Saturday
Aug042018

SHAKEN AND STIRRED // A FILM REVIEW OF "THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME"

BY MATEO MORENO

McKinnon. Kate McKinnon. Though she is technically the supporting character, THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME is unequivocally her film. The insanely talented comedian from SNL has one by one begun building a resume outside of the famous sketch show that catapulted her into stardom and show that she is a force to be reckoned with. The film starts off with a birthday party in Los Angeles mixed with an action sequence shootout in Lithuania. You know, as most films do. Audrey (Mila Kunis) has been dumped and her friends have come together to celebrate her birthday. Her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) is loud and loyal, the kind of friend that movies usually try to tell you are too ridiculous, but we all know we have one of them in our life, and they're amazing. They bond is solid, they'd do anything for each other, and Morgan is determined to make Audrey forget about the jerk who dumped her (Justin Theroux, better known as Drew or to be a bit more clear, the Spy in the title). 

 

Eventually, Drew shows back up in LA and Audrey and Morgan get mixed up in all of the shenanigans. He entrusts Audrey with a secret, one that she must get to Vienna, and so they go. And I say both of them because there is no way either of them would leave the other alone in this mess. And that's what's refreshingly different about this buddy comedy. There is no oil and vinegar match. They don't hate each other a second in this film. They are best friends and the most reliable person each of them can count on. Not only does that seem obvious, but it's radically rare in a film. And although there is romance sprinkled throughout the film, it's literally and afterthought, as the main show is these two ladies and the fact that they are somewhat bumbling, but they're also pretty good at this.

 

 Director Susanna Fogel (who co-write the script with David Iserson) directs the film with a snappiness and sharpness that keeps the film zipping along. The action is sometimes brutal (after all, we are in a spy film) and the punchlines are usually wonderfully sharp (one highlight is a fantastic car chase in an Uber that really cements any notion that these two are simply made for each other). There's also some great supporting turns from Hasan Minhaj, Jane Curtain, Paul Reiser, Gillian Anderson, Ivanna Sakhno, and Sam Haeughan (who trades his Outlander Scottish wear for some more form fitting clothes). Yes the film is just a tad too long in the final act, but that hardly matters with Kate McKinnon literally tearing up the screen in every possible frame. Mila Kunis essentially plays it straight, but her great chemistry with McKinnon helps sell the relationship solidly. It's not rewriting the playbook of buddy action films, but it's doing it better than usual. And that's something to celebrate.

 

MATEO'S GRADE: B

SCREENPLAY BY Susanna Fogel and David Iserson DIRECTED BY Susanna Fogel STARRING Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Hasan Minhaj, Jane Curtain, Paul Reiser, Gillian Anderson, Ivanna Sakhno, and Sam Haeughan. Now playing in cinemas everywhere.

 

Saturday
Jun302018

HELLO BROTHER, HELLO BROTHER // A FILM REVIEW OF "THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS"

BY MATEO MORENO

If you were old enough in the early 80's to remember the story of the triplets who found each other after being separated by birth, this story may seem familiar to you. Perhaps you even remember their cameo as, well, three identical twins checking out Madonna on the street in Desperately Seeking Susan." But even if you remember all of that, you probably don't remember what happened next, or how bizarre and twisted the happy go lucky reunion of the three twins went. Director Tim Wardle presents all of the compelling and surreal details in his new documentary THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS.

In the beginning of the tale we meet Robert Shafran. He's a 19 year old college freshman arriving at school, Sullivan County Community College. As he enters, suddenly people are hugging him, high fiving him, even embracing him and kissing him. All of them are telling him it's "great to see him again," though he's never stepped foot at this school. He's perplexed and confused and when he arrives at his dorm room and even more thrown when his new roommate Michael Domnitz runs and says, "When were you born?" His roommate has figured it out. The entire school thought that Robert was a man named Eddy Galland, someone Robert looks exactly like. And for good reason. Eddy is the twin Robert never knew he had. So they take off in the middle of the night and it's like seeing double. The twins have found each other. But it doesn't end there.

Soon, after the media picks up on their story, a third twin named David Kellman is discovered, and now these boys each have two brothers they never knew he had. Not only are they identical, but they have the same smile, the same mannerisms, seem to like the same things. And oddly enough, each one of them come from a family where they have one adopted sister. They were also all placed in their respective homes by the same agency, Louise Wise Services. The media eats it up and they appear everywhere, talk show after talk show, magazine covers, you name it. But this seemingly "Happily Ever After" tale is about to grown much stranger, and sadly, much darker.

Director Wardle frames the film with both documentary footage and short snippets of recreations. And even as you start to realize something odd is afoot, you won't guess what it is until it happens and the fallout is fascinating, and incredibly frustrating. The boys speak to the camera in modern day, retelling the most exciting moment of their young lives and take us through what became the most turbulent years. It's a startling, twisting, and fascinating documentary. One that you have to see to believe. And once it's over, if you're like me, you'll be so frustrated that you'll start googling information that you've just found out from watching the film, hoping to find some evidence that a story like this will never happen again. But it just might because after all, we don't live in fairy tales with a guaranteed happy ending, do we?

 

MATEO'S GRADE: B+

DIRECTED BY Tim Wardle STARRING David Kellman, Robert Shafran, Eddy Galland. Now playing in select cinemas.
Sunday
Apr292018

"MARY SHELLEY" // TRIBECA 2018 REVIEW

Elle Fanning stars as the title character in MARY SHELLY, the new film that explores the real creator of Frankenstein. No, we're not talking about Dr. Frankenstein here, we're speaking of Mary Shelley, who started this future masterpiece when she was only 18. She's a teenager who was fond of spooky stories and helps out at her family's bookstore. Her mother has died at birth and her father, William Godwin (Stephen Dilane), sends her away to Scotland where she meets her first love, poet Percey Shelley (Douglas Booth). He's older and married, so a traditional romance is out of the question. But a romance begins none the less. She ends up, with her stepsister Claire (Bel Powley) by her side, running away from him and finding out that a fairy tale ending is far from the projected path of her story.

 

The film is shot beautifully but fails to really latch onto who Mary was, or what drove her and inspired her spark of genius. The juiciest parts of the film sadly lay in the male cast (particularly Douglas Booth and a terrific Tom Sturridge as Lord Byron). Being that the writer and director are both females and the film tells of one of the great female trailblazing writers, this seems like a big misstep. Elle Fanning is good, but dull, and I'm not so sure that's her fault, as she's a magnetic actress elsewhere. Here, the film mismanages her talents and keeps us, and the audience, at an arm’s length away from both Fanning and Shelley. There's a very conventional tale being told in this film (just listen to the oddly placed soundtrack), but her life was anything but.

VERDICT: SKIP IT

WRITTEN BY Emma Jensen DIRECTED BY Haifaa al-Mansour STARRING Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, Joanne Froggatt, Tom Sturridge, Maisie Williams. Playing as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. 

https://www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/mary-shelley-2018