22 Jump Street

All hail the return of Korean Jesus! Up next is the highly anticipated 22 Jump Street, sequel to the popular 2012 comedy 21 Jump Street. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, it features Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, and Ice Cube. It is rated R for strong language, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence.

After the events of the first film, Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) take on their next task when they go deep undercover at a local college. However, the two begin to question their partnership after Jenko befriends a kid on the football team, and Schmidt invades the Bohemian art major scene. Now, before solving the case, they have to figure out whether they can even have a mature relationship.

6 out of 10

I came to this movie having just sat through, or perhaps more appropriately, suffered through the James McAvoy film Filth and was thus in serious need of an amusing experience to lift my spirits. Fortunately, that is exactly what I found in 22 Jump Street, a movie that although it does not hit the same heights as the original, is a very suitable follow-up full of gags. 22 Jump Street is a movie made completely for the viewer. You may reasonably question what I mean by this: aren’t all films made to be watched? Yes, but sometimes, especially during my viewing of Filth, I question whether the director is really doing this for the viewer or is simply indulging his or her own artistic fancies. There is no question of this in 22 Jump Street. It delivers exactly what you want, comedy, while filling in the rest with serviceable plot and character development and some bold action sequences. Whereas in the first film the best comedic moments came from the parody of modern high school culture, here I found the biggest laughs in the jokes parodying the original and the film itself. This gave the film a refreshing lighthearted mood. The director seemed to be saying that yes the premise is ridiculous and everyone knows it, so let’s just enjoy the ride.

22 jump

That said this was not a classic movie. Sure you could argue it wasn’t ever trying to be, but even within the realm of lighthearted comedies this is not a standout entry. It does everything fine, but it doesn’t do anything amazingly or even particularly cleverly. To be fair, I was chuckling throughout but no single joke took longer than a split-second for me to fully grasp. This is just standard fare for Hill and though the setting and characters may be different, this is effectively the same humor he has been dealing in since Superbad 7 years ago. Honestly, Hill. Rogen and co. could probably have written the script for this movie in a single afternoon.

Another grievance I have with the film is that it doesn’t really say anything important. One trend that I really admire in modern cinema is seemingly simple movies with some moral message. Pixar has done this for decades but now every studio seems to be getting in on the moral action. But beyond the obvious truth that modern sequels tend to be derivative of the original, this movie lacked a basic message.

But I do not want to disparage this movie too much. It is a fun ride and if you enjoyed the first entry you will find more than enough to entertain you. And arguably more importantly, it didn’t ruin the legacy of the great first entry even if it could not reach its heady heights.

8 out of 10
Here’s the short version:
I like 21 Jump Street. 22 Jump Street is 21 Jump Street. Therefore, I like 22 Jump Street.Ah, damn! I still have to write a whole review though so here’s the four to five hundred word version:The very best part of 22 Jump Street is that its shining moments are not exact, carbon-copies of 21 Jump Street. There’s definitely a bit of originality there. But the worst part (And its not exactly awful) is that a lot of its jokes use the same blueprints as 21 Jump Street.21 Jump Street (The drama) was about two narcs solving crimes at schools (After agitating them, of course). 21 Jump Street (The movie) was about making fun of the old T.V. show and then some. It expanded its horizons into the movie industry in general.22 Jump Street is about…making fun of the old T.V. show and then some. Its (Right down to some hilarious cameos and satisfying meta-humor) the same concept. Same plotline. Mainly the same characters and some of those “Have I seen that before?” jokes that comedy sequels are unusually good at churning out.

But I still laughed. And, by God, that is what I’m measuring this by. It may have the same designs but it has just enough variety in its execution that comedies like The Hangover 2 don’t have. It’s also self-aware. Self-awareness really carries this one: this movie knows exactly what it is versus what it’s expected to be. The very best example of this comes right before the end credits when we get hit with a barrage of potential sequel clips; each plagued with the usual cliches that we’ve forgotten we’ve all (Regrettably) paid to see before.

Yet another thing that carries this movie is the relationship between our two stars: Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. If I’m not mistaken, these two are actually friends in real life which doesn’t surprise me very much. I’m just as invested in our leads as ever and you oddly continue to care about their friendship (But not too much that it oversteps its bounds).

And because you’re so invested, there’s another thing that (Again, surprisingly) works: the action. I swear to God that I care more about the action that happens in 21 and 22 Jump Street than 90% of the blockbuster action films I have seen in between the two. The action is actually good. It’s not the whole movie but it’s entertaining enough so that you don’t stop caring.

In conclusion, 22 Jump Street is worth it. If you’re willing to cope with the deja vu and the same structure as before then you’ll certainly enjoy the bits of original execution it has to offer. Would I like to see a sequel or two? I know better than to trust Hollywood with such a daunting task as making a good comedy three-quel but why not?

Just keep Ice Cube involved somehow.

IMDB: 7.2
Metacritic: 71
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%


The Wolf of Wall Street

To end our Oscar season, we’ll take a look at the one of the most polarizing films of year, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Directed by the aforementioned Scorsese, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and Matthew McConaughey. It is rated R strong sexual content, graphic nudity, heavy drug use, explicit language, and some violence throughout.

In Scorsese’s 3 hour epic, DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort, a Long Island stockbroker as he indulges in a life of corruption and indulgence that regularly features drugs, sex, and money. Belfort teams up with Donnie Azoff (Hill) and starts the brokerage firm Stratford-Oakmont. The company, using corrupt and illegal tactics, quickly grows in both size and relevance. However, with the FBI watching Belfort’s every move, he must find creative ways to cover his tracks and maintain his life of fortune and fun.

Thanks to Nic and Emma for being guest writers this week.

8 out of 10

The Mighty Roar. This is how Jordan Belfort describes the sound of his board room. It also happens to be how I would describe The Wolf of Wolf Street to someone who has not seen it. A Mighty Roar of a movie. It begins with Belfort tossing a Midget at a bulls-eye with dollar signs on it. We proceed to follow a pretty coked up Belfort through his life of extravagance and debauchery. All the while taking us back through how he made it to the top. When I first saw the trailer, I thought that it would be reminiscent of Inside Job, a wall street documentary about the financial crisis of 07-09. I was dead wrong. Unlike in his memoir, Belfort skips all of the wall street talk and moves straight to what people went to the theater to see: International crime, and Leonardo Dicaprio and Jonah Hill double teaming a secretary. And he delivers too. Money is stuffed into briefcases, rained on prostitutes, used to snort cocaine, thrown into wastebaskets, and taped to a mostly naked woman so that she can smuggle it across the border to Switzerland.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio

After reading the memoir, I understood one thing about Jordan Belfort. That he didn’t truly care about other people, especially women, because they were his playthings. Sometimes during a scene where a woman was yelling at him (the water splashing scene !!!) he would take that time, not to describe the argument but to describe their bodies and how horny he was. Scorsese decided that he would make the women in his life strong and calculating, as opposed to willing and objectified. At one point he agrees to give a female broker 100,000 dollars if she will shave her head in front of the whole board room. A marching band comes in and strippers deck the board halls. Belfort is looking proudly over his board room, and not looking at the girl who has already been given the money and looks like she is on the verge of tears. As she walks away from the shaver some people give her an understanding pat on the back, as if doing anything for Belfort’s money was routine. This is the opposite of Belfort’s T and A thoughts about his employees.

Leonardo DiCaprio really could not have done a better job at capturing all of the nuances that come with a character like Jordan. There are some times in the film where you can actually identify with his character, as a man who has lost himself. DiCaprio was supported by a surprisingly good performance by Jonah Hill as his equally greedy right hand man, Donnie Azoff. Margot Robbie not only feigns an awesome accent but held her own among bigger names, portraying Belfort’s wife as calculating and smart not just a bimbo. These performances were backed up by Jean Dujardin, Rob Reiner, Matthew McConaughey, and even a small cameo from Spike Jonze. All in all the amazing performances many of these actors gave, among other things, gave The Wolf of Wall Street the depth it has past just a memoir.

7 out of 10

Looking over the list of nominees for the Best Picture this year, there is no shortage of films with something to say. From Dallas Buyers Club’s thought-provoking treatment of the AIDS epidemic to the story of an old woman searching for the son taken from her by the Church presented in Philomena, the field is certainly rife with moral tales. Martin Scorsese in his latest film The Wolf of Wall Street, however, has little time for such sentiment. His protagonist Jordan Belfort, played adeptly by Leonardo DiCaprio, leads a life of debonair debauchery with remarkably few consequences. Belfort truly can have his Quaaludes and pop them too.

That is not to say, by any means, that the film is not enjoyable and indeed the first hour goes by in a flurry of excess and wonderment at the lifestyle Belfort and his fellow Wall Street newcomers live. It is certainly not for everyone but few movies in the past few years can claim to have constructed such an escapist ideal as this one has. Sure, there are a few moral speed bumps, prime among them that Belfort steals unsuspecting investors’ money and livelihood. But as Belfort says, he “spends it better anyway”, so it’s all okay really. But as the minutes stretch into hours, the Wolf’s legs seem to run out a bit, tired by the earlier frantic pace and one questions the necessity of some later scenes.

The obvious comparison to make would be to Scorsese’s earlier work Goodfellas as both track the legally questionable rise and fall of a handsome, enigmatic male plagued by demons. But where Goodfellas seemed continuously fresh throughout, Wolf gets somewhat stale. And where Scorsese did a masterful job of walking the moral tight rope with his last character which allowed him to portray how terrible some of the things his protagonist did were whilst maintaining sympathy for him, Belfort can be difficult to connect to.

Margot Robbie (left), DiCaprio, and Scorsese (right)

Margot Robbie (left), DiCaprio, and Scorsese (right)

But Belfort is not a hero, he is an anti-hero and DiCaprio embraces this fully. In doing so he certainly shines the brightest of all the cast and wholly deserves the award attention given to him. The rest of the cast is largely serviceable and little more. Margot Robbie however, playing Belfort’s second wife, does deserve a mention for her accurate portrayal of a feisty female without the coldness that is all too often characteristic of intelligent females in male-dominated films. And of course, Matthew McConaughey turns in a virtuous turn as Belfort’s mentor and provides the greatest moment of the entire film.

Some people will hate The Wolf of Wall Street. But most of these people were always going to hate it long before the first reel of film was shot. For the rest of us, it is an undeniably good film and provides fantastic entertainment for two hours. Sadly, the film is not two hours long and it is this final hour that makes what could have been a great film simply a good one.

IMDB: 8.3
Metacritic: 75
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%