Neighbors (2014)

NeighborsReleased: May 4, 2014. Directed by: Nicholas Stoller. Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron. Runtime: 96 min. 

Nicholas Stoller, a graduate of the so-called Apatow school of comedy, directs Neighbors, a film that is uncharacteristically short for Apatow’s brand of filmmaking. In this way, Stoller makes this film his own. The film follows a couple, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), who are severely bored, and are experiencing arrested development because of their extremely amusing new-born baby Stella. Soon enough, some spice in their life moves in next door, but it’s keeping them up at night. It’s a frat house, led by a charismatic Zac Efron. When Mac “violates the circle of trust” (as Dave Franco puts it at an inconsistent Robert De Niro party – which is the joke) by calling the cops to file a noise complaint, the war is on – which consists of the family trying to get the frat to get enough strikes to get them out of the neighborhood, among other things.

The film has a quick pace and the falling-out is mildly realistic. Rogen and Efron bond initially – sharing joints (a Seth Rogen comedy essential), impressions of Batman, and even talk about getting walkie talkies – but Efron’s Teddy doesn’t like it when people break promises. He takes it as a form of extreme disrespect and an act of war. It could be perceived as a bit of a childish reason, but the war of comedy that ensues is insanely entertaining. And not to mention very funny. While some of the humour misses, like the frat repeatedly saying a line of dialogue (“Standing around with our dicks in our hands”) seems a bit nonsensical at the time and not that funny, but the accuracy rate of humour hitting is a good 90 per cent. 

For the comedy genre, that’s great – because there are so many comedies that are just not that funny these days. This is memorable and hilarious, and its raunchiness potent. So avoid seeing this one with your parents, boys and girls. Because, like Apatow, this director doesn’t fear to show the penis. The film’s raunchiness is apparent with a running joke that Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s character’s penis is very large. McLovin is surprisingly under-utilized otherwise, and he’s literally just there for that running joke – which does get some big laughs. Though, that joke might come to you as a selling point to get you to see this film, or as an aspect to make you avoid this. A few comments on the visuals: The cinematography looks pure, which is nice for a comedy – and some of the visuals are interesting. The party scenes might be hard on the eyes because of all of the lights, but they’re still very fun. I was a fan of the set design and I was a personal fan of a “Carpe that f**king diem” pillow.

This is a funny movie to watch with a few friends. If you’re Under 25, you’ll really enjoy this – but anyone older, it all depends on your sense of humour. The film is evident that the older crowd still knows how to have fun with the younger crowd, shown through Rogen and Bryne. Rogen didn’t have to prove that with this film though, because we’ve already known it for awhile. Byrne holds her own incredibly well, and even though her character is awkward at times, it’s the point. With this and Get Him to the Greek (and Bridesmaids), she has proved again and again that she could find a lot of success as a comedic actress. She uses improvisation with everyone else well, and so does Zac Efron – whose funny performance is as much of a discovery role as Channing Tatum’s was in 21 Jump Street. Dave Franco is funny in his role. A newcomer named Jerrod Carmichael is funny in his role as Garf, a primary frat member. The only person who feels like a stranger to the chemistry of everyone else is Ike Barinholtz. It’s nice to see the MadTV alum (who does do a fun Mark Wahlberg impression), but it was hard for me to buy into the fact that he’s supposed to be best friends with Rogen’s character. He gets a laugh or two, but his role is only sporadically useful.

Some good characterization is found in the film. Some themes of the fear of the future and trying to make your mark in history is nice. It’s nice to see that this situation is actually mildly beneficial to both parties. When the film threatens to all gooey, it jumps back with raunchiness. It might annoy some, but it helps the film stay true to its conflict-filled plot and raunchy tone. 

Score88/100

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The Watch (2012)

WatchThe Watch

Release Date: July 27, 2012

Director: Akiva Schaffer

Stars: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill

Runtime: 102 min

Tagline: Got protection?

In the town of Glenview, Ohio, Evan is the store manager of the local Costco. He is guilt-stricken after his night watchman, Antonio Guzman, gets mysteriously murdered in his store. Because of this, he constructs a neighbourhood watch with middle-aged Bob (Vince Vaughn); the guy with all the mental problems, Franklin (Jonah Hill); and the British dude whose parents couldn’t give him a logical name, Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). Their initial purpose is to protect the neighbourhood from the baddies and instil justice wherever possible and find the killer of Antonio; but their purpose soon alters into being protectors of the whole earth, who must stop a gang of skin-stealing aliens from taking over the entire planet as we know it!

This little gang might as well be the alien-versing version of the Ghostbusters, but they don’t have a catchy jingle or cool gadgets. Excluding that cool orb they acquire from the opposing side. The aliens might as well be the other-worldly weird country cousins of Leatherface who take the body’s skin instead of just the face. So, it’s Alienbusters vs. Alien Leatherbodies. That sounds promising, or maybe even a little, dare I say, scary; right? Wrong. The only thing scary about this feature is its staggering waste of potential.

Do any of you remember last year’s surprise British hit, Attack the Block? I’m convinced Stern, Rogen and Goldberg were inspired by that flick to make a more successful American alien comedy. If this is the case, it was an ambitious idea at best, but the end product is not rewarding. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the two writers (Rogen & Goldberg) involved in this project, but it simply isn’t in the right hands.

Maybe don’t allow Akiva Schaffer, director of SNL digital shorts and Hot Rod, direct this film. Next time, get someone with a bit more experience in directing: Jay Roach, a man who has dabbled in directing comedy (Austin Powers franchise, Meet the Parents and its two sequels) and producing science fiction (The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). And get some funny consultants, maybe Judd Apatow or Kevin Smith. Then again, I don’t have any power in Hollywood. I just enjoy my crude humour to be usually funny. And the laughs it does offer are limited and far between each other.

The premise of this is promising: mashing a good old sci-fi story of protecting the world from invaders with a great buddy (plus a few) comedy sounds great. It doesn’t turn out to be as great. In fact, it doesn’t really even turn out to be good. There wasn’t a lot of thought put into the story, as it only offers a few original ideas. The actors on their own are usually funny (Vaughn, Hill, Forte and frequent TV actor Ayoade in particular, sometimes Stiller), but when they come together, all of them don’t look like they’re having the most fun in the world. Or in the galaxy. Ayode looks like he’s having a blast most of the time; Forte is making the best of an unfunny character; Vaughn is trying to make the best of it; and Stiller and Hill (who is probably the funniest of the bunch) look like they want their freaking paychecks already. Well, boys, while watching The Watch, I often just want the end credits to roll.

In a nutshell: The Watch wastes the opportunity to do something with a nice but not original premise. The writing, character development and some of the actors wanting to be done with this project don’t complement the initial good idea at hand. The end product offers something to be desired in both the comedy (there’s only a few laugh-out-loud moments) and science fiction departments. It really is not as good as you’ll want it to be.

45/100

This Is 40 (2012)

This is 40This is 40

Release Date: December 21, 2012

Director: Judd Apatow

Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Megan Fox

Runtime: 134 min

Tagline: The sort-of sequel to ‘Knocked Up’

What a great step up from 2009’s Funny People.

It may not be the best feature for a family movie day this holiday season, but it’s a great choice of comedy to see with a few buddies. It’s certainly a better choice than The Guilt Trip. It’s good enough to see with your mother, that is if you’re mature enough to sit through a sex scene or some other inappropriate content.

This follows the relationship of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) five years after the events of Knocked Up (don’t worry folks, Katherine Heigl isn’t in this). As expected, their relationship is still facing a lot of issues. Their two daughters don’t enjoy each other’s company and Pete’s father Larry (Albert Brooks) is always asking for money while they’re facing some financial troubles themselves. Pete’s band (Graham Parker) for the record label isn’t selling that well, and the sexy employee (Desi, portrayed by Megan Fox) is probably stealing from them. Will the pretty couple overcome their problems and stick together through thick and thin?

Probably. It’s a Judd Apatow flick, and it’s around the holiday season, so it has to be feel-good. It usually is, albeit numerous conflict. Though, it’s Apatow and he has the fine ability to write in a stellar amount of humour to their long list of issues. It is a comedy, right?

While it is hilarious through and through, the issues that offer voids in their relationship are sometimes loud and obnoxious. There’s hardly a second where either Pete and Debbie aren’t wanting to bite off each other’s heads or their oldest daughter, Sadie (Maude Apatow), isn’t telling to the youngest daughter Charlotte (Iris Apatow) to take a hike. Preferably on Mt. Everest. The conflicts are vast – but the characters are great and they’re brought to life with each charming comedic presence. There has to be conflict, though, as this is an honest observation of what being a parent is all about.

The conflict between the two daughters is mainly irritating, but it doesn’t mean it gets in the way of enjoyment. At least, that much. It’s sadder than anything. Sadie is just going through those tough teenage years and she doesn’t have the time for a younger sister always bothering her. Charlotte just wants a little attention and she’s adorable, so she should just give it to her. Unfortunately, each sibling knows how hard that has the tendency to be.

It’s nice to watch Pete and Debbie try to overcome their differences because it’s a ride that doesn’t overstay its welcome, thanks to the real charm of the cast and the great incorporation of large and hearty laughs. This feature is around for the right time of season because Christmas is all about coming together as a family.

Pete and Debbie try their hardest as parents, but they’re not perfect. They also blame some of their troubles on their own parents for being such screw-ups. Pete’s pretty upset by his father for making him lend him $80, 000 over a few years – and Debbie’s upset with her own because he, Ollie (John Lithgow), is hardly there for her. This conflict is attacked during Pete’s big 40th birthday celebration. There, the great Jason Segel and Chris O’Dowd fight over the sexy Megan Fox.

Those supporting characters are awesome, but the real scene-stealer is the great Melissa McCarthy, playing a potty-mouthed and angry mother who goes a little crazy after Pete and Debbie offend her and her son.

While this is driven by pure and fresh comedy, the not-so subtle conflicts make it feel a bit too over-dramatic in areas. Though, Apatow does have to get the point across somehow. The film is a perfect analysis of how a family should try to overcome their differences and stick together, in this modern society that has really high divorce rates. Oh, and get through it during a mid-life crisis, especially. The message does get across finely with many laughs and conflict, and an advertisement or two for iPhones, other apple products, and TV’s Lost. It’s entertaining through and through, and your face may just hurt a little in more than one scene. It’s no Knocked Up, but it’s a satisfying little sort-of sequel. It finishes as the third best comedy of the year, just behind Ted and the best of the year, 21 Jump Street.

80/100