Monday, July 14, 2014

Reviews: Earth to Echo & 22 Jump Street

Here are a couple quick-hit reviews from over the past week or so.

A few weeks ago I took my wife and all the kids to see Earth to Echo, a low-budget found-footage film directed by Dave Green that focuses on the discovery of an alien life form.  It's sort of a hybrid Goonies/E.T. mashup re-invented in the modern era of mobile devices and social networking. Three friends in the Nevada suburbs get together for one last adventure as they sneak out of their homes to travel by bike in search of a mysterious signal beacon they stumbled across on their phones. They eventually uncover a lost alien robot who is desperately trying to get back home to his planet. The effects are well done for a movie filmed on such a small budget and the acting for the most part is decent enough (for a kid-powered film). I was especially pleased to see Brian Bradley (aka Astro from The X Factor) play one of the lead roles.

I sort of enjoyed this film and was glad to see the kids get into it. They all seemed to have a good time and I'm hoping this kind of.  I do think this movie takes some huge plot ideas from Spielberg's 1982 classic and therefore I have to bump my rating down a few notches due to an overall lack of originality. This is worth a watch on video especially if you have some young kids. A mellow 3 out of 5 JRs for Earth to Echo.

The other week I finally had a chance to go and see the latest chapter in the bromance of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, otherwise known as 22 Jump Street. I saw the original film in the theater and despite not being a fan of the original Johnny Depp, I really liked it. I was looking forward to the re-teaming of Hill and Tatum and thankfully they pick up right where they left off. They really do have great chemistry on-screen and Tatum in particular is comedy gold. He has that rare ability to combine solid action skills with a clever wit (similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). Ice Cube returns as the leader of the undercover police division and delivers some of the best laughs of the entire film when he gets into a bit of a pickle with Hill's character. I won't give it away, but let's just say the family lunch sequence at the fictional university in which Tatum and Hill are undercover students is worth the price of admission alone.

This film is right on par with its predecessor and exceeds the laughs in certain scenes. It's just a lot of fun to watch Hill and Tatum do their thing together and Ice Cube delivers more laughs than he did in the original.  Despite a few slow moments, the story is well paced and delivers on many levels with solid direction by the "it-duo" of 2014 Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who have already delivered the funniest movie of the year in Lego Movie). 22 Jump Street is certainly one of the funniest films I've seen all year and I give it a strong 4 of 5 JRs. You can probably wait for video on this one though as there is no real draw to seeing in the theater. (in fact, in one sequence, the audience we saw it with laughed so hard that we missed a few lines of dialogue completely) Stick around for the credits sequence which imagines just how far this series can go with some hilarious theming ideas.

NOTE: I plan on trying to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes tomorrow and hope to have a full review later this week.

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