SPY Movie Review

spy cinemynxThe phrase “summer blockbuster” sends a cold spear of terror down my spine. In the land of wild hype, it is a moniker that all too often bestows the kiss of death to a movie. At the risk of adding gasoline to an already out of control conflagration – SPY is precisely that: A summer of 2015 blockbuster. Third in the series of director Paul Feig-Melissa McCarthy couplings, after BRIDESMAIDS and THE HEAT, I had great trepidation heading into the film as I feel that I feel McCarthy has not lived up to her comedic genius of BRIDESMAIDS in her last several projects. I’m throwing down a gauntlet here and saying that her role in SPY is, to date, the role best suited to her singular mix of smart, rapid fire wordplay and physical comedy. And to call Feig’s writing and direction ‘funny’ is a gross understatement.

There have been many good espionage spoofs among my favorites are 1967’s CASINO ROYALE with the brilliant Peter Sellers, and JOHNNY ENGLISH (2003) a perfect showcase for Rowan Atkinson’s distinct brand of idiot-savant comedy. Like those films, SPY provides a perfect platform for McCarthy to shine and part of that sparkle is created by her fantastically well cast and funny supporting actors. Melissa McCarthy is best when she is in contrast to those around her and she is an excellent ensemble player. As a CIA analyst who is the brains behind the beauty and brawn of operative Jude Law, McCarthy’s Susan Cooper combines a razor sharp intellect and strategic brilliance with a charming, nerdy loner quality. We do not however pity her. She is too smart and earnest for our sympathy. Instead we laugh with her, grateful that she has a good measure of self awareness . She is deeply in love with Bradley Fine, Law’s impeccable take on Bond…James Bond. He is the avatar in the field benefiting from Cooper’s genius at headquarters, and they do indeed make an unremitting team. When Fine is killed, and all other operatives are too recognizable, Cooper is sent into the field to observe, collect info and report only. If you assume things quickly move beyond mere observance you’re spot on.

Feig’s script could have easily rested upon cliches and sight gags, lazily focusing on the paradox of McCarthy’s physical humor in the role of a CIA operative. However, the script is intelligent and goes far beyond what is merely expected. Consequently it is absolutely hilarious. I laughed hard all the way through the movie, so hard in fact that I’m sure I missed some of the best lines laughing at what had come before. Jason Statham plays an operative who is so macho, so over-the-top invincible that he is a caricature of every single role Statham has ever played and he does it perfectly. His Rick Ford is the punching bag for all the operatives because he is all muscle and scant acumen. Inside his shiny heroic physique, is a complete bumbling screw-up. The role reversal dynamic between Statham and McCarthy is funny and endearing, just as the relationship between villainess Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne) and McCarthy’s Cooper replicates the horrific competition amongst high school girls. Visual details in the film abound and add to it’s already riotously funny script. Byrne’s hair for example is a character in and of itself, and an ongoing pest issue within the CIA headquarters is doled out in perfect subtle measure.

Honorable mention must go to Miranda Hart who plays McCarthy’s co-worker and friend Nancy, a sensible Brit who is truly an ‘every woman.’ Both Cooper and Nancy have hidden talents, and their skills and potential are no laughing matter. Feig’s script contains real life issues and problems. Issues around women in the workplace and the failure to recognize the critical contributions of ‘backstage’ workers over the pretty public faces of accomplishment. Rather than self-righteously shoving a lesson down your throat Feig wisely uses his comedic genius to dance it in front of your face with two all too normal female characters who, in the end, are so powerful and loveable you want to watch them all over again. SPY is not devoid of McCarthy’s hallmark belligerent raving nasty gal from THE HEAT, but thankfully that persona is onscreen only briefly. Along with magnificent foreign locations, great spy accessories, good camera work and stunts, SPY is all around a very good film, but more importantly it is a joyful return to what Melissa McCarthy is capable of and it is one hell of a good time. Don’t miss SPY…that’s right…Summer Blockbuster!

(4 / 5)

Director: Paul Feig
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale
Rating: R
Running time: 120 minutes

Spy Movie Review

ENTOURAGE Movie Review

Entourage cinemynxActing is great, but what I really want to do is direct…

And so it goes in Hollywood whether you’re George Clooney or the all-too-real-yet-sort-of-not young star Vincent Chase. ENTOURAGE The Movie is an extrapolation of the HBO series ENTOURAGE which ran from 2004-20011. The series was, for a large part, good. It made us a part of a tightly knit clique of young male friends from childhood, led by Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) on his pilgrimage to Los Angeles and his quest to be a star. I always wondered, as did many I am sure, if the devotion of Eric, “Drama” and Turtle was at its heart about their love and devotion to Vince – and each other – or the deep covetous hope that Vince’s star power would benefit them as well. Kind of like the closest most cuddly starf*ckers of all time. In real life, like Hollywood, it usually proves to be a combination thereof with a good measure of secret motives thrown in.

ENTOURAGE does not expand the on the original in any notable way, but the boys have matured both chronologically and financially, and the the stakes are higher. Beloved, neurotic and anger management challenged super agent Ari Gold has become a studio head and taps Vince to star in his first mega-hit. Vince says yes, with a single caveat; He wants to direct. Of course he does. After ending his 9 day marriage to an unseen female the beginning of the film finds Vince licking his wounds on a yacht filled with so much T&A that it could pass for 1970’s late night cable TV hard R rated psedo-porn. It is every heteroexual male’s wet dream, as it is for Drama, Turtle and E who thankfully still appear astonished and delighted by the scene.

The four year gap between series and film has benefited the Entourage and each character has grown. Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) is now wealthy in his own right as a tequila magnate, Eric, or ‘E,’ is Vince’s producer, and Drama, who could only be played by the fantastic Kevin Dillon, is…well…not only still unsuccessful, but remains the only genuine, endearing character in the whole group. He is, without question, the most oblivious,  egotistical, dirty-minded, uncouth misogynist of all time – but you love him all the more. I have never cared much for Eric’s character, played once again by Kevin Connolly, and in the film his character takes a turn which is hard to believe, but maybe that’s just me. Regardless, it is a plot development which is low impact and fairly good filler. Turtle is likeable enough but again, he is mostly background noise. 50 pounds less background noise due to his slimming program (about which Drama has some very funny recurrent lines) but background noise nontheless. They do throw him a nice romantic thread to cling to and he handles it well but there’s not much range needed to bring it to fruition. Vince is still just mostly a pretty face and is the least interesting of the bunch.

ENTOURAGE is no doubt an accurate depiction of what it is like to live as a hot young star in today’s Hollywood. It is also a fairly misogynistic film. I do not take issue per se with that because the unfortunate reality is that mysogyny is a real and pervasive evil in the film industry. I also don’t typically get my knickers in a twist over these issues, not from a lack of caring but more-so because truth is paramount and the recognition of the “truth” about things is the first step to change. All that being said, all the women in ENTOURAGE, even the likeable Sloane (Emmanuelle Chriqui) are utterly peripheral. The man cluster that is the entourage has little remorse about their view of women. I could get really analytical here and say that Vince serves as the “face” of a being made up of all the parts of the entourage: Eric is the superego, Drama is the Id and Turtle is the Ego. When you look at them in those capacities they all become a little more one dimensional, but it illuminates the chemistry that makes the group dynamic work so well. But hey, enough psycho-babble. it’s just ENTOURAGE.

Jeremy Piven, who reprises his role as super agent Ari Gold is drunk with power and he reigns like no other. Piven is a great comedic actor and his importance in ENTOURAGE cannot be understated. The triangle between Ari, his nameless, perfectly polished wife (Perrey Reeves) and his son is phenomenal, and I’m happy to say that Ari’s character, while keeping true to his roots and innate nature, actually evolves through the course of the film to show up in its conclusion in a heartfelt and wonderfully satisfying fashion. Lloyd is back (Rex Lee) and serves as a happy, funny tangent, and an valuable part of the narrative. Billy Bob Thornton, who becomes more reptilian with each passing year, and Haley Joel Osment play the odious father-son Texas money behind Vince’s film and they fulfill those roles with alarming ease and credibility. There are also so many cameos in ENTOURAGE that I could hardly identify them all. It’s really fun to name them as they appear and I feel confident it could be the basis for a great drinking game.

ENTOURAGE is glittery, naked, voyeuristic and seriously funny. The title sequence deserves a shout-out all its own, and is one of the best graphically designed for a Hollywood based film I’ve ever seen. The movie has the same humor as the series with one defining difference; the film makes fun of the Hollywood star machine and the movie business in general. It is certainly not the first film to do so and won’t be the last but it does it well, and it is a total riot. You genuinely rally around the guys – and Ari – and there is no cheap saccharin manipulation. Each of them gets what they deserve, both good and bad, and you relish every moment. The younger crowd will love the nudity, the endless supply of beautiful women and sexy shiny schwag, while an older crowd will resonate and suffer along with Ari over the business power and pain. The movie concludes with a joyous, spirited and well deserved event which is perfectly satisfying and loveable. As does the coda after the main credits which you won’t want to miss. I’m not an LA person, and I wouldn’t want to be Vince (or even a girl-Vince), but life is damn good to the ENTOURAGE.

(4 / 5)

Director: Doug Ellin
Cast: Adrian Grenier, Jeremy Piven, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Billy Bob Thornton, Haley Joel Osment
Rating: R
Running Time: 104 minutes

ENTOURAGE Movie Review


after the ballThe “tween” movie audience is a tough one to target and even harder to please. If your kids are little it’s easy to haul them to a fabulous new animated wonder. If they are older, well into high school let’s say, then you can pretty much share any movie with them depending on your own personal taste and guidelines. But the “tween” set has, of late, had mostly semi-super-natural fare to watch and not much based in reality per se. This is where AFTER THE BALL fills a much needed gap Continue reading

SUPER ZERO Movie Review

Super-ZeroThere are a few films that I can watch over and over again and each time be delighted, laugh hysterically and discover some new gem. Given around 120 minutes it’s a hard feat to accomplish. Given 15:49 it is nearly impossible. SUPER ZERO: BADASS JOURNEY INTO ZOMBIE AWESOMENESS is one of those beautiful impossible shining Continue reading

TRUE STORY Movie Review

true_story_story_background 2TRUE STORY is not merely a compelling title, it is a factually correct summation of the core of the film. In a world where you can spin and mold almost any concept to suit your needs, Truth, as an entity, is absolute. There is no interpretation to truth; you’re either telling it like it is or you’re dishonest. End of discussion. While TRUE STORY is not Continue reading


1DD22377I believe I can safely say that if you want a “real life” love story, Nicholas Sparks is probably not your guy. And that’s precisely why film-goers, mostly female film-goers, love his material. THE LONGEST RIDE is yet another in the Sparks legacy of Continue reading

GET HARD Movie Review

get hard 1Let’s establish something right off the bat because, you know, time is money and everyone is busy. Do you REALLY like Will Ferrell and/or Kevin Hart??? If you answered ‘Yes’ to that question – read on precious viewer. If you answered ‘Meh’ or ‘I’d rather stick needles in my eyeballs,’ you can stop right here. GET HARD has a very funny, and somewhat timely premise with its story of a hedge fund manager (Will Ferrell) stealing hundreds of millions, getting sentenced to 10 years in prison and needing an ex-con (Kevin Hart) to help him ‘get hard’ for prison. The fact that Ferrell’s character James King is innocent and that Hart’s Darnell never even got a speeding ticket is predictable but also serves for a funny riff on the film BOYZ N THE HOOD. What the film does best however, and I suspect is its entire raison d’être, is showcase the chemistry between its two stars and dish out some incisive stinging one liners about our endemic racial beliefs, assumptions and why trickle down economics doesn’t work.

Will Ferrell has always been adept and especially funny when he mocks his own physicality. He is all to aware that he is no Chris Hemsworth and when he uses his body in comedy it makes us laugh despite ourselves. In GET HARD’s first few minutes he uses that skill to its fullest and while we fear it sets the tone for the entire film, I am relieved to say, it doesn’t. His oblivious ostentatious display of his naked physique, literally, in the face of his mansion’s employees is a good way to exemplify the utter obliviousness the 1% shows to the rest of us in the ‘real’ world. It is a good visual metaphor which I fear much of the audience will not get, laughing only at the ridiculousness of the scene. Ferrell and his creative spouse Adam McKay crafted some searing commentary in this film which is delivered in fleeting sight gags and one-liners all too easy to miss. There is powerful economic commentary in this movie but it’s hard to catch in the seams between the Ferrell/Hart pas de deux which, like giant gaudy fake pearls strung on a thread, make a necklace. While the necklace as a whole may have its own kind of beauty you get stuck gawking at the big gaudy pearls.

Despite a general unevenness in the film and feeling that it’s a string of just a bit too long Saturday Night Live skits, there are a few scenes which are riotously funny. The fact that the regularly maltreated house staff become Ferrell’s ‘jailers’ in the faux prison that was his mansion is hilarious in theory and practice. Ferrell’s bewilderment at the delight his former housekeeper Rosa takes in putting him in “the hole” is hilarious and the staged prison riot is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Craig T. Nelson is always a welcome sight and plays his ‘Hedge Fund Master of the Universe’ role with believably cool, collected amoral aplomb. Alison Brie, who plays his Nelson’s daughter and Ferrell’s bride to be, fills the role just fine but it’s thankless and hard to mess up as long as you look good in lingerie. The best supporting roles are those of the house staff, particularly Erick Chavarria and Rosa’s Katia Gomez. Also key are members of the gang Ferrell considers joining, namely the hip-hop artist T.I., Ron Funches and Joshua Joseph Gillum who have banter about financial products that I am still laughing over.

Without diverging into a serious philosophical discussion about race and socioeconomics, it bears mentioning that the film could be seen as racist, and discriminatory to homosexuals. I hold the opinion that one good way to break through our rigid and misguided prejudicial beliefs is to mock ourselves and each other ruthlessly. In the spirit of Charlie Hebdo, and satire in general, if nothing is sacred then we are all even. I found the humor in GET HARD to be ruthless to all involved. I wish that I could say that makes the movie better or more worthwhile than it is, or that the key scenes add up to a greater whole. I cannot. There are laughs, but too intermittent, and the story is just a bit too predicable. That being said, I still crack up every time I see Will Ferrell’s chest hair afro.

Director: Etan Cohen
Cast:Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Craig T. Nelson, Alison Brie, T.I., Greg Germann, Erick Chavarria
Rating: R
Running Time: 100 minutes

(2.5 / 5)

Get Hard movie review


Unfinished business - Version 2A struggling businessman on his own trying to do right for himself and his family. Two employees, one hapless the other experienced and cynical. An evil, but hot, competitor. Have we seen this movie before? Yes. However – and there is a big however here – UNFINISHED BUSINESS is idiosyncratic, genuinely funny and has gags and motifs which save it from being rote, mindless and dull. Screenwriter Steve Conrad (THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS) and director Ken Scott (DELIVERY MAN) have struck a fine balance with their power trio which could have gone terribly cloyingly wrong but instead leaves your sides aching from laughter and you cheering them on.

Our greatest living everyman, Vince Vaughn, plays Dan Trunkman, a salesman for a scrap metal company. It doesn’t matter if we understand or know what the industry is and in a way it helps that it’s obscure. It doesn’t distract us from the real story of the movie which are our three character’s personal goals and struggles. Dan opens the film by having a great argument with his now boss, the pythonic Chuck Portnoy played by Sienna Miller. MiIler has been seen on a multitude of screens lately and while she is able to fulfill this role without a hitch, she also offers nothing much of particular value to it which says more about the role than her acting skill. In fact, one of my two only criticisms of the film is that her role, the only female executive in the film, is portrayed as borderline sadistic and surreptitious. Sadly it would have been good to see a female executive prevail through intelligence and skill rather than being a colossal bitch in a tight red dress. But oh well…it’s Hollywood.

After Vaughn walks out of the company to start his own shop he is gifted with the fired mature Timothy, played by the great Tom Wilkinson, and the utterly clueless Mike played so endearingly by Dave Franco. It so nice that, at least in this role, Franco lacks any of the smug attitude that tinges every role his brother James plays, and therefore can deliver an innocence that is so convincing, refreshing and works perfectly in the story. Maybe some things luckily don’t run in families. Wilkinson’s comedic talent is as the straight guy and he does a fantastic job of it. His ability to utter embarrassing phrases and demands of his hotel maid without so much as a flinch is one for the ages and he is completely believable. His motivation to succeed comes from the most genuine and humanistic of drives and we love him for it. Franco too is skilled in slowly revealing just how radically inept and ignorant he is, and he makes us laugh in disbelief the whole way.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS isn’t going to change your life, or motivate you to pursue your dreams. And that’s fine. But it does realistically portray the struggles we face at different stages of life. Vaughn has a family and his kids are troubled. The movie makes some good and relevant points about the nature of our virtual connectedness and how it is used to help as well as harm us both personally and professionally. Instagram is neither the devil nor the savior and I give credit to writer Conrad for his balanced approach and use of our app-laden lives. Vaughn’s Dan is trying to define himself through the use of a homework assignment for his daughter. It is a simple but potent narrative element that, in addition to other features and details, gives value to the movie without saccharin clichés. Those details were far more than I ever expected. There are repeated gags which evolve and which are wonderfully hilarious. Additionally the film spends a great deal of time in Berlin which is a fantastic backdrop for poking some fun at the Germans in a loving and utterly real way. Berlin, and its inhabitants, is a character in the movie and no other locale would have served the story as well. Vaughn’s hotel room in Berlin is one of the best bits I’ve ever seen and I am still laughing about it. His use of FaceTime is also something I feel assured will come into common practice in the population at large.

Vaughn’s targets are the decision makers at a big global company based in Germany. James Marsden is the unctuous American head and he is well cast to fulfill the quotient of duplicitous corporate deceit. His assistant is played by Nick Frost who is loveable in whatever he takes on, this being no exception. The company is so big in fact that the CEO is attending the G8 there during the Berlin portion of our story. Concurrent with the G8 are also the Berlin marathon, Oktoberfest and a massive gay gathering all of which figure into our story. My second major criticism centers around the portrayal of the attendees of the gay gathering which seem to include only those men who like to dress exclusively, and minimally, in leather. It is a stereotypical and narrow representation but hey – I don’t look to Hollywood for fairness. Ahem. UNFINISHED BUSINESS is a good time and a little bit more. It is entertainment in the purest sense of the word, and we need that. Vaughn has carved out his niche and it’s a good one. Comedy is hard and all too often cheap, contemptuous and stupid. To me, in my church of the dark theater, to hear the whole room laugh in unison is a blessed event. Get out there and be a part of the explers!

(3.5 / 5)

Movie Review Unfinished Business

Movie Review OUT OF THE DARK

out of the darkIf there is something to be said for OUT OF THE DARK it is that the movie unequivocally proves two important things: Burned, drooling, angry, undead children are a real pain in the ass, and dumbwaiters are always evil. Beyond that the movie tries valiantly to tie a gruesome legend in an old Colombian fishing village, a potential big-industry cover-up and familial tensions into a compelling movie. Unfortunately it struggles Continue reading


ENTER THE DANGEORUS MINDLet me get this straight: It is 2015. We can land a spacecraft on a moving comet. We have decoded the DNA strand and recreated the original spark of the universe in a humongous underground tube in Europe. But we are asked to believe, take seriously, and possibly even be frightened no less, by a movie which puts forth that a 13-year-old boy experiences a deeply traumatic event, it ‘makes’ him schizophrenic and he then – of courseContinue reading