To those who leave the cinema after watching 21 Jump Street feeling rightfully queasy, here's the bad news: Sony Pictures was happy enough with the movie's box-office performance to greenlight a sequel. It might not be the end of the world (yet), but the film's success might be a good oportunity to ponder the state of intellectual decadence that makes our world so … wonderful and diverse.
For those who don't want to think much about that, a better option might be the Brazilian film Paraísos Artificiais ('Artificial Paradises') in which director Marcos Prado explores the abuse of synthetic drugs by young people. The title is from Charles Baudelaire's eponymous book, in which he meditates on the 'altered states' different drugs produce.
The TV series 21 Jump Street (1987-1991), from Fox, was the first cable TV network production to get higher ratings than a broadcast show. It was about a group of young police agents who, working for a special unit, would infiltrate high schools and other teenage hangouts. In a way, given the show's relatively bleak approach to some issues (I can recall a particularly shocking episode set in a juvenile correction facility), the show was able to clear the path for great shows like Homicide and The Wire. Sadly, we can't say the same about this film remake, which mantains exactly none of the original's spirit and intents.
21 Jump Street, the movie, is a crass juvenile comedy (think American Pie with guns and car chases); with a single redeeming quality – its self-awareness, as evidenced by one character's line: a police chief, referring to the undercover unit, says it's nothing more than a recycled '80s idea, created to please suckers. That one-liner aptly describes the film while getting some sincere laughs from the crowd, and making what comes a little more bearable: namely, sitting through an exploding chicken truck, not-so-special appearances by Johnny Depp and Peter Deluise (the original show's stars) and a villain who gets his penis blown away by a gunshot. Good luck with that.
Dir. Phil Lord e Chris Miller, USA, 2012. Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, DeRay Davis, Ice Cube. 109 mins.
'This film is all about perverts and junkies', a moviegoer alegedly complained, right before walking out a screening of Paraísos Artificiais at Cine PE, in the end of April. To the film's credit, it doesn't endorse substance abuse, but it doesn't preach against it either. This kind of amoral stand is probably what bothered our anonymous moviegoer. Which is a merit for the film; there's nothing worse than going to the movies and being treated like an idiot by morality-filled cautionary tales.
The movie's narrative goes back, forth and spins around the problematic relationship between Erika (Nathalia Dill), a professional DJ, and cartoonist Nando (Luca Bianchi), who gets mixed up with the traffic of ecstasy and LSD. In Portuguese.
Dir. Marcos Prado, Brasil, 2012. Nathalia Dill, Luca Bianchi, Lívia de Bueno, Bernardo Melo Barreto, César Cardadeiro, Divana Brandão, Emilio Orciollo Neto. 96 min.
Hua (Corinne Yam), a Chinese student living in Paris, meets Matthieu (Tahar Rahim), a French construction worker. Their relationship soon goes south, thanks to his increasingly more frequent bouts of rage and jealousy towards her. Director Lou Ye brings the camera uncomfortably close to the characters, to the point that at times, it's hard to distinguish sex from violence. The film, as a whole, could be seen as a game of approximation and distance – a dance of sorts, in which someone often gets hurt.
Dir. Ye Lou, França, China, 2011.Corinne Yam, Tahar Rahim, Jalil Lespert, Vincent Rottiers, Sifan Shao, Patrick Mille. 105 mins.
As a director, Robert Redford has had an uneven trajectory since his 1980 – and Oscar-winning – debut with Ordinary People. He's responsible for silly dramas like A River Runs Through it and Bagger Vance, but also well-thought-out commentary on aspects of the American way of life, as with Quiz Show and Lions and Lambs. In The Conspirator, he goes for the bigger picture by portraying the dramatic life of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), accused of being part of the conspiracy that resulted in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It is, essentialy, a courtroom drama filled up with grandiloquent speeches, which is fitting for a country looking to redefine its identity and place in the world. The post-Civil War America might have a lot to say to post-Iraq-War America.
Dir. Robert Redford, USA, 2010. James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood, Tom Wilkinson, Justin Long, James Badge Dale, Johnny Simmons, Toby Kebbell. 122 mins.
Scott Hicks (Shine) is helming this adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, the author responsible for Dear John, The Notebook and other books not recommended for people who aren't into sappy literature. In this one, a marine serving in Iraq finds the photo of a woman among debris and narrowly escapes dying in an explosion. Believing this woman to be a sort of life-saving lucking charm, he tracks her down as soon as he gets back to American soil and the rest of the plot is not hard to figure out.
Dir. Scott Hicks, USA, 2012. Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner. 101 mins.
This documentary is about the works of sertanista José Carlos Meirelles and anthropologist Terri Aquino in their mission to protect the indigenous population, isolated on the 10º South parallel, in the West part of the state of Acre, near Peru. Aside from their strained relationships with some of the Indians, they also have to deal with drug dealers and other people who try to take control of the area.
Dir. Silvio Da-Rin, Brazil, 2012. 87 mins.