Sunday, September 25, 2016

Return of the Street Fighter (1974)

Following the success of The Street Fighter, a sequel was quickly rushed out to capitalize on it.  Shigehiro Ozawa is back as director, Sonny Chiba as well as Terry Tsurugi and much violence ensues - just not as much, nor as interesting as the first movie.

This time around Terry is back to his old habits as a man for hire to take care of special situations, with a new companion in Pin Boke (Yoko Ichiji), a street girl that he has taken in.  He again falls afoul of the mafia, this time by siding with his long time friend Kendo Masaoka (Masafumi Suzuki), who has discovered that a head of rival martial arts school is using a phony charity to raise money not for a new martial arts school, but for the Yakuza.

Tsurugi also finds an unlikely ally in Masaoka's son Kaoru, a police officer who has been trying to prove that the martial arts school charity is a money laundering scheme.  When letters with Kendo's name forged on them arise, proving that other heads of martial arts schools around the world have been strong-armed into giving into the charity, it appears that the case is as good as wrapped up.  However, it turns out that the Yakuza are only puppets for American mafia head Don Costello (Claude Gagnon), who aims for his family to take over all operations in Japan.

Again, it is generally a thin plot on which to hang a number of fight scenes, a few of which are quite good.  Despite the eye popping looking laughably fake these days, the rest of the fight at the ski resort is up there with anything in the first movie, and the climax is wonderful as well.  Also, Junjo (Masashi Ishibashi) is back, and is still hungry for revenge.

The problems with this sequel are that it is surprisingly toned down from the first, has too many flashback scenes to fill in time and Pin Boke manages to be an even more annoying sidekick than Ratnose in the first film.  With him it was whining and simpering, with her it is constantly screeching "Terry!" in an extremely high voice.  Again, I don't know if these characters are as annoying in the original Japanese versions, but the dubbed versions make them unbearable.

The other problem is that this one simply isn't as interesting.  Sonny Chiba makes a great anti-hero, and it's great to have him fighting with Junjo, but none of the villains in this are as striking as the first.  There is nothing like the X-ray shot or the fight with the blind swordsmen from the first.  The rushed quality is persistent throughout. 

If you have seen the first, you will want to see this one, but just be aware that it is nowhere on the same level.

Return of the Street Fighter (1974)
Time: 85 minutes
Starring: Sonny Chiba, Yoko Ichiji, Masafumi Suzuki, Masashi Ishibashi
Director: Shigehiro Ozawa

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Street Fighter (1974)

If you have seen the movie True Romance, there is a scene where Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette go to a marathon of Street Fighter films.  Despite being directed by Tony Scott, True Romance was in every other way Quentin Tarantino's second film, as he wrote it and it largely appeared on the screen as he intended.  Unless I am forgetting some references from Reservoir Dogs, it is also the first of his movies to introduce his love of Asian cinema, particularly the more exploitative and violent side.

The Street Fighter came out a year after Enter the Dragon, and that movie had made martial arts films popular on the same level with grindhouse audiences as Blaxploitation and artsy porn flicks.  It was aimed at the same audience as the late Bruce Lee, but with quite a different sensibility.  Instead of focusing on culture and philosophy, The Street Fighter focused solely on violence and revenge, so much so that it earned an X rating upon initial release in the United States.

Terry Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba) disguises himself as a monk to break convicted killer Junjo (Masashi Ishibashi) out of prison.  With the help of his sidekick Ratnose (Goichi Yamada) he succeeds, but Junjo's brother Gijun (Jiro Yabuki) and sister Nachi (Etsuko Shihomi) fail to pay him for the job.  A fight ensues, and Gijun dies when he accidentally flies out a window.  Because of their failure to pay, the man who arranged the deal, Renzo Mutaguchi (Fumio Watanabe) sells Nachi into sexual slavery.  Mutaguchi then offers Terry another job: kidnap Sarai Chuayut (Yutaka Nakajima), an heiress to a large oil fortune, so that the Yakuza can force her to sign the company over to them.  He refuses due to the Yakuza involvement, and they put a hit out on him.

Terry decides instead of going through with kidnapping that he will prove himself the best bodyguard for Sarai, and does so by fighting her uncle Kendo Masaoka (Masafumi Suzuki) to a draw.  Masaoka then recognizes Tsurugi as the the half-Chinese son of a karate master he knew during the war who had been executed.  Masaoka agrees, but before they can properly set plans into motion, Terry and Ratnose are attacked by the Yakuza and delayed, resulting in Sarai's kidnapping.

Meanwhile, Junjo has traveled to Hong Kong, where he crosses paths with local mob leader Dinsau (Rin'ichi Yamamoto), and finds Nachi as a newly arrived prostitute.  His sister tells him what happened with his brother, and Junjo joins Dinsau in allying with the Yakuza with the agreement that he will be the one to kill Tsurugi.

Terry and Ratnose succeed in briefly rescuing Sarai, but it leads to Terry's capture.  He escapes, but Sarai is quickly recaptured and taken to a boat where she is forced to sign over her fortune.  However, Terry tracks them down, and will do anything to complete his mission - even though a final battle with Junjo awaits him.

As I said before, this movie focuses on the action and the fights, relishing every violent moment.  There is a sudden X-ray shot of a man's skull being fractured, Terry castrating a rapist with his bare hands and many, many inventively violent brawls, including one with a blind swordsman in a sort of tribute to Zatoichi.  It is easy to see why the MPAA gave this an X (which at the time did not specifically mean pornography), but it isn't as shocking these days.  Not that violence itself seems tame, but it's the typical '70s effects - blood that is extreme bright red and almost the consistency of paint, as well as certain "organs" obviously being meat by-products.  Still, it's not the fake blood we're here for.  Sonny Chiba may not be as elegant a fighter as Bruce Lee, but he his fighting style is much more down to earth.

The movie does have some problems that are distracting.  Ratnose is one of the most annoying sidekicks ever (although Pin Boke in the sequel tends to be worse).  I get that Terry rescued him out of pity at some point, but cannot understand how he adds much to their partnership, as he isn't even skilled in the brains department.  He's largely comic relief, but his braying voice (at least in the dubbed version) makes him as funny as Jar Jar Binks.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this was the character Jar Jar was somewhat based on.

Another problem is something more people would recognize if this were an American film.  The only Black character in the entire movie is a sex-crazed rapist.  I think there could be some credence given to the fact that he's meant to represent a negative American stereotype rather than a racial one, but for Western viewers it is a difficult portrayal due past (and, sadly, sometimes current) prejudices in our society.  As said before, it is a pivotal moment from the film and one that earned it the reputation it has, so it's not something that can be ignored. 

I still enjoy this movie for what it is, which is a thin plot set up so that Sonny Chiba can spend 90 minutes beating the crap out of bad guys and look like a force of nature doing it.  He went on to do two direct sequels to this, have a part in the spinoff and be a successful actor in his native Japan for over four decades.  And, back around to Tarantino, he appeared as master Okinawan swordsman Hattori Hanzo in the Kill Bill films.

The Street Fighter (1974)
Time: 91 minutes
Starring: Sonny Chiba, Masashi Ishibashi, Goichi Yamada, Yutaka Nakajima
Director: Shigehiro Ozawa

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

I think I said it in my review of Aliens, but John Cameron is the guy you want to go to for sequels. Unfortunately, it usually means the sequels that come after it will increasingly ruin the franchise, but at least for one shining moment you get something that tops the original.  Cameron does this here with a sequel to his own movie that, along with Aliens, put him on the map.

John Conner (Edward Furlong) manages to get born thanks to the efforts of his mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton) to vanquish the original Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that was sent to kill her and prevent Conner from leading a rebellion against Skynet and its army of machines in the post apocalyptic future.  Things haven't gone too well for John in the present.  He spent most of his young years traveling and living with fringe groups, and his mother is now in a mental institution for her insistence that a nuclear war will occur in 1997 and allow the machines to rise.

John himself has become a bit of a delinquent, hacking ATMs for spending money and doing whatever he can to act out against his foster parents.  On one of his forays he discovers that a cop is looking for him, but it's no ordinary cop; rather it is a new type of Terminator, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), made from liquid metal and seemingly indestructible.  To combat the new threat, future John has reprogrammed one of the old Terminators and sent it back to protect him. 

The Terminator wishes to get John as far away from Los Angeles as possible, but John insists on breaking his mother out of the institution.  After some initial resistance, John discovers that the Terminator must do as he orders it, and the rescue commences, with the added caveat that only non-lethal force be used.  They succeed and flee to a desert outpost, where the Terminator reveals to Sarah the history behind Skynet.  It turns out that parts of the original Terminator were discovered by Cyberdyne, and computer genius Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) was the one behind the project.  The team decide that they must kill him and attack him at his home, but relent due to reluctance to murder him in front of his family.  Knowing the truth of what he is going to do, Dyson agrees to help them break into Cyberdyne and destroy everything so that Skynet will never come into being.

The T-1000 discovers this attempt and goes after them to prevent them from succeeding, and to finally remove both Conners from the timeline forever.

Despite the failure of The Abyss, John Cameron still had enough clout and money to make Terminator 2 bigger than the original in every way.  Since the original was a big hit, there was little hesitation.  The truck and motorcycle chase at the beginning is up there as one of the best car chases in cinema history, and Sarah's dream of the end of humanity still left the entire theater speechless, just like it did 25 years ago.  Happily, there is plenty of story to hang on the action sequences, and also like Aliens I prefer the pacing of the cinematic version to the director's cut. 

Looking back, it's not perfect.  Furlong's performance wasn't considered great back when the movie came out, and it's positively grating in a number of scenes now.  John Cameron also has a tendency to get heavy-handed when he wants to teach a lesson, a tendency that has not changed with him and was evident here, making many of the scenes between the action a bit awkward. 

One of the surprises is that the early CGI holds up quite well.  Cameron had previously worked with computer graphics to make many of the alien effects in The Abyss, and used it to greater lengths with the T-1000.  I thought that this would look corny today, but it still manages to look better than most special effects in modern films.  A good portion of it is Robert Patrick's ability to display a cold, indifferent malevolence, but none of the T-1000 effects make the mistake of turning the villain into a horribly rendered cartoon. 

It is still one of the best science fiction and action films of all time, and from here on directors increasingly made the stunts and chases in Arnold Schwarzenegger movies increasingly extreme and ridiculous, including Cameron's True Lies from 1994 (even though that was meant to be a comedy in many ways).  Schwarzenegger returned for the third sequel prior to forever tainting his previous career with a disastrous two terms as governor of California and personal scandals, and the Terminator franchise continues to circle the drain despite Arnie returning for the most recent sequel.  Watching this reminds me of a time when these movies were an event, rather than just an eye-rolling annoyance at our hopes for a return to this sort of quality in the series getting dashed once again.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Time: 137 minutes
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton
Director: John Cameron

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Enter the Dragon (1973)

Do I have to say much about Bruce Lee?  He is arguably the most famous martial arts film actor next to Jackie Chan, but has the dubious distinction of starring in a number of films while not actually walking the earth at the time.  Game of Death went as far as featuring footage from his funeral. He made a number of renowned films in Hong Kong prior to Enter the Dragon, created his own martial arts style and tried his best to promote his culture and philosophy to the world at large. 

As luck would have it, the movie he is most known for today was the one he made shortly before his death.  Enter the Dragon was one of the few movies of its type that actually bridged the gap between East and West film making, as even today it is hard to find anyone in Hollywood that can properly film a martial arts fight scene.  They still typically bring in Hong Kong choreographers to do the work. Here, Lee did most of the work, even a good portion of the directing if rumors are true.

Lee (Lee) is a trainee at a martial arts school who is contacted by British Intelligence.  A man named Han (Kien Shih), who used to be a student at the school, has founded his own institution on a private island.  However, rather than teaching martial arts, he appears to be building an army to support his drug and white slavery trades.  Another agent, Su Lin (Angela Mao) was sent to infiltrate Han's fortress, but they fear she may have been compromised. 

Lee agrees to attend a martial arts tournament to be held on Han's island.  Along the way he meets American martial artists Roper (John Saxon), who is hoping to win the contest to pay his gambling debts.  Roper also meets a former compatriot with whom he fought in Vietnam, Williams (Jim Kelly), who had the flee the U.S. after attacking two racist cops that cornered him in an alley.  Roper and Kelly initially take advantage of Han's hospitality, while Lee contacts Su Lin and realizes things are worse than they seem.

Williams has the unfortunate luck of being observed outside while Lee is forced to incapacitate some guards during his investigation, and becomes a prisoner of Han - something that Roper is quite unhappy about when Han shows him around in attempt to get the American to join his operation.  Instead, Roper throws in with Lee, who has his own motivations for revenge; turns out his sister committed suicide to escape being raped by a band of Han's men led by Oharra (Bob Wall), Han's chief henchman. 

There is not a whole lot of plot here, but in the end it isn't really the point.  It's fight the bad guy, get revenge, kind of rescue the damsel, with some of the most famous fight scenes in cinema history.  Han uses a number of attachments on his missing hand to equalize things, Lee relies on his discipline and skill while Roper relies on brute force.  Unfortunately, Jim Kelley, who was extremely skilled in martial arts, is not given enough to do.  Happily, he got a chance to shine in Black Belt Jones, Three the Hard Way and a number of other films that showcased his skills. Here, outside of his fight with the cops at the beginning, he is mainly left to be a plot device to get Roper motivated to do the right thing.

But that's a bit of quibble when we have Bruce Lee punching a cobra (for real), kicking the stuffing out of Oharra and fighting Han in a hall of mirrors.  I don't think the last part has ever been equaled, even in Hong Kong, although it's possible that the Shaw Brothers may have done something its equal.  We may have seen its equal down the line, had Lee lived.  Happily, he did leave us this to cap off his legacy, despite how so many exploiters (including the director of this movie) tried to besmirch it in the quest to milk his memory for cash.

Enter the Dragon (1973)
Time: 102 minutes
Starring: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelley, Kien Shih
Director: Robert Clouse


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

I had been aware of this movie for a while, but not aware that it was directed by Edgar Wright, who was also responsible for Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and other British films I had been fan of.  I should have been paying more attention. 

I also didn't really become aware of what the whole plot line of this film was until quite late.  It did look to me when I saw the previews that it was a typical film featuring a guy trying to get some inaccessible girl.  Again, I probably wasn't paying attention, as anything sounding like a romantic comedy since Love Actually went as far with that type of movie as possible makes me role my eyes.  Unlike many people, I have no opinion whatsoever on Michael Cera, so that never informed my opinion.

The video game element, once I started hearing more about it, got my attention.  Also what got my attention is the discussion of the "manic pixie dream girl," which has now been done to death and made blanket to throw over many female characters that were never meant as such.  I didn't have a name for it, but it was a trope in films that had bothered me for a long time, along with male romantic rivals being completely beyond the realm of belief.  Critics like to talk about the impossible standards established for women in the media, but rarely do they remember that another set of impossible standards is set for men. 

So, yes.  Other than some weird hatred of Michael Cera (which I really don't understand) I did go into this movie with some baggage, as well as anticipation.  Such is the modern way of ruminating over a subject and passing it through the internet like a cow with infinite stomachs.

Scott Pilgrim (Cera) is a 22-year-old living in Toronto.  He plays bass in an indie band called Sex Ba-Bomb! with a guitarist named Stephen Stills (Mark Webber) and drummer Kim Pine (Alison Pill), who dated Pilgrim in high school.  High school may have been quite important to Scott as is currently dating 17-year-old Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) despite the constant glares from Kim and comments from the rest of his friends.  He also lives in a one-room apartment with his gay friend Wallace (Kieran Culkin), who is also hinting that it might be time for Scott to be off on his own.

Scott decides that maybe his friends are right and tries, repeatedly, to break up with Knives, but doesn't have the guts - not even when Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the literal girl of his dreams, shows up in town.  Her reaction to him is initially icy, but things progress and they become an item.  There is one catch - Ramona has seven evil exes that Scott must defeat before he can be with Ramona.

This comes as a surprise after he deletes an email from Matthew Patel (Satya Babha), the first ex, which results in a surprise fight in a night club in which Scott uses his skills he has learned from old-school video games to defeat him.  From there the exes come fast and furious, becoming even more dangerous as they go along. 

While busy wooing Ramona, Stephen and Kim become increasingly concerned that Scott is letting Sex Ba-Bomb! down at a critical time when they could actually win a series of band battles and get a recording contract, eventually replacing him with Young Neil (Johnny Simmons), who largely just hung around and cheered them on.  The guy behind the recording contract, however, may not be who they think he is.  Meanwhile, Knives is also not to happy about being pushed aside for Ramona, and may become a force to be reckoned with as well.

First, the manic pixie dream girl thing.  This type of character was already being debated by the time the movie was made, and I don't see Ramona as such.  Ramona is largely her own person, and becomes even more so (for certain reasons) after Scott defeats the final ex.  Any interpretation that she is there simply as a catalyst for him to grow and learn is within his own mind.  Ramona never offers this nor encourages it.  Scott Pilgrim is not a likeable character in any sense; he is lazy, selfish and treats his friends like dirt.  He does grow and starts to realize what he has done, and not because of Ramona, but rather as the result of facing his own mortality and realizing this all on his own.  The final scenes show that Pilgrim has grown enough to see Ramona as a person rather than an archetype.

So, with that out of the way, the movie is an adaptation of a comic book series, and in fact a series that inhabits its own world.  What we have here, essentially, is low fantasy where music can manifest itself, a vegan can punch a hole in the moon and people explode into Canadian currency when they die. It has a plot that makes sense, but in the way that many dreams have a plot that makes sense but everything else doesn't.  The door imagery is especially telling that this may be either a dream that Scott is having one particular night and the doors are the different stages of this dream journey.  It could just as easily be his afterlife, and the doors representing his journey from one section to another as he works out the lessons he should have in life.  It is something that, as I said earlier, causes rumination, as there is much more going on here than funny quotes and pretty lights.

As for the performances, Cera fits Pilgrim well, and Winstead keeps Ramona a bit of a mystery, but not devoid of personality (especially when she really goes to town on one of her exes).  There is a deep, complex person there, but it is up to Pilgrim to find that out.  The band is hilarious, particularly Kim, and Aubrey Plaza almost steals the show as the over-achieving Julie, who is the opposite of Scott in every way.

So far Edgar Wright is on a winning streak (yes, I did like The World's End quite a bit, thank you) as a director, and I do need to pay more attention since I haven't anticipated a new director's movies so much since Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson before they became Hollywood darlings.  This movie, like the ones before it, will have you rolling on the floor with laughter, but there is so much beneath the surface that it is worth multiple viewings and discussion.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Time: 112 minutes
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Director: Edgar Wright

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

Ah, the internet.  The wonderful things it has brought us, and the horrors that it has wrought. 

Famously, Snakes on a Plane came about from a contest to come up with the worst pitches for a movie ever.  Somehow the idea got gained traction online, and Samuel L. Jackson even signed up for this hybrid of Under Siege and a low-budget Jaws ripoff, with the agreement that they would keep the name from the original draft. 

The result?  Some fanfare, a good performance by Jackson as always, but just as bad as the pitch would have made it sound.

Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) is on vacation in Hawaii when he witnesses crime kingpin Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson) murder a businessman.  He thinks he got away without being recognized, but Kim sends goons to kill him.  Luckily, FBI agent Neville Flynn (Jackson) also knows that Jones was a witness, and shows up in time to protect him.  Reluctant at first, Jones agrees to return to the mainland with Flynn and testify against Kim.

In a desperate bid to prevent Jones from testifying, Kim hatches a plot to lace the leis given to outgoing passengers with pheromones that drive snakes into a mating and killing frenzy.  Of course, in order for this to have any effect, he also has to make sure that there are cages full of poisonous snakes smuggled on board the plane, with timers set to release them while it is in flight.

At first things go as he plans, as the snakes inadvertently mess with wiring and then begin a full-scale attack upon the passengers and the crew.  However, with the help of various passengers and resourceful flight attendant Claire Miller (Julianna Margulies), Flynn tries to make sure the flight stays in the air and everyone survives to land in Los Angeles so they can bring Kim to justice.  On the ground, it is also a race against time to identify the snakes and prepare antivenom to administer when the plane lands.

In truth, these nature-gone-wild movies can sometimes be pretty good.  Snakes, however, have really never had a good movie about them.  Sssss! probably came closest, but usually we're stuck with stuff like Anaconda or the Asylum movies.  Disappointingly, this felt like of the latter, the only thing setting it aside from Asylum is the fact that it has actors that didn't need to get a weekend pass from rehab. 

Think that's harsh?  The CGI in this is horrible.  There are some real snakes used, but any time a CGI snake is used it is quite obvious, since none of their models act anything remotely snakelike.  The special effects crew barely took time to try to get them to blend in with their environment.  It is truly on a level of the animation from The Mummy 2

The other problem is that the makers know why this eventually got to be made, and it was simply because of the internet and people wanting to hear Samuel L. Jackson say that famous line about getting the snakes off the plane.  That is it.  A few shots of nudity and extra violence were thrown in since this was already going to get an R rating for that line, and in the end we have a movie that is practically mugging at the camera the whole time.

A shame since, if it hadn't been so self-referential and knew what it wanted to do, it could have worked the same way Volcano did in sending up these types of movies.  Jackson is great as always, but we get some memorable side characters in germophobic rapper Three G's (Flex Alexander) and his friend Big Leroy (Keith Dallas), the latter who steps in to save the day toward the end.  Also, the lecherous pilot turns out to be pretty interesting as well. 

In the end it turns out to be just barely this side of something you would see on SyFy.  It's a case of being careful what you wish for.  What you might get is a half-assed movie capped off by a music video featuring some of the worst rap-rock of the 2000s.

Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Time: 105 minutes
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips
Director: David R. Ellis


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Spy (2015)

Paul Feig said that one of the reasons he did Spy was because he knew that he would never get to direct an actual James Bond film.  My question to him would be, "Why do you think you should?"  If it was still the Pierce Brosnan era, I would think that it was because he couldn't do anything worse than Die Another Day, but with Daniel Craig the series has suddenly become something worth seeing again.

Still, after 50-some years, it doesn't matter who plays the British secret agent, or for that matter an American secret agent of similar caliber.  These movies have been done and redone, parodied and re-parodied, ever since Dr. No.  There have even been female secret agents, most notibly Modesty Blaise.  So why not try a fish-out-of-water comedy with one of today's famous comedy stars?

Well, it's Paul Feig, for one, and his idea of comedy largely relies on falling back on jokes about weight, gender and race, with a few bodily functions thrown in.  For some reason, critics liked this, and it got him the go-ahead for the Ghostbusters reboot.

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is the computer expert and brains behind CIA agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law).  When his allergies result in him accidentally killing international arms dealer Tihomir Boyanov (Raad Rawi) before he can reveal the location of some nuclear weapons he plans to sell on the black market, she must then guide him to the mansion of his daughter Rayna (Rose Byrne).  Rayna gets the drop on Bradley, and promptly drops him to Susan's horror.

It turns out that Rayna knew who Fine was because a mole had leaked information on all the secret field agents.  Despite the increasingly complex, and violent, suggests of agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham), Susan is able to talk her boss into letting her gather information on Rayna's whereabouts, as she's an unknown.  She is sent to Paris under a frumpy and unassuming identity to trail a man named Solsa Dudaev (Richard Brake), who has links to Rayna, only to find that Ford has gone rogue and is there in disguise to do the job that he thinks Cooper cannot.

Cooper proves capable of doing her job and ends up killing Dudaev when Ford blows both their covers.  Their findings lead them to Rome, where she is teamed with Sergio De Luca, an agent who has had numerous HR issues due to his "handling" of female agents.  From there, she quickly learns that things at the agency are not as they seem, and it truly is up to her intercept the weapons before they fall into the wrong hands.

The main problem with this movie is the humor.  I never saw Bridesmaids simply because it isn't something I would watch unless I was doing penance, and I love women in strong lead roles.  To that end, Melissa McCarthy is great, doing most of her own stunts and bringing Susan Cooper to life as a character I would love to see in a full series - as long as Feig wasn't behind it.  Despite working with her through various films, he can't let the fact that she's a large-sized woman go.  One of the running jokes is that everyone ignores her accept Sergio, who has a fat fetish. We get it; Melissa McCarthy is fat.  So what?  It would have been more humorous if that fact had been ignored the entire film.  The point was that she was an office drone suddenly coming to her own as a secret agent; size really had nothing to do with it.

The reason I am reviewing it here is because, as an action film, it really did get most things right.  Its violence and language earned it an R-rating, so kudos for not pulling punches there.  Jason Statham is the one place where the humor works, as agent Rick Ford goes over the most ridiculous ideas out of James Bond films and other spy films to come up with the most convoluted ways of doing his job, while Cooper just gets the job done.  Rose Byrne made a pretty good villain as well. 

While making a parody, Paul Feig accidentally made a halfway fresh action film with a number of great characters.  Too bad he gave into his baser instincts and ruined it with his half-baked ideas of comedy.

Spy (2015)
Time: 119 minutes
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Jason Statham
Director: Paul Feig