Film Review: Spy

Spy

Paul Feig’s Spy is an entertaining action comedy which works better than the premise might suggest.

Susan Cooper is a desk-bound CIA agent who provides great support to her colleagues. When the CIA need a new face to go undercover, Susan volunteers, plunging herself into a world of danger as she tries to infiltrate the inner circle of an arms dealer…

Writer-director Paul Feig teams up with star Melissa McCarthy once again in this action comedy. Spy takes obvious cues from the James Bond franchise, most of this is worked to humorous effect. However, the film is not so much as spoof of the genre as a comedy sent within the framework of the genre.

Spy does not hit the beats that viewers may expect, and it is a better film for this. Paul Feig’s film is not always laugh-out-loud funny, but it often hits the mark in terms of jokes. Thnkfully the size jokes are eschewed for the most part, to deliver something much funnier. Jason Statham’s character Rick Ford is a parody of the type of role he is often associated with, and a great source of amusement.

Spy‘s plot features the usual twists of an action movie. The film plays on Melissa McCarthy’s Susan as a fish out of water; the protagonist is removed from her comfort zone. Nevertheless, she is drawn as capable rather than the bumbling comedy idiot that she could have been. In fact, female characters in the film are both visible and depicted in positions of authority. Spy does not make a point of doing this, it is not an overt point that female characters dominate key roles. Nevertheless, male characters are not sidelined in the film.

Melissa McCarthy is amusing and amiable as Susan. However, it is Rose Byrne who steals the show with her comedy chops. Jason Statham is also good, whilst Jude Law is well cast as the suave secret agent.

Spy is an improvement on 2013’s The Heat, and bodes well for Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters film. An action comedy that entertains throughout.

Film Review: The Internship

The Internship is a comedy that is heavy on messages and values, which is amusing as it is pretty much a two-hour advertisement for Google.

Veteran salesmen Billy and Nick are out of a job when their boss sells up. When they realise their careers are redundant, Billy decides that it is a good idea for him and Nick to try out for an internship at Google…

With a story by star Vince Vaughn, The Internship‘s comedy is tempered by its desire to promote messages. These are all fine, with the two protagonists telling their younger colleagues to be themselves, to enjoy life and so on. Perhaps as a result, the comedy tends not to be of the laugh-out-loud variety, despite what the filmmakers may have intended. Laughs are fairly frequent, but there are only one or two moments that will generate more than a titter.

The journey and life choices reign high on the agenda. The Internship very much sticks to the issues at its heart. The film is less a raucous comedy and more a comedy with drama, romance and coming-of-age type journeys.

Product placement in The Internship is one of the most pronounced in the history of cinema. This is unsurprising given the premise, but this does not make it any more palatable. The film functions as an advertisement for Google, detailing what a great place it is to work and how diverse the company is. The film attempts to instil positives values in the brand. This aspect is rather interesting given the company’s recent appearances in the news.

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have not lost their chemistry from earlier outings. The supporting cast, which includes Rose Byrne, Andrew Garfield and Aasif Mandvi, are also decent.

The Internship may not be as satisfying to those expecting an out and out comedy. There are laughs and likeable moments, but it is hard to swallow the overt promotion of a company.

Film Review: X-Men: First Class

After X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, there did not seem to be much life left in the X-Men franchise. X-Men: First Class has changed that; it is an unexpectedly good prequel that should do great business at the box office.

In 1944, two young boys with very different backgrounds discover that they have special powers. Years later (in the 1960s), the two meet as adults after the CIA discovers the presence of mutants among the human population. Charles Xavier wants to find other mutants in order to train and help them, but Erik Lehnsherr has his mind set on revenge…

Continuing with the superhero theme after last year’s Kick-Ass, director Matthew Vaughn steers X-Men: First Class with some aplomb. It is tricky to keep a prequel engaging, as the audience is all too aware of what is to come. Vaughn does an excellent job of keeping the audience entertained throughout.

The writing team adds sufficient humour to the film, balancing more dramatic scenes with lighter moments in others. The brief cameos are inspired; a nod to those familiar with the X-Men franchise. The inclusion and omission of characters strikes the right balance. Familiar characters anchor the film; it is after all the back story of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr. However, the screenwriters are wise not to saturate the film with too many well-known characters, choosing instead to introduce a young group that would mostly be familiar to fans of the comics.

Set in the 1960s, X-Men: First Class links the fantasy aspects present with real-life events. This is a masterstroke, as it secures the film firmly in the real world, despite the fantastical forces that appear. The film creates an imagined history from real events, twisting the Cuban missile crisis so that it included the mutants. Throughout the film, references are made to this period and these events; the group are shown watching Kennedy on a black and white television set, for example.

Performances are solid all round, but it is Michael Fassbender who steals the show as Erik. Playing a character so identified with another actor seems like a difficult task, but Fassbender inhabits the role, bringing great presence to the film. James McAvoy is good as Charles, while Rose Byrne is very believable as Moira.

The art direction of X-Men: First Class is great, as is the sound. The only gripes with the film are very minor. The film slackens in momentum once or twice, but recovers quickly. Similarly there are one or two artificial-looking CGI effects, but overall the film is visually pleasing.

X-Men: First Class is the best blockbuster of the year so far. It has set a bar that the upcoming summer blockbusters will have to match.

Film Review: Bridesmaids

The trailer for Bridesmaids suggests that it is a female version of The Hangover. Instead, the film is a less raucous comedy with moments of genuine poignancy. Nevertheless, it is still very funny and immensely entertaining.

Annie is asked to be maid of honour at her long-time best friend’s wedding. Lillian’s other bridesmaids are an unconventional bunch that includes the very wealthy and immaculately presented Helen. As Annie tries to organise the various rituals, her personal life is unravelling at an alarming rate. This contrast becomes all too stark between Annie’s life and those of Lillian and Helen…

Bridesmaids is a great comedy which also displays genuine emotion. The humour is sometimes crass, but hits the right note more often than not. Paul Feig’s film does not always go for the lowest common denominator in terms of comedy, although there is some very literal toilet humour. On the other hand, the more serious moments of Bridesmaids also work well. Annie’s plight is completely identifiable, even if her actions sometimes are not. The chemistry between cast members is evident, which is an enormous help in generating the film’s more emotional moments.

Part of the reason Bridesmaids is so effective is that aspects of the film are very realistic. The jealousy that Annie projects towards Helen and Lillian is perfectly understandable, given the state of her private life. Moreover, her dalliances with Ted are also believable, despite his dubious personality. It appears that humour is the only unbelievable part of film; situations are exaggerated to generate many of the film’s laughs.

There are only two really problems with Bridesmaids. Firstly, the film is too long. It starts off brilliantly, but wanes after about an hour. Annie’s decline is drawn out, and seems to last too long given that the film is marketed as a comedy. Secondly, two of the bridesmaids inexplicably vanish in the second half of the film. It appears to begin with that Rita and Becca are important members of the supporting cast (and vital to bringing humour), but they are nowhere to be seen later in the film. Sufficient time donated to the marital woes of both Rita and Becca, yet these strands are completely omitted in the latter part of the film without any kind of resolution. Their absence is even more unusual given the recurrence of Matt Lucas’ character, who serves little purpose.

Kristen Wiig is excellent as protagonist Annie. She is attractive but not unrealistic, and is adept at both comedy and drama. Maya Rudolph appears very natural as bride Lillian, while Rose Byrne once again demonstrates her great comedic skills.

Bridesmaids is a genuinely enjoyable film. Although there are a few flaws, it is good to see an almost all-female cast star in a film that both sexes should find entertaining.

Film Review: Insidious

People in horror movies never actually seem to watch horror movies themselves. Otherwise, they would know to scarper at the first sign of danger, unlike the protagonists in Insidious.

Josh, Renai and their three children move into a new home. Before they have finished unpacking, strange things start to occur. When the couple find their oldest son Dalton in an unexplained comatose state, they decide to pack up ad leave. Moving into a new home, the family find that whatever was previously haunting them has followed…

Insidious is a good schlock horror that provides a decent amount of frights for those who buy into it. Some elements are unsurprisingly silly; seemingly a prerequisite of the modern horror film. Nevertheless, Insidious is an effective possession movie overall.

Much is made in the film’s publicity of the fact that the makers of Saw and Paranormal Activity are at the helm. Creator of Saw James Wan directs and Leigh Whannell writes, while Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli is one of the film’s producers. Given the success of these two recent franchises, it is easy to see why they have been played up in the advertising for the film. Although it is most comparable to Paranormal Activity of the two, thankfully Insidious is its own movie. The film does not draw too heavily on previous haunting films, despite the inevitable comparisons to The Haunting in Connecticut and The Amityville Horror among others.

One of the best things about Insidious is that the film injects a healthy dose of humour into proceedings. The appearance of Specs and Tucker lighten the atmosphere at the right time. They relieve some of the tension and sombreness that had hitherto been building. Whilst Insidious is unlikely to rank alongside cult classic Evil Dead II with this mix of horror and comedy, this aspect does distinguish the film from being just another generic possession movie.

Certain scenes in the film evoke Ridley Scott’s Legend, with their polemical imagery and use of colour. The booming score is pivotal in enhancing the sense of apprehension. The use of a recurring vintage tune is reminiscent of the Halloween series and Jeepers Creepers in giving an innocuous song a more menacing turn. Effects are good, although there is one particular use of CGI that cheapens the look of the film.

Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are aptly cast as protagonists Josh and Renai. Ty Simpkins is believable as young Dalton, while Barbara Hershey is underused as Lorraine.

With its nods to numerous horror films, Insidious is a well-crafted movie that effectively delivers the scares. It’s not The Haunting, but should prove to be popular amongst horror aficionados.

Film Review: Get Him to the Greek

A spin-off from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek focuses on Russell Brand’s rock star character Aldous Snow. Whilst it may not be as consistently amusing as its predecessor, Get Him to the Greek is very humorous at times, and an entertaining, if mindless, film.

Aaron Green has 72 hours to get rock star Aldous Snow from London to Los Angeles, via New York, to play at tenth anniversary concert at the Greek Theatre. A simple enough task, but for the whims of a drug-addled rock star…

Whilst the plot is fairly linear, the real highlights lie in the amusing situations Aaron and Aldous find themselves in. The film does not take itself too seriously, however through the humour there is definite comment on today’s music industry. Much of the comedy not only from amusing lines, but also the songs composed for the film.

Just as Aldous Snow shone through in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a side character steals the show in Get Him to the Greek. Although she only appears intermittently, Snow’s ex-girlfriend Jackie Q is thoroughly amusing in every scene she is in. Her music video for ‘Ring Round’ is particularly hilarious.

Brand is good as rock star Snow, though it does feel as if he is playing himself at times. Jonah Hill gives a decent performance as Aaron; it is interesting seeing him playing the straight man to Brand’s character.  Sean Combs pretty much plays himself as music company boss Sergio. It is only in later scenes that Combs comes into his own, the results of which are pretty funny. The real star is Rose Byrne as Jackie Q; she steals every scene she features in. Given its setting and tone, it is unsurprising that Get Him to the Greek features several cameos, from Lars Ulrich to Meredith Vieira.

Perhaps the only real downside to the film is that the more serious and reflexive scenes fall flat, especially when contrasted with the more ridiculous situations contained within the film. Nonetheless, Get Him to the Greek is an enjoyable and funny movie.