Saturday, June 28, 2014

22 Jump Street

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill have made Jump Street a lucrative franchise. The sequel made $20 million dollars more domestically in its opening weekend than 21 Jump Street. Always poking fun at itself for being a sequel, the movie is very self aware, even more so than the first flick was for making a movie out of an old tv show. 22 follows sequel conventions like doing the same thing as the original, but with a twist, bringing back even minor characters and aiming to go bigger than the first movie.

From the box office results and the opinions of other viewers, the sequel has been very well liked. 22 Jump Street has a 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8/10 on imdb. Personally, I was underwhelmed. While I appreciate the nods to Hollywood's predictability at turning out sequels and unoriginal material, there was a non-related long running joke that did not relent and it just got old. Next time I will have to give myself my "manage expectations" pep talk right as the movie starts (seems to work best on comedies). Of course, watching some Channing Tatum is always better than not watching some Channing Tatum.
The movie seems to indicate that there will not be a 23 Jump Street. However, I couldn't help but wonder, would a third Jump Street be like part three of the Hangover trilogy or Oceans 13? Redeeming? Interestingly, those franchises' third entries shared a return to their original locations, in Vegas. To take from the sequel debate in the second Scream movie, the third movies in a film franchise tend to be better and the seconds weaker. Hollywood can not seem to resist milking a concept until it no longer generates a profit, so maybe in the Summer of 2016 there will be a 23 Jump Street: Medical School.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Angelina Jolie successfully embodies Disney villainess Maleficent and the storytellers behind the movie provide a fascinating backstory. Jolie dances the perfect line between honoring the iconic role that is so well known and making it her own. She was perfectly cast and gives great depth to the character.

The production value is fantastic. Jolie's make-up and costumes as Maleficent are breaktaking. The look achieved draws on the classic images of the character while adding a fresh twist. There is also story to back up the stunning looks and accessories. The sets and special effects are of the highest quality. Big imagery for story's sake, not just for flash. It seems likely the movie will receive technical nominations for its efforts.
There is much more humor in the dialogue than I would have anticipated and Linda Woolverton wrote an excellent script. The story remains true to the Disney canon while bringing the anticipated new perspective to the movie. A satisfying backstory is provided; it is not sped past too quickly nor dwelled on for too long.

Live action adaptations of fairy tales continue to be an increasing trend in Hollywood, albeit with mixed results. For every Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, there is a Red Riding Hood movie no one can recall and Snow White stories to be mixed up. Disney has many additional projects in production in what has become a genre of its own. Alice Through the Looking Glass has a scheduled 2016 release. The truest teaser trailer ever edited can be seen before Maleficent; only a glass slipper is shown and not even the movie's title is displayed. It is of course for Cinderella. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, featuring Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother, the movie will arrive in theaters March 2015. Live action adaptations of The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, and Cruella are also in the works.

Jolie served as an executive producer on the film and to date it has made almost half a billion dollars worldwide. Maleficent is visually stunning and has the substance to support it. Without revealing any plot points, there are modern twists to the story that when paired with the plot of Frozen, seem to signal a change in the predictability of Disney fairy tales.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Obvious Child

Jenny Slate stars along with Jake Lacy and Gaby Hoffmann in an unconventional indie comedy. Broken down to one phrase, the film is a comedy about unplanned pregnancy. It's really a glimpse at the life of a young comedienne at a time in her life when all she is being handed are lemons. The movie title comes from the Paul Simon song of the same name that is featured in the trailer and in the movie.

The cast is very strong. You might recognize Jenny Slate from Parks and Rec or her one season on Saturday Night Live. She infamously dropped an f-bomb in her first SNL sketch. Gaby Hoffmann was thankfully nothing like the character she played on the past season of Girls and is a realistic best friend (Slate too has guest starred on Girls). The love interest in the movie is played by Jake Lacy, who you might recall as "New Jim" from the Office. Slate's character's closest comedian friend is portrayed by Gabe Liedman and he gives a standout performance. Liedman and Slate are the comedy duo Gabe and Jenny in real life and have been friends since college. Richard Kind plays the Jim Henson like dad of the main character, Slate's Donna, and her elegant professor mother is portrayed by Polly Draper. Personal trivia, I actually met Richard Kind in a bar in downtown Portland the week that I turned twenty-one.

I hope that Obvious Child gets some attention at the Independent Spirit Awards. It seems like this year's In A World... Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, the film was originally shot as a short film in 2009 and starred Slate as Donna. I had never heard of the movie prior to Emily getting screening passes for it but I hope it does well because it is a really good film.

**UPDATE** excellent interview of Jenny Slate on Late Night with Seth Meyers, though the Obvious Child stuff is missing, in its entirety, it's the best Meyers' interview to date.