Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I'm wondering if the song "You're Welcome" is meant to be sarcastic because I can't get that damn thing out of my head.  In the third film, they get along with their neighbors.  It will be a boring finale of this trilogy.



Neighbors 2:  Sorority Rising – 3 out of 5

Neighbors was one of those comedies that was a pleasant surprise for me.  I didn’t have high expectations going into it but, in the end, I had a lot of fun watching it and realized that Zac Efron is a lot more than what I had previously thought him to be and that he’s actually a really funny guy.  When I saw the trailers for Neighbors 2:  Sorority Rising, my expectations were a little higher than they were for the first one.  Does this sequel live up to its predecessor or is this just one of those examples where a sequel never really needed to happen?

These two just can't win when it comes to neighbors.

In the next movie, the socially awkward geeks who
never left their dorms move in next door.
(And yes, this review has two jokes about potential
neighbors for a third film)
After successfully defeating the fraternity that once lived next door to them, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) have their sights set on making their family bigger and moving to a new home.  All they have to do is wait a month for the potential buyers to be comfortable with the perspective purchase and they are home free (pun not intended).  However, when a trio of college girls; Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein), moves in next door and decide that they are going to form their own sorority so they can throw parties, it puts the Radner’s plan into jeopardy—especially when it is revealed that former arch-nemesis Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) helped convince the girls to move into that particular house.  But when the girls turn their back on Teddy, he teams with the Radners to shut the sorority house down and a new war of the neighbors begins.

Part of the war involves Rogen's character going to Australia.
A totally real looking and in no way poorly green screened Australia.

Neighbors 2 is a decent follow-up to the previous film and it offers enough charm and hilarious moments to make it an entertaining watch.  There is the hazard present that the story feels like it is retreading familiar ground but that’s pretty standard stuff in the world of sequels.  However, the film does have a problem with feeling rushed.  The story and plot move very rapidly and doesn’t have the comparatively methodical approach to the neighborly war that the first film had.  Basically, the moment the sorority ladies move in, the war goes from zero to eleven in what feels like a heartbeat.  It made the entire feature feel very short despite it being a respectable 90 minute movie.
Look at those abs...on Rogen!

When it concerns the cast, the returning players all still have that great chemistry they had in the first film.  This is especially evident in Rogen and Efron because the scenes they share are absolutely hysterical.  Ultimately, though, the new players didn’t really seem like that momentous of an addition.  For some reason Selena Gomez is in the film despite only having about 3 minutes of screen time and the 3 actresses who play the main sorority ladies all come off a bit awkward.  Moretz and Clemons never look truly comfortable in their roles and although Feldstein has some funny moments here and there she mostly comes off like she is trying too hard to get the laugh.

Her one of two scenes.  So...worth it?

One great moment:  Billy Eichner as the realtor.
As far as comedy sequels are concerned, Neighbors 2:  Sorority Rising does have some short comings and doesn't quite stand on the same level as its predecessor.  However, it's not without its fair share of moments.  Sadly, the film does tend to feel a tad on the forgettable side and like it's something fun and entertaining to watch in the moment and not something I will probably come back to again in the future.  With that in mind, however, when this film is working and firing on all cylinders it is a lot of fun and you can't beat the comedy produced by Rogen, Efron, Byrne and Ike Barinholtz.

Mad Max: Fury Road - Black & Chrome Edition

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I'm wondering if the song "You're Welcome" is meant to be sarcastic because I can't get that damn thing out of my head.  Oh, what an edition...what a lovely edition!

 

Mad Max:  Fury Road – Black & Chrome Edition – 5 out of 5

Without a doubt, I find Mad Max:  Fury Road to be one of the best action films of 2015.  The film perfectly marries practical stunts and computer effects, there’s a goddamn fire tornado in it, it’s a two hour chase scene that never gets old or repetitive, and it gifted us the badass that was Furiosa (which made a whole bunch of Men’s Rights Activists upset and cry like little babies—that was another blessing).  Not long after its release, the director; George Miller, stated that he wanted to release a black and white version of the film called the Black & Chrome Edition.  Sometimes when these re-releases happen, they are done just to have fans pay for the same movie again but with erroneous changes made to them.  Surely, this couldn’t be one of those things, could it?  I mean, the whole thing is re-rendered into black and white.  This isn’t like putting in some extended and deleted scenes and claiming it’s now an R-rated version of a movie in order to piggyback off of another movie that just made a killing and just so happened to be rated R, right?  Well, I picked up this version of the film and checked it out.  I gotta say:  It was worth every penny!

                                                                          Roadshow Films/Warner Bros. Pictures
Nothing was happening in this shot but it still looked badass.  Making it
black and white made it even more so.

Nothing about the story is changed with this version.  Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is captured by a mad warlord named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Bryne) and our wasteland hero seems like he’s going to end up being a blood donor slave to Joe’s War Boys army.  However, a driver for Joe; Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), ends up double-crossing Joe and attempts to escort his prize wives away from his rule and to a fabled land of green and life.  Max ends up coming along for the ride as Joe and his army follow and attempt to reclaim the women.  What follows next is pure awesomeness!

                                                                         Roadshow Films/Warner Bros. Pictures
He may be a mad warlord but at least he always has a smile on his face.

So, can something as simple as making a vibrant and visually stunning action film in grayscale really change the entire tone of the film?  That answer is obvious because it does.  The thing is Mad Max:  Fury Road can easily be written off as a popcorn summer blockbuster action film filled with loud noises, explosions and a rocking score but the film actually is a whole lot deeper than that.  The film explores themes of redemption, solidarity and personal independence.  The movie breaks away from Hollywood tropes and dares to show that a female action star is just as good as the male (which pissed off so many dudes with extremely fragile masculinity) and it defied norms by having two leads of opposite gender act as comrades in war rather than potential breeding ground for romantic relationships.  The film has layers with its roaring engines and that awesome truck with the guy playing guitar on it.  Transferring the film from color to black and white only seemed to enhance the tone and its themes of survival in a god forsaken world.

                                                                         Roadshow Films/Warner Bros. Pictures
I really, really, REALLY want a Furiosa solo film.

Removing all color from the film not only made for a new breed of striking visuals for the movie, it also made the whole ordeal that Furiosa, Max and the escaping brides of Immortan Joe are going through feel that much more bleak.  Enhancing the dread that was their mission and their whole world really upped the stakes to the conflict and ended up making their victory feel that much more momentous.  Granted, there are some minor moments that lose impact due to the loss of color but, for the most part, this was an exciting new way to see an already amazing movie.

                                                                          Roadshow Films/Warner Bros. Pictures
I ask this a lot but is there a role that Tom Hardy can't nail?
The dude is insanely talented.

Now the real question is:  Is this the definitive version of the film?  George Miller seems to think so but I don’t agree with that.  I don’t really think this is better than the theatrical version—in fact, I think both of them stand pretty equally and I can’t put one over the other. 

                                                                          Roadshow Films/Warner Bros. Pictures
My army would probably have a truck that has a dude playing the recorder
on it--just because that's most likely all I'll be able to afford during the apocalypse.

                                              Roadshow Films/Warner Bros. Pictures
I really don't understand how anyone can hate this
film.

The original is a punch to the face of pure, uncut awesome and this one is the same film but with a different tone thanks to the black and white.  It’s still a punch to the face of epicness (totally a word) but it’s done so with an existential feeling of dread that acts as a chaser.  Usually, when films are re-released as new editions and re-edits, it’s pretty easy to put one over the other because they are often either an improvement or a waste of time (or a marketing gimmick to get more money from the film) but this is the first case where I’ve sat down and said, “This is just as good as the original edit.”  In fact, the Black & Chrome Edition feels like a terrific companion piece that somehow places itself and the original into an infinite loop that constantly reinforces the other and is making each other better.  Overall, Mad Max:  Fury Road – Black & Chrome Edition isn’t an improvement because the film never needed improving.  It’s just another way to watch and appreciate an already amazing feature and to digest it in a whole new way that is as equally amazing as what came before it.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Moana

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I'm wondering if the song "You're Welcome" is meant to be sarcastic because I can't get that damn thing out of my head.  It's like the chorus is taunting me with its ear worm properties.



Moana – 4 out of 5

I didn’t get a chance to see Moana in the theaters because I’m pretty selective on what I will spend my money on when I go to the theater.  However, I really wanted to check this one out because I’m a fan of The Rock and would even go as far as to say I have a man-crush on him.  The dude is funny, talented and brings a lot of charm to his roles.  What’s not to like?  So, anyway, when Moana arrived on DVD and Blu-Ray, I blind bought a copy and took a risk.  Was the gamble worth it?  Yes, it was!

It won't be long before artists on the internet are re-imagining Moana as other
things.  They love to do that with the Disney Princesses.
(Actually, they probably already have.)

Nice to see the water alien from The Abyss still
getting work.
A long time ago near the Polynesian islands, a demi-god by the name of Maui (Dwayne Johnson) stole a mystic gem that was the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti and it contained the power to create life.  This thievery brought darkness to the world and Maui ended up being attacked by the lava demon Te Kā, causing him to lose the gem and his magical fish hook (one that granted him shapeshifting powers).  Generations later on the island of Motunui, Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison) is grooming his daughter; Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), to one day take his place and lead the tribe.  However, trouble falls over the island as crops start to die and the fish begin to disappear.  At the behest of her grandma (Rachel House), Moana decides to travel beyond their island (against her father’s wishes, of course) and find Maui and make him return the heart to the goddess Te Fiti.  

"IF YOU SMELLLLLL-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA...what the Maui...
is cooking!"

There’s no denying that Disney brings a certain magic with their films and it is seen in Moana all over the place.  This really shouldn’t come as a surprise since the directors; John Musker and Ron Clements, both directed the iconic Disney classics that are The Little Mermaid and Aladdin (among others).  That same level of charm and wonder that is seen in those films is captured once again in this feature as it provides a heart-filled story, tremendous animation, excellent music and a great cast.

One major complaint:  That adorable pig did not have a big enough part.

A singing crab?  This feels familiar...wasn't that
in Porky's?
The most notable elements that worked in Moana’s favor are the eye-popping animation and the music from Opetaia Foa’i and Lin-Manuel Miranda (you might have heard of that guy.  He got famous for a little show called Hamilton).  The animation is a jaw-dropping and wondrous combination of computer animation and hand-drawn 2D work.  These two styles work so well in concert that, at the time of viewing, I never realized that certain parts (like Maui’s emotive tattoo) were hand drawn.  Additionally, the water effects for the ocean are absolutely stunning and never once stopped impressing me the entire time I watched it.  And speaking of stunning, the songs supplied in this film are toe-tappingly catchy and the score sets the perfect tone for the tropical backdrop.

It's like Waterworld...but if Waterwold was good.

Heihei's favorite Alice in Chains song?
Man in the Box.
While I admit that it was the promise of The Rock providing a voice that brought me to the show (or got me to but the Blu-Ray, as it were), I was overall really impressed with the entire voice acting cast.  It’s cool hearing Jango Fett himself as Chief Tui (and I’m such a Star Wars geek that I picked out his voice immediately after his first line), I loved the small but memorable role that Jemaine Clement brought as the giant crab Tamatoe (who sings like David Bowie, nonetheless!) and it was pretty fun to learn that it was Alan Tudyk behind the voice of the intelligence-lacking roster; Heihei.  Naturally, Dwayne Johnson brings his trademark charm to Maui but I was incredibly impressed with Auli’i Cravalho as Moana.  This was her first film and she really nailed the character and captured Moana’s determination and drive.

"Well, since my daughter just left, I might as well see what my son Boba can do."

Who would have thought a lava demon would
contain so much lava?
Finally, while the movie may hit a lot of the familiar tropes that you see in Disney’s storytelling (or really any stories or fairytales that have stood the test of time), the tale is still a wildly imaginative one that offers up some timeless morals as well as a look at the mythology of another culture.  The story has its heart, humor and drama but I was really enthralled with the hero’s journey of Moana.  She proves to be a great strong female lead who is deeper than your usual Disney princess (not that I’m saying there is anything wrong with them).  Moana is endlessly driven but also human and is prone to being overwhelmed by what is thrown at her.  This aspect could have easily come off as cheesy or just your average hero’s tale but the way the story is crafted and executed made the thing feel like it isn’t your run-of-the-mill adventure but rather a momentous one with undertones of independence, personal responsibility and heroics, all taken by a very captivating character.

Man, that just looks epic.  Let's get this airbrushed on the side of a van.

As much as I was taken with Moana, I’m not entirely sure if this will end up being one of those Disney films that I hold near and dear to my heart and it probably won’t get much replay value from me (I will watch it again, mind you, but it probably won’t enter a regular rotation).  That being said, the film is still terrific and has that certain Disney magic and awe-inspiring wonder.  Plus, you can’t beat Jemaine Clement as a large crab impersonating David Bowie, Alan Tudyk playing a roster and The Rock just being stupidly entertaining and amusing.