CIA operative JJ (a tough-looking Dave Bautista) doesn’t do subtle. In My Spy’s opening scene, he blows his mission by blowing up too many people. The violence is somewhat comical and artsy, but JJ does a lot of killing for a PG-13 film (available on Amazon Prime).
JJ’s boss gives him one more chance with a new mission: Surveil widow Kate and her 9-year-old daughter Sophie. Kate’s brother-in-law Victor is a bad dude up to no good.
JJ and partner Bobbi (hilariously played by character actor Kristen Schaal) embark on a routine, boring assignment, until young Sophie (Chloe Coleman) busts them.
The plot unfolds without too many surprises: Sophie learns how a spy thinks and acts. JJ helps her with the challenges a kid without a dad faces.
Although contrived and predictable, the movie is enjoyable and genuinely funny at times. In an idyllic skating scene, Sophie asks JJ what he sees around him: “Ninety civilians. Minimal security. Soft perimeter. No cover.”
“I just see people smiling and having fun,” she responds.
Viewers may wonder about the intended audience of the poorly reviewed film: too much violence and coarse language for youngsters, but not sophisticated enough for adults. Producers are careful to avoid F-bombs in a PG-13 movie but have no filter when it comes to using God’s name in vain. Viewers may want to pass.
Top-Grossing Spy Movies
1. Despicable Me 2 (2013): $368 million
2. Skyfall (2012): $304 million
3. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007): $227 million
4. Mission Impossible II (2000): $215 million
5. Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002): $213 million
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Niko Tavernise/Sony Pictures
Almost A1 cinema
Film about the Battle of the Atlantic has good elements but needs more to get past middling
by Megan Basham
It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good. And the pandemic that exploded Hollywood’s traditional release model has acted as jet fuel to the expansion plans of streaming outlets. Case in point: Greyhound.
Based on the 1955 C.S. Forester novel The Good Shepherd, the World War II, inspired-by-true-events drama is about as prestige as it gets. Its writer and star is arguably the most A-list performer of our time, Tom Hanks. He plays United States Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause. He and his crew must provide escort to a convoy of Allied ships bringing troops and supplies across an area of the Atlantic known as the “Black Pit,” due to it being out of range of air cover. No surprise, Greyhound was originally scheduled to hit theaters on Father’s Day weekend—perfect timing to capitalize on summer crowds in the market for a dad-pleasing option.
When COVID-19 nixed that plan, many industry insiders expected Sony to shelve the film until fall. Instead, the studio partnered with Apple TV+ to release it on July 10 in a move entertainment news site Deadline described as “a real shocker.” Apple’s $70 million purchase marked the company’s biggest feature film commitment so far and could signal a turning point in the war for entertainment dominance. It could also signal that the streaming platform intends to make its mark by going less gritty than competitors Netflix and Amazon.
The thrilling action sequences and patriotic themes make it a shame other elements of the film don’t hold up as well.
As the USS Keeling, better known by call sign “Greyhound,” begins the hazardous trek toward Great Britain, Krause, who’s never commanded before, finds his tactical skill tested to the breaking point.
Often when studios promote films to Christian press as having a “faith element,” it means a character mentions a Bible or maybe wears a cross around his neck. Not so with Greyhound. Krause is no blink-and-you’ll-miss-it believer. In various situations he prays for wisdom to execute his mission, thanks God for preserving his life, and prods the men under him to remember casualties as “souls.”
More specifically, as he squints into the distant sea weighing how best to thwart Nazi U-boats known as “the wolfpack,” he counsels himself with Matthew 10:16: Be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove. The film is rated PG-13 for war violence and language, but quick asides of, “Sorry Captain,” whenever the crew let slip a profanity make it clear Krause doesn’t approve, no matter the provocation.
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Bad Education is a good lesson
Student journalism shines in HBO movie
by Megan Basham
Real-life tales of intrepid journalists bringing down corrupt powers are staples in film and television. HBO’s new made-for-cable movie stands out not just for its A-list lead (Hugh Jackman), but because the reporter who breaks the story is a teenage girl.
The publication: her high-school newspaper. The power she takes down: the administration of her school district, one of the highest-ranked in the nation.
As New York Magazine reported in the article that inspired the screenplay, a “diploma from Roslyn High School is the closest you can get on Long Island to a ticket to Harvard.” So parents and school board members pretend they don’t see the idiosyncrasies in their beloved superintendent’s personality or the discrepancies in his assistant’s accounting.
That’s not good enough for junior journo Rachel (real name Rebekah Rombom), who unearths that Frank Tassone’s entire life is a lie.
Along with frequent bad language, Tassone’s secret long-term relationship with one man and short-term encounters with another, represented by several scenes of kissing, account for a “Mature Audiences” rating. Those drawbacks notwithstanding, Bad Education illustrates journalism’s purpose. Media powerhouses could learn a lot from a high-school girl.