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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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SDCC OMG

Stan Diego Comic-Con

Stan Against Evil returns November 1st.

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Photo Credit: Erin Resnick, GIFs via Giphy

Another Comic-Con International is in the can, and multiple nerdgasms were had by all – not least of which were about the Stan Against Evil roundtable discussion. Dana, Janet and John dropped a whole lotta information on what’s to come in Season 2 and what it’s like to get covered in buckets of demon goo. Here are the highlights.

Premiere Date!

Season 2 hits the air November 1 and picks up right where things left off. Consider this your chance to seamlessly continue your Halloween binge.

Character Deets!

Most people know that Evie was written especially for Janet, but did you know that Stan is based on Dana Gould’s dad? It’s true. But that’s where the homage ends, because McGinley was taken off the leash to really build a unique character.

Happy Accidents!

Improv is apparently everything, because according to Gould the funniest material happens on the fly. We bet the writers are totally cool with it.

Exposed Roots!

If Stan fans are also into Twin Peaks and Doctor Who, that’s no accident. Both of those cult classic genre benders were front of mind when Stan was being developed.

Trailer Treasure!

Yep. A new trailer dropped. Feast your eyes.

Catch up on Stan Against Evil’s first season on the IFC app before it returns November 1st on IFC.

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Grow TFU

Adulting Like You Mean It

Commuters makes its debut on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Jared Warner, Nick Ciavarella, and Tim Dean were once a part of Murderfist, a group of comedy writers, actors, producers, parents, and reluctant adults. Together with InstaMiniSeries’s Nikki Borges, they’re making their IFC Comedy Crib debut with the refreshingly-honest and joyfully-hilarious Commuters. The webseries follows thirtysomethings Harris and Olivia as they brave the waters of true adulthood, and it’s right on point.

Jared, Nick, Nikki and Tim were kind enough to answer a few questions about Commuters for us. Here’s a snippet of that conversation…

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IFC: How would you describe Commuters to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Nick: Two 30-somethings leave the Brooklyn life behind, and move to the New Jersey suburbs in a forced attempt to “grow up.” But they soon find out they’ve got a long way to go to get to where they want to be.

IFC: How would you describe Commuters to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jared: It’s a show about how f*cking stupid people who think they are smart can be.

IFC: What’s your origin story? When did you all meet and how long have you been working together?

Jared: Nick, Tim, and I were all in the sketch group Murderfist since, what, like 2004? God. Anyway, Tim and Nick left the group to pursue other frivolous things, like children and careers, but we all enjoyed writing together and kept at it. We were always more interested in storytelling than sketch comedy lends itself to, which led to our webseries Jared Posts A Personal. That was a show about being in your 20s and embracing the chaos of being young in the city. Commuters is the counterpoint, i guess. Our director Adam worked at Borders (~THE PAST!!~) with Tim, came out to a Murderfist show once, and we’ve kept him imprisoned ever since.

IFC: What was the genesis of Commuters?

Tim: Jared had an idea for a series about the more realistic, less romantic aspects of being in a serious relationship.  I moved out of the city to the suburbs and Nick got engaged out in LA.   We sort of combined all of those facets and Commuters was the end result.

IFC: How would Harris describe Olivia?

Jared: Olivia is the smartest, coolest, hottest person in the world, and Harris can’t believe he gets to be with her, even though she does overreact to everything and has no chill. Like seriously, ease up. It doesn’t always have to be ‘a thing.’

IFC: How would Olivia describe Harris?

Nikki:  Harris is smart, confident with a dry sense of humor but he’s also kind of a major chicken shit…. Kind of like if Han Solo and Barney Rubble had a baby.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Nikki:  I think this is the most accurate portrayal of what a modern relationship looks like. Expectations for what your life is ‘supposed to look like’ are confusing and often a let down but when you’re married to your best friend, it’s going to be ok because you will always find a way to make each other laugh.

IFC: Is the exciting life of NYC twentysomethings a sweet dream from which we all must awake, or is it a nightmare that we don’t realize is happening until it’s over?

Tim: Now that i’ve spent time living in the suburbs, helping to raise a two year old, y’all city folk have no fucking clue how great you’ve got it.

Nikki: I think of it similar to how I think about college. There’s a time and age for it to be glorious but no one wants to hang out with that 7th year senior. Luckily, NYC is so multifaceted that you can still have an exciting life here but it doesn’t have to be just what the twentysomethings are doing (thank god).

Jared: New York City is a garbage fire.

See the whole season of Commuters right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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C'mon Fellas

A Man Mansplains To Men

Why Baroness von Sketch Show is a must-see.

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Mansplaining is when a man takes it upon himself to explain something to a woman that she already knows. It happens a lot, but it’s not going to happen here. Ladies, go ahead and skip to the end of this post to watch a free episode of IFC’s latest addition, Baroness von Sketch Show.

However, if you’re a man, you might actually benefit from a good mansplanation. So take a knee, lean in, and absorb the following wisdom.

No Dicks

Baroness von Sketch Show is made entirely by women, therefore this show isn’t focused on men. Can you believe it? I know what you’re thinking: how will we know when to laugh if the jokes aren’t viewed through the dusty lens of the patriarchy? Where are the thinly veiled penis jokes? Am I a bad person? In order: you will, nowhere, and yes.

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Huge Balls

Did you know that there’s more to life than poop jokes, sex jokes, body part jokes? I mean, those things are all really good things, natch, and totally edgy. But Baroness von Sketch Show does something even edgier. It holds up a brutal funhouse mirror to our everyday life. This is a bulls**t world we made, fellas.

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Oh Canada

After you watch the Canadian powerhouses of Baroness von Sketch Show and think to yourself “Dear god, this is so real” and “I’ve gotta talk about this,” do yourself a favor and think a-boot your options: Refrain from sharing your sage wisdom with any woman anywhere (believe us, she gets it). Instead, tell a fellow bro and get the mansplaining out of your system while also spreading the word about a great show.

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Dudes, that’s the deal.
Women, start reading again here:


Check out the preview episode of Baroness von Sketch Show and watch the series premiere August 2 on IFC.

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