Rental Pick: The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

DarjeelingLimitedBanner

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

A year after their father’s funeral, three brothers travel across India by train in an attempt to bond with each other.

To say it’s a quirky movie is an understatement, you’ve come to expect that from Wes Anderson, but I think this one felt extra kooky as it has a bit of a fish-out-of-water tale on top of being a road movie. Peter (Adrien Brody), Jack (Jason Schwartzman) and Francis (Owen Wilson) play a trio of brothers on a *spiritual* journey in India a year after their father’s funeral. Despite not looking at all alike, the three actors actually look pretty believable as a family and the peculiar dynamics among them is pretty fun to watch, at least initially. 

The *spiritual* aspect journey is not really there, as it’s used a pretext to the actual reason for the road trip. Francis didn’t tell Peter and Jack about the real reason until later in the film. Apparently a motorcycle accident where he said he nearly died made him want to reconnect with his brothers, and he planned the trip meticulously with the help of his assistant. The title refers to the train that they’re riding on, and it serves as some kind of metaphor. I’m not quite sure what that is, but it could be symbolic to each of the character’s life? Now I really want to LOVE this movie but I feel like I never felt quite invested in the story for whatever reason, and the constant bickering of the tree boys sometimes get tiresome instead of amusing.

DarjeelingLimitedStills

About halfway through, I noticed my hubby nearly falling asleep watching this. Though I was more engaged than him, I could understand why he tuned out. Nothing rarely happened in this movie, it was simply one kooky scenario after another along their journey, i.e. Peter buying a small cobra in a box (and later losing it), Francis having one of his very expensive shoe stolen, a weird ceremonial burying of a peacock feather that I have no clue what it’s about, etc. I think the only truly memorable scene, which is the most emotional one of the entire 1.5 hour running time, is the time the three brothers rescued three Indian young boys who fall into a river. It’s a moment of benevolence for all three of them that seemed quite life-changing.

Some of the metaphors range from obscure to obvious, but since I don’t really connect with the characters, it’s lacking emotional resonance for me. The Louis Vuitton luggage set with their dad’s initial on them represent an emotional baggage of some kind, though I still have no clue just who their father was other than he must’ve been well off. Towards the end, their mother (Anjelica Huston) entered the picture. I wouldn’t spoil it for you but that experience also changed the way they look at their lives and each other. By the end, their relationship had a 180-degree turn from being reluctant siblings who couldn’t stand each other. “I wonder if the three of us would’ve been friends in real life. Not as brothers, but as people,” Jack asked halfway through, and I think the ending answered that question for us. I do like that the story is primarily focused on these three characters from start to finish. Bill Murray‘s cameo as a businessman felt like it was well, obligatory, as I don’t think there’s really a point to his appearance.

Now, I’m glad I finally saw this as even a so-so Wes Anderson film and despite its flaws, it’s still fairly entertaining. I quite like the music here by The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and the French song in the finale Aux Champs Élysées seems to fit the mood of the scene perfectly. That said, I don’t consider this one my favorite amongst Anderson’s work. In fact, it’s just not something I’m keen on watching again, unlike The Fantastic Mr Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, or his latest one, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Stay tuned for my review of that on Friday!

threereels


What do you think of The Darjeeling Limited?

FlixChatter Double Reviews: The Monuments Men

MonumentsMenPoster

Happy Friday everyone! Today we’ve got another double review of a film which release has been delayed for a couple of months. Originally, this was to be released last December during awards/holiday season, but director/star George Clooney actually asked the studio for more time for post-production due to the special effects weren’t ready. Sarah and I went to the screening last Wednesday, here’s our take on it:

Sarah’s Review

When I was visiting Germany last year and killing time waiting for my train back to Dusseldorf from Cologne, I was struck by a postcard in one of the gift shops with a Google earth type of photo of Cologne in post-World War II Europe. The entire town was decimated by repeated bombings but somehow the 13th century Cologne cathedral still stood tall amidst all the destruction- as if saved only by the grace of God. “The Monuments Men,” the new movie co-written and directed by George Clooney, tells the story of curators, archivists and art historians from thirteen countries whose mission it was to save some of the most culturally significant works of art from Nazi destruction near the end of World War II. In a Napoleonic-like move, Adolf Hitler often ordered his armies to claim some of Europe’s greatest art treasures for his planned “Fuhrer Museum” to be built near his boyhood home in Austria. (Did you know Hitler was a failed art student? Neither did I. When George Stout, an American art conservationist played by George Clooney in the movie, shows one of his paintings to the newly assembled group, one of them remarks, “Hitler did that? It’s not bad.” However, James Granger, played by Matt Damon and based on Metropolitan Museum of Art Director James Rorimer, says, “Well, it’s not good.”) When the fall of the Third Reich became a reality, Hitler commanded his men to destroy everything and the group that has become known as the Monuments Men swung into action, embarking on “the greatest treasure hunt in history.”

MonumentsMen_Stills1
As a self-proclaimed history buff who has studied and visited many of the places in the film, I really wanted to like this movie but it felt like this great story got lost in a mishmash of a film trying to be a combination of Hogan’s Heroes, Saving Private Ryan and The Da Vinci Code. Call it a movie with an identity crisis- it was like it couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a comedy or a drama. SPOILER ALERT! (Without giving too much away, one example is a scene where one of the Monuments Men gets shot and it’s obvious he’s going to die. However, in the next scene he is cracking jokes. Umm, hello? It’s wartime and you’re dying.) The cast, which also includes Bill Murray and John Goodman, do what they can but ultimately can’t save this one. About the only person who seems to understand the gravity of the situation is Claire Simone, the museum curator turned spy played by Cate Blanchett. When showing Matt Damon’s character some of the Nazi’s re-possessed goods, he asks incredulously, “What is all this?” “People’s lives,” she solemnly replies. Her scenes were a breath of fresh air.
MonumentsMen_Damon_Blanchett
This movie does do a couple of things well. It helps put you in the moment where these men unearth thousands of stolen, priceless artifacts. What must it have been like to gaze upon these famous artworks and know that you had a major role in securing them for future generations to enjoy? And it also provides a powerful reminder of what we were fighting for- not just art, but our culture, history and way of life. Two scenes brought this home to me: the first near the beginning of the film where you see the beautiful landscape of Paris decorated with Nazi swastikas and the second toward the end of the film where you see Nazi soldiers indiscriminately torching some of what they had stolen. Maybe it was these ideals that frustrated me the most about this movie- it was okay, but it could have been so much better.
The movie is based on a 2010 book of the same name by Robert Edsel and it did make me want to learn more about this fascinating point in history. Also, in a local connection, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts has put together a self-guided tour identifying items from its own collection saved by the Monuments Men or with other World War II related stories. As our temperature doesn’t want to rise above zero lately and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is free, this seems like a great idea! As for the movie, it piques your interest but doesn’t quite hold you in its grasp.

TCFF_reviewer_Ruth


2.5 out of 5 reels

Ruth’s Review

When I first heard about this film, the subject matter intrigued me more than even the ensemble cast. Truthfully, seeing Matt Damon and George Clooney with their megastar smiles in the trailer, it felt like an Ocean’s Eleven heist type of flick, but with Nazis. Hmmm, it turns out that first impression wasn’t that off-base after all.

Seems that the film has everything going for it to be a truly great WWII drama. Clooney is after all a reputable Oscar-nominated director/writer/actor, a triple threat on top of being one of the biggest movie stars in the universe. He’s got the clout to assemble a bunch of Oscar-caliber International cast and crew, who are more than up for the task to bring this amazing wartime tale to life. But yet, even halfway through the film, it just left me wanting. For something so monumental in history, the film just doesn’t do the story justice.

To call this film uneven would be putting it mildly. There’s a tonal hodgepodge that makes it quite hard to really grasp the weight of the mission of the men (and women) involved. Art historian Frank Stokes, played by Clooney himself, preaches to the audience the significance of this art-rescue mission and how noble the cause was for humanity that it was worth a person’s life. Yet the way the film’s played-out lacks the gravitas of that sentiment. At times it’s just too lighthearted for its own good that it loses its impact. I’m not saying that mixing drama with comedy can’t work, I mean there are great films that finely tread the line between drama and comedy, but I’m not sure it works well here.

MonumentsMen_Stills2

There’s a scenario where one character accidentally stepped on a land mine, but it’s treated like a humorous scene. I guess there ought to be an SNL skit where the Monuments Men don’t know which foot to stand on. Seems that Clooney himself realizes the challenge of getting the tone right, as this article from The Wrap points out  “If we get the tone right it will be a really fun film …” he said. Well, the film is not without its shares of fun, but I think if the tone were right, it would’ve been a great film.

Performance-wise, seems that the cast are having a good time making this which is fun to watch. Clooney and Damon are pretty good but I’ve seen much better work from both of them. It’s amusing to see Bill Murray being Bill Murray, Bob Balaban with his deadpan humor and Jean Dujardin being his irresistible charming French guy that he is. Now, as much as I got a kick watching them, I barely knew about any of them nor any of the other characters in the film. Why did they sacrifice their lives for this mission? Is it simply their love for art, or was there something more? As a result, I couldn’t connect with any of them no matter how hard I tried. Even during the most dire circumstances, it didn’t incite lump-in-my-throat kind of emotion, and this coming from someone who cry easily at movies. I think Cate Blanchett‘s character, the only female cast who’s the most solemn of the whole bunch, is the only one who lends credibility to the story. But still her character’s not explored as well as I would like, either.

This is Clooney’s fifth directorial effort and he also co-wrote it with his screenwriting partner Grant Heslov.  Seems that the filmmakers’ heart are in the right place and the film is not without its poignant moments. I just wish those moments are more consistent instead of just in few and far between. I don’t think that even if this were released just in time for Oscar season that it would’ve been in the running. It’s not a terrible film however, I’d recommend it as a rental if you love the cast. But if you want to really know who the Monuments Men are and their mission, I’d think there are documentaries on them that’s more satisfying and compelling. As it stands, it’s quite entertaining with a tinge of poignancy, though it lacks a certain level of artistry that’d give us a lasting impression.

TCFF_reviewer_Ruth

threereels
3 out of 5 reels


What do you think folks, agree/disagree with our review? Well let’s hear it!

Spotlight on Bill Murray & my Top Five Favorite Roles

BillMurrayBday It was Bill Murray‘s birthday this past Saturday, he turned 63. I know it’s a bit late but I can’t resist making a tribute to the comedian whose practically a legend. I’ve always been a big fan of the Illinois native, he’s perhaps my favorite SNL-grad (he’s one of the original members) who’s made it big in Hollywood. Murray’s one of those comedians who’s just naturally funny. His deadpan expression alone is just hilarious, which he certainly puts to good use in various roles that have achieved cult status over the years. He’s apparently not just quirky in his roles, but Mr. Murray seems to be just as amusing in real life. You’ve got to check out this awesome infographic that I found on HuffingtonPost site Click the larger image to view the entire thing.

BillMurrayInfographicThumbnail

There’s also a site aptly called BillMurrayStory.com… with a tagline ‘no one would ever believe you‘ 😀 Very few actors have become a cultural phenomenon of sort. I remember reading how people all over the states were making banners to invite Mr. Murray to their parties as he’s been known as a party crasher! Now, before I posted clips of my favorite roles from the 6’2″ actor, here are some interesting trivia that you might not know about (thanks to IMDb):

BillMurrayLostInTranslationSofia Coppola wrote the lead role of Bob Harris in Lost in Translation (2003), with Murray specifically in mind. She did not know the actor and even enlisted the help of her famous father, Francis Ford Coppola, to track down the sometimes quite elusive Murray. Once he finally read the script, though, he agreed to do it on the spot. Murray and Sofia Coppola are now good friends.

He has rubbed some collaborators the wrong way because he has a tendency to re-write and improvise his way through scripts until many of his scenes barely resembles the original versions. Most collaborators ultimately find, though, it’s to the improvement of the films.

Has no agent, no business manager, or favorite hair and make-up artist. He travels without an entourage.

Was considered for the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in the 1989 Batman film when it was set to be identical to the 1960s TV Series before Tim Burton came along. He’s also considered for the role of Han Solo in Star Wars (1977).

Turned down Steve Carell’s role in Little Miss Sunshine (2006), which became one of the few choices in his career that he regretted.

Was considered and tested for the voice role of Sulley in Monsters, Inc. (2001), but the director, Pete Docter, said that when the filmmakers decided to offer it to Murray, they were unable to make contact with him and took that to mean “no”.

Was a frequent collaborator with Harold Ramis throughout the 1980s, but their working relationship ended during the filming of Groundhog Day (1993) due to differing views on what the film should be: Ramis claims that Murray wanted the film to be more philosophical, while Ramis himself simply meant for it to be a comedy. Ramis also cites that Murray’s personal problems at the time (namely the ending of his first marriage) had a negative effect on his work ethic, causing him to be uncharacteristically harsh during filming, as another reason for the end of their working relationship.

Appeared in Zombieland (2009) as a favor to Woody Harrelson, movie co-star and big “Bill Murray” fan.

Now, I can’t really remember when I first saw Bill Murray. Most likely it’s in Ghostbusters (1984) as my brothers were a big fan of that movie. I still need to see a lot more of his films, especially the two by Wes Anderson that I missed out on: Rushmore and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. But out of about a dozen roles, here are five of my favorites (in alphabetical order):

BROKEN FLOWERS

This is the only film by Jim Jarmusch I saw so far. Murray plays a womanizer who received an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. This is kind of a road film of sort following his journey to visit his old flames. The female cast is pretty awesome here, esp. Jessica Lange, Sharon Stone and Tilda Swinton. Murray’s performance is quite restrained here and more reflective, but his deadpan mannerism is perfect for the role of Don Johnston who’ve lived his life on auto pilot. This scene with Lange and her cat is particularly amusing. http://youtu.be/kRg5-TIF9LQ

GHOSTBUSTERS

You can’t talk about Bill Murray’s career and not mention his early iconic role. I saw this years ago as a kid but his role with fellow SNL cast member Dan Aykroyd is always fun to watch. Murray plays a lovable wiseguy like nobody’s business and Peter Venkman got the best lines in this Ivan Reitman’s comedy classic.

GROUNDHOG DAY

This is one of his films that never seem to get old! As someone who’s made a career out of sarcastic and insolent antiheroes, his performance as Phil Connors is downright iconic. His dry ironic humor is full on as the frustrated weather who find himself living the same day over and over. It’s absolutely hilarious but at the same time, the poignant and philosophical aspect makes this a compelling watch worth revisiting year after year. This is one of my favorite scenes ever! http://youtu.be/6VF5P7qLaEQ

LARGER THAN LIFE

The premise of this movie, about a guy who inherits a circus elephant, lends itself to hilarity. Bill Murray manages not to be upstaged by the adorable Vera the elephant. The funniest parts are when Murray’s character Jack and Vera hit the road in order to deliver the elephant to a San Diego zoo. Along the way, they encounter a psychotic truck driver, played by an unhinged Matthew McConnaughey in perhaps his best comedic role he’s ever done. The scene at the truck stop alone is worth a watch! http://youtu.be/XVV18VB9cFo

LOST IN TRANSLATION

I think if I could only name one BEST Bill Murray performance, I’d have to say this one. I mean there are some truly hilarious scenes but there’s a layer of vulnerability that he captured as the faded movie star Bob Harris that’s just as compelling to watch. His tentative relationship with a young woman who’s disillusioned with her new marriage is wonderfully written. I always say this is my favorite role of Scarlett Johansson as well. Seems that this film isn’t for everyone though. I actually recommended this film to a couple friends who didn’t find it enjoyable nor funny. For me though, the two scenes below at the photoshoot and in his hotel room with a Japanese female escort had me in stitches! I can’t imagine anyone else playing this role. http://youtu.be/gXGXZiX0pCA http://youtu.be/lPQ6VQzuyxU

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  • The Royal Tennenbaums
  • The Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Moonrise Kingdom


UPVOTE please


So what’s YOUR favorite Bill Murray role(s)?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Step Up Revolution, Fantastic Mr Fox, An Affair to Remember

Hello all! Hope your weekend was lovely. Did you venture to the cinema to see some good movies? Well, we opted for home cinema this weekend, catching up on some movies we’ve missed. We were talking about Persepolis at dinner and really wanted to see it Saturday night, but it wasn’t available on iTunes! Good thing the replacement turns out to be well, fantastic. And just before this post goes up, I also watched Sherlock Holmes: Games of Shadow which was quite fun despite the plot being rather all over the place. I’ll do a mini review of that at a later time.

Oh, I also got around to finally get to the first one on the list of classic movies I promised to catch up on this confession post. The first one on that list is An Affair To Remember… oh and what an affair it was. Before I get to my reviews, here’s a guest review from my friend and FC contributor Cecilia, one franchise that’s eluded me and I’m still not sure I want to get into…

Step Up Revolution (2012)

Few weeks ago I saw Street Dance 2 at the cinemas and pretty much disappointed with it as the first movie was pretty good with it’s lovely scenery, British accent, and of course great dance moves and songs, but the sequel turns out to be disappointing. Then it just made me have this thought that Step Up Revolution must be better than Street Dance 2 for sure.

Step Up Revolution is tells the story of Emily (Kathryn McCormick), whose dad is working on some real-estate development plans which going to threaten the place where Sean (Ryan Guzman) and his dance crew usually gather around. Sean and his crew, well known as The Mob, is working on some flash-mob projects in order to win some cash. The same story as we saw on most dance movies all over again, the crew who are struggling before they lose the place where they usually practice. I actually don’t mind with the story. It is poor, both the script and the storyline. But I’ve never been looking for a good story on dance movies, as I actually looking forward to the dancing scenes and great songs.

Step Up 2: The Streets and Step Up 3D are memorable for me. Giving my salutation to Jon M. Chu as he made the dancers on his movies memorable with their own different dancing characters. Moose (Adam Sevani) is on the top of my favorite Step Up dancer list. I still can remember precisely his sweet dancing scene with Camille (Alyson Stoner) using Fred Astaire’s song I Won’t Dance on Step Up 3D. Sadly, Jon M. Chu is now being the producer on Step Up Revolution, instead of being in the director’s seat.

What I like about this movie is that it shows the brilliant ideas of flash-mobs. Huge number of people dancing in a public place unexpectedly, creating chaos and coolness that I wish would happen in real life where I live. The film still offers great dance moves and songs, the most memorable song for me is Let’s Go by Travis Barker, as it is goes well with those passionate dancers dancing in Miami’s heat. The Mob is packed with people who has different kinds of expertise, one is good at music, one at art, one at the digital stuffs. But the crew who does the dancing stuffs is not showing their various specific dancing characters. It’s not at all like what I saw on Step Up 2 and Step Up 3D.

Another disappointing part is on the 3D aspect. This movie is actually beautiful while showing the clear weather at Miami, showcasing the colors of Summer. But they don’t seem to maximize the creation of eye-popping 3D. Step Up 3D made good use of balloons, water, laser, and more, but in this one, all I can remember is the eye-popping sand. However, one good thing from this it has an even better sense of fashion. I liked how they dress Penelope (Cleopatra Coleman) up with rocking outfit as a DJ, and how they dress Emily in a silver dress on one of the dancing scenes.

The final dance scene did not wow me as I had expected, however, if you’re looking for entertaining dances and some good songs, Step Up Revolution is worth a watch. It is not as boring as Street Dance 2, but not exactly an improvement as a Step Up sequel. Still, it has its own fun factor though, thanks to the mob.

– review by Cecilia Rusli

2.5 out of 5 reels


Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

When I reviewed Moonrise Kingdom, a bunch of people were recommending more Wes Anderson’s movies, and on the top of that list is this animated feature, voiced by an ensemble cast of Wes’ regulars.

George Clooney is basically reprising his Danny Ocean role in another heist adventure, this time as a sly fox aptly named Mr. Fox. For 12 years, he and Mrs Fox (Meryl Streep) live a peaceful life with their son Ash (Jason Schwartzman). He’s long abandoned his thieving ways and now work as a newspaper columnist. But somehow that long-suppressed animal instincts is back with the arrival of his athletic young nephew Kristofferson. He’s still got what it takes, but what Mr. Fox doesn’t realize is, when he and his partner in crime Kiley decides to raid the three nastiest farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean, that the repercussion extends to the entire animal community.

I immensely enjoyed this one, perhaps slightly more so than Moonrise Kingdom. The stop-motion animation itself is fun to watch, and Wes peppers each character with its own quirks and personality. The script is as sharp as ever and their conversation is quite profound at times.

Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I’m saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I?

There’s also a healthy portrayal of family that’s delightful to see. Mr & Mrs Fox are so cute together, even when she was scolding him for going back to his life of crime and the realistic rivalry between cousins Ash and Kristofferson. The battle between Mr. Fox and the three farmers, led by the scariest one of all, Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon) gets to be quite fierce at times but never losing its sense of humor. What I find interesting is that the three farmers are all Brits but the animals speak with American accent, ahah. No matter though, it’s all very amusing. I especially enjoy the ‘digging’ scenes and there are quite a few of them in this movie.

Seems like the three Wes Anderson films I saw all have a familial them running through ’em. The characters also go through a growing up process, so to speak, one thing for sure, Mr. Fox won’t feel so ‘invincible’ as he did in the beginning of the movie and he also got to appreciate his family and friends at the end.

I’ve come to enjoy Wes’ Autumnal color palette and style, but fortunately, his work is more than just style over matter. Now I’m up for more of his work, perhaps Rushmore next?

4.5 out of 5 reels


An Affair to Remember (1957)

I’ve always wanted to see this film ever since the first time I saw Sleepless in Seattle, but that was years ago. I can’t believe it took me so long to finally see this one. Oh my, now I’ve really fallen in love with this one. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr shine in this ultimate classic love affair. Both playboy artist Nickie Ferrante and night club singer Terry McKay were engaged when they met in an ocean liner, but they hit it off instantly and the chemistry between them was undeniable.

I always love tales of unrequited love of sort and for a while, their romance didn’t seem to go as planned as the go off the ship. What a shame as they seemed destined for each other. Under the watchful eye of fellow passengers, the couple falls for each other in the most delightful way. Under less skillful talent, this movie could easily be overly sentimental and corny, but witty script and sharp delivery of the actors kept it from being so. In fact, there’s something so authentic about their relationship that makes you root for them to be together.

The scene at Nickie’s grandmother in Italy is especially touching as Grandmother Janou too, fell for Terry and she made not-so-subtle hints about that throughout their meeting. The scenery is beautiful, though of course I wish some of them weren’t just a backdrop. I was enchanted not just by Kerr’s performance, but also her gorgeous costumes!! This is the second film I saw her in [the first one was Beloved Infidel] and I must say I really like her as an actress. The music is of course, sublime. The main theme that shares the same name as the film is beautiful and I appreciate it even more so now that I have experienced this movie. I also love Kerr’s voice, especially when she sang this title song. No wonder the four Oscar noms were in cinematography, music and costume design.

I watched the Special Features after the movie and though the shoot wasn’t entirely smooth, the superstar couple got along well. Interesting that both were going through tumultuous relationships during filming [I had no idea Grant had an unrequited love for Sophia Loren!]. I guess that line ‘We’re heading into a rough sea, Nickie’ was spot on in real life as well.

In any case, I could see why this film is so beloved and was even referenced in contemporary films long after its release. Boy that finale was sooo heart wrenching! An accident prevents their meet-up atop the Empire State Building, and both were crushed that they couldn’t be with each other as they had promised. It was quite a build-up to get to THAT moment that made all of that waiting worthwhile. By that point, I was sniffling on my sofa as I watched that scene, just like Meg Ryan and Rosie O’Donnell did in Sleepless in Seattle! 😀

Kudos to director Leo McCarey for crafting such a beguiling love story, it’s certainly an affair to remember, in every sense of the word. This is one of those classics I wouldn’t mind revisiting again and again in the years to come.

5 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on any of these movies? Do share what movie(s) you watched over the weekend.

Weekend Viewing Roundup: 21 Jump Street + Moonrise Kingdom Reviews

Happy Monday all [well Tuesday to some of you on the other side of the world]! I have to say this has been a great week for movie watching. I actually managed to see THREE new movies [well new to me] and even sneaked in a couple of older movies for a rewatch: 300 and Spider-man 2 [I guess I was in a Spidey mood]. Well, I’ve posted my review The Amazing Spider-man last night, which according to Box Office Mojo made $140 mil in six days, but believe it or not it still falls short compared to the Sam Raimi’s versions. But it’s obviously lucrative enough to warrant multiple sequels, I think a trilogy should be a given.

Now, here’s my mini reviews of the other two films I saw this weekend.

21 Jump Street

I used to watch this show in High School so the primary reason I watched this is pure nostalgia. I didn’t want to see it on the big screen as I wasn’t crazy for the main cast [Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum] but the overwhelmingly positive reviews definitely compelled me to rent it. Well, this movie had me in stitches from the start and it never let on.

The premise is simple enough. Morton Schmidt (Hill) and Greg Jenko (Tatum) are former high school foes, it’s the stereotype of the school jock bullying the nerdy academic. As fate would have it, the two ended up enrolling in the same police academy and become unlikely friends. Though at first they seems to have caught a break when they busted some drug dealers in an unassuming park, the two over-eager young officers forgot to read the Miranda right! As punishment, both are reassigned to a special division in that famous street address which turns out to be an abandoned Korean church.

The foul-mouthed Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) told them their first mission is to infiltrate a high school following a death of one of the students after consuming a potent synthetic drugs. They go undercover as brothers and live temporarily in Schmidt’s parents house. Tatum and Hill certainly have comedic chops and just seeing both of them together just makes me laugh. Despite Tatum being soo much more mature than most high schoolers, they somehow managed to blend in and make friends. An accidental switcheroo in their faux-identity puts both undercover cops in unlikely situations, Jenko hangs out with the nerdy crowds, whilst Schmidt hangs out with the cool crowd, including the lead drug dealer Eric (Dave Franco, yep James’ younger brother).

Preposterous and crazy situations are to be expected in a story like this, but hilarity ensues with every step to get to the drug supplier. One of the most hilarious moments happens when the undercover duo had to try out the drug to prove themselves to Eric. Oh my, I was in stitches through that whole scene, but I was on the floor when they arrive in prom complete with flying white doves!! Believe it or not, there are actually some sweet moments between these two, but mostly it’s just non-stop laughter and fun right up until the wild and deliberately overblown finale. Both Jenko and Schmidt did get their wish of a life filled with car chases and explosions after all!

By the way, I don’t think I consider it a spoiler to say I’ve been waiting to see Johnny Depp’s cameo and you know what, he did not disappoint! I practically screamed when I saw him and I didn’t see it coming, which adds to the experience.

Final Thoughts: What fun! Despite being too vulgar for my taste, the writing makes for a truly hilarious action-comedy. It’s similar to Hot Fuzz but perhaps more accessible to US audiences. I’m can’t say that I’m a fan of Jonah or Channing now, but I can honestly say they both are GREAT in this movie!

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Moonrise Kingdom

I’ve been waiting to see this one in a while (I even put it on my most-anticipated list), which is unusual as I don’t always get excited about a Wes Anderson movie. The only one I have seen before was The Royal Tennenbaums, and whilst I enjoyed that one, I can’t remember too much of the details except to say that and eccentric are the words that come to mind. It’s the same with Moonrise Kingdom, though I’d add the words endearing and delightful to describe it.

Set on an island off the coast of New England in 1965, it opens in a Khaki Scout Summer Camp on the day one of its member, Sam Shakusky, disappears from the camp. Soon they realize that a young girl from a nearby town, Suzy Bishop is also missing. Soon they discover the two had run away together and the town, led by the island police Captain Sharp goes in search of them.

Sam turns out to be an orphan whilst Suzy is not, but both Sam and Suzy feel like an outcast in their respective circle, and that’s what drew them together. The young actors, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are so endearing in their roles, and their lack of acting experience actually adds sincerity to the romance. Their scenes together remind us the delight of what innocent young love could be. These sweet moments are peppered with some dark, poignant moments, as if to illustrate the world that would await the two twelve-year-olds as they grow older.

The adult actors seem to take a back-seat to these young lovebirds, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have their moments. Edward Norton as Sam’s Scout Master is amusingly delirious to what’s happening, and seeing the usually-serious actor as a chain-smoking boy scout leader is entertaining in its own right. Bruce Willis proves once again he’s more versatile than people give him credit for. I like him in his understated roles as much as his ‘yippikaye’ bad-assery and he’s appropriately somber in this one as he secretly longs for a family to call his own. I feel that Bill Murray wasn’t given as much to do here, he’s sort of just playing his quirky-self, but I guess that works just fine in a Wes Anderson movie. The rest of the stellar cast, including Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel and the other one of Wes’ muse Jason Schwartzman, are all good but none of them particularly stood out to me.

I guess the benefit of not having seen too much of Wes’ work is that I haven’t grown accustomed to his particular style, so everything seems fresh and fascinating to me. Even the preposterous aspects and the zany-ness of the characters all add to the charm and what makes Wes’ work so unique. There’s also that particular look to the visuals of Wes’ film, my super astute friend John outlined in this *tutorial* post…  he described Wes’ films as having “… the aged look and feel.. What I’m referring to is the yellow filter, and the slight graininess that makes you, the viewer, feel like you’re in a theatre in 1970 watching a film.” I LOVE that, I think it adds something special to the whole experience.

Final Thoughts: This is a delightful movie and it’s moving along quite efficiently at only 1 hr 34 minutes. The ending is heartwarming and sweet, but never nauseatingly so. I might rent this again when it comes out on DVD. I might even venture into Wes’ other works, such as Rushmore and Life Aquatic. Whether Wes’ style is your cup of tea or not as creativity is so subjective, I’m glad there’s still a filmmaker who marches to the beat of his own drums like him in Hollywood.

4.5 out of 5 reels



What do you think of either one of these movies? Do share your thoughts in the comments.