Monthly Archives: June 2014

Jersey Boys Film Review

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jersey-boys-clint-eastwood-530x352Clint Eastwood is no stranger to music –Paint Your Wagon, Kelly’s Heroes, and the more recent Gran Torino have all featured his unique raspy tones as part of the soundtrack. His role as director also often saw him doubling up as composer – writing music for Unforgiven, and Bridges of Madison County. It should come as no surprise then that Eastwood’s love of music and film should eventually come to a head with a fully-fledged musical. Jersey Boys, based on the Broadway show, tells the behind the scenes story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and how the group that became megastars through their 60s hits ‘Sherry’, ‘Walk Like a Man’, and ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ had a much murkier past than their spangled suit jackets suggest.

Focused on the relationships between the four band members, the film follows them from their rough beginnings in Belleville, New Jersey, where being born on the wrong side of the tracks meant crime or fame were the only ways to make a break. Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) makes a valiant attempt to do both, holding together a band in the garage while selling stolen furs and perfume from the basement. Frankie Castellucio (John Lloyd Young) – who would later become the groups lead singer under the name Frankie Valli – is the greenhorn on the edge of the gang, attracted both by the musical and criminal potential but kept at bay by Tommy, who realises Frankie’s powerful falsetto is their ticket out of New Jersey.

While Piazza may be a familiar face for some from his work on Boardwalk Empire, most of the stars of the show won’t be. John Lloyd Young, along with Erich Bergen and Michael Lomenda who play the other members of the band, are stage actors who have performed the roles on Broadway for years. For most the only recognisable face on screen will be Christopher Walken, who plays the enigmatic mafioso Gyp deCarlo, a kind of fairy-Godfather who appears to sprinkle dollars when most needed. Eastwood’s decision to cast the Broadway stars is by no means a bad one, John Lloyd Young is a Tony award winning actor, and the Frankie he portrays on screen seems charismatic and real – plus, of course, the music sounds great. The hits of the Four Seasons are slotted into the story in a relatively subtle way – don’t expect street-scenes suddenly bursting into song with somersaulting extras, the music takes place in the practice room, in recording studios, and on stage.

While there is a lot that is enjoyable about Jersey Boys, the fact that Eastwood leans so heavily on the stage version proves problematic. Things that are natural in theatre – like asides to the audience – become superfluous storytelling devices, and even the punchier, more comedic parts of the film seem to lack an edge. Essentially Jersey Boys is about the relationships between four men, and how they fracture and fuse under the spotlight of fame. But what might work on the tight confines of a stage becomes diluted on screen – and spread out over two hours (and especially without an intermission and glass of wine) it ultimately fails to make an engaging film. Frankie’s falsetto is the only thing that holds up as the rest of the film falls out of key – hard-core Four Seasons fans may find a little more enjoyment, but for the rest of us, heading to catch the stage show when it comes to Dublin in 2015 is a better idea.

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22 Jump Street Film Review

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It’s been a couple of years since the incredibly enjoyable 21 Jump Street came out of nowhere – inept cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) were forced to join Captain Dickson’s (Ice Cube) undercover team at 21 Jump Street and infiltrate a high-school drug ring. The relentless mix of action and laughs proved to be one of the highlights of 2012, and one of the best comedy pairings since Dumb and Dumber.

The sequel sees the Jump Street headquarters relocate across the road to number 22, and from a much snazzier office, Captain Dickson assigns Schmidt and Jenko a mission to go undercover to infiltrate a college drug ring – ‘just do the same thing you did last time’ he tells them. It’s a gag that carries through the entire film, right through the end credits where movie artwork for future renditions of the Jump Street franchise see Tatum and Hill go to culinary school, scuba school, dance school, and dozens more renditions of the formula.

22-Jump-Street-reviewWhile the film unashamedly sets out to give more of the same – it doesn’t quite manage it. 21 Jump Street was original and clever in the way that it flipped audience expectations. Jenko had to find his feet in a high-school environment where being loud and bullying were no longer keys to success. And Schmidt’s introversion and thoughtfulness, traits that had been his weakness previously, were now respected among his liberal, ecologically minded peers. It’s not such a smooth ride for Schmidt this time around. While Jenko immediately slots in with the jocks on the football team, Schmidt is left to wander the arts block, attending awkward late-night slam poetry recitals to try to get a lead on the new synthetic drug ‘whyphy’ – a potent mash-up of aderall and acid that gets students intensely focused and tripping in equal measure. When Jenko’s bonding with his new best-friend-forever Zook (Wyatt Russell) causes a rift with Schmidt, the two cops are forced to deal with their personal relationship to save their professional partnership.

Schmidt and Jenko are not the only duo returning in this sequel – fresh from The Lego Movie, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are quickly becoming the kings of action-comedy, consistently capable of nailing it with precision. The original writing team (including Jonah Hill) are back in an expanded form as well – and despite the jokes leaning heavily on the ‘sequel-ness’ of things, it is rarity that they don’t pay off. With that said, if you haven’t watched the first film, make sure to do so – I’m sure 22 Jump Street would stand well enough by itself, but much of the joy comes from references to the earlier movie. Evidently, this film lacks some of the originality that 21 Jump Street had – it makes such a point of overtly telling us this that it seems redundant to say it. So while it brings no surprises, it does bring along even more of the clever writing, great comedy, and action. It’s a classic case of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it – and while future renditions of the formula will quickly grow stale, this one will be one of the summer’s comedy highlights.

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