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Friday, June 29, 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

21 Jump Street - Review (2012)

Every once in a while I am wrong.  I know, you don't believe me.  But, it's true.  From day one I had this film pegged as another laughless, lazily written waste of time.   Transferring TV shows to the big screen is nothing new, it has been going on for years - unfortunately, typically with the weakest of results.  From day one this did not look to be an exception to the rule - it is based on a little watched TV show (who the hell was asking for this,) and seemed to be wildly miscast (Jonah Hill, as in the lead roll, the job formerly held by Johnny Depp on the TV show... what an obvious choice)  - an obvious cash grab.

Like I said, I was wrong.  Not only was this film satisfactory for a night's entertainment, I actually quite enjoyed it.

The story is of two high school enemies that are forced to work together to make their way through the police academy - one is smart, but physically uncoordinated (Jonah Hill) - the other a natural athlete just not very book smart (Channing Tatum.)  After teaming up to graduate from the academy, they get their first major assignment - posing as high schoolers to investigate a drug ring.  One thing they quickly realize is that high school has changed since they had been students - the balance of power has shifted, the outcast is now king.

The film could have relied on the easy laughs, the predictable jokes that you can guess the punchline to halfway through the setup (i.e. just about every joke in an Adam Sandler film) - to my surprise it doesn't.  This is exactly why it works, the comedy is not stupid and insulting to the audience.

Comedy is completely subjective -what makes me laugh you may not find funny at all - and the jokes throughout this film were pitch perfect for my taste.  For me humor only works when it contradicts what you are anticipating.  If you telegraph your joke it is almost a certainty that I will not find it funny.  What works so well here is the jokes are peppered into dialogue that is actually part of the story.. The character is saying something that is moving along the story and rather than a thinly veiled standup routine pretending to be dialogue.  No one tries too hard sell their joke - the humor creeps up on you and EARNS some real laughs.  This allows characters stay in character, delivering lines as if they are just talking and saying things that just happen to be funny when they deliver it.  There are no over the top accents or stereotypical characters that telegraph their jokes.  Often the delivery is so deadpan that someone not familiar with the cliches of the buddy/undercover cop films may not even realize a joke was told. 

That's not to say there are plenty of examples of over the top jokes peppered throughout - there are raunchy, goofy, sophomoric, gross jokes - the correct ratio of intelligent to stupid.  The film embraces its stupidity though, acknowledging and laughing with a wink at the preposterous things would usual be ignored in hopes the audience would not notice...  we notice.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have great chemistry, both doing their share of the work to earn a good number of laughs.  That is expected from Jonah Hill, he has proven to have great comic timing and delivery - Tatum was a bit of a surprise.  As Hill does what he needs to do to earn the laugh, Tatum keeps up with him - never shying down or resorting to the straight man role (this is most evident during a hilarious drug tripping sequence.)

The film has much more to offer than I had anticipated - of course there's the humor, but there is also an actual plot and characters, not just joke delivery systems.  The take on high school is quite effective, capturing the lost feeling many of us felt as we tried to fit in, the self discovery and the joy of being accepted.  I had a good time watching this film - a good sign.  8 out of 10

For more reviews, check out the Review Archive.  Soon to be the home to about 300 original film reviews (as soon as I can transfer them one at a time.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Chronicle - Review (2012)

Three high school students venture into a cave and come out with new super abilities. Delivered in the increasingly overused found-footage format this film could have been just been another gimmick film with little to say.  It was a nice surprise to find out is also a parable about power told through three average guys that suddenly are anything but average.  It raises questions about our responsibility to others once the power is in our hands.

What makes this film work is this is not superhero film, a genre which is often restricted by its own self-imposed constraints - no costumes, no nicknames or secret identities.  Instead we get a film grounded in reality.  We are voyeurs watching the changes in their lives as they explore their new found powers, bond as friends and try to cope with their not so picture-perfect everyday lives - kind of like a supernatural version on "Stand By Me." 

I have mixed feeling about the use of the found-footage approach to the film.  I am actually a fan of the genre, if done right.  With this film though, I did find some of the unfeasible work-arounds to the genre's restrictions to be slightly distracting; especially the fluid camera movements (a rarity in found-footage films.)

The last quarter of the film had trouble wrapping up the story that preceded it - relying too much on CGI and action to create larger scale scenes when the smaller, simpler scenes were more effective.  Even so, overall the film works.  The first-time director, Josh Trank, helms a film that is quite refreshing in its inventiveness.  7.5 out of 10

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Footloose - Review (2011)

Having never seen the original film I had one advantage over most viewers, I could not be upset by the changes from the Kevin Bacon film.  Going in I knew one thing, the premise sounded stupid - a town that outlaws dancing.  Sounds realistic.  Once you get past the setup it is your basic general audience film - you know all the characters before they are introduced and exactly how it is going to end before the quarter mark.  It plays like many of the films from the era of the original - which, in a way, is not a bad thing.  Sure it has all the complexity of a Fluff sandwich, but it works because everything else is so preposterous.  The most glaring fallacy is the town itself - towns like this only exist in fiction.  Everyone hangs out together - there is harmony throughout, except the evil ex-boyfriend and his posse (of course.)  Besides that it is as normal as your town... oh yeah, except the fact that everybody happens to be a pro dancer.

The ironic part about this film is the most oft-putting element was the dancing.  It is an understatement to say it was over choreographed to the point of feeling completely artificial.  There is not one teenager in the bunch that stands there and awkwardly claps his hands while stepping side to side due to his complete lack of rhythm or leans on the wall and dreams of what it would be like if he actually could dance with the girl he had his eye on.  Instead, every guy has a girl and they dance like a member of a dance troupe.  These kids live and breath dancing - it dominates just about every discussion and activity in their lives.  When the music turns on they cannot control themselves - it is popping and locking, heads spins, impromptu line dances and grinding.  These are the best dancers I have seen; every football player, preacher's daughter, new-guy-in-town, has all the right moves.  And best of all, every resident under the age of 19 shares one communal brain that allows them to dance in and out of choreographed dances at the turn of the hat.  Did I mention, there are no overweight people either.  If you can dance you are your ideal weight or less.  An incredible town.  More like something out of The Twilight Zone.

This is not a bad movie - it is just mindless entertainment.  It does not fit in the so bad it's good category either, rather it is just good enough to not turn off the viewers or create any die hard fans.  Another nice touch is including a soundtrack full of classic 80's music (I personally would have preferred some of the original artists though.)  As for Julianne Hough, she is surprisingly good - she is natural on screen and looks great on film.  If she can latch on to a successful film (Rock of Ages wasn't it either) she will be around for awhile.

Don't want to spoil anything, but I must mention incredibly bizarre warehouse freakout/spontaneous dance/gymnastics meltdown.  If anyone acted this way in real life the discovery of such behavior would end in a straight jacket or at the very least a daily dose of sedatives.  6 out of 10

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jeff, Who Lives At Home - Review (2012)

The story of a pair of two adult brothers, one that lives in his mother's basement and the other one who's life is not going as well. Starts off feeling like a film about nothing. It turns out to say quite a lot about people that are not connecting. The bond is there between them, be it brotherhood, parent/child or marriage, but there is a short circuit. It happens, often sending us searching for a way to fill that void... often not in the way needed. A mildly funny film that ends up being more touching than you'd anticipate. With a abnormally puny 84 minute running time, it does not overstay its welcome. 7.5 out of 10

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Movie Trivia #2: Numbers - Can you guess all 13?


This incredible animator has another film that will tease your brain and help break up the day between work and Facebook. Can you name all 13 films?  Once you complete this try the Alphabet-based Movie Teaser here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ultra-Cool Movie Quiz. How Many Can You Guess?

How well do you know your movies? Prove it with this, the first in a series of four movie brain teasers by a talented artist out of Atlanta.

Watch the video below and guess the movies in order from A-Z in the comment section.


Three other teasers will posted throughout the week.

Copy and paste this alphabet and post your answers.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book of Eli - Review (2010)

A endlessly brooding man continues his long trek across the country to deliver a sacred book that may to save mankind in yet another post-apocalyptic film.   When I say brooding, I mean a lot of brooding.  The story starts slow, but gains momentum about half way through.  It suffers from style over substance.... it is so over-stylized the effort put into it shows.  Gary Oldman does some of his best scene-chewing since "The Professional"  (he really could have been a great Dark Knight villain.)  Although there are some great elements the film does not deliver as a whole.  It is spotty and inconsistent - yet the pros slightly outweigh the cons.   A couple nice twists.  6 out of 10