Mar 16 2012

21 Jump Street

Fresh out of the police academy two new grads are sent to work in a special undercover unit designed to fight crime in high schools; officer Jenko (Channing Tatum) is the brawn while officer Schmidt (Jonah Hill) is the brains behind the duo. But, It’s been years since high school and times have changed. Now along with the challenge of trying to fit in, the two are also tasked with finding and stopping the supplier of a new designer drug known as H.F.S.. Meanwhile, as the struggle to be “in” with the cool kids becomes a big deal again a new rift between Jenko and Schmidt grows. Will the two be able to make it through high school again without destroying each other, what about prom, and who’s really behind the manufacturing of H.F.S.? Turning the traditional good cop bad cop/buddy cop genre on it’s ear I can’t think of better actors for the job than Tatum and Hill. Both products of the new breed of comedy that’s risen in the last few years the two are more than adept at poking fun at the very stereotypes they might have been typecast to represent even just 10 years ago. But on that note, the comedic hits didn’t come as fast as I would have liked providing for only a few laugh out loud moments. Of course there are plenty references to the original TV series if you keep your eyes open, but I think the main selling point overall is the cameo provided by none other than Johnny Depp (who goes uncredited mind you). Not bad entertainment, you could do worse, I’d say maybe worth a matinee
or a rental. 21 Jump Street is rated R.

Mar 16 2012

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Slacker, pothead, and deep thinker Jeff (Jason Segel) is a 30 something man living with his mom (Susan Sarandon). On one particular day, the same as any other, Jeff gets the idea that perhaps he should start looking for signs and directions from the universe to find his purpose and direction. Out performing an ordinary errand for his mom Jeff starts following what he believes are the very signs he’s looking for. One thing leads to another and before long Jeff runs into his brother Pat (Ed Helms). Pat happens to be in a bit of a relationship crisis, his wife Linda (Judy Greer) is about to begin an extramarital affair. As Pat begins to panic, Jeff maintains his cool and continues to follow his signs, meanwhile their mother begins her search for someone who understands her needs as well. But what does it all mean, is there meaning, is there fate, and will our hero’s find happiness or purpose? Written and directed by Mark and Jay Duplass the film fits nicely as the next step in the brother’s stylistic development. Shot a little more conventional than their previous works (Cyrus, Baghead) there’s still plenty of documentary style hand held roughness, but it’s clear shot composition and plotting is something the two have put more thought into this go around; whereas before their style was a bit more freewheeling. And, known for letting their actors interpret and improv scenes, this film feels similar giving what feels to be a very natural and honest result. Still, we’re not talking about a rip roaring improv comedy; but instead what feels closer to real people in odd situations, some of which are funny and some of which are quite difficult, all the while we get to be voyeurs of the absurdity of it all. Entertaining in its simplicity and not so obvious complexity, you’re looking at a shorter matinee here or perhaps a good rental. Jeff, Who Lives at Home is rated R.

Also, while we’re on the subject, check out this awesome youtube clip from the press junket for Jeff, Who Lives at Home!!! I love the enthusiasm!

Mar 16 2012

Being Flynn

Drifting from one job to the next Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) is a man abandoned by his father as boy now searching for a sense of purpose harbored with an underlying sense of self loathing. Ultimately on his way to rock bottom he finds work with a Boston homeless shelter. While working at the shelter he’s exposed to life at its grittiest moments all the while collecting material for poetry, stories, his art, writing. He even manages to find love with, Denise (Olivia Thirlby), a tough and confident young woman also working at the shelter; but, despite all efforts to keep his head up, his descent to what appears to be the inevitable is accelerated when his own father, Jonathan Flynn (Robert De Niro), appears as a guest at the homeless shelter. Now face to face with the man who made him, Nick can’t help but question if he’ll end up like his father—a seemingly indestructible cockroach of a con man yet also a self-proclaimed master poet and author? But how far did the apple really fall from the tree, and will he have the strength to pull himself out of his tailspin before it’s too late? Adapted for screen and Directed by Paul Weitz the film serves as a semi autobiographical look into the life of author Nick Flynn. Recently I had the chance to sit and talk shop with Weitz about where the screenplay came from here’s what he had to say.
Being Flynn Paul Weitz
Of course the trick with adaptations is that the author writing the adaptation has the potential to alter or change how a story will actually be portrayed. In this case, Weitz explains there are a number of points from the source material that were particularly resonant to him but not necessarily where Flynn had elaborated. The end result, a marriage of the two author’s complexities and struggles.
Being Flynn Paul Weitz 2
And, for the most part the amalgamation of ideas seems to work well, sometimes giving lurid detail into the psyches of both authors, perhaps a form of therapy or declaration of their own self doubts founded or unfounded.
In the acting department all parties give strong performances including Julianne Moore as Nick’s mother. But it truly feels as though the more interesting and compelling story to watch is De Niro and his character. Truthfully I would have liked to know more about his sordid past and what makes him tick; alas that perhaps would have been a longer and more expensive film, but maybe the adage of “keep them wanting more” applies here…or not. Still, back to De Niro, the man’s a force of nature, describing his process Weitz shed a little light on how De Niro works.
Being Flynn Paul Weitz 3
The film carries grit and truth about the homeless world and digs into some interesting psychological rabbit holes, although sometimes not deep enough. And, while I’m not entirely sure who the audience for this film will be on a national level, the cinephile caliber of Seattle will certainly appreciate a number of elements. Perhaps a matinee or rental. Being Flynn is rated R.