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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of 22 Jump Street & The Purge: Anarchy + Bonus Afterthoughts on How to Train Your Dragon 2

Dearest Blog, it's Jamboree in the Hills weekend here in the upper Ohio Valley, and you know what that means: I spent BOTH days hiding out at the cinema. On tap: a second screening of How to Train Your Dragon 2, a first (very late) screening of 22 Jump Street, and the new release The Purge: Anarchy.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.

First up was a second go at How to Train Your Dragon 2. Regular reader(s) will know I was gravely disappointed in this the first time I saw it, as the original ranks among my favorite movies of all time, and this one...well...this one doesn't. While I still don't agree the sequel is better than (or even as good as) the first, I will say I definitely warmed to it upon a second viewing. I found much more to laugh about, much less to be annoyed about, and remained in awe of its visual magnificence. If you don't bother for any other reason, do see it on the biggest screen you can find just for the privilege of seeing the best-looking movie ever.

After revisiting the film, I would probably upgrade it from my original seven and a half to eight of a possible nine Weasleys. Still not as good as the first, but it probably wasn't reasonable to expect that anyway, no matter who said it nor how often.

Next up was another sequel, 22 Jump Street. I'm well aware this has already left many theatres and if you were gonna see it you probably would have done by now. I'm still reviewing it for two reasons: first, because it's worth a good word if that good word convinces anybody buy the DVD or see it in a second-run cinema, but also so I don't forget it when it comes time for my year-end top ten, which at this writing would include it.

Having succeeded in their high school undercover mission, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) move on to college.

22 Jump Street is that rare sequel that is equal to its predecessor, hilarious from beginning to end, with a couple twists that rival most mysteries and thrillers. Hill and Tatum have a genuine chemistry that sells their relationship, and a comedic fearlessness that translates to great entertainment. The supporting cast is a riot, and laugh-out-loud physical humor combines with self-aware sequel jokes to make this the summer's funniest movie thus far.

22 Jump Street runs 112 minutes and is rated R for "language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity, and some violence."

If you're in the mood for a good laugh, this is your movie. Of a possible nine Weasleys, 22 Jump Street gets seven.

Finally, today it was The Purge: Anarchy.

A small group caught out during the annual Purge teams up to try to survive the night.

Two notes: I have seen only minutes of the first Purge, in passing. It is by all accounts terrible. The sequel was only on my radar--and barely, at that--because I've had a bit of a thing for Frank Grillo since The Grey. Yeah, I know I'm late to that party, so sue me. Earlier this weekend, I saw a review comparing this new Purge to Walter Hill's The Warriors, one of my top ten movies of all time, and it became a must see.

I didn't expect much, but I'm pleased to report I was very pleasantly surprised.
Let this be the first and probably only review to note that the annual Purge takes place on Gary Oldman's birthday, March 21. How's a transplanted Brit to celebrate his special day in a country that's doing THAT with it? I strenuously object, and respectfully petition for a change of Purge date.

Okay, back to business. As mentioned, The Purge: Anarchy is much better than I expected. I figured I'd indulge my crush in a so-so movie and be done with it, but I was actually engaged from start to finish. The concept is scary as hell, but provides some interesting food for thought. There's some wonky dialogue, but the movie is smart enough not to try getting too talkey. Tension holds steady throughout, no chance to feel certain of anyone's safety. The Halloween-masked antagonists are particularly effective, and their scenes especially well staged. There's plenty of violence, but nothing overly graphic or gory. Grillo is well suited to his role. I expect I'd feel pretty safe in his charge were my life threatened...or, hell, even if it weren't. The rest of the main cast does a decent job of: a.) appearing terrified, and b.) running for their lives. So. Much. Running. It's like a World Cup game, but without the diving. Finally, the movie gets full marks for not wearing out its welcome.
The Purge: Anarchy clocks in at 103 minutes and is rated R for "strong disturbing violence and language."

It may not be what you'd call a "summer fun" movie, but it's engaging, entertaining, and worth the price of admission. Of a possible nine Weasleys, I'm happy to give The Purge: Anarchy seven.
Until next time..

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