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.

For Your Home Viewing Pleasure: October 1st, 2013

This week has a lot in the way of older movies presented in new and different ways, but not a lot of brand new action films. Still, there’s some pretty interesting offerings, so let’s jump in.this is the end blu-ray

The biggest new release in our arena is the disaster comedy This Is The End which finds hyper-real versions of Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, James Franco and Jonah Hill surviving the apocalypse.

John Cusack has been kind of slowly turning into Nicholas Cage over the past few years (see: The Raven), so it only makes sense that they’d appear in a movie together. In the thriller The Frozen Ground, Cusack’s a serial killer and Cage is trying to stop him. What more do you need to know?jcvd double feature the order nowhere to run

Jean-Claude Van Damme fans will be happy to discover that two of his films are making their way to Blu-ray on the same set. Thanks to the Jean-Claude Van Damme Double Feature: The Order / Nowhere to Run you can watch both movies back to back without getting up from the couch.

We here at Explosions Are Rad hadn’t heard of the Chinese crime thriller Cold War before seeing it on Amazon this morning. But after seeing the trailer above, it’s certainly one we’re going to check out.

A pair of very different director’s cuts made their debut this week. Troy Duffy’s cut of The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day and Luc Besson’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec [Director’s Cut] now offer their more complete visions for their films.

1997 was a big year for fire-coming-out-of-the-ground movies. You had your Dante’s Peak and your Volcano. Whose side were you on? Well, either way, the Tommy Lee Jones starring Volcano is now available on Blu-ray.TMNT_Ultimate_Showdown

We’ve only seen a handful of episodes of the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show on Nickelodoen, but it’s pretty darn cool. We’re thinking of catching up more with the latest DVD release Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ultimate Showdown.MagnumPI_Complete

If you’re looking to relive Tom Selleck’s 80s hey day all in one convenient box set then Magnum P.I.: The Complete Series might be right up your alley. The series lasted from 1980-1988 and consists of 42 discs.phineas and ferb mission marvel

Finally, Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel was pretty hilarious and you should watch it.

Lord And Miller Hopping On Board 22 Jump Street

21 jump street poster

21 Jump Street surprised a lot of people when it came out last year. People weren’t sure what to think of the comedic take on the 80s Fox drama about young-looking cops infiltrating high schools to solve crimes, but the combination of Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill’s script, Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s direction and the chemistry between stars Hill and Channing Tatum made the film a comedy-action hit.

Lord and Miller talked to Collider during SDCC this year and announced a good deal of information on 22 Jump Street, which will be their post-The LEGO Movie follow-up. First up, they discussed some of the challenges in nailing down the script.

“People don’t wanna see the same movie that they saw the first time, they don’t wanna see something super different from the first movie, and navigating what that is has been challenging,” Miller said. “We didn’t really sign on to this movie until about a month ago because we didn’t feel like we were sure that it would be a good movie, and then finally we got to a point in the script where we were like, ‘Okay, I believe this will be a good movie.’”

“It’s more about their marriage, basically,” Lord said after talking about how he and Miller looked to their own relationships for inspiration. “If the first movie is about two people getting together for the first time, this is about what happens if you try to really make the relationship work.  We’ll probably never do another bromance after this one, but we’re trying to get as emotionally deep into that as possible.”

He also quickly explained the story-logic behind the name change: “It’s called 22 Jump Street because they move across the street.”

Production is expected to begin in New Orleans this September.

Quick Movie Review: Get Him To The Greek (2010)

I haven’t been watching as many movies as I have in the rest of the year. That’s partly because I’ve been getting out of the house and going to the coffee shop more often than sitting around the house. I’ve also been watching some more TV and listening to podcasts or music while working. For those reasons, Get Him To The Greek has been sitting next to my DVD player for a few weeks which surprised me a bit because I fell in love with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the first movie to feature Russell Brand’s Aldous Snow character. As it is, I’m kind of glad that I held off because I didn’t like this movie nearly as much as it’s predecessor. The big difference between the two movies is that Forgetting had a lot of heart to it, while Greek tried shoehorning that kind of stuff in towards the end.

The general plot is that record company owner Sergio (Sean “Puffy” Combs) sends low level worker Aaron (Jonah Hill) to get Aldous Snow in England and take him, first to The Today Show in New York and then to the Greek, a club in LA. Aaron has a falling out with his girlfriend played by Mad Men‘s Elizabeth Moss before leaving and so he goes a bit crazy while out with the procrastinating and party loving Snow. There’s lots of good gags in the movie, from the Mars Volta joke to the “Not everyone cares” line to the kid who plays Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, but while Marshall felt more like a cohesive story about real characters, this felt more like a group of repertory players staging skits and trying to get as many jokes out as possible.

The movie’s not bad but it just didn’t live up to the expectations put into place by FSM. Brand and Hill did great in their roles, especially Hill who stepped out of his usual “loud asshole” role. Really, though, Combs steals the show and every scene he’s in. Yes, pretty much everything he says and does is funny because he is who is, but that kind of meta humor isn’t always bad. Combs loves Biggest Loser? Hilarious. Guys like TJ Miller, Aziz Ansari and Colm Meanie also do great in their smaller roles, but at the end of the day, the story feels secondary to the one liners.

Best Of The Best: Grandma’s Boy (2006)

It’s been a while since I did one of these Best Of The Best posts because I’ve been watching and reading mostly newer stuff that I haven’t seen before and Best Of The Best is reserved for movies, comics, books and eventually records that I truly love. So, in the hierarchy of UnitedMonkee there’s good, great, awesome and then BOTB. And Grandma’s Boy is easily BOTB material even though it’s a relatively new movie.

I was one of the few people that actually went to the theaters to see this movie with some friends. I don’t mean that to sound like I’ve got street cred or anything (I’m not saying I knew Pavement before they got mildly popular), I just mean that the movie didn’t do very well because most people didn’t see it until it came out on DVD. At the time I was a research assistant at Wizard and basically living the dream. I got to work in comics with some rad people. Sure there was bullshit going on, but who cares?

I don’t remember why we went to see GB, actually. It might have appealed to some of my weed loving friends or maybe someone was a big fan of Adam Sandler’s friends, but whatever the reason, we went to the Palisades Mall, got some 2-for-1 beers at Chilis and then stumbled over to the theater for 94 minutes of hilarity.

Aside from being a genuinely fun and hilarious movie with a solid cast (excepting maybe star Allen Covert) that includes Doris Roberts, Nick Swardson, Jonah Hill, Linda Cardellini (from Freaks & Geeks), Joel Moore (of Dodgeball and Hatchet fame), Kevin Nealon, Peter Dante and Shirley Knight (Partridge Family) with cameos by David Spade and Rob Schneider, though curiously not Sandler himself, this movie holds a special place in my heart because it reminds me of how fun working with rad people can be. I know that sounds lame and sentimental, but Brainasium really does remind me of Wizard in a lot of ways. It sure as hell didn’t look as awesome as their place, but there’s a lot to relate to.

The idea behind the movie is that Allen Covert gets kicked out of his place and starts living with his grandma, played by Roberts and her roommates, one of which is Jones. He works as a video game tester and their newest game is running a little behind so boss Nealon hires Cardellini to come in and make sure everything’s on track. From there we meet the interesting, hilarious and seriously weird characters who work in that environment. Sure many of them are over the top, like Moore and some are just sort of there like Hill, but they all make this awesome tapestry of funny that keeps chugging a long, keeping me laughing the whole time.

I get that this one’s not for everyone. There’s a lot of weed humor, plus it’s definitely kind of a dumb comedy, but it holds a special place in my heart and makes me laugh every time. Like earlier today when I popped it in and was both saying lines as they happened (“I’m thinking of getting metal legs.”) and still being surprised here and there (I always forget Hill’s in this movie). So, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it, though I worry that it might have been too hyped up (and yes, I realized I’m actually adding to that hype). Go out, check it out and enjoy!

Quick Movie Review: The Invention Of Lying (2009)

I hadn’t heard good things about Ricky Gervais’ The Invention Of Lying. I don’t exactly remember what those not good things were, but they didn’t stop me from putting this flick towards the top of my queue along with all the other movies which have a very long to short wait and get sent whenever the Netflix gods deem me worthy. Luckily, the missus and I actually really enjoyed the movie, so forgetting the bad things people said wasn’t such a big deal (and probably a good way to go about life in general, but I digress).

The idea behind the movie is that in the world of Gervais and company (including Rob Lowe, Jennifer Garner, Lous CK, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Jeffrey Tambor, Nathan Corddry, Martin Starr, Jason Bateman, Christopher Guest, Bobby Moynihan, Ed Norton, Stephen Merchant and Philip Seymour Hoffman, mostly in one off cameos) humans never developed the ability to lie, but somehow, in the course of this story something clicks in Gervais’ head and he can lie. Since the world doesn’t know what lying is (they don’t seem to have words for real and fake or their synonyms because up till then, they didn’t need them). Gervais spends the movie digging himself deeper and deeper by not only making up a movie (which, in this world, is just a video of a reader reading a script of historical events in a chair) that involves aliens and ninjas to basically creating religion, all the while trying to get with Garner. Garner’s not having any of it because she wants her kids to be genetically superior and doesn’t want Gervais’ short, chubby genes taking over for her hot ones.

Overall it’s a pretty interesting movie that has some logical flaws like people always saying what they feel. Maybe this is a philosophical argument, but not saying something and lying aren’t the same thing to me. Of course, those statements resulted in the most laughs so what are you gonna do? I also got to wondering about this world’s original societies. Historians believe that early man invented gods because he really believed they were there, but did that happen in this world? Or, did they just stop once someone came along and said “Hey, that’s just the sun, not the eye of a giant god.” Anyway, even with those questions in mind, I still liked the movie, thought it was pretty funny and especially liked that Hollywood created a movie like this. Alternate realities in a romantic comedy? Doesn’t exactly seem like the most obvious movie to put out does it? But, as I like to remind myself, there were times when the most popular TV shows were Twilight Zone, I Dream Of Jeanie, Bewitched and Lost In Space. Maybe we just need a little more sci-fi, futuristic, alternate reality weirdness in our lives that doesn’t come from hour long dramas like Lost and Fringe. Basically, I want How I Met Your Mother IN SPACE!!!

Quick Movie Review: Funny People (2009)

I mentioned a week or two back how I had recently enjoyed several Judd Apatow-related DVD commentaries and how I was looking forward to seeing Funny People. We’ve been sitting on the DVD since before Thanksgiving, but didn’t get to it until this weekend. It was definitely worth the wait.

I can’t think of a movie I’ve enjoyed more than Funny People in a while. I went into it knowing about the basic plot details: Adam Sandler plays a big-time comedian who finds out he has a kind of cancer, takes fellow stand-up comedian Seth Rogen under his wing and starts hitting the club circuit again. Sandler tries to make amends with some people, including Leslie Mann, who is the one who got away. He eventually finds out that the experimental treatment he’s been taking has worked and he’s got a second lease on life which sends him out after Mann who is married to Eric Bana and has two kids (Mann’s own kids with Apatow).

I’m a big fan of 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and most of the movies Apatow produced, so it’s probably not a huge shock how much I liked this movie. What I liked most about Funny People wasn’t just the comedic aspect of it (which were hilarious), but also the dramatic side. I’d seen Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love and didn’t like the movie, but I’ve always figured he could do something more dramatic and this movie proves it. In fact, everyone in the movie is hilarious. Aside from the main three, you’ve also got Jonah Hill, Jason Schwarzman, Aubrey Plaza, Aziz Ansari, RZA, Bana and the Apatow children all tossing out great lines left and right. Sure, it’s long at 146 minutes, but I think it’s worth the time investment.

Judd Apatow DVD Commentaries Are Pretty Fantastic

Back in college, I was a big fan of listening to director’s commentaries. I had only recently been introduced to the world of DVDs with their tons and tons of extra features. The commentaries became a favorite because I could listen to them while working on a paper or while making the drive from home to school on my portable DVD player. After that I kind of fell off the wagon, but a couple weeks ago I hopped back on with a triple feature of commentaries all related to Judd Apatow. Superbad (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and Knocked Up (2007) were all on the docket and they were all hilarious.

In college, my favorite commentaries were for Kevin Smith movies where he would cram as many people involved in the movie as possible to sit around and offer their two cents. That’s why I like the Superbad one so much. I can’t seem to find a full list online anymore, but I know it included Jonah Hill, director Greg Mottola and Producer Apatow in New York (along with Apatow’s oldest daughter Maude who wasn’t listening in on headphones, but was still in the room which meant Hill couldn’t swear) while the rest were in California. “The rest” included Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and co-writer Evan Goldberg. As someone interested in the creation of films, I found this commentary very interesting, though I got a lot of the same information from the podcast Rogen and Goldberg did for Creative Screenwriting Magazine (which you can listen to here or download from iTunes). You of course get all kinds of behind the scenes information, great stories and shout outs to people and things you might have missed. It’s especially fun listening to Hill try and not curse like a sailor. He does slip a few times and gets admonished by Apatow. There’s also a part where Apatow leaves with his daughter and Hill starts yelling at him about being professional. I’m guessing it’s another big gag, but it still left me feeling confused and awkward. Good stuff.

The Forgetting Sarah Marshall commentary was another big group affair with director Nick Stoller, writer and star Jason Segel, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, executive producer Rodney Rothman, producer Shauna Robertosn and Jack McBrayer live from New York. Apatow wasn’t on the commentary, but his company did make the movie, so it still counts. Seeing as how FSM was my favorite comedy of 2008, it’s probably not a big surprise how much I liked the commentary. I like when the people who worked on a movie together seem like they really like each other. Kind of like in the Ocean’s 11 movies. It really seems like those guys have a great time together, which makes the movie even more fun to watch. Like with Superbad, there’s lots of interesting tidbits, with Segel commenting on how specific scenes were taken from his life and how the Dracula musical was something he actually wrote seriously. Sure, a lot of this information can now be read on IMDb, but I’d always rather hear it from the horse’s mouth than just read something on a forum that hundreds of thousands of people can and do contribute to. I guess it’s the reporter in me.

The Knocked Up commentary was a much different animal as it only had three people involved: writer and director Apatow, star Seth Rogen and…Bill Hader? Sure Hader has a bit part in the movie, but he’s basically there to do impressions, toss out mini-factoids and ask questions. Hader explains how he met the Knocked Up gang (the friends in the movie are friends in real life and often hang out together) and also explains that he worked in the same building they shoot his scenes as a film editor. He apparently used to be a librarian on The Surreal Life and a PA on The Scorpion King and a documentary about Star Wars. Like with the others you get plenty of information about the origins of the story, what events were taken from real life, specifics about some of the actors (Ken Jeong was an actual doctor before his turn as the doctor and his eventual role on the excellent Community) and that sort of thing. I especially liked hearing about him working with his wife Leslie Mann and their two daughters. I think she’s hilarious and am really looking forward to seeing Funny People, which will hopefully be coming in my queue this week.