Film Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me

Susanna Fogel’s The Spy Who Dumped Me is a by-the-numbers action comedy. Whilst it is suitably distracting, the film is not particularly memorable.  

Audrey and her best friend Morgan unwittingly find themselves caught up in an international conspiracy when Audrey’s ex-boyfriend shows up at their apartment with assassins on his trail. Audrey and Morgan find themselves on the run in Europe…

Directed and co-written by Susanna Fogel (with David Iverson), The Spy Who Dumped Me mixes action thriller with comedy. The plot revolves around a fish out of water premise with Audrey and Morgan being plunged into a world of espionage. As the situation becomes more ludicrous, the two young women are gung-ho about seeing their mission through. 

The main issue with The Spy Who Dumped Me is that it is not particularly arresting. The narrative functions suitably well, although the plot twist seems pedestrian. With a sparkly script, the film could have been a lot more amusing. The movie is very funny in places, but the jokes don’t always land. 

The strongest aspect in The Spy Who Dumped Me is the camaraderie between Audrey and Morgan. It is refreshing to see a female friendship that holds firm, despite the precarious environment that the two find themselves in. Mila Kunis and KateMcKinnon have good chemistry. The film boasts a decent supporting cast, featuring Gillian Anderson, Justin Theroux and Hasan Minhaj. It is a shame that these collective talents are rather wasted here. 

The cinematography makes the most of the exotic locations, whilst music is used to good effect. The end titles segment feels very unnecessary. The Spy Who Dumped Me hits all the notes expected, but the jokes are not enough to make an impact. 

The Spy Who Dumped Me is available on Digital Download, and on DVD, Blu-Ray & 4K UHD from 26th December 2018.

Stuff To Look At

This week we have plenty of clips and trailers for next year’s releases, including Inherent Vice, Jupiter Ascending and A Little Chaos

A Little Chaos

Period drama A Little Chaos is about the unlikely landscape architect of the Palace of Versailles. Directed, co-writtend and starring Alan Rickman, the film focuses on Kate Winslet’s Madame Sabine de Barra. A Little Chaos is out in cinemas on 17th April 2015.

Inherent Vice

Here is a brief clip from the upcoming Inherent Vice. Paul Thomas Anderson’s film stars Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, and Reese Witherspoon among others. Inherent Vice is released in UK cinemas on 30th January 2015.

Mad Max: Fury Road

This Mad Max: Fury Road trailer caused quite a storm when it was unleashed last week. From the trailer at least, the film is striking on a visual level. Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult, Mad Max: Fury Road hits the big screen on 15th May 2015.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry and Clark Duke return for time-travelling comedy sequel Hot Tub Time Machine 2. After the success of the first film, the group venture into the future, as well as the distant past in this instalment. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is released in UK cinemas on 10th April 2015.

Jupiter Ascending

Here is an extended V spot for upcoming science fiction blockbuster Jupiter Ascending. I can’t get over Channing Tatum’s ears. Also starring Mila Kunis and Eddie Redmayne, Jupiter Ascending hits UK screens on 6th February 2015.

The Last Five Years

Based on the theatre show, The Last Five Years is a musical which tells the story of a five-year relationship. Anna Kendrick once again shows off her vocal skills, following Pitch Perfect and the upcoming Into The Woods. The Last Five Years is scheduled for release in Spring 2015.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel sees the cast from the first film reunited, along with newcomer Richard Gere. This follow-up sees Dev Patel’s Sonny open a second hotel. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is set for release on 26th February 2015.

Film Review: Third Person

Third Person

Paul Haggis’ ensemble drama Third Person displays shades of 2004’s Crash. The film is mostly engaging viewers, if not wholly satisfying.

Michael is holed up in a Paris hotel trying to finish his latest book when his lover comes to visit. American businessman Scott wanders into a bar in Italy where he meets a beautiful but stressed young woman. Meanwhile in New York, a former soap actress hopes to win back custody of her young child…

Third Person follows the blueprint of Crash with its seemingly separate narrative strands. Writer-director Paul Haggis’ latest film shows more poetic licence with entwining them, however. Initially, there is enough in these individual strands to capture the viewer’s attention. Little is revealed about the main characters to begin with, allowing their stories to gently unfold.

Some of what occurs in Third Person is predictable. However, this is not the film’s main problem. Third Person seems to play with themes, but does not have a lot of coherency in terms of narrative. Whilst there is a particular theme that connects the stories, this is rather loose. What is presented is shells of narrative strands, without a satisfying group of stories. The later connection of these strands appears ill-thought out. If Haggis wish to play with elements in a less rigid context, these themes or husks of story needed to be captivating. As it stands, they hold some merit, although not enough to justify the run time.

Some of the cinematography in Third Person is beautiful in a polished way. The score is a good accompaniment. Performances from the ensemble cast are good overall. Olivia Wilde stands out in particular, whilst Mila Kunis, Liam Neeson, and Kim Basinger in a small role, are decent.

Despite a stellar cast, Third Person ultimately disappoints due to a lack of strong direction in narrative terms.

Oz The Great and Powerful Press Conference

Oz The Great and Poweful Press ConferenceDirector Sam Raimi and the cast of Oz The Great and Powerful gathered in London last week to promote the film. I went along to see what they had to say (and to eat a few biscuits)…

James Franco spoke about his connection to the world of Oz. He explained; “I’ve been a fan of the world of Oz since I was a boy, I read all the L. Frank Baum books when I kid, and so I was excited because of that. That I would be able to step in that world of my childhood imagination. Speaking about Sam Raimi’s vision, he said; “I saw that they were going to be loyal and respectful of everything we lovers of Oz expect. There will be familiar things in the land of Oz that you need for it to be the land of Oz.”

Sam Raimi admitted he was very frightened to approach the project. He remarked; “There is so much love for the original Wizard of Oz picture and people don’t want their warm feelings towards this classic sullied. They don’t want someone stepping on the fondest memories of their childhood”. However when Sam read the script for Oz The Great and Powerful he admitted that “he fell in love with the story”.

Zach Braff joked about wearing a blue onesie for his role as Finley. He said; “You think that when you make a movie for six months, when you walk on set in a blue onesie your cast members would eventually stop laughing at you. But they didn’t”. Mila Kunis commented on the importance of the costumes for this film. She explained; “It was the first time in my life that a costume 100% helped me realise the character”. Rachel Wiesz echoed the sentiment, stating; “My character would have been nothing without the sequins, the feathers, the lashes, the corsets, the boots, the nails!”.

Oz The Great and Powerful is released in cinemas on Friday 8th March 2013.

Oz The Great and Powerful

Film Review: Oz The Great and Powerful

Oz The Great and Powerful

With its spellbinding imagery, Oz The Great and Powerful is a most pleasing fantasy adventure.

Oscar Diggs is a fairground magician always on the look out for the next scam. When he is swept away to the magical land of Oz, the inhabitants believe him to be the great wizard that they have been waiting for…

Oz The Great and Powerful functions both as a prequel to 1939’s The Wizard of Oz and a homage to it. The film tells the tale of the man behind the wizard, and how he came to hold such a powerful position. Oz The Great and Powerful fills in the back story to an important character in the Oz realm, but one who takes a backseat in the 1939 film.

Sam Raimi’s film features plenty of nods to the 1939 classic. Fans should be pleased with these, as they fall into the loving homage category, rather than an attempt to ape the original. Unlike Return to Oz, Oz The Great and Powerful maintains the style of the 1939 film. Despite over seventy years passing since The Wizard of Oz, Sam Raimi’s film retains its style. The opening in particular is a great homage to Victor Fleming’s film.

The narrative fits the conventions of this style of fantasy. The dialogue is imbued with a healthy does of schmaltz. However, The Wizard of Oz itself was also ripe with sentimentality, so this should not surprise. The schmaltz does not make Oz The Great and Powerful a bad film by any means; however those not keen on whimsy may find it too cheesy. The film introduces some new characters to the sphere. These wok well, particularly sidekick Finley.

Oz The Great and Powerful is a majestic amalgamation of live action and CGI. The two formats are blended together so well, the separation is not really noticeable. The film makes the most of colour, in keeping with its predecessor, and is incredibly effective in creating the fantasy world of Oz. It is really worth seeing Oz The Great and Powerful in 3D; as the depth does add something. Danny Elfman’s score is also good.

Performances from the stellar cast are strong. James Franco is most believable as the magician of dubious morals. Rachel Weisz is perfectly cast as Evanora, while Michelle Williams makes a suitably ethereal Glinda. Mila Kunis also excels as Theodora.

Fans of The Wizard of Oz should find Oz The Great and Powerful to be a lovingly crafted addition to the Oz universe. Highly recommended for fantasy aficionados.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of stuff this week; a new Oz The Great and Powerful poster, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters trailer, something from Stoker and more…

Trouble With the Curve

Starring Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake, Trouble With the Curve is a drama about a baseball scout. After Clint Eastwood films received a mixed reception at best, it will be a relief to some that he is not directing this one. Trouble With the Curve is out in cinemas on 30th November 2012.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel and Gretel was always a disturbing fairy tale, so it is really no surprise that the filmmakers have chosen to go down the violent fantasy route with this cinematic adaptation. Starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteton, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters looks like a lot of fun. The film is released in the UK on 15th March 2013.

Oz The Great and Powerful

This week the first poster for Oz The Great and Powerful was released. Directed by Sam Raimi, the film stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. Disney’s last foray into Oz territory was the cult classic Return to Oz, so it will be interesting to see what this new film brings. Oz The Great and Powerful is due for release in March 2013.

Stoker

This is not a trailer for Stoker, but a video that depicts the creation of the poster, along with clips from the film. I’m not entirely sure what Stoker is, but I am interested to find out more. Starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska, Stoker will be released on 1st March 2013.

A Good Day to Die Hard

John McClane is back for another adventure in A Good Day to Die Hard. The last instalment did not quite match the much-loved earlier trilogy, so it will be interesting to see how this one does. Bruce Willis returns as McClane on 14th February 2013.

Django Unchained

Above is the latest trailer for Django Unchained. The trailer has director Quentin Tarantino’s stamp all over it. Starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained is released in UK cinemas on 18th January 2013.

Film Review: Ted

Those familiar with the level of crassness associated with Seth MacFarlane will be greatly amused and entertained by Ted. Occasionally close to the bone, Ted is nevertheless very funny.

As a child, John Bennett wishes that his teddy bear would come to life. When that wish comes true, John is the happiest boy in the world. As an adult, John is still best friends with Ted. John and Ted’s friendship is tested when John’s girlfriend Lori wants more from their relationship…

Ted offers a premise that most children would dream of; a cherished teddy bear coming to life. Despite this childhood wish fulfilment, and indeed the amusing opening gambit, MacFarlane’s film offers the flipside to what could have been an enchanting tale. John has to deal with Ted as an adult, a bear who appears to be stuck in perpetual adolescence while John needs to mature for the sake of his relationship. Whilst Ted is an amusing and affable character, it would be a hard sell to describe him as cute and cuddly.

The jokes in Ted are frequent, and hit the mark the vast majority of the time. Seth MacFarlane’s imprint is all over the film; fans of Family Guy will recognise several facets. There are plenty of references, particularly to 1980s popular culture. There are also some great cameos in the film.

The more emotional content of Ted works surprisingly well, most likely because it is couched by humour instead of becoming indulgently sentimental. The narration at the beginning of the film is a fantastic introduction, and a good indicator of the type of humour that viewers can expect. Mark Wahlberg shows off his comedy skills as John. Mila Kunis is as watchable as ever as Lori. Voicing Ted, MacFarlane’s voice brings life and personality to the character.