marks without a miss. There’s a sense of witnessing a woman empowered and it’s a hoot to see McCarthy given the space she deserves here. The other is watching Rose Byrne vamping it up as Rayna Boyanov, along with Miranda Hart, who is a constant surprise as Susan’s coworker “Nancy“. And then we have 50 Cent, as himself, having a grand old time being, yes, dare we say it, a tad bit funny..
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Director Paul Feig has gathered a game cast here who are more than committed to the faintly ridiculous material they’ve been given which will make Spy likely to be one of the funnier films of the year. There are films with stronger action sequences, but that won’t be your concern when watching as again, you’ll probably be to busy laughing.

Grade: B-
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Screening at AMC Century City 15, Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 – courtesy of 20th Century Fox & LAFTV
“SPY” – Opening nationwide Friday, June 5th, 2015

RATINGS SCALE: A = OSCAR-WORTHY; B = ABOVE AVERAGE; C = AVERAGE; D = NOT RECOMMENDED; F = SKIP IT ENTIRELY (+ OR – GIVES IT AN EDGE UP OR DOWN)

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REVIEW: “THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU” (2014) Warner Bros.

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I went into this movie knowing it was another one of the genre of ‘family dysfunction’ movies that either go over really well..or not.  With the cast at hand, I really was looking forward to at least a somewhat decent flick and expected some top-notch dark, comedic moments.  And Jane Fonda.. Can I just say how badly I want to look like Jane Fonda when I am her age..hell I want to look like her NOW.. But truly, even with the almost always funny, Jason Bateman & Tina Fey, sadly nothing could save this movie from being completely mediocre.     this is where 2

This whole middle-class.suburban angst type genre movies were all the rage about a decade ago, but it’s tapped itself out as there’s only so many movies about the upper classes and their problems that you can take if they’re not bringing something new to the table. “THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU” doesn’t fit the bill, in that’s it’s an incredibly familiar story we’ve seen done too many times before and it’s become rather boring and lackluster.  The rundown of the film is the ‘heard it so many times before’ story of the kids coming home to reunite in the wake of their father’s death. No one wants to be really be there, and the fighting starts almost immediately.starting with the newly separated son “Judd Altman” (Jason Bateman) having been called home by his sister “Wendy Altman” (Tina Fey), with him having just a few months earlier been cheated-on by his wife, “Quinn” (Abigail Spencer) caught in the act with his boss “Wade Beaufort” (Dax Shepard) no less. but then able to find quirky new love interest who just happened to have a crush on him years back, “Penny Moore” (Rose Byrne) within hours of his return ~ can we just give a big YAWN here already?!  And to make it somewhat even less plausible, though the father was an atheist, everyone is told by family matriarch “Hillary Altman” (Jane Fonda) that they all must stay as he wanted them to ‘sit shiva’, which from what I understand is a Jewish religious custom where the family sits & receives guests for a set amount of days. So you would think at least some comedy would ensue here riiiigghhtt??!!!  *sigh*

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The funeral is an awkward affair to say the least. Judd’s older brother “Paul Altman” (Corey Stoll) has taken to his new role as the head of the family with an overly-controlling bullying attitude and whose wife “Alice” (Kathryn Hahn) is comically desperate to get pregnant. Wendy is busy with her two children, considering that her husband “Barry” (Aaron Lazar) is an inattentive workaholic and makes her want to run back to her past also with the brain-damaged boy next door “Horry Callen” (Timothy Olyphant). The rest of the Altman family ranges from oh soooooo annoying youngest brother “Phillip Altman” (Adam Driver) the bratty black sheep of the family, who comes with his rich older girlfriend in tow “Tracy Sullivan” (Connie Britton) who happens to be a psychiatrist just like his mom..yeah you get the jist where that is going.  One thing we do get plenty of is Fonda’s smothering mother and her grotesque boob job, with the boobs almost so comic that they feel out of place in some somewhat serious moments. They provide easy laughs, but this itself suggests a problem, when they are the funniest thing of the movie.

 

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So, yes there is a surprise at the end of the movie that only ever so slightly redeems it, but at that point, it’s basically too little too late.  Bateman’s performance is decent, Fey’s also, though you don’t get ‘comedy’ from either of them and no one’s is outstanding in the least. By far the most annoying character & portrayal comes from Adam Driver, when I would have liked to have seen say Olyphant’s character of Horry more developed as at least as the bit we got of him, was interesting.  To be honest, this isn’t the worst movie out there right now by far, but I think audiences are expecting more from it than they are going to receive, especially now that we are gearing up for the year-end slew of Oscar contenders sure to come.  This movie will not be one of those contenders.

Grade: C-  (below average)

(See grading scale)

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