Everybody’s Chattin’ & Music Break – Black Sails Theme

Happy Thursday everybody! I’m going to hit two birds with one stone again this time by combining two series in one. Surely you don’t mind that right? :)

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Ok, so let’s start with some of my favorite posts from the past couple of weeks:

  • UndertheSkin2014It seems that Jonathan Glazer‘s indie sci-fi which stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien with a penchant for Scottish men have captivated many. I’d say this alien has a great taste in men, ahah. Check out Sati‘s and Andrew‘s ‘hit me with your best shot’ posts on Under the Skin.
  • There have been some fun blogathons circling the blogosphere so far! There’s one from the King of Blog Series Nostra: Six Degrees of Separation and Wendell: Against The Crowd Blogathon which asks participants to list movies they love that others don’t and vice versa.
  • Ckckred asks what people think of the use of voice overs in films.
  • After being sidelined by the mammoth event that was the World Cup, avid soccer/football/futbol/futebol fan Niels finally had time to catch up with some movies and posted his one-sentence review of a bunch of them!
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  • BonjourTristesseAs far as classic movies go, be sure to check out Josh‘s picks for the 1941 CinSpec Award and Steven‘s review of Bonjour Tristesse (1958). Meanwhile, Dan reviewed a coming-of-age classic Stand By Me (1986), whilst Eric just saw the first Karate Kid movie from 1984, which some people might call a classic :)
  • This is a very cool series by Michael that you should check out if you haven’t already: Same Song, Different Movie – this time it’s This Must be the Place.
  • Fernando‘s been on a list roll lately. Check out his latest one on top 10 actors he’d see in pretty much anything.
  • Now last but not least, both Ryan and Joseph are excited for TIFF 2014, and rightly so! Check out the film fest line-ups they’ve posted and prepare to drool away! ;)

Now for this week’s Music Break!

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Boy it’s been ages since I posted on Opening Title Sequence. I just stumbled upon an old list I made four years ago on 10 of my favorites, and I immediately thought of the one for Black Sails! When I caught up on the Starz pirate show extravaganza earlier this month, I was blown away by how awesome the opening title is [well aside from Toby Stephens' Captain Flint of course] ;)

The Art of the Title site has an extensive behind-the-scenes look of the making of this spectacular work using real-life sculptures designed by Imaginary Forces. Combined with the rousing score by Bear McCreary, who also did the amazing score for the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica), this opening title is quite a masterpiece! Both the opening title AND the score have deservedly been nominated for Emmy Awards this year, woo hooo!

I LOVE this video of McCreary explaining how he envisioned the theme that’d fit the gritty world of piracy, not the cliched and romanticized version of pirates you’ve seen before. It also shows the making of the score in multiple recording sessions. This is the first time I’ve even seen a Hurdy Gurdy. WOW, now THAT’s creativity, well done Mr. McCreary!


I also found a couple of great Flint-centric fan videos featuring fantastic music by composer Mark Petrie who’s done a bunch of TV work. OperaGhost, whoever and wherever you are, THANK YOU for these awesome videos, hope you continue making them!


Hope you enjoy this music break!

So which score/opening title(s) from recent TV shows are your favorites?

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FlixChatter Review: SEX TAPE (2014)

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This review will be short and sweet because honestly there’s not a whole lot to say about Sex Tape.

A married couple wake up to discover that the sex tape they made the evening before has gone missing, leading to a frantic search for its whereabouts. 

Yep. That’s about it. I went in with low expectations and it’s exactly what I got. The story is pretty simple. Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) met in college and had an intense physical relationship, but an accidental pregnancy, marriage and another kid later, they find their sex life is somewhat nonexistent. Annie is a mommy blogger whose blog is being courted by a Fisher Price type company and Jay is a music producer who is constantly gifting his iPads to family, friends and strangers. So, when Jay upgrades to a cloud based storage system and they film their sex tape on his iPad, it’s automatically sent to all of Jay’s used iPads. Yikes.

Sounds like a great foundation for a comedy right? Eh. When a film isn’t even rated half good (4.9/10 on IMDB), how do you expect audiences to be excited for it? Sure, there were some comical and awkward scenes, but it just felt tired. It was Jason Segel being Jason Segel. With the exception of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, his comedy has become redundant. And, he can’t seem to let go of that one character.

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I’m a big fan of Cameron Diaz’s humor because she’s physical, expressive and isn’t afraid to make herself look ridiculous. But, not even she could save this film. Which is a shame because I really enjoyed her last film, The Other Woman. True, it didn’t receive great reviews either, but maybe because the humor of that film was on the weird and complex nature of female relationships.

Honestly the amount of nudity and the premise of the film just didn’t work for me. The nudity was completely gratuitous and at times very awkward. Segel and Diaz spent more time naked than actually acting. Plus, it wasn’t believable that an intelligent, tech savvy couple couldn’t figure out how to delete their file from the cloud. I guess it wouldn’t make for an interesting film, but the couple embarked on a race to individually delete the file. Their journey leads them to Annie’s possible future boss’s house. Frank (Rob Lowe) appears to be clean cut, but Jay and Annie find him home alone and letting loose. I swear Lowe doesn’t seem to age, but he’s plays the eccentric, aloof characters so well. The film is almost worth seeing just because of him. Almost. 

I originally was going to give this three reels, but the more I’ve been thinking about it, it really only deserves a two. Sorry, I really dug into this one I know. But, I’m just being honest!

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So what do you think of this movie? Am I alone on the Jason Segel thing?

FlixChatter Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

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Let me preface this review by saying that I haven’t seen any of the classic Apes movies in the 60s. I did see the 2001 reboot but I can barely remember any of it. But the 2011 version won me over that I’m intrigued to see what’s going to happen next.

The story takes place about a decade after the first film. The opening sequence swiftly tells us a Simian flu and incessant civil wars have wiped out most of humanity. On the brink of extinction, the remaining survivors in pockets all over the world is now living back in a *primal* state. It’s the search of power that connects the two species, as the dam the humans need to restore power resides so dangerously close to the Apes village.

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I love that the film takes its time in the character development of the apes, which are actually more crucial than the human characters. We get a glimpse of the apes’ community that Caesar & his fellow lab objects has built in the hills outside San Francisco.  The little apes go to *school* taught by a big, gentle orangutan, the female apes take care of the household, whilst the males hunt to provide food and protect the community. It’s akin to a tribal village where all the apes live peacefully under the leadership of the strong and wise Caesar. Not long after a small group of humans encounter some of the apes in the woods, thanks to a moron with an itchy trigger-finger, the fragile peace between the humans and the apes is about to be shattered.

Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) creates a suspenseful and atmospheric piece here that immediately sucks you in. At times it’s so sinister and eerie that I felt like I was watching a horror film. Aided by Michael Giacchino‘s haunting score, it’s a truly immersive experience. There is genuine terror when one of the human group leaders Malcolm tries to reason with Caesar, having witnessed that he’s clearly more than just a regular ape. Jason Clarke is solid here as Malcolm, he’s not overly charismatic but he’s effortlessly sympathetic and likable. To be fair, none of the human characters are nearly as charismatic as Caesar whose screen presence is undeniable. He commands your attention and even your allegiance, as I find myself rooting for him more than for the humans.

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Right from the start, this story keeps me engrossed whilst I marvel at the amazing CGI that looks and feels realistic. Mo-cap maestro Andy Serkis never ceases to amaze me with his motion-capture performance as Caesar. I really think his performance deserves an acting award as he truly embodies the role in the same way as a live-action actor would. The craftsmanship in the digital recreation of the apes is nothing short of amazing. Every detail and all the subtle nuances of the apes’ expression are so seamless and organic, you’d think these are actual apes who’ve been amazingly-trained! The apes all have distinct facial characteristics, just like the humans do. The production design is absolutely mesmerizing. The ape village, as well as the human compound in a rundown tower looks realistically gritty and bleak. There is a very cool scene in a wrecked gas station that sticks in the mind, not just visually but emotionally as well.

The emotional gratification is what makes a big impact here. Whilst all the special effects are incredible (what with $170 production cost), it’s the characters and their conflicts that make all the difference. And we certainly get that here with Caesar and Malcolm, both of them are essentially on the same page. Both have a family and a community they care about, yet they have to contend with those in their circle who simply don’t see things as they do. In Caesar’s camp, we’ve got Koba (Toby Kebell), his right hand man ape whose hatred for humans stems from being tortured in the lab and he’s got the ugly scars to prove it. “Koba only sees the bad side of humans,” Caesar says at one point, and honestly, at times I do feel sorry for Koba. Malcolms’ cohorts are more one-dimensional. You’ve got the hot-headed jerk Carver (Kirk Acevedo) and the paranoid group leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) who doesn’t really have much to do here than scream and shout. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Keri Russell fare better as Clarke’s son and girlfriend, respectively, though again, most of the human characters are simply not as memorable as the apes.

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I know it’s only July, but I have a strong feeling this would end up in my Top 10 of 2014 list. I also don’t think I’m exaggerating that this stands as perhaps one of the best sequels of all time, whilst at the same time it’d work fine as a standalone film. There’s a scene that allude to Caesar’s past in the first film, a poignant moment that truly tugs my heartstrings. I don’t think people need to see the 2011 film in order to get this film, but of course it makes you appreciate Caesar’s journey more. Kudos to Matt Reeves and his team of writers (five of them to be exact) for making this film a Caesar-focused story, it’s a taut thriller that’s as gripping as it is emotionally-gratifying. Now, the narrative is actually quite predictable, but this is not the kind of film that relies on twists so it doesn’t dampen my enjoyment for the film. Given the present conflicts all over the world, the bloodshed and social discord depicted here resonate even more.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not just one of the best offerings of the Summer, but of the entire year. It succeeds because the special effects punctuates and supports the story/character instead of the other way around. The technical achievements never overshadow the story, even during the action-heavy battle scenes in the third act, it doesn’t become so bombastic that we lose sight of what’s really at stake. The 3D is just okay, which is consistent with my sentiment that 2D format is always sufficient. The powerful last shot lends itself nicely to another sequel, and you know what, I for one can’t wait to see more the continuation of Caesar’s journey.

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What do you think of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?

Guest Post – Jersey Boys: The musical or the movie?

This review is courtesy of guest blogger Sarah Johnson who mainly contributes reviews for the Twin Cities Film Fest.

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I love it when books or musicals I like become movies because it allows me to enjoy the same story again and pick up subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences in different mediums. “Jersey Boys,” the new movie directed by Clint Eastwood, tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It is based on the phenomenally successful Broadway musical which won four 2006 Tony Awards including Best Musical. I have seen and enjoyed both the musical and movie for the same reason – everyone has heard the famous songs (“Big Girls Don’t Cry, “Oh What a Night,” “Sherry”) but the story behind the music is so well-told by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who did both the book for the musical and the screenplay for the movie, that it was just a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.

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The main difference between the musical and the movie is the beginning – about the first 20 minutes of the movie are devoted to Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) dragging Frankie Castelluccio (later Frankie Valli, played by John Lloyd Young) along to get into trouble in their blue collar Jersey neighborhood. In this way I felt like the musical was stronger because it introduces Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) earlier and that’s when their story really begins. For people who have seen the musical, the rest of the movie is the same as the musical and includes all of the famous lines that I found myself looking forward to in the movie. I don’t want to give too many of them away if you haven’t seen either version but there is one when a young Bob Gaudio meets flamboyant producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) and he says, “I remember thinking there was something a little off about this guy. But this was 1959, back when people thought Liberace was just…theatrical.” Both iterations also feature actors breaking the “fourth wall” to talk to the audience.

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John Lloyd Young (second from left) in the Broadway version of ‘Jersey Boys’

The cast is led by the superb John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Frankie Valli in the Broadway version. After seeing the movie, I know why. I don’t know if I can objectively assess Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio since I am still infatuated with Andrew Rannells’ portrayal of Bob Gaudio when I saw the musical at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in 2008. I thought Michael Lomenda gave an unexpectedly strong performance as Nick Massi, the group’s bass and self-proclaimed “Ringo” of the quartet. When he is stopped by local mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (played by Christopher Walken being…Christopher Walken) while trying to leave the group amid money issues and personal tensions, he proclaims, “With all due respect Mr. DeCarlo, I’d like to see you sell 100 million records by the time you’re 30 and see how you handle it.” Neither the movie nor the musical gloss over the price these guys paid for fame. Frankie Valli was an absentee father whose golden voice couldn’t stop the fact that his daughter died of a drug overdose in 1980. And neither version is a show for kids – there is a large amount of foul language throughout the show.

Both the movie and the musical end on a high note with a montage of the group’s famous songs. Although Frankie Valli is now in his 80’s, he was at the State Theatre in Minneapolis as recently as 2012. (At the end of the movie in his turn to address the audience, he says “I’m like the Energizer bunny, I just keep going and going and going…”) One thing to note about this show is that while Broadway musicals generally aren’t known for being a “guy thing,” this is a notable exception. Both my dad and uncle have seen the stage version and still talk about how enjoyable it was. There are several live versions on the road now (including one coming to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in April 2015) to compliment the movie, allowing anyone to enjoy this nostalgic, tune-filled story.

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What do you think of Jersey Boys? Have you seen both the film and/or the Broadway play?

FlixChatter Double Review: Snowpiercer (2014)

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Ted’s Review

After last summer’s mediocre Elysium, I wasn’t that interested in seeing another sci-fi/action picture about the poor vs. the rich set in the future. Heck even after I saw the trailer, I sort of didn’t really want to see this new film from South Korean director Joon-ho Bong at all. But thanks to so many great reviews from critics, I’ve decided to check it out and I’m so glad I did. I think it’s my favorite film of 2014 so far.

The film opens with a prologue explaining what has happened to earth. A failed global-warming experiment has killed off pretty much all living things on the planet and only the few survivors are now living in a train that can travel all over the globe. In this train, there are two classes of people, the rich and the poor. The rich gets to live in the fancy front side of the train and all of the poor folks have to stay in the back. Of course the living conditions on the back of the train is horrendous. We’re introduced to two friends Curtis (Chris Evans) and Edgar (Jamie Bell), right away we know they’re planning to attack their oppressors and get to the front side so they can have control of the train. That’s pretty much the whole plot of the film, Curtis and his followers battles their way into each car of the train to get to the front side. The message about our current economics system gets a little heavy handed at times but I wasn’t bothered by it as much. Yeah I know the 1% is living large while the rest of us have to suffer and so on. Basically everything that Elysium did wrong, this film got it right.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but Chris Evans has starred in two of my favorite movies of the year, the other one being Captain America: Winter Soldier. I was never a fan of his before and now I think he’s grown as actor. As the lead in another action picture, he did a good job of commanding the screen, we don’t know much about Curtis until the film’s climax and the payoff worked for me. I don’t think I’ve seen Jamie Bell in anything since the dreadful Jumper, here he’s the sidekick/comic relief and I think he did alright. Tilda Swinton looked like she had a blast playing another villainous role, I would’ve liked to see more of her character in the movie though. John Hurt played a minor role as the old mentor to Curtis and the rest of the poor folks and he’s your typical father figure type. I think I’ve seen him played this kind of role so many times that I knew what to expect from his performance. Scenes stealer belongs to South Korea actor Song Kang-ho, he was recruited by Curtis and his team because he invented the train’s door security system and he’s their key to their success. For those who’ve seen Bong’s previous work, you know that Song is his go to actor and here he didn’t disappoint. Another well known actor showed up as the train inventor and main villain, I thought he was quite effective. I don’t want to mention his name since I think most people don’t know he’s in the movie and I think it’s better for people to find out for themselves.

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To me the main reason this film worked was because of Joon-ho Bong‘s direction. He was able to elevate a silly concept and made into something that kind of original and fun to watch. The film’s actually based on a French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige. Bong co-wrote the script with Kelly Masterson (she wrote Sidney Lumet’s last film Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead), the story had me on the edge of my seat throughout and I like the fact that they didn’t chicken out and end the film in a Hollywood fashion. Bong staged some cool action set pieces, including a brawl between Curtis’ gang and the rich folks’ army and unusual shootout between Curtis and one of the villains. For anyone who’s never seen Bong’s other films, you might find his style a little weird and un-Hollywood like. I also think he pay homage to Sam Peckinpah for this film, in fact I thought had Peckinpah ever made a sci-fi picture, it would be like this one. For a film that cost less than $40mil, the visual effects looked pretty great. I can only imagine what his next film will look like if Bong gets a budget of $150-200mil.

After witnessing the atrocious Transformers 4 a couple of weeks ago, I was glad to have seen this excellent film. It’s smart, exciting and well paced. It surely will be on my top favorite films of the year, this one comes highly recommended.

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Ruth’s Review

Science fiction thriller set in post-apocalyptic world is a dime a dozen. Seems that Hollywood is quite obsessed with this sub-genre, even young adult fares are set in this dystopian future, often with a hero/heroine who’s destined to change the world. Thankfully, Joon-ho Bong‘s Snowpiercer manages to set itself apart from the pack. This is my intro into Bong’s work, and it’s also his first Hollywood film. I’ve blogged about the furor over Harvey’s Weinsteins constant meddling with the film’s cut last year, so finally, after waiting for over two years, I got to see this on the big screen.

What strikes me right away about this film is how bleak it is. Bong’s imagined future has that gritty, soiled and grimy look as we’re shown how the poor, unfortunate souls have been living the past 17 years in the tail section of a rackety train, Snowpiercer. Given that earth is now inhabitable due to a cataclysmic accident that renders everything frozen, the train has to keep running nonstop with what’s left of humanity on board. Having been oppressed for nearly two decades with no chance to escape, it’s no wonder the lower class is hellbent on revolt. It’s futuristic Les Misérables set on a train. It’s an intriguing concept surely, but that alone doesn’t always translate to an intriguing film (Ted’s mentioned Elysium and I’d also add In Time  which are more action/adventure than a true sci-fi). Snowpiercer on the other hand, has a nice balance of action and character-driven sequences, and it’s not reliant on special effects to thrill the audience.

I have to admit it’s not the most entertaining film I’ve seen, and at times it’s too violent for my taste. It’s not as graphic as I feared it would be but I still think it’s not for the faint of heart. But I appreciate Bong’s bold vision and the way that Snowpiercer doesn’t glamorize the post-apocalyptic world, which enhances its sense of realism. Despite the fantastical concept, at times it made me think how this bleak reality might not be so far-fetched after all. The geopolitical and socio-economic allegory can be in-your-face at times so I could see why some critics have called it heavy-handed. But overall the pace of the film is good and the slow moments are a welcome relief from all the brutality. I especially like Chris Evans‘ emotionally-charged monologue towards the end which gives us a glimpse into what’s really at stake for the rebels. The confined space of a train gives a heightened sense of claustrophobia that makes everything even more suspenseful. The more we learn about the world within Snowpiercer, the more we realize that nothing is what it seems. There are genuine surprises as well that keeps you on your toes. Just when you think things are calming down, Bong would suddenly pulls the rug from under us! Unlike lot of action films that are loud, bombastic but lacking genuine tension (basically what Bayhem is all about), this one gives me a real adrenaline rush.

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The international cast is full of inspired casting. Interesting to see Chris Evans in the role of the protagonist. He’s a flawed, reluctant hero, the polar opposite of Captain America, though Evans retains that sympathetic guy-next-door persona even bloody and covered in dirt the entire film. Having seen him in Puncture, I knew he’s got dramatic chops, so I hope he makes wiser role choices from now on so we can see more of what he can deliver. Tilda Swinton once again delivers her chameleonic turn as Minister Mason, a role that’s originally written as a mild-mannered man. The most memorable characters to me are the South Korean father/daughter duo played by Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko, both have worked with Bong before in The Host. It’s nice to see Ed Harris in a key role, he definitely makes an impact despite his brief appearance. Jamie Bell, John Hurt, and Octavia Spencer round up the solid supporting cast.

So overall Snowpiercer is definitely worth the wait, though I wouldn’t call it flawless. There’s a certain chaotic madness in Bong’s direction that’s discombobulating, and the emotional involvement with the characters just isn’t as strong as it could be. In the end they’re all still a mystery to me that keep them at a distance from the audience. But what the film does well is that it really makes us ponder on the fascinating, though-provoking ideas whilst we marvel in the visually-arresting cinematography. The contrast between the vast and bright frozen landscape outside the train window and the cramped, crowded and dark interior is striking. The music by Marco Beltrami is also pleasing to the ear and enhances the mood.

The finale is truly something to behold, and the CGI is actually used to a tremendous effect because we’re not so worn-out by it. The lack of a glorified happy-ending is also refreshing, something that would linger long after the end credits roll and inspire countless conversations afterward. If you’re a big sci-fi fan, this one is not to be missed. It’s truly a visceral experience that manages to feel original despite the tried-and-true premise we’ve seen time and again. I’m curious to see what Bong does next, hopefully this won’t be his last collaboration with Hollywood.

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What do you think of Snowpiercer? 

FlixChatter Double Review –Transformers: Age of Extinction

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Ted’s Review

After a three year absent, the Transformers are back on the big screen. They still have to deal with annoying human characters, fight the bad Transformers and destroy every big city as much as they could.

The movie picked up about 5 years after the last one, we’re introduced to some new human characters Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). Yeager is a failed inventor and he’s close to being broke and lose his farm. One day he found an old truck which happens to be Optimus Prime, he’s hiding from the government. Apparently after the events of the last movie, all of the Autobots are being hunted down by the CIA. The mission is being spearheaded by a high level CIA executive Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer). When Attinger finds out that Optimus Prime is hiding out at Yeager’s farm, he sends his operatives including its leader James Savoy (Titus Welliver) to bring Prime in. Of course things didn’t turn out well as they’d hoped and Yeager, his daughter and Optimus were able to get away from the agents. I was going to write more about the “plot” of the movie but let’s face it, no one go to see this movie for its plot, which by the way didn’t make a lick of sense. If you’re a fan of the previous three movies and enjoy all the explosions and robots fighting then you’re going to love this one. For anyone who can’t stand this franchise, I’d advise you to stay far away from it!

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Wahlberg stepped in as the new leading man this time and I didn’t think he was as annoying as Shia LaBeouf but he didn’t really add anything much to the movie. Since he’s done many action movies prior, the writers did write in scenes where he’s part of the action instead of just running and screaming like LaBeouf did in the previous movies. Young actress Nicola Peltz became the new eye candy in this one, when I say eye candy, I meant it literally. Bay pretty much focused the cameras on every part of her body, just like he did with the other pretty girls in the previous movies. Another young actor (Jack Reynor) showed up as her boyfriend and I think he’s supposed to play LaBeouf’s part because I found him quite annoying. Then later in the movie, Stanley Tucci showed up as this Steve Jobs type of a character. Grammer was pretty much your typical one dimensional villain, he’s bad, he’s greedy and he doesn’t about anyone but himself.

Now let’s talk about Michael Bay and his Bayhem. I don’t know if it’s possible but this movie might have had more climatic action scenes than any other movies I’ve ever seen. Bay kept blowing things up and robots smashing into one another for close to 3 hours! The man has no restrain and as long as people keeps paying to see this franchise, he’ll never stop. I remember a while back he said he’s done with the franchise but I guess the studio probably offered him money more than any average person would ever see in their lifetime.

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Now I do have a couple of good things to say about this movie. First, it’s the first movie to have been shot with the new IMAX 3D cameras and since I’m a big fan of IMAX, it’s nice to have seen it on the biggest screen. If you’re going to see it on IMAX, know that it will have aspect ratio switching. Second, the 3D effects were quite impressive, maybe one of the best I’ve seen. There were scenes where I felt like I was in the movie, Bay did a good job there with the 3D. Of course the 3D supposed to enhance the story and not be the story, so it gets tiresome about an hour into the movie.

The movie is expected to be the summer’s biggest hit and I have no doubt that it will be a big hit. If you’re a fan of the franchise then you’ll love it, but for me it’s another bloated piece of turd from a director who only cares about making money and not quality films.

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Ruth’s Review

Ok so this is not so much a straight-on review as my rant reaction to this movie [if you can even call it that]. I’ve only seen the first movie [only because I was at a friend's party and everyone wanted to watch the Transformers movie], and frankly I had no interest in seeing any more from this franchise. The only reason I went to this press screening is because it was at the IMAX theater and this was supposedly the first film shot with IMAX 3D Digital Camera. Silly reason really, and definitely NOT a worthy one to waste three whole hours on (more if you include the bazillion trailers before the movie starts).

Pretty much the only thing one needs to know about the Transformers universe is this: the Autobots are the good alien robots and the Decepticons are the evil ones. The humans are disposable creatures, as interchangeable as the parts in a kid’s toolbox. So supposedly an epic battle had happened in the previous film that left the world in pieces, though you wouldn’t know that from looking at the shots of Chicago and Beijing as they look pretty much unscathed with all of the skyscrapers intact. For some reasons, the Autobots are now being hunted down by the CIA, whilst the top level CIA agent (Kelsey Grammer) happily makes deals with another group of alien robots as they agree to leave earth. Meanwhile, a lowly farmer inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) inadvertently discovered that a beat-up old truck is actually the leader of the Autobots, called Optimus Prime. So of course soon enough Yeager and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) become fugitives themselves as they want to keep Optimus from getting caught. That’s pretty much the gist of it.

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As if the obtuse storyline wasn’t enough, Michael Bay‘s execution and directing style makes this fourth installment so unbearable in every sense of the word. At 165-min long, it’s overstuffed yet hollow, loud and verbose with nothing to say. As the end credit rolled, my hubby and I just shook our head. Yes I know it’s not the first time Hollywood studios spent a mind-boggling $180 mil budget on such a stinker, but this one is especially horrid with barely any redeeming quality whatsoever. Now, I’m not saying I can’t enjoy a movie about monstrous alien robots. After all, I LOVE Pacific Rim, which I’ve rewatched several times and still entertained by it. Funny that the lead character’s name is Yeager sounds just like Pac Rim‘s robotic weapon Jaeger. If only this movie is even half as entertaining!

Bay’s Transformers franchise should go down in film history as the quintessential piece of garbage, as it represents the worst thing that one dreads from a Summer blockbuster… vapid, trite, overindulgent, overwrought, plus a dose of self-satisfied smug-ness. After all, Bay remains defiant, here’s his response to those who are critical of his *masterpiece*: “They love to hate, and I don’t care; let them hate … They’re still going to see the movie! [per mtv.com]. Wish he were wrong but he’s not. As I’m writing this, the movie has made over $40 mil in one DAY, on track for a $100+ mil weekend [sigh] It’s ironic that the title tagline is ‘age of extinction.’ Well, it seems that creativity in Hollywood is on the verge of extinction [if it isn't already]. The best line of the movie comes early in the movie, inside a ruined vintage cinema, when an older man lamented how all movies these days are sequels and remakes. Was Bay poking fun at himself and what he represents? Highly unlikely, considering his comment above.

You know something is out of whack when during watching a movie, you’re thinking about why so many good actors sign on to this and wonder how much money they made for it. That is if you’re not busy counting how many product placements are scattered during the action scenes [hint: it's too many to count]. Every actor here is utterly wasted, Wahlberg is not immune to bad movies [The Happening, anyone?] but I’m still baffled as to why he signed on to do this. You would think he’s got enough cash that he never need to do a project only for monetary reason. Talented young actors like Sophia Myles and Jack Reynor probably just want the exposure one could get from mainstream blockbusters, but it’s still painful to see them in something THIS bad. Let’s hope they pick better roles in the future. As for Peltz, she is an exact embodiment of a damsel-in-distress, yet another eye candy type for the purpose of Bay’s unabashed female objectifications. As Wahlberg’s character complained about her daughter’s skimpy outfit, Bay set up a shot from between her thighs as she stood with her short shorts that barely covered her behind. Peltz was only 18 during filming, Bay’s nearing 50. It’s really a new low even for Bay.

I don’t know what’s worse, the wooden acting or the clichéd dialog coming out of their mouths. Even Stanley Tucci who’s always watchable even in a bad movie made me cringe here. His character is a multi-billionaire Tony Stark-type inventor who has been making man-made robots from the remains of the evil alien robots Decepticons. For someone who’s supposedly a brilliant scientist, his character does the most idiotic things throughout. In the third act, the main characters resort to dragging an alien *seed* that can turn organic material into metal. You’d think they’d be more careful with something THAT lethal, but it’s as if they’re dragging a body bag. It’s like watching a slapstick comedy except that it’s neither funny nor entertaining.

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I better end my rant now as I’m running out of adjectives to describe this movie. This FilmInk reviewer sums up my sentiment perfectly: “Transformers: Age of Extinction has appalling dialogue, deplorable representations of women, un-self-aware action sequences, very little humour and racial stereotyping. In other words, it’s a Michael Bay movie.” Suffice to say, this is by far the worst movie I’ve seen in a long time, rivaled only by Die Hard 5 but even that one is still more watchable as it’s only about half as long. I actually had to make a new rating graphic for this one as I’ve never given a rating this low before. I don’t care what state-of-the-art equipment is used to make this or even how good the visual quality is. I actually took my 3D glasses off a few times just to give my tired eyes a break. It’s really a sensory overload in the worst possible way.

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Well, what do you think of the latest Transformers movie? 

Everybody’s Chattin’ & Question of the Week on Movie Franchises

Happy Thursday everybody! I’m going to hit two birds with one stone today in combining two post *series* in one. Well, inspired by my recent viewing of Transformers 4 and some other news, the topic this week is: Hollywood Movie Franchises.

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Ok, so let’s start with some of my favorite posts from the past couple of weeks:

  • RIPEliWallachI LOVE actors appreciation posts! Cindy wrote a fan letter to the great Bill Murray, while Fernando paid birthday tribute to Queen Meryl, as in Meryl Streep. As we’ve just lost Eli Wallach, Michael paid tribute by listing his favorite films of one of the master Hollywood character actors. RIP Mr. Wallach.
  • A few reviews of 2014 movies I haven’t seen yet: Josh reviewed ENEMY, Sati reviewed MALEFICENT, and Melissa reviewed PALO ALTO, which was by yet another Coppola, Gia Coppola (Sofia Coppola’s niece)
  • Keith reviewed QT’s latest from 2012: DJANGO UNCHAINED and Mark reviewed a 90s sci-fi that’s definitely worth your while: CONTACT.
  • On the classic film front, Steven just reviewed yet another film by Douglas Sirk, Written On The Wind, starring Rock Hudson & Lauren Bacall.
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  • Now, Andrew has been doing Recasting Posts of Best Picture Lineups, which is a VERY cool idea! Of course this one on Roman Holiday caught my eye, I mean I don’t think anyone could top Gregory Peck/Audrey Hepburn, but still it’s fun to see his picks.
  • Mikey recently interviewed Eli Roth & Lorenza Izzo and talking about the World Cup!
  • Vic gave us an updated list of what’s just been added to Netflix Streaming. Very informative, thanks Vic!
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Hitchcock w/ Jimmy Stewart on the set of Rear Window


Now for Question of the Week!

Interesting that on the same day I saw Transformers 4, I read Josh’s post on 10 Movie Series (Franchises) that he gave up on. Fortunately there’s only a couple there that I have seen, Twilight and Underworld, both of which are NOT worth following anyway.

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This past week I’ve also seen news updates on the reboot of the Mad Max franchise from the late 70s-mid 80s. In place of Mel Gibson, we’ve got the charismatic & bad ass Tom Hardy in the role. Check out the cover of EW with the first look with Hardy and Charlize Theron. Boy it’s been FIVE years since I first started blogging about that movie! Everything is old is new again, as it’s always been the case in the Hollywood… as the creativity has dried up long ago. I also heard news about the upcoming PREDATOR sequel or reboot, what have you. Something that made Tim VERY happy indeed ;) He’s already offered up 5 Ways to do the Predator sequel right.

Well, I don’t mind some reboots and not every sequel is automatically horrible. I for one am anticipating this Mad Max movie that’ll be out May of next year. I’m also looking forward to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the third Hobbit film, as well as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I later in November. Speaking of which, check out the latest teaser:

Whoah, that’s pretty creepy! Can’t wait to see that one.

But out of the few movie franchises I do like, there are dozens and dozens I wish would never get made. I think all that Josh has mentioned in his post are such time-wasters, and I definitely would add Transformers on the list as this fourth installment is so mind-numbingly horrible! And at 165 min (that’s nearly 3 hours long!!), it’s such another overindulgent Michael Bay’s plaything masquerading as a movie! It’s like eating the most gut-growing, heart-threatening, life-shortening junk food saturated with sugar & fat, but the worst part is, it doesn’t even taste good! Ok I’ll save my rant until my review this weekend.


So my question to you is two-fold:

Which film franchise(s) are you a big fan of & don’t mind that it keeps on going and which ones you wish would die a thousand deaths?

June 2014 Blind Spot Film: REBECCA (1940)

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As with a lot of the BlindSpot viewings this year, there are a lot of firsts in regards to REBECCA. No, it’s not the first Hitchcock film I saw, but it’s the first Laurence Olivier AND Joan Fontaine film I ever saw. I didn’t know David O. Selznick produced this, which was interesting given that I first saw Fontaine’s sister Olivia deHavilland in Selznick’s epic drama Gone With The Wind just the year before.

This was billed as a dramatic thriller, as well as a gothic romance, which immediately made me think of Jane Eyre. Interestingly enough, I noticed a few similarities with Charlotte Brontë’s classic tale (and not only because Fontaine did play Jane Eyre in 1943 with Orson Welles). Both of the protagonists in Jane Eyre and Rebecca are still haunted by his first wife. A wealthy man named Maxim de Winter (Olivier) meets a young, naive girl who accompanies her employer on a trip to Monte Carlo. Their first meeting wasn’t exactly a ‘meet cute,’ in fact he was rather rude towards her [yet another similarity to Jane Eyre's Rochester] but after a whirlwind romance, the two got married and he took her to his estate, Manderley.

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Now by the time the film starts, Rebecca is no longer in the picture, but no doubt her presence is felt throughout the film. Rebecca is definitely an overwhelming force despite the character never being shown on screen, not even in flashback. And that’s definitely what the filmmaker wanted Fontaine’s character to feel throughout the movie, that she’s overwhelmed by this unseen force who clearly still has a strange hold on everyone in Manderley.

The real suspense starts to build as soon as the couple get to Manderley. The big, expansive mansion looks and feel eerie, not unlike the ominous Thornfield Hall with a strange woman locked in the attic. The house is almost a character in itself, and it definitely plays a big role in the story. Manderley’s domineering, creepy housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson) definitely gives me the hibijibis. I really feel for Fontaine’s character and what she had to go through, not only did she have to endure her husband’s coldness, she also has to deal with a deranged, obsessive housekeeper who wanted to be rid of her. I kept wondering though why they couldn’t just fire Mrs. Danvers, I mean she is after all an employee at the estate. Right from the very moment she’s introduced in the movie, Mrs. Danvers is one of the most spine-chilling characters that really gets under my skin. I think the most terrifying scenes in the movie is when she gives Fontaine’s character a tour to Rebecca’s room, reminiscing on her former master and her obsession with her.

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Mrs. Danvers: [just as the second Mrs. de Winter reaches for the door] You wouldn’t think she’d been gone so long, would you? Sometimes, when I walk along the corridor, I fancy I hear her just behind me. That quick light step, I couldn’t mistake it anywhere. It’s not only in this room, it’s in all the rooms in the house. I can almost hear it now.

Mrs. Danvers: Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?

The Second Mrs. de Winter: [sobbing] N-no, I don’t believe it.

Mrs. Danvers: Sometimes, I wonder if she doesn’t come back here to Manderley, to watch you and Mr. de Winter together. You look tired. Why don’t you stay here a while and rest, and listen to the sea? It’s so soothing. Listen to it.

[turning away towards the window as the second Mrs. de Winter slips out the door]
Mrs. Danvers: Listen. Listen to the sea.

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You could say Judith was quite the scene-stealer in this film as you simply can’t shake her for some time after you’ve seen this film. She’s THAT creepy. The rest of the cast is equally excellent in their Oscar-nominated performances. I’m quite impressed by the luminous Joan Fontaine who’s the heart of the film whomI sympathize with right away. She went from being this frail, nervous and self-conscious young bride in the beginning, to a woman who’s able to hold her own by the end. Her character definitely *grew up* as the film progressed and her transformation is very believable. Sir Olivier is perfectly suited as the wealthy tortured soul type, hardened and enigmatic. The British thespian has played another Bronte’s dark hero, Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights just the year before, sounds like the type of roles he could play in his sleep. There’s not much chemistry between him and Fontaine but given the plot of the story it sort of make sense. Based on the documentary included in the disc, apparently Olivier was keen on having his then-girlfriend Vivien Leigh to play Fontaine’s role, but I personally don’t think Leigh would suit the role as well.  George Sanders plays this weasel character who’s trying to frame Maxim, I’ve seen him play a similar character in All About Eve not too long ago. His character seems too lively to be really sinister or threatening however, I think out of all the characters, I feel that his performance is the least convincing to me.

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As to be expected from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock truly delivered the goods with this one. This is his second feature adaptation from Daphne Du Maurier novel and clearly the material suits his style. The gothic story lends itself to the eerie, bone-chilling atmosphere, and Hitchcock is the master at building up the suspense and that dreaded sense of impending doom. Every frame, sound, ambiance is carefully crafted, coupled with Franz Waxman‘s ominous score for a total immersive experience. I didn’t see the twist coming which is always nice when that happens. Yet Rebecca isn’t reliant on that twist for you to truly appreciate the film because it’s more than just a gimmick. The story is rich, with a deep, layered symbolism that stays with you long after the credits. It’s also a beautifully-shot film with the lush setting, gorgeous costumes, and evocative lighting that brings out its supernatural quality.

This is definitely one of those films that lives up to the hype. The heightened suspense and tension is what I expect from Hitchcock — he brought Du Marier’s story alive and kept me engrossed from start to finish. Just like the literary work it’s based on, this film has that timeless quality that would stand the test of time. I am surprised that this is the only Hitchcock film that ever won Best Picture Oscar. I definitely think it’s Oscar-worthy but I haven’t seen his later works such as Vertigo and Rear Window that’s far more popular than this one. I definitely have a lot of Hitchcock to catch up on and I’m looking forward to it!

4.5 out of 5 reels


This is the fifth entry to my 2014 Blind Spot Series, as first started by Ryan McNeil at The Matinee, and continued by Dan Heaton at Public Transportation Snob .


What do you think of  REBECCA? I’d love to hear what you think!

Weekend Roundup: Two Austen adaptations, an espionage comedy + a Hitchcock classic

Wow, where has June gone? Can’t believe July is just 10 days away, seems that we barely had Spring and now we have been having a very showery Summer :(

I haven’t done a Weekend Roundup in a looong time. Well, I didn’t go to the cinema at all this weekend, but I did see some older movies and one re-watch. I must say it’s quite fun to watch not only one but TWO period dramas with my hubby.

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Inspired by my recent Austen Recasting post on Mansfield Park, I started watching the 2007 BBC version that I haven’t seen before. My hubby was looking at stuff on his iPad next to me whilst I was watching this and I kept making a comment at how much I prefer the 1999 film version that he’s curious to check it out. Well, since both are on Netflix, we decided to watch both!

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Well suffice to say, the 1999 version by Patricia Rozema is still my favorite adaptation, though it’s definitely a bolder and darker version than one might associate with Jane Austen. I think it’s interesting that it touches on the issue of slavery as the primary financial income of the Bertram family, though I could use without the nudity [albeit a brief one] as it really detracts from the story. What I do like about the film version is how beautifully-filmed it is and the music by Lesley Barber is equally gorgeous and evocative. Plus the casting is fantastic all around, especially Frances O’Connor as Fanny and Alessandro Nivola as Henry Crawford. I also love the ending, it’s romantic and sweet and Jonny Lee Miller has such an earnest quality about him that fits the role of Edmund. I actually like Fanny’s narration in this movie and I’m not always fond of the use of narration on film. It seems that Fanny is not people’s favorite’s Austen heroine but I actually like her and I really connect with Frances’ portrayal of her.

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On the other hand, I’m not fond of the 2007 version at all. I really try to like this but I just feel that Billie Piper is so miscast in the role. Sorry but I find her teeth VERY distracting. I know it’s not nice of me to say but I wasn’t bothered by her when she was in Dr. Who but she just doesn’t seem like she belongs in a period drama, and the way she’s swooning over Edmund just feels wrong and stalker-ish. At the same time, there’s no chemistry at all between her and Blake Ritson (Edmund), who looks like Adrien Brody but with slightly feminine features. All around the acting is just not convincing, most especially Joseph Beattie as the completely charm-less Henry Crawford! The abrupt ending is also very awkward that my hubby was like, ‘what the heck was THAT??’ I think this is my least favorite BBC adaptation of ANY literary works. I doubt I’d ever watch it again. I think the only fun part here is watching the lovely Haley Atwell as Mary Crawford.

On Saturday, we ended up watching an older spy movie that’s been sitting in our Netflix Instant queue for some time.

Sneakers (1992) 

Sneakers1992posterI saw on the description that it was a lighthearted espionage movie, but we didn’t realize that this was more of a comedy! The movie took a while to get going, but fortunately the cast kept me intrigued. The plot itself seemed complicated at first, as a lot of government conspiracy involving hacking, cryptography, etc. can be, but by the second act, it actually got to be pretty predictable. In fact, I had a hunch from the opening scene who the villain was. It’s interesting too just how relevant this topic is with the whole NSA expose by Edward Snowden, etc. In fact, Kingsley’s speech at the end about who controls the information is quite eerie because it’s really not far-fetched at all.

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It’s quite amusing to see the likes of Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Ben Kingsley, David Strathairn, who are usually in serious roles being quite goofy in this one. Strathairn especially as a blind man with killer hearing power and instinct, but the last scene had him driving a truck directed by Redford on the phone! None of these actors are at their best here though, in fact, they seem underutilized for the roles they’re playing, but still it’s fun to watch.

Btw, really sad seeing River Phoenix here. This was released a year before his untimely death in 1993 at the age of 23. Like the rest, his role is so minor, similar to a tech guy in those Mission Impossible movies, with Redford as the Ethan Hunt character, y’know. I remember seeing Phoenix in teen drama A Night in the Life of Jimmy Riordan years ago and thought how talented he was. It’s so tragic how these young talents were gone far too soon. In any case, I quite enjoyed Sneakers, especially the more action-packed third act and the humorous ending. James Earl Jones had a memorable cameo that’s pretty hilarious.

Lastly, I saw Rebecca (1940), a Hitchcock film that won Best Picture Oscar, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. I shall have a review of it this Tuesday for my June Blindspot entry, so stay tuned!

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Well that’s what I saw this weekend. What about you? Seen anything good?

FlixChatter Review: 22 Jump Street

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I’m a big fan of the TV show 21 Jump Street, heck I think I’ve seen every episodes of the show during its original run. When it was announced that a movie version was coming to the big screen, I was bit a skeptical. I mean how are they going to turn a soap opera crime drama into a feature film? I remember reading online about the film’s early development, they were thinking of making it a full out action/adventure. Thankfully someone at the studio got smart and decided to make it into an action-comedy instead. After the big success of the first movie, a sequel was quickly greenlit and now we get to see more adventures of buddy cops Schmidt and Jenko.

This new movie picked up where the last one ended, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are still doing undercover work. They’re trying to bust a vicious drug dealer known only as The Ghost (the always entertaining Peter Stormare) during a sting, of course their plan didn’t go smoothly and The Ghost and his men got away. After the botched bust, both Schmidt and Jenko got demoted to the Jump Street unit, again. This time instead of going undercover as high school kids, they’re going to college. After a student at a local college was killed in what appeared to be a drug deal gone bad, both heroes were sent to the school to investigate.

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Once they got to campus, Jenko was able to make friends quickly with the school’s football players, especially the team’s QB Zook (Wyatt Russell, yup he’s Kurt Russell’s son). Schmidt on the other hand is not a jock and felt he didn’t belong with the group, so he ventured out to a new area on campus and met a beautiful art student Maya (Amber Stevens). They hit it off quickly and later spent the night together at Maya’s dorm room. Since their work is to investigate who’s behind the drug dealings, Zook and Maya became their main suspects. Of course both Schmidt and Jenko had to go through lots of shenanigans before they solve the case.

Basically the plot of this movie is exactly the same as the previous one, but that’s not a bad thing. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller did a good job of moving the plot along and didn’t linger too long on some of the jokes. Although I wish they’d cut back on the self aware aspects of a sequel, yes we get it, the movie is a sequel and you might not able to top the original. I thought the jokes worked at the beginning but as the movie progresses, they became a bit tedious and I kind of got annoyed by all of those self-aware references.

Hill and Tatum have a great chemistry and the movie works because of them. Tatum’s Jenko joined the football team and became a star and he’s now questioning whether he made the right choice by becoming a cop. Hill’s Schmidt on the other hand, he’s right back being the nerd again and feels he didn’t belong with cool kids. I also like the supporting cast, including the love interests Zook and Maya. Yes you heard it right, Wyatt Russell‘s Zook was sort of a love interest to Tatum’s Jenko, they had this bromance going on throughout most of the movie and of course  that made Schmidt jealous. Ice Cube also returns as their always angry Captain Dickson. A little plot point involves him and Schmidt might be the funniest gag in the movie. Nick Offerman again appeared in a brief scene as Chief Hardy and he delivered some of the funniest lines in the movie.

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Overall I thought this was a good sequel and I think I might liked it better than its predecessor. It has some laugh out loud moments and everyone seems to have a good time in the movie. What I found a bit surprising was how tame it was for an R-rated comedy. Considering the story took place in college, I expected to see lots of nudity and gross humor. But with the exception of some F-bombs and some mild violence, the movie contained no nudity or any toilet humor and it’s quite “clean” by today’s R-rated comedy standards.

If you enjoyed the first movie then I’m quite sure you’ll have a good time with this one. It’s recommended if you’re in the mood for some good laughs.

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What did you think of 22 Jump Street?