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Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘Spy’ is More Fun than it Should be

posted by jtotey
Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy star in Spy. (20th Century Fox)

Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy star in Spy. (20th Century Fox)

The beloved Melissa McCarthy seems to have as many hits as she does misses when it comes to her choices of movies that she appears in. She is a very funny lady with a talent that Hollywood hasn’t pin-pointed how best to use. She has been praised for her raunchy performance in Bridesmaids (2011), was just “so-so” in the Sandra Bullock buddy comedy The Heat (2013) and was panned equally for both Identity Thief (2013) and Tammy (2014). But in Spy, she shines.

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Spy is one of the best comedies I have seen in years, but it was a harder “R” than I was expecting due to the large amount of profanity, violence and tasteless jokes. The thing is, the film didn’t need any of that to be funny. Those were not the things that this film great and unfortunately, tarnish it. As a Christian, there is much to be offended with here, but darn it, it’s is still very well done.

Set up like a James Bond knock-off, complete with it’s own Bond-like theme song and beginning titles, Spy is fun from the very beginning. McCarthy is absolutely adorable as Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst who works behind the scenes with special agent and partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law). She acts as his eyes and ears in the basement of a CIA office while he takes his life in his hands out on the field. However, when Fine “falls off the grid,” is it up to Cooper to go undercover to take over where he left off with her very first case out of the office.

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Like Rodney Dangerfield, Cooper gets no respect in the choices of new identities that she is tasked with and her experiences as a spy is not as glamorous as she hopes. While on the field, she has to fight against rogue agent, Rick Ford (a hilarious but foul-mouthed Jason Stratham) from messing up her mission to find the infamous Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne). She is aided by fellow basement co-worker, Nancy (Miranda Hart) and is set free by boss woman, Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney).

There is a not a weak character in the bunch and McCarthy and Hart work incredibly well together. Sort of a Cagney and Lacey thing. Byrne plays evil very well and has an acid tongue that makes you long for her to get smacked. For a comedy, the film features a lot of well-done action/fighting scenes.

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Although the movie features a great cast, McCarthy is the one who keeps it all balanced. The biggest issue I had with her character is that she is fairly mousey in the beginning and then later finds her voice while out on the field. To the filmmakers, that meant that she had to enlarge her potty-mouth vocabulary as well, which was not only unnecessary, but its comedic value worn thin pretty quick. The “F” word is thrown around with abandon and for a movie that spoof a Bond flick, it is a lot more foul than the films that inspire it. A few more edits could have made this film a lot more palatable to audiences. Susan Cooper is truly a “good guy” and a hero to root for. Expect to hear news of a sequel soon as this is sure to be a huge summer hit.

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Psst…the Secret of ‘The Whispers’ is a Good One

posted by jtotey
“The Whispers” star Lily Rabe as Claire Bennigan, Barry Sloane as Wes Lawrence, Milo Ventimiglia as John Doe, Derek Webster as Jessup Rollins, Kristen Connolly as Lena Lawrence, Kylie Rogers as Minx Lawrence, and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf as Henry Bennigan. (ABC/Bob D’Amico)

“The Whispers” star Lily Rabe as Claire Bennigan, Barry Sloane as Wes Lawrence, Milo Ventimiglia as John Doe, Derek Webster as Jessup Rollins, Kristen Connolly as Lena Lawrence, Kylie Rogers as Minx Lawrence, and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf as Henry Bennigan. (ABC/Bob D’Amico)

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When the first trailers for ABC’s The Whispers began to play, I rolled my eyes. How could a show about children with evil imaginary friends be any good? Then I watched the first two episodes and confess – it looks pretty good. On the other hand, I said the same thing about Resurrection which failed to excite during its second season and now we’ll never know what happened! I fear that the fate of The Whispers could be same as I don’t see how they can maintain the story each week and not run out of plot. Then back on the first hand, Lost continued its mysteries for years, so you just never know.

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First of all, the show’s executive producer is Steven Spielberg who knows a little something about storytelling. It’s been awhile since he’s done anything scary and this show has the potential to scare, especially one of the opening scenes involving a cute little girl, her mother and a treehouse. The rest of the show however is more omnibus than scary.

The Whispers appears to be a mixture of soap opera, mystery, science fiction and possibly horror. As you’ve seen in the commercials, children are targeted by someone or something named Drill. He speaks through lights and whispers. At first, it seems that the children are picked randomly, but after a short bit, you begin to understand their connection to each other. Drill offers his friendship to these children wants to play “games” with them. If the kids win their “game,” they get something good, but if they fail … let’s just say that they don’t want to disappoint Drill. Why would kids want to hang around such a scary being? Drill has a few more tricks up his metaphorical sleeves.

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In one particular disturbing “game,” FBI child specialist Claire Bennigan (Lily Rabe) is called in to interview the child who “won.” What she doesn’t know though is that her own son, Henry (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), is friends with Drill as well. The two are still grieving the death of Sean, the husband and father of this familly, who lost his life in a military jet crash. Dee Wallace, the actress who played the mom in Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, plays Henry’s grandmother. A roll that is way to small for this actress.

Meanwhile, over in home of Defense Department operative Wes Lawrence (Barry Sloane), he and his wife are trying to patch up their marriage after an extramarital affair on his part. His wife Lena (Kristen Connolly) wants to trust him but the women in question is a co-worker of his. But his hidden affair is not his only secret. While he was out on a recent business trip to the Sahara Desert, he finds a strange geological phenomenon without out any real explanation. And, as you might suspect, while the couple are busy arguing, their daughter, Minx (Kylie Rogers) has made a new friend, too.

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So, all in all, The Whispers starts out with a great premise and cast. If the show can sustain its balance of mystery and family dynamics, it could have a long shelf life. The fact that the show features yet another story of a family torn apart by marital infidelity is annoying, but at least here, the past mistakes make for a better storyline, not just scandal. It has the potential for high drama and earnest forgiveness if done right.

The Whispers airs at 10:00 p.m. on Mondays on ABC.

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Duchovny Leads ‘Aquarius’

posted by jtotey
Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) and Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) try to track down the whereabouts of a missing teenager in Aquarius. (NBC)

Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) and Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) try to track down the whereabouts of a missing teenager in Aquarius. (NBC)

While it won’t fit the bill for those who are missing Mad Man, the new Aquarius is centered on the 1960’s with all the music, fashion and mayhem of the era. The show is about the rise of popularity of Charles Manson set two years before the Tate-LaBianca murders. It stars David Duchovny as Sam Hodiak, a decorated World War II veteran and homicide detective who lives in a world that has turned upside down.

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The show begins with Sam receiving a phone call from an old girlfriend asking for his help in finding her 16-year-old daughter, Emma (Emma Dumont), who has disappeared within a group of hippies. The mother of course is distraught, but the father (or stepfather) seems unconcerned. He says that the return of Emma is the moist important thing, but he is really concerned how his reputation will look if this story makes it on the news.

Sam enlists the help of Brian Shafe (Grey Damon), a young undercover cop, to help find Emma. Both cops play by different when it comes to police matters, but together they make a good team. However, it becomes clear in the first couple of episodes that values in the world have become murky. Cops are allowed to do drugs in order to “fit in” the counterculture which compromises the safety of others.

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The storyline is shown from various points of view including Emma’s and how she could get mixed up with Manson in the first place. Charles Manson is played by Gethin Anthony, portraying a creepy yet charismatic leader with dreams of becoming bigger than the Beatles.

I cannot comment on the accuracy of the historical fiction series, as I know very about Charles Mansion or his followers, but I can comment on the show Aquarius. It’s a little confusing, eye-opening and a good police drama. It is hard to say how graphic the show’s content will become in the coming weeks, but the first couple of episodes deal with controversial subject matters in a tasteful manner. Is there anything redeeming about watching the series other than entertainment? Only time will tell.

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Fans of David Duchovny will enjoy this show as his character isn’t a far distance from his former X-Files character that is he is best known for. This show is also an experiment of sorts for NBC. After tonight’s broadcasts, all of the remaining episodes will be available to watch for free binge-viewing on NBC.com and other video-on-demand platforms. It is the first of the traditional TV networks to do so.

Aquarius airs on Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. on NBC.

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Summer Shows – Let the Games Begin

posted by jtotey

Summer TVNow that we got most of the series and season finales done, summer time game shows hit the small screen in a big way. This week, eight new and/or returning reality/game shows debut with a total of 13 or so debuting in the coming months. NBC is the leader of pack with the largest selection of shows which makes sense since they have had good luck with ratings for American Ninja Warrior, America’s Got Talent and Last Comic Standing – all three returning. But, all of the four major networks have something new to share. One notable absence is Wipeout, the silly slapstick competition show that’s been a summer staple on ABC. The “official” page has been taken down from the ABC website, so there’s no telling if or when the show will reappear. However, Here’ is what you can look forward to this week – starting tonight!

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(Photo by: Kyle Rivas/NBC)

(Photo by: Kyle Rivas/NBC)

American Ninja Warrior
Show: Returning
Network: NBC
Premieres:May 25
Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila return for American Ninja Warrior’s 7th season with the addition of Kristine Leahy from CBS Sports as co-host. Over the six previous years, none of the contestants have been successful in completing the entire course (modeled after the famed Mt. Midoriyama course in Japan) and claimig the $500,000 prize. This year, over 700 contestants are participating in the course which includes 23 new obstacles.

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(Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

(Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

The Island
Show: New
Network: NBC
Premieres: May 25
Premiering after American Ninja Warrior, The Island features famed survivalist (and Christian believer by the way) Bear Grylls and a group of 14 men alone on an deserted island with nothing but the clothes on their backss. Unlike other reality shows, no one gets “voted off,” no one will win a big prize and even the filming will not be done by professional photographers during the six-episode series. The contestants will be filming all of the action themselves. The Island is based on the UK show of the same name.

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Pictured: Chapkis Dance Family -- (Photo by: Isabella Vosmikova/NBC)

Pictured: Chapkis Dance Family — (Photo by: Isabella Vosmikova/NBC)

America’s Got Talent
Show: Returning
Network: NBC
Premieres: May 26
This year marks the 10th season of America’s Got Talent, a huge talent show of amazing proportions. Once again, Nick Cannon returns as host as do judges, Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B. and Howie Mandel – the best pairing in the show’s history. They are honest and yet kind to the contestants…even Stern. Unlike shows like American Idol, contestants of all ages are welcome to audition from around the country to compete for the $1 million prize.

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(Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

(Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

I Can Do That
Show: New
Network: NBC
Premieres: May 26
Labled as a one-hour comedy/variety series, I Can Do That features Marlon Wayans as host to a variety show that features six celebrities with doing a number of acts using skills that they didn’t even know that they have. The six-week show features no judges, eliminations or prizes. Contestants include Cheryl Burke, a cancer from Dancing with the Stars, recording artists Ciara, Joe Jonas and Nicole Scherzinger, national standup comedian Jeff Dye and actor Alan Ritchson. Each week, in front of a live audience, the six cast members will enter a friendly rivalry as they choose their favorite act — what they think they can master — and who they would like to pair up with to master that act. The acts will span every variety of entertainment from song and dance to magic and danger. They will also feature some of America’s biggest-name performers in a guest-starring role.

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(Photo: FOX)

(Photo: FOX)

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader
Show: Returning
Network: FOX
Premieres: May 26
After being off the air for some time, the popular game show returns for a summer run with new students aiming to assist “grown up” contestants in winning the $1 million prize money. All of the questions are based on various school subjects. This year’s show features a $10,000 level where the prize money will go toward a deserving school. One again, the show is hosted by Jeff Foxworthy and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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(FOX)

(FOX)

Bullseye
Show: New
Network: FOX
Premieres: May 27
Created by the same folks who created the then-popular Wipeout for AMC, this new gameshow features four contestants with challenges for both their brains and bodies with the simple task of hitting the bullseye … literally. Challenges will take place on land, in the sea and in the air. Only the “sharpest” will continue on from each round. A sample of the types of challenges they will face includes a moving 18-wheeler, being pulled by a helicopter and acting as a human slingshot being projected hundreds of feet through the air. The show is hosted by Kellen Lutz and the comedian Godrey.

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briefcase_logo

(CBS)

The Briefcase
Show: New
Network: CBS
Premieres: May 27

Created by the executive-producer of The Biggest Loser, The Briefcase has a bit of a complicated premise: Each week, two families have 72 hours to learn details about each other’s challenging circumstances and make the weighty decision of what to do with $101,000. However, what they don’t know is that the family with whom they are considering sharing this financial windfall received an identical briefcase with the same instructions. Throughout their journeys, relationships within both families will be tested and beliefs questioned as they find out what really matters most in their lives, and how much importance they place on values such as love, generosity, compassion and faith.

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(FOX)

(FOX)

So You Think You Can Dance
Show: Returning
Network: FOX
Premieres: May 28
For the show’s 12 season, choreographer, performer, singer and songwriter, Paula Abdul and singer/songwriter and dancer Jason Derulo will join Nigel Lythgoe and show host, Cat Deeley. The show is the same with a slightly different theme: stage dancers vs. street dancers.

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