Thursday, 22 March 2012

Cinema Review - 21 Jump Street

There have been plenty of occasions where TV shows have taken the jump to the big screen, and for the majority, they have been adapted to provide comedy value. 21 Jump Street is yet another in that series. This time around, we take a Johnny Depp-starring show from the late 80s / early 90s and place Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in the lead roles.

Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) never got on a school. Morton was the stereotypical geeky kid whilst Greg was the all-star, all popular jock who could do no wrong. Years later they meet again, this time in the police force. Striking an unlikely friendship in the training process, the two soon become partners on the beat, albeit patrolling parks on their less-than-exciting bicycles.

After busting some drug dealers but failing to read them their Miranda rights, the pair are sent to 21 Jump Street to take part in an undercover case in which they must pose as students in order to infiltrate a drug ring going on within the pupils. Heading back to school soon brings up some old memories for both but things don't quite pan out as they expect, where the expression 'times are a'changing coming into play to the max.

As odd pair-ups go, the joining of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum appeared as odd casting as there has been in some time. Fortunately though, appearances can be deceiving and 21 Jump Street provides us the audience with one of the most entertaining on-screen double acts to be seen for a long while. Hill provides us with his stereotypical geek with ultimate ease and Tatum, not known particularly for his comic acting, steals the show as the popular high school figure grown to be as non-intelligent as would be expected. 

Include into the proceedings Ice Cube revelling in playing an overly-stressed and unflinching Captain Dickson, a hilarious turn from Rob Riggle's gym teacher and some other masterfully placed roles (most notably a cameo from the legendary Johnny Depp, who incidentally starred in the TV show of the same name), and 21 Jump Street ticks all the boxes for characters who are both memorable and enticing. 

Riddled with crass language, stereotypes galore and finger pointing at every possible moment, 21 Jump Street is hardly politically correct but this is what makes it so fun. Its boldness is astounding and even goes to the lengths of even poking fun out of itself, something few films are brave enough to do these days. Putting together a great double team and some superb supporting roles, it's quite simple to say that 21 Jump Street is one of the funniest films to grace the screen in recent months. Laugh-out loud glory. 

Film rating: 4 out of 5 F's

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Long Weekend Review - Ridley Scott Classics, Shakespeare And An F1 Legend

With the advantage of a 3 day weekend at my disposal, this week I took the decision to visit some previously uncovered ground in film. Following a cinema trip to see Disney's John Carter (my review for Filmoria can be seen here), things took a more serious turn.

First up was a first watch of Ridley Scott's war epic Black Hawk Down. Featuring an all-star cast including Ewan McGregor, William Fichtner, Josh Hartnett and Eric Bana, it was a superb depiction of a group of U.S. soldiers in Somalia on a mission to capture two lieutenants in conjunction with a notorious warlord. With such an impressive cast and exceptional cinematography, Black Hawk Down is a truly memorable experience. Capturing the devastation and destruction of war seamlessly, Scott provides the viewer with characters we can all root for as well as a story that unfolds spectacularly with every passing minute. At times shocking and constantly keeping you on your toes, Black Hawk Down is as impressive a war film as any you will witness.
Rating: 4 out of 5 F's

From a war-time epic to Shakespeare. The next film I encountered was Roland Emmerich's Anonymous. Taking a break from destroying every known landmark in the world, Emmerich brings us the story of how Shakespeare may not have even been the one who wrote all those sonnets and plays.
In short, it's boring, dull, a yawnfest, you get my drift. What appears to be a somewhat ludicrous storyline only shows in a film that lacks any edge and falls flat. One to avoid.
Rating: 1 out of 5 F's

After a disappointingly terrible film it would take a lot to lift the mood and a move into documentary territory saw me watch Senna. Focusing on the life of Ayrton Senna, the film was 100 minutes of sheer fascinating viewing. From his beginning in kart racing to his tragic death at the age of just 34, Senna was a truly remarkable individual and this BAFTA-winning documentary is a wonderful look into the trials and tribulations of his life in Formula One racing. Looking in detail at his rivalry with one-time team-mate Alain Prost and focusing on the politics involved in the sport, this is one for all interested in the sport and viewers who want an insight into a truly gifted person. Well worthy of its accolade and a joy to watch.
Rating: 4 out of 5 F's

From a modern classic of a documentary to yet more Ridley Scott and finally I got the chance to watch not one but two science fiction behemoths of film. shocking as it sounds I had never watched the two giants that are Blade Runner and Alien (plenty of Twitter backlash on this one, rightly!). Fortunately yesterday broke that revelation.

Blade Runner has a simple yet superb plot. Harrison Ford is a retired 'blade runner', a law enforcement officer whose job was to hunt down 'replicants' and dispose of them. In 2019, replicants, formerly used as slaves to the humans, are illegal and any found are to be eliminated. When rogue replicants steal a ship and return to Earth in search for their maker Ford's Deckard is tasked with sorting the problem, but Roy (Rutger Hauer) the leader is one hell of a formidable foe.
Ridley Scott's vision of the future looks as impressive in this day and age as it would have in 1982. This speaks volumes and shows how magnificent Blade Runner looks. I admit, I had slight doubts that this would be the 'classic' that all and sundry have dubbed it but it has to be said it is one of the best science fiction movies ever made. Ford is the perfect lead and his opponent Rutger Hauer oozes evil with his own unique style.
Rating: 5 out of 5 F's

My final film of the weekend came in the form of THE best sci-fi horror of all time. You know I can only be talking about Alien.
When the crew of the Nostromo receive an unknown distress signal they investigate a planetoid only to find the remains of an alien and a large group of eggs ready to hatch. When one does hatch and a creature latches itself onto one of the crew, he is returned to the ship and, after that shocking and iconic chest-bursting scene, an alien is let loose aboard the craft.
As each of the crew falls to the formidable evil lurking in the shadows, only one individual has the courage to face up to the monster, that woman is Ripley (Sigourney Weaver).
A lesson in how to create tension, Alien is a terrifying ordeal once the monster itself is unleashed on the spaceship. Claustrophobic, scary as hell and ultimately the most tense sci-fi to ever hit screens, Alien is a pure master class of film-making.
Rating: 5 out of 5 F's

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Cinema Review - Project X

It's common law upon friends that when parents leave you to take care of the house whilst they enjoy some time away it is absolutely necessary for a house party to be organised. Low and behold this is the basis for the latest comedy produced by 'he of The Hangover fame Todd Phillips. We're talking about Project X

Thomas (Thomas Mann) is turning seventeen and coincidentally his parents celebrate their anniversary on exactly the same day and are off for the weekend to celebrate. This leaves their son, along with his two friends, the unflappable Costa (Oliver Cooper) and the overweight and diffident J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown) to begin organising the celebrations. In order to get the most out of the experience, the relative loners look to Dax (Dax Flame), a student who will film the whole event. 

With their current popularity status at a low, Thomas insists on a simple and low-key party, half in fear of no-one turning up and the other half in the mindset that his parents are always keeping tabs via phone at every opportunity. Unfortunately for him, the over-excited and ardent Costa wants to take the party to the next level and proceeds with his plans to make the most epic party ever. Sending out text messages, emails and so forth, the party is all set and the boys soon find a prodigious number of students embarking upon the residence. 

What ensues are the most unbelievable party antics you will ever witness on film. Everything from topless women, guys getting a dog high, a bouncy castle and even a seriously angry midget are on show in an incredibly mental series of events. 

With British first-time-feature director Nima Nourizadeh at the helm, Project X thrives through his previous experience in directing music videos (most notably for Lily Allen and Hot Chip) and the Adidas 'party' advertisements. Bringing to screen plenty of 'what the hell' moments and utter carnage, Nourizadeh knows his target audience and develops a story we all know about into one of the biggest house parties we will ever witness.

In introducing our three main characters, we are quickly accustomed to their altering personalities and without a doubt we can relate to at least one of them when it comes to looking back at ourselves at that age. Whether we relate to Thomas, Costa or J.B. we all know how this story is going to unfold, it's just how far it will escalate is the real draw. All three actors do a splendid job with their individual characters, especially as only Thomas Mann had any previous filming experience. 

With his experience in the Adidas advertisements, Nourizadeh enjoys some brilliant almost montage moments of partying individuals and this plays out perfectly in a film where so much is going on that we want to know about. Focusing mainly on the action through different camera sources is an ingenius way of getting the audience to maintain their belief in the reality of these events and at no point does it feel uncomfortable presented in such a way. 

Admittedly the film does falter on copious amounts of sexism but this is a film revolving around a high school party so this content is almost expected in these types of genre films on a regular basis in the film world. Couple that with a climax which results in an absolutely unnecessary showcase of utter carnage and the film is left slightly bitter tasting. Luckily though, its plus points by far outweigh these very minor negatives. 

As a result, Project X is one of the most enjoyable films for some time, and, with its elements of real-life and a focus on attaching its characters to the audience it succeeds in providing plenty of 'wow' and reminiscent moments. Clearly Todd Phillips' involvement has had an impact with some Hangover similarities creeping in but this is very much different from what we have seen before. Think of Superbad meets handheld cameras multiplied by a thousand and Project X is the film you have. Brilliantly fun and completely mental, bring your friends and have a raucous time!

Film rating: 4 F's out of 5