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Nick Valdez

Review: Shin Godzilla

Sep 30 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220931:43124:0[/embed] Shin GodzillaDirectors: Hidaeki Anno and Shinji HiguchiRated: NRRelease Date: October 11th, 2016  Much like the original Godzilla (or Gojira) film released in 1954, Shin Godzilla is a natural disaster film through a political thriller lens. When a giant, radioactive monster suddenly rises out the sea and wanders through Tokyo, the Japanese government discusses how to handle the situation. But the focus is on the one lone dissenter, Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa), the Deputy Chief who's more interested in saving as many people as possible rather than rise through the political ranks. As he leads a task force, he must now work with the Japanese government members who have their own agendas, an American government with their own ideas as to how to handle the problem (both metaphorically and narratively), and of course, a giant monster slowly getting deadlier as time rolls on.  As you can gauge from the synopsis, Shin Godzilla is light on Godzilla action. It's reflective of that old school Toho mentality where Godzilla is merely a disaster punctuating the human drama. But unlike the similar criticism used against Edwards' Godzilla in 2014, this film makes sure each of those short bursts is treated with the appropriate amount of weight. When Godzilla attacks, or better yet walks, the action is grounded. You see citizens actively reacting to the monster and even witness some of their downfalls. When this Godzilla tears through a building, there's a sense that each of those buildings is populated. Like the film, Godzilla itself moves in a direct way. Using a traditional suit highlighted by CG also helps the titular kaiju feel real. There is an attention to detail that's been missing from the series for quite some time. It's part of the reason the new design is so effective as well. This "Shin" Godzilla radiates with bright reds and oranges, and I've never seen the series' radioactive fire breath be more effective. Watching deep purples giving way to the trademark blue flame crawling up through Godzilla's tail and then out of its mouth is honestly badass.  But the problem with having such a well thought out, weighted Godzilla is the absence felt when not on screen. By leaning so heavily into a political thriller, directors Anno and Higuchi bet everything on human drama. The main problem with this angle, however, is the political stuff isn't all that interesting. There are vague hints of government members who are making decisions in order to protect their own interests, but it neither helps build the world nor is relevant to the overall plot. The attention to detail also works against the team here as a lot of time is spent explaining minor details like evacuation plans or devoted to following down a chain of command as they issue orders. Leading to much of the dialogue feeling like wasted time. To their credit, Anno and Higuchi do their best to make the dialogue heavy scenes easy to digest. Much of the dialogue is framed through quick cuts (leading to these weird moments when characters speak directly to the camera), and little jokes give some of the members much needed personality. But it's not until the titular monster fully evolves does the film choose to evolve as well. Much like the 1954 original, Shin Godzilla is a thinly (then not so thinly) veiled metaphor for nuclear weapons. But before settling on the same commentary on the subject the series has been known for (making for a weak conclusion), directors Anno and Higuchi slip in some experimental commentary never seen in this series. For one, there are several direct references to America's vision of Godzilla. From its name change, as this film adopts "Godzilla" over the traditional "Gojira," to ridiculing American blockbusters' penchant for big, loud solutions to their problems. But oddly enough as the two ridicule Western film making sensibilities, a lot of its themes are adopted here. When the film works best, it lauds itself with a Japanese nationalism mirroring much of American disaster films. The "united we stand" mentality carries the film through its climax and eventually gives way to a cool "rah rah" moment. Which makes it all the more confusing when it reverts back to a somber, "nuclear weapons are bad" tone.  In the end, Shin Godzilla has me torn. While I appreciate a return to the series' deep thematic roots, the film is at its best when it flirts with ideas outside of the norm. It's a clash of old school Toho and modern monster movie filmmaking that ultimately leaves a lot to be desired by film's end. But at the end of the day, Shin Godzilla accomplishes what Toho set out to do. This new Godzilla is fearsome as it is toothsome. It simply beats out the American version with just the fire breath alone.  Regardless of what Toho decides to do with this new Godzilla series moving forward, I'll be there to watch it happen. 
Shin Godzilla Review photo
Godzilla got busy
When Gareth Edwards' take on Godzilla failed to light up screens here in the U.S., Godzilla's parent company, Toho, took the reboot as kind of an insult. Vowing to reclaim their famous monster, Toho unveiled a striking new de...

Fantastic Beasts photo

Now that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a little over a month away expect to see more and more of it leading into its November release. When you see the trailer, these are probably your immediate thoughts: 1. "Fan...

Lion King photo
Lion King

Disney working on live-action The Lion King remake


Nasaawhenya
Sep 28
// Nick Valdez
As pretty much everyone guessed after seeing Jon Favreau's technical marvel, The Jungle Book, Disney is indeed moving forward with a live-action adaptation of the animated classic, The Lion King.  Confirming on their web...
The Simpsons photo
The Simpsons

You're not ready to watch 600 episodes of The Simpsons in a row


FXX's second "Every Simpsons Ever"
Sep 23
// Nick Valdez
When Fox first launched its spin-off channel, FXX, back in 2014, we were treated with an "Every Simpsons Ever" marathon. A week long event that showed the 552 episode long series in full. Now topping that is their second mara...

Power Rangers photo
Power Rangers

Bill Hader cast as Alpha 5 for the Power Rangers reboot


Sep 22
// Nick Valdez
To go along with the news of a New York Comic Con panel, first look at the zords, Elizabeth Banks as Rita, and Bryan Cranston as Zordon, is the coolest bit of news yet. Announced on Twitter, Bill Hader is joining the Power Ra...
Power Rangers photo
Power Rangers

Check out these new, goofy Power Rangers movie posters


Coming to NYCC!
Sep 21
// Nick Valdez
Power Rangers may be hitting theaters in a little over six months, but I feel like I've been waiting for it forever. Make fun all you want, but it's a big deal for me and a lot of  folks my age.  Along with the...
Fifty Shades Darker photo
Fifty Shades Darker

Here's the darker trailer for Fifty Shades Darker


Fifty Shades Danker
Sep 15
// Nick Valdez
I read the trilogy, I reviewed the original film, and now I'm here to tell you about Fifty Shades Darker. There's honestly not much to say about it. It has the same look as the first one, has the same lack of chemistry its tw...
Moana Trailer photo
Oh my gosh.
With as good of a roll Disney has been on lately, I've seen many people joke along the lines of "I will push children out of the way to see this" and for the first time, I completely agree. While this newest trailer gives awa...

Black Lightning photo
Black Lightning

DC's Black Lightning coming to TV, but not on The CW


Sep 09
// Nick Valdez
As we've reiterated many times in the past, what WB/DC can't seem to do in their films they've been excelling at on TV. One major player has been producer Greg Berlanti, who pretty much reinvented DC on TV with Arrow, The Fla...
Live By Trailer photo
Live By Trailer

Trailer for Ben Affleck's Live By Night tears through the prohibition era


Sep 09
// Nick Valdez
Ben Affleck's currently in a sort of revival. He may have take some hits in the 2000s, but it all changed in the 2010s with The Town. With a trio of successful directorial outings (Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo), he's we...
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Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur is Summer's biggest flop with $120 million loss


Truly not the king of kings.
Sep 09
// Nick Valdez
Although we had some major tentpole releases last Summer, even making it the third best box office Summer ever, that didn't mean every release succeeded. Among the Civil Wars and Batmans, was the poor Judah Ben-Hur. According...
Rings Trailer photo
Rings Trailer

First trailer for The Ring sequel Rings goes viral


One week since you looked at me
Aug 24
// Nick Valdez
With all of these nostalgic projects lately, we've gotten more hits than misses. Usually sequels (or reboots) ten years in the making never usually live up to why people liked the original. But I don't think Rings will have t...
Bad Santa 2 photo
Bad Santa 2

This Red Band trailer for Bad Santa 2 is pretty bad


Aug 09
// Nick Valdez
I wasn't a fan of Bad Santa all those years ago, and to this day I still don't understand the appeal. It grew such a cult following that a sequel has been in the works for years, but despite efforts to stop it, Bad Santa...
Man of Steel 2 photo
Man of Steel 2

Warner Bros moving forward with Man of Steel sequel


Get the money, dollar dollar bill y'all
Aug 08
// Nick Valdez
Despite its poor critical reception, Suicide Squad broke crazy records last weekend. Because of this Warner Bros and DC Comics have to decided to move along with their plan, good films be damned. But something we didn't see c...
AINT NO MERCY photo
AINT NO MERCY

Watch Jared Leto's Joker hang out with Skrillex and Rick Ross for 'Purple Lambourghini' video


AIN'T NO MERCY AIN'T AIN'T AI-
Aug 08
// Nick Valdez
Suicide Squad has come and gone. Breaking August opening records, failing critically for the most part (although our Editor-in-Chief Matt was more level headed than most), and had so many editors in the editing room (accordin...

Review: The Little Prince

Aug 06 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220747:43032:0[/embed] The Little PrinceDirector: Mark OsborneRated: PGRelease Date: August 5, 2016  Mark Osborne's (Kung Fu Panda 3) The Little Prince isn't a direct adaptation of its source material. Much like other children's book adaptations such as Where the Wild Things Are and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Prince creates its own original tale. But it takes an interesting angle as the original story serves as more of a delivery system for the original text. As Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy) deals with an overbearing, but well meaning. mother (Rachel McAdams), she meets The Aviator (Jeff Bridges, who also serves as weathered narrator from the book) who tells her about the time he met a Little Prince (Riley Osborne) who traveled across the stars. Essentially, it's a story within a story. Seeing as how difficult it might've been to translate the obtuse themes from Saint-Exupery's writing, this is probably the best possible solution.  But the main problem with taking this approach is when Prince isn't telling the book's story directly, it falls short. The film has a conventional style with character design resembling most animated films. The thin, angular bodies of Dreamworks, the larger heads of Pixar, all mash together into something resembling Hoodwinked! with a more flexible budget. That's not to say it's not done well, it's just utterly generic when juxtaposed with the incredible stop motion paper sequences directly adapting the book. These sequences are so endearing and artful, it begs the question of why we couldn't get an entire film that way. The score during these sequences is fantastic with a light jazz/French ensemble paying tribute to the book's origin and tone, the packed cast delivers humble, weighted dialogue, giving more weight to themes overall, and no matter how much you see paper style, it remains surprising. But the other 2/3 of the film feels like filler. Rather than emphasize the stop motion sequences, making each one a reward, it's like they're being held at bay.  While adapting the text as a "story within a story" seems like a good solution, Prince unfortunately waters down the thematic resonance Saint-Exupery's text is remembered for. I won't go into too much detail about what exactly it does, but suffice to say when a now adult Prince has to remember his youth, Prince loses all of the beautiful subtlety. The original novella was a fable about holding on to youth and the hope that comes from imagination, but it never explicitly said any of these things. There were slight hints about the troubles of adulthood, but it was left up to the reader to find it. The film crosses over into "preaching" territory as metatext gives way to explicit statements. It's a little too direct for comfort and becomes yet another animated film trying to teach a lesson.  The problem is wondering what could've worked better. Would the film have worked if director Osborne had gone with one style over the other? Would it have succeeded with the original book's vignette narrative? But how would that film work among current animation film needs? It's the best case scenario in a tremulous situation. Rather than encapsulate the spirit of the original text, making it viable for children and adults alike, it's more of a tribute to those who enjoyed the book as a child. In some cases, it's better to please as many people as you can.  The Little Prince distances itself from its source material more than it desired. Treating the original novella with an almost untouchable reverence, it never gives the audience time to enjoy the story and dive into it themselves. Instead Prince tells us how we should feel about it, thereby ignoring what made the original book so memorable. Essentially mirroring the actions of adults we're told to avoid.  In trying to pay tribute to Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince, the film mistakes an elephant in a boa constrictor for a simple hat. At least it's a nice hat. 
The Little Prince Review photo
Lost in translation
Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince is one of the most famous children's books of all time. Translated into over 200 languages, it's become a treasure worldwide. But as with all adaptations, things were bound to chan...

Ghost Rider photo

I'm not going to sit here and pretend I've kept up with Agents of SHIELD. I had watched four episodes back in season one before I gave up, but I've been hearing that it got interesting around season two. But the fourth season...

Legion Trailer photo
Legion Trailer

Check out the trailer for Fox and Marvel's Legion TV series


Jul 24
// Nick Valdez
With X-Men doing so well in theaters, Fox has been wanting to do a television series for quite a while. But since Marvel holds the rights to X-Men TV shows, it had to wait until the two companies could work together. Thankful...
LEGO Batman Movie photo
LEGO Batman Movie

LEGO Batman Movie San Diego Comic-Con trailer has lots of Robin


Jul 24
// Nick Valdez
After The LEGO Movie pleasantly surprised, it naturally led to a number of planned sequels and spin-offs. With the actual follow up to the LEGO Movie not hitting theaters until 2019, our first taste is a spin-off featuri...
Doctor Strange SDCC photo
Odd.
Marvel's taken their strangest hero and given him quite an impressively stacked film. Not only is Doctor Strange packed to the brim with crazy talent (with Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, and Chiwe...

LOTHT Trailer photo
LOTHT Trailer

Watch the Legends of the Hidden Temple movie trailer from San Diego Comic-Con


Coming to Nickelodeon this fall
Jul 24
// Nick Valdez
With Nickelodeon tapping into the 90s kid frenzy with The Splat and shows like Hey Arnold! getting a resolution, they have also been re-working some of their old properties. Case in point is Legends of the Hidden Temple. Base...
Kong: Skull Island photo
Kong: Skull Island

Watch the Kong: Skull Island trailer from San Diego-Comic Con


The king has returned
Jul 23
// Nick Valdez
When Legendary Pictures, the company behind giant monster movies like Godzilla and Pacific Rim, moved King Kong over to Warner Bros in order to have him fight Godzilla eventually, I've been looking forward to the first look a...
LEGO Batman Movie photo
LEGO Batman Movie

New LEGO Batman Movie images show off Joker and Robin


Jul 23
// Nick Valdez
The LEGO Movie was one of the funnest animated films of the last few years, so naturally we were going to get a lot more of it. Luckily, first on the docket is the great looking LEGO Batman Movie. The first couple of trailers...
Justice League Action photo
Justice League Action

SDCC: First Justice League Action trailer is colorful and fun


Like a pocket Justice League Unlimited
Jul 23
// Nick Valdez
With as wonky of a movie universe it has. DC have really succeeded on the small screen. They've been dominating since Dini's run from Batman: The Animated Series to Justice League Unlimted and now CW's got a whole universe. S...
Blair Witch photo
The Woods is actually Blair Witch!
In an era where it's practically impossible to hide anything from the Internet, we were completely surprised by two projects kept under wraps. Joining 10 Cloverfield Lane is Blair Witch, a project only known as The Woods unti...

Shrek  photo
Shrek

Hey now, Shrek 5 is set for 2019


someBODY
Jul 21
// Nick Valdez
Well, the years start coming and they don't stop comingFed to the rules and I hit the ground runningDidn't make sense not to live for funYour brain gets smart but your head gets dumbSo much to do, so much to seeSo what's wrong with taking the back streets?You'll never know if you don't goYou'll never shine if you don't glow Shrek is love. Shrek is life. [via THR]
Saw VIII photo

So a few months ago, my roommates and I spent a week watching the seven Saw films. Little things we noticed? Each film was basically the same, each film began and ended with the same cheesy score and "big reveal," and you cou...

Pennywise photo
Pennywise

Here's the first look at the It reboot's new Pennywise


No Tim Curry, but that's not too bad
Jul 13
// Nick Valdez
The re-adaptation of Stephen King's It has been through some rough times. New directors (currently under Mama's Andrés Muschietti), and creative and studio differences changed the project from two films (adapting ...
Digimon  photo
Digimon

New Digimon Movie getting US release


DIGIMON ARE THE CHAMPIONS
Jun 30
// Nick Valdez
If you're one of those kids that watched Digimon on Fox Kids every Saturday morning like me, this next bit of news should excite you. In celebration of the series' 15th anniversary, Toei Animation released their new project, ...
Ouija: Origins of Evil photo
Ouija: Origins of Evil

First trailer for Ouija: Origin of Evil spells out B-L-A-N-D


Stop trying to make Ouija happen, Hasbro
Jun 23
// Nick Valdez
Remember Ouija? As part of toy company Hasbro's world domination, they teamed up with Blumhouse productions (Paranormal Activity, The Purge) and first, and only, time director Stiles White and released a terribly blah foray i...
Ghostbusters photo
Ghostbusters

Listen to the new and terrible Ghostbusters theme from Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott


Eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh
Jun 23
// Nick Valdez
Regardless of how you feel about the Ghosbusters or the upcoming reboot (which I hope succeeds so we get more movies like it), we can all at least agree that the original film's theme was pretty good right? In terms of recogn...
Power Rangers photo
Power Rangers

Bryan Cranston cast as Zordon for the Power Rangers reboot


"May the power protect you."
Jun 21
// Nick Valdez
About a month back I wrote a long editorial about Saban and Lionsgate's upcoming Power Rangers reboot. Until I had seen the costumes, I was pretty much all in for the film. It was making good moves otherwise. The team is comp...
Moana Trailer photo
Moana Trailer

Here's the first trailer for Disney's Moana


Favorite film of 2016, calling it now
Jun 13
// Nick Valdez
Disney's animation studio has been on a Pixar like roll lately with Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia netting huge critical and financial success. Their newest princess film Moana already blows those films out of the water.&nb...

Review: The Conjuring 2

Jun 10 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220610:42965:0[/embed] The Conjuring 2Directors: James WanRating: RRelease Date: June 10, 2016  Inspired by the events of the Enfield Poltergeist in 1970s London, and six years after the events of the first film, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren find themselves in London where single mother Peggy (Frances O' Connor) and her four children are experiencing paranormal activity in their home. When the youngest, Janet (Madison Wolfe), begins acting strangely and claims to be the home's deceased previous owner, Ed and Lorraine are dispatched by the church to prove whether or not there's actually a spirit in their home. But in that search, darkness from the Warren's past comes back to wreck things for everyone.  As a sequel, Conjuring 2 makes a few interesting choices. First of all, it's left behind the metaphysical horrors of the first film and instead chooses a more physical force for the Warrens to combat with. In comparison, the only physical interaction the Warrens had with a ghost in the first film were a few things flying around the finale's exorcism. With a physical force resembling something from Wan's other well known horror series, Insidious, Conjuring 2 is directed with a more action heavy flow. The film's opening scene, which is the most important, tone establishing scene of any horror film, is punctuated by snaps so loud and at such a high frequency the scene loses the terror momentum. It abuses the "jump scare" (a sudden appearance of something punctuated by a loud noise) so much it exaggerates the action of the scene rather than revel in the horror. That's not necessarily a bad thing since the rest of the film adapts to this newer, more heightened pace and tone, but there's definitely a loss.  The newer direction undervalues the film's particularly creepy visuals. Now that there is something concrete to defeat, the tension comes from whether or not the Warrens can defeat the foe rather than the poltergeist in question getting under the audience's skin. Wan directs the brunt of the film's fear factor toward its characters and thus makes it "less scary" overall to the audience. It's fulfilling the need for suspense (and does make for a more gripping film once it gets going), but backs away from true terror. I am also not sure why it's rated R to begin with since most of the film's horror visuals are toned down in favor of this new, more exciting direction. This is also the reason comparisons to the first film are apt since it tends to cruise through the same plot points, hoping this new tone would make the story different. But try as it might to change itself, The Conjuring 2 never fully commits to either direction. It loses horror for its action, but never makes that action as compelling as it could be.  Conjuring 2 is just confused. What's most interesting about this confusion is that it births interesting elements where a more focused take would have benefited. When Wan truly dives into the horror setting, you get some unique and revelatory sequences (like with the upside down crosses or the painting scene). But it is in between horror build up that lacks the necessary pace to keep the film enthralling until the Warrens get there. For a chunk of the film I found myself waiting for the Warrens to pop in again rather than being creeped out by the setting. With such a confused take, nothing in the film quite grabs. The setting, the plot, and every character but Ed and Lorraine are entirely unremarkable. But when the Warrens finally show up to do some things, the film's action-y pace takes hold and it gets a shot in the arm.  Since The Conjuring 2 loses its horror focus, it is not too compelling when an action isn't taking place. But in that same breath, there are enough unique individual elements to make it enjoyable overall. To put it bluntly, the first film was "scarier" but the sequel handles itself better. It makes the kind of choices with its direction that serve to better the series moving forward.  To think we will get a series where an exorcist couple throws witty banter back and forth as they fight demons three or four films from now. There is just too much potential to miss. 
The Conjuring 2 Review photo
Conjures a good time
The Conjuring became quite the hidden gem when it was released three years ago. A nostalgic return to classic horror haunting roots, it breathed new life into the genre by shifting the focus to paranormal hunters Ed and ...

Review: The Angry Birds Movie

May 22 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220589:42956:0[/embed] The Angry Birds MovieDirectors: Clay Kaytis and Fergal ReillyRating: PGRelease Date: May 20, 2016  At the center of The Angry Birds Movie is Red (Jason Sudeikis), a bird with an unchecked anger issue because he's been alone his entire life. He's been separated from the rest of the birds in town until he's forced to spend time in anger management which leads him to his future partners in crime Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride). When a ship full of pigs, led by the sneaky Leonard (Bill Hader), pulls up to bird island claiming to be friendly, Red leaves in search of the legendary hero known as Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) for help. After shenanigans from the pigs, it's up to Red, Chuck, and Bomb to find the hero and save the island.  Before getting into the nitty gritty, I want to take some time out to comment on how much work went into Angry Birds. It is honestly refreshing to see decent production and time on what seemed like a total cash-in project (from its inception to its last couple of trailers the film reeked of things other than quality) has . The animation is slick, the bird designs have a simple, easy to manipulate geometry (utilizing both hard angles and softer, cutesy spherical shapes), and the cast handles the material as well as they can. Sudeikis has already proved his capacity to lead a film time and time again, and now he can add voice over work to that list. Red's as charming as he needs to be without the script resorting to the same types of "kooky" dialogue the rest of the characters are subjected to. None of the actors come across as phony, with the weakest performance coming from Hader's Leaonard. Then again, even a weak Hader is better than you'd expect so it's a roundabout positive.  Once you get past the bread, you realize there's not a lot of meat on this chicken sandwich. Trying as hard as the visuals might, The Angry Birds Movie simply can't shake off how generic it is. It may not have the luxury of a videogame narrative to adapt, but that doesn't excuse a lot of its choices. While the freedom of a creating a whole universe brings about some neat little oddities differentiating it from other animated films (like anger management having weight in the plot, for example), the same is true for the opposite end of the spectrum. Quite a few quirks and dialogue choices should have been reconsidered. At one point, Angry Birds crosses the line into full-on annoying territory when Chuck and Bomb degenerate into incessant noise making machines for two minutes just so it can get a reaction from its kid audience.  The Angry Birds Movie is at a constant state of flux. Battling between originality and what's easier to write, the film is always holding itself back. In fact, it even takes a hit whenever it has to reference the videogame series. Like when the series' famous slingshot is introduced, it feels forced in. But in that same breath, that very slingshot leads to a well storyboarded climax. So it's an odd toss up between the film's potential audiences. Rather than create a film that's ultimately appealing to the widest demographic possible, you have a film that appeals to folks with select scenes. Some scenes will appeal to the two year olds who like to repeat funny sounds, the three year olds who like gross out humor, the adult who appreciates good animation, or that one parent in my screening who lost his mind the entire time. I'm glad at least that guy had a good time.  I'd hate to end a review with nothing more than an "it could've been worse" sentiment, but honestly that's all I feel about The Angry Birds Movie. It came, it went, it's probably coming back (or at least confident in a sequel enough to promote it during the credits and the extra scene available on mobile phones), and yet it doesn't really deserve any hearty emotions.  The Angry Birds Movie is not terrible enough to earn your rage, but it's not good enough to earn your praise either. A decent outcome from a numerous range of negative potential outcomes earns the film a small victory. 
Angry Birds Review photo
Nothing to get too angry at
With videogame adaptations becoming more common, it was only a matter of time before we would end up in this situation. A videogame popular for its gameplay and mechanics rather than its story would get the big screen treatme...

Review: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

May 20 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220574:42953:0[/embed] Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising Director: Nicholas StollerRating: RRelease Date: May 20, 2016  A few years after the events of the first film, parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are selling their home because they're expecting their next child. But not realizing what they had agreed to, the two end up in escrow. Meaning they have to keep their home buyer friendly for 30 days lest they end owning two homes. At the same time, Shelby (Chloe Grace-Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) are three college girls who find out sororities aren't allowed to throw parties. Deciding to start a sorority of their own, and with the help of first film antagonist Teddy (Zac Efron), they move in next door to Mac and Kelly. After a series of shenanigans, Mac and Kelly once again find themselves in a prank war against the rowdy college kids next door.  Although Neighbors 2 tries its best to be different, it falls into the same traps most comedy sequels do. Given the nature of comedies in general, with each of them intentionally being a one-off story, all any sequel can do is try and capture what worked before and improve what did not. So if you enjoyed the first film, you might not enjoy this one. Everything's basically the same between the two films and there's not a lot added here to differentiate. There's the same air-bag gag, the same weak jokes about Rogen's body compared to Efron's, and despite poking fun on the mysoginistic voice of the first film, there's the same type of penis jokes. Which means that what it's trying to do thematically, presenting a "feminist" comedy (despite being written by five white men), is already worse for wear. It's hard to take anything seriously when one huge sequence ends with Zac Efron dancing until he shows his privates to a huge crowd.  Even if it doesn't change much of the story elements, Neighbors 2 still does an admirable job in turning the comedy sequel on its head. Simultaneously ridiculing and reveling in the premise, each of the characters have been surprisingly developed. Capitalizing on the character's ages (and further expanding on the "Dad Rogen" type introduced in the first film), there's a slightly compelling emotional current underneath all of the penis jokes. As everyone tries to figure out their identity in the film (whether Mac and Kelly can admit to being bad parents or Zac Efron's Teddy realizing he needs to move forward in life after being stuck in his millenial childlike state), Neighbors 2 touches on a slightly more level headed take on uncertain futures. But sadly this is all in between bursts of juvenile story telling. It's a shame too because when Neighbors 2 does distance itself from standard bro comedy jokes, it's quite refreshing. Despite being a film where terrible people do terrible things to one another, the few moments where it acknowledges the shortcomings are pretty great. Once again, Zac Efron steals the show. Elaborating on the lovable loser story from the first film, Teddy's become even more pathetic as he's basically aged out of the genre. A lot of the jokes in this revolve around how the entire crew would rather be doing something else (down to Mac and Kelly's terrible absentee parenting) and this nihilism is charming in a roundabout way. If you look in a little deeper, it's almost as if the film is telling Zac Efron to go ahead and move on to even bigger roles. It's pretty much time anyway. In that same breath, he's the only one that gets this kind of attention. Every other character is practically window dressing to Teddy's evolution, and it only makes you wish for a film that focused on this theme alone. I want to reward these attempts at new types of humor and themes, but they never quite go anywhere. For example while the sorority in the film is sincere and founded on equal rights ideals, the girls themselves aren't characterized well enough to truly make an impact of any kind. It's impossible for a comedy to accomplish that within 90 minutes, so these ideals feel like an afterthought. It feels like the change from a fraternity to a sorority is more cosmetic and a feminist lead character was only added only to be a plot contrivance to start the whole prank war. In fact, one character in the film literally says the sorority is "untouchable" in order to speed up the extremeness of Mac and Kelly's actions. Neighbors 2 does deserve credit for adding these elements when it could've been just another bro comedy, but it's not enough to acknowledge issues or inherent problems with the bro comedy genre while still trying to utilize the cruder elements of it.  Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising isn't the best film, or the funniest, but it's at least visibly trying to do something different. It's a groundbreaking comedy sequel in that it's not just doing the exact same thing over again for quick money. I mean it is still doing a lot of the same stuff, and while the new ideas aren't explored enough to warrant any kind of real change, the fact there is a refreshing seeming film at the end of the day is pleasant.  The only problem overall is both films just aren't memorable. It's not like you'll be quoting its jokes years later or even remember what happened a week down the line. 
Neighbors 2 Review photo
Well, at least it tried
In my long tenure here at Flixist I've carved out a niche for myself. If you see a review for a Seth Rogen film or a sequel to a comedy, chances are it's my words you're reading. So little did I know I'd stick around here lon...

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