Argylle: 2 ½ stars
English director Matthew Vaughn is best known for making high-octane, high-concept action films like “Kick-Ass” and the “Kingsman” series. His new PG-13 spy spoof, “Argylle,” now playing in theaters, features his trademark busy, stylistic action, but feels like a toned down version—that is, less violent and less provocative. from his previous job.
The chaotic story begins with Bryce Dallas Howard as best-selling but reclusive author Elly Conway. Her life is as calm as the spy novels she writes are exciting. By day, it sends its main character, globe-trotting superspy Argylle (Henry Cavill) and his sidekicks Wyatt (John Cena) and Kiera (Ariana DeBose), on adventures to battle femme fatale LaGrange (Dua Lipa) in hopes of to take down a global spy syndicate called the Directory. After work, she spends some quiet time at home with a “hot date,” her beloved cat Alfie (the best spy movie cat since Blofeld’s Solomon) by her side.
That quiet life changes when she meets a real Argylle, Aidan (Sam Rockwell), a real spy sent to keep her safe.
“What you write about in your new book really happened,” he says, “and you kicked a hornet’s nest you didn’t even know existed.”
It turns out there’s a real Agent Argylle, some very bad people after her, and Ritter (Bryan Cranston), a deranged spymaster who thinks his books are too close to reality for comfort.
Drawn to real-world espionage, she, Aiden, and the cat find themselves thrown into a world wilder and certainly more dangerous than anything in any of her books.
“If you want your life back,” Aidan says, “I can give it to you. “I’m the good one here.”
A mix of “Mission: Impossible,” the James Bond franchise, and buddy comedies, “Argylle” is a confusing, confusing bit of semi-fun. Cartoonish and convoluted, the film is packed with over-the-top spy action, a top-notch cast, and a witty, scene-stealing performance from Rockwell, but it never quite comes together. Loose ends strangle the story’s progress, Vaughn occasionally falls into the film’s deep plot holes, and there are so many twists that even Chubby Checker couldn’t keep up.
It’s not until the film clocks in at half an hour, out of an overly long 139-minute running time, that Vaughn delivers two surprising action sequences. A “deadly” dance number and an untraditional figure skating routine are fun and have the kind of over-the-top energy you’ve come to expect from Vaughn. Both sequences entertain the eye, but also highlight what the rest of the film is sorely lacking.
Rockwell’s live performance provides most of the film’s laughs, but they are few and far between. As for the rest of the cast, most of them are underused. And you have to wonder why some of them, including Samuel L. Jackson and Richard E. Grant, even bothered to show up.
“Argylle” is on the PG-13 side. It’s an outrageous, twisted idea trapped in a film that’s afraid to really let loose.
Pop’s Biggest Night: 3 ½ Stars
If a bomb fell on A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood on January 28, 1985, the Billboard charts may never have recovered. Barring superstars Prince and Madonna, the entirety of American pop music royalty, 46 artists in all, gathered to check their egos at the door and record “We Are the World,” America’s response to supergroup Bob’s charity single. Geldof, “Do They.” Do you know it’s Christmas?
The song became the best-selling American pop single in history, selling 20 million copies and raising tens of millions for humanitarian aid under the umbrella of United Support of Artists for Africa. A new documentary called “Pop’s Biggest Night,” now streaming on Netflix, takes us behind the scenes of the historic recording session.
In the first third of the film, director Bao Nguyen sets the stage, “Behind the Music” style, using archival footage and new interviews with key players, to teleport the viewer back to the heady days of the original Macintosh personal computer. . and when “Purple Rain” made Prince the first artist to have a number one song, album and movie at the same time in North America.
Music icon and activist Harry Belafonte highlighted the success of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. raise awareness and funds to fight famine in Africa and launch the idea that would become “We Are the World.” Before long, fundraiser and music agent Ken Kragen came on board, raided his Rolodex, and brought together Lionel Ritchie, Michael Jackson, and producer Quincy Jones to create a song that would be sung by an all-star choir.
From composing the tune and the machinations involved in recruiting top talent, made easier by scheduling the session after the American Music Awards ceremony, when virtually the entire music industry was in Los Angeles for the event, to the placement of the With microphones and Jones’ famous “Check your ego at the door” sign, Nguyen quickly runs through the events that led to the actual recording.
It’s a simple set-up of the scene, leading to the extraordinary images taken that night, when some of the most famous people in the world came together to learn and record a song while filming the music video that would accompany the release.
This is where the documentary becomes more than just an episode of “I Love the ’80s.” The footage reveals the effort, raw talent and spirit of camaraderie among the legends, who almost immediately become dazzled fans, asking their idols for autographs between takes and expressing shyness when it comes to singing in front of music legends like Ray Charles and Bob Dylan.
There are funny moments (Cyndi Lauper’s numerous necklaces are identified as the strange sound that ruins take after take), some unexpected ones (Bob Dylan’s vocal insecurity, for example), and touching scenes of the performers overcome with emotion, including Diana Ross , who cried when everything was ready. “I don’t want this to end,” she said as they packed up the equipment around her.
In command is Jones. To manage the talent, egos and insecurity of a room full of superstars, Huey Lewis notes, “You have to be more than a great musician, you have to be a psychiatrist,” and it’s extraordinary to see Jones coddle, push and encourage this cluster. He knows what he wants and always seems to know how to get it. It is a notable peak in the work of a virtuoso.
“The Greatest Night in Pop” is an exercise in nostalgia and certainly doesn’t reinvent the music documentary form, but the work of the musicians gathered on that special night remains as inspiring today as it was 39 years ago.
Fitting: 3 stars
A quote from French existentialist philosopher Simon de Beauvoir sets the tone for writer-director Molly McGlynn’s semi-autobiographical sex comedy, “Fitting In.”
“The body is not a thing,” reads the title, “but a situation.” It’s the perfect sentiment to set the stage for this bold coming-of-age film about reproductive health.
16-year-old Lindy (Maddie Ziegler) lives with her therapist mother Rita (Emily Hampshire) in Sudbury, Ontario. Abandoned by her father years ago, she and Rita have survived and thrived, and now Lindy finds herself at a new high school with her best friend Vivian (Djouliet Amara) and her new boyfriend Adam (D’Pharaoh Woon). -A-Tai).
Anticipating being intimate with Adam, she makes an appointment with a gynecologist to prescribe birth control pills. She’s never had a period, so the doctor refers her to a specialist who, after a routine exam, matter-of-factly drops a bombshell. She has Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome, which means she was born without a uterus and will never be able to give birth or “have sexual intercourse without manual or surgical assistance.”
The news devastates her, leaving her ashamed and anxious, unwilling to accept help from Rita or her friends. Overwhelmed by doctors prescribing dilators (“It’s like boot camp for the vagina!”), her carefully crafted life begins to fall apart. There is tension at home, she quits the track team, and when she rejects physical contact, her relationship with Adam frays.
“Pretty much my worst nightmare is that people find out,” he says.
The only person she feels comfortable confiding in is Jax (Ki Griffin), a nonbinary, intersex schoolmate whose relationship with her body greatly helps Lindy move forward on her journey toward defining her sexual identity. “I don’t feel like a medicine object anymore,” Jax says. “I feel like being intersex gives me a superpower. Owning who you are, however you define yourself, is up to you. “No one should make you feel embarrassed about that.”
Frank and funny, “Fitting In” is described as a “trauma,” a combination of trauma and comedy. Director McGlynn certainly captures the struggle of Lindy’s situation, but does so with relatable humor. Much of that comes courtesy of Ziegler, whose on-screen naturalness makes her an audience surrogate, guiding us through the ups and downs of Lindy’s life. From vulnerable and nervous to self-possessed and impulsive, Ziegler captures the chaotic inner workings of a teenager faced with a life-changing situation.
Much of “Fit In” works well. McGlynn shows a deft hand with scenes involving gynecological healthcare visits, detailing the alienating way doctors advise their patients. The teen scenes feel realistic, and the “big teen movie speech,” where Lindy finally finds a way to express herself, has a nice vindicative feel, but at 106 minutes, the material overall feels overstretched.