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: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujarden
In recent years, with films like The Departed, Shutter Island and Hugo, Martin Scorsese has ventured into the world of narrative-driven filmmaking. However the films upon which his lofty reputation is based – films like Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Casino – were never so concerned with narrative. They were films that created a world and dropped us into it, introducing us to the people, the language and the rituals of that place and time. They had an almost anthropological feel to them. Scorsese’s latest film, The Wolf of Wall Street, is a return to this type of storytelling. It has that old-fashioned Scorsese flavour to it with one additional ingredient, humour.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a biting satire of a culture that values personal gratification above all else and gives little thought to the consequences. The film explores the rise and fall of stockbroker Jordan Belfort. We meet Jordan on his first day working at L.F. Rothschild where he starts at the bottom of the ladder. On the very day that he gains his trading license, 19th October 1987, the stock market crashes and he finds himself out of a job. He starts to rebuild by selling “penny stocks,” hustling suckers who can’t afford it into buying worthless stocks at huge margins. Things really take off when he founds his own firm, the evocative but meaninglessly named Stratton Oakmont, and employs the same tactics with blue chip stocks to land much bigger fish. The film doesn’t require you to understand how their operation works, it doesn’t even try and explain it, just to know that it was all quite illegal. With Jordan and his team of hucksters making a lot of money very quickly it was only a matter of time before they caught the eye of the FBI.
Based on the confessional memoir of the real-life Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street is told entirely from Jordan’s point of view. It is DiCaprio’s voiceover narration that guides us through the film and he regularly turns to the camera to directly address the viewer. It is in this subjectivity that the root of much of the film’s controversy lies. As in the past, when sections of the audience have accused Scorsese’s film of celebrating gangsters, The Wolf of Wall Street has been attacked for the way in which it indulges in the extravagant excess of these characters lives, an excess which is funded by illegal practices. Despite being a cautionary tale, it is not a didactic or judgemental one. With Belfort himself showing no genuine remorse or contrition for the effects of his actions, the subjectivity of the film likewise does not judge him or apologise for him. The victims of Jordan’s crimes are as invisible to us as they are to him. Instead, the character of Jordan Belfort, through telling his own story, tries to charm, schmooze and woo us as viewers into siding with him despite our understanding of the despicable selfishness of his lifestyle.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a confronting film in its examination of a completely amoral life of excess. Much has been said about the over the top sex, drugs and in particular language of this film – it was well documented that it had set a new record with 506 variations of the F-word – but arguably the more confronting aspect of the lifestyle on display is its misogyny. Whether The Wolf of Wall Street is a misogynistic film, a film about a misogynistic world, or a bit of both is open to discussion. Regardless, it is an intensely male film in which women, regardless of their relationship or role, are regarded primarily as commodities and sexual objects. There is only one female character, Joanna Lumley’s Aunt Emma, who has a level of authority equal to that of the male characters.
Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the finest actors going around at the moment, but this fifth collaboration with Martin Scorsese has afforded him the opportunity to display his versatility. Much of his success in the past has come from playing tortured loners, but Jordan is the ultimate people person. He thrives on the energy of having people around him and being the centre of attention. So DiCaprio is called upon to play the extravert in a way we don’t regularly see. The bigger surprise though is the ease with which he handles the film’s comic material. DiCaprio has always radiated seriousness as an actor, but here he gets to have some fun. In doing so he shows a surprising talent for physical comedy, bordering on slapstick, which very few would have imagined was in his repertoire.
DiCaprio is ably supported by a strong cast. Jonah Hill continues to show he has serious acting chops, while his background in improvisational comedy adds to the spontaneity of some exhanges. The relatively unknown Australian Margot Robbie turns heads as Belfort’s trophy wife more than holds her own in a number of scenes with DiCaprio. Rob Reiner threatens to steal the movie at times as Belfort’s short-tempered father, and cameos from the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujarden and Jon Favreau add colour to intricately constructed world.
While The Wolf of Wall Street is undoubtedly Scorsese’s funniest movie, it is by no means a comedy. It is a drama with humour – there are plenty of laughs while Jordan is living the high life, but when things turn bad its gets serious. While it won’t be to everyone’s’ liking, it is arguably Scorsese’s best film in two decades.
Rating – ★★★★☆
Review by Duncan McLean
Director: Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride
Every now and then a group of friends will be sitting around, having a few drinks, making each other laugh really hard and they’ll collectively think “We’re pretty funny. Somebody should make a movie about us.” What would happen if that group of guys were all well-known comic actors and had the clout to get someone else to pay for that movie to be made? The answer, as we see with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This is the End, is you get the most self-indulgent movie ever made.
Under the guidance of Judd Apatow, that peer group of Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Danny McBride and the rest – the core of which started with the short-lived TV series Freaks and Geeks and then expanded through films like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad – currently sits at the top of the comedy movie hierarchy. A big part of their appeal has always been that it is so apparent that they are friends in real life, that friendship resulting in an easy, natural chemistry on screen. Unfortunately, This is the End takes that one step too far and it feels like you are watching a series of in-jokes. Plenty of those jokes are still funny, but it feels like they’d be funnier if you knew the actor personally. This feels like a movie they made for themselves.
The setup is pretty simple. Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride – all playing fictional versions of themselves – are at a party at James Franco’s place when the apocalypse occurs. All of the good people are raptured up into heaven but our guys obviously didn’t make the cut. They are left in James Franco’s house/fortress to work out how they will survive in this hell on earth. The resolution is underwhelming and feels slapped together because ultimately the storyline isn’t important. This movie isn’t about the rapture. It isn’t about survival in a post-apocalyptic world. It is about Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and James Franco finding themselves in an extreme situation and being funny. So towards the end of the film when it moves away from that scenario out of an obligation to wrap up the story, it isn’t nearly as engaging.
What saves this movie is the fact that these guys actually are funny guys, and at the end of the day all a comedy really needs to do to pass mark is make you laugh. It is a bit hit and miss, as you would expect from a film which clearly relies as much on improvisation as this one did, but at times it is quite sharp. If you weren’t a fan of Pineapple Express and Superbad you are better off steering clear of this one. It is that same style of frat-boy humour taken up a notch. Plenty of penis jokes. Plenty of drug jokes.
This is the End has cameos, cameos, cameos. Clearly some favours were called in as in addition to our central six characters we get as-self appearances from Michael Cera, Rhianna, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Aziz Ansari, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Channing Tatum and the Backstreet Boys. The best of the cameos though has to be from Emma Watson, who clearly enjoyed the opportunity to leave the world of Harry Potter behind her and jump into some more unashamedly adult material.
If you like the Apatow style of whimsy then This is the End has plenty of laughs for you. But it will leave you feeling a bit like you’ve crashed someone else’s party.
Rating – ★★☆
Review by Duncan McLean