Zac Efron and Seth Rogen star in “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising’ Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
An unnecessary sequel that fails in its girl-power message.
I was not a fan of 2014’s Neighbors, so I admittedly didn’t have high hopes for Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. This time around, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Bryne) Radner have sold their place, have another baby on the way, and have already bought their new dream home in another town. Unfortunately for them, during the 30-day escrow period where their buyers can still back out of the deal, a fledgling sorority—Kappa Nu—moves in next door, right where Teddy’s (Zac Efron) old fraternity used to live.
The girls of Kappa Nu, headed up by the totally vacant Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), are trying to rebel against the nationwide rule that prevents sororities from hosting parties at their own houses. (If there’s anything this movie achieves, it’s making the masses aware of this crazy-but-true double standard.) We all know that girls just wanna have fun, but the way these girls go about it doesn’t make them very sympathetic characters. While I’m usually the first person to root for films with messages of gender equality, the sorority girls in Neighbors 2 are just so downright dumb—not knowing anything about finances, caring mostly about selling and/or smoking pot, never mentioning anything about classes or goals, and using truly disgusting tactics to get revenge on the Radners—I was never once on their side. And every single line of their dialogue sounded forced, like something no one would ever say. Maybe five men (Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Brendan O’Brien, director Nicholas Stoller and Andrew J. Cohen) shouldn’t have been the ones to write a film with a girl-power message? Read more…
Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling star in ‘The Nice Guys’ Photo Credit: Daniel McFadden/Warner Bros Pictures
Ryan and Gosling and Russell Crowe make a fun pair, but it’s not all laughs. The Nice Guys is one of those movies you’re either going to get, or you’re not. And I didn’t get it. It follows two seedy investigators—Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling)—as they try to track down a young girl named Amelia (The Leftovers’ Margaret Qualley) and figure out why everyone connected to a porn movie she starred in is being killed off.
Director Shane Black (Iron Man 3) was going for a ‘70s noir buddy-flick type of vibe, set in a smog-covered L.A, complete with gloriously groovy outfits worn by all. I’ll admit that the buddy-flick parts mostly worked; Crowe and Gosling make for a hilarious-at-times odd couple—who woulda thunk it? From March’s battle with a bathroom stall door to the pair’s ill-thought-out disposal of a corpse, there are some truly fun and memorable scenes that border on slapstick, and I suppose they’re the reason why The Nice Guys is being billed as a comedy. But if you go in thinking this film is all a bunch of light-hearted laughs, you will be in for a cruel surprise.
From March’s twelve-year-old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) spewing out lines that Black and Anthony Bagarozzi seem to have written solely for shock value, to several grotesque scenes of head-bashing and bone-cracking, to countless inexplicable and pointless deaths by gunfire, the film was too extreme and thoughtless with its violence for my taste. My guess is that it was all part of Black’s nod to the genre he was attempting to honor, but it fell flat. Very few films can successfully straddle comedy and violence, and The Nice Guys would’ve been stronger had it focused more on its leading duo’s tomfoolery. Read more…
‘Money Monster’ stars George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell. Photo Credit: Tri-Star Pictures.
A fast-paced but ultimately forgettable thriller, despite its A-list cast and director.
It’s a horrific situation that seems all too possible these days: an unstable gunman takes a TV host hostage live on-air, straps a vest packed with explosives onto him, and demands that the cameras keep rolling until… well, we all know it’s probably not going to end peacefully. This high-stakes scenario is the focus of Money Monster, where Jack O’Connell plays Kyle Budwell, an enraged deliveryman who lost all of his money because he followed the advice of Lee Gates (George Clooney), a Jim Cramer-like financial expert who’s the star of a show that makes Mad Money look tame and low energy.
Now Kyle has his thumb on a detonator and a gun in his other hand, while Gates only has his producer Patty (Julia Roberts)—who he’s still connected to through an earpiece—and NYPD Captain Powell (Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito) to help him make it through the ordeal alive.
While it was quite amusing to see Clooney play a totally obnoxious TV host, O’Connell (who’s British in real life) went a little overboard with his New Yawk accent and it took me out of the film. I also kept wondering when Julia Roberts was going to do more than say predictable things through her headset—I can only imagine that the chance to work with Foster and her old friend George were the only reasons she took this role. Read more…
Disney Studios presents ‘Captain America: Civil War’ Stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Brühl, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman and Jeremy Renner.
Another Awesome Hit for Marvel
Who knew comic book characters struggle with feelings of guilt, anger, patriotism, revenge, betrayal, and loyalty? All of these issues are explored as the “Avengers” take sides. Either you’re with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) or Captain America (Chris Evans). They duke it out in hand-to-hand combat. Civil War is an enjoyable, witty, fast-paced, overstuffed, overlong (2 hours 20 minutes) popcorn flick that ultimately delivers.
Unlike Batman vs. Superman, directors Anthony and Joe Russo give us a storyline we can follow—as well as the crème de la crème: humor. Yes, humor sets the film apart, just as in all of the Iron Man films, catapulting Spider-Man or Spider-Teen (played by Tom Holland), if you will, into stardom. Holland steals the film with his youth and his charm from the first moment we meet him in his bedroom in Queens, NY. Tony Stark (Iron Man) relentlessly persuades him to help his cause, and Spider-Teen’s brilliant line reads, “I seriously can’t go because I’ve got homework!” Some of Downey’s best scenes have been with kids and teens in the Iron Man films. His character is awkward around them, which typically results in him asserting his adult status. Here, he firmly tells Spider-Teen, “Fine, if you don’t come with me, I’ll tell your Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).”
We are taken all over the globe, starting in 1991 in Lagos, Nigeria, as the Avengers wreak havoc in the city while fighting the bad guys. Here’s where the heart of the story lies and asks the question, “What about all those innocent people who die in the destruction for the good of the cause?” That’s a smart question, as lives are destroyed during the “Superheroes” battles—ah, indeed, what about those destroyed lives? Quickly, the film shifts to present times. We meet the US Secretary of State (William Hurt) with a new head of salt and pepper hair and a new thick jet-black mustache. Which comically, I noticed in a later scene, a fan was purposely blowing his rather stiff glued down hairpiece to give the appearance that it’s the real deal. Nope, not buying it. Read more…
‘The Jungle Book’ Mowgli (Neel Sethi) Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Those who were anxious about this remake can forget about their worries (and their strife).
“Now I’m the king of the swingers-oh, the jungle VIP; I reached the top and had to stop and that’s what’s botherin’ me!”
For a total of fourteen hours last week I listened to Disney tunes nonstop on road trips from Phoenix to Disneyland and back. Whenever “I Wan’na Be Like You” came on, I just had to sing along (much to the chagrin of my husband, in-laws and kids, I’m sure). It’s not only one of my favorite songs from Disney’s 1967 animated classic The Jungle Book, it’s one of my favorite Disney songs overall. Needless to say, despite the fact that I was worried when I heard about plans for a remake, I still hoped Iron Man director Jon Favreau would find a way to incorporate The Jungle Book’s songs into this year’s live-action version of the film.
I’m usually anti-remake in general, but when it’s a film that I absolutely loved in my childhood that’s being given the treatment, I’m especially antsy. My fears seemed to be confirmed in the first few minutes Favreau’s film, as it begins with jittery close-ups of young “man-cub” Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi, who’s neither a standout nor annoying like most child actors) running and jumping across tree branches in the jungle. I thought I was going to be sick. Thankfully there were only a few other sequences like that in the rest of the movie, which I’m thrilled to report is excellent. Favreau and his team created a lush, beautiful world for Mowgli and his friends—it’s truly the kind of film that you need to see to believe.
You know the story: Mowgli is left in the jungle as a baby, found by the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and raised by wolves until the intimidating tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) learns of his existence and wants revenge for being burned and scarred by man’s “red flower” (fire) years ago. As long as Mowgli remains in the jungle, no one is safe from Shere Khan’s wrath, and so takes Bagheera takes it upon himself to accompany Mowgli on his return to the man village. It’s a coming-of-age story, as well as a tale of bravery and friendship. Read more…