Tag Archive for 'Spy'

Get Smart

Get Smart (8/28/15) IFC (2008 **) Directed by Peter Segal, based on the TV show created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin and Terence Stamp. A top-secret spy agency analyst named Maxwell Smart is promoted to field agent and teamed with an experienced female agent named 99. Prior to this film being released, I’d looked forward to it. Steve Carell seemed ideally cast for the role made so memorable on TV by Don Adams. But then I read the reviews, which were not kind, settling at a not particularly fresh 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. My personal experience matched that rating pretty accurately. To be honest, more than anything it made me want to watch the original show which ran from 1965-1970, then played in syndication in the after-school block of programming, which is where I watched it. It’s a real shame, too, because I think it could have been an excellent film, worthy of a sequel, if not two. As evidence, I humbly point you to This year’s Spy (2015), starring Melissa McCarthy, which had the same exact premise.

Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (8/1/15) Glendale Pacific 18 (2015 ***) Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames and Alec Baldwin. When congress shuts down their funding, Ethan Hunt and the members of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) take matters into their own hands to protect the world from… The Syndicate. Much of the media blitz surrounding the release of this film focused on Tom Cruise doing his own stunt work hanging onto the side of an A400m Airbus as it took off. This sequence occurs early in the film and was definitely a high point. Generally I enjoy “set piece to set piece”-structured action films like this one, and at a certain point while watching a chase scene through the streets of Casablanca I thought “Ethan Hunt is basically just James Bond.” While enjoyable enough in a Saturday matinee kind of way, I didn’t love Rogue Nation, nor did I really like it as much as its Brad Bird-directed predecessor, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011).

Spy

Spy (6/6/15) Glendale Americana (2015 ***1/2) Written and directed by Paul Feig, starring Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Jason Statham and Allison Janney. A CIA analyst is thrust into the field, where she must adopt multiple undercover identities to thwart a fiendish nuclear plot. This film was thoroughly enjoyable, and Melissa McCarthy did a fantastic job, re-teamed with Bridesmaids (2011) director Paul Feig. Given the premise, it would have been so easy for the film to go in the direction of Austin Powers, but it never did, and even with all the laugh-out-loud moments it had, it never lost its grounding in reality. The level of mortal danger to the characters always felt quite real. One of the smart decisions I very much appreciated was that McCarthy’s true character was sweet and somewhat naive to the ways of the world, yet through her cover identities, she was able to curse like a sailor or, in this case, on par with her foul-mouthed fellow-operative played by Statham. Another thing I loved from a high-level bearing was that Jude Law and Jason Statham were essentially playing two different versions (Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, respectively) of James Bond.

Archer, Season 2

Archer, Season 2 (1/24/15) Netflix (2011 ***1/4) Created by Adam Reed, featuring the voices of H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Chris Parnell and Jessica Walter. 13 episodes, originally aired 1/27/11 – 4/21/11. Top-secret ISIS agent Sterling Archer deals with teenage nymphomaniacs, paternity, Louisiana Bayou crocodiles, a Monaco casino, breast cancer and the tragic loss of his true love at the hands of a bionic nemesis in this sophomore outing of the edgy animated series. While the second season didn’t pack quite the punch as the first, it was mainly because the “shock of the new” had worn off. It’s still a fun adult-oriented animated series with many memorable characters (I’m torn between Pam and Cheryl/Carol as my favorites), and I look forward to more.

Archer, Season 1

Archer, Season 1 (1/10/15) Netflix (2009-10 ***1/2) Created by Adam Reed, featuring the voices of H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Chris Parnell and Jessica Walter. 10 episodes, originally aired 9/17/09 – 3/18/10. Secret agent and public asshole Sterling Archer must deal with the realities of office sexual politics while combating international threats. I FINALLY got around to watching this show, and I absolutely loved it from the first scene. Specifically, I appreciated the show’s biting, dialogue-based humor running simultaneously with a send-up of cold-war era spy thrillers. Of course the show isn’t for everyone, and a good litmus test might be whether or not they enjoyed Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police (2004). One awkward note: the fictional spy agency Archer works for is referred to in the series as ISIS, a name that now has less-than-funny connotations.

Carry On Spying

Carry On Spying (5/23/13) TCM (1964 **1/2) Directed by Gerald Thomas, starring Kenneth Williams, Barbara Windsor, Bernard Cribbins and Charles Hawtrey. British secret agent Desmond Simkins leads a band of well-meaning misfits on an international adventure to recover a secret formula. After James Bond exploded on the screen in 1963 with Dr. No, the 1960s experienced a wave of spy spoofs, of which Carry On Spying may well have been the first. It was the ninth in the series of 31 films in the “Carry On” series, and the fifth one I’ve watched personally. As spy spoofs go, this 50-year-old film was decidedly on the light side. Modern audiences will likely either accept the “Carry On” style of humor or find it cringe-worthy, but I tend to be open-minded about that kind of thing. However, one thing most straight males (as well as un-straight females) will undoubtedly agree on: An (ahem) apex of the film was  Barbara Windsor’s impressive… er, measurements.

Skyfall

Skyfall (3/26/13) Netflix (2012 ***1/4) Directed by Sam Mendes, starring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney. When a former agent targets M (Dench) and MI-6 for revenge, Agent 007 must return… from the dead. It’s hard to believe it’s been fifty years since Sean Connery first appeared as James Bond in Dr. No (1962). The makers of Skyfall were quite aware of that fact and sprinkled a few choice references to Bond’s golden anniversary throughout the film. But while celebrating Bond’s past, the film made a point of setting up the franchise’s future as well. Growing up, I always saw films in the James Bond franchise as big-budget action movies that were as satisfying (and nourishing) as popcorn and didn’t require much thought. This, the 23rd “official” Bond film, certainly was satisfying on that level. Javier Bardem was amazing as Silva, Skyfall‘s villain. And the groundskeeper Kincade, who appeared in the film’s final act, looked very familiar, but I didn’t realize until looking at the credits that he was played by none other than Albert Finney! All in all, Skyfall was a jolly good show (and addition to the franchise) and worth renting. Now, if only I could find a way to get Adele’s Oscar-winning song out of my freakin’ head!

Dr. Goldfoot & the Girl Bombs

Dr. Goldfoot & the Girl Bombs (7/20/12) TCM (1966 *) Directed by Mario Bava, starring Vincent Price, Fabian, Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia and Laura Antonelli. S.I.C. secret agent and professional masher Bill Dexter teams up with two bumbling Italian clowns to foil Dr. Goldfoot’s diabolical plan to take over the world using gold-plated sex dolls that explode before they ever make it past first base. Ah, good ol’ American International Pictures. This little “gem” of a sequel started with a title sequence based on clips from Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. Now you’d think it would be a pretty hard to make a movie worse than its predecessor, but apparently someone at AIP felt up to the challenge. One key to achieving its mediocrity was to cut costs by shooting the production in Italy. Girl Bombs began with a plot that almost made sense but then disintegrated just past its halfway point into an extended chase sequence that had me fast-forwarding toward the end credits. And as for the acting… well, let’s just say that Fabian was no Frankie Avalon. While the 1960s-era bikini-clad scenery wasn’t bad, it also wasn’t nearly enough to make up for all the other bad ingredients in this undercooked turkey.

Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine

Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (7/3/12) TCM (1965 **) Directed by Norman Taurog, starring Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Susan Hart and Jack Mullaney as Igor. Hapless S.I.C. secret agent Craig Gamble (Avalon) teams up with wealthy playboy Todd Armstrong (Hickman) to foil an evil scientist’s plot to get rich via gold-plated love dolls. This film was clearly one of many that inspired Mike Meyers’ Austin Powers series, and his Dr. Evil shared much in common with Vincent Price’s titular (ha ha!) character, including his skills with well-proportioned android construction. While I enjoyed the film’s parade of gold-plated bikinis and a couple of cute cameos, the film had some serious problems in the story department: Its two male leads, Gamble and Armstrong, were too similar, and though we were initially introduced to Frankie Avalon’s character, the movie suffered from a lot of “who’s story is it?”-itis.

Murderers’ Row

Murderers’ Row (3/26/12) TCM (1966 **1/2) Directed by Henry Levin, based on the novel by Donald Hamilton, starring Dean Martin, Ann-Margret and Karl Malden. I.C.E. Secret agent Matt Helm fakes his own death to recover a kidnapped scientist who holds the secret to a destructive magnetic beam. Oscar-winner Karl Malden was a strange choice to play an evil mastermind, and he never seemed quite comfortable in the role. The second Matt Helm outing was thankfully less misogynistic than the first, but it was also slightly less entertaining, though I don’t think those two things were related. I attribute that to the weak script, which relied on the same time-delayed firing gun gimmick at least three times. Honestly, the high point of the film for me was when Dean Martin raced into a disco to rip Ann-Margret’s dress off her body, just as he’d done to Stella Stevens in The Silencers. I wonder: Was that a running joke throughout the four-film series? I might have to watch the remaining two films just to find out.