Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, and Jamie Denbo in SpySPY

Writer/director Paul Feig's Spy opens with an incredibly funny gross joke involving a sneeze, closes with an incredibly funny reveal involving a one-night stand, and somehow manages to stay incredibly funny - in addition to smart and clever and sweet - for most of the two hours in between. It's an action spoof about a gifted yet timidly self-conscious CIA desk jockey (Melissa McCarthy) who finally gets to release her inner Jane Bond, but the numerous vehicular chases and shoot-outs and danglings from helicopters are practically beside the point. Here, the comedy is the action.

I can't think of the last live-action movie in which the gags, for the whole of its length, were paced like those in a first-rate episode of The Simpsons, or more precisely Archer; when you're not laughing in Spy, it's quite possibly because Feig merely wants you to catch your breath. Everyone is hilarious in this thing. McCarthy gets to be both hysterically polite (as she sometimes was in Feig's Bridesmaids) and hysterically coarse (as she oftentimes was in Feig's The Heat), and her agent Susan Cooper - a truly singular comedic creation - is so effervescent a presence that everyone around her seems determined to breathe the same magical air. You feel it in the brilliantly breezy insults that fly between McCarthy and Jason Statham (delivering a riotous parody of Jason Statham machismo), and the dripping cynicism of Allison Janney as Susan's supervisor, and everything to do with Rose Byrne, whose staggeringly blasé contempt as a Bulgarian baddie had me wiping away happy tears. Add to this Jude Law as a suave and clueless American super-agent, the fierce British comedians Miranda Hart and Peter Serafinowicz, Bobby Cannavale's hands-flailing run to his chopper, CIA offices overrun by rats and bats, untimely pinkeye, unexpectedly handy stool softener, a Beaches wristwatch, and 50 Cent performing a concert in Budapest, and you have, in Spy, the thus-far most uproarious and inventive comedy of 2015. True, it's about 20 minutes too long. If I ever complain about laughing for too many minutes, remember to smack me.

 

Lin Shaye in Insidious: Chapter 3INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3

Insidious: Chapter 3 isn't very good, but it is somewhat inspiring and rather revolutionary: Can you name any other horror movie whose protagonist and chief ass-kicker is a woman in her 70s? Much of this prequel to 2011's stealth hit Insidious concerns a teenage theatre geek (the lovely and unforced Stefanie Scott) who, following a near-death experience, finds herself and her apartment complex visited by a malevolent demon from that Lynch-ian spiritual plane known as "the Further." (Given her building's structural resemblance to the Barton Fink hotel, with its puke-green walls and decaying hallways, she's lucky the demon isn't joined by John Goodman's shotgun-wielding psycho.) Yet because it's a prequel, and because writer/director Leigh Whannell is no fool, that means that this continuation can also boast a terrific amount of screen time for the eternally luminous Lin Shaye, whose previously killed-off psychic Elise emerges as this installment's true heart and soul. Despite a few strong shocks and an unexpectedly excellent Dermot Mulroney performance, the film is a bit on the bland and pokey side, and while my crowd appreciated their antics, I still don't get why the amateur ghostbusters played by Whannell and Angus Sampson have to be so overtly, and unsuccessfully, wacky. Every moment with Shaye, however, is a delight. With her haunted silences and gravely earnest readings that transcend camp, this septuagenarian wonder adds both depth and lightness to what could've been a fairly standard creep-out, and makes you hope that Insidious: Chapter 3 isn't the last we'll see of Elise - not when Shaye is clearly having so much fun racing about, navigating shadowy netherworlds, and provoking a black-clad specter with "Come on, bitch!" Let's see Judi Dench do that.

 

Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier, and Kevin Dillon in EntourageENTOURAGE

Years before the activity had a name, I hate-watched the first three-and-a-half seasons of HBO's Entourage, which held a perverse fascination for me even though the raunchy sitcom never made me chuckle and nearly every episode left me angry. I finally stopped, though, when it became clear that I'd been reading the show all wrong. It wasn't about five insufferably entitled, obnoxious Hollywood douchebags who'd be getting some deserved comeuppance. It was about five insufferably entitled, obnoxious Hollywood douchebags whose most hedonistic dreams, week after week, would keep coming true. (Even Vincent's notorious flop Medellin scored him limitless integrity points, and Johnny Drama got laid way more frequently than any charmless no-talent should.) Needless to say, millions of viewers lasted four-and-a-half seasons longer than I did, and now we have an Entourage movie, written and directed by series creator Doug Ellin. I hate-watched this, too. But if my screening's loud laughs - especially when anyone, for any reason, said or shouted the F word - and end-credits applause are any indication, fans will be ecstatic. Watch Adrian Grenier continue to play Vincent as the planet's least charismatic mega-star! Watch Kevin Connolly continue to mistake whiny smugness for decency! Watch Kevin Dillon continue to make dumb-guy faces suggesting painful constipation! Except for Jerry Ferrara's newly svelte Turtle, it's all just another Entourage episode in super-size form, complete with louder Jeremy Piven yelling, more copious bare boobies, and a longer celebrity-guest list - if Bob Saget, David Faustino, and Chad Lowe even still qualify as celebrities. "There is no Entourage 2!" shrieks an overjoyed Titus, to much applause, in Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. "There is no Entourage 2!" Don't bet on that, Titus.

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