Austin Powers Mike Myers Elizabeth Hurley

Wry Spy

The 10 Best Offbeat Spy Movies

Catch Austin Powers and Austin Powers in Goldmember Friday, August 19th starting at 6P as part of IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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Photo Credit: New Line Cinema/Everett Collection

By the time Mike Myers donned the glasses and fake teeth for the third time in Austin Powers in Goldmember, audiences had grown weary of the constant “Yeah, baby!” and “Oh, behave!” impressions that plagued workplace break rooms since 1997. (The film’s 54% “Rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes makes it perfect viewing for IFC’s “Too Rotten to Miss” Fridays.) But spoofing spy movies hardly originated with Myers’ horny Brit, nor did the parodies end with his gold member.

Here are the 10 best movies that approach the spy genre with an unconventional eye.

10. Casino Royale

Billed as a movie that’s “too much for one James Bond,” this parody of the Ian Fleming novel boasts a top-heavy cast with a lowbow sensibility. In this swingin’ hypercolor mishmash, Agent 007 is played by several people including David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Woody Allen, and (ahem) a chimpanzee. The film was panned by critics and had a disastrous shoot that had a revolving fleet of directors and screenwriters and at least one star (Sellers) abandoning the production altogether. Decades later, Casino Royale returned as an official Bond film that launched the Daniel Craig 007 era.


9. Our Man Flint

James Coburn sports a billion-dollar grin in this spoof of Bond flicks. A direct influence on the Austin Powers franchise — its sequel In Like Flint briefly appears on screen to the delight of Myers’ character — the film features an international playboy as its lead spy, a terrorist organization of mad scientists, and miniskirted “Pleasure Units.” (Austin nodded to these saucy characters with the infamous Fembots.)


8. The Man Who Knew Too Little

This all-but-forgotten Bill Murray vehicle from 1997 takes the Hitchcockian premise of an everyman thrust into the world of espionage due to mistaken identity and turns up the buffoonery to 11. Hammy and extremely broad, the tone is more suited for a Chris Kattan romp than a Bill Murray spoof. But for Murray completists who appreciate an honest attempt at spy comedy, it’s worth a shot.


7. Burn After Reading

You won’t find Burn After Reading at the top of many Coen Brothers fan lists, but that shouldn’t dissuade viewers from enjoying this entertaining shaggy dog story of bumbling bureaucratic espionage. Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, and John Malkovich are a joy to watch as they mug and botch their way through a hairbrained scheme to blackmail a former CIA operative.


6. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

A bizarre and dubious autobiopic of Gong Show host Chuck Barris, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was adapted to the screen by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) and marks the directorial debut of George Clooney. Barris famously claimed to be an assassin for the CIA, and Clooney and Julia Roberts show up in the film as (possibly fictional) secret agents. The quirky film is also notable for substantiating the infamous “strangest place you ever made whoopie” moment with the actual clip from The Newlywed Game.


5. Spies Like Us

Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd are unwitting agents up against the threat of Russian nukes in this 1985 goofball movie from director John Landis. Less of an homage to Bond than the classic road movies of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Spies Like Us pokes fun at the Cold War lunacy of the Reagan years while offering up some decent laughs. (The foreign service exam scene and field-training scenarios are definite highlights.)


4. What’s Up, Tiger Lily?

In 1966, Woody Allen basically did Mystery Science Theater 3000 over 20 years before Joel and the Bots ever made it to space. The writer-director redubbed the Japanese spy film International Secret Police: Key of Keys into a completely new film — namely, one centered around the search for a secret egg salad recipe. Comedy geeks regard this cult film as a funny experiment with amusing results.


3. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Once you get past the catchphrases, the original Austin Powers is a solid spoof of spy movies that still resonates today. While the sequels ran once fresh gags into the ground, they did give us memorable characters like Mini-Me (Verne Troyer), Fat Bastard (Mike Myers), and Goldmember (Myers again). (Catch Austin Powers Friday, August 19th at 6P on IFC.)


2. Top Secret!

Underappreciated within the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker oeuvre, Top Secret! is more than your typical spoof stuffed with sight gags and one-liners. The parody skewers everything from The Great Escape to Elvis Presley movies and delivers gags in the Airplane! and Naked Gun directors’ usual laugh-a-second style. But it’s the sum of its parts — including the underwater fight scene and the sequence shot entirely in reverse — that makes Top Secret! a notable comedy standout.


1. Spy

The always delightful Melissa McCarthy charmed audiences with her portrayal of a CIA pencil-pusher transformed into an ace field agent in 2015’s hit Spy. Tossed into the fray after the death of her colleague and crush (played by Jude Law), McCarthy uses brains (and wigs) over brawn in her mission to track down a suitcase nuclear device. Genuinely funny and entertaining, Spy took the 00-spoof genre to new levels of hilarity.

Go undercover with Austin Powers in Goldmember as part of IFC’s Rotten Fridays
.

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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