Spy proves the power of British humor is limitless. This Britcom blends two wildly incongruous genres: the family comedy and the spy movie. James Bond as a single dad?!? What are they thinking?
Tim Elliot (Darren Boyd) is trying to raise his obscenely intelligent and persnickety son Marcus (Jude Wright). Despite being a recovering drug addict, his ex-wife Judith (Dolly Wells) is fighting for full custody. While searching for a job, Tim inadvertently stumbles into a government test and gets drafted into the secret organization MI5 by The Examiner (Robert Lindsay). Despite his bumbling nature, Tim manages to get through scrapes with the help of his co-worker/love interest Caitlin Banks (Rebekah Stanton) and his genius/burnout best friend Chris Pitt-Goddard (Mathew Baynton).
Spy is just fun. Boyd is able to get you to really root for his character. Sure, Marcus would rather live with his mother, Tim isn’t the best spy, and he’s desperately in love with his co-worker. You still want him to win. Wright is great at the overly precocious son. He gets into really elaborate hijinks at school, from gambling rings to elaborate school elections. Plus, there’s something about British schoolboys in uniforms that makes you believe they’re all geniuses. It may be the accent. Baynton has also gone on to star on another Hulu series, The Wrong Mans.
The series manages to pack a lot into a short show. Each episode, Tim must contend with some challenge from the case worker of his divorce, or a work issue usually instigated by the wildly inappropriate and inept Examiner, and still try and show Marcus some fatherly love.
This series is fun and its shorter episodes allow for really expedient binge watching. Luckily, both seasons of the series are available on Hulu.
Lauren Caulk / NYTVF
Just like Call the Midwife, Sherlock and all the other hugely entertaining British imports before it, action-comedy series The Wrong Mans will be all the rage. Stay ahead of that inevitable cocktail party conversation when everyone shows off their knowledge of the BBC's latest cultural contribution by catching it when it premieres on Hulu this month.
Co-created by Mathew Baynton (Peep Show), James Corden (Gavin & Stacey), and director/producer Jim Field Smith (Butter), The Wrong Mans stars Baynton and Corden as two aimless government workers who are caught in a web of intrigue and danger when they answer the wrong phone call. A screening of the first two episodes closed the 2013 New York Television Festival. Baynton and Field Smith were in attendance for a post-show Q&A, while recent Tony-winner Corden was stuck filming Rob Marshall's Into the Woods. The audience responded positively to the unique tenor of the show, with pyrotechnics and laughs coming at almost the same frequency. Baynton and Corden started dreaming up the show when they were working together on Gavin & Stacey, before teaming up with their third collaborator to put pen to paper. We asked what their writing process was like. "90% unproductive, talking about stuff that's nothing to do with the show; 5% going for lunch...," Field Smith said. "And 5% working on an actual TV program," Baynton finished. But they agree that even their goofing off had a positive impact on what's on screen. "I think having the two writers also be the stars of the show means there's some sort of in-built chemistry there," Field Smith said.
Check out the trailer for The Wrong Mans below and catch the series on Hulu on Nov. 11.
Making an earnest cinematic argument for the immortality of the soul and the existence of an afterlife without delving into mushy sentimentality is a difficult task for even the most gifted and “serious” of filmmakers. Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson discovered as much last year when his sappy grandiose adaptation of the ethereal bestseller The Lovely Bones opened to scathing reviews. Critics by and large tend to bristle at movie renderings of what may or may not await them in that Great Arthouse in the Sky.
And yet filmmakers seem determined to keep trying. The latest to make the attempt is Clint Eastwood who throughout his celebrated directorial career has certainly demonstrated a firm grasp of the death part of the equation. His filmography with a few notable exceptions practically revels in it: of his recent oeuvre Invictus is the only work that doesn’t deal with mortality in some significant manner. With his new film Hereafter Eastwood hopes to add immortality to his thematic resume.
The film's narrative centers on three characters each of whom has intimate experience with death and loss. Their stories in true Eastwood fashion can ostensibly be labeled Sad Sadder and Saddest: Marie (Cecile de France) is a French TV news anchor who’s haunted by disturbing flashbacks after she loses consciousness — and briefly her life — during a natural disaster; George (Matt Damon looking credibly schlubby) is a former psychic whose skills as a medium are so potent (the slightest touch from another human being triggers an instant powerful psychic connection a la Rogue from X-Men) they’ve left him isolated and alone; Marcus is a London schoolboy who retreats into a somber shell after losing his twin brother in a tragic car accident (both brothers are played rather impressibly by real-life twins Frankie and George McLaren).
Humanity offers little help to these troubled souls surrounding them with skeptics charlatans users and deadbeats none of whom are particularly helpful with crises of an existential nature. Luckily there are otherworldly options. Peter Morgan's script assumes psychics out-of-body experiences and other such phenomena to be real and legitimate but in a non-denominational Coast-to-Coast AM kind of way. Unlike Jackson’s syrupy CGI-drenched glimpses of the afterlife Eastwood’s visions of the Other Side are vague and eery — dark fuzzy silhouettes of the departed set against a white background. Only Damon’s character George seems capable of drawing meaning from them which is why he’s constantly sought out by grief-stricken folks desperate to make contact with loved ones who’ve recently passed on. He’s John Edward only real (and not a douche).
Marie and Marcus appear destined to find him as well but only as the last stop on wearisome circuitous and often heartbreaking spiritual journeys that together with George’s hapless pursuit of a more temporal connection (psychic ability it turns out can be a wicked cock-blocker) consume the bulk of Hereafter’s running time. We know the three characters’ paths must inevitably intersect but Morgan’s script stubbornly forestalls this eventuality testing our patience for nearly two ponderous and maudlin hours and ultimately building up expectations for a climax Eastwood can’t deliver at least not without sacrificing any hope of credulity.
It should be noted that Hereafter features a handful of genuinely touching moments thanks in great part to the film's tremendous cast. And its finale is refreshingly upbeat. Unfortunately it also feels forced and terribly unsatisfying. Eastwood an established master of all things tragic and forlorn struggles mightily to mount a happy ending. (Which in my opinion is much more challenging than a sad or ambiguous one.) After prompting us to seriously ponder life’s ultimate question Eastwood’s final answer seems to be: Don’t worry about it.