Tag Archives: reviews

Letterboxing: 22 Jump Street

[This review originally appeared on my Letterboxd page as part of my ongoing efforts to watch 365 new movies in 2015. Yeah, I know.]

As a dramatic device, The Bromance is fairly limited. There’ isn’t a whole lot you can do with a platonic relationship between two heterosexual men once you’ve established them as BFFs.

Unless, of course, your name is Phil Lord (or, um, Christopher Miller. Or both? Wow, this went sideways real fast). In which case you can have Cate Blanchett to do whatever comes to your hyperactive, joyfully imaginative mind(s) and push the concept of the bromance to – and beyond – its logical limits. The relationship between Shcmidt and Jenko is pitch perfect, not least because of the a-game performances from Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. This is a big-budget, balls-out and downright hilarious Hollywood romance between two guys that cherishes the value of characters you understand and care about. And for a movie about undercover cops at college who shoot people and blow things up for a living, I’m as surprised as anyone that it works as well as it does.

But that’s the magic of Lord & Miller: they can take the goofiest, most soulless concepts and fill them with heart and humour because they so clearly love telling entertaining stories. Shout-outs are clearly due to the 5+ screenwriters who worked on the script, but you can bet your sweet ass that the directors were all up in that thing too.

What about specifics? Well, for a a sequel that spends so much of its first act thinly veiling jibes about how rubbish and full of unnecessary spectacle most sequels are, 22 Jump Street pulls off both making things bigger for the sake of an inflated budget and telling a story with the same characters that isn’t just a greatest hits of the first movie. That’s a tough job, but they pull it off with aplomb.

But the real question you, unknown but probably attractive reader, really want answered: is it better than the first movie? Well…no. 22 couldn’t beat 21 largely because it didn’t have the surprise factor a Jump Street reboot actually working the original had. That said? In my book, 22 Jump Street is exactly as good as the first movie. My life won’t ever be changed by either of them and I’ll never experience any profound revelations regarding friendship (or, for that matter, police work) from watching these movies, but they’re such good company that I love them all the same.

[Actually, I might have regained some respect for Ice Cube as an artist purely because of that facial expression he delivers to Jonah Hill’s character in one delicious scene.]

Oh, and it should go without saying that this film contains about 18 of the best credits gags in movie history. (But I said it anyway.)

Can’t wait for 2121 Jump Street.

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The Sweet Pain of Power Pop

Sometimes I don’t think I’ll get over my romantic obsession with wry, melodramatic but utterly sincere power pop that threatens to destroy me with THE POWER OF EMOTION whenever I listen to it too much.

But then I discover a band like Trust Fund and realise there’s no need to get over it.

You can listen to their debut album at that link up there. Or here if that’s too far. I’ll let the music speak for itself, as I’m usually really bad at selling bands I like to other people.

That said, I have been seriously toying with the idea of writing an account of my relationship history in parallel with Los Campesinos!’s album releases.

Because that’s the kind of thing I consider fun, obviously.

In other news, I wrote some more reviews for Nerdly. Blackhat and Jack Strong, which it looks like very few people will actually see, were kind of a mixed bag. Similarly with the FrightFest Glasgow screeners I got for [REC]488 and The Atticus Institute, although they were at least consistently entertaining. And one of them has Ethan from Lost in it!

Even if I wasn’t blown away by the fare I saw, the lineup for FFG still got me psyched for the main event in London later this year. I’ve been doing a lot of solo cinemagoing over the past few weeks (yet I’m still way behind on my Letterboxd challenge) so it’ll be nice to attend a huge community film event for a couple of days before returning to the hermitage of the multiplex.

I’ve seen a lot of bad thrillers and horror movies recently, but one of them may actually end up making the list of my favourite films of the year. That film? The Boy Next Door. My review should be out soon, but don’t bother reading it if you have the opportunity to go and see it; just do it. You will not regret a second or penny spent, I assure you. Thank me later.

And thanks for reading. You’re my favourite.

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Under-Over-Analysing

From the L.A. Times, on Breaking Bad‘s final episode:

The question is whether you bought for an instant that Walter “deserved” that ending. “Deserved” is a funny word, because it reads the viewer’s expectations into the work of art, when it’s much more important to try and suss out just what Vince Gilligan and his writers were up to, then determine how well they stuck to their guns.

The words are theirs, the emphasis mine. It boils down to this: we’re being told that, rather than allowing an audience to have an opinion and/or feelings on character, theme and story, it’s better for them to simply attempt to reverse-engineer the intentions of the creator of said elements.

It’s a sentiment so dumb as to make me really bloody angry.

This is a common thread that comes across in a lot of entertainment writing: paying attention not to your own feelings about something but to the analysis that comes from multiple viewings of a show or movie and comparing your notes with those of a thousand other viewers through reviews, blogs and essays.

Now look, I’m not saying that I’m against over-analysis of TV & movies; that’s demonstrably untrue. All I’m saying is that it’s kind of fucked-up that our first instinct when having just watched something is to neglect how the story made us feel and what it said to us…which is really the point of stories, no?

I don’t have to figure out what kind of story I was being told because I WAS JUST TOLD IT. And I don’t need to “suss out” what the storytellers were trying to accomplish because I’M FEELING IT RIGHT NOW. How dare anyone tell you that your feelings don’t matter. And could there be a more pointless quest than to figure out if someone meant to do something the way they did if you got a kick out of it anyway?

The primary purpose of entertainers is to entertain. If they do more than that? Super. I sincerely believe the team behind Breaking Bad accomplished more than just a kick-ass TV show and I enjoy plumbing the depths of critical analysis as much as anyone, but at least give me a minute to reflect on what I’ve just seen and wash the tear stains out of my hoodie, would you?

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Vincent Price’s Moustache

So I just checked out my bank balance on my online account. Oh boy.

I won’t get into the gory details as such, but let’s just say that I don’t know if I’m going to be able to afford to keep up payments on this free blog.

Okay. That’s more than enough hyperbole.

I find it curious that I can only summon the courage to open up my banking app in the wee hours of the morning, normally right before I go to bed.

If I were to try and psycho-analyse myself, I’d probably say it was either a) so that I can discover that my finances aren’t in as dire straits as I feared and hit the sack relatively worry-free for another day or b) so that, upon finding out my phone, clothes and teeth are all about to be repossessed to pay off my never-read impulse subscription to New Humanist Magazine, I can allow my head to strike the pillow and hope that imminent sleep will wipe away this bitter memory or make it seem like a really dull nightmare. Really it’s more likely that I simply forget that I even have a bank account until I go window shopping for pithy t-shirts online at 1am nightly.

I hope that was at least funny to you guys, ’cause it sure as hell wasn’t interesting! Jesus, my bank account? I thought I had material?

[This isn’t a plea for donations, by the way. Not that I expect anyone to pay for this crap. That said, if anyone wants to hire me to write any comic/movie/book reviews I’m not going to bat them away. I know I just described my writing as crap. That’s the writing nobody pays for. When there’s a crisp twenty in my virtual pocket the quality sees a dramatic spike in quality. But yeah, I just wanted to make sure you didn’t think I was having a passive-aggressive grovel or anything.]

Oh, wait, I do have material:

The second part of my Bluewater comics review for Nerdly. It ain’t pretty, but it’s slightly more hopeful than the first bunch. Plus, I talk about Vincent Price’s moustache and all the times folks have tried to remake Logan’s Run. [The first version of that sentence read “Plus, I talk about Vincent Price’s moustache and all the times folks have tried to remake it,” which I kind of love.]

This wasn't the only picture I could find of "Vincent Price moustache", but it was the best.

This wasn’t the only picture I could find of “Vincent Price moustache”, but it was the best.

Currently games designer Ken Levine’s been tapped to write the screenplay, which on its face is kind of weird until you realise the guy who came up with Bioshock is a goddamn genius choice.

But yeah, check out the wiki entry. It’s pretty interesting if you’re keen on checking out how long it takes Hollywood to get its shit together. The clock’s still running on that one.

[Full disclosure: that last link just goes to my review as well. Technically I’m not lying because the wiki link is on the page and frankly I’m kind of insulted that you just skipped over the first link because why what you don’t like comics or you just don’t like me then WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING HERE ah fuck it]

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Pre-emptive PC

I just proofed a Nerdly review of a movie that’ll probably going up tomorrow, and I noticed that I hadn’t mentioned the only black character in the film except in the “Stars” header, and for a moment I second-guessed myself – “You massive racist, you didn’t think they were worth mentioning?” – but then I got over it, because her character really didn’t contribute anything of substance for the film and she wasn’t terrible either, so I really didn’t have anything to say. In fairness, I also didn’t talk about the son of the main character – who had arguably a more pivotal role – so I probably don’t think much of children either.

[I don’t.]

I doubt anyone’ll point it out, but I just thought it strange and wondered if other reviewers – hell, writers and creatives in general – feel that internal political correctness creeping up on them just in case they might be perceived as offending any one of a million subsets of people. I probably think about that because of the permanence and pervasiveness of people’s opinions (tongue-twister much?) online and the backlash I’ve seen in the comments section – I know, I know, I shouldn’t be reading them – of sites with higher traffic than this one.

Sure, it’s good to have an internal editor, one who’ll tell you when you’re stereotyping, using inappropriate language or just generally being an irritating boob, but I think it’s equally important to not let that voice hold the reins all the time and assume people will be outraged by something you haven’t done. That said, that little voice is likely the reason I’m writing this…I don’t know, confession? Pre-emptive apology? So I guess I haven’t really learned how to turn it off just yet.

In the end, your primary audience is always going to be you, and you should be attempting to make yourself like what you’ve done rather than worry about changing it so that another unnameable audience that may or may not exist. Self-censorship is the worst.

On an unrelated note, Italians are pretty filthy, aren’t they?

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No, I’m Not Dead

…though you may well have thought that, if your only interaction with me is in reading this blog. I started an unpaid work placement at a local charity last week (I’m actually writing this from my very own temporary office, which is obviously an invaluable use of apparently worthless time) and it’s 5 days a week, more or less 9 to 5, so I’ve got a better excuse than usual not be posting on here.

Thing is, I kind of miss it.

Not “miss” it in the usual sense – i.e. feeling guiltier and guiltier every day I don’t put something up – but in the sense that I’m not giving myself the chance to clean house in my own head and stretch my writing calves on a regular basis, which is pretty much the entire reason we’re still here. And I actually enjoy writing these when I do trick myself into starting a new post, despite everything the last six months may have illustrated.

Not that I’ve been doing bupkes, you understand: I haven’t been linking to the last couple of posts, but I’ve continued that weekly comics review column on Nerdly with Jack Kirby (Panel Discussion #006, in which Jack and I couldn’t agree less on The Dream Merchant and Panel Discussion #007, in which I gush lovingly about Young Avengers The Unwritten and rant for a couple hundred words about how disappointingly mediocre Avengers is) along with reviews of re-released oddities like The Stone Tape.

So, you know, that’s something. The other writing I really ought to be doing is getting done, though each project kind of dovetails into another without the former actually getting 100% finished, which is probably my worst habit (well, apart from being terrible, but I try not to focus on the negative). As of this moment I owe 1 of 2 I Am Tim first drafts to deliver, a short film draft, a punch-up rewrite on someone else’s short, a kind-of-infotainment-film, an outline for a new feature and the planning of the next draft of Scars to finish.

…That seems like a lot when I write it down, but I’m pretty sure the moment I finish it all (ha!) it won’t feel like I’ve done much of anything and that I’ve been incredibly lazy of late.

So I guess that means I’ll be blogging more often? I don’t really know how I got there. I wrote this post in two halves ’cause I didn’t want to get caught using work time for meandering nonsense.

AREN’T YOU GLAD TO HAVE ME BACK?

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Tex Mex 2: Electric Boogaloo

Finding out I do my best movie reviews in a veritably groggy state between 4 & 5 am may not have been the best thing for my physical health, but it did produce this gem regarding Thai horror-bore My Ex 2: Haunted Lover:

For posterity’s sake, the story – although I’m sure you’ve heard this one before – concerns a vacuous young actress being told by her vacuous (yet hateful) friends to dump her smug, vacuous, cheating boyfriend, but she’s just too “nice” (read: totally without backbone, dimensionality or anything resembling a personality) to flip him the bird.

Sounds right up your alley, I’m certain. The editor/owner of Nerdly said my review made him laugh “a lot”, which I think is pretty good praise. You can check it out here if you’ve got a couple minutes or brain cells to kill.

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Things Mark Has Written Recently

Does what it says on the tin: here are a bunch of things I’ve written for Nerdly (née Blogomatic 3000) in the past week or so.

Warriors of the Steppe: Myn Bala review, in which a bunch of Kazakhstanis fart about on horses and some people related to Genghis Khan get stabbed a bit.

Baise-Moi review, in which a couple of French sex workers go on a lust- and booze-fuelled murderous road trip and nobody learns much of anything in a movie made thirteen years ago that looks like something Scorsese might have shat out as a teenager. Except that probably would have had some subtext. And a bunch of crucifixes.

Knightriders review, in which George A. Romero makes a movie in which medieval knights (in Pennsylvania) joust each other on motorcycles and nobody dies. Well, okay, one person dies. But there aren’t any zombies or crazy people. Well, okay, there’s one crazy person.

[It’s you if you don’t want to watch this movie by now]

Panel Discussion – X-Men: Legacy, in which I talk about a great new comic that doesn’t particularly feel like an X-Men comic or even a Marvel book. You should read it!

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My Semi-Centenary

It’s my 50th post today! Huzzah! Good lord, have I only been doing this for less than two months? It’s felt like at least two years with a crowd this tough.

Anyway, I wish I could tell you something interesting about what I did today or wax lyrical about the existential angst discovered while queuing for the post office, but most of my day has been taken up speed-reading those books I’ve gotta review, so unless you want spoilers for a book you may well never read I’m afraid you’re going to be a bit hard up.

Instead, here’s my review of The Philly Kid, a movie about fighting and that.

Hopefully the review should be done and dusted by tomorrow and I can get back to writing all those other things I was meant to be done with weeks ago. Hell, I might even start putting up extracts just to mix things up a bit.

‘Til then, yeah?

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