21 JUMP STREET
Dir: Phil Lord, Chris Miller - Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson.
Here’s a confession: I’ve never watched even a single episode of 21 Jump Street. I guess it has some sort of rep as cult TV (beyond providing early exposure for Johnny Depp) but it means nothing to me. And I was, subsequently, expecting nothing from this film.
So it surprised and delighted me that the “throw it all at the wall and see what sticks” style of comedy (c.f. Airplane etc) here is quite so successful. There are slapstick gags, satirical gags, gross-out gags (not many), and even meta-gags about the whole shebang. Ice Cube’s angry black police captain first dismantles his role as a movie stereotype before announcing that the plan to put young-looking cops into schools is something “they tried in the eighties”. They’re doing it again because “no-one has any new ideas”.
Tatum and Hill make a surprisingly well-matched comedic pair, each reliving their high school past in a world that has moved on: nerds are in and achievement is cool; dumb jocks are out.
I’ve always found Tatum dull and wooden so this is something of a revelation. Dave Franco (brother of James) is also very good and will presumably be hitting the big time any day.
Throw in a cool Depp cameo and you have a real winner. Very, very funny.
The Norwegians are currently turning out some very odd films. Rare Exports was an admirably weird crack at Christmas family horror. Now Headhunters– from one of crime’s writers du jour, Jo Nesbo – arrives, a strangely comic crime caper centring on a corporate HR guy who steals paintings in his spare time to keep his tall blonde wife in the style he thinks she’s accustomed to. His latest victim is – unfortunately – a trained killer and a complex escalating war of attrition ensues. There are several lurches of tone (and taste) which may upset some; others will love the no-holds-barred approach to black comedy.
When was the last time Leonardo Di Caprio smiled on screen? The Aviator, The Departed, Body of Lies, Revolutionary Road, Shutter Island, Inception, he seems to have been miserable for years. There’s more of the same in J Edgar, a peculiar mash-up from the gay scriptwriter of Milk and America’s most macho director Clint Eastwood. Thus we have Hoover’s life, largely stripped of dramatic criminal incident, as an unspoken love story. This is interesting, if somewhat slow, but loses ground when the old age makeup goes on. Di Caprio looks fine but paramour Armie Hammer appears to be sheathed in a huge dappled condom.
Sean Bean is once again hard enough to gargle nails for breakfast in Cleanskin. But, for a change, he’s on the side of good, though “good” in this context is shaded by moral ambiguity. He’s hunting a home-grown UK terrorist, Ash, and a violent and bloody hunt it is. Where the film surprises is the time spent on Ash’s backstory, following the path that led him to finding answers in bombs. That leads to an action flick with more depth and complexity than most, Bean striding muscularly through a landscape peppered with deception and double crosses.
Shame is a film about a sex addict. And if that sounds like gratuitous fun then you haven’t noticed the serious arthouse references on the DVD cover. Director Steve McQueen’s second film again stars Michael Fassbender. Previous he was Bobby Sands in the harrowing Hunger, now he’s Brandon, sex-addicted and miserable in New York, unable to show or enjoy affection, a mental black hole. Into his life comes his similarly damaged sister, played brilliantly by Carey Mulligan. More misery ensues. This is quite extraordinary stuff, but – as you might have gathered – it’s not exactly a date movie.