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Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, Ice Cube, Amber Stevens, Wyatt Russell, Jillian Bell, Jimmy Tatro, Nick Offerman, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, 23 Jump Street: Medical School, 24 Jump Street: Foreign Exchange, 25 Jump Street: Semester at Sea, 26 Jump Street: Arts School, 27 Jump Street: Culinary School, 28 Jump Street: Veterinary School, 29 Jump Street: Sunday School, 30 Jump Street: Flight Academy, 31 Jump Street: Ninja Academy, 32 Jump Street: Fireman Academy, 33 Jump Street: Generations, 34 Jump Street: Return of the Ghost, 35 Jump Street: Traffic School, 36 Jump Street: Military School, 37 Jump Street: Scuba Class, 38 Jump Street: Dance Academy, 39 Jump Street: The Electronic Game, 40 Jump Street: The Retirement Home, 41 Jump Street: Magic School, 42 Jump Street: Beauty School, 43 Jump Street: Mariachi School, 2121 Jump Street

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?

Score: 8/10

 

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false trail

False Trail (Jägarna 2): a seasoned detective is asked to return to his hometown to solve a brutal murder. This is as (stereo)typically Scandinavian as anything that’s been released in recent years: it’s grim, the colour pallet is bleak, and the majority of the runtime is bubbling broodiness. There’s a couple of heavyweight actors (Lassgard and Stormare, who is appearing in everything I watch just now) in the leading roles, which gives the story some more levity. The plot is fascinating to watch, as it slowly unwraps for most of the entire duration, heading towards a dramatic finale. I was surprised to learn that this was a sequel, as it works on its own, but would have contextualised a couple of flashbacks. Solidly Scandinavian police procedural.

Score: 7/10

Last year Mr and Mrs Paragraph Film Reviews destroyed all 4-and-a-bit seasons of Prison Break on Netflix. While it’s faaaar too much for a single paragraph, below is a list of all thoughts and issues. BEWARE: This article contains some spoilers – so if you want to be cautious, skip to the final paragraph.

The Key Players

Prison Break Michael SchofieldMichael Schofield: architect-turned-inmate with a ‘genius’ mind, but clearly has a learning difficulty of some sort as he he’s continually putting everything and everyone on the line for his absolute meathead of a brother. His role boils down to babysitting the other characters, and hundreds of close-ups of his shifty eyes & pretty fake-looking tattoos, whilst he incessantly muttering nonsense about how everything is always part of “The Plan”. The writers give him some of the most random illnesses, scenarios and backstories of the group. He’s also slowly inflating as the series tick by, winding up as a bit of a pie in Season 4.

Prison Break Dominic Purcell Lincoln BurrowsLincoln Burrows: Michael’s aforementioned meathead brother. Initially and indisputably THE worst actor in the cast, but unlike everyone else he doesn’t switch off by the end of S4, and slowly becomes one of the better actors. Lincoln is there to continually hit people, fight people, jeopardise/ruin ‘The Plan’ and generally be the total opposite of Michael. It’s like a casting agent didn’t have the budget for Henry Rollins, so just went to a LA gym, found a similarly-looking beefcake that had done some amateur dramatics and said “YOU’RE HIRED! Please channel the energy and charisma of a root vegetable into your character”.

Theodore Bagwell (T-bag): absolutely nailed by Robert Knepper: easily the best and most interesting / entertaining character in the show. Easily the best actor in the show. Gets all of the best lines, stories and memorable parts. Almost forgot to mention that T-BAG IS THE CENTRAL BAD GUY, AND A TOTALLY DESPICABLE PERSON. He’s genuinely creepy, has a sleazy physicality, disturbing accent, is a sex offender (and pedophile) with serious daddy issues – not to mention a white supremacist, murderer, rapist, necrophiliac, vile, unhygienic, and leaves a trail of bodies and devastation behind him. He even ends up with a freaky deaky plastic hand. How this can end up as the best character is a testament to Knepper doing a stellar job, and spectacularly shit writing of every other character. On the flip side he’s clearly smart, resilient, eloquent, and above everything else – a survivor, with a penchant for eating any clues that will keep him in the game. T-Bags is undeniably the best thing about Prison Break and will go down as one of my all-time favourite villains / characters.

Prison break tbags Robert Knepper Theadore Bagwell

Yup – that’s a motherfucking plastic hand!

Prison Break Sarah Wayne Callies Sarah TancrediSarah Tancredi: Initially appears as a minor character / romantic sub-plot / the only girl in the show, but ends up in all kinds of trouble, so decides to join the outlaws, landing herself a Kim Bauer-esque role – perpetually in the shit, being kidnapped, tortured, killed, beheaded and resurrected all in the name of terrible writing. It’s a shame because in S1 she was actually pretty good (in a badly written but well acted kind of way), but by S4 and beyond she clearly doesn’t give a single shit about anything but the money. For some reason, every time she gets sexed up the writers made every guy she tried to seduce ABSOLUTELY REPULSED by her advances – felt a little sorry for SWC by the end of the show. See also – Prison Break: The Final Break.

alexander mahone prison break William FichtnerAlexander Mahone: played by Will Fitchner, would have been one of the best characters… if he had something good to work with. In season 2 he’s a generic bad-cop / bent lawman, season 3 he plays a zombie/junkie with flashes of clarity and only really gets a chance to shine in the fourth series. It’s an interesting character arc, given that everyone else is either good or bad, but any attempt to pad out his story feels like necessity or afterthought, which is a shame, as he’s easily the most talented actor in the show.

Jodi Lyn OKeefe Prison Break Gretchen MorganGretchen Morgan: remember Nina from 24; a femme fatale with a deadly set of skills and no conscience… Imagine someone gave that great character to a bad actor. The writers try their best to make her the ‘sexy chick’, but she’s the second manliest thing about the show after Lincoln. She also has the ridiculous task of being the face of ‘THE COMPANY’ for S3: the combination of a bad actor, playing a bad character with a bad plotline is just too much to handle.

Prison Break fernando sucre Amaury NolascoFernando Sucre: bum-chinned token Latino petty criminal with the best intentions but a very bad streak of luck, and some shitty family members. When Sucre isn’t telling us that he’s doing it all for MARIE-FUCKING-CRUIZ (about 20 times in every episode), he’s generally shouting hispanic insults at people interfering with the plan, and calling Michael Papi in every scene. Quite a flat character given the amount of screentime he gets, but he’s played well enough by Amaury Nolasco.

Prison Break John Abruzzi Peter StormareJohn Abruzzi: stereotypical Italian-Mobster boss, right down the greasiest hair in history, and a stupid religious breakdown. Despite being such a ridiculous character, the he’s played very entertainingly and almost knowingly ridiculous by Peter Stormare – which only serves to make his early-ish departure more frustrating than sad.

Prison Break Brad Bellick Wade WilliamsBrad Bellick: Fox River’s mad dog head guard with only one weakness – his mammy! Bellick’s story arc is the most varied of the cast: S1 Nasty Guard, S2 deputised bounty hunter, S3 prison bitch, S4 begrudging good guy. He’s another case of a baddie played well, making you really dislike him. My only problem was that for the whole story he is all about himself, but in his last scene he makes a  sacrifice, which just isn’t Bellick.

Prison Break Lincoln Junior Marshall AllmanJL (Lincoln Junior): If anybody was the true ‘Kim Bauer’ of the Prison Break universe, it would be LJ, a weak and feable character that’s always either on the run or being captured by pretty much any person with a weapon, or 1/2 brain. Ultimately he just whimpers, cries and apologises to everyone for getting into trouble, again, and again, and again.

 Minor Characters

Paul Kellerman: an autonomous hit-man working in the FBI, for “The Company”. Doesn’t have a whole lot of range to cover, but is played well by Paul Anderson.

Prison Break Charles Westmoreland Muse WatsonCharles Westmoreland: classic old-time, cat-loving, staying-out-of-trouble prisoner. Well played, but most notable for having the amazingly nerdy history of supposedly being the infamous DB Cooper.

Don Self, perhaps the worst-cast person in the show – nasally voice, non-intimidating, ginger-permed pansy of an FBI agent. Not impressed. Not scary.

Bill Kim: another terribly-cast government/FBI/Lawman body. Supposed to be intimidating and dangerous; looks like a school-kid in his dad’s suit.

Prison Break Nika Volek Holly ValanceNika Volek – an eastern European stripper played by Holly Vallance. Clearly just there for ‘eye candy’ – shaky accent, but ultimately a bit of fresh casting.

Wyatt Mathewson: Season 4 company hitman, stoic but almost ‘Terminator’-esque in the things he does. Unrealistically brutal, and generally unbelievable in his style, method and ability to avoid detection (for a man-mountain of a guy).

Tweener: absolutely ridiculous white-rapper stereotype, who’s styled to look like a 90s boyband member. Shifty acting, but with such a crap character, it’s hard to say if it’s his fault, or the just a terrible character.

Writing and direction

There’s such an obvious distinction between the first two seasons and seasons 3 & 4. Series 1 is generally well-written, dramatic – and runs seamlessly in to Season 2, which has many well planned plot threads simultaneously running together for the duration. Then season three is born out of a ridiculously stupid twist in the last five minutes of S2, which feels like the ultimate tag-on to merely keep it all open-ended. The last 10 minutes of Season 3 also set up yet another season, which is infuriatingly bad – and short-sighted – writing for such a big show.

Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Marshall Allman, Robin Tunney, Stacy Keach. Amaury Nolasco, Peter Stormare, Robert Knepper, Sarah Wayne Callies, Wade Williams, Paul Adelstein.

Season 1: THE ACTUAL PRISON BREAK! A season in which everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. Every single aspect of Michael’s ridiculously convoluted prison escape plan is jeopardised and strained to wring out the maximum tension. Most episodes revolve around obtaining an object or access to a part of the prison that is ‘VITAL TO THE PLAN’ – it takes 40 minutes of twists and turns, but the gang usually get their way. Turns out to be an interesting look at life on the inside. Things of note: stupid Taj Mahal sub-plot, toe amputation, pretend diabetes, about 40 people getting shivved, random Christianity conversion, horrific flashback filler episode for no reason, prison poker, random acts of origami.

Prison Break Season 2 Cast

Season 2: BAND ON THE RUN. The not-looking-like-a-Christian-rock-band-at-all “Fox River Eight” escape prison but now must survive in their various factions, all searching for DB Cooper’s money. In this season, every coincidence and bit of luck is cashed in by the writers. Out of the whole of America, separated characters end up bumping in to each other all of the time. This was probably the peak of the show, as it juggled several good stories with loads of characters doing their own thing and plenty action. Things of note: nobody sleeps, European Goldfinch dot net, cartels, terror-baths, electrocution, forced suicide, plane ride.

Prison Break Season 3 Cast

Season 3: SHIT, THE SHOW’S STILL CALLED “PRISON BREAK”, BETTER PUT ‘EM BACK IN A PRISON! Half of the crew are in Sona, a ridiculous guard-free prison, where the inmates self-govern the joint; looks like a 3rd world crack den. The rest of the team are on the outside either helping the plan, or being held as collateral (aka completely written out). Probably the most boring series, and was thankfully cut in half by the writer’s guild strike. Feels like a sloppy re-hash of everything from season 1.

Prison Break Season 4 Cast

Season 4: SCYLLA. Totally couldn’t be assed watching it by this point, but having sunk 55 episodes before it, there didn’t seem like much point in quitting. The actors’ disdain is there for all to see by this point – nobody seems to give a shit as the story spirals from the ridiculous to the completely retarded. Some of the throwaway lines are supermassive holes in the story – like “oh yea, those guys escaped from that maximum security prison when a fire broke out, OBVS!”. WTF?!? To substitute for everything being terrible the writers in as many gratuitous fights, gunfights, and action scenes as the budget will allow. Shocking TV, feels like a totally different show to the first few series.

Prison Break Season 5 The Final Break

Why WOULDN’T you photoshop faces inside a lady’s body?!

Prison Break – The Final Break: not being content with giving us a proper conclusion, wrapping up the entire story and showing us a ‘several years later’ scene at the end of S4, someone thought it would be a good idea to make a TV Movie. They found a single open-ended story from S4 (wasn’t difficult, there were about ten thousand) to milk, and boy, did they milk it. The long and short is that the love of Michael’s life – Sarah – has been put in to a sexy-but-dangerous women’s prison, and he needs to break her out. OMG, it’s like a role reversal!!! This is shockingly bad; from the women in prison angle, to the terribly acted lesbian inmates, to the whole cast not giving a shit, to the god-awful, rushed, final break. It was such a sour and cynical note to end what could have been a really good show.

Other things of note

Theme Song: has to be the most random, and ill-fitting piece of post-classical world music you ears will ever hear. Hints of Indian / Persian scales and singing, mixed over an orchestrated dramatic rhythm, and why not mix in a tad of dance beats at the end. I guess it’s fairly unique – but I have no idea what it has to do with the show.

Action scenes: for a show based on big set-pieces it handled human drama/action OK – but if you threw in cars, or anything on a remotely bigger scale the directors seemed to shit their pants and lose the ability to make sense of anything in front of the camera. Then the editing team had to cut the shit out of it, to make it more tense. End result – boring and/or incoherent car chases and shootouts every episode.

Stabs: In the middle of action scenes – when I assumed they’d break to adverts – a bizarre concoction of epilepsy triggering images, rapidly flash up on the screen to some loud, fast, panic-induing music that goes – DUN-DICKA-DICKA-DUN-DUN!!! Like every 5 minutes. For all +80 episodes!

Prison Break Cast

The Verdict!

I’m amazed that Prison Break went on for as long as it did. I can only assume that it was filling a void in the schedules or something. My biggest issue is a tag-team combo of the most staggeringly shit casting I can remember seeing, combined with some of the laziest and dumb writing you could imagine. In the end, someone, somewhere managed to force 83 episodes out of Prison Break, and like an absolute sucker, I watched every single one. My advice would be to watch series one and two, then walk away while the going’s good.

The Last Stand 1 Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville. Rodrigo Santoro, Luis Guzmán, Jaimie Alexander, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, Génesis RodríguezThe Last Stand: as an escaped cartel leader speeds towards freedom at the USA-Mexico border, his last obstacle is a badass sheriff, and his unlikely crew of deputies. It’s nothing short of jaw-dropping when you see Arnie‘s total lack of acting skill and inability to construct sentences in English, especially given his on and off-screen careers! Still, his presence and entertainment factor are still there in abundance, and far outweigh his shortcomings. The supporting cast all did a decent job, and I love how massive foreign film stars always get drafted in as default action bad-guys. For me, this was missing a lot of director’s signature style and flair, other than the odd jaunty angle, although he really shines throughout the finalé and brilliantly handled action scenes – escape sequence, shoot out – as well as general stunt driving / automotive action. There’s also, a load of funny moments, and one-liners, that are far superior to Arnie’s groan-inducing cheesy quips. A cynic would point out that The Last Stand is a formulaic ‘outumbered & out-gunned’ story, with as many rookie cop / small-town cop / FBI / Cartel tropes that you could squeeze in… but when a world-class director meets an action legend, its explosive entertainment.

Score: 7.5/10

The Last Stand 2 Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville. Rodrigo Santoro, Luis Guzmán, Jaimie Alexander, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, Génesis Rodríguez

Lockout: a wrongly convicted man is made to enter a maximum security prison, mid-riot, in space, and rescue the president’s daughter, thus winning a pardon. No, it doesn’t feature Snake Plissken, but bulked up Guy Pearce‘s supercop ‘Snow’ gives the character a good run for his money; he entertains and kicks ass in equal measures, and despite clearly having fun, he’s well above and beyond what is required in an action film this silly. It’s not just Pearce, as the two main baddies in Vincent Regain and Joseph Gilgun (despite the terrible Scottish accents) are a proper Dastardly and Muttley duo, both watchable yet nasty. Other than being set in space this has every other cliché in the action/cop genre; It’s physics-defying dumbness is laughable; it’s needlessly bookended by a boring & unnecessary briefcase / conspiracy side-story; and some really good action scenes are let down by a couple of ultra-cheap, poorly handled bouts of big, fast, loud, fuzzy CGI that are nothing but disorienting. Despite these snags, EuropaCorp delivers another film that punches way above its weight for a $20M sci-fi action picture. While it’s pretty much Escape from New York in space, Lockout is every bit as action-packed and blockbusterly satisfying as it looks, with a surprisingly entertaining cast, decent director, and a few good laughs along the way. I liked it, and oddly enough, so did my lady.

Score: 7/10

8mm: A private investigator is hired to authenticate or debunk a snuff film found by an eccentric millionaire’s widow. The headline here is a shocking display of anti-acting by Cage – could easily be in his bottom 5 performances (and that’s saying something) – totally woeful – especially when he loses his shit near the end Gandalfini steals the show with his ‘here’s what happened’ scene, and Phoenix plays a stereotype deviant well enough. So you’re thinking ‘Cage is rubbish, but at least the story’s alright…’ then the last hour happens. What the shit is the end of this film about; why does some guy have a crossbow? Why is Cage going vigilante? Why burn a stack of Porn? Rainy Mud fight? DANZIG?… everything is turned up to 11, or 20. It reeks of all the good 90s thrillers, but feels like a TV movie. 8mm is one of those films that everyone remembers being decent, but when replayed, is absolutely terrible. While the subject matter is intriguing, this film’s far too bizarre for most people to enjoy. Would recommend Tesis and Hardcore over this. Shame on Schu-macher!

Score: 2.5/10

Henry’s Crime: Henry takes the blame for a robbery he knew nothing about, does three years in prison, and upon release hatches a plan to actually rob the bank: he’s done the time, why not commit the crime? My biggest issue with this is that, as a protagonist, Henry is one of the most uninteresting characters to lead a film – the personification of tedium and aimless. Vera Farmiga – playing an unpolished actress – does a really good job, where as Reeves has had a whole career being 2nd rate and seeing him ‘poorly read’ from a play-script actually blew up my irony-o-meter. James Caan steals the show as the loveable ‘confidence man’ – easily with the best character, best lines and all-round best performance. For an indie-rom-com-robbery-caper there were only 2-3 laughs, and it just felt like a really, really basic ‘bank job’ that wanted to be well grounded [like The Lookout] but was heavily laced with absurdity. Also, of all the plays to use in this type of film a high-brow Chekhov tragedy just didn’t fit the bill – and all the readings/scenes from that script really brought the tone down. There are a some elements that are good ideas; such as the prisoner that doesn’t want to leave prison, unlikely friendships, a bank robber being forced to take up acting, and changing the ending of an established play – however, the final scenes are a cinematic train wreck that you have to watch through your fingers. It’s all somewhat unfortunate because concept is great, and with this cast it definitely looks worth a punt, but having seen the film I realise why the distributors buried it in a busy month.

Score: 2.5/10