Tag Archive: Seth Rogen

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


Steve Jobs – Movie Review

Chances are that you’ve used a product from Steve Jobs. The face of Apple helped unveil a slew of high-tech products in his lifetime and many of his ideas were extremely influential in the world of technology. Since his death in 2011, a number of films have been released chronicling his life, but Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs will surely be viewed as the de facto Jobs biopic. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has cooked up one of the best screenplays in years, managing to showcase Jobs at his best and worst. Playing the often maligned CEO, Michael Fassbender hits a homerun, as do his supporting cast which includes Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels. From the visuals, to the kinetic energy, to the unique structure, Steve Jobs scores in every department and manages to become the best film about technology since The Social Network.

What’s most unique about this take on Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is that it only looks at three distinct moments in his life. While there are a few flashbacks scattered throughout the film, the majority of its runtime is spent following Jobs around before three product launches: the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1988 and the iMac in 1998. While most biopics tend to follow someone’s life from beginning to end, this unique structure allows us to spend extended amounts of time with Jobs before a major moment in his life. These sequences occur almost in real time and we get to watch him interact with some of the most important people throughout his life and career. The majority of his time is spent with Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) a marketing executive and seemingly his closest employee and friend. Jobs also receives visits from his friend and computer programmer Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) and CEO of Apple John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). But perhaps his most important relationship is with Lisa, a young girl who he refuses to admit is his daughter.

Sorkin doesn’t hold back and try to portray Jobs as a nice guy. He could be a real jerk and was often extremely difficult to work with. This shows in the film, especially when it comes to his relationship with programmer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) who Jobs seems to bully around. Because the film doesn’t sugarcoat how awful of a person Jobs could sometimes be, it feels like we’re getting real, raw glimpses into the life of a genius. His dedication to perfection in his products alienated those around him, but it allowed him to revolutionize the landscape of computers and technology. These backstage glimpses feel like we’re seeing a part of Jobs that was hidden from the public’s eye and it’s absolutely exhilarating to watch.

Adding to the exhilaration is director Danny Boyle, who brings his usual energy and flair to pump up the film. The film went through an occasionally rocky production, with David Fincher originally attached to direct. As much as I love Fincher, it’s tough to imagine anyone being a better match for this material than Boyle. His style seems perfectly suited for a film that’s all about unveiling products and he makes sure that there’s never a dull moment in the film. One of the most interesting directorial choices that Boyle made was the decision to shoot each time period on a different format (16mm for 1984, 35mm for 1988 and digital for 1998). This feels like the kind of perfectionist decision that Jobs would have approved of and it only further helps to emphasize the development of Jobs and Apple throughout the film.

While it’s Boyle that breathes life and energy into the film, it’s Sorkin and Fassbender who ultimately bring the film’s title character to life. Admittedly, Fassbender doesn’t really look like Jobs, but the sharp writing and Fassbender’s excellent performance will allow people to suspend any disbelief they might have. Sorkin’s writing is so fast-paced that you’ll be struggling to keep up with every line and I mean that in the best possible way. Every word that comes out of Fassbender’s mouth genuinely feels like something the tech giant would say and Fassbender nails the delivery every time. He’s given a lot of great performances in the past few years, but this is undoubtedly one of his best. Not to be outdone, the supporting cast is excellent as well. Winslet, Rogen Daniels and Stuhlbarg all have incredible scenes with Fassbender and they’re able to reveal incredible layers of depth and emotion within their characters.

There’s hardly a single moment in Steve Jobs that isn’t entirely engrossing. Along with the praise that I’ve already heaped upon the film, the music from Daniel Pemberton and the cinematography from Alwin H. Küchler are awesome as well. Steve Jobs is more a film about people than technology, but it just so happens to excel in every technological department. Comparisons are sure to be made to 2010’s The Social Network and while it’s unfair to say if one film is better or worse than the other, they’re sure to make great companion pieces. Both films look at two different billionaires and contrast their perfect products with their imperfect lives. If you’ve ever used an Apple product, you owe it to yourself to see this film and take a peek at the man behind the curtain.

Steve Jobs receives 4/4

Amy Schumer is one of the biggest names in comedy right now, so it comes as no surprise that she managed to team up with Judd Apatow. Apatow’s been responsible for helping boost the careers of some of the biggest names in comedy today, including Steve Carell and Seth Rogen. Now he’s directing Schumer in Trainwreck and, despite being written by Schumer herself, this still has all the trademarks of a Judd Apatow film. It’s too long and the laughs start to disappear in the film’s second half, but when Schumer writes a joke, it almost always sticks the landing. There are some great character moments here and the relationship between the two leads is incredibly sweet. It’s just a shame that the film’s second half replaces humor with predictable romantic clichés.

Amy (Amy Schumer) is a 30-something New York journalist who currently works for a sleazy men’s magazine. Her father (Colin Quinn) was never able to make his marriage work and he has influenced Amy to abandon a life of monogamy. She sleeps around with as many guys as she can, drinks a lot, smokes pot and is essentially the opposite of her married sister, Kim (Brie Larson). Amy’s latest piece is an interview with Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), a celebrated sports doctor. The two instantly take a liking to each other, which directly goes against Amy’s stance on marriage and long-term relationships. Does she really like this guy enough to change her ways?

Amy’s character is clearly somewhat of a representation of Schumer herself and this gives the more emotional moments in the film a feeling of dramatic sincerity. Admittedly, most of the dramatic moments in the film’s second half are fine, but they just can’t live up to the fun hilarity that the film starts out as. It also doesn’t help that Amy and Aaron’s relationship, while sweet, is on a completely predictable romantic movie trajectory. But while the story is nothing you haven’t seen before, it’s ultimately the performances and the humor that save the film. Schumer’s script is filled with dialogue driven humor and watching these funny conversations play out is a joy to watch. Every member of the cast has at least one standout moment, but it’s ultimately Schumer and Hader that bring the majority of the heart and humor to the proceedings. Both of their characters are funny, but they always feel like genuine people and not over-the-top comedic stereotypes. We’re able to care about their relationship because of this, even when the plot of the film falls into familiar territory. Trainwreck might be nothing more than a typical romantic comedy, but at least it’s a typical romantic comedy done very well.

Trainwreck receives 3/4

In this week’s episode we talk about the controversial Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy, The Interview. We also briefly discuss Frank, Repo Man and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Check out the episode above and be sure to subscribe to us on Youtube and follow us on Twitter!

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Comedy films often work best with a simple premise; complicate the story too much and there won’t be enough room for jokes. Neighbors has a very simple premise, but it’s also a good one: what if a fraternity moved in next door? This solid premise should have delivered great jokes that generate big laughs, but one can’t help feeling underwhelmed. Sure, there are some chuckles to be had, but there’s certainly not enough to make this comedy as hilarious as it should have been.

Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are a young couple with a newborn daughter. They’re having trouble adjusting to their new lifestyle and they may not want to give up their youth just yet. One day, a fraternity moves into the house next door to them. They visit the house and talk to the fraternity’s leader Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) and ask him to keep the noise down. Teddy agrees, as long as they promise to come to him with any complaints and not call the police. Mac and Kelly agree to this promise, but end up breaking it one night when Teddy doesn’t answer his phone. They call the cops and upset Teddy in the process. He decides to make Mac and Kelly’s life a living hell, but they’re not going down without a fight.

Written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, the film’s script doesn’t supply enough jokes to keep audience members laughing through the entire film. When the laughs do come, they mostly amount to a few chuckles here and there, with only a few truly hilarious scenes in the whole film. This is a raunchy movie, which is perfectly fine, but this film’s raunchy jokes feel like they are simply there to gross out audience members and earn an R rating. Raunchy jokes can be hysterical if they are done well, but here they lack the wit and cleverness that many of Seth Rogen’s best films have had. While the film’s script fails to deliver the jokes, it does successfully provide each major character with a well-constructed character arc. Mac and Kelly terrorizing the fraternity to stay young and Teddy terrorizing the family next door because of his fear of growing old adds a nice dose of warmth into what could have been a very cynical film.

Even though the film isn’t as funny as it should have been, director Nicholas Stoller always keeps the film incredibly watchable. With a short runtime, the film moves along at a nice pace and never drags. This is a great looking film and the party scenes within the fraternity’s house are especially gorgeous. Stoller and cinematographer Brandon Trost give each party a distinct look and personality, despite taking place in the same location.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne have excellent chemistry together and Zac Efron gives what might be the best performance of his career, but even they can’t save Neighbors from feeling like a disappointment. The film is put together nicely, but most of the humor can’t live up to the film’s great premise. Leaving the theater, one can’t help but wonder how much funnier this could have been. What should have been the best comedy of the summer is nothing more than a passable 96 minutes.

Neighbors receives 2/4