Tag Archive: Chloe Grace Moretz

In my review of the original Neighbors, I commented that although I loved how the characters and themes were handled in the film, there were simply too many big comedic moments that fell flat. It was overly raunchy and didn’t deliver enough laughs as one would have expected. Having recently rewatched that film, I can admit that I was probably a little too harsh on it. I still certainly wish that it was funnier, but it’s got a great premise and is incredibly well-directed by Nicholas Stoller. He once again returns to direct Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, a film that’s admittedly a step down from the original, but still a notch above most modern comedies. It’s rare that a comedy sequel ends up being a success and while that label might be a little too generous for this film, it’s certainly not a failure.

Several years after the rivalry of the first film, Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) discovers that she is pregnant with her second child, so she and her husband Mac (Seth Rogen) decide to finally sell their home. After purchasing an idyllic new house, they discover that their old house is in escrow for thirty days, meaning the couple that purchased it can back out at any point over the next month. This disappointing news becomes horrible once they discover that a young sorority has moved in next door. The couple tries to reason with Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), the group’s leader, but they soon learn that the sole purpose of this sorority is to throw parties outside of the frats. Things begin to get wild next-door and it’s only heightened by the arrival of Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), who vows to help this new sorority out.

Neighbors worked as a film about two different groups of people who were afraid of growing older. Mac and Kelly were afraid of the commitment that being new parents would bring, so they chose to distract themselves from this responsibility by focusing on the war with Teddy. Teddy also didn’t want to grow older; about to graduate from college, he saw some of himself in the young couple, so his battle with them was a desperate attempt to hold onto his youth.

The main theme in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising doesn’t work quite as well, but it’s arguably more important. Shelby starts her own sorority to rebel against the sexism that is present in college Greek life. It’s pretty crazy to think that even today sororities can’t throw parties while fraternities can and the film ably skewers this lack of equality. Stoller and his cowriters also showcase the sexism that is inherent in frat parties, which often exists for the sole purpose of bringing in women for the brothers. It works as a progressive message and elevates the film above your typical comedy that features crude jokes about sex and drugs. The only downside is that this message doesn’t really affect Mac and Kelly at all. Whereas the first film showed parallels between the college kids and the parents, there isn’t much of a connection between the two in the sequel.

The humor here is sporadically successful, providing just enough laughs to satisfy moviegoers. A set piece taking place at a college football tailgate is easily one of the film’s highlights and Ike Barinholtz dressing up as a scary clown to casually blend in is easily the highlight of the sequence. Rogen and Byrne are still great together, with Byrne generating so many laughs based solely on her performance that it’s a wonder why more people don’t consider her one of the funniest screen comediennes of this generation. But just like the original film, the humor in this sequel sometimes goes too far, confusing raunchiness for genuine humor. A scene centered around vomit that opens the film is actually funny, but moments involving bloody tampons and a woman going into labor are not.

But even if some of the themes and the humor are shaky, it’s ultimately Stoller who brings everything together into a worthwhile experience. There are very few directors working today that are better at handling comedy than he is. Compared to other entries in this genre, the film is visually excellent and Stoller does a fantastic job editing together montages and extended comedic sequences. Even something as simple as Rogen’s character searching through different garbage bags feels fresh and exciting under his direction. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is the rare comedy sequel that’s actually worth checking out.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising receives 2.5/4


The trailers for Dark Shadows are a perfect example of false advertising. Based on the trailers, Dark Shadows would appear to be a goofy fish out of water story. In reality, the film is more of a Gothic fantasy, with a splash of humor mixed in for good measure. A film of this nature would have been a tough sell, so it comes as no surprise that the ads have decided to focus on the comedic aspect of the film. Unfortunately, this will leave audiences feeling underwhelmed. Dark Shadows is not a bad film, but it’s tonally challenged and its reputation will suffer due to bad advertising.

Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is a wealthy 18th century playboy. When he ends a love affair with a woman named Anqelique Bouchard (Eva Green), she proceeds to place a curse on him, turning him into an immortal vampire. He is locked in a coffin for nearly 200 years until he is released in the year of 1972. Barnabas decides to reunite with his living relatives, hoping that he can restore the family to its once great glory.

Dark Shadows is written by the comedic horror author Seth Grahame-Smith. This is his first screenplay, and his lack of experience shows. One of the biggest problems is that the film is not very funny. There are not as many jokes as one would expect, which could lead someone to argue that the film was never meant to be comedic. Still, the film contains a moderate amount of jokes, and most of them fall flat. Many of the jokes do contain a good deal of wit, but Grahame-Smith writes them with such poor delivery. Johnny Depp is a hilarious individual; if he can’t make your screenplay funny, then your screenplay isn’t funny.

The script also suffers due to a lack of character development. Almost all of the characters are one dimensional, with some of them being so bland that most viewers will forget that they were even in the movie at all. This family cannot connect with each other, causing each character to feel cold and distant. A romance develops between Barnabas and the family’s governess Victoria (Bella Heathcote), but their relationship is developed so poorly that it seems to be based on infatuation instead of love.

After having made Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows appears to be a return to form for director Tim Burton. His visual style is perfect for the Gothic atmosphere of this film. There is a sharp contrast between the dark colors of the mansion and the bright colors of the 1970’s that creates beautiful visuals that carry throughout the film. The film may be slightly forgettable, but the set pieces and art direction are sure to stay in the mind’s eye for quite some time.

Johnny Depp has become a wonderful character actor, so it comes as no surprise that his portrayal of Barnabas Collins is absolutely fantastic. Eva Green also stands out as the film’s primary antagonist, and a late visual effect involving her skin is one of the coolest aspects of the film. The only other memorable performance comes from Chloe Grace Moretz, who is given the role of a moody teenager named Carolyn. Any other actress would have caused Carolyn to become tiresome and annoying, but Moretz adds a sweetness to her character that keeps her interesting.

Dark Shadows will be viewed as one of Tim Burton’s weakest films, but it has enough redeeming moments to warrant a recommendation. The soundtrack is catchy and perfectly fits the feel of the 1970’s. The opening credits playing to the song “Nights in White Satin” by The Moody Blues, is both haunting and beautiful. I have no idea if the film will please fans of the old TV series that it is based on, but I can attest to the fact that Dark Shadows is an entertaining mess.

Dark Shadows receives 2.5/4