TOP FIVE (2014)

Top Five 600x938

Score = C

TOP FIVE (2014)

(Comedy/ R)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:  Redman, Pharoahe Monch, Busta Rhymes, Royce Da 5’9”, Jay-Z, and Drake for my 6th

That logline has more to do with the movie title than the movie title has to do with the actual movie.  Get all of that?  Usually a title gives you some sort of insight or has a smidge of relevancy to what you’re about to embark on, but unfortunately the creative minds here thought otherwise.  Although I imagine the movie title was probably the brain child of one or two co-producers (Jay-Z, Kanye West) on the movie rather than the lead actor and writer, Chris Rock.  Just a guess…

Chris rock is our leading man in this comedy to close out 2014.  He plays the part of a stand-up comedian turned highly successful movie star who desires to switch gears from being a funny man to a serious actor.  In the midst of releasing his new serious movie with a serious message, he’s also on the cusp of a high profile marriage to be aired on a live television reality show.  Our lead actress in Top Five is the beautiful Rosario Dawson, who plays a reporter who is tasked with shadowing our funny… err ex-funny man around for an exclusive interview.

The movie watches like a biography into our protagonist’s past and we are taken on a journey of seemingly random moments in his life which brought him to his current mindset.  It also centers on the fact that he used to be an alcoholic and its effect on his decision not to do comedy anymore.  He regrets his role in making the uber popular “Hammy the Bear” movies and things come to a boil since all everyone wants to know is when the fourth movie is coming out rather than the new path he’s chosen to move his career into.

There are a number of cameos in the film from previous generation comedians.  Cedric the Entertainer, Jerry Seinfeld and even Whoopi Goldberg make an appearance, just to name a few.  Most of them were only on screen for a few minutes, but it was definitely enough to warrant nostalgia of a stronger comedic era than the current one.

Top Five is a comedy for those familiar with the 90’s and maybe even the 80’s.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it also doesn’t seem to be a good thing either for this particular film.  It has a couple of cringe worthy shocker parts that seem to be obligatory in today’s comedy movies, and of course there are also laugh out loud moments. (After all, Chris Rock is a good comedian in general.) I just can’t say this movie, released at this time, in this day and age was truly an enjoyable experience throughout the majority of the 102 minutes.  Maybe if it was released in the early 2000’s?

I give Top Five a grade of C.  It was an “OK” movie.  Plus, how many movies do you see the legendary Ben Vereen in these days?

Ben Vereen

Ben Vereen

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

guardians small

Score = B

(Adventure-Action–Sci-Fi / PG-13)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:  “Dance off, bro!”

You ever just feel like being entertained for a few hours?  Or maybe just feel like kickin’ back with a good movie and havin’ a little “me” time?  Well Guardians of the Galaxy allows you to do just that.

Let me start by noting what this movie does NOT do.  It does not provide you with a love story, nor bog the experience down with some long drawn out moral cause that ends up making you hate your life because you — just like the rest of us — color outside of the lines at times.  Although it does hint at both to make things interesting; and that’s quite alright.

What Guardians does encompass is a heavy dose of action and comedy. Rocket (the raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper) heads up the comedy by successfully throwing out zingers at the crew and occasionally himself at just the right moments to keep things light.  Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is our main protagonist, and his occupation is an intergalactic black market dealer.  He gets paid to acquire things that others want, but for one reason or another are unable to obtain these items themselves.  His latest job has him gathering a particularly powerful orb that seems to be a hot commodity on the black market.  So hot that he almost dies gathering it, as well as almost dying a second time trying to collect the money for it.

Our antagonist, Ronan (Lee Pace) is also tasked with finding this strange orb by an all powerful being, Thanos.  Of course once he discovers the contents of the orb, Ronan switches the plan and wants to keep the prize for himself just like any respectable villain should.  He stays true to the evil mastermind guidebook in wanting to destroy everything and everyone for some unspecified reason, which I think is this movies weak point.  I haven’t read the source material from the comics and all, but I’m thinking the screen writers could have added maybe five to ten minutes of background story to give us a solid sense of meaning behind this guy’s motives for wanting to destroy the universe.

The rest of the guardians round out with the over-literal Drax (Dave Bautista), a sentient tree who calls itself Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and Gamora the assassin ( the always lovely wear-any-color-of-paint-in-a-movie-and-still-look-good Zoe Saldana).  Everyone brought their A-game so It was a blast watching each character on the screen.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy flies off of the screen with a solid B in my book.  It has good sci-fi action and a comedic story with just a smidge of drama to anchor things down before getting back to the good stuff.  Other than giving us a peak into the antagonist’s motives behind his actions, this movie gives us just what we want out of an easy Sunday afternoon; entertainment.

Sean Gunn

Sean Gunn

Oh yeah, and I thought it’d be worth mentioning that this guy is in the movie for a little bit.  Haven’t seen him in anything solid since Gilmore Girls, (yes Gilmore Girls, it’s a damn good show…watch it!) well, at least not anything in my viewing circle. Then again, maybe I need to expand my horizons.  🙂

Ted

Score = B

TED (2012)

(Comedy, Fantasy/ Rated-R)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline: I want my teddy bear…the adult version.

The best thing you can do when you go to the movies is have low expectations.  Why?  The main reason is to avoid the disappointment if it stinks up the theater.  A better reason; if the movie happens to take your low expectations, flip you off and make you love it, then you’re actually happy you just got flipped off.

Ted is a comedy about John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), who made a wish when he was youngster.  The wish was for his stuffed teddy bear to become real so he would have a friend since he was not exactly the most popular kid growing up in suburban Massachusetts.  A shooting star grants that powerful wish and turns his teddy into a live talking, walking bear of the cotton-stuffed kind.  The two are inseparable and the friendship lasts for years.

Fast forward to the present day and 35-year-old John is a slacker of sorts, but somehow has managed a steady 4 year relationship with the beautiful Lori Collins(Mila Kunis).  Lori has a stronger grasp on the realities of life and wants John to get himself together so they can move to the next level of their relationship; which also includes cutting Ted(voiced by Seth Macfarlane) out of the picture.  Ted is seen as the negative influence in John’s life and Lori feels it’s beyond time for her boyfriend to get rid of his teddy bear and grow up as a man ultimately should.

John and Lori’s relationship gets rocky, but of course Lori gives John another chance which forces Ted to venture out on his own.   Ted ends up getting work at a super market and even gets promoted by getting caught doing not-so-teddy bear-esque things on the job.  He lands an apartment and sets up for life without John, but best buds never stay apart long right?  The last straw is broken when Ted talks John into attending a party and then has to deal with the repercussions of his actions.

There are plenty of references and cameos in the film, story-related and otherwise.  Nora Jones (as herself) sings a tune and even has a small acting part.  They even throw in Ryan Reynolds for an “interesting” non speaking cameo.  Giovanni Ribisi and Aedin Mincks play the awkward father and son in the film which makes up the small villain aspect.  It seems like the writers realized the movie didn’t have a hearty story arc for the third act to “pop” and hashed these two as an afterthought, given the minute story behind them.  A bit more energy spent developing these characters would have definitely given the movie more depth, but then again, a big part of entertainment is knowing which audience you are catering to…

Ted is a witty and at times vulgar, laugh-out-loud comedy.  It’s pretty much a shallow story of a non-typical “third wheel” causing problems in a relationship.  Having said that, everything else soars along with great pacing, comedic timing and enough social consciousness to keep you sucked in until its heartfelt conclusion.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Score = B

Seeking a friend for the end of the world (2012)

(Drama–Comedy-Romance / R)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:  What would you do with less than a month to live?

Lorene Scafaria.  Ever heard of that name before?  Me neither.  She is the director and also screenwriter for this off-beat film.  She’s an up and coming triple threat—writer, actress, and singer– out of New Jersey.  Her work spans throughout a bit of television, theater, shorts and DVD releases, but this is her first official commercial outing involving her screenwriting and directorial talents.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a cynically comedic approach to the inevitable apocalyptic end of our planet; centered on the theme of love.  Dodge (Steve Carrell) is a nice guy with a safe job, in a safe apartment, with a safe wife.  Well, at least until news of the impending asteroid approaching earth seemed to “wake up” his wife, causing her to haul ass and never be seen again.   Dodge is a tad distraught about his wife just up and leaving, especially with only three weeks left before the end of the world.  However; Dodge is a bit of an internalized individual, so not much emotion is displayed about things until he befriends one of his neighbors.  Penny (Keira Knightley) is his neighbor from downstairs, with a “wicked case of hypersomnia,” and has just broken up with her boyfriend, Owen, (Adam Brody) and naturally finds herself crying out on the fire escape of our protagonist.  The two bond for a night and Dodge briefly talks about the one that got away (not the wife) before walking Penny to her door the next day, only to discover she’s had some of his mail for the last three years.  In that pile of mail was a letter from his long-lost love and Penny urges him forward to search for and be with the girl of his dreams during earth’s final days.

This film managed a unique combination of charm and raunchiness in the same breadth.  The charm was a man who sought the love of his life, in addition to the magic that happened with his new best friend.  The raunchy was mankind’s incessant need to go to extremes in the face of danger– whether that need be rioting or having a flat-out orgy at your friendly neighborhood restaurant—it tends to speak volumes at what most are really thinking behind that society-masked filter.  Everything moved along at a decent pace in addition to the actors’ performances capturing the essence of their characters.  Of course, can you really go wrong with Keira Knightly and Adam Brody (even though he was only in the movie for about five minutes) in your roster?  I think not!

Although the movie was not a box office smash, (most likely due to the lack of marketing) this film was a pretty decent ride from Ms. Scafaria. On the flip side, I would have liked to have seen more of Penny’s back-story in the movie.  Aside from meeting up with one of her old flames, Speck, (Derek Luke) her character felt a bit skeletal in terms of content.   Overall, I give Seeking a Friend for the End of the World a solid B for its comedic presence and the over arching theme of love conquering all… even a giant asteroid named Matilda.

Moonrise Kingdom

Score = B-

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

(Drama–Comedy-Romance / PG-13)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:  Romance of the adolescent kind.

Set in the summer of 1965, Moonrise Kingdom is a story of two dissimilarly troubled youths who throw caution to the wind and travel up a coast in New England with only the “bare essentials.”  A handful of well-known talent is present in this film; Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand , Bill Murray, and even Tilda Swinton makes an appearance, as Social Services.  All of them, however, are little more than suggestive adult mandates to the focus and dialogue of the world seen through the eyes of “tweens.”

Suzy (Kara Hayward) is the “yang” to Sam’s (Jared Gilman) “ying” and is branded as a “slightly” disturbed child of sorts.  Her emotions are well under wraps for the most part and are typically only revealed when provoked.  Her parents are lawyers and the family is well off as they live their days in a sizable house/light house near the ocean.  Suzy spends most of her time watching the world through a pair of self-deemed, magical binoculars and reading fiction, which may give cause for her beliefs of the grass being greener on the other side of life.

Sam’s background is almost non-existent.   Other than the fact that he is an orphan and a Khaki Scout, the most interesting thing told about his life is the bit about his foster parents pretty much disowning him.

One day at a church play Suzy is performing in, she encounters the mysterious Sam when he wanders into the actors’ dressing room.  After a brief conversation about her costume, Sam is quickly shooed away when a coordinator enters and urges everyone to the stage.  In an era when texting and cell phones were wishful thinking, Suzy sends out a request for the Khaki Scout to write her and they become pen pals.  After a while it’s clear that both are unhappy with their current circumstances so they decide to “fly the coop” into the unknown together.  While Sam’s Khaki Scout skills are the saving grace of the young lovers, the film does well to avoid the illusion of twelve-year-old children having in-depth knowledge the likes of  grown adults.  Though there are a few key shots thrown in to make things interesting.

Moonrise Kingdom  is a film chock full of camera tricks of yester-year in the form of quick cuts, stiff zooms and at times comical lip syncing; all of which we can only hope were purposely done to compliment the mid-sixties atmosphere.  While the film felt aged as it was most likely intended, the long pauses throughout the film felt forced and seemed to negatively pull me back out of the film world, impatiently wishing they would get on with the next scene.  For the most part, the movie entertained at enough intervals to make it “OK” that I spent six bucks to view it, but not enough to make me ecstatic about it.