Posts Tagged ‘spies’

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Somewhere in Suburbia, USA, human resources drone Jeff Gaffney and his interior designer wife Karen (Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher) are living generic middle-class cul-de-sac lives when their curiosity and fascination is piqued by the arrival of new immaculate, world-traveled neighbors Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot).

Don Draper and Wonder Woman moving in next door would be enough of a counterpoint to the nebbishness of Galifianakis and Fisher, but there is, of course, more to the story as Tim and Natalie turn out to be government spies looking to bilk information about the high-security firm that their mild-mannered neighbor works for.

What follows is textbook formula for the “My friend is a spy!” genre, with Hamm and Galifianakis bonding over home-brew and a near snake poisoning  and Fisher playing the amateur sleuth whose suspicions leads first to a protracted and unfunny lingerie scene for Gadot and finally the big reveal that kicks that back half of the film into motion.

Of course Galifianakis and Fisher will be forced into a covert operation on behalf of God and Country. It’s a foregone conclusion, as are most of the major plot beats in the film equivalent of a paint-by-numbers sketch.

And yet, throughout the predictable proceedings, the charisma of the cast is able to keep things relatively afloat. Hamm and Gadot ooze charm without really bothering to show up and act, while Galifianakis and Fisher bounce off the walls. The results is a reasonably entertaining, albeit unmemorable, way to spend two hours with a soft PG-13 rating that allows for *just enough* adult humor in an otherwise harmless comedy.

Grade: B-

Keeping Up With the Joneses opens nationwide on Friday, October 21.

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When an atomic weapon falls into the wrong hands, two elite intelligence agents from the United States and Russia are forced to set aside their Cold War differences and work together to bring down a Nazi-influenced criminal organization.

That’s the set-up for ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” the latest from ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Snatch’ director Guy Ritchie. It stars current Superman Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo – a gentleman thief turned CIA master spy – and erstwhile Lone Ranger Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, an emotionally disturbed and volatile KGB operative.

One part Scotch-swilling period piece and one part buddy cop comedy, U.N.C.L.E. is a globe-trotting romp that keeps one eye firmly winked, evoking the memory of the classic James Bond films with all the befits of modern cinematic technology

The presence of Henry Cavill is a particular coup by Ritchie, who creates a world in U.N.C.L.E. that is the functional antithesis of Zach Snyder’s dour, monochromatic Man Of Steel. Ritchie’s spy-vs-spy tale is practically drowning in bright colors, jazzy soundtracks, double entendres and the gleaming white smiles of its leading men, who it turns out are quite winning when their actually allowed to enjoy themselves.

Hammer, lately adrift in the forgettable streak of Lone Ranger, J. Edgar and Mirror Mirror, takes a slight backseat to his costars, including Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander. But he’s also given plenty of screen time to chew on his faux-accent as a Russian volcano perpetually on the verge of eruption.

It’s easy to imagine studio heads pushing for a “gritty modern” remake of the Cold War-set property, but luckily the screenwriters resisted that urge. As intriguing as a forced U.S.-Russia team up in the modern era could be from a thematic standpoint, there’s no trading the bouncy charm of U.N.C.L.E.’s period details unencumbered by realism.

The bubble of style over substance threatens to pop in the film’s third act, when the action shifts to a frenetic car chase that – one signature stunt notwithstanding – plays jarringly generic after two hours of sizzle. And the ultimate resolution is as tidy one of Napolean Solo’s tailored suits.

But that breezy finish is also earned, and a late entrance by Hugh Grant provides an energy jolt for a sequel that Hollywood could – and has done – significantly worse than greenlight. At worst, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is guilty of being too enamored with its own sense of fun, which is hard to hold against it.

Grade: B

*The Man From U.N.C.L.E. opens nationwide on Friday, August 11.

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