Film of the week: The Spy Who Dumped Me

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Film of the week: The Spy Who Dumped Me

Cert: 15A; Opens Wednesday


Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon in 'The Spy Who Dumped Me'
Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon in ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’
A grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) with Pooh Bear
The remarkable Orson Welles

Kate McKinnon was, for many people, the stand-out comedy act in the remake of Ghostbusters. If her humour is your humour, chances are you will find this spy pastiche funnier than I did. It’s not without chuckles, there are good scenes, but Susanna Fogel’s film seems unable to decide exactly what it is, whether action or comedy, and it suffers as a result.

Audrey (Mila Kunis) is a drab woman who has just been dumped – by text – by boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux), and her best friend Morgan (McKinnon) is trying to cheer her up. Drew reappears, it emerges he is a secret agent, and with his dying breath he asks that Audrey go to Vienna to fulfil his mission and save countless lives.

When another secret agent, the dashing Sebastian (Sam Heughan), gets involved it becomes less clear who the goodies and baddies really are. But the gals, bitten by the spy bug, are determined to save those countless lives all the same.

For the first part of the film McKinnon dials it down. To me, she is much funnier at a less manic pace and that whole first hour of the film works pretty well. Part of the problem lies in the fact that there is almost another full hour to go, which makes it too long. It takes its spy element pretty seriously, there is a lot of violence and while that does work, the need to resolve the plot doesn’t really. In a spoof, the plot details are secondary, or should be.

Overall the film is grand, the cast and writing are competent – what will make the difference for an audience between the odd chuckle and real laughter will be in how funny they find McKinnon.

★★★ Aine O’Connor

The Equalizer 2

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Heroes walking among us, their superpowers on standby lest bad guys threaten the world – you’re never far from this action blueprint these days.

But capes and gamma rays are not always necessary, as Antoine Fuqua’s moderate 2014 hit The Equalizer reminded us. It took the Taken mould, upped the violence and replaced a lumbering Ulster dad with a bookish hardware store clerk called Robert McCall (Denzel Washington).

Robert now drives an Uber-style taxi in Boston, ever watchful for ways to stick his nose in and help out.

These include breaking necks of nasty sorts, repainting graffitied walls and helping a Holocaust survivor find a painting of his long-lost sister. When a former CIA colleague (Melissa Leo) is killed while investigating an apparent murder-suicide in Brussels, he sets out to find her killers.

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Eventually, that is. Fuqua and writer Richard Wenk seem more concerned with showing what a good Samaritan Robert is while delaying the real show in town – grim revenge meted out by a teak-tough badass. OK, he helps old ladies cross the road, we get it – get on with the pummelling! Otherwise, stick to the story of a former operative who wants to make a difference at community level.

The confused, meandering course makes this difficult to get behind, while its idea of a climax is a CGI hurricane. Washington and a decent support cast – Leo, Bill Pullman, Ashton Sanders – struggle to save things. ★★ Hilary A White

Christopher Robin

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A grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) with Pooh Bear

 

Cert: G; Now showing

There are films that you can see where they intended to go, but still wonder at where they went. Christopher Robin is a case in a point, a somewhat unusual mix of theme and tone that ends up being neither a children’s film, nor an adult’s. It’s a live action film with some animation inserts – Pooh et al are shown as moving stuffed toys – all of which will appeal to children, but it is difficult to see who the target market is. Perhaps Pooh fans who are now adults undergoing a mid-life crisis?

Fans will recognise that Marc Forster’s film opens with the final scene from The House at Pooh Corner, where the animals are gathered to say goodbye to Christopher Robin who, at nine, is leaving for boarding school. The young Christopher (Orton O’Brien) and Pooh (Jim Cummings, who has voiced the bear and Tigger for 30 years) have a touching moment in their special place before the boy leaves, promising to never forget his childhood friends.

Boarding school, loss, life, love, war and work take their toll on Christopher Robin who has grown into Ewan McGregor and married Evelyn (Hayley Atwell). He works too hard, plays too little and it is there, about to lose his wife and daughter, that Pooh rediscovers Christopher.

It all gets a bit existential and gloomy forest for a time, before going back to being a fairly basic drama. It’s not bad, but it is a bit odd and I can’t see it thoroughly satisfying any audience, bar those now-adult Pooh fans in their own gloomy forests. ★★★ Aine O’Connor

The Eyes of  Orson Welles

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The remarkable Orson Welles

 

Club Cert; Now Showing

‘It’s the way I tell ’em,” was the catchphrase of one well known Northern Irishman. And the way he tells it is at the heart of the success of another well-known Northern Irishman’s documentary about Orson Welles.

It might be easy to assume that there isn’t much left to say about Welles, but Mark Cousins’s film is a kind of love letter, told through one of Welles’s lesser-known but enormous talents; his artwork.

A biography and analysis of Welles and his ongoing relevance benefits hugely from Cousins’s affection and insight. The story opens with Cousins gaining access to the vast collection of artwork. He begins speaking to the artist, “Dear Orson,” and so it goes, travelling through Welles’s life story; his family, politics, interests, beliefs, films, loves and travels, using footage, photos, those drawings and input from his daughter Beatrice too. It tells the complete story of a man of remarkable insight and talent whose views on fascism and McCarthyism are just as relevant today.

Mark Cousins will be at the IFI for a post-screening Q&A on Wednesday.

★★★★ Aine O’Connor

Sunday Indo Living

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