Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: Jason Mitchell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Paul Giamatti, R. Marcos Taylor, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, Marlon Knight Jr.
It is said that history is written by the victors and to an extent that is what you get with Straight Outta Compton, F. Gary Gray’s biopic of trailblazing West Coast gangsta rap group N.W.A (Niggaz Wit Attitudes). Among the film’s producers are two of the group’s founding members, Dr Dre and Ice Cube. Dr Dre is now CEO of Aftermath Records and Beats Electronics and ranked the richest figure in American hip hop by Forbes magazine. Ice Cube is a successful rapper, producer and movie star. They are the victors and the film they present is a mythologising of their origin story which takes us back to when these establishment figures were dangerous outsiders.
In 1986 we meet our three principals: charismatic drug dealer Eric “Eazy E” Wright (Jason Mitchell), aspiring DJ Andre “Dr Dre” Young (Corey Hawkins), and teenage rapper O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson (O’Shea Jackson Jr). Not content with his regular gig which has no interest in rap music, Dr Dre approaches Eazy for capital to record an album. With Dre’s beats, Cube’s rhymes and Eazy’s business acumen, they found N.W.A. 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: Tim Story
Starring: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter, John Leguizamo, Bryan Callan, Bruce McGill, Laurence Fishburne
Kevin Hart has to be one of the hardest working men in show business at the moment. He has a successful career in stand-up comedy, a popular television series in Real Husbands of Hollywood, and numerous film projects in various stages of development. With the buddy-cop movie Ride Along Hart is attempting to make the transition into the realm of the “above the title” movie star.
Hart plays Ben Barber, a security guard in an Atlanta high school and an avid gamer, who has finally been accepted into the police academy. With his life falling into place, he plans to propose to his girlfriend, Angela, but first wants to get the blessing of her protective older brother, James. James is a cop himself, of the lone-wolf variety, and demands that Ben prove himself capable of looking after his sister before he will grant his blessing. So James invites Ben to ride along with him for a day to test him out.
Ride Along fancies itself as a comedic take on Training Day, and the numerous references to the film are obviously intended to make sure the audience draws that connection, but really what we have here is an action comedy in the tradition of Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours and Rush Hour… though not quite as good. The action-comedy is a genre we don’t get as much of these days but it is a proven star maker and the ideal genre for someone of Kevin Hart’s talents. In Ride Along Hart is playing that Eddie Murphy role (from back in the days when Murphy limited himself to playing just the one character in each film), that fast talking, energetic, comic character.
If this review seems to be all about Kevin Hart it is because when it boils down to it, Ride Along is all about Kevin Hart. The film is at its best when it puts the progressing of the largely ho-hum storyline to one side and just lets him be the focus. Watching this loud, motor-mouthed but ultimately extremely unqualified character attempting to handle police situations is quite fun. His co-star Ice Cube, on the other hand, is a bit harder to handle. Whether by design or simply through his performance, Cube’s character just comes across as very one note. There is no light and shade, no real character development. What he does do is demonstrate how difficult it actually is to play the straight man opposite the clown.
Ride Along is a very formulaic film, but let’s face it, no one is going along to see this movie hoping to be challenged in any way. Its formulaic nature makes it comfortable, and if you come in with sufficiently low expectations there are some genuine laughs here and there is some fun to be had.
Review by Duncan McLean