Michael Bacall

Michael Bacall

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22 Jump Street Review


Good

A consistently hilarious stream of in-jokes keeps the audience in fits of laughter even if there's virtually no plot to this follow-up to the 2012 hit 21 Jump Street. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum revive their amusing double-act to poke fun at sequels and franchises amid silly set-pieces and starry cameos. And it gives filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller their second terrific comedy of the year, after The Lego Movie.

Following their successful bust of a high school drug ring, undercover officers Schmidt and Jenko (Hill and Tatum) are assigned by their grumpy captain (Ice Cube) to infiltrate a university and track down who's dealing the new drug whyphy. But both get distracted by life on campus: Schmidt begins a romance with Maya (Amber Stevens), while Jenko finds his meathead soul-mate in football teammate Zook (Wyatt Russell). With their partnership in jeopardy, Schmidt and Jenko must refocus on a spring break trip to Mexico, where they discover an old nemesis (Peter Stormare) on the loose.

Using a non-stop series of gags about how follow-up movies are more expensive and less original, the filmmakers go about proving this hypothesis with amusingly overwrought sets and a chaotic, derivative narrative that has very little momentum. Meanwhile, they pack every moment of the film with witty humour that's played expertly by Hill and Tatum, who rekindle their chemistry with a steady barrage of gay double entendre that reveals the movie's true nature as a brom-com. On the other hand, neither the actors nor the filmmakers are willing to push things too far, so they settle for silly vulgarity instead of any black comedy or edgy humour.

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21 Jump Street Review


Excellent
An especially sharp script makes this riotous adaptation of the serious-minded 1980s TV series thoroughly entertaining. And it manages to achieve a balance between the action and spoofery due to sure-handed direction and a cast that really dives into the mayhem.

Rivals in high school, popular pretty boy Jenko (Tatum) and smart-shy nerd Schmidt (Hill) become unlikely friends to get through police academy. But being cops isn't quite as exciting as they thought it would be until they're assigned to the Jump Street squad run by Captain Dickson (Cube). This group of baby-faced cops infiltrate high schools, posing as students. Jenko and Schmidt's assignment is to find the source of a new super-drug that recently caused the death of a student.

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Review


Weak
So uber-hip that young audiences will adore it, this hyperactive film can't decide whether it's a comic book or a videogame. Sure, it's visually whizzy and often very funny, but filmmaker Wright loses the story in the scuffle.

In Toronto, Scott (Cera) is a 22-year-old geek in a rock band. His bandmates (Webber, Pill and Simmons), sister (Kendrick) and flatmate (Culkin) tease him for dating a teenager (Wong), but she's the band's biggest fan. Then he meets Ramona (Winstead), who is literally his dream girl, and to win her hand he has to defeat her seven evil exes in outlandish battles. These include an action movie star (Evans) and a top music promoter (Schwartzman). And one (Routh) is member of a band fronted by Scott's own evil ex (Larson).

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Manic Review


OK
When troubled teen Lyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes postal, gets put in restraints, and is commited by his mother to a juvenile mental facility, we get sent there, as well. Suddenly, we're in institutional surroundings much like that in Girl, Interrupted -- only we stay there. We don't get to escape and have an adventure on the outside. What's worse, we're subjected to digital video camera work that is tortuous enough to bring out whatever manic manifestation there might be lurking on the edge of our frontal lobe. It's cinema verité and as subjective as a camera can be.

The backstory on Lyle is that he attacked a kid with a baseball bat. Yes, the guy taunted him during a baseball game, and Lyle has had his share of troubles at home -- all of which is going to come out in therapy -- but that's why he's considered enough of a menace to society and to himself to make him a candidate for Northward Mental Institution, a spa for undisciplined youths run by therapist-in-charge Dr. David Monroe (Don Cheadle). Totally tight-lipped at first, Lyle commands attention by the sheer unpredictability of how and when his fast fuse of rage will ignite into violence.

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Undertow Review


Weak

If I were to choose the single greatest American directorial debut of the last ten years, David Gordon Green's "George Washington" would be very near the top of the list. This extraordinarily lyrical film unfolded its odd, wonderful moments with a near complete disregard for plot mechanics. Green's second film, "All the Real Girls," included many of the same disconnected moments, but they were now spattered into a story about a womanizer who falls in love for the first time.

His third film, "Undertow," continues in the same vein as his latter effort. It still has the good stuff, but now it's steeped in a rudimentary, even ludicrous, plot. It plays like nothing more than an exceedingly well-written "Friday the 13th" sequel.

"Undertow" tells the story of a Southern family: a soft-spoken father, John (Dermot Mulroney), a troublesome older boy, Chris (Jamie Bell), and a sickly younger boy, Tim (Devon Alan); their mother has long ago passed on. When John's brother Deel (Josh Lucas) turns up on their doorstep, fresh from prison, John invites him to stay. It turns out that the menacing Deel is really after a case of gold coins that their father once collected. He stops at nothing to get them, not even killing his own brother and stalking the two boys across hill and dale.

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Urban Legends: The Final Cut Review


Zero

As wretched as any Ed Wood bomb, and without the camp factor to make it train-wreck entertaining, "Urban Legends: The Final Cut" is a serious contender for the worst horror movie ever made.

It's not just that the movie isn't the least bit scary. It's not just that the killer picks off his victims in the most humdrum manner. It's not just that almost every performance is so flaccid that the actors look like they're reading cue cards even when they scream.

It's not just that the slasher wears a fencing mask, signaling an utter lack of originality and adherence to copycat screenwriting formula (if Jason had worn a football helmet in "Friday the 13th," this guy would be wearing a baseball cap, no doubt.) It's not even that this pathetic excuse for a suspense movie has the unmitigated gall to compare itself to Hitchcock.

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Michael Bacall

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