Friday, March 23, 2012

Worth Mentioning - A Lifetime of Being Badasses

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody is updated for modern times and Jay experiences Cold Weather.

21 JUMP STREET (2012)

Schmidt and Jenko graduated from the police academy looking forward to a life of being badasses, not expecting to end up as bicycle cops at the city park. They soon prove that they can't even handle that; after getting into an altercation with a biker gang, they botch an arrest by failing to complete the Miranda rights.

So the police chief gives them a new assignment. A canceled program from the '80s is being revived. It seems that the people in charge have run out of ideas, all they do these days is recycle things from the past and hope their unoriginality won't be noticed. Schmidt and Jenko are assigned to this rebooted program and sent to its headquarters, an old chapel at 21 Jump Street.

So this update of the "cops undercover in school" TV series that ran from 1987 - 1991 gets off to a cleverly self-referential start. I remember when the original TV show was airing, but I was only peripherally aware of it. I never actually watched an episode. Still, despite having no attachment to the series, I do appreciate this film's approach. It actually follows the continuity of the show, there are nods to the concept's '80s beginnings and cameos by original actors reprising their roles. And though this is a comedy while the show was a drama, it doesn't make fun of the show. The comedy comes from the fact that the lead characters in this are a couple total screw-ups. The lead character on the show, Tom Hanson, who was played by Johnny Depp on his way to stardom, was a capable, serious officer out to prove himself. I'm now catching up on the series and it might not have had an influence on the film's plot, but it's interesting to note that at the end of the pilot, Hanson subdues a criminal and as fellow cops lead him away, Hanson informs them, "I didn't finish reading him his rights. Someone's gotta finish it or we blow it all on Miranda." Just what the film's leads didn't consider, though they would probably giggle at the unintentional sexual innuendo in there. Other officers in the Jump Street program are solving cases at a weekly episode sort of pace, meanwhile Schmidt and Jenko are experiencing a lot of trouble and hijinks.

Schmidt and Jenko are sent undercover at a high school as brothers Doug and Brad McQuaid, meant to infiltrate the dealers of a new, potentially lethal synthetic drug and find out who the suppliers are. They immediately get their identities mixed up, so Jenko, a popular jock in high school days, ends up stuck with the chemistry geeks, and Schmidt, a major dweeb in high school, is accepted by the popular kids and even gets a love interest. She's played by Brie Larson, an actress who I like a lot from her role on The United States of Tara and her performance of the song "Black Sheep" in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

This movie is a lot of fun. Co-writer/co-star Jonah Hill describes the approach as "Bad Boys meets John Hughes", which is pretty accurate. Watching the mid-20s cops try to deal with high school and teenagers all over again is entertaining, there are some cool action sequences where life doesn't quite live up to what action movies have led Schmidt and Jenko to expect, and the comedy totally worked for me. There's already talk of a sequel, and I'm all for it.

Jay's Mention


Directed by Aaron Katz
Starring Cris Lankenau, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Raul Castilllo, and Robyn Rikoon

While I've grown increasingly annoyed with most films that fall into the category of "Mumblecore", I must give some praise to Aaron Katz for delivering one that not only kept my attention but actually entertained me thoroughly for the entire run time.

Katz is one of the original Mumblecore directors that I know of, having delivered well known films such as Dance Party, USA and Quiet City. For Cold Weather he adds a detective story twist into the lives of two siblings who have recently started living together in Oregon.

Doug (Cris Lankenau) has just returned from Chicago and is at a crossroads on where to go in his life. Having spent time in school to study forensic science, he now finds himself working at an ice packaging factory. There are some great scenes between Doug and his co-worker, Carlos (Raul Castillo) as they talk and work at the factory. Even though what could be considered the most "mumblecore" elements in the entire film are at work here, it plays well. At home, Doug is getting to know his sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn) a little better, but things are thrown into disarray when Doug's ex-girlfriend goes missing and the film takes on a detective story angle.

This film didn't amaze me but left me satisfied. I actually liked these characters, which sometimes can be a problem with other films from this low-fi, simplified movement. The acting from the top three of Lankeanu, Dunn and Castillo is all very impressive and the Oregon setting is an added bonus. This isn't Chinatown as far as detective stories go, but it's an interesting twist on the realistic drama format that the film goes with from the beginning. It never goes into full-blown film noir and sticks to its roots while adding in a bit of mystery along the way. More than anything this film is about the relationship between a brother and a sister, and it works thanks to some solid acting from the two leads.

Cold Weather is streaming now on Netflix, so give it a watch!

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