Archive for June, 2014

Part 2 of My 100 Movies of Summer 2014

The faces of two men wearing colorful sunglasses, and holding guns up beside their faces. Above them the number '22' in red.

22 Jump Street (d. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)

Laurel & Hardy.  Abbott & Costello.  Hope & Crosby.  Pryor & Wilder.  Hill & Tatum?

There’s a new comedic duo primed to join the greats.  And that duo is Magic Mike and the tubby kid from Superbad.

Whodathunkit?

I saw 21 Jump Street in the theater and rather liked it.  I thought it was funny and found it to be a good time.  I went on living my life.  Recently, I was visiting a friend who had never seen it.  He rented it VOD and I laughed my ass off.  I had forgotten just how funny it was.  I was primed and ready for the sequel.

If you’ve seen the first film, you understand just how genius the pairing of these two actors is.  Tatum, not known for being the best of actors, plays the ridiculously sculpted athlete who’s a bit of lunk.  Hill, who was previously known for his teen comedies, is the insecure, clumsy and book smart guy.  They put aside their differences to help each other get through the police academy and are partnered up.  Hilarity ensues.

The interplay between the two is perfect.  It’s not something that can be directed or coaxed out of an actor.  It’s the kind of chemistry that very few actors have together and it’s absolutely the best reason to see these movies.

You may have noticed that I haven’t really talked about the plot of the sequel.  Well honestly, that’s because it’s not really necessary.  The movie itself merely serves as a device to allow these two to do their thing (this time in a collegiate setting) with some great supporting turns from the likes of a dry Nick Offerman, an ever angry Ice Cube and others including character actress Jillian Bell who almost steals the movie in her few minutes of screen time.  The film is self-aware without being cute about it.  The filmmakers and actors knew they didn’t have to break new ground and yet manage to do so while serving up a story that is almost directly lifted from the first film.

But it doesn’t matter.  They even use that to great comedic effect.

The plot resolves, the greatest bromance in movie history survives another test and, as the end credits roll, the viewer is gifted with a tease of further potential sequels.  I’d probably watch every last one of them.

If you enjoyed 21 Jump Street, you will enjoy this one.  It’s that simple.  And if you didn’t enjoy 21 Jump Street, what the hell is wrong with you?

If you are interested in seeing what other films I watched this week you can always check out of my profile at Letterboxd.

Previous Entries in My 100 Movies of Summer 2014 series:

The best thing I saw LAST week!

 

 

 

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Part 1 of My 100 Movies of Summer 2014

Every summer, as May flips over to June, I make a silent vow to watch 100 movies by August 31.  I’ve been successful in this endeavor the last 2 years so I’m hoping to keep it going.

This year, instead of a dry list summarizing what films I’ve watched, I’ve decided that every week I will highlight an individual movie that stood out from the pack and deserves special recognition.

A man and a woman, wearing battle exosuits and looking battle-worn, stand against an urban background devastated by war.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014, d. Doug Liman)

The film starts with a news montage detailing the landing of an asteroid on Earth, bringing with it an unstoppable alien race that is steadily taking over Europe.  The combined force of the world’s armies have little success in stopping the onslaught until one brave soldier in a battle suit, Rita Vrataski (played wonderfully by Emily Blunt), destroys hundreds of the aliens in a crucial battle.  Emboldened by this victory, the united armies plan a massive attack to wipe out the invading force on the beaches of France.

Enter Tom Cruise playing Cage, a former ad man drawn into military service, whose job it is to drum up support for the war and to encourage recruitment.  He is rather unceremoniously and unwillingly thrown into duty where he will be on the front line of the attack. The combat mission begins and the enemy forces are wholly prepared for Earth’s defenders.  Thousands of soldiers are dying.  Cage spies Vrataski fighting bravely on the field of battle only to be killed.  Moments later, he himself is attacked but he manages to set off an explosive device that kills the alien.  Consumed by the fire and covered in the alien’s blood, he dies.  And wakes up, right back where he started on the military base where the previous day began.  After a couple of iterations, he comes to the inevitable conclusion that he’s stuck in a nightmarish loop that will always lead to his painful demise.

He quickly realizes that he needs to learn how to fight.  Fortunately, there is a known fighter on base.  Someone who has proven them self in combat.  He approaches Vrataski and tells his tale.  She believes him.  Because the same thing has happened to her.

And this is where the movie starts getting really fun.

If the film sounds a bit like Duncan Jones’ Source Code, that’s because it is.  That’s not really a problem though.  This kind of time mechanic has been used dozens of times in movies. What matters is how the conceit is used.  And here, it’s used to perfection.  The movie plays like a video game where the main character has infinite lives to reach their goal.  The goal is initially survival but the more Cage learns from Vrataski about fighting, the more he learns about his condition.  The end game becomes infinitely more challenging.  It’s no longer just about getting off that beach alive.  It’s about saving the human race.

Cruise is frankly great in the role.  He could sleepwalk through a part like this but he doesn’t.  He starts as a coward and has to learn to become the character we’re used to seeing from him.  The movie never explicitly states how many times he repeats the same day.  But it is clear that it’s quite a few.  The burden begins to show in his eyes.  It’s enough to test a man’s soul, enough to break him.  And at times, it does.

Blunt though, in sheer defiance of the mega-star and his mega-watt smile, is the real standout.  She’s brassy and confident and entirely capable of saving the human race.  She can’t be bothered to be a love interest for Cage.  She’s too damn busy and too hardened from the experience of her own loop.  She does convey an empathy for the man but at times it’s clear she sees him as a tool, a means to an end.

The beauty of their relationship is that every single day she’s meeting him for the first time.  He’s had countless days to know her, to respect her, to admire her, and maybe to even love her.  And every day, he has to watch her die.  That’s almost Shakespearean.

The movie falters a bit in the third act as the consequences become a bit more final and the ending has a bit of a paradox that might drive a viewer a bit batty if they let it.  But this is pure popcorn entertainment done well and intelligently.  It’s by turns funny, thrilling and sad.  And ultimately completely satisfying.

Summer 2014 has a film to beat.

If you are interested in seeing what other films I watched this week, you can always check out my profile at Letterboxd.

 

And lo from on high came the plaintive cry:  THERE’S NOTHING GOOD ON NETFLIX!

You’ve probably said it yourself.  Be honest.  You thought of a movie you hadn’t seen in years.  You fired up your laptop or your PS3.  And it wasn’t there.  You were disappointed.  You joined the chorus.

I wish I’d been there for you.  I would’ve pointed out 20 movies just on the Recently Added queue you’ve probably never seen or even heard of that were worth watching.  You would’ve laughed or cried or been thrilled.  We would’ve become great friends.  Perhaps if you were the fairer of the sexes, we would’ve fallen in love.  We’d have kids by now.  If it was a girl, we would’ve named her after your mom.  If it was a boy, my dad.

But I digress.

Every May, I push my stacks of neglected Blu-rays and DVDs to the side and attack my ever-growing Netflix queue.  It’s filled with movies I’d never heard of that looked interesting.  Some are classics I’m dying to see again.  Others are festival films that never got a wide release that I’ve always wanted to check out.  There are more good movies out there than you or I will ever be able to see in our lifetimes.  And a bunch of them are just sitting there, waiting for us.

On Netflix.

I watched 20 films on the service over the last 31 days.  I saw everything from an evangelical kidnapping drama to a parkour version of Step Up to a post-apocalyptic teen romance.  Not all of them were winners but some of them were great.

These are my favorites:

File:The Hunt (2012 film).jpg

The Hunt

A match carelessly tossed can start a fire that consumes an entire forest. A child’s lie, born of petulance, can ruin a man’s life and scar a community. Such is the dark truth revealed in this haunting and disturbing film. A teacher is falsely accused of molesting a student. Mania and fear grip concerned parents. The charges are proven false and dropped. And yet, all trust has been lost. Just as the charred and blackened trees give grim evidence of the fire, the doubting glances prove that the innocent man will always be guilty in the eyes of some. Frustrating, sad and brutally honest, this film will stay with you long after it’s done.

Milius (2013) Poster

Milius

This is a fascinating and engaging documentary about a filmmaker who was born of one of the most exciting periods of creativity in cinema history. He ran with Spielberg, Lucas and Coppola. His words were made famous in iconic scenes. And he was a fine director as well. John Milius is a legend to his friends and enemies alike. The film isn’t afraid to put a spotlight on his shortcomings but for the most part is a piece by obvious fans of the man and his body of work. I know I have a new-found appreciation for him. Here’s hoping we get to see that Genghis Khan movie.

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The Summit

Part documentary footage, part recreation the film recounts a disastrous day in which 11 people died in an attempt to climb K2. It’s pretty gripping stuff. It makes you wonder why anyone would want to risk their lives in such an endeavor, one that statistically claims 1 out of every 4 people who attempt it. The film then takes on an almost Rashomon feel as the survivors’ accounts of the events surrounding the tragedy begin to differ and no one seems to know the whole truth.

Just Another Love Story (2007) Poster

Just Another Love Story

It’s like While You Were Sleeping. Except there’s nudity and guns and murder. And no Sandy. This Danish noir takes a while to get rolling as Jonas, a crime scene photographer, is involved in a car accident. He goes to the hospital to check on the other driver, a young woman named Julia who now has amnesia as a result of the accident. Her family mistakes him for Sebastian, her fiance they’ve never met. He does not correct them. His life begins a downward spiral as the two grow closer. It all leads to a tension filled final act as the consequences of a myriad of bad choices come crashing down on him. Good and twisty stuff.

Mortified Nation (2013) Poster

Mortified Nation

This is a fun doc about a stage show in which volunteers go up and read amusing and often embarrassing entries from the journals or diaries they wrote when they were kids. There’s nothing too substantial here but it does serve as a nice reminder of the universal aspects of growing up. We were all little freaks who took life too seriously and who were just trying to figure out how to make it to the next level with some sanity intact. The one thing I kept thinking is that, if I could, I’d love to go back to 11-year-old me, shove a journal in his hand, and tell him to just write. Every night or as often as you can. Put it on paper, I don’t want to forget.

The Dirties poster.jpg

The Dirties

Well acted, well-directed and definitely thought-provoking. It attempts to illustrate how an otherwise seemingly normal kid could end up walking down the halls of his high school and start killing people. It focuses on bullying as a possible source. It allows for the fact that the kid might just be sick. Never too preachy and often funny, it leaves the viewer not so much with an indictment of the situation but a stark picture of the reality behind it.

 

There you have it. That’s 6 movies.  Six of thousands waiting to be found.  Waiting for you.

So quit whining already…and go find one.