‘Neighbors’ Review

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Dir: Nicholas Stoller

Cast: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jerrod Carmichael, Ike Barinholtz, and Lisa Kudrow

Synopsis: A couple with a newborn baby face unexpected difficulties after they are forced to live next to a fraternity house

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Even though Neighbors is filled with some great jokes, the movie is about growing up without losing your identity.  Here, the movie does try to find the balance between the responsibilities of an adult without losing our young, joyful selves. Luckily, the movie manages to find the humor in this struggle.
Rogen plays Mac Radner, who lives in suburbia with his wife Kelly (Bryne) and new-born baby.  They’re good parents who love their baby, but they miss the days where they could party all night.  When the Delta Psi fraternity moves in next door, the couple is torn.  They don’t want to be the grouchy old people, but they also don’t want to be up all night.  Mac and Kelly go over to make a peace offering with the frat’s President, Teddy (Efron), and at first things seem like they’ll be okay.  They party with them and even looks like they are going to become friends. But, when the partying becomes too much to handle, Mac and Kelly try to get the frat kicked out, which results in an escalating prank war.
It’s was fun to watch Mac and Kelly playing the crotchety neighbors without ever coming off that way.  Instead, their actions make them feel, sort of, younger.  To their credit, they try to take responsible actions like calling the police and meeting with the dean of the school (Lisa Kudrow), but neither one helps.  This forces Mac and Kelly to get creative in how they’re going to get rid of Delta Psi. Even better, Mac and Kelly are not a bickering couple trying to find a way to reignite the spark in their marriage. The beginning of the movie should paint that picture pretty well. They just don’t want to become “those people” who would take the joy out of youth.

 

Rogen and Bryne are perfect at balancing between responsible parents and aging partiers.  The two have wonderful chemistry, and for Rogen, it’s almost strange to see him playing a “real” parent rather than the unprepared one.  His youthful spirit is still in play, and is why the character works.  As for Bryne, she stays on the same level as Rogen and maybe even excels. She has her own moments that shine and might be a highlight for some viewers.

 

On the other side you have the frat.  Rather than making them out to be monsters or juveniles, they’re just college kids. Even though the frat may be partying all night and making life miserable for a young family, they’re not the “villains.”  They’re oddly sympathetic as they depend on their brotherhood, especially Teddy and his vice president, Pete (Franco).

 

Efron, who some probably still see as the guy who did the High School Musical movies and some romantic movie, delivers a pretty solid performance. It’s not just that Efron has decent comic timing; there’s also a sympathetic side to Teddy that’s essential.  If he’s just the good-looking, clever, smarmy frat-boy, then we lose interest in half the movie, well at least I would.  Neither side is “mean” even though they’re effectively trying to ruin the other’s life. As the movie progress, and near the end, you do feel for the guy.
Other standouts include Dave Franco’s Pete, who takes an interesting stance toward his sorority brothers, more partially Teddy. It’s one that, I honestly did not see coming but it was a nice and it’s refreshing to see it done in the movie. However, Franco does share his comedic moments. Chritopher Mintz-Plasse and Jerrod Carmichael also bring some laughs as frat-boys, while new comer Craig Roberts shines as a pledge who is simply referred to as Ass-Juice (that should tell you everything).

 

Director Nicholas Stoller, who has worked under Judd Apatow, realizes that more laughs don’t necessarily mean a better movie.  He’s found the in-between for raunchy humor (and I do mean raunchy) that runs through the movie but is streamlined in a way that leads the comedy and the relationships to be more effective.

 

All in all, Neighbors has a lot of laughs, some better than others, but also has a real message behind the movie which is something you probably wouldn’t suspect. Is it for everyone? Probably not, but you’ll have a good time with it.

 

 

Neighbors

4 out of 5

‘Kick-Ass 2’ Review

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Dir: Jeff Wadlow (Cry Wolf, Never Back Down)

Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Morris Chestnut, Clark Duke, John Leguizamo and Jim Carrey

Synopsis: The costumed high-school hero Kick-Ass joins with a group of normal citizens who have been inspired to fight crime in costume. Meanwhile, the Red Mist plots an act of revenge that will affect everyone Kick-Ass knows.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always. And if you want, stay after the credits for a quick scene.”

 

Kick-Ass was the little superhero movie that could. Shot on a relatively low-budget, introducing a comic-book character who was new, and featuring just one movie star in Nicolas Cage. The film nevertheless did something nobody thought it would do, get a cult following. Three years later we get a sequel that doesn’t have the same first-time charm the first had but still is a worthy sequel. The movie, like the first, isn’t just about normal people becoming superheroes but also about growing up and dealing with the consequences of their actions.

Mindy Macready aka Hit-Girl (Moretz) is now living her father’s former partner Marcus Williams (Chestnut) and is a freshmen in high school. Marcus tries to deal with the fact that Mindy can’t let go of her old life and all Mindy wants to do is be Hit-Girl and keep her fathers promise of protecting the city but also wants to make Marcus happy and do what he tells her. Marcus also wants Mindy to fit in at school which of course isn’t that easy for her.

Then finally there’s Chris D’Amico (Mintz-Plasse). Now donning an emo look and obsessing with getting revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his father. Chris with one of his family’s bodyguards Javier (Leguizamo) starts to put a team together that includes former convicts and killers. The standout of his evil super-team is Mother Russia played by Russian body builder Olga Kurkulina. Chris also has renamed himself “The Motherfucker.”

Meanwhile at the same time Dave aka Kick-Ass, now a high school senior, is bored with his life but at the same time wants something exciting to happen. Eventually, he pleas to Mindy to help him train and become a better fighter. After Mindy takes Marcus’ advice to stop being Hit-Girl, Dave finds himself wanting to team up and since he can’t have Hit-Girl he finds himself a group calling themselves Justice Forever.

They include a mob enforcer-turned-born again Christian Colonel Stars and Stripes, and his trusty sidekick dog Eisenhower played by Jim Carrey. The group also includes Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison), Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), Insect Man (Robert Emms) and a mother/father duo Remember Tommy. They aren’t Hit-Girl level superhero but Kick-Ass joins them anyways to help rid of the city of, as they put it, injustice.

Like I said before, Kick-Ass 2 doesn’t really have the same charm the first did. Probably because we didn’t know what to suspect in the first movie (unless you read the comics) and I’m not saying this is a bad thing. The movie works on its own levels and you really shouldn’t compare this to the first. The message is the same, the humor is still there, and violence is about to maybe a little more than the first. The one thing the movie does have more of is drama. With our main heroes Dave and Mindy having inner struggles to how they really are and having spats with their guardians – Mindy with Marcus and Dave with his father – the movie does slow down a bit so we can feel for the characters. We know who they are and what they can do but no one does.

We see Mindy falling to the pressures of high school and Dave taking responsibility for his actions as he becomes a man. It’s necessary but with the rest of the movie filled with violence and humor it makes the movie tonally a bit odd to take in.

The performances are stronger this time around with the main three cast members. Aaron Taylor-Johnson has some great comic timing and is a little more hands on this time around. Chloe Grace Moretz is better than ever as Hit-Girl. She shows and has the right combination of fearlessness and vulnerability. Christopher Mintz-Plasse goes through a complex journey if that’s what you want to call it. His character makes you both hate and possibly feel a little sorry for him.

The new plays are hit and miss but of course everyone will talk (and have been) about Carrey’s Colonel. Despite his wackiness and humor at times, he does give the movie a bit heart and soul in one particular scene. Wouldn’t say he steals the movie (some will and there’s nothing wrong with that) because I think that goes to Olga Kurkulina’s Mother Russia. She’s a force of nature almost and her fight with Hit-Girl near the end of the movie was definitely a standout.

All in all, Kick-Ass 2 is a ton of fun. If you liked the first movie then you will most likely like this one. It can even be described as a twisted coming of age story. Is the movie for everyone? No. But let’s face it a movie called Kick-Ass probably isn’t going to be for everyone.

 

Kick Ass 2

4 out of 5