22 Jump Street: when a newer drug (WhyPhy) appears at a college campus, so the dream team must go back undercover to infiltrate and take down the operation. I’d say this is hands-down better, and more consistently funny than the original (which was a great comedy film); playing with the familiar College/Frat and Buddy Cop genres; but having that extra cushion of self-referential jokes about 21 Jump Street in there too – of which there are plenty. As pointed out early by Ice Cube, it sticks rigidly to the structure of the first movie – but can afford to do so because of the great script, absolutely solid comedic timing from the central characters, and a strong ensemble cast. It also contains a fantastic tongue-in-cheek end credits sequence. 22 Jump Street is exactly more of the same, but when the original is so funny, is that really a bad thing?
The Lego Movie: Emmet Brickowski is a follow-the-manual kind of guy, but when he bumps in to a master builder his life changes forever. Anyone that’s ever played with Lego can relate to the film’s settings, and it’s good fun just trying to spot old and quirky pieces like the glow-in-the-dark ghost. The entire film looks brilliant, vibrant and ridiculously detailed – characters even have slight thumbprints. There’s a grade-A voice cast, with a lot of distinguishable and entertaining character actors in the mix. It’s also one of the few films that is universally funny; covering the slapstick / physical gags but including a layer of smart ‘adult’ satire and running gags for the duration – it’s consistently funny. There are a few stumbling blocks though: the bigger action scenes are too fast/shaky/blurry to keep up with; the split realities at the end knocks the wind out of the finale’s sail; some of the Lego franchises feel shoe-horned in; and for a film that preaches “use your imagination” to everyone, it’s literally a scene-for-scene re-telling of The Matrix… which is a touch disappointing and hypocritical. However, all things considered, The Lego Movie is a damn fine kids film, and even a damn fine film by normal standards. Highly entertaining and uplifting, if unapologetically unoriginal, family BLOCK-buster.
Django Unchained: a German bounty hunter frees a slave, then partners up with him to make some cash and rescue his girl from a flamboyant plantation owner. As expected, Waltz absolutely steals the show with what’s essentially a re-write/reprise of his intelligent, oddly-humorous ‘Jew-hunter‘. Everyone else turns up and does their thing entertainingly enough. While the film pokes a lot of fun at the stupidity of racism (KKK mask scene & Sam Jacksons rant about Foxx sleeping in the house), for me the ‘N-Bomb’ is dropped far, far too often: which may have been accurate of the period, but it’s such a loaded word that drags the tone down – taking it way beyond any ‘light-hearted’ Blazing Saddles similarities. Clocking in at 2hr 45, it’s also far, far too drawn out, for such a simple revenge tale, especially once Dicaprio pops up: some scenes seem to go on forever with rambling, empty, dialogue and plodding shot after shot. While they’re all quintessential Tarantino scenes, it also suffers from his trademark lack of self-censorship. Finally, although, stylistically, most scenes are undeniably QT -and this isn’t really his fault – his style’s been ripped off so many times (funky music, uber-gore and back-and-forth dialogue) that it no longer packs the punch it once did. As a stand-alone film, Django Unchained is a decent film dragged down by its ‘epic’ runtime and the difficult task of balancing racism and comedy. It’s only when you step back and hold it up against a film like Inglorious – equally long, but crammed with great, tense and cinematic moments – that you realise how ordinary Django Unchained is.
21 Jump street: two useless police officers are assigned to a revived ‘undercover‘ branch of the department. The film’s lucky in that it has two genres to mashup and play with – buddy cop and high school – which it does effectively, although the school element is far, far funnier. The first hour is fantastic, catches you off guard, full of well-observed school humour, and ‘random’ comedy (Korean Jesus, trippy drug scenes etc) – I almost choked at one point. It does however deflate and lose its magic in the second half as it frantically ticks all of the boxes you’d see in a bog-standard cop-buddy story arc. Jonah Hill is funny, but well within his comfort zone; Channing “is there anything he can’t do” Tatum is comedy gold – he hinted at this by being the only good thing about last year’s Dilemma, but this is a whole other level – show stealingly good. For additional smartness there’s a nice run of meta jokes about recycling ideas & humour, and loads of movie tropes – these can be found in the car chase and party scenes. With an emphasis on off-the-wall humour, and a genuinely funny script paired with some great improvisation, 21 Jump Street is a solid contender for comedy of the year.
How to Train Your Dragon [Blu Ray]: a teenage viking wants to follow in the dragon-slaying tradition of his tribe, but comes up with an unorthodox plan when he doesn’t have the heart to kill one. As the story plays out it’s clearly well-written, with lots of details and nice touches – the father/Son angle in particular is very well-played, and the swash-buckling finale delivers more than your standard Statham flick. The voice cast is amazing, star-studded and everyone’s distinct – despite every Viking speaking in a ‘krrrayy-zzeee’ Scottish accent – annoyingly the whiny voice of main character is one of the weaker performances. The BD picture detail is jaw-dropping: barnacles, hair, fur, water will drop your jaw, and the colours are extremely vivid and vibrant – sound wise, everything from explosions to ambience punches through – no questions, it’s a must-own Blu Ray. You’d like to think that a film as solid as this would have been a warning shot at Pixar, but being followed by Megamind and a bunch of sequels/spin-offs it feels like more of a fluke – which is disappointing, as it showed progress for DreamWorks Animation. Pitching to both children and adults How to Train Your Dragon makes for a great kids film, but will also entertain the big kids!
Megamind 3D: After finally defeating his nemesis, supervillain Megamind finds out that life without a hero around is actually quite boring, so he creates a new enemy, but things don’t all go to plan! This idea and story is novel and interesting for the first twenty minutes, but Megamind quickly runs out of steam as the last hour plays out. It’s 100% aimed at the kids – getting only a handful of chuckles from the adults, attributed to a couple of drawn-out jokes that die too fast: Metrocity / Metro City & Marlon Brando impression. The animation’s good, and characters are interestingly designed but then again pretty much every big-studio CGI affair works on this level these days. The 3D is also nice to look at, but loses its effect after 10-15 minutes. The main selling point is the high-end, and very recognisable voice actors; everyone’s good, but David Cross and Will Ferrell are particularly enjoyable. While the older audiences won’t get as much of this out of films like Toy Story and The Incredibles, the kids will absolutely love this.