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21 Jump Street, In the Land of Blood and Honey, Jeff, Who Lives at Home: reviews

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Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill (who also co-wrote) star as inept cops relegated to go back to their old high school posing as students to search out a drug dealer and his supplier. The resolution is purely adolescent stuff and much of the humor is of the old fish-out-of-water type. They don’t fit the courses they get or modern teenage life. The one bit of insight I detected came from Hill who says nerds like he was in high school are cool those days. It’s only a mention though. There’s no digging below the surface. There is a lot of winking self-mockery though,  some of it from their extremely foul-mouthed supervisor (Ice Cube) who mentions a brains trust out of new ideas and just recycling old ones. Johnny Depp has a cameo but don’t distract yourself waiting for it. He shows up very late. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres)  2 ½  out of 5

UNDEFEATED: Here’s a crowd-pleaser of a documentary that won an Academy Award this year. I’m not quite sure why. It’s involving, emotional and slick but both in structure and content there’s little new here. (Pina would have been a better choice and Senna wasn’t even nominated). Maybe it was the politically correct element. You can’t go against a film that shows young black men being pressed to better themselves and succeed. In this case it’s on a high school football team in North Memphis, where a tire plant closed down, many blacks grow up with no father around and most know somebody in prison. A local hardwood seller named Bill Courtney (he’s white) volunteers to coach the team and turns it around from a perpetual loser to a first-time playoff contender. We see him talk straight and often tough to his charges, principally a huge offensive tackle with academic problems, a smaller player with college dreams but money problems and a volatile lineman prone to fighting his own teammates. It’s an inspirational joy to watch Courtney motivate them. As his wife says, “He’s a great salesman. He could talk anybody into anything.” (International Village)  3 ½  out of 5    

INTO THE ABYSS: It’s Werner Herzog again with another of his explorations of people under extreme pressure. Most recently he took us to Antarctica, to the Russian Arctic and deep into a cave in France. This time he’s in a trailer trash Texas town asking questions about a 2001 triple murder. Two teenagers stole a car and in the process killed three people. Then they told their friends about it and were captured in a shootout with police after a night of drinking. Nine years later, Herzog interviews police, prison chaplains, family of both the victims and the killers and the two young men themselves, one displaying an unnerving cheery tone just days before he was executed. The other one only got a life sentence partly because his dad, who spent more time in prison than raising him, pleaded in court “Don’t kill my son.” He recalls a time he and his son were handcuffed together. The film is chock full of telling, often chilling, details like that, sometimes apparent digressions but gradually filling in an almost gothic portrait of a society and several wasted lives. The sister of one of the victims is particularly damaged. A compelling documentary more about life than capital punishment. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5

 

 Playing in tandem with …

DOPPELGÄNGER PAUL bears the subtitle A FILM ABOUT HOW MUCH I HATE MYSELF which suggests a woe-is-me, possibly dreary item. Not so. This is a bright and funny effort with lots of imagination, a generous dollop of quirkiness and not much sign of its low budget. It was made here in Vancouver with a brief trip to Portland and a glimpse of Thompson Rivers University, which is in Kamloops.

 

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