Posts Tagged movie bears

Neighbors Movie Review: There Goes the Neighborhood

NeighborsDirector Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) brings us NEIGHBORS, a hilarious movie about a young couple at war with the frat house that moves in next door. Typical frat comedies tend to pick a side, turning one fraternity into an obvious villain or an obvious underdog hero. NEIGHBORS offers a more balanced approach, devoting time to both sides of the war.

We understand the woes Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are facing as a fledgling couple with a newborn, and we empathize with both their desire for uninterrupted sleep and their yearning for the uninhibited life of the young. We also find merit in the friendship between fraternity members Zac Efron and Dave Franco, who want to leave behind a legacy before graduating and facing the real world. Both sides are at a precipice; the fraternity members are staring down the barrel of the gun that is adulthood, and the young couple are struggling with the realization that their carefree days may be over.

This isn’t a dramatic piece, though; Stoller is a master when it comes to allowing the talent of his cast to shine in his comedic movies; NEIGHBORS packs laugh after laugh into its tightly-paced script, but takes brief pauses to let an actor’s often hilarious facial expressions extend a reaction.

NEIGHBORS is a solid comedic piece, and while it should serve as a good pick-me-up to just about any audience, the 22-32 year old audience should find the themes most resonant.

 

William Lindus
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CHEF: A Well-Balanced and Satisfying Culinary Comedy

Chef Movie 2

As a film blogger, I know full well that what I do falls into nebulous territory; I don’t create art, I simply critique it. In CHEF, Jon Favreau explores the relationship between the creator and the reviewer with a foodie edge, following a chef who has lost his culinary spark and fallen into a rut preparing an uninspired menu at the behest of the restaurateur who bankrolls him (Dustin Hoffman). After receiving national critical attention for his food and his social media outbursts, Favreau finds that a food truck might just repair his joy for cooking, as well as his strained relationship with his family. With a finger squarely on the pulse of the social media marketing landscape, Favreau has tapped in to a timely energy that feels oddly absent in the modern film landscape.

To his credit, at least on a personal level, Favreau does not come down too harshly on critics; he finds them a necessary, if sometimes frustrating part of the creative community. Well written, expertly acted, and lovingly directed, CHEF is small and passionate project from a director who has sidetracked his career from creative films to popular films in recent years. In this way, CHEF is Favreau’s food truck. Add this one to your must-see list!

Austinites should also love the pit stops at Franklin BBQ and Guero’s Taco Bar, as well as the performance by Gary Clark Jr.

CHEF is in theaters Friday, 5/9/2014.

William Lindus
williamlindus@moviebears.com
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The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Is Spidey Back?

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Imageworks

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Imageworks

When a film that rakes in big box office numbers faces an alarming volume of critical backlash, it is a challenge for filmmakers and production companies to know what parts of their formula to tweak for the sequel. Case in point, 2012’s THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. While the franchise reboot was not universally panned, fans and critics who saw glaring issues with the film were much more vocal than you might find with other lifeless blockbusters. Sony Pictures and, by extension, director Marc Webb had to have had this in mind when developing THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, and the result is a sequel that is substantially better than that its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t a great film, and perhaps this review will be equal parts whining about what I don’t like and damning the film with otherwise faint praise. Either way, I think it is worth noting that the filmmakers at least tried to make a better film than the previous installment. 

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 presents itself more like a trailer for the four upcoming Spider-man franchise films that have been announced than as a work that can stand on its own two feet. I’m not normally one to complain about franchise building in the age of modern-day filmmaking; Disney/Marvel thrives by positioning each of their films as a teaser for the next to come, and Warner Bros. is looking to emulate that strategy with the JUSTICE LEAGUE franchise. What the AVENGERS films do effectively is contain their narratives in way that are individually satisfying if not seen in the context of the overarching cinematic universe. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, on the other hand, clumsily juggles several narrative threads that serve no purpose than to set up the sequels. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wise Guys Don’t ROB THE MOB

ROB THE MOBFilled with more bravado than common sense, young lovers Tommy (Michael Pitt) and Rosie (Nina Arianda) embark on a series of robberies targeting Mafia social clubs Raymond de Felitta’s ROB THE MOB. Armed with an uzi and a get away car, Tommy and Rosie discover that mobsters don’t bring guns to their social clubs, making them easy marks. Since the Mafia is an illegal operation that thrives by staying just off the radar, reporting these robberies to the police is impossible. However, when Tommy and Rosie stumble across a list outlining the names and ranks of the entire operation, they find themselves the focal point of the attention of the mob, law enforcement agencies, and a curious reporter. 

ROB THE MOBIt is a challenge to classify a film like ROB THE MOB. The absurdity of Tommy’s actions, and his unwillingness to believe that he might be making obvious mistakes, adds an awkward humor to the script, amplified by his near-bumbled heists. One of the funniest sequences of the film occurs as Tommy struggles with his uzi during a robbery, then accidentally sprays bullets recklessly around the bar. ROB THE MOB also showcases poignant dramatic sequences that ground the story and keep it from going off the rails. In a way, this lack of focus could be viewed as confusion on the part of the filmmaker, and indeed, some of the film’s pacing felt a tad clumsy. That said, the film’s identity confusion provides a happy accident of sorts, keeping it from straying too far into either screwball or maudlin territory.

Be it a drama or a comedy, at its core, ROB THE MOB is a love story between a pair of young lovers who simply don’t know any better. It would be easy to paint the pair as simple, clueless thieves who bite of more than they can chew, but ROB THE MOB lets the characters display exuberant passion and a dim charm that makes them impossible to root against. Fans of films like TRUE ROMANCE or BONNIE AND CLYDE should appreciate the spirit of the romance, even if the lovers find themselves involved in a self-inflicted precarious balancing act between what’s right and what’s profitable. Nina Arianda stands out amongst an already talented cast, cracking a sincere, if goofy grin whenever the film starts to take itself too seriously.

ROB THE MOB
The film suffers a bit by trying to provide too many emotional layers to its supporting cast. From the weary mob boss (Andy Garcia) to the special agent (Frank Whaley) to the investigative report (Ray Ramano), everyone whose lives are touched by Tommy and Rosie ends up embarking on an emotional journey to evaluate their own actions. With more balance, this might have been effective, but here, it comes across as merely ham-fisted. This results in a defanged Mafia that are viewed in a bizarrely nostalgic light in some sequences of the film, surely against de Felitta’s intentions.

ROB THE MOB tries to be too many things to be considered a great film, but the love affair between Tommy and Rosie and the charismatic performances by Pitt and Arianda are enough to make it a good film. If you’re the type of person that enjoys seeing love thrive despite challenging circumstances, ROB THE MOB might just steal your heart.

7 / 10

William Lindus
williamlindus@moviebears.com
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The Bag Man: Better Left Unopened

The Bag ManYou know that thing that happens when you make a photocopy, and then photocopy that photocopy, and you end up with a copy that comes nowhere near the quality of the original document? Well, the 2014 crime thriller The Bag Man, starring John Cusack, fits this description perfectly, presenting itself as a second-rate imitation of a mid-90s Quentin Tarantino flick. By itself, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Early Tarantino films combined quirky, charismatic characters with witty dialogue and dangerous situations in such a way as to always be interesting. The Bag Man tries to recreate this formula without understanding why the individual elements are necessary or how to craft them properly, churning out an end product that is somehow tedious and ponderous despite the numerous ‘what the fuck’ moments the film hurls at us.

The first sixty seconds of The Bag Man sets up the film’s relatively simple plot: crime lord Dragna (Robert De Niro) wants a criminal named Jack (John Cusack) to pick up a mysterious bag, check in to a seedy motel, and protect the bag in exchange for a hefty sum of money. Cusack only has one instruction: under no circumstances is he to look inside the bag. Once at the motel, things devolve into violence quickly as Cusack faces a rogue’s gallery of weird and quirky characters, including a blue-haired prostitute with potentially deceptive intentions, a dwarf in a track suit, a pimp with an eyepatch, Crispin Glover, and a squad of corrupt cops hell-bent on stopping him. Set amidst the gun fights and the double-dealing, the audience is drawn through the story wondering what’s in the box bag. Read the rest of this entry »

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RoboCop: Some Assembly Required

Joel Kinnaman stars in Columbia Pictures' "Robocop."

Joel Kinnaman stars in Columbia Pictures’ “Robocop.”

As a child of the 80s, RoboCop holds a special place in my heart. Growing up, the popular culture that I ravenously consumed was full of hot-shot police officers disobeying strict police lieutenants, being forced to turn in their badges, and yet still finding a way to track down the bad guys before the credits rolled. The 80s also brought a technology boom that popularized the concept of robots, androids, and cyborgs in science fiction cartoons. The inevitable blending of the two trends gave me not only 1987’s RoboCop movie, but also the Saturday morning cartoon and action figure line that followed. I still remember lazy childhood days where RoboCop, the Karate Kid, Chuck Norris, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles teamed up in my bedroom to face army after army of generic plastic villains and hoodlums.

Like many children of the 80s, I’ve seen my beloved childhood memories hauled out of antiquity, dusted off, and re-imagined in reboot after reboot in recent years, often with disappointing results. So, when the inevitably RoboCop remake was announced, I vividly remember dueling emotions, the unbridled, giddy joy of my inner child clashing with the cynical disdain of my inner man-child. No remake could ever replace the 1987 film that played such a pivotal role in my childhood, or match the often satirical tone that I’ve come to appreciate as an adult. I say all of this as a disclaimer, not only for the review that follows, but as a reflection of what I expect to be the the views of audiences as a whole. As much as I plan on divorcing the remake from my views on the original as I craft my review, I know that many movie-goers will not be able to make the same distinction. Read the rest of this entry »

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