On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 18, 2014

With sequels these days there has come to be a feeling of such necessity that we have therefore come to experience many sequels complacent with simply re-hashing the original. 22 Jump Street is aware of this and especially in the genre of comedy. Most comedies, be it The Hangover, Rush Hour or The Nutty Professor are typically made with no greater ambition than making people laugh and maybe gaining a following once they hit home video, but I can't imagine any of them expected box office success resulting in a second chapter. This was apparent in each of the sequels to the aforementioned comedies, but the second chapter in this Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill collabo not only knows it is a college movie that pays homage to the kind of National Lampoon mainstays (as well as a barrage of other comedic references), but a sequel that subverts sequels. They realize the expectation that everything is supposed to be bigger, more expensive looking, and louder which is why they choose to open this one with a big, fast action sequence. While the heart of the film still deals with the on-going relationship between Hill's Schmidt and Tatum's Jenko the real story of the film is not the one in which these two repeat the same undercover work as last time, but instead how the film goes about commentating on the way studios operate these days and what happens when they run into road blocks and disagreements. In order to set-up the last act of the film our boys are confronted with the issue of having no money left in their police budget, which is to say they've spent it all on that opening chase sequence, upgraded sets and a bigger scope. Lucky for us the third act also helps the film break from the mold of the first film in which it was so eager to repeat so as to not venture outside the safety net of success. Returning directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The LEGO Movie) understand that everything is funnier the first time around and that the jokes aren't as sharp the second time. They understand audiences think they'll not only be looking for the same things, but wanting them. The truth is, despite the fact audiences think this way, they will leave the theater disappointed if that's what they're given because it wasn't more than they assumed it would be. In responding to these inherent wants and needs Lord and Miller have crafted a film that both meets initial expectations and then bursts through the traditional sequel curse by giving us what we didn't know we wanted until it was served up fresh. Full review here. B-

There is something to be said about films that I probably shouldn't have any interest in, but really enjoy nestling down with anyway. They are films that aren't necessarily bad; that I don't enjoy watching in a guilty pleasure capacity seeing as "guilty pleasures" are not typically held in high regard. Instead, these films I sometimes latch onto aren't necessarily labeled with negative connotations, but more accurately are labeled more for a specific crowd or demographic that I wouldn't necessarily fall into. R.J. Cutler's If I Stay is a perfect example of the type of film I'm talking about in that I am in no way the target audience for this young-adult novel inspired flick for teenage girls, but regardless I was still able to take away a fair amount of appreciation for what is being attempted here. There is, in short, a certain depth to the story and the way it is framed that clearly comes from Gayle Forman's novel of the same name. It is reaching for something more, something ambitious in the vein of its philosophical thought and the relation of our existence to the point in life our protagonist exists at in this story. Would she ultimately make a different final decision were she at a different point in her life and under different circumstances? Probably, yeah. She may also make the same decision, but would of course be swayed by different factors and the endless possibilities of this scenario that have been dialed down into this specific being at this specific time in her life is fascinating for doing so. You can imagine an endless amount of possibilities when coming to terms with the idea that we have the power to make such a critical choice and coming to terms with that power is enough to intrigue us to be interested in the path that leads Mia (Chloƫ Grace Moretz) to make the decision she does. I imagine Forman chose the age of her protagonist in that the heightened situation of life and death and the decision to stay or go is mirrored by the general transitional period in life that Mia exists thus creating a similar disposition in both the main story and the one that sets-up the flashbacks through which the majority of the story is told. Don't get me wrong, If I Stay isn't necessarily a breathtaking experience or one that is as emotionally affecting as it thinks it is, but besides running on fumes for a good portion of the second act the film has more to offer than I would have ever anticipated. Full review here. B-

In the spring of 2005 my newly minted eighteen year-old self highly anticipated director Robert Rodriguez's adaptation of the Frank Miller comic Sin City. Keep in mind this was a world before Christopher Nolan's genre re-defining Batman Begins or Zack Snyder's influential visual stylings of 300 and so to see something so inherently original in its take on both aesthetic and story was exciting even if I wasn't familiar with the source material. Add on to that the fact Rodriguez enlisted the creator of the comic book as his co-director and gathered up an expansive cast that included Bruce Willis, Benecio Del Toro, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Brittany Murphy, Michael Madsen, Powers Boothe and the first interesting role Mickey Rourke had taken in some time and you had something people were generally intrigued by. Almost a decade later though and the anticipation for any such follow-up to the film has long since faded and thus the original would have likely survived best if left alone rather than trying to return to the days of former glory with a sequel that doesn't really expand the world of the titular environment as much as it gives us the same things we were treated to the first time around, only this time with less of a punch to the gut. Less punch because we've seen them before, less surprise because we know the characters better, more of the same because we realize the characters weren't as developed as our first impression led us to believe. In short, the sequel more or less points out the flaws of the world in which it exists rather than enhancing or expanding the universe the original set-up and when a sequel does this it only makes its existence feel all the more forced than necessary. There are of course a few redeemable aspects here, the stark visuals still elicit a certain mood and look stunning on the big screen and the addition of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his storyline is engaging and deserved more screen time, but these aren't enough to spice up what is overall a rather boring and flat narrative. There will always be a certain nostalgia for the original Sin City given it's place in time and my stage of life when it was released, but if there was any hope A Dame to Kill For might do the same or even spark interest in eighteen year-olds today those hopes were dashed when Rourke's narration began and the style was more cloak and pattern than function to deepen story or theme. Full review here. D

Into the Storm looked cheap and horrible from the beginning and the horrible reviews only backed up my decision not to see it. I don't plan on ever watching this one.

Rob Reiner's And So It Goes starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton came and went so fast it is hardly worth writing about and definitely not worth wasting any time watching.

Automata premiered on VOD just a few months ago and looked like a cool enough little sci-fi flick, but the mixed to negative reviews weren't enough to convince me it was worth going out of my way to see. Maybe one day, but certainly not a priority.

Finally, we have Hayao Miyazaki's last film before his retirement in September of last year. I'm not a fan of Japanese anime and so I find it hard to sit down with the intent to watch something like The Wind Rises, but seeing how influential a figure Miyazaki is I'm sure I will one day feel the need to see some of his films.

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