‘Sausage Party’ Review

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Director: Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon

Writers: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg

Voice Cast: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Edward Norton, David Krumholtz, Nick Kroll, Salma Hayek, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd, and James Franco

Synopsis: A sausage strives to discover the truth about his existence.

 

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

 

I’m just going to start off by saying; this is one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen, and it probably has to do with the fact that it’s an R-rated animated film from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. However, there is surprisingly a lot more to Sausage Party than the ads will have you believe. While the selling hook is “food finds out what happens when they really go home with humans,” the film takes a rather strong approach to something that is controversial to talk about: religion.

Sausage Party follows the food at a Shopwell supermarket, who every morning, sing – yes – sing about their hopes of being picked by the gods (humans) so they can go to the “Great Beyond” (outside the supermarket). The main focus is Frank (Rogen), a hot dog, who believes that he’ll finally be chosen on Red, White and Blue Day, and that his girlfriend Brenda (Wiig), hotdog bun) will go with him. Not being able to wait too long, they stick their hands out and “touch tips.” However, when they do get picked, they get into a shopping cart accident that leaves them and Douche (Kroll) – yes a Douche – falling back into the aisle, and getting left behind and unable to see The Great Beyond.

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What follows is Frank figuring out what really happens to food when they go to the Great Beyond, which questions everything he, Brenda, Douche and everyone else thinks about the “gods.” Meanwhile, Frank’s friend Barry (Cera), who stayed in the cart, gets a firsthand experience of what happens when you really go come to the gods, and has his own adventure.

Like I mentioned, this is one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen, and you guys know I watch a lot of movies. I really didn’t even know how I was going to review this without spoiling something or just ruining the experience for you guys. I will say the death scenes (?) are somewhat disturbing to watch, but in a good and funny way. They do come off like a horror movie, but you can’t help but laugh along with them because they are so creative, and you never get old which is a huge plus. There are moments in the film that will leave you questioning where the film is going, but then they hit with another big joke that makes you seem to forget that.

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Also, like I mentioned, the film tackles a surprising subject in religion. I don’t get to into how they approach it, but it was surprising that Rogen, Goldberg, Shaffir, and Hunter went in that direction. They could have easily went the easy route of food freaking the hell out about finding out they actually get eaten when the go to the “Great Beyond” by their “Gods.” But just because we know Rogen and Goldberg for doing stoner comedies, it doesn’t mean the film is an atheist film. It actually brings up a worthy conversation, and doesn’t just dismiss it. It does to some extent, but it loops it back around in the end to give you the two points. Of course, all that only matters if you are either a religious person or at least know and understand some aspects of it.

So Sausage Party gets points in my book for doing something comes out of left field that I’m pretty sure no one saw coming. It also has some comedic political jokes that got a good laugh out of my showing. That isn’t to say the film isn’t funny, there are some great jokes throughout the whole film, and is one of the funniest films of the year so far. Is it for everyone? Hell no! One reason is definitely a scene at the end of the film that I won’t even tease, but if you saw the film you know what I’m talking about, and if you watch the film, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s uncomfortably long, but in a way that makes sense for the film.

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Brenda (Kristen Wiig), Sammy (Edward Norton), Lavash (David Krumholtz), and Teresa (Salma Hayek)

All in all, Sausage Party is not for everyone, but you should know what you are expecting considering Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are involved. The film is something else that I’m sure most people watching will find odd, but it somewhat works for the film. The voice cast is spot on, and Sausage Party will definitely have you thinking twice about the food you eat later that day. Did I mention it was ridiculous?

Sausage Party

4 out of 5

‘Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising’ Review

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Director: Nicholas Stoller

Writers: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen, & Evan Goldberg

Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ike Barinholtz, Kiersey Clemons, Dave Franco, Beanie Feldstein, Carla Gallo, Selena Gomez and Lisa Kudrow

Synopsis: After a sorority moves in next door, which is even more debaucherous than the fraternity before it, Mac and Kelly have to ask for help from their former enemy, Teddy.

 

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

 

Comedy sequels are always hard. Most of them don’t work or only semi-work because they try to replicate the charm or what made them special the first time around. Very rarely comedy sequels work, and thankfully Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising doesn’t full too much into those pitfalls too much and is actually a different film with some nice callbacks and different-ish story from the first film.

The film follows Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) as they bought a new house for their growing family, and are now in escrow on their old home. They have thirty days to make sure nothing spooks the new buyers, but turns out that new college students Shelby (Moretz), Beth (Clemons) and Nora (Feldstein), start a new sorority because they want to make their own sorority to break away from the Greek system. The problem is that they move into the house next door where the fraternity once lived. Mac and Kelly, scared that they could lose the buyers and the new house, try to find a way to get the sorority to either not party for thirty days, or once again, make them go away. Problem with that is these three are very headstrong and are all about sisterhood and empowerment. Then there is Teddy (Efron) who comes back into the fray.

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Like I said, comedy sequels tend not to work too well, and while Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising does follow some beat-for-beat moments from the first film, it thankfully tries and succeeds – for the most part – to be different and be a better movie. Comedy is subjective, but the sequel is still, maybe even more, raunchy than the first and has a probably more gross-out moment than the first one. Some jokes had made laughing out loud in the theater with everyone else, and while some jokes fall flat or just completely miss, there is a nice wave of jokes that are streamlined throughout the film.

The returning cast of Rogen, Byrne, and Efron are great and feels like they have better chemistry this time around than the first. Chloe Grace Moretz takes the Efron-role from the first one as Shelby, the leader of our new rebel group. Shelby wants to join a sorority but turns it down when she realizes that sororities aren’t allowed to throw parties in their houses, only frats can (which is apparently a real thing). Moretz is fine as the new leader along with her fellow friends and new sisters Beanie Feldstein and one of standouts in Dope, Kiersey Clemons.

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The film does have some social commentary and a theme that runs throughout the film that is centered around the new three female characters, and while the theme is acceptable and reasonable, it’s a bit too heavy handed for me by the end. They poke fun at it here and there, which leads to great jokes, but even though I like the message, I wasn’t all for it.

All in all, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is a worthwhile sequel that has some great laughs and run-on jokes that keep you invested in the film and characters. While the themes and social commentary are a bit heavy-handed for me personally, it doesn’t take away the enjoyment of the film as a whole. The case is fantastic together and there is no slow part of the film. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising isn’t the perfect comedy sequel, but it’s one of the better ones out there.

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Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

3.5 out of 5

‘Steve Jobs’ Review

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Director: Danny Boyle

Writer: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston, Sarah Snook, John Ortiz, Ripley Sobo, Makenzie Moss, and Perla Haney-Jardine

Synopsis: Set backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, Steven Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter.

 

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

 

Former Apple CEO and, arguably, the face of the company, Steve Jobs is a polarizing figure. Whether you believe the stories or not, or you like him or not, Jobs has done wonders in the industry of technology. There has also been two films on Jobs’ life, but this one takes a different approach to the other films and is based on the biography novel by Walter Isaacson titled “Steve Jobs.” Director Danny Boyle brings some interesting ideas and filmmaking to Steve Jobs, and while some will find it repetitive, the film is filled with great performances all around.

Steve Jobs is broken down into three different parts. Each part takes place during the launch of three different products that Steve Jobs (Fassbender) was a part: 1984 with the launch of Macintosh computer, 1988’s NeXT, and finally 1998’s iMac. Each where filmed differently, the first on 16mm, the second in 35mm, and the last part is filmed digitally. Does that matter? Probably not, but I’m just saying since it is noticeably, well, for me anyway. Also, it was a nice move by Boyle to do that since it also shows the advancements in technology in our own right.

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Anyway, Steve Jobs starts in 1984 before the launch of the Macintosh computer. The film wastes no time getting into the thick of everything. The film is about two hours long, and every segment, for the lack of a better word, is roughly thirty minutes or more. And they are very heavy handed. The film is very Aaron Sorkin as the dialogue is very brisk, breathless, and witty. At the beginning of the film we get a good feel to how Jobs would be portrayed as Jobs is ticked off at Andy Hertzfeld (Stuhlbarg) that the Macintosh isn’t saying “hello.” We are not just introduced to Hertzfeld, but to pretty the whole cast in Jobs’ marketing expert and right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman (Winslet), Jobs’ oldest friend and engineer Steve Wozinak (Rogen), Andrea “Andy” Cunningham (Snook), reporter Joel Pforzheimer (Ortiz), and former President of Apple and father figure-like John Sculley (Daniels).

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The film doesn’t really show any of the actual launch presentations, as it decides to focus on the craziness going on before. Jobs even says at one point “it seems like five minutes before every launch, everyone gets drunk and decides to air their grievances,” which is true. The biggest dramatic moments happen right before Jobs is getting ready to go out on stage. The first is one is the heavily featured story with his daughter Lisa played by Makenzie Moss, or as Jobs proclaims multiple times during that part is not his daughter, and the mother of his daughter Chrisann (Waterston). The second is Jobs moving on from Apple with the NeXT and “clearing the air” with Hertzfeld, Wozinak, and Sculley, but it’s Sculley that takes the biggest chuck and is, for me, the best part and most dramatic part of the film. Jeff Daniels’ performance as Sculley, especially in this scene that also involves flashbacks, is just phenomenal. The back-and-forth between Daniels and Michael Fassbender is amazing to watch and it did, honestly, leave me breathless and as soon as the scene was over I took a deep breath and thought “wow.” The final big dramatic scenes are between Jobs and Wozinak going at it again and having an argument they had at the beginning of the film, and between Jobs, Joanna, and his teen daughter Lisa (Haney-Jardine).

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I’m going to be honest, this one is hard for me to review. One, because the scenes have so much in them, although it’s never overbearing and handled in a good way, and two, some of the actions, especially, Jobs’ actions are subjective and should be seen for yourself. This is where many will be split on the film. Do they believe that Jobs was mean to everyone around him and was a pain in the ass to work with or was he truly a genius that no one saw? The film also struggles with answering this question. Jobs is both a pain in the ass to almost everyone around him, but has moments of true genuine compassion toward his daughter sometimes – albeit sometimes reluctant – and has moments of great charisma. However, do his good moments outweigh his negative moments? That’s up to you to decide. And remember, this isn’t a documentary and things are probably and obviously dramatize.

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Even if you don’t like Steve Jobs, let’s just say the character for the sake of argument, the cast and performances make this film all the worthwhile. Fassbender is great as Jobs and brings everything he can possibly bring to the role. But, despite the other great performances by the rest of the cast, Steve Jobs is Fassbender’s show. I already mentioned Daniels is great, and the rest of the cast have their fair share of highlights. Kate Winslet is nearly unrecognizable with her black-haired wig and small accent. Seth Rogen proves he can do a scene without cracking a joke and come off as a great actor, although he doesn’t get a ton of screen time, but just enough for us to get a good feel for him. Katherine Waterston holds her own with Fassbender especially when they are shouting at each other. Michael Stuhlbarg surprised me with this turn of Hertzfeld, he takes most of the word beatings from Jobs and keeps going. The three actresses that play Lisa over the years are pretty great too, although there was something about the older Lisa that didn’t quite click with me. Sarah Snook and John Ortiz are kind of left out of everything, but when they appear it is rather welcoming.

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All in all, Steve Jobs will definitely be one of those films that will have you talking. Whether you like Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s vision of Steve Jobs or not, you can’t say that Jobs didn’t know what he was doing and rolled with the punches. The cast give amazing performances all around, but Michael Fassbender is the star of the show and his Steve Jobs is equal parts tragic figure, hardheaded, standoffish, charismatic, and visionary.

Steve Jobs

4.5 out of 5

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‘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