22 Jump Street

22jumpsteet

 

DIR: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller • WRI: Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman • PRO: Jonah Hill, Neal H. Moritz, Channing Tatum  • ED: Keith Brachmann, David Rennie  • DOP: Barry Peterson • DES: Steve Saklad • MUS: Mark Mothersbaugh • CAST: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill

Just how self-aware is too self-aware?

Take any old film review as an example – perhaps that of 22 Jump Street, the sequel to 2012’s surprise critical success 21 Jump Street, which saw inept police officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) go undercover as teenagers in order to infiltrate a high-school drug ring with genuinely hilarious results.

In writing such a review, anyone might throw their hands up in despair, reasoning that each and every serious journalistic word-play concerning the film’s premise (see: Jonah “Over-The” Hill and Channing “Age-um” Tatum) has surely already been played out to their natural conclusion the first time around, and as such cannot be recycled into a new review. Unless, of course, said reviewer was enterprising enough to package those same old jokes as a form of meta-humour, and slip them past audiences with a wink, a nudge and an overwrought introductory paragraph such as, why, this one. The same reviewer might indeed ask you to bear with him, as this awkward metaphor pays off later.

In a continuation of the same self-satire championed by the likes of Arrested Development and Community but rather fumbled by this reviewer above, 22 Jump Street isn’t long in establishing that it is well aware of its status as a sequel. “Just do the same thing,” the duo’s police commissioner reasons. “Do the same thing, and everybody’s happy.”

Indeed, Jump Street’s latest case sees the two faced with a carbon copy task of last time, simply bigger – to infiltrate a group of college drug dealers and identify their supplier, with much of the same shenanigans ensuing along the way. With an inflated budget, their resources are greater, the guns bigger, the cars faster, Ice Cube’s angry police captain even angrier.

Hill and Tatum are on form again with a screen chemistry that is one part brotherly machismo to nine parts desperate co-dependence; Tatum, in particular, stretching comic muscles that leave those of his petty mortal flesh in the dust. The script, by turns, thumbs its nose and rolls its eyes at all the typical conventions expected of blockbuster sequels and, while it often works, therein also lies the rub. To hark back to our reviewer’s awkward opening paragraphs, while fun, Jump Street’s pointed awareness of the failure to deliver anything fresh does little to enliven reheated gags and plot points, and the constant navel-gazing ultimately speaks of a desire to play it safe as much as poke fun.

As a sequel, 22 Jump Street has developed along much the same lines as its aging undercover protagonists – though once lean the writing inclines to flab and quick wits begin to wander, a dose of boyish charm and bountiful goodwill is still enough to save it – if not quite enough to recapture the good old days.

Fans of the first will love it, and sticking it through to the end is recommended for all.

Ruairí Moore

 

16 (See IFCO for details)
111 mins

22 Jump Street is released on 6th June 2014

22 Jump Street – Official Website

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Cinema Review: This Is The End

this-is-the-end

 

DIR: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg • WRI: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg • DOP: Brandon Trost • ED: Zene Baker •DES: Chris L Spellman • Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Rihanna

Expanded from the 2007 short film Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse, This Is The End is the feature film directorial debut of long-time writing and producing partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Having first worked together on the US version of Da Ali G Show, the childhood friends have subsequently collaborated on a total of nine films, and while Rogen has also become a major Hollywood player in front of the cameras, Goldberg has continued to be an unassuming (but pivotal) presence behind the scenes.

They have enjoyed plenty of creative control on their films to date, but This Is The End finds them being given free rein in a way that must have seemed like a pipe dream just ten years ago. Thanks to their connection with the prolific Judd Apatow, they have come into contact with a number of rising and established comedic actors, and it is therefore no surprise to see the vast majority of them make some form of appearance in this $32 million budgeted comedy romp.

The trump card of this film is that every actor in the film is actually playing themselves, or at least a version of themselves. At the centre of the piece is Canadian actor Jay Baruchel – who featured heavily in Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder but had earlier come to prominence in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. He arrives in Los Angeles to spend some time with Seth Rogen, his fellow compatriot and best friend.

Not being a fan of the L.A. party scene, he hopes to confine himself to Rogen’s abode, but the Funny People actor has other ideas, and they instead end up at the home of James Franco, who is hosting a housewarming party. There they are accompanied by a plethora of Apatow alumni including Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Michael Cera, as you have never seen him before.

However, what starts as a typically rambunctious Tinseltown shindig quickly descends into something completely different. Initially oblivious to what is happening in the outside world (with the exception of Rogen and Baruchel who briefly exit the party), it some becomes clear to everyone that an apocalyptic disaster is happening before their very eyes.

Numerous guests are violently dispatched as the ground begins to crumble beneath their feet, and we are left with just six survivors – Franco, Rogen, Baruchel, Hill, Robinson and Danny McBride – who barricade themselves inside the luxurious house in an appearance attempt to fend off the horrors that await them should be embark into dangerous terrain.

When you are dealing with a concept like this, it can be all too easy for the film to lose sight of what it is trying to achieve, and it certainly is true that This Is The End has moments of indulgence and is often too self-aware for its own good. As the film moves into the final half-hour, there is a lot of discussion about how they need to be to stop being so selfish and need to treat one another with good will and charity, which could be potentially off putting for some audiences.

In an overall context, though, these are only minor concerns, as given the lack of memorable comedies that have been released during 2013, the main question surrounding This Is The End is whether or not it is able to reach sufficient levels of hilarity. It is a relief therefore to say that the film does have plenty of funny moments, and is particularly at its best when the participating stars display a willingness to send themselves up.

This is especially noticeable in the case of Franco, who has really enhanced his current standing as a truly unpredictable oddball screen presence with recent roles in Oz the Great and Powerful, Spring Breakers and The Iceman. The eccentricities that have often characterised his public persona are on full display in this film, whether it be his unique art collection or peculiar choice of food and household beverages.

Credit must also go to Hill, who does a fine job of pitching his performance somewhere between suspiciously amiable and outright sarcastic. Rogen, Baruchel and Robinson all bring their customary level of comic timing to the fray, but McBride proves to be the ace in the hole as he starts off as the most troublesome and self-centred of the group and actually becomes progressively worse despite the obvious benefits of him being the polar opposite.

With improvisation high on the agenda, the stars riff off each other to telling effect, and as they try to keep themselves occupied while the world as they know it changes irreparably, they try their hand at making an amateur sequel to the popular Pineapple Express, which featured Franco, Rogen, McBride and Robinson in lead roles.

Though much of the action remains confined to the inner sanctum of Franco’s home, the biblical implications of the film dictate that they must eventually be taken out of their comfort zone, and thanks to their reasonably sized budget, they have enough to clout to develop some eye-popping special effects, and although it intends to satirise the current trend for apoca-blockbusters, it does its level best to match them in terms of scale. Whether or not this film will go down as the cult classic that Rogen and Goldberg are clearly hoping for remains to be seen, but come the end of 2013, it will certainly register in the memory banks of cinema-goers to a much larger degree than all the comedy films that have preceded it this year.

Daire Walsh

106 mins
16 (see IFCO website for details)
This Is The End is released on 28th June 2013

This Is The End – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Watch

 

DIR: Akiva Schaffer • WRI: Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg • PRO: Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty • DOP: Barry Peterson • ED: Dean Zimmerman • DES: Doug J. Meerdink • CAST: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade

 

Evan Trautwig (Stiller) loves his life as a self-appointed community leader and the devoted manager of a Costco in Glenview, Ohio. His saccharinely positive existence is drastically changed forever when a mysterious creature rips apart the security guard and his store.

 

Determined to find the murderer, Evan decides to form yet another club, a Neighbourhood Watch, but he’s left disappointed when the only volunteers are a bunch of slackers. Jamarcus (Ayoade), Franklin (Hill) and Bob (Vaughn) just want to blow off steam and spend their time on the job hanging out, drinking beers and generally irking the local po-po. However when they stumble across some otherworldly technology, they soon realise what they’re dealing with is less of a serial killer and more like ET on Steroids.

 

Re-penned by the duo behind Superbad (Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg); directed by Lonely Island’s Akiva Schaffer; and featuring the comedic juggernauts Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill plus the fantastic UK export Richard Ayoade – The Watch is a current who’s who in comedy. Although filled to the absolute brim with talent, The Watch does not gel well as a film.

 

Admittedly it’s dappled with hilarious jokes and shrewd humour – but there’s a tone of uncertainty throughout, which means most of it falls quite flat. The genre teeters awkwardly between spoof-comedy and B-movie; the characters are written as bizarre, bland or just stereotypes; and there are an awful lot of smoking guns left unexplained or just abandoned.

 

Don’t get me wrong The Watch is in no way an awful film, just not the iconic one it could have been.

 

Gemma Creagh

 

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

102 mins

The Watch is released on 24th August 2012

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9G8rzHJsWpM

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Cinema Review: 21 Jump Street

DIR: Phil Lord, Chris Miller • WRI: Michael Bacall • PRO: Stephen J. Cannell, Neal H. Moritz • DOP: Barry Peterson • ED: Mark Livolsi • DES: Peter Wenham • Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Johnny Depp

21 Jump Street falls neatly into the category of ‘why?’ remakes – an iconic ’80s TV series turned into movie franchise brings to mind a disaster like Miami Vice. However, unlike other attempts to repackage the ’80s as relevant to modern times, 21 Jump Street uses the old series as a jumping-off point to create an original angle on an unoriginal idea. Two policemen going undercover as high-school kids is as hackneyed as they come, but by dint of some genuinely hilarious writing and top-class casting choices, 21 raises its head well above the parapet.

The two leading men, Channing Tatum as Greg and Jonah Hill as Morton, are misfit ex-enemies from high school – one thick but kind, and the other smart but socially inept – who end up best friends whilst training in the police force. Their early policing attempts play for laughs, one hilarious scene boasts them chasing a hardcore biker gang on push-bikes, and they find themselves pegged as immature and childish. Happily, these are the exact attributes required by the covert operations at 21, Jump Street, where Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson rules with foul-mouthed glee. They are assigned high-school detail to search for a new drug, and the sheer idiocy of this is never ignored, as students continuously comment on their obvious age – a comic tactic employed by this tongue-in-cheek movie as it takes itself not one-ounce seriously. Here they meet the super-popular gang – Greg, as ex- high-school jock and all-round cool kid, takes control of the situation, showing Morton the keys to maintaining status. However, in yet another hilarious scene, they are confronted by the fact that the ‘geeks’ now rule the school – led by Dave Franco’s Eric, an environmental champion who heads up the school paper and gets excellent grades.

Jokes abound in the comical mix-up of their identities, with Greg getting sent to the ‘smart’ classes, while Morton is expected to play for the football team, but there are some great action sequences too – culminating in a long-overdue epic explosion. Much has been made of the cameo appearance of the original TV series’ actors, but it is to the credit of those holding down the story up until that point that the appearance of Johnny Depp merely adds another comedic layer to a well-built structure, instead of upstaging them.

Despite the relative inexperience in the directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the actors involved, (all of whom could at any moment steal the show), are kept in check, providing a seamless impression of teamwork and camaraderie that makes this buddy film. While by no means exceptional, the movie is lifted above the mediocre by its snappy writing, excellent set-ups and by the shockingly brilliant comedic talents of Channing Tatum – who manages to make Jonah Hill seem like the amateur. An escape to teenagehood, this stands as a solid comedic reimagining of a TV series that takes loving jibes at the original, makes fun of itself at all times, and overall delivers laughs a-plenty. An inoffensive undercover romp that guarantees a hefty giggle – just what this awards-heavy season needed!

Sarah Griffin


Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
21, Jump Street is released on 16th March 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k0mo_oJfn4

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Cinema Review: The Sitter

DIR: David Gordon Green • WRI: Brian Gatewood, Alessandro Tanaka • PRO: Michael De Luca • DOP: Tim Orr • ED: Craig Alpert • DES: Richard A. Wright • Cast: Jonah Hill, Ari Graynor, Sam Rockwell

Since stumbling awkwardly onto our screens in Superbad, Jonah Hill has become a comedy favourite, forcing audiences into fits of hysterics with his on-screen antics. More recently, audiences have seen a change in the actor as he has physically shrunk before our eyes, causing some to think that his recent Call of Duty advert was photoshopped. It seems that the sky’s the limit for the young actor, but this year’s early comedy flop, The Sitter, seems to be a giant step backwards in the comedian’s career.

It’s almost unnecessary for me to provide a synopsis here as the movie’s title probably gives away all you need to know. An unlikely and irresponsible babysitter in the form of Hill as Noah, is tasked with caring for three of the world’s most aggressive kids and manages to bring them on an unforgettable adventure through the streets of New York. It is a common premise leading to unfortunate consequences; for every laugh-out-loud moment, there are ten moments of boredom and realising you’ve been here before.

Hill himself is ultimately charming as he mixes self-loathing with self-awareness to just the right degree. Sam Rockwell plays the insane pursuer well, and clearly enjoys the outlandish role. Our three demon children play their somewhat cliché parts well and without over-acting. Landry Bender is somehow adorable as the potty-mouthed Blithe, and Kevin Hernandez is well cast as explosives enthusiast Rodrigo, despite his character being slightly unnecessary. Unfortunately for Max Records, his character Slater is somewhat pushed into the background by his ‘siblings’. Usually we can put blame at the door of actors for the over-the-top nature of a film, but here I’m afraid, the blame rests behind the scenes.

The ultimate problem with this movie is that it’s been done to death, from the premise to the scenarios and the inevitable heart-warming realisations; there is not the slightest hint of originality here. Whilst Jonah Hill is hilarious in these unlikely scenarios, audiences are tiring of the formula, and already know not to hire an unlikely babysitter, whether it be Jackie Chan or Jonah Hill. Here is a disappointing filler movie from a comedic actor who has the talent and the timing to be fantastic. But perhaps this is Jonah’s last hurrah to his old overweight comedic stylings. We can only hope.

Each and every scenario which arises in this movie is carefully orchestrated to necessitate the use of curse words by one of our angel-faced wards, and whilst a cute kid swearing or kicking off is always funny the first time around, by the half-way point we forget we’re in a cinema trying to enjoy a movie and begin to feel like we’re sitting in a quiet restaurant being assaulted by that one child on a nearby table who just won’t quit. It’s disappointing when a movie has nothing but a swearing kid and one with a penchant for explosives to keep the audience interested. The Sitter is a movie made by intelligent filmmakers which should be enjoyable, but ultimately is not. The audience will not be completely bored as there are some moments of hilarity, but overall it is an ultimately forgettable experience. This is hopefully the beginning of a new age for Hill, in which he will flex his comedy muscles and avoid cliché movies like this one.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Sitter is released on 20th January 2012

The Sitter – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Moneyball

Brad manages Rounders team

DIR: Bennett Miller • WRI: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin • PRO: Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, Brad Pitt • DOP: Wally Pfister • ED: Christopher Tellefsen • DES: Jess Gonchor • CAST: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill

Sabermetrics is a term coined by Bill James and defined as ‘the statistical and mathematical analysis of baseball records.’ Moneyball is a true story about statistics and baseball. No wait come back! It stars Brad Pitt; is directed by Bennett Capote Miller; has a screenplay by Steven Schindler’s List Zaillian and Aaron The Social Network Sorkin and is shot by cinematographer Wally Inception Pfister. Surely a team this gifted can overcome the usual strikeout rate for baseball movies outside of the US (where it has already taken a respectable $70 million)?

Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, a retired baseball player turned general manager of the Oakland Athletics. Due to the team’s limited budget, the A’s are largely a feeder club; annually losing their star players to the teams with deeper pockets, i.e. every other team. Following the loss of their three top players in 2002, Beane takes a radical approach to baseball management after meeting economist Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand is an advocate of the Bill James school of thought and convinces Beane that the established system of baseball player acquisitions is skewed and that he can get a winning team within his meagre budget – a team of apparently washed up players and misfits that other teams have disregarded. Beane must risk it all and go against established baseball practice if he wants to win within his limited budget and change the game forever.

As far as plots go – just like Brand’s theory – this one is a hard sell. Statistics and baseball don’t make for a dream team on this side of the Atlantic. At least Moneyball’s team of players are nothing like misfits in Hollywood. Not only does this team win, they hit a home run, with the script, direction and acting combining to knock it out of the park.

The script is sharp, reminiscent of Sorkin’s The Social Network. Dialogue is witty and feels accurate (real-life baseball players and management were central to the production) without ever slipping into the melodrama so common in sporting movies. The direction is similarly minimalist. Pfister utilises a documentary style with natural lighting and an unobtrusive camera, enhancing the realism of the biopic. The acting is most noteworthy with Pitt and Hill shining in spite of the understated tone of the film.

The presence of Pitt was crucial to this film getting off the ground and he excels in the lead role. His natural charisma and svelte athleticism make him immediately convincing as an ex-pro athlete. Hill is similarly impressive in his finest role yet as the nerdy statistician. Both are utterly convincing and inhabit their roles without ever distracting from the film’s plot. These aren’t the flashy roles that cry out for Oscar® recognition and are doubly deserving as a result.

Moneyball will be a hard sell outside of the US but deserves to succeed. Whether it’s a curve ball or not for the Oscars® remains to be seen but it deserves to be in the starting line-up come awards season.

Peter White

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
Moneyball is released on 25th November 2011

Moneyball – Official Website

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