The Grinch Review

Illumination Delivers Another Perfectly Acceptable if not Necessarily Exceptional Animated Diversion in this Re-Telling of the Dr. Suess Classic.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

This Queen biopic Fails to Transcend the Genre the Way its Subjects Transcended the Music Scene, but at Least the Music is Good.

Overlord Review

Overlord Combines the Terror of War with the Terror of a Zombie Apocalypse and Accomplishes Exactly what it Means To.

The Nutcraker and the Four Realms Review

An All-Star Cast Attempts to Usher The Nutcracker Story to a New Generation Via Disney Blockbuster, but Unfortunately the Results Fall Short of the Ambition.

A Star is Born Review

Bradley Cooper Writes, Directs, Sings, and Stars in this Fourth Incarnation of this Story Alongside Lady Gaga to Rapturous Results.

WRATH OF THE TITANS Review

It's not really saying much that "Wrath of the Titans" is better than the first one. Usually, for a sequel to be made audiences have to like the first one, not just spend enough money opening weekend to warrant one. Not the case with this franchise, because despite the ads for "Clash of the Titans" back in 2010 making it look amazing and drawing enough of a crowd in to have a whopping $60 million opening weekend, the aftermath was not pretty. The movie just wasn't that good. It should have been simple, B-movie escapism but instead was a mess of a story that tried to do too much while not delivering any of the real excitement that the trailers promised. This is all in the past now as this weekend we have the sequel that no one demanded opening in a theater near you where again the trailers have made it out to look pretty awesome. No matter how low my expectations might have been for "Wrath of the Titans" I can't deny that I wasn't at least slightly intrigued by the fact they were able to get the majority of the cast back for this second one and so maybe, just maybe the script was an improvement. Turns out the whole movie is pretty much an improvement as it covers the same basic plot points of that first entry while doing things the way a sequel should be done: bigger, louder and more epic. While it isn't epic in the way a movie with these characters and their lush history deserve epic, it is at least what "Clash" should have been if it was going to fit into the cheesy action/adventure genre.

Agenor (Tony Kebbell) is the demi-god son of Poseidon.
"Wrath" picks up about ten years after "Clash" and our heroic Perseus (Sam Worthington) has lost his wife Io for unknown reasons but does now have a son named Helius (John Bell) who provides a reason for consistent theme in the movie. The screenwriters have given the more credible actors like Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes as Zues and Hades bigger roles this time around and have even managed to somehow get Bill Nighy in a few scenes that he absolutely steals as Hephaestus, the widow of Aphrodite. The beautiful Rosamund Pike replaces Alexa Davalos as princess Andromeda here and the studio also dumped director Louis Leterrier for "Battle Los Angeles" helmer Jonathan Liebesman. Liebesman at least seems to have a better handle on the story that Leterrier did. The first one simply did not add up, I was lost and confused as to the motivation of the characters and why their was so much conflict in the first place when to settle things Zues and Hades should have just sat down to have a little brother to brother talk. The same could be said for the scenario here as it involves the Gods losing control of the imprisoned Titans and their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus, Hades and Poseidon. Hades is naturally seeking revenge again on Zues for banishing him and even persuades Zues's Godly son Ares (Edgar Ramirez) to join his side and make a deal with Kronos. I'm sure you can see where this is going as Perseus is forced to come and save the day.

The all might Zeus (Liam Neeson) is captured and
drained of his power in "Wrath of the Titans".
Good news for the audience is that his journey this time around is much more exciting and gives us a finale we feel justifies our matinee ticket price. In "Clash" Perseus destroyed the Kraken in a total of about two minutes. Here we not only get him bravely flying toward the lava-spewing Kronos on his beautiful winged Pegasus but we also get an all out, knock-down brawl between Perseus and Ares who turns out has some serious daddy issues. Then, to top that off Hades and Zues decide to join forces and "have some fun" the way they did when they were "young Gods" and just start ripping these Titans a new one with their powers. It is fulfilling for those who were left with an emptiness after leaving "Clash" and reminds us all how much of a badass Liam Neeson actually is (as if we needed any reminder). There are plenty of other action sequences littered throughout the film as well that will entertain, especially a creative little bit with some very CGI-looking cyclops. Oh well, they at least put some effort into the execution and other than this one slip, the special effects were overall genuinely flawless. Director Liebesman uses a good amount of handheld camera work here that puts us more inside the action while also allowing the special effects creatures to look less cinematic and more naturalistic with their surrounding world. There is also the welcome comic relief of Agenor (Toby Kebbell) another Demi-God son of Poseidon that has to help Perseus locate Hephaestus who can lead them into the underworld.

Perseus (Sam Worthington) finds a new love interest in
Princes Andromeda (Rosamund Pike).
While it may just be that my expectations for this film were ridiculously low, it was none the less a welcome surprise when I was more engaged with the movie than I was with my watch. I actually enjoyed myself where in the first one all I wanted to do was enjoy the back of my eyelids. Worthington, as a leading hero, is a solid personality that hardly cracks a smile and when he does the lines he breathes feel so horribly scripted as if every word he speaks is an action screenplay cliche. While his first two event films had enough things going on to distract us from his lack of charisma it was painfully apparent in the first "Titans" film and while earlier this year he seemed to be making strides in the ridiculous but entertaining "Man on a Ledge" he is back to his old self here as the humourless Perseus. There is no wink to the audience that he is in on the joke of his self-serious character, and in a way that kind of takes away the fun for me because as much as I like to see the tales of Greek mythology come to life; the way they have chosen to execute these stories deserve a little bit of self-awareness. Instead it is all business and that makes the audience let out a few chuckles when Worthington spews lines such as, "Oh, you gotta be kidding me," as he stares down a cyclops. No, he's not kidding you Mr. Worthington and neither are we, next time (yes, we know there will be one) how about you crack a few jokes or at least get in on the joke. Otherwise, we'll be requesting Kebbell's Agenor take over the lead role in the series.

  

WRATH OF THE TITANS Review

It's not really saying much that "Wrath of the Titans" is better than the first one. Usually, for a sequel to be made audiences have to like the first one, not just spend enough money opening weekend to warrant one. Not the case with this franchise, because despite the ads for "Clash of the Titans" back in 2010 making it look amazing and drawing enough of a crowd in to have a whopping $60 million opening weekend, the aftermath was not pretty. The movie just wasn't that good. It should have been simple, B-movie escapism but instead was a mess of a story that tried to do too much while not delivering any of the real excitement that the trailers promised. This is all in the past now as this weekend we have the sequel that no one demanded opening in a theater near you where again the trailers have made it out to look pretty awesome. No matter how low my expectations might have been for "Wrath of the Titans" I can't deny that I wasn't at least slightly intrigued by the fact they were able to get the majority of the cast back for this second one and so maybe, just maybe the script was an improvement. Turns out the whole movie is pretty much an improvement as it covers the same basic plot points of that first entry while doing things the way a sequel should be done: bigger, louder and more epic. While it isn't epic in the way a movie with these characters and their lush history deserve epic, it is at least what "Clash" should have been if it was going to fit into the cheesy action/adventure genre.

MIRROR MIRROR Review

When the first trailer for this appeared online back in November it honestly looked pretty horrible. Director Tarsem Singh had just come off the successful opening of "Immortals" and then this comes rolling around in what looked to be a race to beat the more serious "Snow White & the Huntsmen" to theaters in June. While I initially had a horrible feeling about the film and a great hesitation to even see it, as the marketing campaign continued it seemed to get smarter in realizing the fact it did not need to compete with the other Snow White film coming out this year but instead what it needed to do was distinguish itself by showing what was valuable about the many different forms a story could take. In this case, both the darker version and this one aimed more at the younger crowds can both be taken with equal credibility. That is a hard thing to believe and I almost refused to believe it before sitting down and actually taking in what "Mirror Mirror" had to offer. Now, I don't think this is a great film by any means, but it isn't reaching for the stars either, it is simply trying to tell a fun tale that we all remember as an animated movie. It is what we would actually expect a live action version of the Disney film to be while "Snow White & The Huntsmen" likely skews closer to that of the Brothers Grimm tale. There is an audience for both and while I, as a 25 year-old, will probably enjoy the other version of this story more, I cannot say that "Mirror Mirror" fails to entertain its target audience.

The Evil Queen (Julia Roberts) and Prince Alcott
(Armie Hammer) attend the ball together.
It has been a long time since I have actually sat down to watch the Disney version of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' and to be honest, chunks of the story had escaped me. I still don't know if I recall all of it correctly but the other thing that surprised me about "Mirror Mirror" was the refreshing feel of familiarity that came with it while still carrying a good set of originality (mainly in its visuals and musical score). The story, as you may remember, focuses around princess Snow White who is played here by Lily Collins (The Blind Side and also Phil Collins daughter) and her stepmother, the evil Queen (Julia Roberts). Evil Queen Julia has sent the village she oversees into shambles only to request more tax money from them when a handsome, rich Prince arrives and she insists on throwing a party to win him over and convince him to marry her. Prince Alcott (a perfectly cast Armie Hammer) becomes interested in the beautiful princess instead, forcing the evil Queen to kill her off so she will  continue to be "the fairest of them all". We all know Snow doesn't die and instead meets up with the dwarfs in the woods and stages a rebellion against the Queen. Collins is certainly capable of the protagonist role here though seeming somewhat overwhelmed at times by the scope in which Singh is operating. The real star here though is Roberts. I have always kind of been hit and miss with the star, but here you can tell how much fun she is having, how much she is really enjoying herself playing the baddie. It comes through in her campy, yet poignant dialogue that is made up more of sarcastic quips than fully formed thoughts.

The seven dwarfs.
Director Singh is a master of visual storytelling and he again puts this on full display. In "Immortals" I was blown away by his ability to take something we have seen countless times before and give them little twists of strangeness that made them more original but more importantly made it feel different. Where "Immortals" failed was in the fact the story had nothing new to offer. This could be said about "Mirror Mirror" as well, seeing as we have seen the movie before, but I felt this aspect is actually where this movie had an advantage. The script doesn't take itself too seriously and instead relies heavily on the humor and intentional farcical tone. The color palette, which ranges from the solid whites and grays of the Castle to the stark colors of the Queens dresses to the Bollywood-inspired finale that is literally an explosion of bright colors fits this tone perfectly. The way it compliments one another meshes to form a very calculated type of self-awareness while still keeping the basic elements and themes of the story intact. Singh was also smart to focus on the dwarfs in his film, they provide the majority of the fun here and are at the core of why children will love the film. They were always the characters that stood out in the animated version, that didn't necessarily stick to any archetype, but instead brought real inspiration to the audience and lead characters to fight for what they knew was right.

Snow White (Lily Collins) and Prince Alcott hide from the
monster the Evil Queen has hiding in the woods.
Even with the somewhat disappointing "The Lorax" hitting theaters earlier this month, it has been a good while since a full-fledged, fun family film has hit the cineplexes. That is the charm of this movie that will keep the kiddies entertained all the way through while providing plenty of good appealing moments to the adults that will be taking them to see it. Singh even throws in a musical number at the end that is sung by Collins herself and really exposes the importance of why his films so heavily rely on their style. "Mirror Mirror" is a feast for the eyes and is a pleasant diversion from everything else that is in theaters at the moment. There is not much substance to delve into when it comes to this project as we all know the story and the director and his team don't focus on too much on developing themes or making some kind of metaphor to our real world. No, this is simple, basic fun and should be celebrated for being just that in a time where studios are constantly trying to tell the dark, brooding side of things. I didn't expect to like "Mirror Mirror" much less enjoy it, but I did and I hope the crowds give it a fair chance as it certainly deserves it.

MIRROR MIRROR Review

When the first trailer for this appeared online back in November it honestly looked pretty horrible. Director Tarsem Singh had just come off the successful opening of "Immortals" and then this comes rolling around in what looked to be a race to beat the more serious "Snow White & the Huntsmen" to theaters in June. While I initially had a horrible feeling about the film and a great hesitation to even see it, as the marketing campaign continued it seemed to get smarter in realizing the fact it did not need to compete with the other Snow White film coming out this year but instead what it needed to do was distinguish itself by showing what was valuable about the many different forms a story could take. In this case, both the darker version and this one aimed more at the younger crowds can both be taken with equal credibility. That is a hard thing to believe and I almost refused to believe it before sitting down and actually taking in what "Mirror Mirror" had to offer. Now, I don't think this is a great film by any means, but it isn't reaching for the stars either, it is simply trying to tell a fun tale that we all remember as an animated movie. It is what we would actually expect a live action version of the Disney film to be while "Snow White & The Huntsmen" likely skews closer to that of the Brothers Grimm tale. There is an audience for both and while I, as a 25 year-old, will probably enjoy the other version of this story more, I cannot say that "Mirror Mirror" fails to entertain its target audience.

JOHN CARTER Review

By this time it has been decided that "John Carter" is officially a flop. Sadly, this likely means Disney will not be pouring their money into a sequel for this massive loss which is really a shame because despite the mixed reviews and soft response to the film this is a sprawling adventure with a great imagination and scope to match. I have never read the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels on which this is based, but one can easily tell how this work indeed inspired the likes of "Star Wars" and countless other sci-fi epics. Director Andrew Stanton (Wall-E and Finding Nemo) was the main reason I held out hope for this film and in the end his storytelling ability is what overshadows his missteps. I can only imagine the differences that come with switching from directing animated films to that of a live action film of this size. For a first timer Stanton has done a wonderful job of keeping a rather complex story within certain archetypes and not allowing his narrative to run away with the movie. He probably could have picked a more charismatic leading man as Taylor Kitsch, while looking every bit the part, does not do well to help me understand why Stanton along with directors Peter Berg and Oliver Stone have chosen him to headline their films this year. Kitsch who seems to have been a valuable part of the underrated "Friday Night Lights" series has only had one other starring role in the awful "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and I felt that same kind of emptiness here from him. Lucky for Kitsch that his supporting cast is full of reliable actors like Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong, and Bryan Cranston. Whether they are bringing life to the green-skinned race of Tharks or simply populating the mythology of Burrough's tale these are the real reasons this Mars adventure is brought to life.

Matai Shang (Mark Strong) is the leader of the Therns,
the controllers of the universe.
I was unfamiliar with the stories of John Carter and going in had no real idea of where the story was heading despite the notion I could probably guess. This is classic adventure storytelling that hits all the right marks while giving us a really engaging backdrop. I have always been a sucker for sci-fi stories with lush back stories and mythologies that span further than just our own world. "John Carter" does this in spades. It starts interestingly enough in the late 1800's with his death as he recruits his young nephew to come take care of his estate which turns out to only be a front to allow his nephew the time to get caught up on what Mr. Carter's life has been like for the past thirteen years. Carter's own story starts as the civil war veteran is asked by the army to return, but has come to the decision that every side has their reasons for fighting, that neither is particularly right and that he has no interest in fighting for either one. In trying to escape he stumbles upon a cave with what feel like familiar markings. Inside he encounters a man who quickly tries to kill him but not before accidentally sending our protagonist to the red planet.

To its natives, Mars is known as Barsoom and once he arrives Carter is able to leap enormous distances and somehow has superhuman strength because of something having to do with his bone density and the alien conditions. He is captured by the Tharks led by Tars Tarkas (Dafoe) and is immediately selected to fight for them because of these new abilities. This will help as Barsoom is in the middle of a civil war. The kingdoms of Zodanga and Helium are on the brink of destroying one another when Zodanga's leader Sab Than (Dominic West) proposes a peace with Helium in exchange for its rulers Tardos Mors (Ciaran Hinds) daughters hand in marriage. Naturally, the princess is a rather fiesty intelligent being who will not bow so easily to a meat headed ruler who is full of arrogance. As princess Dejah Thoris Lynn Collins displays more charisma than her counterpart Kitsch, but does nothing to make her character stand out among the legions of heroic princess's of this genre's past. Some way or another John Carter saves the princess as she tries to escape and they become bound to this journey together that orders them to stop the Zodanga before they destroy Helium (though Carter has a problem choosing sides until the princess shows some weaknesses for him). There is also the important aspect of the Therns, a biblical like group of baldies in white robes led by the always evil Mark Strong. They are guiding this whole extravaganza as they are the Gods who control the universe and are behind Sab Than's invasion and craving for power. These, in short, are John Carters real enemies. You got all of that, right?

Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) and John Carter (Taylor Kitsch)
face off for the first time.
The good news is that director Stanton and his team have developed such a lovely movie to look at the scope matches that of the story. Though in the beginning we are slightly confused as to who is who and how these guys play into that, it is fairly easy to understand by the time it comes down to the simple goal of stopping the princess from marrying the bad guy. What is most impressive about the film for me was not just the way Stanton was able to navigate through the multiple characters and give them each credible role with the money spent on the project feeling at least justified, no what I was really impressed with was the fact alot of what was going on here felt credible in the first place. It is hard to take half-naked Mars people dressed as if it was ancient Rome interacting with four-armed humongous aliens seriously, it must have been even harder for Stanton to convince his actors that this was all going to turn out to be awesome. Here in lies the problem I have with Kitsch as the lead. He seems to be really trying to make this work, I'll give him that and the argument can even be made that he doesn't seem to buy into it because his character is genuinely startled at where he is in the universe. It is more than this though, Kitsch never convinces me he isn't holding in laughing at the whole thing. Like a popular kid on a playground of nerds his whole persona screams a type of arrogance that doesn't feel like it fits in Burrough's characters skin. This causes a hesitation on the part of the audience to fully give into the idea that this movie actually is pretty cool.

Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) is the leader of the Tharks,
an alien race that lives on Mars. 
What it comes down to is the knowledge that if I were a 10 year-old I would have no doubt, absolutely loved this. I think this will certainly enthrall anyone under the age of 12 since those tweens will likely think they are too cool for this. Being a 25 year-old though, I want to be transported back to that place where I was at 10; simply blown away by a movie and the world that it creates on screen. I want to be taken to that place where my imagination can only attempt to match the characters and places that have been created. I can see how "John Carter" might do this for a whole new generation and even those, like myself who love "Star Wars" and were taken aback by the visuals of "Avatar" might be engaged but it doesn't reach the heights of blowing me away, it simply entertained me. There is nothing wrong with this, but I am sure Disney was counting on much more than entertainment when they sank the reported $250 million into the project. I hate to even doubt the project because I honestly do want to see more from it; at the very least it is an intriguing opening chapter that deserves to be expanded on, whether Stanton will get that chance or not will likely depend on the worldwide box office return, but if that day comes I will be anxiously awaiting John Carter's next adventure, with hopes that Taylor Kitsch has found a more genuine place within himself to apply to the title character.


JOHN CARTER Review

By this time it has been decided that "John Carter" is officially a flop. Sadly, this likely means Disney will not be pouring their money into a sequel for this massive loss which is really a shame because despite the mixed reviews and soft response to the film this is a sprawling adventure with a great imagination and scope to match. I have never read the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels on which this is based, but one can easily tell how this work indeed inspired the likes of "Star Wars" and countless other sci-fi epics. Director Andrew Stanton (Wall-E and Finding Nemo) was the main reason I held out hope for this film and in the end his storytelling ability is what overshadows his missteps. I can only imagine the differences that come with switching from directing animated films to that of a live action film of this size. For a first timer Stanton has done a wonderful job of keeping a rather complex story within certain archetypes and not allowing his narrative to run away with the movie. He probably could have picked a more charismatic leading man as Taylor Kitsch, while looking every bit the part, does not do well to help me understand why Stanton along with directors Peter Berg and Oliver Stone have chosen him to headline their films this year. Kitsch who seems to have been a valuable part of the underrated "Friday Night Lights" series has only had one other starring role in the awful "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and I felt that same kind of emptiness here from him. Lucky for Kitsch that his supporting cast is full of reliable actors like Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong, and Bryan Cranston. Whether they are bringing life to the green-skinned race of Tharks or simply populating the mythology of Burrough's tale these are the real reasons this Mars adventure is brought to life.

THE HUNGER GAMES Review

For most fans of "The Hunger Games" series the film adaptation has been a long time coming. Since it was first announced a year ago who would be directing and starring in the film a slew of other news and information, photos and trailers have come out prepping everyone for the next huge series based on a young adult book series. I think it is important to note that this reviewer has read all three books and loved them. Since seeing the movie I have spoken with others who have also read the books and heard their thoughts on it as well as with those who went in without knowing anything more than a plot synopsis. Both have had equally interesting things to say ranging from it being the best adaptation that could have possibly been made from the book to those who were a little confused as to what all of this meant but at least engaged with where all of this might be going. I tend to agree that director Gary Ross and his team have constructed what is probably the best visual representation of Suzanne Collins imagination as they could. The dystopian world in which 12 districts remain in the ruins of North America is delivered in the opening moments of the film with that outermost district of 12 being a place of hardship and citizens barely making it by in their day to day lives. On the other end of the spectrum is the capitol, a place that visually is like a technologically advanced Oz with crowds of large wigs and ridiculous face paint. The books are of a certain commentary on the world today and the type of entertainment we can find enjoyable. Will fans of the book think the movie is better? Probably not, but that has never been a fair judgement. Where the book gave us the internal thoughts and reasoning's of our characters the movies give us the how. What is so appealing about "The Hunger Games" film is that while it certainly delivers the "how" of Suzanne Collins world it is able to tap into the "why" as well and give us hints of what is to come while setting everything up in this first chapter with satisfying results.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Gale Hawthorne
(Liam Hemsworth) ready themselves for the reaping.
For those that are still unaware of what the story is here it can basically be summed up in that each year a boy and girl tribute between the ages of 12 and 18 from each of the 12 districts are chosen to compete in the hunger games. The 24 contestants are placed in an arena to fight to the death until their is only one victor remaining. This is done to remind the citizens of Panem (the nation that now exists in place of North America) of the rebellion that happened previously and why it should never happen again. By the time Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are chosen as the tributes from district 12 Panem is now on their 74th hunger games. For those of you who have heard the comparisons to the "Twilight" series you can stop thinking that here because the only similarity between the two series is the angle of the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Katniss's long time friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). This also isn't the main focus of the story either, and even throughout the series it serves as a second string subplot to the games. For the first hour of the film director Ross is able to introduce those who are unfamiliar with the world of Panem to the ins and outs and rules of the game while giving those anxious to see their imaginations materialized on screen reason to be excited as the tone is pitch perfect and the players couldn't be better.

Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) interviews Katniss after she
takes the place of her sister as the girl tribute from district 12. 
Katniss is a strong female lead that has taken care of her younger sister, Primrose, since her mother lapsed into simply existing after her husbands death. Katniss doesn't have time for feeling sorry for herself, she hunts and keeps the family well fed and as you've probably seen in the trailer volunteers to take Primrose's spot when she is originally chosen for the games. In this role, Jennifer Lawrence does look and sometimes feels a little too old to be playing the 16 year-old, but she is so honest and sincere in her performance that it is hard to picture a better Katniss. Lawrence is the sole reason why some of the emotions elicited from Collins words are to be felt as if they were perfectly translated to the screen. She is forced, as Ross was to tell an elaborate story and set up a large universe within a certain amount of time while trying to please themselves and fans of the series. It is not an easy task, but Ross knew what he was doing when he placed Lawrence in the role because not only does she have the tomboy-ish rogue side to pull off the district 12 Katniss, but also the beauty and stamina to pull off the Katniss that is forced out of her comfort zone and the vulnerability of the girl on fire who has to survive in the capitol where there are more games being played than just the ones in the arena.

The same can almost be said for Hutcherson as Peeta. In the books, Peeta is the most genuine kind of person that expresses such a pure, unselfish love for Katniss that he knows from the beginning if anyone is going to win it will be his fellow tribute. Hutcherson is a gentle faced young actor with a humble persona that for me, felt like it fit perfectly with who Peeta was. On screen, Hutcherson is not able to convey as much depth as the literary Peeta did, but I am anxious to see how Hutcherson grows as a performer throughout the series as Peeta becomes a character that will require the skills of a very talented actor to portray. As for Gale, Hemsworth does his best with his limited screen time here while setting up why Katniss will have such a hard time determining what her relationship with her best friend could be and if the new feelings she is experiencing for Peeta are even real or if they can outweigh that bond with Gale. Thank God director Ross didn't feel the need to force this triangle to the front just for the sake of competing with "Twilight" but instead goes for the more subtle route of simply cutting to a shot of Gale when Katniss and Peeta have their first onscreen kiss. Now that's drama.

From left: Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) Haymitch (Woody Harrelson)
and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) discuss the games.
The remainder of the cast is sprinkled with pros who, as in any good franchise, support the more unknown leads with a stable backdrop to handle such massive movies. Whether it be the perfectly cast Elizabeth Banks as the love to hate her Effie Trinket, an intimidating Donald Sutherland as President Snow, or the great Stanley Tucci showing off his charisma as the hunger games emcee Caeser Flickerman. It only gets better when we are introduced to Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. Cinna is a beloved character in the books, a rock for our protagonist and in the most unexpected of choices with Kravitz he proves to be a rather inspired, soft-spoken mentor that truly understands the horrifying truth of the games. The man who steals the show though is Woody Harrelson as the drunken mentor to our two tributes, Haymitch Abernathy. Haymitch is the only tribute for district 12 to have ever won the hunger games and Harrelson easily transitions him from the alcoholic we first meet who could care less whether his district wins or loses to a mentor that not only knows the best ways to survive in the arena but the best tactics to win over the sponsors outside of it. There is obviously going to be much more of the page dedicated to these characters then there will be available screen time and so to have actors inhabit these roles that can bring out the defining characteristics in such short amount of time is a real credit to not only their talent but to Ross and his skills not only as a director but as a writer on the script.

Peeta runs into some tough times in the arena.
Early on, to capture the tone and desperation of district 12 director Ross uses a lot (maybe a little too much) of the handheld camera and stages the reaping (the lottery-like picking of the two tributes) to almost resemble a World War II Nazi concentration camp. The color palette is filled with faded grays and blues while the capitol guards stand in attention in pure white in case anything decides to disrupt the ceremony. Ross has said repeatedly how he did not intend to give the production a glossy, over-stylized feel in that this would almost be a way of conforming to what the capitol would want the movie to be. His intentions were brave and he has succeeded in making a film that stays absolutely true to the spirit of the book while only managing to lose a small amount of the social commentary that is contained within them. The stories have also been accused of being taken from a 2000 Japanese film "Battle Royale" about a class of 9th graders being dropped on a deserted island and forced to kill one another. That film though does not feature the lush back story or government force that is the foundation of conflict in "The Hunger Games". That film is more a commentary on the moral flexibility and impressionable minds of the youth while Collins stories seem to be more of a social commentary on the entertainment industry and how we as a society eat it up.

Katniss practices her bow & arrow skills by hunting in the
woods outside of district 12.
Collins said her inspiration for the books came from channel surfing one night and coming across a reality show where contestants were competing for a prize and then seeing footage of the war in Iraq. The meshing of these two can certainly form an unsettling idea, but even more so the world that Collins has since conceived from this idea is something of a canvas for people with different sets of ideas to see the story as they want to see it. Whether it be a political message where the government flourishes off the day to day work of the less important population or that the elite in the capitol are the 1% forcing those from different economic standings to fight for their own amusement. The reason for this is simple in that both Collins in her books and Ross with his film have left a lot of things open for our own conclusions. Whatever conclusions may be drawn it is certainly a mirror for its audience (us) to take a good hard look at ourselves. Does it make you feel bad about the obsession you have with reality TV? That what we see as entertainment really might be a tragedy for that person on screen who has to deal with it and go through that? No matter the point of view or interpretation you might perceive from the series it is clear that at least it is making its audience think, something not found to often in blockbuster movies.

Effie, Haymitch, and Katniss watch the results of the
gamemaker's judgements on each contestant.
"The Hunger Games" is a film that while provoking a variety of reactions from its audience is also an entertaining thriller that introduces us to a cast of characters and a world that leaves us wanting more. The one drawback to the film is that for all of the implications this story makes the film version does not make those strong impressions that Katniss feels alone in this world. The actual games, which don't start until an hour into the film feel rushed and too easily dealt with whereas in the book the games showed a character simply trying to survive with no other worries on her mind. Ross in his film has already began to imply where the outside world is going and that is fine seeing as this truly is an origin story, but to do this also means the film needs to capture the heart of why those in the outer districts feel the strong courage to rebel. It needs to not just paint President Snow as the villain but everyone who is not with Katniss in her quest to save and protect the ones she loves. That it looks over the implications of what Katniss is actually going through when she is primped and made-up to put on a performance for the camera is glassed over as if the story was being told from Effie's point of view rather than Katniss's. We need to know that Katniss is not enjoying herself, that in all reality she is conflicted about how she is acting versus what her gut is telling her to do. This will of course come to more fruition in the second and third installment of the series, but I can only hope this aspect of the story was slighted from the first film because of its need to introduce the world to Panem and its population. From this point on there is no need for pleasantries but instead we can immediately get down to business. "The Hunger Games" is nothing short of an entertaining film and is a fine adaptation but for the films to really go somewhere they will have to dig deeper into the psychology of our heroine in "Catching Fire".

  

THE HUNGER GAMES Review

For most fans of "The Hunger Games" series the film adaptation has been a long time coming. Since it was first announced a year ago who would be directing and starring in the film a slew of other news and information, photos and trailers have come out prepping everyone for the next huge series based on a young adult book series. I think it is important to note that this reviewer has read all three books and loved them. Since seeing the movie I have spoken with others who have also read the books and heard their thoughts on it as well as with those who went in without knowing anything more than a plot synopsis. Both have had equally interesting things to say ranging from it being the best adaptation that could have possibly been made from the book to those who were a little confused as to what all of this meant but at least engaged with where all of this might be going. I tend to agree that director Gary Ross and his team have constructed what is probably the best visual representation of Suzanne Collins imagination as they could. The dystopian world in which 12 districts remain in the ruins of North America is delivered in the opening moments of the film with that outermost district of 12 being a place of hardship and citizens barely making it by in their day to day lives. On the other end of the spectrum is the capitol, a place that visually is like a technologically advanced Oz with crowds of large wigs and ridiculous face paint. The books are of a certain commentary on the world today and the type of entertainment we can find enjoyable. Will fans of the book think the movie is better? Probably not, but that has never been a fair judgement. Where the book gave us the internal thoughts and reasoning's of our characters the movies give us the how. What is so appealing about "The Hunger Games" film is that while it certainly delivers the "how" of Suzanne Collins world it is able to tap into the "why" as well and give us hints of what is to come while setting everything up in this first chapter with satisfying results.

OCTOBER BABY Review

Any time I ready myself to sit and watch a faith based film I know to expect a few things; one is a good amount of Christian-themed music sprinkled throughout while the other is questionable, slightly cheesy acting. I had not heard much about "October Baby" before going into it this afternoon except for the fact that it had to deal with the issue of abortion. I myself certainly have a stance on the issue but am not going to use this as a forum to try and persuade you to my point of view or reason why I feel the way I do. Instead I will simply offer my thoughts on the film and how that issue plays into the film is of course a major part of the story it is telling but the positive thing I can commend "October Baby" for doing is not pushing its message on the audience in an overly-preachy way. Unlike the Sherwood produced films like "Fireproof" and "Courageous" , this tends to be less pushy and self-congratulatory and more of a film that simply means well. You can take it or leave it, embrace it or ignore it and it probably won't matter because the people who decide to go out and purchase a ticket to these kinds of films already have their mind made up as to what side of the debate they are on. This is the toughest challenge facing these types of films in that the audience they intend to reach and the audience they do reach are usually not one in the same. It is a film that for all its effort means well, but doesn't necessarily render much of an emotional response.

A few of Hannah's friends fix up a ride for their road trip
to Louisiana including Chris Sligh as Bmac.
If you are as unfamiliar with the story as I was, it centers around Hannah (newcomer Rachel Hendrix) a college freshman who faints in the opening moments of her theatrical debut. She is oblivious to the root of the health issues that have plagued her entire life and seems suspicious as she has not suffered something so serious since she was an infant. This trip to the hospital brings about the revelation from her parents that they are in fact not her birth parents and that she was adopted after a failed abortion attempt. She was born extremely premature and has thus suffered for the complications of this birth ever since. As mos movies go when our main character finds out they were adopted Hannah also decides it is in her best interest to go and find her birth mother to find out who she "really is". This may make me sound like a heartless prick but the thin that bothered me most about this scenario is that Hannah seems to have it figured out as to who she is and who she wants to be. Her loving yet over-protective father Jacob (John Schneider) works at the hospital and they live a life that is remotely stress free until Hannah decides to go and complicate things. I can somewhat understand the need to find out what the reasons were that led to your life almost being taken away before it even began but the whole plot of the film, the theme of the young girl needing to discover herself, is something that could have seemingly been taken care of with a good ole family discussion.

Jacob (John Schneider) finds it hard to let his daughter go
in "October Baby".
While it is a well meaning film that certainly doesn't excuse its faults. "October Baby" in possibly more experienced and more talented hands could have been a heavy handed drama that dealt with a subject ripe with political and personal effects that has just as many shades of perception as the Bible does. What we have here though is a piece written and directed by first time feature directors the Erwin brothers. the film looks beautiful but depends too heavily on its standard soundtrack to move along scenes with montages in between dialogue heavy moments. The film is essentially a series of discussions strung together by beautiful shots of the beach and sunsets and skies and our lead characters hair blowing in the wind as she hangs her head out the window. It is all very liberating I'm sure, but the technique grows old after the first two times we see it in the first twenty minutes.  There are a few moments here and there that really hit you in the gut and that is when things get real. The moment Hannah sits down and confronts the nurse that took her birth mother to the hospital the day she went into labor is shockingly blunt compared to the rest of the film. Jasmine Guy as nurse Mary relays horrifying details about the process of some abortion operations and in that moment the audience is shook into realizing the severity of the issue these filmmakers have decided to tackle. If only this tone was more consistent throughout this could have possibly been billed as something more.

Jason (Jason Burkey) and Hannah (Rachel Hendrix) enjoy
one of many nice moments on the beach.
The worst thing that can be said about the film though is that at certain points it dips so far into melodrama that it feels you just paid to watch a Lifetime movie. The acting isn't nearly as cheesy here as I would have expected, lead Hendrix is more than capable and is able to convey some of the cornier dialogue with the strongest amount of sincerity while her on screen love interest Jason as played by Jason Burkey doesn't fare as well. The supporting cast, the most notable being Schneider, do a fine enough job of lending some credibility to the younger cast while the comic relief of the film is unnecessary and is trying way too hard. I can appreciate what the makers are trying to do here and I can certainly understand why they would feel the need to paint a portrait of what this can really do to effect the life of someone who had no say in such a determining decision. Some will criticize the film for trying to brainwash its audience into thinking one way or another about the topic of abortion, but I am not here to tell you what you should think and neither is "October Baby". It is simply there to give an example of one person's take on the matter and hopefully shed light on why they think the way they do. The point certainly could have been made in a more effective way, but I won't fault anyone for trying. I will only complain that it certainly could have been better.

OCTOBER BABY Review

Any time I ready myself to sit and watch a faith based film I know to expect a few things; one is a good amount of Christian-themed music sprinkled throughout while the other is questionable, slightly cheesy acting. I had not heard much about "October Baby" before going into it this afternoon except for the fact that it had to deal with the issue of abortion. I myself certainly have a stance on the issue but am not going to use this as a forum to try and persuade you to my point of view or reason why I feel the way I do. Instead I will simply offer my thoughts on the film and how that issue plays into the film is of course a major part of the story it is telling but the positive thing I can commend "October Baby" for doing is not pushing its message on the audience in an overly-preachy way. Unlike the Sherwood produced films like "Fireproof" and "Courageous" , this tends to be less pushy and self-congratulatory and more of a film that simply means well. You can take it or leave it, embrace it or ignore it and it probably won't matter because the people who decide to go out and purchase a ticket to these kinds of films already have their mind made up as to what side of the debate they are on. This is the toughest challenge facing these types of films in that the audience they intend to reach and the audience they do reach are usually not one in the same. It is a film that for all its effort means well, but doesn't necessarily render much of an emotional response.

SILENT HOUSE Review

The reason this film stands out above other horror films is also the main idea the marketing team for this has been pushing, and rightfully so. As seen in the ad's for "Silent House" this is supposed to be one long continuous shot that documents in real time the experiences of our protagonist Sarah. It is extremely difficult to capture one long shot in any film without making any cuts and in that we are talking about six or seven minutes. To try and create a whole film with this technique would not just take an immense amount of planning and skill on both the actors and directors part, but it almost doesn't seem worth the trouble. There are certainly some edits within "Silent House" but they are few and far between and the purpose of this technique is made effective and that is what really matters. The point of following Sarah through a seemingly harmless fall evening as her, her father, and uncle continue renovating a house they are getting ready to sell is that our eyes are that of the characters. We are constricted as Sarah is, unable to see what is behind her or above her. It is the perfect trick to play on an audience who is looking for not just scares, but real suspense. This is only the second horror film I've seen so far this year and it is nice to see things going in a positive direction for the horror genre. While February's "The Woman In Black" was a nice throwback to gothic campfire stories, "Silent House" (though a remake of the Uruguayan film, " La Casa Muda") moves the genre forward with a new take on a narrative that might have been lifeless otherwise.

From Left: Peter (Eric Stevens), Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) and
John (Adam Trese) investigate some mold in their old
vacation house.
Like most horror films, there is only so much of the story you can divulge without giving too much away; this is of course true with "Silent House" as well. What can be said I think without giving too much away is that this turned out to be more of a psychological horror film rather than one that was simply out to get scares with monsters. There are monsters here, just not the ones you might expect. For most of the film we as an audience are shrouded in mystery as well, unaware of what is really going on while only occasionally being dropped hints that could indicate a number of different conclusions. The plot unfortunately is not the most important thing here though and that is where the film lags at times. When the makers seem to forget they are conveying a story rather than just experimenting with a filmmaking technique or so entranced with Elizabeth Olsen's face that the point of the story starts to wander. The first twenty minutes or so almost test your patients with the combination of the limited scope the eye of the camera gives you and the set-up of Olsen's Sarah helping her father (Adam Trese) and uncle Peter (Eric Stevens) fix up an old vacation house they came to when she was younger. There is no more back story given than the fact they are prepping the house to sell and then we begin to notice little things about their interactions. Something is off, the vibes are strange, and when Sarah begins to hear things the tone shifts and the technique works giving us moments fully realized by fear.

Peter and Sarah try desperately to escape an
unknown threat in "Silent House".
The fact that Olsen carries the whole film on her able shoulders only re-enforces what her breakout role in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" hinted at. The girl is a powerhouse actress and can bring life and more importantly, soul to a film that might have drowned under its owns aspirations were it in lesser hands. In "Silent House" Olsen again uses her preference for the atypical to lift the film from its standard intentions. She is the face of the film, is in nearly every frame of it and makes her characters plight feel more genuine than insane. To her credit, she also takes every person in the audience and places them in her position. Locked in a place where there is literally something creepy lurking around every corner. The way in which she chokes back her screams and tightens her face as if telling it with all her might not to move a muscle is incredibly detailed emotions, we know the fear and we can only imagine what is running through her mind and be thankful we are not in the same situation. For me, that is a true strength in the horror genre that has not been seen in a long while. To actually make an audience fear what it is when they hear a strange creak in their house when they get home, to instill in them a paranoia about what might be threatening them just out of their sight is what "Silent House" can do to you and while this could be credited to the directors and their chosen approach to the story most of the credit has to go to Olsen for so naturally and effectively getting under our skin.

Strange realizations come flooding back to Sarah.
"Silent House" may not break new ground as far as scary stories go, but really, what is left and where else is there to go? This is the same thing the "Paranormal Activity" films are doing and even upcoming flicks like "Cabin in the Woods" that play on the cliches of the genre yet look to be smart while delivering their own chills. You may have seen this film before and by all means have the right to count it out on that fact alone, but it is raised up a notch simply by the performance Olsen gives and the tactics the filmmakers employ to raise some genuine scares. While this will certainly not push Olsen's career further into the spotlight than the far superior "Martha Marcy May Marlene" it won't hold her back either or raise cause for concern. This was the other film that had its premiere last year at the Sundance Film Festival that starred the younger sister of the "Full House" twins and even there it didn't make as much noise. I expect it to do about the same in its theatrical run and disappear again after a few weeks of being on the rental shelves. When "Silent House" will really come into play is when we look back on Olsen's career and see that no matter what genre of movie she's playing in, her performance is what strikes you about that film and will seriously have you questioning every noise in your house the next day.

    

SILENT HOUSE Review

The reason this film stands out above other horror films is also the main idea the marketing team for this has been pushing, and rightfully so. As seen in the ad's for "Silent House" this is supposed to be one long continuous shot that documents in real time the experiences of our protagonist Sarah. It is extremely difficult to capture one long shot in any film without making any cuts and in that we are talking about six or seven minutes. To try and create a whole film with this technique would not just take an immense amount of planning and skill on both the actors and directors part, but it almost doesn't seem worth the trouble. There are certainly some edits within "Silent House" but they are few and far between and the purpose of this technique is made effective and that is what really matters. The point of following Sarah through a seemingly harmless fall evening as her, her father, and uncle continue renovating a house they are getting ready to sell is that our eyes are that of the characters. We are constricted as Sarah is, unable to see what is behind her or above her. It is the perfect trick to play on an audience who is looking for not just scares, but real suspense. This is only the second horror film I've seen so far this year and it is nice to see things going in a positive direction for the horror genre. While February's "The Woman In Black" was a nice throwback to gothic campfire stories, "Silent House" (though a remake of the Uruguayan film, " La Casa Muda") moves the genre forward with a new take on a narrative that might have been lifeless otherwise.

FRIENDS WITH KIDS Review

When I first heard about "Friends with Kids" I thought it was some type of early title for the film that later became "Bridesmaids". The majority of the casts are the same here with the exception of leads in "Friends with Kids" are Adam Scott and writer director Jennifer Westfeldt. Though these movies share a similar sense of theme and tone this is nowhere near the all out comedy that the superior "Bridesmaids" was and this adheres closer to the rom-com standards that "Bridesmaids" refused to follow. While it is unfair to judge this film in comparison with another simply because they share many of the same actors it is also inevitable and with such an indie vibe and presence to the film there will certainly be the expectations for this to be more original than it turns out to be. While I have never seen Ms. Westfeldt's previous writing effort, 2001's "Kissing Jessica Stein" but while she did write the film under revision here it is also her directorial debut. For having to manage so many roles including the lead character, she does in fact navigate the story and characters well. "Friends with Kids" separates itself from the standard romantic comedy by being genuinely witty and in touch with the topic that it is exploring. Not only is the dialogue refreshingly honest but it also gets right to the heart of the issues each character is dealing with and presents a new take on the state of change our lives take when we decide to make as major a decision as bringing another life into the world. This is obviously a complication very close to Westfeldt's heart as you can feel the process of her mind working through the different perspectives with her dialogue. Unfortunately she has to resolve it somehow and most of the time these thoughts aren't wrapped up as neatly as a Hollywood script would have you believe.

Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) are unsure
if being best friends will make them good parents.
The story follows a group of friends who when we are first introduced to them are pre-kids and enjoy their New York lifestyle. Julie (Westfeldt) who is approaching her forties with no luck in the long term relationship department and the yearning to be at a stage in life where all of her friends are suddenly finding themselves becomes suddenly the all important ingrediant in life. Seeing their friends go from love making socialites to the unrecognizeable, tired people who are trying their best to make it through the day without killing one another sparks the idea that maybe she doesn't need marriage to have a baby or to be happy. Lucky for her she has a best friend in Jason (Adam Scott) and they seem perfect for each other from the beginning if it weren't for that lack of sexual attraction between the two. Jason and Julie are very up front with one another and so there are no qualms when it comes to feeling comfortable with having the other person to raise a child with, but while the set up of having a child with your friend with out all the complications and obligations of marriage initially sounds like a great idea, our characters of course do not think this through and indeed prove conventions correct. There to comment on the situation and display every reason possible to support Jason and Julie's experimet are their four best friends Ben (Westfeldt's real life love Jon Hamm) and Missy (Kristin Wiig), Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (the wonderful Chris O'Dowd). Ben and Missy used to frolic everywhere they had a chance and were completely in love until the raising of children came between them and result in a sad truth of todays society. Leslie and Alex are the first who branch out and have kids but while they clearly love the idea of it, they were completely unprepared for the changes their life would take.

From left: Alex (Chris O'Dowd), Missy (Kristin Wiig), Leslie
(Maya Rudolph), and Ben (Jon Hamm) make their way to
Jason and Julies apartment to see how parenthood is
suiting them.
While "Friends with Kids" certainly has its moments, it takes what feels like forever to get where it's going and when it does it is what we saw coming a mile away. It throws a through curves in there in the form of Ed Burns and Megan Fox as two love interests for both Jason and Julie which naturally brings the realization to both that they could never actually live out their lives without being as close to one another as they are when both are simply dating casually or deciding to bring a life into the world. Usually, I hate when movies will try to spring an un-conventional way or at least shine a new light on ways of thinking just to recoil and decide not to be bold enough to follow through on that statement. It is different with this film though as even from the first reading of what the premise was you could tell what a bad idea it was going to be and how awful it would probably turn out if the situation panned out as our leads originally planned. Bringing a child into the world means taking o the responsibility of raising it and to Jason and Julie this always seemed more like something cool to do, a natural next step in life that they'd like to test out, but are never fully committed to or willing to put what it takes into it. Julie seems to realize this first and thus the fact her and Jasons original plan isn't going to work. Scott plays Jason as kind of a pig though preventing him from realizing how selfish and ignorant he is being when the reality of the situation attempts to slap him in the face over and over. While Scott and Westfeldt give nice performances and meet the demands of the oddly sit-com like feel this whole thing has I would have much rather seen a movie based around O'dowd and Rudolphs characters, I guess I will have to wait for Judd Apatow's "This is Forty" later this year to see that film though.

Jason realizes at just the right moment that his new girlfreind
Mary Jane (Megan Fox) is not the one for him.
"Friends with Kids" is by no means a bad film, it just, like Jason and Julies relationship, has some complications. The tone feels low key and a bit amateur while the pacing is off and the story drags from time to time as if trying to simply fill out a decent running time only to feel it is running out of time once it reached the conclusion. A few revisions to the script or at least a few more edits could have certainly helped this, but the importat point is the idea with which Westfeldt was attempting to get across and for the most part, I think she accomplished that. Her characters are fleshed out and their personalities are strong. The dialogue, as noted earlier, is quick witted and snappy, nothing like an actual conversation but a world where people can perfectly articulate their thoughts the first time out. It is a perfectly acceptable romantic comedy with a hint of vulgarity that doesn't go overboard, but it displays a script that tries so hard at first to go against the grain while following the blueprint of every other film of its genre. It was also nice of her beau and all her funny friends to show up and lend their names to her small film, but they end up leaving us wanting more from them while this is in all actuality a breakthrough in Adam Scott's career that solidifies he can hold down a leading role in a film. Hamm has some nice moments and O'Dowd continues to prove his worth while Fox also is more bearable here than ever before. There is plenty here to like, and if you are renting something a few months down the road on a night in this would do perfectly, but don't get a babysitter to watch the kids just to see a movie about what your life used to be.

FRIENDS WITH KIDS Review

When I first heard about "Friends with Kids" I thought it was some type of early title for the film that later became "Bridesmaids". The majority of the casts are the same here with the exception of leads in "Friends with Kids" are Adam Scott and writer director Jennifer Westfeldt. Though these movies share a similar sense of theme and tone this is nowhere near the all out comedy that the superior "Bridesmaids" was and this adheres closer to the rom-com standards that "Bridesmaids" refused to follow. While it is unfair to judge this film in comparison with another simply because they share many of the same actors it is also inevitable and with such an indie vibe and presence to the film there will certainly be the expectations for this to be more original than it turns out to be. While I have never seen Ms. Westfeldt's previous writing effort, 2001's "Kissing Jessica Stein" but while she did write the film under revision here it is also her directorial debut. For having to manage so many roles including the lead character, she does in fact navigate the story and characters well. "Friends with Kids" separates itself from the standard romantic comedy by being genuinely witty and in touch with the topic that it is exploring. Not only is the dialogue refreshingly honest but it also gets right to the heart of the issues each character is dealing with and presents a new take on the state of change our lives take when we decide to make as major a decision as bringing another life into the world. This is obviously a complication very close to Westfeldt's heart as you can feel the process of her mind working through the different perspectives with her dialogue. Unfortunately she has to resolve it somehow and most of the time these thoughts aren't wrapped up as neatly as a Hollywood script would have you believe.

21 JUMP STREET Review

The first film of the year that I was genuinely excited to see, "21 Jump Street" delivers on every level that I expected it to and in most ways even more so. I am too young to really know anything of the original series except for the fact it starred a pre-superstar Johnny Depp. I had no idea of the tone of the series and didn't really care to investigate if I'm being honest. By the time the first trailer appeared online I was already so excited to see the film I forgot that it was another movie based on an old TV show that the studios were re-hashing to make money off familiar titles. Now, I generally don't have a problem with this as I rather enjoyed the "Charlie's Angels" movies and Michael Mann refashioned "Miami Vice" into a darker, grittier film than anything the TV show ever hinted at. Despite not being overly familiar with the original shows these films were based on I went into them with a positive outlook and was greatly rewarded for the most part. The same can be said with "21 Jump Street". Not only does it feature a skinny Jonah Hill who consistently kills every scene he's in but it also features a breakout role for Channing Tatum. In my eyes Tatum has always been the guy the girls love and the guys can't stand because he has no shame in making chick flicks, but this will turn his career around and make him the marquee star we always knew he'd be. That being said, this is not only a great and hilarious comedy but it features the best odd couple in comedy we've seen in a good while.

Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) is always yelling at his
immature officers.
The premise is so fun from the beginning we buy into the ridiculousness of it and are willing to come along for the ride because of the mismatched duo that is Tatum and Hill who turn out to be the best part of the film. The first fifteen minutes or so play like an extended trailer. Cutting swiftly from joke to joke that sets up our heroes as the high schoolers they were and the stereotypes they so comfortably fit into. While Tatum is the typical dumb jock and Hill the self conscious, smart guy the film uses these strengths and weaknesses to draw the two closer together when they show up seven years after graduation to become police officers. In the aftermath of their park duty bust the boys fail to read the culprit their miranda rights and are therefore are sentenced to a program down on 21 jump street that requires their youthful immaturity. Cast as the perfectly stereotyped angry black captain Ice Cube steals every scene he graces with his dirty mouth and quick wit. The plot is simple in that Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are assigned to a local high school that seems to be the source of a new drug. They have to infiltrate the dealers and locate the supplier. Of course, nothing could be so easy, but the pure outlandish quality of the plot is what allows "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs" directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller to incorporate their visually inspired jokes that allow the pace of the film to move swiftly along, never stopping long enough for us to catch our breath between laughs.

Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are
proud to officially be on the force.
What is great about the film besides the flawless rapport between Tatum and Hill is the way in which the script handles the self-awareness factor. "21 Jump Street" clearly knows what it is and has no qualms with making that known. When the script takes that classic popular prototype and flips it on its head by instituting Jenko in a world where the cool kids no longer are the ones that play organized sports or try to look as if they don't care but instead are the liberal tree-huggers who in all actuality make their biggest contribution to society by recycling he becomes confused. Tatum plays the idiotic Jenko with such earnest emotion though that we feel we have to act in his defense when Schmidt begins to get in too deep because he was born ten years too late. He fits in perfectly in this world where a few years earlier he was the butt of everyone's joke. This kind of commentary on the quirky, less classic high school culture makes Jenko and Schmidt feel a little more 1995 rather than 2005 at times, the point is made and despite the pay off for some of these jokes that we can see coming from a mile away doesn't even hurt because they work and that pay off is so good we forgive the standard way the story plays out because of the jokes the cast have built around it.

Jenko and Schmidt meet Eric (Dave Franco) for the first time
to purchase some of the suspected drugs.
"21 Jump Street" is an outlandish and highly entertaining comedy that really wasn't being asked for or demanded in any way. Those that were fans of the show will probably not look kindly upon the change in tone and the vulgar turns this has so easily seemed to take from its source material, but like I said, is there an ardent fan base out there somewhere that was begging for a movie adaptation of their favorite show? Probably not, but the movie we have been given because of that has turned out to be what certainly sets a high bar for R-rated comedies in 2012. Helping greatly is the fantastic supporting cast that besides the aforementioned Ice Cube also features the likes of James Franco's younger brother Dave who perfectly personifies the cool swag of the social media generation. Rob Riggle turns in another great supporting role that lends his comic timing to the more exaggerated humor that the directors lean toward. It doesn't hurt that the likes of Ellie Kemper, Chris Parnell, and Nick Offerman show up in what are essentially cameos either to drop their sense of humor into the mix. Their is also one particular cameo that should let any audience member,  no matter their past association with the show or lack thereof, that this shouldn't be taken too seriously but instead should simply be enjoyed for the consistent laughs and great time it provides at the movies.