22 Jump Street (2014) – I broke one of my cardinal rules of movie-watching by seeing this without having ever seen the first film. But I quickly decided to seek out the first after watching this one, because it was honestly the funniest film I’ve seen in theaters in a very long time. (21 will be in July’s Modern Movies post.) I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film so self-aware and self-deprecating in its humor. Christy Lemire said it best in her review: “22 Jump Street is pretty much the exact same movie as 21 Jump Street. It knows it, you know it, and it knows that you know it. And that is why it’s brilliant.” Beyond the jokes about sequels and the action-comedy genre on the whole, there were quite a few more big laughs to be had (the slam poem scene killed me), and the film’s two stars (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) have spectacular comedic chemistry. Even the end credit sequence was great.
Chef (2014) – I liked this film quite a bit. It successfully blends a touching father-son tale with a road trip movie, a story of finding your calling in life and a lot of delicious-looking food. I did have two problems, though: the underdevelopment of Sofia Vergara’s character and the Apple product placement. What does Vergara’s character do? She has a lot of money from divorce settlements, but she also says she’s “working” in Miami and is apparently well-known enough to have a publicist. She’s busy enough to need a nanny for her son, but not so busy that she can’t take a few shifts on the food truck. We learn very little about her, and she’s very much a two-dimensional character. And that Apple product placement was just over-the-top. Not only were the family devoted users of iPhones and iPads, but there was a whole scene focused on making fun of the lock screens and cameras on other types of smart phones. I’m not usually too nit-picky about product placement but it was incredibly distracting in this film. That being said, Chef was an enjoyable watch. I won’t be likely to buy it, but I wouldn’t mind giving it a second watch.
Fatso (1980) – When I was a kid, I loved Dom DeLuise, for one reason: All Dogs Go to Heaven. Specifically, his “special message” at the end of the VHS tape. I thought his only job was as a professional chef and for years had no clue he’d done anything in Hollywood but All Dogs Go to Heaven. But my sister and I wore out that VHS tape, nicknaming it “Say wah wah, Hah wah wah,” and for some reason I adored Dom DeLuise in the promotional spot for the Boys & Girls Club of America. (My age was in the single digits at this time. Who knows why I was the way I was.) Anyway, my mom recently ran across Fatso on the MOVIES! channel, and after she told me about it I had to give it watch, for I still haven’t seen as much of DeLuise’s non-All Dogs work as I’d like to. As an added bonus, it was directed by, written by and co-stars Anne Bancroft. Fatso is a bit of a confused film, but also a touching film. It has quite a few funny scenes, but it’s also at times very sad. (DeLuise breaks my heart when he talks about wishing everyone could see he’s not a bad guy.) I appreciate the film’s messages of self-acceptance and the importance of family.
Think Like a Man 2 (2014) – Another cardinal-rule-breaker, I watched this film without having seen the first! Saw this on a whim. Felt like going to the movies, and my options were either this or Transformers, a film in which I have a -10 interest level. My expectations going in were non-existent, so they were easily exceeded. Nothing spectacular, but it’s a light and fluffy watch that brings a few laughs. Note: I know the official title stylizes “2” as “Too,” but I refuse to acknowledge this trend in sequel titles, so I’m using the number.