I was surprised, much like a few of my friends, when I found the new 21 Jump Street movie to be way better than expected. Seriously, the film was too damn entertaining. The kind of entertaining that when I talk about it to a friend, I get tempted to go see it again.
Basically, the film is a reboot of the popular television show by the same name….obviously. You know, the Stephen J Cannell show that made Johnny Depp a teen heart throb? The one about young looking cops going undercover at different high schools? The one that, if memory serves me, I watched religiously every week, every Season….well until the Richard Greico years. Yeah, that one.
Well after seeing the film (which you should really go see if you haven’t yet), I decided to revisit the original 21 Jump Street television show. And thankfully, all episodes are available on Hulu so I didn’t have to do much digging. Upon revisiting the first episode, the theme song immediately rushed back with a flood of memories of my childhood love of this show. Not to mention, the damn song (which is sung by Holly Robinson) has been stuck in my head now for days.
So since I am now making it a mission to re-watch every episode (yes even the Richard Greico ones), I found it only fair to share my thoughts in an episode by episode recap on here. How exciting for you!
Let’s begin, shall we….
It’s April 12th, 1987 and the two part pilot episode of 21 Jump Street directed by Kim Manners (X Files, The Shield, Supernatural) premiered on broadcast television. Part 1 opens on a typical suburban family arguing about something stupid. Almost immediately, I’m reminded how goofy television programming used to be. Compared to what we have to choose from nowadays, it’s as if this gem was found locked up in a time capsule of sorts. Then again, it WAS the 80’s!
So yeah, here we have slutty sister arguing with mom about something completely unimportant. What is amusing is the mother interrupts telling her to eat real food by calling her “Anorexia”. See? The 80s were amazing!
Soon we’re at the dinner table and this family is talking about nothing important what-so-ever. Soon the younger of the siblings Kenny joins the table. He’s taking clarinet lessons. It’s the same clarinet his father used to play when he was Kenny’s age! And he seems to give a shit as much about this detail as I do.
Just when things couldn’t get more boring, Michael Jackson and Dr Dre bust in right through the sliding glass doors. They just walk right through it like the fucking Kool Aid Man because glass is a pussy when you got shot guns and are wearing a Thriller jacket!
Suddenly, things get interesting. Apparently, little clarinet nerd Kenny owes the scary black men money. This kid’s acting is a bit too over the top and honestly, I wanted 80s Eddie Murphy to clock him one. Instead, he shoots the microwave. Or maybe it was the TV? They both looked similar back then. But whatever, you get the gist. Drug money, Kenny owes them a bunch. For collateral, they take the father’s brand new Jaguar instead. And here my friends, is the high school story setup for the episode!
Cut to, some diner. A fat old cop and young rookie are talking rather loudly while leaving the bathroom. Lo and behold, it’s fucking Marty Seinfeld and Captain Jack Sparrow!
But seriously, that’s Officer Tom Hanson and his training officer Charlie. Charlie is basically running him through the motions of what seasoned cops do since Hanson is an eager straight out of the Academy type. After a few minutes of banter back and forth, they receive a call and head over to Kenny’s family’s house.
While they talk with the family about the stolen car (because that’s all they reported), Kenny is nowhere to be found. Oh, wait, no…he’s just kicking it on the stairs. All reclining n shit.
And here comes Officer Hanson to charm him with his good looks and boyish charm?
Sadly, Officer Hanson’s charm doesn’t work on little Kenny. All leaned back like a boss, he replies to him defiantly by saying, “I won’t tell you spit!” Spit? Really? Ok, dude. Whatever.
And here we are, at the 10 minute mark of the episode. From here, Hanson and Charlie drive around a bit. A robbery happens at a local liquor store and they drive by the car full of criminals. Charlie instinctively stops and asks them how they’re doing and then points out they are stopped at a green light. This turns into a car chase with Hanson behind the wheel which damn near causes the old man to die of a heart attack. Once they finally have the culprits handcuffed on the side of the road Charlie leaves young Hanson (who seems like he’s never held a gun before) to guard the group alone while he goes to call for backup. Yeah…
From this incident, the Captain decides it’d be best to move Hanson to a new program that he’d be perfect for. The kind of assignment he’d be too old for in ten years time. See, there’s an undercover unit that works out of an old abandoned chapel on Jump Street and 6th. They take the young officers and train them to be high school students. Undercover work. In high schools. (You all knew this when you started reading so don’t look at me like that!)
Well Officer Hanson isn’t having it. He walks out as the Captain recalls what a great offer young Hanson’s dad was. This leads us to a nice little pensive interlude with Officer Tom Hanson and his precious saxophone.
This is followed by a voice over memory of a conversation between Hanson and his father. And bing bang boom, he’s soon driving up to the church on Jump Street. Seriously, we’re almost halfway through this episode. When do we get more scary black thugs!? Yes, this is the point of the episode where Aaron starts getting impatient.
But that’s okay, because we are finally introduced to the Jump Street gang!
The first we see is Doug Penhall. He’s kind of the loud mouth meat head of the group. I guess it’s only fitting since Peter DeLuise is the son of the late Dom Deluise. Am I right or am I right? Well I kind of AM right because it’s true.
Here, Penhall is discussing with Hanson whether or not this abandoned chapel they are in is truly a church as he thinks it may be a synagogue. His mom is Jewish which means, in his words, “I get to celebrate both guilt and Hell.” I like this guy.
And he is hanging with Officer Harry Truman Ioki so that’s the next person we meet. So there he is. All suave. Just leaning back in his chair like a boss n shit.
Hanson explains he’s there to report to Captain Richard Jenko. Here’s a fun little piece of trivia: Jenko is the name of Channing Tatum’s character in the 21 Jump Street movie. How exciting to know and then share this fun fact with you. Because it’s a fact, and fun!
Soon enters Captain Richard Jenko, who’s been a Deadhead since Woodstock. How peachy.
Whatever….anyway….Jenko walks Hanson through the place and runs him through his new assignment. Basically, he is to be trained to be a high school student again. Multiple comments about Hanson’s “Richie Cunningham” hairdo and style later, Jenko calls in Judy Hoffs to help transform the young officer.
Woohoo! Hot chick!
After what seems like a very long time waiting, Hanson exits looking like they just wet his hair and sprayed it with Aqua Net or something.
Soon, Hoffs and Hanson are out at the arcade playing video games while Hoffs suggestively eats a hot dog. Or maybe not suggestively. But I’m a guy. So that’s how we see things.
Oh and now they’re record shopping!? Come on! There’s bad black men with shotguns and sunglasses out there that need to be captured!
Finally, we get to some action. And I guess the action is taking place outside of some New Wave Goth Club or something. Yeah, I know from experience but those places look way scarier than they are. But still, remember when studded leather jackets made you seem hard?
Don’t look now, but here comes the creepy neighborhood sex offender in his rapist van!
Penhall knows what’s up! He angrily throws his beer right at the creepy pedophile.
Oh but nevermind, it’s angry hippy Jenko behind the wheel! Hoffs, Hanson and Ioki are stone cold kicking it in the back of the van too. What really just went down was Penhall exposing the “mark” for Hanson to bust. Some other dude with an annoying haircut who is apparently a drug dealer. Psssh….white people.
Anyway, as I said, this altercation is basically to show Hanson who to take down. This is his first test to make sure he can blend in. And yep, he fails. Goes to arrest the guy after he sells him the weed. He even insists on smelling it before buying and after he cuffs the guy, it turns out to be a pair of socks in the baggie. A pair of socks!? Jenko ain’t pleased.
Oh hey! Remember young Kenny? Yeah me neither, it’s been so long. You know, the kid that ain’t gonna tell us piss? The clarinet nerd? The whiny kid that owes those scary black boys a bunch of drug money? Yeah, now I remember too! Well look at that, with 10 minutes left in the episode, we find him driving through a residential neighborhood very early in the morning on his moped delivering newspapers. What an upstanding young man!
Oh wait, nevermind. He’s robbing a jewelry store. My bad.
Next thing we know, the Jump Street cops are catching up with Jenko about their recent assignments and Hanson gets his first real one. He is to enter Amherst High School as a disciplinary transfer. And as soon as he arrives on campus, he finds himself parking in the wrong parking spot. Who’s parking spot is he in? Waxer! Who’s Waxer? My favorite shotgun wielding, Thriller jacket having, stunner shade wearing black guy!
Him and his cohort end up having a stand off with Hanson who refuses to move his car and this turns into a scuffle pretty fast. A crowd of kids form to watch the new guy fight the only two black kids in school. At least it seems like they’re the only two black kids. And they look like they’re 25. But whatever.
So the fight gets broken up, they end up in the principal’s office. Yadda yadda. And then, just as the episode is about to end, guess who decides to join the party? That’s right. Kenny. Cuz he goes to Amherst High School too!
And on a threat from Waxer to Hanson, Part 1 of The Pilot Episode Ends.
To Be Continued…
A few years back, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Mind you, it’s not a debilitating issue for me. Everything has it’s right place and when not in the right place, things can get a bit…distracting. This seems absolutely normal to me. If there are two dirty dishes in the sink, wash them! If the sheets aren’t even, straighten them out! If the DVD collection isn’t alphabetized by genre, then by title, then by leading actor…well I just don’t know what to say to you. Actually, this seems perfectly logical, so what do they know with their diagnoses? When I say “they”, of course I mean the royal they.
It was roughly around this same time I was introduced to the television program Monk. My ex girlfriend owned the whole series on DVD and would watch multitudes upon multitudes of episodes in one sitting (obsessed much?). I had only gotten a small taste of the show as I had soon realized how much of a sarlacc pit (there’s a vagina joke waiting to happen) of dysfunction this “relationship” had come and I clamored out with barely my balls in tact.
Not much thought was really put into the show from that point on until roughly three weeks ago when I found the entire series of Monk now available for viewing on Netflix Instant. Since I had watched a handful of episodes back in 2006, I figured I’d just go from Season 7 on. And in my own obsessive manner, I completed the last two Seasons of the show within the span of a week. So I decided it’s only right to start the show back at Season 1.
What the Hell!? It’s a completely different show! Adrian Monk in Season 1 is a sad sad man. There’s a quieter darkness about him in these first few episodes. Lt. Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) and Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) seem to exude a palatable disdain for him. And then there’s Sharona. Adrian Monk’s first assistant on the show was Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram). I’m assuming I wasn’t the only one who found her completely annoying because roughly a few episodes into Season 3, Sharona decides to move back to New Jersey and was quickly replaced by Natalie Teeger (Taylor Howard) who is way better. She just is. She’s better.
And while we’re talking about Season 1, I have to bring up the theme song for the show. I suppose since I really started watching the show in Season 7, I quickly grew quite fond of the intro featuring the Randy Newman song “It’s A Jungle Out There”. Seriously, that song is so damn catchy I’d find myself singing it when I’d wake up in the morning. I’m sure my girlfriend doesn’t need to ever hear me sing in my best Randy Newman voice ever again!
But suddenly, and without warning, after the two part pilot episode, I’m now subjected to a lilting jazz number by Jeff Beal. Don’t get me wrong here, I dig Jeff Beal’s work. His work on HBO’s Carnivale is fantastic. But I had somehow become reliant on the Randy Newman song and I just don’t feel this theme music and intro work for the show. Then again, I had read recently that back when the show was new, people were up in arms about the change from the Jeff Beal theme to the Randy Newman theme. So what the hell do I know anyway?
My good friend likes to tell me how his mother is quite fond of the show implying that somehow I have the taste of a woman in her 60s. Surrounded by fluffy cats that smell like buttholes and flowery embroidered pillows that….smell like bulltholes. Yep, that’s me. (As an old woman, I refuse to bathe my cats!)
But in all seriousness, there was something that immediately grabbed my attention when first watching the show. Before watching Monk, I only knew Tony Shalhoub from Men In Black. He’s a very talented actor but I don’t think a role has really showcased this before he landed this job as Adrian Monk. He brings a very layered performance in every episode which can at times be hysterical and at others heartbreaking. This truth keeps his character quite engaging to watch on screen (for me anyway). And while we’re on the topic here, before watching Monk I only knew Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill from Silence Of The Lambs. So there’s that.
I’ve noticed I tend to be drawn to stories where the main character is some sort of genius but somehow lacks people skills and ultimately marks that character as brilliant but flawed. Gregory House, Adrian Monk, Columbo and Cal Lightman (seriously Fox, bring Lie To Me back. No one likes this Terra Nova shit!) come to mind. They seem ultimately cut from the Sherlock Holmes cloth. (Do we have Edgar Allen Poe to thank?)
The phobias and genius of the constantly conflicted Adrian Monk make for a fine combination that seems to work, even in the less than inspired episodes of the show. I suppose this would explain how Monk was at once referred to as “the highest rated series in cable history” by USA Network.
Well as I write this, I have four episodes left in Season 1. I feel like I’m watching a prequel with every episode. I’ve yet to be disappointed with an episode (“Mr Monk And The Actor” is is my favorite). And it’s kind of a thing with me, I just love seeing Mr. Monk make that face and speak the words “Here’s what happened”.
“It’s a helluva thing killing a man. You take away all he’s got… all he’s ever gonna have.”
Out of the thousands of films I’ve watched over time, this western tale of revenge, redemption and rampage ranks among the greatest stories ever filmed. I know I’m not making some avant-garde claim that this mainstream film is a masterpiece. The film won almost every best picture award of the season from academies, film critic circles, guilds and magazine polls. Clint Eastwood cleaned up in the director accolades. David Webb Peoples was singled out multiple times for his brilliant screenplay. Gene Hackman won every supporting actor award, but in my view he was simply the spokesman for accepting the awards for his supporting acting team of Richard Harris, Morgan Freeman and himself. Clint’s longtime Cinematographer, Jack N. Green photographed the most beautiful of America’s big sky west. (Personally the fact that Jack Green also D.P’d Serenity melts my heart.) Editor Joel Cox has been with Eastwood every step of the way also and the mood he and his sound designers create is un-paralleled. Eastwood even wrote the theme for the score of the film and it’s quite haunting when set against this backdrop – and haunting doesn’t not always mean scary. I highlight these people because they are the ones that got it right, along with the rest of the cast & crew.
With all that Hollywood offers us today, this film from twenty years ago should be the benchmark in film story telling. Does the film break new ground? No. It is the last benchmark. The Grand Finale of the first century of filmmaking. From Charlie Chaplin to John Ford, Hitchcock to Speilberg, Howard Hawkes to John Hughes. Film of the twentieth century was an age of discovery in the art of storytelling with moving pictures. Think of all the things that had to occur in film history before Unforgiven started filming for this movie to have had such as large an impact on audiences as it did and continues to do so:
These are just a few of the contextual factors you must take into account when watching the story of the “killer of women and children”, a “rootin’, tootin’, son-of-a-bitchin’, cold-blooded assassin” named William Munny. The unlikely hero of the picture.
The film gives us the story of three assassins on their way to collect a bounty after they first kill two hot-headed cowboys who cut up the face of a whore after she giggled at the size of one of their, ahem… pistols. Eastwood makes us privy to two stories that are only mentioned in other westerns, the before-life and after-life of the ruthless gunfighter. One at the very beginning of the long dark road and two who have escaped the darkness. The consequences are all different, yet the outcome all the same once the story concludes. I apologize for being a bit ambiguous, I just want you to experience it for yourself.
I am also aware that I am not just enjoying this film in it’s own bubble. I am clearly taking into account the cinematic historical significance that I outlined above. I think that makes the film much more of a rich experience. It’s similar to when Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino make their first on-screen appearance together in Heat. It’s a good moment in the story but it’s an ear-to-ear thrill for movie history. That thrill is even greater here. When you watch Clint Eastwood as William Munny deal with the demons that all could have been the demons of Josey Wales; Harry Callahan and The Man With No Name, there is a greater impact made then if say Robert Duvall played the part. A great actor, but no where near the same character history as Clint.
I want to single out the editing and sound design for a moment. Two things that rarely get mentioned in film reviews. The reason being that when they are done right, you don’t notice it one bit. It’s not until repeated viewings that you start to look around. The use of the thunder storm can, has been and will always be overused in movies. However if you ever want to know how to use it correctly, I can’t stress enough how perfect it fits this film. It’s a theme that makes absolute sense. The thunder storm is the greek chorus of the story.
Unforgiven is 20 years old this year. It may as well be 120 years old. The film is timeless and as relevant as ever. It’s also a testament to the history of the American Western, storytelling in general and great film teamwork. There is nothing more disturbingly gratifying than William Munny’s final hunt through the town of Big Whiskey, Wyoming.
“We all have it coming.” ~ William Munny
Full disclosure: I am not, nor have I ever been, a thirteen year old girl.
At this point in time most people, at least those I know, have written off Titanic as an in-the-moment phenomenon filled with cheesy dialogue and one dimensional characters. When you step back and take a look at what this film and mostly James Cameron accomplished, it is quite remarkable- and I’m not talking about box office receipts.
Cameron took an event that the entire civilized world has known of for 85 years and made audiences care about it once again. While the fictional love story and the romanticized & corny dialogue may have cost the film some of it’s shimmer as the years go by, I argue that those so-called, shallow one-note characters were merely backdrop for the larger story. The movie wasn’t specifically about Jack & Rose, it was about all of those who were witness and victims to the tragedy. To focus intricately on complicated character arcs and motivation would have caused the true narrative to suffer. James Cameron elected to give us clear cookie-cutter characters: The independent forward thinking woman ahead of her time (a Cameron specialty), the poor scrappy artist boy with nothing to lose, the deliciously handsome but evil rich bastard that audiences hate immediately and so on.
These are the general characters that writers so often begin with and then layer upon layer more intricacies so that audiences are conflicted on whether or not to feel certain empathy for. That kind of process and those kind of characters are necessary for character driven films. Having that kind of development in Titanic would have been disastrous. The film works so much better and crosses over to so many demographics and cultures because of the generic construct of the characters. The forbidden love story is timeless and all the action and reaction that come with it are universal. If I am wrong, then why is one of the most memorable and tear inducing moments, the moment when we see an elderly couple (Isidor and Ida Straus), who have had little screen time prior, lie spooning together on a small bed as the sea comes rushing in drowning them together? That image was universal and conjures up in us the same feelings as when we see the ancient unearthed graves of two skeletons huddled together, unsuccessfully shielding themselves from the blast of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii.
While I could go into lengths, on the achievements at the time in CGI, the score, the attention to detail in production and art design, I still must go back to the screenplay and something I read in an article at the time by screenwriter WIlliam Goldman. In the piece, Goldman pointed out how confident and ultimately brilliant James Cameron was in how he crafted the early portion of the script.
Goldman writes… And then about eighteen minutes in comes this sequence that I will never forget. One of [Bill] Paxton’s underwater nerds shows [Gloria] Stuart, on a monitor, a digital recreation of the ship sinking. It’s all very cold and accurate and unemotional. And when it’s over, Stuart looks at him and says, “Of course, the experience of it was somewhat different” And Paxton says, “Will you share it with us?”
James Cameron gave away the ending of his film in such a rude and generic fashion because we already knew what happened in history. Yet, we still had no idea what was really in store for us. His job was to bring us there and he did so using the timeless, predictable and yet reliable, love triangle vehicle. And when that finale begins, it’s relentless, it’s unforgiving and it’s phenomenal. You marvel at the mechanics of the effects, you find yourself gasping for air as the water rises, and you listen intently as the band plays on. You knew this was going to happen, but those on that ship did not. For the first two hours you are forced to hang out with characters we all have encountered in our lives or have seen brought to life countless times in books, tv and film – and then James Cameron does a sneak attack and rips from you empathy for ALL those on that ship. A cross section of human life as we know it all succumbing to the same fate.
It might take another 85 years but Titanic is a film that will find itself where it rightly belongs. Spoken in the same breath as Gone With The Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, and The Wizard of Oz. There, I said it.