Movie Review: Neighbors (2014)

neighbors-poster-artI admit it, I am a Seth Rogan fan… I know he’s not for everyone, but in general I have enjoyed the films he and his writing partner Evan Goldberg have put out, (with the exception of The Green Hornet).  In that goofy, lovable, teddy bear sort of way, he reminds me of myself… except for the being Canadian part, which is merely a dream that will never be fulfilled.

Besides Rogan, Neighbors also stars former Disney kid Zac Efron, who plays the president of the local college fraternity, and is hell bent on making history by throwing the biggest bash.  His fraternity moves in next to Seth Rogan and his wife and newborn baby… at first everything is hunky dory and they get along great, but when Rogan calls the cops with a noise complaint, he starts a war with the frat boys that he didn’t plan for.

I had mixed feelings about this film from the start, I wasn’t sure if this was going to be just another frat boy comedy (more Van Wilder, than Animal House) or if it was going to be a whole lot more.  Just looking at the previews, I couldn’t really decide whether I should see this or not, but my motto when it comes to movies has always been “I’ll see any movie once”, so for 2 bucks at the local second run theater I gave it a shot.

For the most part, the movie was actually surprisingly better than I could have imagined.  I’m not saying that it was a work of art worthy of owning… but the movie definitely had some very funny moments.  The chemistry between Rogan/Efron made me think they have been friends for years, not to mention the casting of James Franco’s younger brother Dave was a smart choice.  In fact, the two actors that I think really outshined the rest was Franco and Jerrod Carmichael.  Dave Franco certainly surprised me, especially considering I didn’t even know he existed before this movie.  And Carmichael who is also a relative newcomer (at least to me), was probably the funniest of the whole fraternity.

I was really impressed by the editing in the movie, particularly the montages which were cut to loud, and fast dance music.  It looked like the editor(s) had a real fun time piecing that together.

A few disappointing things in the movie… Christopher Mintz-Plasse felt very underused in the film.  I wonder if there was more to his character that got cut out, but for the most part it seemed his character was a pony that knows only one trick, and only appeared on screen to show it off.  Considering the character that he DID play was unlike any of the other roles he’s come to inhabit, it was unfortunate that we couldn’t see more of it.

There was also one particular gag in the movie that I felt could have been left out.  The physical comedy throughout the film was for the most part funny, and appropriate to story, but this gag which involved breast milk, went on a little too long and didn’t really tie into the movie in any way.  On top of that, they kept calling back to that scene various times through the rest of the movie, which only made it more annoying.  And I’m not someone who turns their nose up at gross out comedy, it just had no bearing on the plot of the movie.  If it wasn’t for that scene, I probably would have given this movie much more praise.

Overall, the movie was fun and entertaining, as I said above, I don’t feel the need to own it… but for any Seth Rogan fans out there, it’s worth watching.  And it’s still better than The Green Hornet.

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What Netflix Sent Me: Ass Backwards (2013)

ass_backwards_xlgI knew in the first 10 minutes of this movie that I was not going to like it, it was a film I had heard about, and was looking forward to, but was really disappointed by the film overall.  The film stars Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael as Kate and Chloe, two adult girls, who have never quite grown up beyond their childhood days in beauty pageants.  In order to get back at their former rival, they attempt to go back to the pageant that they claim has made them famous.  Living in a fictional reality than the one that is going on around them, Kate is the CEO of her own “company” in which she sells her eggs, and Chloe is a “famous” dancer, who can usually be seen dancing in a plastic box hanging from a  night club ceiling.

This movie turns into a road movie in which the two main characters attempt to drive cross country to a pageant that is only a few hours from their home.  Along they way they manage to meet, and piss off a lot of interesting people.  It’s like Dumb and Dumber, if the Harold and Lloyd were pretty ladies.

Ass Backwards was also written by the films co-stars… Casey Wilson, (Chloe) who was a one time cast member of Saturday Night Live, and June Diane Raphael (Kate) who is known for her roles in New Girl, and her web series, Burning Love, together they also wrote the film Bride Wars (2009).  Clearly these two ladies are no strangers to comedy, however, there is more of an “absurdist” style to the humor found in this film.  Similar to the Adult Swim shows: NTSF:SD:SUV (created by, and starring, June Diane’s husband Paul Scheer), Eagle Heart, and Children’s Hospital, this movie movie presents its characters as over the top, caricatures, and just plain dumb.  The best way to describe it is that they are dumb (or sheltered perhaps) and they don’t know it.

There is significant character growth throughout the film, something that I feel only helped to redeem the film in the long run.  A funny and surprising appearance by Vincent D’Onofrio helped the girls to realize that they have been leading unhealthy lifestyles.

I opened this review by saying that I made it through 10 minutes of the film before I realized that I wasn’t going to like this pair, there were times where I thought I was going to turn the movie off, but I pursued and watched the entire thing.  Overall there were some funny and fun moments, but Kate and Chloe never really grow on you, you see them just like everyone else sees them.  However, even when they turn their lives around and show that ever important character growth, they still feel just as obnoxious as in those first 10 minutes, but you can’t help rooting for them.

Even though I contemplated turning this movie off so many times, I’m glad I stuck with it… I can’t say that I entirely liked it, but in the end I’m glad I gave it a chance.

 

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What Netflix Sent Me: Drinking Buddies (2013)

MV5BMjMwNDU1NzMzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTY3ODk1OQ@@._V1_SX214_This movie was one that I was really looking forward to… I’ve been following the career of Joe Swanberg since “mumblecore” was still a thing.  Fortunately or unfortunately, the super stars of the mumbelcore era of filmmaking have all but abandoned this style they made famous and have started making more grown up movies.  Swanberg; however, is more of a late bloomer, only now gaining notoriety and mainstream appeal with this film, reeling in celebs such as Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston.

Drinking Buddies, is a movie about two best friends, co-workers, and well… drinking buddies that have an unrecognized sexual tension between them.  Meanwhile, their respective partners share a kiss in the woods while both couples are on a camping trip together.

This movie overall was just so-so, I expected more from not just Joe Swanberg, but from the actors in the film as well.  The two main characters played by Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson do have an unmistakeable chemistry, but their co-stars seem to just phone it in.

Swanberg allows his actors the freedom to improvise, which has its limitations, but I believe in this situation it allowed the actors to create that unmistakeable chemistry, and that sexual tension.

The film is a great step into the mainstream for Joe Swanberg, but sadly he isn’t quite up to the calibre of his mumblecore compatriots, Mark and Jay Duplass.  I am willing to give this movie a second viewing, which may help me to see more of the charm that people have been talking about.

Overall it’s not a terrible film, but I do think that for my money, Joe Swanberg has put out some better films with smaller actors.  But I will still continue to follow his career in the future, as I am definitely a fan. (Mr. Swanberg if you are reading this, hire me!)

 

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