SPY (USA/15A/119mins)
Directed by Paul Feig. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, Peter Serafinowicz, Morena Baccarin, Jude Law.
THE PLOT: Susan Cooper (McCarthy) just might be getting tired of being the CIA’s top analyst, of sitting in front of a bank of screens and being the navigator for the cool agents out there fighting crime. Especially when those agents out in the big bad world keep messing up. Putting herself forward as an unlikely Janice Bond, Susan can certainly talk the talk, given her years of virtual combat, but can she walk the walk. A real concern, given that she’s not exactly at the peak of fitness. Still, big cheese Elaine Crocker (Janney) has faith in this plucky little chicken, and so the unlikely DD7 is sent to observer and report on cunning arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Byrne), her undercover work hampered somewhat by a jealous rival agent (Statham), an Italian loverboy with a fondness for chubbies (Serafinowicz), and a pencil-pusher navigator (Hart).
THE VERDICT: It’s a relief to see the highly likeable and downright huggable Melissa McCarthy lead a genuinely likeable and huggable movie once again, given her post-BRIDESMAIDS disasters IDENTITY THIEF, THE HEAT and TAMMY. Reunited with Bridesmaid director Paul Feig for a second time – after THE HEAT – McCarthy finally gets to have some real fun here, going full Fanny English as the spy who really knows too little.
Aided and abetted by some stock English cartoons – played by Jude Law, Jason Statham and Miranda Hart – the Americans (especially Janney and the always-reliable Rose Byrne) keep up their side of the bargain. A hoot. As they say in England.
Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by Alex Ross Perry. Starring Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter, Josephine de La Baune, Jess Weixler, Dree Hemingway, Keith Poulson.
THE PLOT: It’s not easy being an incredible writer – amen to that, brother! – and for Philip Lewis Friedman, the heaviest price is having to deal with people who just don’t believe that he’s an incredible writer. Who needs space. And love. And no one else. It’s something his girlfriend, Ashley (Moss), clearly doesn’t understand, and so, when Philip is given the chance to stay with noted writer Ike Zimmerman (Price) in his country retreat, he jumps at the chance. But will that finally make Philip centred, content and productive? Will it feck…
THE VERDICT: Written and directed by the multi-talented young Alex Ross Perry (who also acts, produces, etc agus etc), LISTEN UP PHILIP is a sweet swipe at creative types. And it will no doubt be loved and adored by creative types. The very thing that makes LISTEN UP PHILIP rich for the arty bastards set makes it poor for those with healthy, well-balanced pysches though – which may explain why the film didn’t quite catch fire in the US last year.
Schwartzman couldn’t be better cast, whilst Pryce has a ton of fun doing the pretentious old fart routine. Moss and Ritter work well too, having to justify characters who would stick around for an obnoxious misanthropic.
Review by Paul Byrne

FORTUNE’S WHEEL (Ireland/IFI/76mins)
Directed by Joe Lee. Starring Bill Whelan, Martin Tracy, Lorraine Kennedy, Bob Cuthbert, George Smith, Alice Hazley, Patrick Caufield, Tom Duffy, Michael Ingoldsby.
THE PLOT: Opening on the faithful night in November 1951, when one of Dublin lion tamer Bill Stephens’ animals escaped, and ran amok through the suburban town of Fairview. As we hear Radio Eireann broadcasts of the incident – including interviews with Stephens and the young pump attendant who got a heavy paw on the shoulder – and view paper clippings from around the world reporting on the wild night, those present recall the childhood chill and thrill of seeing the king of the jungle loose on their school grounds. It was the eventual Garda shooting of that lion that forced Bill into seeking out a new, fiesty lion – all the better to impress the audience, my dear – that risky decision leading us down a dark path as we also jump back to his early years as a drummer, and his growing love affair with animals…
THE VERDICT: Playing in its opening half-hour like a particularly excitable Nationwide segment mixed with the opening paragraph of a Roald Dahl story, as that naughty lion escapes one night and runs amok on the streets of Fairview, Joe Lee’s affectionate but slight documentary then settles into a mildly fascinating man who took his love of animals to the limit, and a little beyond. There’s no question that Dublin Bill Shepherd was a breed apart, but his story has a somewhat predictably tragic arc, even and he and his exotic wife Mai live out the gypsy life on the mean streets of Dublin.
Talking largely to those who were one-removed from those involved, or to those who were just fascinated by the story – including Bill Whelan, a local who inspired the film, and co-produced – FORTUNE’S WHEEL is a curious little beast of a movie, and one that will no doubt find its natural home on the small screen. Having said that, Lee does a fine job of recapturing some of the sweet madness of the man and his times, the opening collage of new and old footage playing against Kay Starr’s 1951 hit Wheel Of Fortune being particularly seductive.
Review by Paul Byrne