Leaping out of a moving aircraft with a Union Jack adorning their parachutes, before safely landing in the driver’s seat of their sub-aquatic Aston Martin, it’s your podcast hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes. Spinning around on his high-backed leather chair with a pussy in his lap, it’s our special guest Paul Field, joining Owen and Steve for a special spy triple bill episode!
Sam Mendes is back in the hand-stitched, luxurious leather driving seat of the 007 series as the next instalment of British espionage kills and thrills reaches the US shores this weekend.
by Owen Hughes @ohughes86
Celebrating fifty years of James Bond, Eon’s twenty third film in the series, Skyfall, was released back in October 2012 and became an enormous runaway success. Accolade after accolade was poured over it – and rightly so, as it was a thoroughly entertaining action film. Our readers and listeners certainly thought very highly of it, voting it above the likes of Amour, The Intouchables, Argo and The Dark Knight Rises back in 2012’s Failed Critics Awards.
It might be fair to say then that the weight of expectation on SPECTRE couldn’t have been higher. Skyfall ably dealt with the notion that James Bond, the suave British super spy, just wasn’t suited to the modern world. That he was too old. Too outdated. Much like Casino Royale did in 2006, it found a way to make him relevant again.
Surely then, SPECTRE wasn’t going to go over the same old ground, right?
Well, not exactly.
Facing a new Orwellian threat that takes Bond across Europe to track down a secret organisation, whilst also under pressure back home with MI6 under scrutiny for its actions, it crosses almost every box on the 007 checklist. Trains, snow, Bond-girls and Aston Martins; if you’re planning on playing a drinking game with SPECTRE, you will be inebriated within half an hour, having your stomach pumped before you’re even half way through the enormous 148 minute run time, and dead before the film has finished.
But it’s not just regular tropes of the series that make a re-appearance. Again, the idea that the secret agent is an outdated practice is continued from the previous movie. Whilst Skyfall focussed primarily on James Bond being too old, this time around it’s expanded to examine the methods employed by MI6 as a whole.
Although SPECTRE is mostly entertaining, one of its biggest problems is that by asking you to consider a world where we have surveillance drones, billions of mobile devices and CCTV cameras on every corner, why do we persist with a man in a tuxedo sneaking into a party to seduce the crime-bosses wife for tidbits of information. The ultimate conclusion is of course a combination of “the old ways are the best” and “nobody does it better”, but unless the audience are well read on their 1984’s and Brave New World’s, what exactly is the problem with information gathering in the way that’s proposed? Why is it so menacing? Is your freedom more valuable than your safety? Whatever your opinion, SPECTRE never fully addresses the issues with this “newer” method beyond showing you that the guy collecting the information is evil.
Speaking of the bad-guy, Christoph Waltz plays the latest Bond villain with relish. His softly spoken, quietly sinister performance is easily the best in this modern era against Daniel Craig’s all action hero. I’m a big fan of Mads Mikkelsen and Javier Bardem (let’s just pretend Quantum of Solace doesn’t exist, as SPECTRE seems to do as well) and they both bring something different to the series, but Oberhauser is perhaps the most nuanced opposite to James Bond thus far. It’s the age-old battle of brains and exploding-gadget-and-fast-cars-braun.
Craig may be getting sick of playing the role, with this possibly being his last appearance as Bond, but he once again seems entirely comfortable at being the rugged interpretation of Ian Flemming’s character. One who doesn’t mind getting his shoes scuffed and suit ruffled in the pursuit of his nemesis. Just watch him during the absolutely incredible opening scene set in Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival. He has the swagger, the charisma and perfect timing to please fans of the series, no matter who your favourite version of the character is. Prefer the goofy Roger Moore take? Craig is more then able to match the comic timing Moore offers. Enjoyed Pierce Brosnan’s confidence and cheekyness? Bingo. It’s all there in that opening 15 minutes.
The support cast are all decent enough too. Léa Seydoux as Madeleine – the closest the film gets to having the staple Bond-girl – does a good job at modernising the role. She’s not a floozie there only to fall under the charms of 007 and provide the audience with a bit of eye candy. One scene in particular on a train journey draws us back into the narrative of old-versus-new as she shows she doesn’t need Bond to show her how to use a gun. It’s a subtle development of a role that in the past has been reduced to little more than a damsel in distress that needs the big rugged man to come and save her.
Ralph Fiennes adds his own take on M, whose relationship to Bond has a lot more animosity and begrudging respect than when Judi Dench was in the role previously. Q (Ben Wishaw) is also given a lot more exposure this time around. His quirkiness will either annoy you or feel like a welcome break in the pace of relentless, non-stop action scenes and (£24m worth of) exploding vehicles. Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), C (Andrew Scott), Hinx (Dave Bautista) and Lucia (Monica Belluci) are reduced to minor supporting roles which seems a shame, but they all do well with what they’re given.
Overall, for such a long film, it doesn’t ever feel boring or stretched. It suffers from a Skyfall hangover as it will constantly be compared to its predecessor, and in that regard, it is the lesser film. The way it retrofits itself onto the rest of the rebooted franchise is contrived at best and just nonsensical at worst, but it doesn’t detract too much from its own plot. Effectively, it hinges on the relationship between Craig, Seydoux and Waltz (whose appearance really could have come sooner on in the movie) which is well developed across the course of the film, but is not quite enough to elevate it to the delirious heights of Mendes’ last feature.
So no, I don’t expect the Bond revival to die with SPECTRE. Bond (James Bond) is bigger than one film, but as to where I see the film heading next? I honestly have no idea – but I am excited to find out.
You can listen to Owen, Steve Norman, Tony Black and Brian Plank review SPECTRE as well as induct James Bond into our Corridor of Praise on the podcast released back in October.
As we’re now well and truly past the half-way mark for the year, it seems like as good a time as any for a few of the Failed Critics contributors to bundle together and reveal which films they’ve enjoyed the most so far. Come December, we’ll still be running the annual Failed Critics Awards, giving you the opportunity to cast your vote for your favourite films of 2015.
In the meantime, let’s have a quick run through of what some of our writers and podcasters have chosen as their five favourite films of the year. Will the biggest film of the year so far, Jurassic World, be featured? Will United Passions somehow infect this article too? Will anyone pick anything other than Mad Max?? Find out below…
by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)
Fighting the urge to fill my word limit with just paragraphs of me repeating the words “Perfect”, “Awesome” and “The most fun I’ve had this year with clothes on”, I’ll try and be a little more cohesive in my description. It had been thirty years since the last film in the iconic Mad Max franchise, to bring a fourth entry to a series after that long is a massive undertaking at the best of times. But when its original star is as iconic as the film’s that made him famous, replacing him as well would be a recipe for disaster in any other filmmakers hands. Thankfully for all of us, the series’ creator made a triumphant return and gave us one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. A breathtaking, visceral two hours (on three occasions) in the cinema left me shellshocked and shaking with excitement and almost unable to write my review when I got home I was so pumped. Oh, and there’s a dude on a truck made of drums and speakers playing heavy metal on a flame throwing guitar! No more needs to be said!
2] Ex Machina
4] Still Alice
5] It Follows
WORST: Avengers: Age of Ultron – Years of subtle hype and weeks of actual hype in the buildup to this, the biggest Marvel movie yet. What we got was a more than two hour long wet fart of a film that left me blindingly disappointed with a really bad taste in my mouth.
by Paul Field (@pafster)
1] Wild Tales
Dark, twisted and utterly enthralling anthology from Argentina. All of the stories are great, no fillers here as is often the case with anthology films. I love a revenge film, and to have 6 served up in one sitting is a real treat. Hard to pick my favourite… the parking ticket is brilliant, the plane passengers unsettling and hilarious, the overtaking motorist caper that escalates out of all control…..but I think the Wedding. Pissing off the bride on her wedding day is an absolute no no, and here, she conveys her displeasure in spectacular fashion. As a first feature from Damián Szifron, this is outstanding and will take some toppling come the end of the year.
WORST: Lost River – Ryan Gosling believing his own hype, delivers the most pretentious load of cobblers ever committed to film. Utter, utter toilet.. and yes, I’ve seen United Passions, Accidental Love and the new Danny Dyer film this year too. Its worse than all three of those, on repeat, for eternity.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
Released in the UK on 1 January 2015, I still don’t think I’ve seen a funnier, more entertaining film in the cinema all year. Michael Keaton is absolutely phenomenal as the flailing former superhero movie star attempting to reinvent himself as a stage actor and producer. His manic behaviour, coupled with director Iñárritu’s frenetic, constantly adapting story shot as if the whole production was just one long take; I just loved every minute of it. However, I was hesitant to put it as number one on my list, given a couple people I’ve recommended it to have hated it! But ultimately, despite seeing it only two days into the year, nothing else has managed to better it yet for me.
2] Mad Max: Fury Road
5] John Wick
WORST: United Passions – Technically not even released in the UK this year, and unlike Jupiter Ascending (cinema) and The Man With The Iron Fists 2 (VOD), I didn’t even watch this legally. But if there’s a more abhorrent, reprehensible piece of offensive propagandist garbage with as high a budget and released globally within the next decade, I’ll be surprised.
By Matt Lambourne (@LamboMat)
I’m still thinking about this movie, weeks after seeing it. The action, the character, the dialogue, the music and most importantly, the SCALE. It’s over the top in every sense and works for me on every level. I can’t wait to get hold of the home release and enjoy it without the hindrance of 3D. Absolutely superb movie!
3] Furious 7
by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)
The Stephen Hawking biopic earned lead man Eddie Redmayne an Oscar and deservedly so. His portrayal of a genius of a man going through various stages of a terrible, life changing illness was extremely believable. The film also put over a side of Hawking you don’t often see, the friend, parent and husband, not the man who invented time. Or something.
2] Ex Machina
5] Furious 7
WORST: United Passions – Garbage of the highest order. I found Tim Roth less deplorable playing a racist in Selma than I did playing Sepp Blatter in this tripe. It’s offensive that it was even made.
by Callum Petch (@CallumPetch)
1] Mad Max: Fury Road
Fury Road is the kind of film whose existence is a reminder that this Movies thing might be alright after all, a beacon of hope that we can all look to in dark times and remind ourselves that we can, in fact, have it so much better. From its uncomplicated story, to its unique world and set design, to its outstanding special effects, to its jaw-dropping practical stunts, to its brilliantly subtle Tom Hardy performance, to its mesmerising Charlize Theron performance, to its openly and furiously feminist and matriarchal heart, every last frame of this utter masterpiece is what I have heard perfection is supposed to be like. It is everything that modern Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking isn’t, a purposeful pushback against everything wrong with those films right now that, in a just world, will have everyone following its example in the years to come. Both times that I saw this movie, my veins pulsed with pure adrenaline from frame one and the feeling did not stop until long after I left the screen in tears of pure joy at that perfect final shot. I foresee nothing else coming anywhere close to it for the rest of this year, mainly cos I have no idea what’ll happen to me if there is a better film than Fury Road to come.
3] The Voices
The Minions are their own boss, The Gallows has made back its budget 100x over, people were selfish and didn’t see Self/Less, it’s not been a good week to be a limited release, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
It was only a matter of time. They started off innocuously in 2010’s Despicable Me, cute little comic relief characters whom we all collectively agreed were the best part of that otherwise mediocre movie. Then the merchandising flood started and we happily accepted it because they were adorable. Then their involvement in the films increased exponentially with Despicable Me 2 and we cheered because Despicable Me 2 was a great film, so what’s the problem? Then those irritating Facebook memes started – useless, insincere attitude stock phrase bullsh*t that pasted random Minions onto their rubbish and called it a day – and we shook our heads in dismay but did nothing. And then it happened. Universal drowned us in marketing for the Minions spin-off movie, and you couldn’t avoid them. Everywhere you turned. Merchandise, posters, adverts, Amazon packaging. Nowhere was safe, nowhere was free. The takeover had occurred, we had to submit to our new Minion overlords for they had won. They had conquered.
Therefore, Minions opened to $115 million this past weekend, making it the second-biggest opening weekend for any animated feature ever. May God have mercy on us all.
Meanwhile, like it or not, The Gallows is actually a roaring success. Oh sure, a fifth place opening of $10 million may not seem like a success, but that’s ignoring the fact that the film allegedly only cost $100,000 to make. Such is the beauty of Blumhouse Productions, a production company that can get a horror movie made so cheaply that it is almost literally impossible for them to make a film that bombs. It’s kinda like how Uwe Boll used to be able to write off half of the budgets for his various “movies” through complicated tax breaks except, y’know, Jason Blum has actually produced a good film or two in between his crap. Plus, he quite literally has three more films coming out in the next two months, so it’s not like this mediocre performance is going to slow him down or anything.
Elsewhere, Tarsem Singh tried to bring back intellectual sci-fi with Self/Less, a film about whether it’s morally justifiable to force Ryan Reynolds to do bad things that he doesn’t want to do, as opposed to those bad things he chose to do like Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past. Unfortunately, this is Tarsem Singh we’re talking about here, and so the director of Mirror, Mirror proceeded to apparently make a terrible movie that squanders all of its potential. Consequently, since reviews are make or break for these kind of films, the film has tanked with barely $5 million for eighth place. Dammit, people! You can’t stop the Reynoldssaince! No matter how hard you try, it won’t be stopped!
Having a similarly bad weekend was pretty much every limited release that came out this week. Doing the best of the lot was Do I Sound Gay?, a documentary examining the stereotype of the gay voice that brought in a decent $11,000 from its one screen. Next up there was Boulevard, an apparently underwhelming drama that we will all see anyway because it’s Robin Williams’ final role, with $7,000 from one screen. “Globe-trotting” comedy Meet Me In Montenegro, and I don’t need to see or hear any second of that movie after seeing the phrase “globe-trotting” used non-ironically when describing a film’s genre in 2015, did poorest with $6,000 from 10 screens for a dismal per-screen average of you work it out. All of these movies were out-performed by a re-issue of the 1992 Mel Gibson romance flick Forever Young, which took $70,000 from 14 screens for a $5,000 per-screen average. Not one part of that last sentence makes any sense to me.
This Full List, like seemingly everything else on the planet right now, is brought to you by the Minions. Give into the yellow pill-shaped fellas. Resistance is futile.
Box Office Results: Friday 10th July 2015 – Sunday 12th July 2015
$115,200,000 / NEW
Watched this again with a friend I hadn’t seen in years this past weekend because we got to the cinema too late to catch the first showing of Ted 2 and way too early for the next screening of Amy so had to see something, and also I am why you people are suffering so. And guess what? I still liked it! So all of you Minion haters out there can go suck something that doesn’t make this insult homophobic!
2] Jurassic World
$18,100,000 / $590,638,000
This will cross $600 million domestic next weekend which is quite literally insane. It is now the third highest grossing film of all-time worldwide (or it will be, since Box Office Mojo isn’t immediately up-to-date on foreign totals anymore so there may or may not be a delay), which is also insane. The backlash is insane, the extreme love is insane, the film itself is insane. It’s all just one big melting pot of insanity.
3] Inside Out
$17,108,000 / $283,638,000
Turns out that this did, in fact, beat Jurassic World when the actuals came in for the three-day weekend last week. Therefore, it is no longer the only Pixar film to not hit number 1 on the charts! Yay! After all, if this apparently amazing film couldn’t hit number 1 but Cars 2 could, then what does that say about us as a collective society?
4] Terminator: 3DS XL
$13,700,000 / $68,718,000
WOO HOO! It’s failing! It’s failing! Uh huh! Yeah! Alright! And even with foreign grosses factored in, it’s still only made $225 million against a $155 million budget! Ah, life is good, folks. Life is good.
(*suddenly remembers that the film has yet to open in China*)
Oh, hell, no. If the Terminator: Vita sequel moves ahead but the Mad Max: Fury Road one doesn’t, sh*t is going to get royally f*cked up, I am warning you right now.
5] The Gallows
$10,015,000 / NEW
Have you seen the initial trailer for this? In case you haven’t, it’s embedded below, but Cliff Notes are that it’s literally just a girl sobbing for 80 seconds before being Jump Scare Killed. Does that rub anyone else the wrong way? I don’t mean in the way that horror is supposed to make you uneasy, I mean in the sense that it seems more than a little exploitative and fetishizing of a woman in distress? I guess I can give it points for being honest, but still. You know. Yeah.
6] Magic Mike XXL
$9,640,000 / $48,359,000
Allow me to use this space to pay my respects to The Dissolve, real quick. A beacon of pure light and excellence in an Internet film space that seems to be in a race to the bottom, it was the film site that managed to be intellectual without coming off as snobby, diverse without looking down on mainstream film, clever and witty without coming off as snarky, proof that it was possible to write about films without having to be a closed-off academic cretin or a click-bait listicle doofus. The only real upside to this incredibly sad news is that at least the site is still up for the time being, so you can still read fine articles like Tasha Robinson’s look at how Magic Mike XXL treats female pleasure.
R.I.P. you beautiful angel. We apparently don’t deserve you, and that just isn’t goddamn fair.
7] Ted 2
$5,600,000 / $71,619,000
Saw this this past weekend and a review will be along in short order. Man, I wish Seth MacFarlane would write actual jokes again.
$5,379,000 / NEW
Bummed to hear that this apparently sucks, although I will in theory get to find out for myself this week, but at least I get to inform you that The Voices is now available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray! Seriously, go buy that damn movie.
9] Baahubali: The Beginning
$3,575,000 / NEW
I didn’t mention this in my limited release roundup for two reasons. The first is that 236 screens is really stretching the definition of “limited” for my liking. The second is that it broke on through to the top 10 so I can talk about it here instead. Plus, if I mentioned that this film managed an utterly ridiculous $15,148 per-screen average in the limited release section, then that would have discredited my headline, and I really cannot be arsed to go back and change it now. It’s late, I’m tired, let’s just push on through.
$3,420,000 / $33,705,000
I… I really got nothing for this. This movie’s premise just makes me too sad. God knows how I’ll make it through the actual movie, I might singlehandedly put a whole load of Kleenex executives’ kids through college.
Dropped Out: Spy, San Andreas, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Dope
Terminator: Genisys’ order to “Come with [it] if [we] want to live” is studiously ignored, Magic Mike XXL only ends up in a light shower of dollars, they tried to make people watch Amy and people said “Yes, yes, yes”, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Ah, 4th of July weekend! The five-day stretch where everybody, in their great patriotic American duty, travels down to the cinemas to watch the latest wares that Hollywood has to peddle! Past years have seen films like Despicable Me 2, The Amazing Spider-Man, various Transformers movies, a Twilight instalment, and (obviously) Independence Day launch in this lucrative and prestigious slot in order to help fuel that great American past-time: ignoring your families and friends by sitting down and shutting up for two and a bit hours! And, sure, last year was kind of a major disappointment, but those movies weren’t going to set any box offices on fire, anyway. This year had two supposedly highly anticipated sequels to beloved franchises, plus the continuing success of two of the strongest box office holdovers to come along in an age! Everything was going to be peaches and cream, right?
Well, not exactly. If you’re a holdover, this weekend was pretty great for you, at least. In the three-day statistics (which are the only numbers that matter in this house), Jurassic World grabbed a hold of that number one slot for the fourth straight week in a row with just under $30.9 million, whilst Inside Out just cannot seal the deal with $30.1 million for second place. Of course, with numbers that close, things could switch when actuals come in, and Inside Out apparently won the five-day weekend quite handily if we looked at things like that, so this isn’t exactly information that is going to send Pixar executives in existential crises about whether their time is really up or not. After all, it’s neck-and-neck with Jurassic World and has been for three straight weeks. That’s like if I lasted 12 rounds against Brock Lesnar. Sure, I didn’t win, but I got some good hits in as he was treating my body like a Stretch Armstrong!
Good News, folks! Terminator: Mega Drive is a failure! For an expensive blockbuster with a beloved franchise attached to it and the intention of starting a brand new trilogy from it (like every single blockbuster ever nowadays), it did appallingly! Over the five-day weekend, the film could only manage $44 million, whilst the three-day weekend cut that down to just $28 million! To make matters even better, it was crushed by Jurassic World, another expensive blockbuster with a beloved franchise attached to it, in proof positive that people will skip your film if it as utter miserable shit as Terminator: CD is! Also in Good News: in the land of limited releases, Amy, the Amy Winehouse documentary directed by Asif Kapida (the man responsible for 2011’s excellent Senna), got off to a fantastic start with $220,000 from 6 screens for a $37,000 per screen average.
Bad News, folks! Magic Mike XXL has crashed and burned! Perhaps forever cautioning Hollywood studios from making movies solely for the female or homosexual gaze, XXL could only scrape together $26 million from the five-day weekend, and $11 million from the three-day weekend. Who knows why this happened? Maybe everybody saw the trailer to this one, remembered the trailer to the first Magic Mike and went, “Oh, no! I’m not falling for that again!” Maybe certain prospective audience members didn’t have anyone to go with and felt too ashamed to go alone? Maybe everybody who saw it the first time was in too much pleasure to risk going back for seconds, or incapable of communicating to their friends just how brilliant the film is? Or maybe, just maybe, it could have something to do with the fact that THE MOVIE OPENED ON A WEDNESDAY, YOU BLITHERING IMBECILES! Why would you do that?! Do you hate making money? Do you?
Much like Judgement Day and Jai Courtney’s inexplicable leading man career, this Full List cannot be stopped. It can only be delayed for a short period.
Box Office Results: Friday 3rd July 2015 – Sunday 5th July 2015
1] Jurassic World
$30,900,000 / $558,137,000
Good lord, this might actually reach $2 billion. It’ll at least get close enough that it’ll cross that threshold when its inevitable re-release comes along in a few years’ time, and maybe even dethrone Avatar at that point, too. This is mind-blowing to me. In fact, everything about everything that isn’t to do with the film itself is mind-blowing to me: the rampant mega-success with the public, the extreme vitriol with which it’s been received by everybody I know and follow on Twitter, with many all but claiming its success to be an indicator of the death of cinema with the general public. I don’t get that, but nor do I get the earth-shattering success it’s been having. I stand by my review but… it’s a fun dinosaur movie that’s honestly kinda terrible. It’s not brilliant and it’s not an abomination. Can somebody please fill me in on how both sides got to their respective stations? I’m confused, and I don’t like not understanding people, it’s one of the many reasons why I’m so miserable all the time.
2] Inside Out
$30,105,000 / $246,160,000
Have I ever mentioned that I love Amy Poehler? Because I do, and I think that she’s amazing, and that this train of praise and adoration that she’s currently on is more than deserved. Seriously, she’s wonderful and I admire the ever-loving heck out of her.
3] Terminator: 32x
$28,700,000 / $44,156,000 / NEW
I hate this movie. I hate this movie with a burning passion. I hate its simultaneously needlessly complex and nowhere-near-as-clever-and-complex-as-it-thinks-it-is plot. I hate its dreadful special effects. I hate how I was not once scared or intimidated by a skinless Terminator. I hate its insipid exposition-heavy and grade-school level dialogue. I hate how dreadful absolutely everybody is in this movie despite many people showing that they are far better actors and actresses elsewhere. I hate the fact that it restages so many moments from the first two Terminator films and expects easy nostalgia points for doing so under the untrue guise of “subversion”. I hate its utterly pathetic excuse of a Sarah Connor. I hate its awful action scenes. I hate how it won’t even reach for being obviously and extravagantly bad, instead just settling for mediocrity and expecting everyone to not get angered enough to take it to task for that. I hate the fact that it was fucking right about doing that and that everyone is letting this one pass with a shrug of their shoulders instead of the righteous fury it deserves. I hate it I hate it I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate it!
I don’t hate Terminator: Jaguar as much as I hate Entourage, but I hate it more than Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, and the fact that 2015 Film is trying so very hard to keep Paul Blart from the Top 5 of my Bottom Films of 2015 list is a genuine thing that we should be concerned about.
4] Magic Mike XXL
$11,600,000 / $26,656,000 / NEW
In complete contrast to Terminator: Dreamcast, I adore Magic Mike XXL, as my super peppy review helpfully demonstrates. It is a thing of wondrous majestic beauty, especially in the way that it is super progressive in all of these brilliantly quiet ways whilst still being nearly two hours of blatant wonderful fan-service. I really cannot stop thinking about this movie, and I’m probably going to see it again next week. I might even see if Lucy’s up for coming again, although I get the feeling that that first time was enough for her. You seriously should have heard her when Backstreet Boys started on the soundtrack, it was magnificent and I was feeling exactly the same as her!
5] Ted 2
$11,000,000 / $58,334,000
Well, in four days’ time, I guess I’ll find out if my fondness for Seth MacFarlane has to once again be affixed with a giant specific asterisk and hidden from sight unless directly brought up. At least we still have American Dad! and his excellent voice acting. Those can’t ever be taken away from me.
$6,610,000 / $25,349,000
Oh. I guess the fact that this is apparently rubbish has cut those seemingly long legs short after all. Or maybe we all saw Marley & Me and are now automatically sceptical about any film with a dog because we don’t want to cry when something bad happens to it. Either works.
$5,500,000 / $97,846,000
Ex-Disney CEO and Professional Tit Michael Eisner stated his belief, at the Aspen Ideas Festival (which is a real thing and I can’t believe that either) on Thursday, that “the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman.” Prefacing the following with an acknowledgement that “I am going to get in trouble, I know this goes online”, which should be as clear an indicator as humanly possible to stop talking, he believes that “usually, unbelievably beautiful women… are not funny.”
I don’t think I need to add anything more to that. Although I will say that I bet that Eisner’s wife is just thrilled to know that her husband finds her either ugly or a humourless shrill.
8] San Andreas
$3,030,000 / $147,373,000
How many of you spent your 4th of July watching Independence Day? Come on, don’t be shy! It’s good to remind yourself of how much dumb, slightly guilty fun that movie is before the sequel comes along and is inevitably terrible!
9] Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
$1,320,000 / $4,004,000
God, this is like my own personal version of the monster from It Follows. It’s coming, it can’t be stopped, there is no way of getting away from it, and it will get me. Urgh. I just want to get this over with, already, please. Films that are clearly going to be terrible but that I have to see anyway are the worst.
As for It Follows, it is pencilled in for October 31st. I’ll explain more closer to the time.
$1,098,000 / $14,104,000
You people disgust me.
Dropped Out: Insidious Chapter 3, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Avengers: Age of Ultron
People REALLY f*cking love dinosaurs, Ted ends up like Flash Gordon – a thing we all liked as a kid and now want to distance ourselves from, [Insert Tasteless Mean-Spirited Batkid Begins Gag Here], and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
For the third week in a row, somehow, Jurassic World has taken the top spot at the box office, this time with $54 million in ticket sales, pushing its domestic total to over $500 million. There’s a part of me that’s surprised that Jurassic World is doing this well, but I guess it’s gonna take a while for a film like this to stop posting non-ridiculous numbers when it opened over $200 million. That, incidentally, is still something I definitely can’t get over. Meanwhile, Pixar’s Inside Out is probably going to become the first Pixar film to not hit the number one slot, since Jurassic World managed to keep it off of the top even with $52 million in ticket sales. I guess everyone prefers velociraptors fighting genetically-modified dinosaurs to intimate tales of depression. In entirely unrelated news, Pixar have just delayed The Good Dinosaur yet again. Apparently they’ve finally cracked the ending.
“But wait, Callum,” I hear you, imaginary reader calling out to nobody in particular. “Weren’t there new films out this last weekend?” Indeed there were, astutely attuned and likely very attractive reader! Indeed there were! Specifically, Ted 2 happened and, in the grand tradition of Seth MacFarlane works, was apparently nowhere near as good brought back from its at-the-time great original self. The film regressed. Significantly. Whilst the first Ted managed to break box office records with a $54 million opening, Ted 2 could only manage $33 million for third place. It’s not as bad as A Million Ways To Die In The West’s $16 million third place opening, but it’s still troubling. Now, thanks to this, Seth MacFarlane is going to have to make and unleash that Family Guy movie upon the world. Thanks, you lot. Thanks a million.
In “Films That Are Guaranteed To Make Me Weep Like A Three Year-Old” news, Max, the family drama about the loyal dog of a deceased soldier that returns home and suffers from PTSD… sorry, you’ll need to give me a second. Just typing that sentence is causing my eyes to water. …OK, I’m good. Anyways, that film got off to a pretty good start for a low budget and thinly advertised family drama, managing $12 million for fourth place. Its limited release equivalent, Batkid Begins, which is a documentary about how the city of San Francisco came together to help Make-A-Wish kid Miles Scott’s dream to be Batkid for a day… … …OK, I can keep going. Anywho, that film didn’t get off to such a good start, only managing $23,000 from 4 screens because YOU ARE ALL HEARTLESS BASTARDS!
Elsewhere in the part of these articles where I kill time before we get to the Full List, The Third Man received a special re-release to celebrate its restoration and managed an alright $24,000 from 3 screens because who wants to watch old movies at the cinema anymore, AMIRIGHT LADS? A Little Chaos, a movie I fell asleep watching at the cinema for what it’s worth, finally debuted in 83 American theatres and was collectively shrugged out of the room with only $186,000 and a $2,241 per-screen average. Runoff, a festival darling that’s finally managing to get a theatrical release, was the only real bright spot for limited release films this weekend, managing $10,000 from a single theatre.
Actually, no, wait! There was another good slice of news in limited release! Me and Earl and the Dying Girl expanded to 354 locations and couldn’t even manage $1 million! THE SYSTEM WORKS!
This Full List is nowhere near as good as it was before it got cancelled the first time.
Box Office Results: Friday 26th June 2015 – Sunday 28th June 2015
1] Jurassic World
$54,200,000 / $500,100,000
Highest grossing film of the year domestically. Add another $737 mil onto that and you have its current worldwide total. This will beat Frozen in the all-time worldwide totals by the time I finish writing this sentence, and will probably cross Age of Ultron off the list on its journey for world dominance by the end of next week. This is a literal juggernaut. A quite literal juggernaut. How?! I had a lot of fun with it, and even I am perplexed by the sheer non-stoppery of this thing! If Terminator: Mega Drive falls to this next week, I will not be surprised, believe me.
2] Inside Out
$52,128,000 / $184,945,000
Accidentally found out that Inside Out is all about a young girl who has to move house and goddammit Pixar why don’t you just stab me in the heart and get it over with! Seriously, it doesn’t matter if this movie ends up being garbage, I will cry seven hundred times watching it.
3] Ted 2
$33,000,000 / NEW
I honestly just don’t know why Seth MacFarlane hasn’t just made a musical already. He clearly loves them, he’s already recorded two big-band and swing albums, and his voice would probably be able to carry the musical you just know he’d have a starring role in. I mean, it would certainly be better if he just admits that he wants to make a musical and does a full-on musical instead of forcing them into everything else he does even though they mostly just kill the pace of the thing he’s shoving them into.
$12,210,000 / NEW
You remember what I said about Inside Out? Multiply that by a thousand for this. Not joking. This past weekend, I thought I’d lost my dog, Mac, and spent five minutes running about the house in pure panicked terror because I couldn’t find him and was worried he’d somehow slipped out of the house without my knowing. Then I opened a closed bedroom door and found him sat there wondering why I was looking so terrified. Yeah, this film will kill me.
$7,800,000 / $88,351,000
So this is on track to become Paul Feig’s lowest grossing film yet – unless you count his pre-Bridesmaids films, which nobody does because doing so is stupid – despite it being his best by a country mile. That’s a shame, but hopefully Hollywood won’t hold it against him when it comes time to bankroll his and Melissa McCarthy’s next films. After all, everybody has been summarily crushed by Jurassic World, it’s not like this is indicative of anything except that all films need dinosaurs.
6] San Andreas
$5,275,000 / $141,871,000
I’m actually completely out of things to say about this, so have a picture of an adorable puppy.
$2,862,000 / $11,776,000
Sigh… goddammit, people. You can’t spend forever joining me in campaigning for greater diversity and representation in movies and then not actually pay to see the ones that get a wide release! This is why Jai Courtney gets to be a thing, people! That is your goddamn fault!
8] Insidious Chapter 3
$2,025,000 / $49,816,000
A cinema in Middleton, Ohio ended up playing Insidious Chapter 3 for a group of families who had instead turned up to see Inside Out and every single story like this always bewilders me for the following reasons. 1] When you’re programming the projector, do you really pay that little attention to the title of the film you’re setting up that you really will confuse Insidious for Inside Out? 2] Does America not flash up the rating and film title before the film starts like we do in England? Cos this seems like a weird thing to not do if that’s the case. 3] Why don’t the families scramble for the nearest exit when the studio logos quite clearly indicate that this is not the Pixar film they signed up to see? 4] Why does everybody continue to stay in the cinema long after it’s been made apparent that this is a horror movie and not something the kids should see? Y’all do know that horror movies don’t start flinging jump scares and loud noises and terrifying images non-stop from frame one, right? That’s what horror videogames do.
9] Mad Max: Fury Road
$1,735,000 / $147,078,000
Still got nothing to add, so here’s a picture of an adorable kitten.
10] The Avengers: Age of Ultron
$1,643,000 / $452,428,000
Word is starting to come in on Ant-Man from lucky so-and-so American critics, and the consensus is currently at “Hey, that was actually pretty good!” Called it. I mean, that’s how the early consensus on all Marvel films initially comes to, but I called it nonetheless. You people can’t commit to your Marvel backlash! Not when they’re still putting out films that are at least good or better! (*acts like a petulant fanboy, loses all credibility, becomes washed-up jaded alcoholic at the age of 20*)
Dropped Out: Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland
When dinosaurs ruled the box office, Inside Out/Inside Win, people sadly Just Say “Nope” to Dope, Manglehorn gets mangled, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Before we move on, a brief apology and correction. Last week, we reported that Jurassic World had scored the second-highest opening weekend of all-time at the domestic box office with $204 million. Well it turns out that we misreported those numbers and I would like to apologise for that. Jurassic World actually made $208 million and is, therefore, actually the highest grossing opening weekend of all-time domestically. The Avengers has, in fact, been dethroned. In my defence, I can only work from the estimates, since the actuals don’t come in until late-afternoon on a Monday and I have sh*t to do then, which is why these get written on a Sunday night.
Hence why I don’t want to make any definitive statements regarding Jurassic World’s box office performance this weekend, record-wise. Whatever happens, it is finishing in first place, but the box office records are what’s in contention. Currently, the film is sat on $102 million for its second weekend, which puts it almost exactly $1 million below The Avengers’ record-breaking second weekend, but the numbers are so close that, and since Universal under-estimated last weekend, there is every chance that Jurassic World’s actuals will push it higher than The Avengers after all. It’s already a pure and total unstoppable juggernaut that will pass $400 million domestic by lunchtime, so it’s not like this is much of a stretch. Just saying, if it does happen, you can’t say I got it wrong, cos I’m not definitively saying anything! So there!
What will be indisputable, unless some kind of catastrophic error causes 15 million bucks to mysteriously go missing between now and the actuals coming in, is the success of Inside Out, which now holds the record for the biggest domestic opening weekend ever for a non-sequel non-adaptation, taking the title from Avatar’s $77 million opening weekend back in December of 2009. I mean, technically one could argue that it does count as a sequel in the sense that it’s a part of the Pixar brand that might as well be a franchise unto itself by this point, but I’m just going to block that out and savour this Avatar-crushing moment. Aaaaaahhhh… that feels good.
Unfortunately, all this wantonly spent cashola had to skip out on one of the week’s releases, and that poor sod ended up being the Sundance hit Dope, which bravely launched on 2,000 screens but could only manage $6 million for fifth place because, well, it went up against Pixar and dinosaurs. I applaud the bravery of Open Road Films for putting a black film out there as an option for mainstream audiences, but they were never going to win this one. Similarly failing to lift off, albeit in limited release, was the new David Gordon Green film, Manglehorn. Even with Al Pacino apparently deciding to try this whole “acting” thing again to see what that was like, the film couldn’t really get butts in seats, possibly due to mediocre critic reviews, and it only made $13,000 from 3 screens. But, hey! This should hopefully not discourage Al Pacino’s decision to start acting again! Last thing we need is him crawling back to Adam Sandler.
Fun Fact: I have seen all of Jack & Jill but only one Alfred Hitchcock film in the 20 years I have lived. Why on earth do you people listen to what I have to say?
I don’t actually have any witty segway pun for this Full List, since I’m trying to stay dark on Inside Out. So, here’s the thing, then, I guess.
Box Office Results: Friday 19th June 2015 – Sunday 21st June 2015
1] Jurassic World
$102,019,000 / $398,230,000
I think I am the only one of my Internet friends – cos I don’t have real friends with the exception of Lucy (*cries profusely*) – who actually likes this, which is always a good thing to have happen when you’re constantly paranoid that what you do and feel is wrong and that you’re bad for doing and feeling those things. It’s especially more so in this case since, well, Jurassic World is actually a pretty terrible film, yet I like it anyway. I dunno, maybe I’ll someday get lucky and not be so self-conscious.
2] Inside Out
$91,056,000 / NEW
Staying as in-the-dark as possible until it drops here at the end of next month, since this and Minions have basically swapped places on the release calendar for the UK. I’m hoping that this will be as good as critics are saying… but critics also gave Monsters University a seal of quality and that was a massive disappointment, so Pixar are still on my Warning List for now.
And, yes, I am aware that a trailer has dropped for Kung Fu Panda 3. Don’t send me it. If I’m keeping myself in the dark for a film that I’m honestly not that excited for, then why do you think I would want to watch the trailer for a film that I am on tenterhooks for?
$10,500,000 / $74,374,000
So I feel like I’ve been acting a lot like Jason Statham in Spy whenever the subject of The Peanuts Movie is brought up for whatever reason. Just me constantly and unfairly going “They’re gonna f*ck it up,” over and over and over and over again, totally blind, thanks to my own prejudices, to the idea that Blue Sky Studios may not actually f*ck it up.
Folks, and I say this with no hyperbole and complete sincerity, Blue Sky Studios may not have f*cked this up.
4] San Andreas
$8,240,000 / $132,229,000
This might end up one of the highest grossing films of the year. It’s up to $414 million worldwide, after all. I, err, really did not see this one coming. OK, then. Maybe we’ll get lucky and an actually good disaster movie will come from this?
$6,018,000 / NEW
Doesn’t come out here until September 5th, despite looking like as much of a Summer movie as they come. Unless that was actually the plan all along and its UK distributor is taking advantage of the fact that our one nice week of Summer-like weather is going to come in September! That’s genius, and I also want to know the secret to their psychic and weather-controlling powers!
6] Insidious Chapter 3
$4,110,000 / $45,370,000
Oh, God, It Follows is due on home media next week! Guess I’m done putting it off and it’ll be time to watch a film that I know I will love but which will undoubtedly cause me to not sleep for at least three weeks afterwards! I hate being a wuss.
7] Pitch Perfect 2
$3,300,000 / $177,500,000
Pitch Perfect 3 is officially happening. I personally think that this is really stretching it, and I say that as a huge fan of the second instalment, but we’ll see when the film comes out, I guess. Besides, if they’re going to use this as an opportunity to correct the race problems that these films do have, then that’s alright by me.
I mean, they probably won’t, they’ll likely just do number 2 again, but I can hope, can’t I?
8] Mad Max: Fury Road
$2,815,000 / $143,602,000
…I’m out of things to say about this movie, by now. Or, at least, things to say in the tiny space that I get each week. Needless to say, I still doubt that anything will surpass it for my Film Of The Year, it’s amazing, and that’s that. So… yeah.
9] The Avengers: Age of Ultron
$2,723,000 / $451,039,000
Never did get to see this again, sadly, such is the life of somebody who is just terrible at time-management. Or, more specifically, realising how long stuff actually takes to do. Since I’ve written something close to 250 or-so articles of similar excessive length in the past two years, you’d think that I’d know how long it takes for me to write one of the damn things by now.
$2,009,000 / $87,696,000
Tomorrow! Tomorrow! This film might not suck, tomorrow! But it’s always a day away!
Dropped Out: Entourage (AND STAY THE FUCK OUT), Love & Mercy
People f*cking love dinosaurs, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Jurassic World made $204 million, making it the second biggest domestic opening weekend of all-time.
(*drops mic, leaves*)
(*walks back in*)
So, apparently, I have to write more than that for these things. But, I mean, I’m slightly at a loss as to what to write. That figure and those numbers kinda tower over everything else, grabbing the eye and the attention so totally that to talk about anything else feels like trying to hold a conversation at a party that’s about anything but the grizzly act of cannibalism that everyone just saw occur in the parlour room moments ago. You know how ridiculous that opening is? I ran the opening of Jurassic Park back in 1993 ($47 million) through an inflation converter, and the result ($77 million) was still nearly three times less than what Jurassic World just made. I am at a loss to explain this, I really am. Like, I knew that Jurassic Park was a beloved touchstone for a generation of moviegoers, and that everybody loves dinosaurs, but DAMN!
That said, it was not the only film making waves this past weekend. For, in the land of the limited releases, it was time to unleash Me and Earl and the Dying Girl upon the world. This year’s Sundance darling, having premiered to a standing ovation and winning the Grand Jury and Audience Prizes for Drama at the festival, critically beloved by most, and looking absolutely and totally motherf*cking INSUFFERABLY GODAWFUL, was launched in the Little Miss Sunshine slot to a pretty great success – $210,000 from 15 screens with a per-screen average of $14,000. On any other weekend, that would be a per-screen average to kill for, but this was Jurassic World’s weekend and that film managed a per-screen average of $47,871 FROM 4,274 SCREENS. So, dinosaurs beat sh*tty-looking try-too-hard indie dramedies in the public sphere! This is information that makes me happy.
Finally, before we get into the part that matters, there’s the issue of Love & Mercy, the biopic of Brian Wilson that came out last week. Now, as you may know, I didn’t talk about it last week or, in fact, any of the week’s limited releases as I was far too busy making easy jokes at the expense of Entourage – which, as I discovered about 8 hours after that post went live, was letting that film off was too easily – to report on them or the fact that United Passions only made $607 from 10 screens – side note: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (*continues like so for another 10 minutes). Besides, I had the feeling that the supposedly great film would make an appearance in the Top 10 eventually, as it was too star-packed, too widely-released, and too critically-slathered to not break in at some point. Well, it did! This week, even! So, there!
This Full List found a way, the clever girl.
Box Office Results: Friday 12th June 2015 – Sunday 14th June 2015
1] Jurassic World
$204,600,000 / NEW
My review is over here, for those of you who are interested. Ended up digging this one a whole lot, even though it’s got characters that might as well just be breadsticks, dialogue that’s on the level of a five year-old, and themes that are communicated on the same level as that of a first year film studies student with a distrust of the military. But who cares about any of that when you have dinosaurs fighting each other and Chris Pratt – albeit minus any gratuitous shots of his abs, which is UNACCEPTABLE – both things I’ve wanted since I was 5 years-old? Not me, that’s for certain!
$16,000,000 / $56,937,000
Very strong 45% hold between weekends, which is very good for an R-rated comedy that is being released in this utterly insane Summer season. Can I also echo The Playlist’s demand that Melissa McCarthy gets a look-in for the Best Actress race come Oscar season? She is absolutely phenomenal in this, and I guarantee you that she’ll have put in a better performance than at least half of the people whose names get trotted out in this year’s Battle of Apparently Lowering Standards.
3] San Andreas
$11,010,000 / $119,321,000
…hey, Hollywood. Can’t help but notice that you haven’t gotten back to me about that goldmine of a film pitch that I gave you last week. Tell me, do you have a negative disposition towards the act of making money? Seriously, who doesn’t want to see Chris Pratt and The Rock solving crimes together in a buddy cop movie? I know that America wants to see The Rock lay the smacketh down on a bunch of candy asses whilst Chris Pratt says something Burt Macklin, FBI-y before The Rock raises his eyebrow inquisitively and humanity collectively creams its pants and explodes in pure glee!
No, seriously, this is pure f*cking gold, Hollywood! Hit me up about this! I’ll even convince my actually talented writing friend to sell out his principles to help me write this script, as it is surely guaranteed millions upon MILLIONS of dollars and millions of dollars and millions of dollars!
4] Insidious Chapter 3
$7,300,000 / $37,371,000
Forgot to mention this last week as I was too busy… whatever I was doing last week, but now’s as good a time as any. If you are writing a box office piece and use the phrase “scares up” when talking about the performance of a horror movie, quit. Just quit. Stop writing, resign from your position, and go and do something else with your life. I am dead serious. That phrase is so, so old and worn out, that even complete hacks will look at that and go, “Yeah, you absolutely put no effort into this whatsoever.” I find it a personal insult that professional writers are paid money to be that lazy whilst I slave away trying to find new spins on material and new talking points every week for free. So if you do use that phrase, quit. Give your job to people who deserve it.
5] Pitch Perfect 2
$6,000,000 / $170,715,000
This has managed to jump up one place, this week. People would rather see this again in its fifth week than Entourage in its second week. Humanity is not totally doomed, folks.
$4,340,000 / $25,870,000
I saw Entourage last Monday. If it weren’t for the fact that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is looming on the horizon like a strategically placed solid object aimed directly at one’s junk that you can’t avoid for whatever reason, I would feel very secure calling this the worst film I will see all year. It is just so totally abysmal. Brooker is still reviewing it for this site, but my thoughts were graciously housed by both Movieblort and my friend Charlize of HotMales.net. They’re absolutely worth a read at either location, I genuinely believe it’s one of the best reviews that I have ever written.
7] Mad Max: Fury Road
$4,130,000 / $138,630,000
Goddammit, I’ve been too busy to find the time to see this a third time. If I get lucky, it might hang around next week and I’ll be able to squeeze it between the new releases (otherwise known as the films I don’t give a sh*t about), but otherwise my chance has been and gone. Sigh. I’d say “at least I saw it twice”, but we all know that twice is nowhere near enough cinema-based viewings of Fury Road.
8] The Avengers: Age of Ultron
$3,641,000 / $444,743,000
I am excited and optimistic for Ant-Man. There, I said it. Revoke my “Film Critic” pass if you want, I don’t give a sh*t. It’s the truth and it’s how I feel.
$3,417,000 / $83,607,000
OK, homework for us all: let’s all watch The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille prior to meeting back up next week. We’re not actually going to talk about or do anything with them, it’s just always worth having seen those films. Great? Great.
10] Love & Mercy
$1,765,000 / $4,774,000
Here’s a scene from Walk Hard. Go and watch Walk Hard. This is not optional.
Dropped Out: Aloha, Poltergeist
Callum Petch only cares about that thing, that thing, that thing. Listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio (site link) and follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!
What happens when you reunite the filthy minds of [The Mirror’s film correspondent] Paul Field and Andrew Brooker on the same podcast as Steve Norman and Owen Hughes?
If you guessed “clean, mild mannered discussion on various films in the cinema” then you’d be wrong. This episode is explicit with a capital E. And a capital X, P, L, I, C, I and T as well. You have been warned! Although there are still plenty of films discussed this week.
Together, in-between the carnage, the team manage to put together 80 minutes of semi-coherent chat, starting as ever with a tightly poised quiz (+ results from last week’s United Passions defence) and discussing the latest from the world of film news, including Jurassic World‘s initially poor reception and Hugh Jackman relinquishing his most famous role.
We also discuss a number of new releases in the cinema this past week, including: Paul Feig’s comedy Spy, starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Rose Byrne and Miranda Hart; the confusingly titled studio horror prequel Insidious: Chapter 3; James McTeigue’s latest attempt to save his career with crime thriller Survivor; and the FIFA propaganda film that’s convincing nobody, United Passions.
As well as that, Brooker discusses Alex Garland’s Ex Machina; Owen flips his opinion around on The Redwood Massacre; Paul has two very different opinions on the terrifying We Are Still Here and bizarre sleep paralysis documentary The Nightmare; and Steve tries to raise the tone with a review of Billy Elliot… but quickly plummets back down to our usual depths.
Join us again next week as we review (amongst other things) Colin Trevorrow’s adventure sci-fi, Jurassic World.
Despite a whirlwind charm offensive from Hailee Steinfeld and some decent moments, Barely Lethal is a wasted opportunity.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Pro-Tip for all aspiring teenage/high school comedies: NEVER invoke the names of Mean Girls, The Breakfast Club, 10 Things I Hate About You, et al during the course of your film. Just don’t. Ever. Do not bring them up, either as homages or having characters mention them by name for whatever reason, as all it does is make you look worse off by comparison and leaving the viewer, myself in this case, wondering why they’re not just watching those frequently-much-better films. The DVD cover of Mean Girls is prominently displayed at one early point in Barely Lethal and I strongly considered turning off the latter to watch the former again, even though I already re-watched Mean Girls exactly one month ago!
That’s actually being rather unnecessarily harsh on Barely Lethal, which isn’t as bad as its godawful title and trailer suggests it will be. It’s just the kind of film that can’t stop making really obvious, really amateur, and really easy-to-avoid mistakes no matter how hard it tries. And it keeps making them over and over and over, like a parent who still cannot operate a DVR despite having had the same one for 8 goddamn years.
So, for those not aware, Barely Lethal follows Megan (Hailee Steinfeld) who, orphaned at a young age, has spent her life being raised by a secretive branch of the US government that turns little girls into stone-cold killer assassins, headed by Hardman (Samuel L. Jackson). She’s top of her class and the first of them to be activated, much to the irritation of her rival Heather (an utterly wasted Sophie Turner), but disagrees with Hardman’s “no attachments” policy and, whilst on various assignments, finds herself drawn to and desiring a normal teenage life. When a mission to capture evil arms dealer Victoria Knox (Jessica Alba) goes wrong, Megan takes the opportunity to fake her death, relocate to a quiet American town, and attend high school, posing as a foreign exchange student for a nice family.
From there, things proceed exactly as you’re expecting them to, which is the first big shame. The spy/assassin elements never quite gel with the high school elements, you see, with the former just kinda walking in and out of the film whenever it pleases, leaving the majority of the film basically being another “fish-out-of-water high school” movie but with an unnecessarily complex backstory to that “fish-out-of-water” part. The tone is also wildly unsatisfying, not committing enough to the dark comedy and more unsavoury implications of the spy/assassin part, but also not committing enough to the high school tone to be sincere and genuine, occupying a middle-ground that leaves everything feeling weak: the spy stuff too toothless, the high school stuff too underdeveloped.
Incidentally, I could tell that this was written by a man even if I hadn’t seen the titles and done my research, such is the utter disdain the film shows for high school and especially for teenage girls. Even the most utterly blistering takedowns of high school culture, like the aforementioned Mean Girls, have some semblance of caring for its targets, usually out of a desire to want the place and people to be better and much less sh*tty. Barely Lethal really doesn’t, and so every last cliché in the high school movie book – bitchy girls, arsehole teenagers who are cruel to everybody for no real reason, lecherous and/or painfully uncool teachers, hunky yet vapid and self-centred boy (Toby Sebastian) who our lead is inexplicably all over instead of their equally as attractive yet slightly dorky best friend (Thomas Mann) who acts like a petulant child when she doesn’t crush back on him – gets trotted out and abused with no substance or wit or subversive intent. It’s basically Baby’s First High School with extra bitter vitriol.
Or, to put it another way, this is a real exchange in this movie that caused me to genuinely and involuntarily groan out loud.
“There is an army of highly trained murderous psychopaths out to get me!”
“Hey, you survived high school.”
It’s a really lazy and underdeveloped movie, basically. How lazy? It has a montage set to “Bad Reputation” just like EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF HIGH SCHOOL-SET MEDIA IN HUMAN EXISTENCE. Nothing feels natural, nothing feels paced, it just blazes through everything at 200MPH. The point when Hardman inevitably tracked down Megan should be where the last third kicks off but I had a sneaking suspicion that the film wasn’t even halfway done, a suspicion that was promptly confirmed when I checked my watch and saw that we were only 40 minutes in. The pre-high school stuff encompasses the film’s opening 10 minutes. 10. Out of 105. With the rest of those minutes instead being dedicated to trotting out every cliché in short order. Surprising nobody, this means that the cast aren’t so much characters as one-note archetypes/stereotypes that their actors and actresses are supposed to fill in through sheer force of personality.
To her credit, this is something that Hailee Steinfeld manages to pull off. Megan’s character, on paper, very much reads as a walking “Chloë Grace Moretz said ‘no’”, which is how it could have turned out in lesser hands. Yet Steinfeld makes it her own in a number of ways. She carries herself and convinces near-totally as somebody raised to become something they don’t really want to be, and who just wants to be normal; somebody who is genuinely out-of-their-comfort-zone at high school. She’s also convincing at kicking ass when required, but not to the extent where I sit and wonder why she’s upset over the evil high school clichés instead of tearing through them like a hot knife through butter. Then there’s her natural goofy charm, which is just so easily endearing and ultimately makes it hard not to like and enjoy time with Megan. Between this and Pitch Perfect 2, which utilised said goofy charm way better but hey ho, Steinfeld very much seems to be in the part of her career where she’s a one-woman charm offensive, which is something I am not at all complaining about.
Unfortunately, her co-stars’ attempts to do the same are hampered by the simple fact that they don’t get enough screen-time to do so. Sophie Turner is asked to do absolutely nothing besides be the film’s alpha bitch, not helped by the fact that she just walks in and out of the film at random points, giving no weight to her inevitable final showdown with Megan. Jessica Alba seems to be trying to turn Knox into a witty and snarky yet legitimately dangerous villain but she gets maybe 10 minutes at best and her entire existence is just for perfunctory finale fireworks, whilst Samuel L. Jackson just kinda Samuel L. Jacksons for a bit, now seemingly at the part of his career where he will appear in quite literally anything that’s willing to provide him with money. OK, more so than usual.
As for the action sequences… Well, you know how Spy just proved than an action-comedy can and, in fact, should be just as proficient at the action sequences as the comedy sequences? Turns out that Kyle Newman, who also directed 2009’s should-have-been-better Fanboys, is not Paul Feig. The film’s low-budget radiates from how incredibly small scale the very few action sequences are, and all of them are shot abysmally and edited haphazardly. The stand-out awful action sequence though is undoubtedly Megan and Heather’s big throw-down which, despite needing to be this big payoff, is near-incomprehensible due to excessively gratuitous camera shaking and unnecessarily tight framing. Rule #1 of fight scenes in movies: the viewer needs to be able to see what’s going on!
And it’s little amateur mistakes like that which sink Barely Lethal. I wanted to like this movie, and I do like certain parts of it – Hailee Steinfeld is a bona-fide charmer, there are the occasional funny lines, and the eventual bond that Megan makes with her ‘foster sister’ Liz (Dove Cameron) is kinda sweet and I’m a sucker for that sort of thing – but it’s one of those films that seems to believe that openly acknowledging its awareness of high school movie clichés gives it Carte blance to indulge in them anyway. It wastes its premise on excessively trod ground and, unlike The DUFF, it’s too lazy (and rather vindictive) to come up with good enough material to make up for that fact.
Hailee Steinfeld is clearly destined to become A Star, regardless of whether it’s Serious Actor Steinfeld from works like True Grit or Charming Movie Star Steinfeld from this and Pitch Perfect 2, and she deserves films that are willing to work as hard and be as good as she is. Barely Lethal is just not that film, and pure charisma alone can’t prop up a boring, disappointing, lazy waste of a movie.
America chose… wisely! Spy rules, Entourage drools, Insidious pulls… in crowds, OK, this headline has failed totally, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
I don’t think that I’m exaggerating when I say that this weekend’s box office battle was quite literally between good and evil. On the side of good: Spy, the best comedy to come along in a year, and one that is quietly yet brilliantly progressive, boasting outstanding performances, and led almost entirely by excellent female comedians who are getting their deserved shots at the limelight. On the side of evil: Entourage, a piece of pure f*cking garbage, based on pure f*cking garbage, made by and for pure f*cking garbage. Except for Brooker, he’s alright. The outcome of this fight would prove seismic, can good movies aimed at a female audience triumph over pure f*cking garbage aimed at dude-bros, humanity’s collective walking pieces of human f*cking garbage?
For once in this miserable cesspool that is humanity, good won out. Good won out big! Spy opened in first place with a very respectable $30 million. Whilst that’s $9 million less than The Heat opened to in 2013, that is a very good number considering that Spy had mediocre to poor trailers and marketing, and had to open against a horror movie and Insidious Chapter 3. Plus, considering the fact that the comedy landscape is free until Ted 2 at the end of the month, it’s guaranteed decent legs over the coming weeks! We did it everyone! We actually did it! Everything is going to be OK! It is all going to be O. K!
As for those terrifying journeys into worlds of misery populated by evil spirits who wish to do us all harm, Insidious Chapter 3 ended up the victor in that battle, bringing home a very good $23 million. That’s admittedly still a very large drop from Chapter 2’s $40 million opening, and it was still very front-loaded, but Chapter 2 wasn’t released in the Summer and had absolutely no competition that weekend. Besides, a $23 million opening for a horror movie is definitely not something to sniff at. So I hope you’re all looking forward to being drowned in these apparently-great (?) films for years to come! I have no idea why I wrote that so sarcastically, I shouldn’t get sniffy at good horror movies doing good business just cos I selfishly want their trailers to stop appearing before films that won’t give me mini-heart attacks due to my major wussiness.
And as for Vinny and the boys? Well, Entourage blew hot steaming chunks. And the box office of the film wasn’t so great either. Over the three day weekend, it could only manage $10 million for a really pathetic $3,000 per-screen average. “But the film opened on a Wednesday,” I hear you cry! “Surely those extra two days will have provided an opening worthy of the once proud star of James Cameron’s Aquaman which is apparently a real thing that happens in Entourage at some point?” Well, keep dreaming, brah, as Entourage’s five-day total stalled out at $17 million, which still left it stuck in fourth place! The system works! The terrible disaster movie failed! Meanwhile, San Andreas took second with a shockingly great 50% drop between weekends.
I can keep making these awful jokes all day, folks.
This Full List wants you to hug it out, bro.
Box Office Results: Friday 5th June 2015 – Sunday 7th June 2015
$30,000,000 / NEW
Saw it again on Friday night with a nice big crowd, which is exactly the way that one should experience a good comedy. God, this film is so brilliant! I’m actually tempted to check out Miranda, which has always looked like insufferable tripe to me, thanks to Miranda Hart’s brilliant performance in this. I’m jealous of Paul Feig’s ability to assemble perfect casts with seemingly little effort, I really am.
2] San Andreas
$26,440,000 / $92,163,000
This is actually going to cross $100 million domestic by next weekend. Gonna be honest, I did not see that coming at all. Even after last weekend’s surprisingly great opening, I thought for sure that this would collapse spectacularly after word got out that it was really crap, but I guess Mr. The Rock holds way more sway than even I thought he did. Of course, next weekend, everyone’s newest crush, Chris Pratt, arrives to take what’s his, so expect San Andreas to take a tumble.
Hang on a minute… Million dollar idea: buddy-cop movie starring Chris Pratt and Mr. The Rock! How has this not already been optioned?! Call me, Hollywood! I’ll have the script ready for you in a week!
3] Insidious Chapter 3
$23,000,000 / NEW
I will never see these movies. I don’t hate them or anything like that, I’m just way too much of a wuss for jump-scare horror to ever want to see them. I prefer my terror to come from constant unsettling wrongness instead of the film equivalent of a song by a bad Pixies imitator. It’s not for me, and I’m OK with that. It’s not ruining humanity.
$10,420,000 / $17,805,000 / NEW
(*buries head in hands and makes strangulated noise of pure disgust*) I have to see this tonight, and I really am not looking forward to it at all. I had planned to watch as much of the show as I could have before seeing the film, but I only made it through 4 episodes before tapping out. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. They are all terrible people! The show is so ragingly sexist it makes Love Actually look like f*cking Thelma & Louise! There are no dramatic stakes, no actual satire, and no reason to care about any of these raging assholes! WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS?!
God, I have to follow Spy with this. That’s like chasing down a delicious Ham and Turkey Subway with a Gin and Tonic comprised of vomit and dick cheese.
5] Mad Max: Fury Road
$7,970,000 / $130,804,000
This will collapse next week when Jurassic World comes a-calling, but it has now doubled its budget worldwide, pretty much guaranteeing an overall profit. We’re all OK, folks. We’re all OK.
6] Pitch Perfect 2
$7,700,000 / $160,982,000
There’s the big fall! This will cross $250 million worldwide this week, and should also pass both The Spongebob Movie and Fifty Shades of Grey to become the fifth highest-grossing film of 2015 domestically by the time we reconvene next week, in any case. I know that we film critics aren’t supposed to be interested in the business side of things, for whatever reason, but it still does my heart good all the same to see quality films rewarded with large stacks of cash!
$7,022,000 / $76,236,000
As a possible result of this film failing, Disney has cancelled production on Tron 3, like I needed even more reasons to strongly dislike this bad movie. I mean, I’m not surprised – I am a legitimate and unironic Tron fan, I am used to disappointment by now – but I am still sad all the same. Tron: Legacy was fun, dammit! I need another Daft Punk score in my life, dammit! YOU NEVER FORMALLY CANCELLED THE EXCELLENT TRON: UPRISING, DISNEY! AT LEAST BRING THAT BACK!
8] The Avengers: Age of Ultron
$6,201,000 / $438,015,000
Age of Ultron has just passed the last Harry Potter to become the fifth highest grossing film of all-time worldwide. Got a feeling the superhero boom isn’t going away for a while yet. In fact, rather than having everyone moan about that again, can we maybe instead direct our ire at a recent glut of films that are actually even more interchangeable and irritating than superhero films? I am, of course, referring to Young Adult Adaptations. Yeah. Why do I have to sit through seven thousand thinkpieces and complaints about comic book movies, yet the Divergents and Maze Runners of this world get by with nary a shrug of the shoulders? Y’all do know that The Hunger Games existing doesn’t give this mostly-awful subgenre a pass, right?
$3,300,000 / $16,342,000
$2,850,000 / $44,452,000
(*in creepy horror movie child voice*) They’re leaving.
Dropped Out: Far From The Madding Crowd, Hot Pursuit, Home
San Andreas is no busta, Aloha says Aloha to any semblance of money, Results can barely do one measly pull-up, I can’t even make up a terrible pun for Heaven Knows What cos it looks too miserable, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Prior to this weekend, it seemed very much like the box office was going to be extremely quiet until the release of Jurassic World in a fortnight. After all, we all knew that Tomorrowland was going to bomb, Spy will do well but isn’t exactly going to light anything on fire, I know of only one human being who is (self-loathingly) excited for the Entourage movie and he works for this very website, and I know of no human beings who are clamouring for another frickin’ Insidious movie. Post-Pitch Perfect and post-Mad Max, we basically entered a quiet period where little of interest was coming out and nothing was going to do particularly well or make for exciting headlines.
It turns out, however, that we all forgot one very important thing: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. So although San Andreas on paper looked to be a middling underperformer that would be collectively skipped because, goddamn, did this movie ever look (and was) excruciatingly boring, in practice the film stormed its way to number 1 with $53 million in ticket sales. There’s also the fact that it’s an expensive-looking disaster movie released on a weekend where there was almost literally nothing else of note coming out against it, but I think we all know that this is entirely down to Dwayne Johnson. I mean, the guy is just the best, isn’t he? He’s the best. I want him as my dad!
The “of note” was added onto that prior paragraph because San Andreas was not the only wide release of this past weekend. That other one would be Aloha, the first film in almost four years from writer-director Cameron Crowe. In case you hadn’t heard, the film is apparently utter garbage that even Sony heads hated which, combined with the fact that Cameron Crowe has only ever really broken out of being a cult filmmaker maybe twice (thrice if you want to count We Bought A Zoo) in his entire 25 year career, basically sealed its fate even with Bradley Cooper in the lead role. It’s kind of a bomb, opening in sixth place with an estimated $10 million – that, for those of you playing along at home, is behind the third weeks of Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road, the second week of Tomorrowland, and the fifth week of Avengers.
In the land of limited releases, Mumblecore architect Andrew Bujalski took a tentative step towards making a mainstream movie with the Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, and Kevin Corrigan-starring rom-com-ish (I haven’t seen it yet so I don’t know how much it sticks to and how much it subverts formula) Results. The public responded somewhat warmly, with the film finishing up the weekend with $13,000 from 3 screens, which isn’t too bad considering that it’s been on VOD since March 13th. Meanwhile, pure-unfiltered-misery in the shape of Heaven Knows What – here’s the trailer which, even with the obnoxious and ill-fitting Harmony Korine-style editing and soundtrack, gives as good an idea as any as to how miserable that film is going to make me – got off to a very good start with $15,000 from 2 screens. I realise that doesn’t seem like much, but this is a movie about homeless heroin addicts that looks BLEAK AS F*CK. So, yeah, I’m gonna chalk that up as a win.
All this Full List had to do was FOLLOW THE DAMN TRAIN!
Box Office Results: Friday 29th May 2015 – Sunday 31st May 2015
1] San Andreas
$53,215,000 / NEW
Saw this on Saturday and I mostly agree with Steve, it’s not very good. I think the cast really try and there are a few sequences that are pretty good, but mostly I just found this incredibly, mind-numbingly boring. Oh, and loud. Very, very loud. It has got some fine Paul Giamatti overacting, though, so that’s worth something.
Also, yes, I do find the irony in the fact that Tomorrowland, a film that sermonises about our obsession with turning death and planetary destruction and disaster into harmless entertainment, was unceremoniously dumped from number one by a film that is exactly what the former spends 130 minutes railing against.
2] Pitch Perfect 2
$14,381,000 / $147,540,000
This has a surprisingly strong chance of surpassing Fifty Shades of Grey’s closing total of $166 million. It’s barely $20 million away from it, already, and with its strong mid-week grosses it could hold onto that trajectory even when Spy drops next week. Yay to all of this! And, yes, I still do really like this movie and believe it to be better than the first. Accept that I’m not budging, and let’s close the book on this issue.
$13,803,000 / $63,188,000
Yeah… this… this isn’t making its money back. Not even close. I really hope that the lesson Hollywood takes away from the failures of this and Jupiter Ascending is not that the public doesn’t want expensive original blockbusters. It’s that we want good expensive original blockbusters. Actually, that doesn’t quite work since Jupiter Ascending is a good expensive original blockbuster, but the sentiment is still the same.
4] Mad Max: Fury Road
$13,625,000 / $115,915,000
You know what? I think I’m going to go and see this again this week. You should too. I don’t care if you’ve already seen it 5 times in 3 weeks, that’s still not enough times to fully appreciate this magnificent specimen of a film and you damn well know it!
5] The Avengers: Age of Ultron
$10,920,000 / $427,070,000
Gee, Box Office Mojo! It sure would be great if I could find out how Age of Ultron is doing in China, the one market that actually matters for this movie, on a week-to-week basis! But not knowing anything because you have decided to skip on the details of your detail-oriented website and dropped so hard in overall quality since Ray Subers left is fine too! Really! I love having to put in an unnecessarily large amount of work for what should instead be a fun little 75 minute writing exercise each week! I’m not irritated at all!
$10,000,000 / NEW
Bummed to hear this one sucks, but I guess I now know why I have to wait until September 1st – The UK’s Dumping Ground – to see it. On an entirely unrelated note, I need to actually watch a Cameron Crowe film, since he’s one of those filmmakers I’ve heard great things about but never actually seen anything by (otherwise known as: Most Filmmakers). I guess I’ll start with Pearl Jam 20, since Lucy will not stop going on about Pearl Jam, and go from there.
$7,800,000 / $38,267,000
Told you this would sink like a stone. At least Insidious: Chapter 3 can’t use this as a scapegoat defence if it underwhelms next weekend. Side wish: please underwhelm majorly so I never have to be at risk of seeing an Insidious trailer again.
8] Far From The Madding Crowd
$1,420,000 / $8,362,000
Look, instead of watching this garbage, why don’t we all instead go and watch Thomas Vinterberg’s much, much, much better previous film The Hunt? It’s got Mads Mikkelsen in it! In fact, why don’t we all also just watch Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal TV series instead of this tripe? I think we can all agree that both options are much better usages of our collective time than this walking gasbag.
9] Hot Pursuit
$1,370,000 / $32,351,000
Well, goodbye, Hot Pursuit! You couldn’t even make back your $35 million budget, which would be sad if your film wasn’t apparently so excruciatingly terrible. Don’t let the actually-good Spy knock you on your arse on the way out. Spy, after all, deserves better than associating with wastes of space like you.
$1,150,000 / $170,409,000
Wait, this actually made it to 10 weeks on the chart?! And is the fourth highest-grossing film of the year domestically at time of writing? Alright! High fives and party poppers all round, folks! Today is a very good day! Now if Shaun The Sheep: The Movie could be somewhat of a success when it launches in America in August, that would be just peachy!
I know that that is never going to happen, just give me a few more seconds of blissful denial.
Dropped Out: Furious 7, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Spy is the best comedy I have seen since 22 Jump Street.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
I assume that you have all seen the trailers, posters and such for Spy by this point and have this movie figured out. There will be a lot of swearwords, because swearwords are funny, Melissa McCarthy is fat and not twenty-something so therefore will fall over a lot and be the butt of ten-hundred jokes about how undesirable she therefore is, it’s two hours long and as such will be padded to hell and back, and it’s an action-comedy so the action will be cheap-looking, flatly directed and mostly just an afterthought to endless pointless sequences of characters riffing on one gag until it’s long-past being entertaining.
Well, you’re wrong. You’re dead wrong, primarily because you’ve been sold the wrong film. Writer-director Paul Feig, and his immensely talented mostly female cast, has actually crafted a brilliant, subversive, and hilarious movie that wastes not a second of its two hour runtime, is really intelligent in its silly comedy, and, thanks to its self-belief message and a whole bunch of conscious and unconscious design choices, is quietly feminist. What appears to be cheap and mean-spirited out of context builds up to make a heartfelt point in context, and what sounds sophomoric and juvenile out of context ends up quietly clever and character-driven in context.
To wit: Spy follows the exploits of Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy), a lowly analyst at the CIA who, despite making an incredibly effective team with ace field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) whom she has an unreciprocated crush on, is treated like complete garbage by almost everyone at the Agency, either willingly – in the form of loose cannon field agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) – or unwittingly – by Fine himself, mostly. When it turns out that Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), the daughter of a recently-deceased terrorist who has come into possession of a nuclear bomb, knows the identities of every single one of the CIA’s field agents, Susan steps up and volunteers to be sent into the field, aided back at the Agency by her only real friend, the anxious and slightly bumbling Nancy (Miranda Hart).
Again, this is probably the point where you’re expecting Susan to klutz her way through the operation, discovering leads by mistake, and generally proving Rick Ford right when he keeps insisting that “you’re gonna f*ck this up” to her face. In a lesser movie, this would be the case for all of Spy’s two hours. Here, though, that does not happen. Susan is an immensely capable field agent, as the film bold-facedly demonstrates before she’s even sent out when the CIA’s head (Allison Janney, who is exactly as brilliant at being alternately inspiringly nice and hilariously cruel as you’re thinking she’ll be) brings up footage from her training days. Susan is an excellent field agent, all of the skills are right there… she just doesn’t believe in herself because everyone, quite literally everyone, has told her that all she can be is a bumbling fat middle-aged woman.
Those demeaning cover identities? Provided to her by an agency that only sees her as an ugly middle-aged woman. Her directive to follow the targets and never directly engage? The agency refusing to believe that she is capable of taking the lead. Fine is a guy who can butter her up one minute by thanking her for her invaluable help and then, the next minute, treat her like a secretary and order her to fire his gardener for him; equal parts oblivious to his demeaning treatment of her, out of some misplaced fear as to what might happen to her, and perfectly aware, as he uses these stealth snipes to ensure that she can’t steal his glory by doing his job. And Rick… well, Rick is just Fine without the veneer of obliviousness, a walking pompous macho-man who brags excessively about his undoubtedly made-up accomplishments but in practice can barely make a dramatic entrance without falling on his arse.
So when the film does provide a fat joke, and I counted maybe three in the entire movie, or dresses Susan up in hideous clothes and has lecherous men ignore her totally, Susan is not the target of the jokes. The joke is instead on everybody else for being so unrepentantly awful towards her and the laugh coming from just how terrible they are. Susan herself is always treated with respect and always shown to be legitimately capable, with her early-film klutzes coming from nerves more than anything else.
Compare this with a Kevin James movie. In those, the target of the joke is nearly always Kevin James. There is no subversive intent to Paul Blart fat jokes. Paul is fat, he is doing things that he is supposedly not physically in shape for, and the punchline is always “fat man fall down go boom”, which is why the moments where he does display competence don’t resonate, because the film never asks you to take him seriously because he is always the target of the gag. In Spy, though, Susan is not the target of the joke, everyone else is, and her competency is just a fact of her character. And once she understands that she is, in fact, damn good at what she does, there’s basically no stopping her. She’s even better than her male counterparts who are either utterly useless, lecherous, or heavily reliant on her support.
Relatedly, then: the swearing. Believe it or not, there is actually a point to it, which may surprise you since that first Red Band trailer relied a lot on the idea that swearwords are inherently funny. As you might have gathered, the spy world is considered a man’s game so, in Spy, the men are obsessively masculine caricatures who fill most sentences with a vocabulary akin to that of a drunk pirate who’s just stubbed his toe. Susan and Rayna, though, are women in a man’s world, women constantly underestimated and not taken seriously by their male counterparts, so one of the ways in which they try fitting in is to awkwardly launch into sweary tirades over everything – Rayna taking to it better than Susan since she’s basically a spoilt child resentful of the fact that her father clearly wanted a son instead of her. It’s swearing with a point instead of swearing for swearing’s sake.
And yet these gender politics and messages don’t overtake the film. Susan’s tale of self-confidence is the primary arc and underpinning, but everything else is subtext that one doesn’t have to get to enjoy the film. After all, Spy is more than very enjoyable on its surface terms. It’s funny, for one. Incredibly funny. Paul Feig’s other similarly brilliant female-driven comedies, Bridesmaids and The Heat, were very funny but also seemed to creak under the weight of their 2 hour runtimes, unable to keep up the pace for their entirety. Spy is somehow able to remain consistently funny throughout, as Feig’s propensity for running gags and well-defined and established characters pays off a relatively slow beginning by mining endless material from the world and characters that he’s created instead of endless non-sequiturs and improv.
He’s even able to sustain the comedy in the film’s final third, the point where the plot should take over and the jokes normally vacate the premises. But because the script is so tight, and he does such a good job at building up the film’s various running gags and character quirks, the jokes work themselves seamlessly into the finale, as they do most other action scenes. Yes, this is an action-comedy in the truest sense of the word, where the action sequences are equal parts funny and thrilling. A pre-title prologue with Fine out on assignment is shot just like the action and staging in a spy thriller then contrasts that by cutting back to the mundanity of the CIA and their constant infestations, a chase to capture some would-be assassins is genuinely exciting but also knows just how much to undercut its seriousness with a joke without completely robbing the scene of tension. But the standout is undoubtedly a one-on-one fight in a kitchen that utilises excellent fight choreography and clear camerawork to create a fight that works brilliantly and equally on both the comedy and action levels.
Then powering the film is the exceptional cast. Jason Statham is going to get most of the attention, since he is going so against type by playing his excessive machismo for ridiculous comedy, and he does deserve that praise because he is phenomenal here, but that’s doing a disservice to the rest of the cast who are just as good and in some cases even better. Miranda Hart is delightfully charming as Nancy, managing to infuse a genuine warmth and personality into a role that could have just been stereotypical, while Peter Serafinowicz goes the complete opposite as the sex-crazed Italian agent Aldo, playing up the character’s deranged sexual deviancy to such extremes that he manages to cross from being offensive to just plain hilarious. Rose Byrne, meanwhile, is clearly relishing the opportunity to play Rayna and commits totally to being a stuck-up petulant child, and her dynamic with Susan is pure gold.
But the true star, unsurprisingly, is Melissa McCarthy. McCarthy is one of the comedy world’s fastest rising stars for a reason, not even Identity Thief and the underrated-but-still-mediocre Tammy could damage that, and Spy is where even her staunchest critics will have to finally give up resisting her charms. She seems to connect with the script in a way that goes beyond just ‘getting’ the character – which, since one can also read the film as a meta-commentary on how Hollywood sees McCarthy and other women like her, makes sense – and so every facet and every change in Susan Cooper works totally. McCarthy gets to stretch her range, going from timidly quiet and awkward to excessively boisterous and sweary to self-confident and self-accepting, and nails all of it, hopefully finally breaking out of any potential type-casting for good.
I’m five days removed from Spy as I write this, folks, and I’m still surprised that this film is this good. I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised, Paul Feig has nearly always been at least great and the cast is so strong that it would have taken a minor miracle to turn in a mediocre or worse film, but I’m shocked that Spy is this good. That it has had this much thought put into it, that it would still work if you stripped out the “comedy” or “action” part of the “action comedy” equation but wouldn’t work as well as it does with both, that it bothered to have legitimate emotional and thematic through-lines propping up the comedy, that it is so well-paced, that it is just so goddamn funny…
Pessimists and cynics could see this as a damning observation on the state of the American feature-length comedy today. That wouldn’t change the fact that Spy is the real deal and the best comedy I have seen since 22 Jump Street. Do not miss this.
Spy is due for release on June 5th.