Spy

“If you’ve been reading lately, you know I’ve been a bit more sensitive about the portrayal of women on film and the inequality in the industry. While I love my guy movies, I am always happy to see a big female led flick, and when that female is Melissa McCarthy, I am ecstatic. There’s few women who are given many opportunities to lead a film, much less a big summer tent pole, and the fact that she’s been entrusted with so many in recent years is beyond wonderful.

Teaming up once again with Bridesmaids and The Heat director, Paul Feig, McCarthy stars as Susan Cooper, CIA agent who works behind the scenes, guiding her James Bond-esque super spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law) thru a myriad of, um, spy stuff. When a mission goes south and all known agents are compromised, Susan steps up to head into the field and take down a baddie trying to sell nuclear weapons.

The idea is that this is a parody of a James Bond film, without going the full parody route. A little less on the nose than Austin Powers, and more of an actual spy film that happens to be funny. Feig has been quoted as saying that he wrote this film because he thought it’d be the closest he’d ever get to directing Bond. He also said he was intrigued by the idea of having a trio of women leading the film: McCarthy’s Cooper as the protagonist, Miranda Hart’s Nancy as the sidekick, and Rose Byrne’s Rayna as the villain.

Something that I really really loved and appreciated about the homage over parody approach is that the humor didn’t come from our sudden spy bumbling around. She may have been a little out of practice and a little fish out of water, but she knew exactly what she was doing. She proved above all else how smart and adaptable she was to situations. The comedy (on her end) came more out of the unfamiliarity of the field and not out of her own ineptitude.

The rest of the cast helped bring the funny as well. Some deadpan humor from Allison Janney, some just over the top enough villain-y from the aforementioned Byrne (who we’ve learned from films like Neighbors and Bridesmaids can be quite funny), and some character work from Bobby Cannavale. However, the true secret humor weapon was Jason Statham.

Yes, the same Jason Statham whose action star chops I have praised countless times (including the most recent Fast and Furious installment). Turns out, the dude is quite funny. Jimmy Fallon was apparently aware of this, but few others were. Even I’d forgotten that some of the films where he got his start were comedy infused Guy Ritchie films, (Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smokin’ Barrels). In Spy, he plays Agent Ford, another top CIA agent. Although while Jude Law’s spy was your suave Bond, Ford is a little more Ethan Hunt maybe? Best analogy I can come up with, but I mean to say that he’s rougher around the edges. He gets stuff done with some extremely physical stunts and general bad ass-ery. So how does that make him funny? His recurring gag is how he rattles off lists of the more and more impossible feats he’s performed on missions. That and some unexpected moments where his strategy is a bit less conventional is all I’ll say. Seriously though, the man is funny. Even Melissa McCarthy was saying that Statham was the one actor who could make her break character laughing the most consistently and constantly.

Now, if I’m being completely honest, not all of the film worked for me. Every single idea behind it and all the moving pieces I’ve described were solid, but something didn’t quite connect (story issues perhaps) and made some of it drag on. Still, I’m more than happy that this film exists for everything that it is. Who knows, there’s definitely some franchise potential in here, and I for one would love to see that happen!

Spy – \m/ \m/ \m/”

In Bruges

“I start too many of these throw back posts with “”I really should know this movie better”” somewhere in the first paragraph, but no really, I really should know this movie better. This quirky and subversive little dark comedy earned an Oscar nod for screenplay in 2009 and won star Colin Farrell a much deserved Golden Globe that cemented his redemption from being a Hollywood bad boy and signaled the start of a more respectable career and lifestyle. But first he got a chance to play just bad enough, with a cheeky twinkle in his eye.

Farrell appears alongside Brendan Gleeson as a pair of European hitmen hiding out after a job gone wrong. They’ve been ordered by their boss to wait in the quaint little Belgian town of Bruges until he calls them. Gleeson tries to enjoy the town while Farrell is having none of it.

I love the tone of this movie. It’s technically considered a comedy (hence the Golden Globe success), but it’s not exactly a laugh fest. Instead it’s sort of the type of underworld picture you’d expect from the likes of someone like Scorsese or Guy Ritchie, except there’s a good sprinkling of sarcasm and clever one liners. The comedy in the underworld kind of mirrors the fish out of water feeling of the hitmen in Bruges. I keep finding myself chuckling pretty much every time Farrell opens his mouth, and he really sells it like a pro as he says some completely off the wall and/or unexpected things. I’m glancing thru the quotes on IMDB trying to cull a few examples, but they’re all either inappropriate and/or need context. Guess you’ll just hafta watch it for yourself. Until then, I’ll leave you with the trailer.”

Idiocracy

“How ironic is it that one of the most brilliantly clever films ever is about stupidity? That’s what we get in this comedy from Mike Judge, the dude who also brought us things like Office Space and Silicon Valley.

The premise asks you to accept a couple of stretches, but it’s worthwhile if you can suspend disbelief enough to overlook some minor details and just focus on the character interactions. In present day, Luke Wilson’s 100% average joe military man(average joe enough to even be named Joe) and Maya Rudolph’s street savvy civilian agree to be cryogenically frozen for one year as part of an Army experiment. Things happen *suspend disbelief here* and they are accidentally left in their suspended animation for 500 years. They awake in a world (this part’s scarily more believable) where civilization has gone downhill as less intelligent people are procreating more proficiently than smart people, resulting in the absolute dumbest generation to ever roam the earth.

I’ve often said that dialog can make or break a movie for me, and the writing here kills. The scene with the identity processor thingy is one of the funniest 90 seconds I’ve ever seen. So many quotable lines. “”Welcome to Costco. I love you”” “”Brought to you by Carls Jr”” I had a coworker at a previous job who would randomly bust out the Brawndo’s got electrolytes”” spiel.

The plot kinda starts to fall flat a bit once they realize you can’t really build a whole movie out of this without giving them some purpose, but it’s still 90 of the funniest minutes in the history of film.”

San Andreas

“Remember the natural disaster craze of the 90s? It started with small, localized events like Twister and proceeded to get bigger and bigger until the likes of Armageddon and Deep Impact. That then led to a scifi craze, but these bad weather flicks tended to pop up every now and again. Except each time they do, they’re even bigger, hoping to grasp the attention of our ADD nation. I remember watching The Day After Tomorrow a few years back. My Daddy came in to the room just as the Statue of Liberty was being destroyed. “”Every time they make one of these movies, they have to destroy the Statue of Liberty. Every time. Or if they’re on the west coast, it’s the Hollywood sign.”” “”Oh you just missed that. They destroyed that a few min ago”” “”Oh God”” he said shaking his head with disgust as he left the room.

Personally, I always preferred the smaller films. The more realistic, could actually happen. Night of the Twisters was my favorite, the Family Channel MOW starring Devon Sawa. I remember in 6th grade, for a creative writing assignment, one of my classmates wrote about our class reunion in the far distant future, going down the list of the whole class assigning professions. He predicted me to be a scientist that studies tornadoes and such. I didn’t realize it until years later, but at least as far as my studies, he wasn’t too far off. As part of my seemingly random education and career path, I did end up majoring in Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Sciences, specifically focusing in on geoscience. That’s not the industry I currently work in, but I know a few things, and the whole 8th grade science class thing always held my interest.

That all brings us to San Andreas, the latest big earth busting blockbuster. This time, it’s a major 9.5+ earthquake on the west coast that absolutely destroys California. To be honest, I really wasn’t feeling it, at least as far as wanting to see it. I worried it would be dumb, too sensationalized, too superficial, and just a lot of things falling apart. However, it was my best prospect for the weekend (after being on the fence about Aloha, love Cameron Crowe but hate the romcom vibe, the internet was very clear about telling me to stay away). What finally sold me on going to see this instead of just repeating Mad Max or somesuch was Dwayne Johnson. I’ve been following him on Instagram for a few weeks, and I’ve just been struck by how much charisma and joy for life this guy has. I figured if nothing else, I’d at least enjoy watching him do his thing.

I’ve never been so delightfully wrong about a movie. Yes the cheese factor is a little high, but I had such a blast watching this. Johnson works for LA Fire and Rescue, and for arbitrary reasons, his family is scattered across the state of California when a giant earthquake that Paul Giamatti predicted strikes the area. We follow The Rock as he tries to round up and reunite with his daughter and estranged wife. Sure, not a whole lot to the plot, but remember that Johnson charisma I talked about? Yeah, that went a long way here. He wasn’t just the stoic tough guy (though there was some of that), but you felt the connection he had to his family and his perseverance was palpable and believable. I didn’t care that I could predict most of the film beat by beat. I cared about the characters and about the details in how they would deal with events unfolding.

As the movie went on, I realized how impressed I was with the daughter character, Blake, played by Alexandra Daddario. She wasn’t a damsel in distress. Okay sure, she got into trouble a couple of times, but it was unavoidable. Instead, she was a tough chick with a good head on her shoulders. Her father’s occupation taught her a lot of survival skills that proved to be incredibly useful as she was often the hero rescuing the brothers she meet-cute-d and joined up with. She wasn’t prancing about in flawless make up, mouth agape, staring at the chaos around her and waiting for a savior. She was critically assessing her situation and calmly addressing it. Seriously, this girl is a role model for all characters in similar situations as well as real life young girls.

The action was a little over the top, but in a way that served the film well. My moderately packed Saturday afternoon screening was cheering and gasping and making other appropriate noises appropriately when appropriate. I kinda felt like some of the destruction was a little much (after all, aren’t these buildings constructed to at least hold up somewhat in an earthquake?) but the CGI looked pretty flawless. Comparing to the previously mentioned Day After Tomorrow, ten years ago, the advances are incredible. And just knowing that much of what was happening is a realistic possibility scared the \m/ out of me at times. Yeah it’s sensationalized in the film, but these types of events are a very real possibility. For two hours, I let myself believe in the fiction of the film, and just enjoyed the ride.

San Andreas – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

Be Kind, Rewind

“I almost completely forgot this movie existed. It wasn’t until I was re-watching something nearby on the movie wall that I caught part of a trailer. I had to reexperience this movie.

Mos Def is left in charge of a video rental store, that is already in a pretty steep decline. When his neighbor Jack Black accidentally becomes magnetized and unintentionally erases all of the tapes in the store, the two in a very desperate move record themselves acting out an abridged version of the films. They become an unexpected sensation on their small city block and try to channel their efforts into saving their doomed store.

This movie is really all about their “”sweded”” movies. There’s several montages throughout where you see them, converting over more and more of their inventory to their DIY film creations. Besides the parody factor, the real magic is in the low budget effects they use. Some of it is silly, such as filming in negative to simulate nighttime while wearing photocopied masks of their faces, while other tricks are ingenious, like when they recreate the Men in Black tunnel scene by using a wheel with a bunch of matchbox cars stuck on it while they film upside down.

For me, the third act starts to break down a bit as the story starts to get a little mushy. We still have some of the crude film tools that I love, but the tone completely changes along with the characters’ motivations. Still, that middle chunk when they’re in their groove is some of the most fun you will ever have watching a movie. This film also introduced me to the wonderful Melonie Diaz, whose career I’ve tried to keep an eye on (at least when she’s not doing some obscure or unknown things). She’s got the right amount of charisma to mix in with those funny boys, and she just brightens up the whole film even more.

I’m tempted to close with some links to YouTube to see some of the gang’s Sweded films, but instead, I leave you to watch the film in its entirety instead so you can get the full effect”