Video Verdict: Reviews of ’22 Jump Street,’ ‘If I Stay,’ ‘And So It Goes’ and ‘Into the Storm’

Jonah Hill, left, and Channing Tatum play undercover police officers in "22 Jump Street."  Photo courtesy of Sony

Jonah Hill, left, and Channing Tatum play undercover police officers in “22 Jump Street.”
Photo courtesy of Sony

A lot of titles are moving to home video this week with a high-profile sequel leading the way.

22 Jump Street

3 stars (out of four)
Rated R for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence
Sony
Available on: Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and on demand

When “21 Jump Street” hit theaters in 2012 it was a delightful surprise. The film – a comedic, big-screen re-imagining of the 1980s and early ’90s television series – was witty, unexpected and creative. It also marked the pleasant introduction of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as a comedy duo. With “22 Jump Street,” returning directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller continue the fun, producing a movie with a likable plot, consistent laughs and more than a few gags that acknowledge the lackluster nature of the typical sequel.

After an action-packed opening where officers Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) mess up an assignment, they are ordered to go back to the methods that made them heroes in the first film: namely impersonating students. This scene plays with a nod to viewers who understand that sequels are supposed to cover familiar territory, and that “Jump Street” will grudgingly oblige. This gives the movie an underlying meta-humor that draws laughs even when the plotting and cast need help. Fortunately, that’s rare.

Hill and Tatum are again terrific, and – because they’ve grown older – their commanding officer (Ice Cube) sends them to college instead of high school. While undercover, their mission is to find and arrest the source of a hot, new drug that’s making the rounds, but they are just as interested in exploring the college lifestyle, which includes playing football, pledging a frat and attending wild parties.

As in the first movie, the mission also tests the officers’ friendship. This is another acknowledgment that sequels most often mirror their predecessors, and viewers who take time to analyze the structure should find it amusing.

Even without the in-gags, “22 Jump Street” would be a winner because Lord and Miller make perfect use of their stars. Hill has a flair for broad comedy, and Tatum is a charming straight man with terrific comic timing. Ice Cube and the remainder of the supporting cast – including Amber Stevens, Wyatt Russell, Peter Stormare and Jillian Bell – are solid as well, but it’s Hill and Tatum who do the heavy lifting.

Blu-ray and DVD extras include a featurette on Lord and Miller, five deleted/extended scenes and a filmmakers’ commentary.

 

If I Stay

3 stars
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
20th Century Fox
Available on: Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and on demand

Chloë Grace Moretz may be under 20, but she is rapidly establishing herself as a Hollywood powerhouse. Whether playing a frightening child vampire in “Let Me In,” a teen superhero in “Kick-Ass” or the protagonist of the horror remake “Carrie,” Moretz delivers.

With “If I Stay,” she continues her string of outstanding performances, playing a talented young cellist who must decide whether to live or die after being seriously injured in a harrowing car accident that lands her entire family in the hospital. Although plunged into a coma, Mia Hall (Moretz) finds herself able to navigate the physical world undetected. As a passive observer, she watches as medical professionals, friends and family hope for her recovery, and she becomes keenly aware that her former world will be drastically different if she decides to live.

Director R.J. Cutler, who adapted the film from Gayle Forman’s 2009 novel, allows viewers to follow Mia, detailing her past with lengthy flashbacks. In the glances back, he establishes the loving nature of her hip, youthful parents and her sweet younger brother. He also introduces the love of Mia’s life, a handsome rock musician named Adam (Jamie Blackley).

In a sense, “If I Stay” is a love story because viewers follows Mia’s relationship with Adam from the beginning. But calling it a romance ignores the project’s broader questions, including the one Cutler seems most interested in: What makes life worth living?

Cutler does a good job moving from the present to flashback, and Moretz – who carries the film – is up to the task. The young actress gets solid support from Blackley and the other actors, including Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard, who play Mia’s parents. Stacy Keach also has a small but moving role as Mia’s grandfather.

One may question the film’s premise, which seems to be that coma patients can decide whether they want to wake or die. This is simplistic and could be viewed as disrespectful to real-life victims. The movie doesn’t seem, however, to be attempting a broad commentary on medical science. Instead, it seems designed to make people take stock of their lives, appreciate blessings and live each day to the fullest.

Blu-ray and DVD extras include deleted scenes, an image gallery, a music video and a filmmakers’ commentary.

 

Into the Storm

2 stars
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references
Warner Brothers
Available on: Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and on demand

Early on, the found-footage genre represented a way for unknown filmmakers to demonstrate their chops without spending a fortune. More recently, budgets have grown, and purveyors have seemingly forgotten that it was storytelling – not low-budget gimmickry – that propelled successes like “The Blair Witch Project.” This trend has led to movies like “Into the Storm,” a project that blends high-end special effects with annoying found-footage trappings like shaky camera work and weaker-than-average framing.

Presumably, all the footage in “Into the Storm” was gathered either by on-screen characters or surveillance cameras. This allows a certain intimacy with the characters, who occasionally speak to the camera about personal matters. It also opens the door for mistakes, and the film boasts a number of unexplained shots, taken from angles where no camera should have been present.

“Into the Storm” focuses on two sets of characters brought together by the emergence of massive storm system in the small town of Silverton, Oklahoma. First viewers are introduced to the Fuller family. Donnie (Max Deacon), the primary protagonist, runs the video club at the local high school where his father, Gary (Richard Armitage), is the principal. Donnie’s younger brother, Trey (Nathan Kress), often helps his brother shoot video, and the two siblings are supposedly responsible for much of the movie’s footage.

The Fullers are contrasted by a crew of professional storm chasers led by a gruff journalist named Pete (Matt Walsh). This group uses sophisticated equipment and a high-tech, tank-like vehicle to gather close-up footage of tornadoes and other natural disasters.

As the movie progresses, director Steven Quale drives both sets of characters together, and they meet just as a startlingly powerful storm system threatens to level Silverton.

The special effects are impressive, and the movie has exciting moments, but the plotting is simplistic and predictable. In fact, once the storm begins, the characters do little more than run from the destruction.

One gets the feeling Quale wants to make a statement about the importance of family and the way disasters bring a community together, but these themes are buried beneath the effects-fueled devastation.

Blu-ray and DVD extras include a behind-the-scenes feature.

 

And So It Goes

1½ stars
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
20th Century Fox
Available on: Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and on demand

Although a talented cast benefits a movie, it’s only one part of a complex formula that leads to cinematic success. Director Rob Reiner’s “And So It Goes” reminds of us this at every turn.

The movie features Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton as senior citizens marching into their golden years alone. Douglas, as a curmudgeon named Oren, is still scarred by the drawn-out death of his beloved wife; Keaton, as a sweet woman named Leah, breaks down in tears whenever reminded of her dead spouse. It’s no revelation to note that Douglas and Keaton are fantastic, and each does solid work here. The trouble is that Reiner’s project goes nowhere.

The driving force behind the minimal plot involves Oren being forced to care for his granddaughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins), when his son, Luke (Scott Shepherd), announces that he’s going to prison. Because Oren has no idea how to parent, Leah – who lives next door – steps in.

Presumably, “And So It Goes” is about the necessity of putting past tragedies behind in order to appreciate the good that remains in life. Unfortunately, this thought is buried beneath 94 minutes of predictable schmaltz.

Blu-ray and DVD extras are limited to the theatrical trailer.

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Frank Miller’s Sin City – A Dame to Kill For”: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez again team to direct a follow-up to their 2005 noir “Sin City.” The movie brings some of Miller’s comic book stories to life, pitting rough characters against the temptations and dangers of the city. Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis and Eva Green star. Despite the big names and an estimated budget of $65 million, the movie earned less than $15 million in U.S. theaters.

“The Wind Rises”: Animated feature about Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese fighter plane designer. The movie, helmed by much-heralded Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, was a nominee for best animated film at the most recent Academy Awards.

“It Happened One Night”: Criterion Collection restoration of director Frank Capra’s 1934 romantic comedy starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The plot centers on an ambitious reporter (Gable) hoping to get the scoop about a runaway socialite (Colbert). The film was an Oscar darling, winning best picture, best actor, best actress, best director and best screenplay.

“Alive Inside – A Story of Music and Memory”: Documentary film focused on the efforts of Dan Cohen, a social worker who uses music to help Alzheimer’s patients combat their disease. Directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett.

“Brazilian Western”: Foreign crime drama about a young man who falls into the dangerous world of drug trafficking while trying to build a better life for himself. Directed by René Sampaio. Presented in Portuguese with English subtitles.

 

– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at forrest@forresthartman.com.

NOTE: Blu-rays, DVDs and screening links are provided to the reviewer at no charge. This enables us to run reviews the day titles become public, but it does not influence the opinions expressed.
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One response to “Video Verdict: Reviews of ’22 Jump Street,’ ‘If I Stay,’ ‘And So It Goes’ and ‘Into the Storm’

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