Sam Woolf: Spy
In what’s become the most fruitful mainstream comedy actor/director pairing since Ferrell met McKay, Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig are at the top of their respective games with Spy. Both have shown plenty of promise up until now, but this crafty, endearing and ridiculously enjoyable espionage comedy raises the bar across the board.
Thanks to an unpredictable lead performance from McCarthy, smart direction from Feig, and one of the funniest supporting casts since the first McCarthy-Feig joint, Bridesmaids, Spy is a revelation disguised as just another genre romp in the vein of The Heat.
Instead of simply making fun of secret agents and C.I.A. spooks, Spy delivers the goods as both an exciting action movie and a laugh-out-loud comedy. Its sense of humor may be crass, but Spy has far more intelligence than your average cloak-and-dagger blockbuster.
Isaac Feldberg: Kingsman: The Secret Service
Move over, James Bond – director Matthew Vaughn’s gloriously violent, gleefully subversive send-up of the spy genre may have ruined more traditional espionage pics for the foreseeable future. Simultaneously mocking everything from 007 to Agent 86 and tipping its hat to the genre’s most prominent players, the film is a blast from first frame to last, firing on all cylinders as a devilishly entertaining (and delectably blood-soaked) piece of inspired cinematic madness. And especially with the terrific repartee between Taron Egerton’s thuggish Eggsy and Colin Firth’s refined Harry Hart, it offers more gut-busting lines than any straight comedy to hit screens so far this year.
Moreover, it delivers an absolutely legendary action sequence in the disturbing yet dizzying church massacre scene – a genius moment for Vaughn, who simultaneously turns our stomachs and feeds our culture’s taboo appetite for ultraviolence, telling us to enjoy the mayhem but still holding us accountable for doing so.
It’s one of the defining cinematic moments of the year, and Kingsman is one of the most fascinating mainstream films in recent years for it. The movie is brash, ballsy and often bad-mannered, with all manner of button-pushing gags and lewd lines, but Vaughn conducts the proceedings with such elegance and sophistication that it all goes down smoother than an ice-cold martini (with gin, stirred for 10 seconds while glancing at an unopened bottle of vermouth, of course).