I’ve seen a bunch of new movies recently, five to be exact, and I thought I’d just group them conveniently into a single post. I didn’t go to the theater five times like an insane person though, only three times, then I caught another on HBO, and the last on Comcast On-Demand (two weeks ago, actually).
21 Jump Street
While the idea of remaking an 80s television show into a film seems, what’s the word… MINDLESS? I can’t help but feel like 21 Jump Street was a complete success. Instead of rehashing ideas from the show, or catering to the show’s fanbase’s every whim, they simply took the concept of 21 Jump Street and went their own way with it. Nick Offerman’s cameo in the beginning of the film even made two self-referential jokes at the notion of doing something as needless as *actually* remaking 21 Jump Street.
The film thrives because of enthusiasm from the two leads, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, with Hill also being a co-writer and producer. I heard on Hill’s Howard Stern interview that he spent the last 5 years of his life working on the script and getting the film made, taking his time so that everything got done the right way. It paid off. Jonah is funny as usual. I’ve normally hated Channing Tatum in everything he’s done so far in his life, but he was quite fitting in his role in this film. They kind of asked him to just play himself (or what most perceive how he normally is), and it worked out great. All the supporting characters from Rob Riggle to Chris Parnell to James Franco’s little brother to a great surprise cameo at the end helped round this out as a pretty good cast.
While not as good as like a Hot Fuzz at being an action comedy, it’s in the same ball park. I was consistently laughing throughout 21 Jump Street, and was laughing during most of the action scenes as well. It’s really funny watching these two idiots get too deep in trying to relive their high school days, and little moments like arguing whether or not to “one-strap” or “two-strap” their backpacks on the first day of school are the kind of small details that happened throughout that made the movie a success for me.
8.5 out of 10
Jeff Who Lives at Home
Kind of adorable, kind of frantic indie comedy about a 30-year-old loser (Jason Segel) who I believe lives at home (?), and the crazy day in his life when he intersects paths with his hyper, straightforward brother (Ed Helms). Segel is cutely trustworthy of strangers as he wanders the streets looking for clues to what he should do with his life, and Helms spazzes out a lot, and wishes he could be more like Jeff while at the same time belittling his brother’s lifestyle for its stagnant position. Susan Sarandon plays the mother of the boys, in a role that probably could have been cut from the movie.
The main plot revolves around finding out if Ed Helms’ character’s wife is cheating on him, and the brothers working together (for a change) to find it out. There are some uncomfortable moments here and there, but by the end you realize the whole thing is pretty harmless. It’s not good, it’s not bad, and with an 83 minute running time it’s not like it’s that much of a commitment.
It’s possibly the most 6.5 out of 10 movie ever made.
Casa de mi Padre
Now, I’m still a Will Ferrell fan, I’ll admit this. I understand why people don’t like his act anymore, but I disagree that he’s no longer funny. Seeing him in side roles (like Ashley Shaeffer from Eastbound & Down), brilliant talk show interviews, and odd beer commercials, I still think he’s funnier than he gets credit for nowadays.
That being said, for his entirely Spanish language comedy feature, Casa de mi Padre, he’s not even playing the comic role. He put himself in the role of the straight-man hero. The villains in the film often have bizarre, menacing, assholeness; traits that would have suited Ferrell’s persona much better. A screaming, Mexican Ashley Shaeffer for 90 minutes would have made me very happy… Instead, the main joke of Ferrell’s character becomes solely that he’s an established English speaking actor doing his lines in Spanish. Because the jokes themselves weren’t great.
It wasn’t as wholeheartedly terrible as I’m making it out to be. Ferrell is still kinda funny, especially in moments of dragged out uncomfortableness. Extended laughs, weirdly long durations of simple tasks, that stuff gets me every time. There was even an animatronic, talking mountain lion that captured the exact level of absurdity I was *hoping* for when I walked in there. That was the main problem with this film, it wasn’t nearly absurd enough. This *could* (and *should*) have been a Black Dynamite level of Spanish soap opera spoofing insanity, but instead it all kind of falls a little flat, with sporadic laughs throughout.
6 out of 10
HBO Film about the 2008 presidential campaign from the viewpoint of the Republican strategists. In other words, how picking Sarah Palin pretty much destroyed John McCain’s presidential campaign. It’s a really interesting look into one of the great political trainwrecks of modern times, but I guess it relies heavily on whether or not you believe the events in the film to actually be truthful. The real life strategists have said that the film was accurate, while Palin gave a very Palin-y response: “Hollywood lies!”.
The way the film plays out, you almost feel bad for Palin in the beginning. She just seems like someone in way over her head. The smart people are talking down to her like she doesn’t know anything, which it appears she didn’t.
[strategist points at map] “This is Germany. They were the main antagonist in World War II. Would you like to take a break, Sarah?”
[Palin takes notes] “No, keep going, this is awesome!”
She eventually takes a turn towards mental instability, then realizes she has some sort of odd upper hand and eventually attempts to become a self-important political demigod. The film does a good job making a really smooth transition from a naive woman to a naive power-hungry woman. And by the end you feel really bad for John McCain, and also pretty much everyone who worked hard on the campaign just to fall victim to Palin’s manic ego.
The acting is great (especially from Woody Harrelson and Julianne Moore), but from a filmmaking perspective it’s not incredibly interesting or dynamic visually. The story, however, is riveting. Definitely worth watching if you have HBO.
8 out of 10
Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
I’m going to be honest about two things. 1) I saw this movie two weeks ago, and drinking was involved. So I will try to remember this odd movie the best I can. And 2) I went into it not really having an opinion on Tim & Eric. About the most exposure I’ve had to them was many years ago in college, I watched an episode of Tom Goes to the Mayor where Tenacious D were singing about selling bear traps. Actually, in retrospect, that may have just been a strange dream I had. I’m not sure.
So basing this movie solely on the comedic value of going into it blind and without much opinion, I thought it was pretty funny (while drinking, mind you), but still being rather dumb at parts. And I remember getting slightly tired of it by the end. I don’t know if I would have made through it all the way sober, and I don’t think I’ll ever try. I look at it as the kind of movie that a clear mind shouldn’t have to endure.
But I did like all the celebrity cameos/small roles (John C. Reilly is hilarious), and I liked when they kept taking a joke further and further until it became uncomfortably obscene. I can see why people hate Tim & Eric, and I can see why people love them. I’m just going to continue to unintentionally avoid them, with occasional random viewing of their work, which I assume while be 50/50 on the laughs like this was. It was crazy enough to be commendable, though. I will always give crazy the benefit of the doubt.
6 out of 10