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Spy

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If anyone was worried for the upcoming female Ghostbusters, don’t be. Melissa McCarthy proves with Spy that she is the reigning comedienne, with action chops to boost. Paul Feig’s hits another feminist win with Spy, a globe-trotting comedy thriller with outstanding performances and hilarity at every turn.

McCarthy’s critics contend that she plays a lot of the same characters. While I won’t dispute that claim, in Spy she spins this to her advantage. Susan Cooper is a CIA analyst, who after a mission with her agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) goes awry, volunteers to go into the field to prevent a nuclear attack. It’s a simple setup with a simple underdog, unsung heroes theme, but it works.

Cooper is adept as an analyst, which gives her promotion a credibility of sorts, and she proves to be more than adept as an agent. This characterization is a win for McCarthy haters, and as Amy Nicholson of Village Voice put it, “…for once, the joke isn’t on McCarthy, but on everyone who can’t see her skills.” Her only fan, Nancy, played by the hysterical Miranda Hart, believes in her as her best pal, while Cooper faces opposition from everyone in the CIA including her boss (Allison Janney) and fellow agents (Jason Statham, Morena Baccarin).

Spy works as a female friendship film, but also as a genre-spoof and well-oiled action comedy. From the Bond opening credits sequence to the tight fight sequences (a kitchen brawl goes from hilarious to tense in seconds), Spy is the full package. Double crossings, conspiracies, bloody deaths are the norm in the R-rated flick, and it works. I was guessing until the end who did what, and the great characters kept me interested until the very end.

The great Rose Byrne delivers as Rayna Boyanov, a villain who I think will be remembered for a long time (sequel, please). Her thick accent and her chemistry with McCarthy flies off the screen, and the two deliver the most laughs per second. If there’s one complaint, it’s that there’s almost too many supporting characters. From agent Rick Ford played with surprising hilarity by Statham to MI6 agent Aldo who is smitten with Cooper, things get a bit crowded at times, and some characters remain underdeveloped. But when the laughs deliver, I’m not too upset about it.

Spy is an outstanding action comedy, and McCarthy’s best film since Bridesmaids. The writing is terrific, blending vulgar comedy with action thrills, and the film rarely stalls. Director Feig is completely committed to this film, making a spy movie that flips genre conventions 180 degrees, but also delivers more than it needs to on a character level, giving us a lovable and relatable lead that makes Spy miles better than what I was anticipating.

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Posted by on June 15, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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St. Vincent

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St. Vincent screams “festival film,” but that isn’t a bad thing. While the script leaves a lot to be desired, Bill Murray is on top of his game here in a very endearing crowd-pleaser from first-time director Theodore Melfi.

Bill Murray is tailor-made for the role of Vincent McKenna, a drunken cynical Vietnam vet who is asked by new neighbor Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) to watch her son Oliver. Like I said, it’s not groundbreaking stuff, but Murray works with some great writing here, nailing the deliveries and quick whips he is known for. The film gives the character Vincent maybe even more backstory than he needs, but Melfi nails the bond between Vincent and little Oliver. Another reviewer commented on how Murray’s films with kids tend to feature the man at his best, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Vincent is tragically sympathetic, yet we don’t find ourselves rooting for this old-timer ever. His “woman of the night” Daka (Naomi Watts) keeps him grounded, all the while he takes care of his dying ex-wife and runs into trouble with his racetrack bookie. These little quirks of Vincent give him outstanding characterization, and Melfi draws you in easily. Maggie and Oliver are instantly relatable, as well. Any kid who went through a divorce will tell you how hell-ish it can be, and St. Vincent does a great job with its accurate portrayal.

The problem with St. Vincent, though, is it requires too much buy-in, and then finishes with a whimper. The first two-thirds of the film are great, and I found myself laughing and crying at the great characterization and fun moments between Vincent and Oliver. But then the film takes a predictable and frankly boring route and ends with a cheap school report ending. Sure, it’s emotionally satisfying, but I’ve come to expect more from indie films like these, where it’s more about the experiences than the journey. St. Vincent is too slice-of-life to deserve a weak finale it is given.

But stick with St. Vincent because I’m sure you’ll enjoy its funny moments as well as its not-so-funny ones. A great vehicle to showcase Bill Murray, it’s a movie that won’t blow you away by any means with its contrived script. But St. Vincent is a satisfying tale with great performances that is a great fall sleeper hit.

 

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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The Heat Review

If anyone knows how to direct women, it’s Paul Feig. His hit “Bridesmaids” showed that women can be raunchy, too, and this time he tries the buddy cop formula. Even though it’s nowhere near as enjoyable as Bridesmaids, The Heat is still a very funny comedy that will leave you satisfied despite its formulaic plot thanks to an excellent pairing and some sharp humor.

The Heat follows the careers of two cops Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) and Shannon Mullins (McCarthy). Ashburn is sent down to Boston on a hot lead to bust a drug operation and take down a ruthless drug lord. She has never had a partner, and soon finds herself buddied up with Mullins. Ashburn is your typical by-the-books cop. She knows all the tricks and techniques, and can be pretty tough in the interrogation room. Mullins, on the other hand, could not be more different. She’s crass, loud, offensive, and has her own set of rules. Together the women must put aside their conflicting personalities and stop a drug lord.

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are a perfect pairing.

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are a perfect pairing.

Obviously this is standard fare for a buddy cop comedy; from Men in Black to 21 Jump Street, we’ve seen it before. Nothing that The Heat does story-wise is going to blow you away. At all. The plot is cookie-cutter, straight down to the “big reveal” on the villain’s end. It’s this reason I didn’t find myself very invested in the story, rather I was invested in the women’s hijinks alone. Besides Mullins’s family, the supporting cast is irrelevant and forgettable, and the plot is formulaic to a “T”. Luckily for The Heat, this isn’t a huge problem. Sure, it’s predictable, and outside of the two main women, I didn’t care much, but the lively raw energy that Bullock and McCarthy bring to the formula is unparalleled and extremely enjoyable. The Heat doesn’t waste any time. It doesn’t drag along, adding any stupid love interests or unnecessary scenes. It’s consistently funny, and the laughs rarely fall flat. Like other great comedies, The Heat will definitely be on the rewatch list for years to come.

Bullock plays a “by the books” character very well. She’s not annoying, and doesn’t mind livening up a bit to bust a case. McCarthy is on top of her game here. She’s the queen of physical comedy, and one of Hollywood’s hardest working women right now. She is rude, raunchy, and can’t go thirty seconds without an f-bomb. She could walk down the street and I would still laugh. Her mannerisms and demeanor are some of the funniest things you’ll see in movies this year. The two women together are perfect. They play off of each other, just like a comedy duo should, and despite the run-of-the-mill story, they make it work thanks to some laugh-out-loud moments and unforgettable situations.

A big topic in the movies today is the portrayal of women as comedy figures. Normally it’s left to the guys to clean up and bring criminals to justice. But director Paul Feig makes women funny again, just like he did in Bridesmaids, by not portraying them as men. Because that’s never funny. Rather he lets them behave like women would in these situations. Feig said in a Huffington Post interview this month, “What I liked about this one was that it didn’t have any of that. It’s just two professional women in the workforce who are great at their jobs and who are on this adventure.” This really illustrates what The Heat is going for. It’s just a funny movie, simple as that. No complications here. It’s one of those comedies I wouldn’t mind a sequel for, because it remains funny and never gets caught up in itself. Despite its mechanical plot, The Heat remains persistently funny throughout, and is one of the year’s most enjoyable comedies.

Overall: 3.0/4.0

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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