Phil Lord

June 24, 2014

22 Jump Street

COMFORTABLE
22 Jump Street – Comfortable
Taking a chance on a film that really doesn’t need to be made is one thing, but taking a chance on a film that was a surprise success is another thing entirely. In there lies the beauty of “22 Jump Street,” a film that is so comfortable with how good it is it’s willing to take itself entirely unserious (a word?) during its entire run-time. I usually would save this for the end, but this will possibly be the best comedy of 2014.

“22” once again stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as Detectives Schmidt and Jenko, respectively, as they try to stop a new(er) designer drug called “WHYPHY” being spread across college campuses. Basically, it’s “21 Jump Street” with a different drug….in college….and a bigger budget. The film’s self-awareness and the chemistry between Hill and Tatum are once again the highlights of a film that could have easily been a mockery and easy cash-in, but both Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were also responsible for stellar “Lego Movie” earlier this year, find just enough originality and heart to make this sequel equal, if not better, than it’s predecessor.

What differentiates “22” from “21”is also the pacing and the use of ancillary characters from the first film. You have some great cameos, and the use of Ice Cube in a larger supporting role yields some of the funniest moments of the film, including a twist you probably don’t see coming. Speaking of Cube, it’s interesting that when he actually gets good material to work with, he’s a real good actor. Yes, I didn’t see “Ride Along” but it’s hard to forgive films like “Are We There Yet?” Sorry Cube, maybe I’m playa’ hating a little bit, but it looks like you’re back on the right track.

While most of the performances are very funny and memorable, not all of the performances are memorable for the right reasons, namely Jillian Bell, who might know from “Workaholics.” Now I’m not saying she isn’t funny, she just happens to be the least funniest part of this film. Her schtick wears thin pretty quick and while she ends being a bigger part of the film come the end, she really wears out her welcome with her brand of comedy. Will Bell doesn’t ring all that well for me, Wyatt Russell, the son of the legend Kurt Russell, and the Lucas Brothers, give some memorable performances and balance out the zaniness of both Hill and Tatum.
With self-aware comedy, Hill and Tatum at the top of their game, and some real great action set pieces, “22” is a winner for all the right reasons. Granted, I will say if you’re a fan of the first film, I’m pretty sure you won’t enjoy the sequel, even though this sequel makes sure that even if your didn’t see the first film it provides you with a handy “previously on” segment to start the film, which I think was a stroke of genius that only a film this comfortable with itself would be able to provide.
Fun Fact: Across the United States there are five 22 Jump Street address; include two Florida.
February 12, 2014

The LEGO Movie

INSPIRED
The LEGO Movie – Inspired

The magic of movies, at least for me, is where a film can take me back to a time in my life where I was happiest and made me feel joy.  It’s important that a filmmaker(s) be able to connect with an audience at not only an intellectual level, but also a human level.  Going to the movies is as much an experience as it can be a sanctuary for young and old.  Usually, as we get old, we get more cynical and jaded and there are times that are few and far between where we can remember what it’s like to be a kid and simply have fun.  That’s how I felt with “The LEGO Movie” an extremely inspired film-going experience that had me laughing, smiling, and nearly crying when it was all said and done.

“LEGO” from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the guys that brought us the hilarious “21 Jump Street” in 2011, channel their inner child and have created a “kids” film that will keep the little ones entertained throughout with explosions, but are still able to create an intelligent film that will have LEGO collectors, or even casual builders, in stitches throughout it’s entirety.  The film follows Emmet, voiced by Chris Pratt, as a stock LEGO-man piece; he loves to follow rules, watch “Where Are My Pants?” (which needs to be a real show by the way) and builds things like couch bunk beds.  Emmet’s world is thrown out of whack when he discovers that he’s a part of a prophecy to save the world from the evil Lord Business, voiced by Will Ferrell.  To say the least, hijinks ensue, and things blow up a lot.

What really makes “LEGO” special is the attention to detail.  You can tell that Lord and Miller really went out of their way to make the ultimate meta LEGO film.  From the obscure LEGO figurines, to the way things explode into fiery LEGO pieces, and especially how things are built.  We can all remember how awesome it was the first time we built our first spaceship, or even that weird creation that was the cross between a taxi cab, and a bathtub, its all in “LEGO.”

Aside from the incredible attention to detail, the voice cast is incredibly impressive.  You can tell that Lord and Miller have an great Roll-O-Dex of people they can contact.  From Nick Offerman to Allison Brie, with a few surprise voices thrown in for good measure, the cast simply seems…..again……inspired.

As I mentioned before, what really gets you as a LEGO fan, or just a fan of storytelling, albeit the overall plot is rather cliche, which I’m sure was the point to begin with, is how the third act of the film is something you really don’t see coming.  Again….inspired wouldn’t even do it justice.  Just when you think you are simply dealing with a film that just stars yellow building blocks, you’ll get the feeling you might have gotten in “Toy Story 3.”  Something deep down inside you will tell you “hey, it’s okay…..let it out.”  I’m not saying that I did, cry that is, but the message is beautiful, and it would be a real shame to ruin it in this review.  It’s an unexpected scene that really makes “LEGO” such a great film for not only kids, but the kid inside each and every one of us.

Yes, I’ll be one of the first people to say that I scoffed at the notion of a LEGO movie.  Personally, between video games, theme parks, and the actual toys, I was reaching a LEGO saturation point.  Boy was I wrong.  Not only is “LEGO” one of the more thoughtful kids films to come out in a while, but it’s also a film that gives you a little hope.  Some hope that people still care about making quality films and still have some original ideas left out there.  Of course this is ironic that both Lord and Miller also helmed “Jump Street,” which I also had reservations about before it came out, but it’s the way that they paid homage to the original, while still creating a funny and “original” concept.  They do the same for “LEGO” which is by far my most enjoyable film-going experience since “Pacific Rim” in 2013.  Well done guys, and keep UniKitty happy…..you wouldn’t want to see her when she’s angry.

Fun Fact:  LEGO began manufacturing interlocking bricks in 1949 in Denmark.

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