Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Duets

21 Jump Street: based on the television series created by Stephen J. Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh, written by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill; directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller; starring Jonah Hill (Schmidt), Channing Tatum (Jenko), Brie Larson (Mollie), Dave Franco (Eric), Rob Riggle (Mr. Walters) and Ice Cube (Captain Dickson) (2012): Hilarious comedy reboot of the not-so-good 1980's TV series that introduced Johnny Depp and Richard Grieco to the world. Cops pretend to be teenagers and bust crimes at a high school. What could go wrong?

Almost obsessively filthy-mouthed, the movie makes good use of Jonah Hill's weirdly earnest nebbish personality by setting it off against Channing Tatum's seemingly dumb but well-meaning jock. They weren't friends in high school, but they become so in police academy. And now they're assigned to take down the suppliers of a dangerous new super-drug at a local high school. Will they also purge the demons that have haunted them since senior year?

Ice Cube swears and fulminates as the captain. Dave Franco stirs up echoes of the early, burn-out charm of his older brother James. Actors from the TV series make surprise cameos. Hill again shows his gift for slapstick, but Tatum also demonstrates comic timing and physical prowess. Who knew he was funny? Oh, and a guy gets his dick shot off. Also, Korean Jesus. Recommended.



The Raven: written by Richard Matheson, based on the poem by Edgar Allan Poe; directed by Roger Corman; starring Vincent Price (Craven), Peter Lorre (Bedlo), Boris Karloff (Scarabus), Jack Nicholson (Rexford Bedlo), Hazel Court (Lenore) and Olive Sturgess (Estelle Craven) (1963): Screenwriter Richard Matheson is an American treasure for his short stories, novels, and screenplay work, pretty much all in the thriller, horror, and fantasy genres. You can look him up.

Here, he takes Edgar Allan Poe's poem and turns it into a horror-comedy about dueling wizards (Karloff and Price), a snivelling second banana (Lorre), and a shockingly young Jack NIcholson as a young romantic lead. The wizard's duel is witty and surprisingly good-looking given the technical and budgetary limitations the film faced. Roger Corman's direction is relatively sharp. The acting is pretty much all first-rate, with Karloff uncharcteristically loose and funny as the nefarious Scarabus.

Price is great as he usually was. Holy crap, though, The Raven really highlights his height -- Price, an uncharacteristic-for-Hollywood 6'4" towers over 5'11" Karloff and dwarfs the 5'5" Lorre. Everyone seems to be having a good time, and Matheson even sneaks in a reference to The Day the Earth Stood Still, a movie he had nothing to do with. The only creepy moments involve the really nice make-up design on a couple of corpses. And by 'nice', I mean 'grotesque.' Recommended.

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