Recently Warner Brothers and Guy Ritchie made the somewhat peculiar decision to adapt the 1960s television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to the big screen (read my review here). While Ritchie’s film wasn’t exactly a triumph, there have been a number of TV remakes which have been really good. Of course, there are also plenty which have been terrible (The Flintstones, The Smurfs, Lost in Space), but we are going to try and keep it positive here and look at six of the best TV remakes. To clarify, this is a list of the best TV remakes not just movies that have come from television shows. So I have chosen not to consider movies which feature the same cast as the television series which has disqualified films like The Naked Gun, all of the Muppets movies, Serenity, and films which originated as Saturday Night Live sketches like The Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World. So let’s jump in… Continue reading
Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Amber Stevens, Wyatt Russell, Peter Stormare, Jillian Bell, Nick Offerman
At a time when we like our popular comedy dripping with irony, the directing partnership of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller is steadily rising to the top of the pack. After solid success with their debut feature Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and surprising success with the television remake 21 Jump Street, Lord and Miller had a legitimate popular and critical hit earlier in the year with The Lego Movie. With all three of those films, the pair took a project which was far from a sure thing and turned it into a hit with their unique and clever style of humour. But 22 Jump Street marks their biggest challenge yet, a sequel.
Having successfully gone undercover at a local high school to blow open a drug ring, the odd-couple of Schmidt and Jenko are back to do it all again. Now too old to pose as high schoolers, the pair are off to college where a new drug known as WHY-PHY (Work Hard, Yes – Play Hard, Yes) has claimed its first life. However, just like last time, the social politics of student life puts pressure on their investigation and bromance as the two find themselves moving in different circles – Jenko with the football crowd and Schmidt with the art students.
The plot sounds repeated and generic, but the beauty of this movie is in its complete self-awareness. At the beginning of the film, the two cops are called into the office of Deputy Chief Hardy who informs them that his superiors were pleasantly surprised by the success of the rebooted Jump Street program so have decided to do it again. They want it to be exactly the same as last time, although because they know it can be successful, the department has been given a bigger budget. He also informs them that they have had to move out of the abandoned Korean church at 21 Jump St, but were able to find an abandoned Vietnamese church across the road at number 22, which will now be their base. All of this is pointless, he adds, because everyone knows that nothing ever works as well the second time around. By winking at the audience, 22 Jump Street is able to not only parody buddy cop movies and college movies, but also blockbuster sequels.
They weren’t kidding about the upped budget either. 22 Jump Street is a noticeably bigger film than the first one, with a number of large scale action sequences, chases and explosions. These scenes aren’t particularly exhilarating in themselves, but they are there to allow the film to joke about action-comedies like Bad Boys or Lethal Weapon rather than as part of a serious attempt to be one of these films. 22 Jump Street is first and foremost a comedy, and it manages to be quite clever, while still engaging in more than its fair share of pratfalls and crude humour (of the sexual rather than toilet variety).
Much of the success of the film, like the first instalment, is down to Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. This seemingly unlikely pair displays an easy chemistry. They appear really comfortable riffing off one another and the film has a very loose style that allows them to do that. While Hill has always been known as a comic actor, Tatum’s comedic chops were a revelation in 21 Jump Street and he is again really charming here as the muscle bound doofus, Jenko.
While Marvel have, in recent years, made an art form out of the post credits teaser, 22 Jump Street uses its credit sequence to deliver one of its funniest scenes. Parodying the trajectory of blockbuster franchises, the credits deliver a series of teaser trailers for sequels from 23 through to about 40 Jump Street, with the pair going everywhere from dance school to beauty school to culinary school and various gimmicks and cast changes along the way. Amazingly, given that this sequel achieves the rare feat of exceeding the first instalment, you leave the film with the distinct impression that this franchise is not planning to outstay its welcome.
Review by Duncan McLean
Have you seen 22 Jump Street? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones
When I visited America a couple of years ago, I was struck by the advertising of prescription medications on TV. Viewers were encouraged to ask their doctor about the latest cholesterol medication or anti-depressant. It seemed symptomatic of a society with a disturbingly consumerist relationship with medication. It is precisely this mindset, particularly towards mood-altering medications, that Steven Soderbergh seeks to expose in Side Effects.
Dr. Jonathan Banks is a professionally ambitious psychiatrist who comes into contact with troubled Emily Taylor after it appears she has tried to take her own life. With a history of anxiety she is struggling to adjust after her husband returns from prison. When the usual suspects don’t seem to be doing the job, Banks turns to a new drug called Ablixa, whose advertisements encourage patients to “take back tomorrow.” But like all mood altering meds, it has a couple of side effects.
Both of their lives are soon rocked when Emily is arrested for murder, seemingly while under the influence of her medication. Dr. Banks is then caught between a rock and a hard place. If he chooses to defend Emily against the charges, blaming the drugs for her actions, the finger of blame then turns to him as the man who prescribed the medication. As his career starts unravelling before his eyes, he sets about investigating the events to work out exactly what happened.
While we are not encouraged to believe that Emily’s condition doesn’t warrant medication, Soderbergh uses other peripheral characters to mount his criticism of an overmedicated society which has become reliant on mood altering drugs. We see one woman calmly popping a beta blocker to help her get through a job interview, while others share their knowledge and familiarity with the effects of the various mood altering medications that Emily has been prescribed. While this social commentary ultimately makes way for a reasonably regulation thriller narrative it is interesting while it’s there.
Jude Law and Rooney Mara carry much of the load in this film and both put in strong performances. Law gives Dr. Banks a very composed and measured personality, but as the events unfold he deteriorates, growing more and more desperate. It is interesting to watch this character who makes his living from helping people keep it together fall apart. Mara, who burst onto the scene with her roles in The Social Network and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, delivers arguably her best performance, opting for subtlety when it would have been easy to go over the top.
Soderbergh’s body of work demonstrates an impressive stylistic range, with drastically different films like Traffic, Erin Brokovich, the Oceans 11 films and sex, lies and videotape. In this case he adopts a very neat, efficient and largely unobtrusive visual style. As well as directing the film, he acted as cinematographer (under his regular pseudonym Peter Andrews) and editor (this time as Mary Ann Bernard).
Steven Soderbergh has suggested that this will be his final feature film – though it should be noted that his made-for-TV Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra is set to receive a cinematic release in some markets. From here on in he plans to focus his energies on other artistic pursuits, primarily long-form television. If Side Effects does end up being his parting gift as a feature filmmaker – which I’m not entirely convinced of – it is not a bad note to leave on. While it won’t sit among the very best examples of his work, it is a good thriller with an interesting central premise.
Rating – ★★★☆
Review by Duncan McLean