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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Recap of June’s Theatrical Releases

I saw six out of the nine major theatrical releases of June. I still plan on seeing the following from the month of June, in alphabetical order: “Berberian Sound Studio”, “The Bling Ring”, “Byzantium”, “The Internship”, “Maniac”, “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Song for Marion”, “Syrup” (because I love Brittany Snow), “Violet & Daisy”, White House Down”. Considering that the lowest score of June’s new releases was 50 out of 100 (surprisingly “awarded” to “Man of Steel”), it was hardly a bad month for movies. Here’s the ranking of the June’s releases from best to worst, with a blurb from each of my reviews.

This is the End (6/12)

This is the End (6/12) [My review]

“This is an insanely funny movie. Ridiculous, yes, but a sure blast if there ever was one. It’s all good old-fashioned, self-aware bliss. This just shows that a comedy about hanging out with one’s best buds could be a real gem to the genre. Adam Sandler could take quite a few pointers from this comedy.” 91/100. This was my fourth most anticipated movie of June, and it exceeded expectations, and it’s currently my favourite movie of the year thus far. 

IMDb Score: 7.9/10Rotten Tomatoes Critics: 7/10RT Audience: 8/10.

Monsters University (6/21)

Monsters University (6/21) [My review]

“I will always cherish this fantastic film. I will always watch this with a big smile on my face. This is an impressive prequel to “Monsters, Inc.”, and an impressive Pixar movie.” 90/100. This was my most anticipated movie of June, and it truly satisfied.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10RTC: 6.7/10; RTA: 8.4/10.

World War Z (6/21)

World War Z (6/21) [My review]

“The story’s a good one, as far as ‘find the cure’ movies go. Since I have not read the book, I cannot comment on any similarities or big differences. All I can say is, it’s a story that plays well on the screen. I like that Drew Goddard has a hand in the screenplay; because he has talent. It’s a traditional, but very enjoyable ‘find the cure’ type of film.” 75/100. This was my tenth most anticipated movie of June, so it really impressed. 

IMDb Score: 7.3/10RTC: 6.2/10RTA: 7.6/10.

The Heat (6/28)

The Heat (6/28) [My review]

“The humour is raunchy as hell, but usually funny as hell. When I wasn’t laughing at the jokes, I was at least smirking a little. When it isn’t being hilarious, the likeable chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy really carries it along. The movie balances out to a fun, predictable, but hysterical time at the movies.” 75/100. This was my seventh most anticipated movie of June, so it did satisfy. 

IMDb Score: 7.1/10RTC: 6.0/10; RTA: 8.0/10.

The Purge (6/7)

The Purge (6/7) [My review]

“The concept helps make this movie memorable. However, this rushed home invasion flick/intriguing social commentary ends up being incredibly average. It’s disappointing, and while it has some worthwhile menacing villains, it’s the latest movie to the Great Concept, Poor Execution category.” 57/100. This was my third most anticipated movie of June, so it was truly disappointing.

IMDb Score: 5.6/10; RTC: 5.1/10; RTA: 6.0/10.

Man of Steel (6/14)

Man of Steel (6/14) [My review]

“I do not appreciate the constant changes in tone throughout the feature. It goes from big, stupid action to character-driven drama that feels real. It becomes bothersome quickly, and it does not make for effective storytelling.” 50/100. This was my second most anticipated movie of June, so it was a big let-down.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10; RTC: 6.3/10RTA: 8.0.

Here are some statistics: 

IMDb Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.9), 2. “Man of Steel” (7.8), 2. “Monsters University” (7.8), 4. “World War Z” (7.3), 5. “The Heat” (7.1), 6. “The Purge” (5.6). Average score: 7.25/10. 

RT Critics Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.0), 2. “Monsters University” (6.7), 3. “Man of Steel” (6.3), 4. “World War Z” (6.2), 5. “The Heat” (6.0), “The Purge” (5.1). Average score: 6.21/10. 

RT Audience Ranking: 1. “Monsters University” (8.4), 2. “The Heat” (8.0), 2. “Man of Steel” (8.0), 2. “This is the End” (8.0), 5. “World War Z” (7.6), 6. “The Purge” (6.0). Average score: 7.66/10.

My Average score: 73/100. (Adjusted [excluding lowest grade]: 77.6/100.)

What movies did you enjoy out of June’s releases, and which ones did you hate? There were a total six votes in my Most Anticipated Movies of June poll (4 to “Man of Steel”, 1 to “This is the End”, and 1 to “Monsters University”, which was my vote). Did your most anticipated movie satisfy or disappoint the hell out of you? Let me know in the comments!

Also: I’ll be posting my Best of the Year So Far article sometime this weekend or early next week. Stay tuned! 

 

Horton Hears a Who! (2009)

Horton Hears a Who!

Horton Hears a Who!

Release Date: March 14, 2008

Director: Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino

Stars (voices): Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, Carol Burnett

Runtime: 86 min

Dr. Seuss writes some excellent books. Blue Sky Productions (those guys behind ‘Ice Age‘, ‘Rio‘) makes some pretty good animated movies. Put the two together, and you end up with the thoroughly decent Horton Hears a Who!

Horton Hears a Who! tells the story of Horton (voiced by Jim Carrey), who, incidentally, hears a who of the town of Whoville, that happens to live on a speck. He has to keep away the speck from evil kangaroos and crazy-lookin’ monkeys, and go out of his way to bring it to safety.

That is the same Whoville of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The message at play here is that everyone has a voice, no matter small. Horton constantly communicates with the Mayor of Whoville voiced by Steve Carrell, a comedian with an equally big voice, as the message might suggest. You’ll want Horton to get that speck to the mountain and be safe. But you’ll forget half of the names of the citizens of Whoville the second the end credits roll.

Horton Hears a Whoo!

While the movie isn’t ground-breaking, it has some nice animation that fits the imagination of Dr. Seuss. Jim Carrey is over-the-top as Horton, but he’s just being his usual self. His voice acting will make this entertaining for older audiences, as well as children. Some of his impressions will leave children in the dark about the real joke, because they’ll only be thinking – “Oh, he’s talking in a funny voice. That’s supposed to be funny. Ha-ha!” I’d rather him stick to live-action movies. He does some spot-on impressions, but for some viewers, he could take away from the story.

Jim Carrey and Steve Carell are the stars of the show. As is the animation. The story’s lightly written. It’s forgettable, but it offers some good entertainment. It’s one of those great movies for a rainy day. You can relax and watch it, and just have a good time. It’s nothing more, but it’s nothing less. It’s definitely better than Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in Hat.

70/100

This is the End (2013)

This is the EndRelease Date: June 12, 2013

Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

Stars: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill

Runtime: 107 min

Hollywood is obsessed with a lot of things. One of their current obsessions is the apocalypse. Mostly because, if we survived 2012, why not, right? This is the End is summer 2013’s second apocalyptic movie (or first if you don’t really count After Earth), and it’s a comedy that feels completely fresh. It’s based on Jason Stone’s short film entitled “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse”, set on an ordinary night in Los Angeles.

Many celebrities including Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, and Emma Watson, amongst so many other cameos, are partying it up at James Franco’s mansion. They’re having a good time, drinkin’ beer, abusing cocaine (if Michael Cera doesn’t hog it all), joking around; doing what celebrities do. Soon enough, a huge hole opens up and wah-bam, it’s the end of the world. Half of the celebrities’ cameos end in gory demises, and there’s only a small group left to fend for themselves in Franco’s mansion. They take inventory, and it’s up to Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson, and the trouble-making Danny McBride to wait out the apocalypse.

The only other possibly comparable movie to this is Tropic Thunder.  That movie’s main satire was of big Hollywood productions and those who make them. The main gag at play here is the actors skewering each others’ public personas, and essentially being hilariously mocked, and doing the mocking. They are playing themselves, but at the same time, they aren’t. They’re playing heightened versions of themselves, where some of these character attributes are similar to their everyday selves, but some aren’t. Who could possibly envision the seemingly sweet and innocent Michael Cera as a drug-abusin’, obnoxious loud-mouth? No one could have, but it makes for a simply hilarious character.

That’s the thing about This is the End: it’s insanely funny. Ridiculous, yes, but a sure blast if there ever was one. Each of these characters poke fun at each other and the fun they’re having really shows. They invite us on the ride, and this viewing is truly fun. They make a sequel or two to their best movies (Pineapple Express), and decide not to make one for Your Highness. It’s all good old-fashioned, self-aware bliss. You’re going to love these guys.

This is one of the most effective comedy/horror sci-fi hybrids in some time. I love the balance of gross-out humour and gross-out horror. The premise is very original, and the humour is silly and immature, but the majority of this content will have you laughing and howling the whole way through. It’s quotable, brilliant, immature, and just plain fun. This is the funniest movie some of these guys have ever been in. They sling one-liners every which way, there are a few great startles and you’ll probably love every minute of this.

Though, the pacing is rough in the middle. One usually can’t expand on the traditional end of the world premise, but the writers know what they’re doing and so they give this superb execution. They run with what they know: comedy. The movie just works incredibly well. For the most part, it’s a thin story, but it is effective and admirably written. About 90% of the jokes hit, and the ones that don’t, are mostly said by Jay Baruchel. He’s from my hometown, but the guy isn’t incredibly funny. He has a few good lines, but they’re limited. This could be because he’s written as the straight man, however. There’s also so much product placement that makes this feel like one big commercial for all things Coca Cola, Milky Way, Nutella, and CT Crunch (I could go on, there’s about as much product placement as memorable quotes). This is easily forgiven because it’s set in a real-life celebrity culture. No one’s going to just own No Name brands, especially not rich people who star in movies.

One would expect that this wouldn’t have a huge emotional core. It does, surprisingly, have a better one than the average comedy. This is a buddy comedy of a bunch of guys making the best of their situation, the relationship between Seth and Jay, and the fact that all of these guys need to learn a thing or two about fate, redemption and – most of all – friendship. It isn’t as undeniably sweet as Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is, but I’d be fibbing if I didn’t at least get a few chills at one of the movie’s most effectively awesome, sort-of emotional- and so, so hilarious – moments near the end.

This just shows that a comedy about hanging out with one’s best buds could be a real gem to the genre. Adam Sandler could take quite a few pointers from this comedy. These characters are so easy to love, even Danny McBride who you’ll love to hate. This is one of the greatest ensembles ever assembled, at least for a critically acclaimed flick. It could be called “Comedians Assemble”. It’s one of the most quotable movies since The Hangover, and you’ll want an encore screening the second it’s over, mostly to just learn more quotes, because there are so many. I love all of the obvious nods to popular movies, as well. This is as absolute blast that combines so many favourite genres – comedy, sci-fi, horror… It’s like Neapolitan ice cream. There are more than a few surprises in this fantastic comedy treat.

91/100

The Guilt Trip (2012)

Guilt TripThe Guilt Trip

Release Date: December 19, 2012

Director: Anne Fletcher

Stars: Seth Rogen, Barbara Streisand, Kathy Najimy

Runtime: 95 min

Tagline: Get ready for one mother of a road trip

Around the holiday season, there is usually that one memorable, smart and fresh comedy that everyone is dying to see. Then there’s sometimes a comedy like The Guilt Trip, one feature that isn’t quite as ground breaking or memorable.

Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen) is an innovative organic chemist who is about to go on the road to sell his product called Scieoclean, a new cleaning product that’s so safe, you can drink it. The credits open to Andy’s mother, Joyce (Barbara Streisand), calling and leaving him about forty-two messages. He stays at her house for a few days, getting prepared for the big road trip. Joyce tells Andy about a boy she knew back when she was a young woman on the prowl; and Andy gets the sudden idea of making these two folks reunite with each other all these years later.

That plan involves inviting her along for the eight-day drive. Along the way, they listen to some nasty audio book, gamble, try to take care of business, run into a conflict or two, and eat a steak the size of a poodle. The majority of which is revealed in the film’s trailer.

The Guilt Trip is a satisfying nibble (if you’re not expecting much) at expressing family-connectedness this holiday season, but it’s a disappointing bite because it hardly offers any big laughs. However, that is not surprising to the majority. It is obvious that this will have a premise as tiredsome and old as someone’s great grandmother. Indeed, as one may have guessed, it’s the same predictable old familiar tale that follows the old road trip formula to a tee.

However, it is fairly bearable. It isn’t anything great or remotely memorable, but it’s an okay ride to go through the motions in the passenger’s seat with for the eight days of holiday cheer (Streisand might as well just be spending Hannukah in the car). The only reason it isn’t horrible is thanks to the two stars. They’re the real charmers that can keep you holding on.

The mismatched pair create some fine chemistry. Chemistry meaning on-screen chemistry, not any of Andy’s organic chemistry experiments. While they’re not the greatest pair of all, they make the experience better than it would be without the two. They are the focal point of the film, because it feels as if any other performer in the film is just there for a cameo performance. Is the chemistry so real that Joyce might have actually given birth to Andy, which we’re supposed to believe? Not really, but I’d believe that Joyce could have adopted Andy when he was a little toddler. In that way, the chemistry isn’t perfect, but it really is the highlight of the picture.

Their chemistry is off toward the beginning, but it’s supposed to be. This film is supposed to express how the relationship between a son and mother can grow over the week’s time they spend together. Andy seems so annoyed with her mother half the time, that it gets to a point of irritation. However, this is understandable because Joyce has an over-bearing personality. The initial emotional void of sorts in their relationship toward the beginning starts to vanish and they come closer together. Just the way a predictable holiday season flick like such should be. Who wouldn’t want to spend eight days in a little clown car with their mother?

All in all, it’s a usually fun flick that offers a few somewhat funny jokes (but it’s about a laugh every five or ten minutes, maybe), but it’s extremely familiar, and the comedy is just more of the same. Anyone who’s a fan of a good road trip will enjoy it than others, though. The two primary characters are only all right, but they’re brought to life by the charming presences of Rogen and Streisand. The film relies heavily on those two stars, and they do carry it. Everyone else is just there for a scene or two (including some stars like Kathy Najimy, Adam Scott, Yvonne Strahovski and Colin Hanks). The Guilt Trip is aimed at older audiences, so young people may not find all that much pleasure with this. Seth Rogen doesn’t show any crude humor in this, so it’s a nice change to see him in this sort of role. You are to blame, Dan Fogelman, for making this really familiar, and making the dramatic scenes some of the least memorable of the feature. Some of the most memorable scenes of the film are a few miniature scenes during the end credits.

50/100