Quick Movie Review: 21 Jump Street (2012)

21 jump street Given our current situation as parents of a very active toddler and a born-early infant, my wife and I don’t find a lot of time where we’re just hanging out in an evening with enough time to watch a feature film. Well, one night a few weekends back we were in that rarified air on a Saturday night and decided to give Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 21 Jump Street a look.

The basic concept is that Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) were high school adversaries who both wound up being less-than-well-balanced police academy students who got over their past to become good friends. They also get assigned to the re-opened 21 Jump Street program which takes young-looking cops and puts them into high schools to help solve crimes (the basic plot of the Fox series of the same name, of course). Their first mission puts them in a school where a new drug is making the rounds and it’s their job to bust it up. As they get to school, though, the jocky Jenko comes to realize that his ways aren’t cool anymore while Schmidt quickly gets in with the popular kids, relishing ever minute of his newfound acceptance.

This movie won me over in the first 10 minutes or so when they quickly got past the bullying stuff and got right to these guys becoming real, good friends. It reminded me a little of Hill’s similar relationship with Michael Cera’s character in Superbad because it feels honest, especially when it hits snags as the film progresses. Beyond that, it’s just a damn funny movie. I laughed so hard throughout the entire film that my throat was a little sore afterwards.

In addition to the big name leads, the film includes plenty of great cameos — including one by original series star Johnny Depp! — and the leads were fantastic, but Dave Franco really stole the show for me personally. Nothing against his brother, but I think the younger Franco might be even more charismatic. He’s captivating, plain and simple.

As far as relating back to the original material, I wasn’t a 21 Jump Street fan when the show was on. For a long time, it was a reference I’d hear, but only vaguely understood. But I did watch at least the first season on Netflix a few years back and had fun with it. So, with some knowledge going in, I’d say that Lord and Miller used the concept of the series as a spring board for something much bigger and funnier, but without making fun of the original too much.

Quick Movie Review: The Lone Ranger (2013)

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I’ve long given up on trying to figure out why certain films kill at the box office and others don’t. Take The Lone Ranger for instance. Much like it’s filmic cousin, Pirates Of The Caribbean, this film stars Johnny Depp as an offbeat character, was directed by Gore Verbinski and features a ton of fun action set pieces. And yet 2011’s POTC: At World’s End made over $1 billion worldwide and Lone Ranger pulled in a mere $206.5 million. At the end of the day, as a viewer, these things don’t matter to me aside from the fact that a poor performance in the real world will kill franchise potential which is too bad because I did like this film.

I was never a Lone Ranger fan. I remember the reruns being on the Disney Channel when I was a kid, but I avoided them (Zorro was more of my jam back then). I did read the first arc or so of Dynamite’s initial comic series which was solid, but that’s about where my experience ends. So, I went into this without many expectations and was pleasantly surprised by what I was presented with which was a big, fun popcorn movie featuring Armie Hammer developing into the Lone Ranger persona with the help of Tonto (Depp) while running afoul of the always-fantastic William Fichtner.

Sure, the film probably could have been a little shorter — it clocks in around the 2.5 hour mark as it is — but I didn’t find it lagging, personally. There’s a solid mix of character as Hammer’s John Reid moves from the law abiding district attorney he is at the beginning of the film to the masked vigilante at the very end. We even learn interesting things about why Tonto’s so crazy and get looks at a lot of interesting character as well as a bevy of train and shoot-out based action scenes that are always fun.

My one complaint about this film is that they went with the origin story. Much like with comic book films, I think that screenwriters, directors and producers fall into this trap when they’re making films based on existing properties and that is this desire to devote the first film to the character’s earliest days learning to be a hero. I’m personally much more in favor of the Die Hard method of action film storytelling in which you just show the lead being awesome and give details about their past as they’re needed. I wonder if a full-on Lone Ranger film would have done better than the story of the guy who becomes the Lone Ranger. Still, I enjoyed the movie, think it got a bad wrap and would suggest spending a lazy Saturday or Sunday giving it a watch.

BULLET POINTS: HOT ROUNDS OF INFORMATION GOODNESS

teenage mutant ninja turtles TMNTThe Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flick from director Jonathan Liebesman got pushed back to August 8, 2014. This movie’s getting moved around more than the Turtle Van on patrol. Is there any hope it will be good? [via THR]

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Word on the street is that Disney’s so pissed about the The Lone Ranger not making it’s money back yet that they’re restructuring their deal with producer Jerry Bruckheimer. In the past, his contract said that he had final cut, but that might not be the case anymore with Pirates Of The Caribbean 5. [TheWrap]

CW’s DC Comics-based Arrow is recruiting The Killing actress Bex Taylor-Klaus to play a  character called Sin. In the comics, Sin is a girl trained for years to replace super-assassin Lady Shiva who gets adopted by Black Canary. [via THR]

Speaking of Greg Berlanti-created shows, the futuristic prison series Paradise got snatched up by NBC. Berlanti’s teaming up with Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) to make the Prison Break-like show set in a version of Las Vegas that’s been converted into a giant prison. [via Deadline]

seventh son jeff bridges

Divorces can be rough, especially when kids are involved. When Legendary split from Warners earlier this summer, some of the films the former financed were left without distribution. That was the case with Sergei Bodrov’s The Seventh Son, but don’t worry, the Jeff Bridges film will now be distributed by Legendary’s new partner Universal. [via TheWrap]

Warner Bros. snatched up a pitch by Mark L. Smith (Vacancy) called Herald about a Viking king that Leonardo DiCaprio may or may not play. [via Deadline]

james cameron poster blue lady

James Cameron revealed to Visionaries that he was thinking of blue ladies well before he came up with the idea for Avatar. [via Movies.com]

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Dig this crazy set from Brett Ratner’s Hercules. [via Dwayne Johnson’s Twitter]

Finally, this video reenacts the Peter/Chicken fight from Family Guy as performed by stuntwomen  Jessie Graff and Tree O’Toole. [via Topless Robot]

Season Finale: 21 Jumpstreet Season 1

I’ve had a great time going through all the TV shows that Netflix streams instantly and picking different ones to try out. 21 Jumpstreet stuck out for me because it had a young Johnny Depp in it. After doing some reading I discovered that the first season which premiered in 1987 helped the then-new Fox network by being a pretty big success. The funny thing, though, is that I have absolutely no memory of this show existing from my younger years. Maybe my folks didn’t like Fox for some reason, maybe it’s because I was 4 and it wasn’t syndicated in Toledo. Who knows?

The premise is that Depp’s a young 20-something cop who gets put on a special squad of other young looking cops who get sent into high school situations undercover to try and solve crimes. They city they’re in is never mentioned but it must have an incredibly high population because it seems to be the land of a thousand high schools, with each episode taking place in a different one.

The series started out with just a handful of detectives, including Dom DeLuise’s son Peter and Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper’s Holly Robinson (who also sang the theme song!) under the tutelage of Captain Richard Jenko played by Frederic Forest. Halfway through the first season, though, they kill off Jenko and Steven Williams came in as Captain Adam Fuller. With Fuller’s entrance, the small unit became much bigger, but our core group remained the main stars.

The main thing I was surprised and impressed by for a show coming out in the late 80s is how many broad societal problems the show tackled. You’ve got everything from drugs to pornography getting talked about and investigated in these episodes. Sure, these things are commonplace elements in television now, but you’ve got to appreciate the balls it took to break away from conventional wisdom and try to address teenage high school issues. Now, I would imagine actual 80s teens would call bullshit on some of the fashions and slang, but watching these episodes almost 25 years later, they’re still sadly pertinent.

Depp might be the star as the buttoned up Tom Hanson, but my favorite character has to be DeLuise’s Doug Penhall. I also like Pete’s character, she’s both tough and relate-able. I can’t say there’s any specific episodes that stick out in my mind–I did watch the full season over a month or two–but I enjoyed every episode.

My favorite aspect of the show, though, and the one I can imagine made the show popular for kids who were actually in high school, is watching these people go through the nonsense of school but not actually be a part of it. They might act like they care what the rules of the school are and what the teachers say, but in reality, this is just a job and an illusion for them. Mr. Johnson’s being a jerk in chemistry? No big deal, none of it matters. Some jerk bully is giving you trouble? Psh, not only are you trained to kill but you OWN A GUN! I don’t know if I’m explaining it well, but it’s an element of the show I definitely dug.

Quick Movie Review: Alice In Wonderland 3D (2010)

Tonight the missus and I decided to do something we don’t do often: go to the movies. It’s not that we don’t like going to the movies, it’s just that we prefer to go and see something big and crazy and exciting instead of the usual winter fair. Seeing as how we’re both Tim Burton fans (as you know, I find him awesome) and Em was pretty interested it seemed like a no brainer for us to check this one out. Assuming the 3D would add to the experience, that’s the way we went.

Unfortunately, neither of us liked the movie too much. For one thing, without doing any research, I’m pretty sure that this is the kind of movie where they just separated the foreground from the background. It looked marvelous, but with the glasses on I had trouble focusing on scenes like when Alice falls down the rabbit hole, but more on that later.

The main problem I had with the movie was a lack of emotional connection, which is funny because, according to the IMDb trivia page for the movie, that was a big focus for Burton. Here’s the full text from the segment: “Despite the fact that there have been many other Alice in Wonderland films, Tim Burton has said he never felt a emotional connection to it and always thought it was a series of some girl wondering around from one crazy character to another. So with this, he attempted to create a framework, an emotional grounding, which he felt he never really had seen in any version before. Tim said that was the challenge for him – to make Alice feel like a story as opposed to a series of events.”

To me it seemed like the movie relied solely on very basic storytelling and character traits as well as previous versions of the movie to establish an emotional connection to the characters. Sure we get that the Red Queen is a bitch. She’s probably the most developed character thanks to all of our encounters with her and what we see of her palace (she has monkeys holding up table tops and lights in every room she’s in, presumably just to be a pain in the ass). But why should I care about Alice? Because she’s a non conformist in stuffy old England? Maybe I’ve seen and read too much, but that’s not good enough for me.

I can’t say exactly what I didn’t like which probably makes this a bad review, but there just seemed to be something lacking that other Burton movies haven’t lacked, even Sweeny Todd, which I didn’t like had more depth of character. If you can see the regular version without the 3D glasses for a cheaper matinee or a cheap theater, I’d recommend it, but I don’t feel too happy with dropping $21 on this movie. It might actually be worth it to see the Tron Legacy trailer in 3D.

I do want to comment on the actual 3D experience. The only other movie I’ve seen in complete 3D at the theaters was Avatar. Now, while Avatar did a better job with the 3D itself, I liked the experience of watching the Disney 3D better. The glasses themselves were different, more futuristic and less Buddy Holly, but when I put my glasses on underneath them, I could actually see unlike with the Avatar glasses which gave me a headache. I’m sure if this whole 3D thing takes off we’ll have prescription 3D glasses which I would like to pick up a pair. If they’re cheap enough. Or maybe lenses you can just clip on. That would work.