SPY REVIEW

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I Spy a surprisingly entertaining comedy.

A desk-bound CIA analyst (Melissa McCarthy) volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer (Rose Byrne), and prevent diabolical global disaster.

McCarthy takes on the spy genre and it’s everything you could expect. If you’re a fan, that is.

I love McCarthy. The Heat was one of the funniest films I’ve seen in quite some time. BUT then she made Tammy. A major step backwards. When I first saw trailers for Spy, I feared the worst.

And as the opening sequence began, my anxieties were justified. Jude Law’s Bond doppelganger Bradley Fine (Nicely done) was certainly entertaining enough. Delivering the naff punch lines with a cheeky wink.

McCarthy’s analyst commentary was a little flat. Her swooning over Fine was a little bland for my liking. And when their room was infiltrated by a swarm of bats from the ventilation shaft, I could feel my hopes fading fast. Not even Miranda Hart was doing it for me. (Comedically speaking. Oh, grow up).

And the opening theme song was awful. Clearly a homage to the classic Bond movies BUT they could have made the song funny or done a proper one. A little weak. Sung well though.

BUT as soon McCarthy was brought into the fold, things got a lot better and a whole lot funnier. The supporting cast were a mixed bag in every which way.

I really thought Miranda Hart would be a lot more irritating. I loved the first series of her self-titled sitcom Miranda but she soon regurgitated the same old spiel for two more series and really killed off the buzz. She was excellent. I expected a lot more silly buffoonery and endless collapsing with the occasional faint spell. There was only one moment where she got carried away as a bodyguard.

Otherwise, she came out with some corkers and worked really well with McCarthy. The pair complimented each other perfectly. And Hart’s unexpected hook up with a celebrity rapper was the most random and funniest thing I’ve seen in some time. NO SPOILERS on the rapper but what a good sport.

Jason Statham. Where do I begin? I have never lost the faith with the Stath. If I was wearing a hat, I would take it off to the chap. It’s great when you get to that stage in your career that you can play a parody of yourself. He was hilarious. Imagine Jay from the Inbetweeners with spy status. His endless BS and bizarre stories that get crazier by the minute had me in stitches.

His endless attempts to swoop in and save the day and belittling put downs on McCarthy took things up a notch when the film seemed to get a little too bogged down with the story. He was like a Crank-ed up Clousseau. A completely different side to the British bad ass.

Rose Byre looked stunning (if a little thin) as the villainous Rayna Boyanov. Even with a strange bee hive on her head. Cue endless one liners from McCarthy on that one. Her put downs with Byrne were great. “Did your father get you to dress like a slutty dolphin instructor?”.

McCarthy’s reactions and improvised banter got a lot more laughs than I expected. Sometimes when she is let loose, it can be very hit and miss. Most notably when she tries to play the tough guy. BUT her confrontation with a Swedish contact reduced him to tears and me. Fantastic.

There were so many set pieces. And the stunts were not bad. If anything, they were relentless. Seriously, Paul Feig wasn’t afraid to throw some carnage in there. The pieces were made better by the fact that McCarthy was doing them.

Her normal woman spiel really worked for this film and balanced the ludicrous humour and mad set pieces. When she tries to jump into a scooter and tumbles over, it shouldn’t have worked as much as it did but I was in stitches. “Why do you have a roof on these things? Who do you think you are? The Pope!”

I couldn’t believe that a certain Ukrainian dance group that featured in Eurovision a few years back made an appearance during a Parisian gig sequence. No spoilers. *Cough* DANZEN! *Cough*

Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead) was great as the eccentric Italian contact, Aldo. His infatuation and sexual advances on McCarthy’s Susan. Words escape me.

However, there were a few things that let the side down.

Morena Baccarin (Homeland) was reduced to a nothingy role. Merely the spy candy that Hart and McCarthy despise. She didn’t look even that great and her character was highly unmemorable.

Bobby Cannavale managed to make more of a impression with his weak Bond villain in the fiery finale. For most of the film, he was non-existent. His mincing about in a pursuit chase did get a chuckle.

Alison Janney’s hard ass CIA boss role was so bland. It only worked because she would pass McCarthy’s new identities. Seriously every one brought a smile.

The story was weak. The whole double crossing/triple crossing spiel was predictable. It may have happily poked fun at the endless spy plots from yonder years but it wasn’t really that interesting and slackened the pace and killed the jokes.

It was OTT, manic, random BUT funny which covered the dud gags (which there weren’t a lot) and to be honest, those two hours flew by and I came out smiling.

Mission Accomplished, Ms McCarthy

3.5/5 (Just)

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MUPPETS MOST WANTED REVIEW

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Meh-na-meh-na- Muppets Most Wanted? Unfortunately this time round, Muppets Missed Something.

Before you ask, I am a big Muppet (We know that. Stop it. We’re better than that) fan. I’ve loved the TV series and the movie franchise. After the fantastic reboot, it was inevitable a sequel would be in motion. This is hilariously demonstrated in the film’s opening toe tapping musical number, “We’re Making a Sequel”. The list of unexpected cameos who pop their heads up in this film is ridiculous and unexpected, despite some being pointed out in the trailers to help flog the film. I won’t name them all because firstly it would be a long list and if not for the cameos, there wasn’t much to look forward to this time around. Don’t get me wrong, the Muppets are still funny and have their moments but the material seems to stretch on for too long and we’ve seen it done before a lot funnier before by the gang in their earlier efforts.

A silly premise of Kermit being imprisoned and replaced by his criminal Russian doppelganger, the number one criminal in all the world, Constantine with a distinguishing feature makes for a funny gag that unfortunately drags on for too long. This cues a lazy excuse for a tour around the world with slapstick and shenanigans. It was great to bring Kermit back as the leading . . . frog after the last film was about Walter. Unfortunately, Walter doesn’t really appear or make an impression until the hour mark. However, when dealing with such an array of characters, it’s hard not to isolate certain characters. An unexpected inside joke pokes fun at this. It’s not all bad. Kermit’s incarceration in the gulag allowed for a funny prison musical number with Jermaine Clement (we’ve had one half of the Conchords, why not have the other?), Ray Liotta (All my life I was always wanted to be in the Muppets. He doesn’t say that. But I wish he did), and Danny Trejo as . . . Danny Trejo. Tina Fey as the ice cold gulag warden brings the odd chuckle and her singing isn’t too bad, despite an exaggerated Russian accent.

Now as you know a certain Mr Ricky Gervais (who has not stopped tweeting about this project) plays a pivotal role as the suspiciously notorious tour manager Dominic Badguy (Bad-guy? It’s French for nice man. Nothing? Well). Gervais’ comic delivery is surprisingly stale. Never was an actor. Let’s be honest. However, his expired ‘look to the camera’ face pulling spiel actually works and his song and dance number with Kermit was a surprise. He gives it a go and pokes fun at himself, inevitably Brenting it up. If you’re a fan of Gervais, then he’s does alright. Otherwise, his smarmy presence works for the role but just doesn’t quite click or come off as funny as you’d expect. This film seems to miss that energy and chemistry that Amy Adams and Jason Segel brought to the table. I mean even Chris Cooper rapped and still pulled off the evil role.

The gags on the language barriers weren’t too bad, most notably in Berlin (Die Muppets? They hate us already). Fozzy Bear, Animal and Walter provide some of the more memorable moments. However, there’s one diva you can’t miss and that is Miss Piggy. It’s hard not for her to stand out (it’s like she’s real or something). A surprise duet with another “diva” made for a typical Muppet parody. The Muppets still bring the laughs but it seems that the human counterparts let this show down for me. I mean for the movie buffs, the Swedish Chef does a passing Ingmar Bergman reference. Straight over the little ‘uns heads but brilliantly done. The songs don’t seem to be as memorable as before, apart from the opener, they don’t stand out like the Oscar winning “Man or Muppet”. The cameos, despite being unexpected, are hardly fantastic or funny for that matter. Brings the odd smile but once you see them, they don’t do much else or stand out, bar Christophe Walz doing the Waltz. Worth it for the punditry alone. Ty Burrell (Mr Peabody and Sherman/Modern Family) is a notable exception. His Clousseau-esque detective is not bad and his rivalry with the Eagle makes for a cheeky poke at US/French relations with a compensating big badge off. A guilty gag that gets a giggle. It has enough for the little kids but for the bigger ones, to quote the opening song, “The sequel is just not as good”.

Harsh but if not for the cameos, this could have been one of their TV movie counterparts. It’s tough but you can’t help but compare to their more successful sequels, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island and the Muppets 2011 movie, and feel it missed the mark. Watchable, the odd giggle. Not bad but back to the drawing board, maybe guys? 2.5/5

Currently ranks #101 out of 156!

*Please note before the film there is a good little Monsters University short called Party Central.