Wednesday, June 25, 2014

June Mini Reviews: 22 Jump Street, Frank and How To Train Your Dragon 2

22 Jump Street (19 June) - This was one of the biggest letdowns in a while. After some great early laughs ("it looks like a giant cube of ice") this meta-barrage bounced off me more often than not. We are soon well aware of how aware the film is about its existence as a 'sequel' and what signifies a sequel in Hollywood, but after a while the replication tactics interfere with an actually interesting story. Why was I expecting a story here? Well, the first film, pretty inconsistent itself, had one. But it also managed to make endearing characters out of this perfectly cast pair, managed to be funny AND moving, and proved that Tatum was a man with a broader spectrum of acting talents than previously thought. 22 is short on memorable supporting characters and Schmidt and Jenko are fare less interesting themselves. With the drug sting ignored for long stretches Jenko's rival bromance with a college football jock is disappointingly flat, while Schmidt's love interest goes down an avenue that forced laughs. The Spring-Break finale was also uninspired. Tatum is still best in show, but I don't know what happened here. I was pleasantly surprised by 21 and then all reports suggested this one was an across-the-board improvement. For me, it was taking a horse with potential and then killing it slowly.  

Frank (19 June) - What to make of Frank? Is it a musical film about a mysterious social-media marketed group of reclusive, oddball geniuses, or a sad drama about mental illness and its opposing effects on the creative process? It is an odd hybrid that doesn't end up being funny enough to be crowd-pleasing and is too thin on character (Gyllenhaal is a 'crazy bitch', there is a 'French guitarist', and we still know very little about the withdrawn paper-mache-headed Frank 10 minutes from the end) for the tragic latter half developments to resonate. It is a weird, and surprisingly confused, film. It is difficult to analyze Michael Fassbender's performance, hidden under the head with his dialogue often muffled, but Domhnall Gleeson gives the best performance I have yet seen from him. The cigarette-infused creation-cabin featured the most entertaining sequences (including a terrific recording montage) and Gleeson's Twitter coverage of the band's recording sessions tied the story into the topical 'freak muso becomes a celebrity' domain. 1/2

How To Train Your Dragon 2 (19 June) - This pretty spectacular sequel, which immediately ranks as one of Dreamworks Animation's best films despite not soaring as high as the wonderful 2010 Oscar nominee How To Train Your Dragon, takes us back into the lives of Toothless a more mature Hiccup (Jay Baruchel). The first film was a delight on a character and narrative level and features some of the most spectacular animated action I have seen. Not to mention a killer score. For the flying sequences in particular this sequel competes, but we find ourselves in a world that has become less optimistic and much darker. An evil warlord beset on building a dragon army is now the threat, not the overthrow of historical conflict and a quest for peace. It is more interested in deep feels, introducing a new member of Hiccups's family that is very well handled, than entertaining the youngsters. I enjoyed myself but it was missing some of the majestic brilliance that made you crave another look at HTTYD. 1/2


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