On our latest episode, Devin and I break down a bunch of movies they’ve seen in the last few weeks: Maggie’s Plan (1:10-7:40); Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (7:40-13:15); Money Monster (13:15-19:30); Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (19:30-25:30) and Weiner (25:30-end).
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The stars of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising — Seth Rogen as the hapless dad Mac (Mac?) Radner, Rose Byrne as his equally hapless wife Kelly — disappear for about fifteen minutes during the first act. In their place, the movie’s main “antagonist,” freshman sorority wannabe and burgeoning feminist Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) takes center stage. First she interrupts a giggly sorority introduction to express her distaste for it, only to find out that sororities in the United States are forbidden by the National Panhellenic Council to host parties. Later that day, she attends her first fraternity party, where she’s horrified by the male-driven debauchery on display. She returns to her dorm to commiserate and smoke weed — everyone in this movie likes smoking weed! — with two new friends Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein), who help her arrive at the idea of starting a new sorority in their own image.
How rare is it to see a mainstream studio comedy treat the thoughts and emotions of a young woman and her friends with this much attention and nuance? Rare enough that Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising has been labeled “feminist” and “progressive” by many observers, as well as not feminist and flimsily progressive by observers of those observers. The movie’s main conflict comes when Shelby’s fledgling sorority Kappa Nu moves into the house formerly occupied by the onetime fraternity bro Teddy (Zac Efron), who terrorized the Radners during the first movie and returns to do the same as a mentor figure for Kappa Nu this time around. Mac and Kelly balk at the return of hard partying to their block, especially in the midst of a 30-day period of escrow on their old home, during which their tentative new homeowners (Sam Richardson from Veep and Abbi Jacobson from Broad City, both amusing but underutilized) can drop their bid at the first sight of trouble. But Kappa Nu doesn’t want to stop — they’re on a mission of gender parity and drunken revelry that won’t be deterred by a dorky middle-aged dude and his pregnant wife.
On this episode of The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I discuss the notorious box-office bomb Steve Jobs, a big-budget prestige drama from a major studio that’s performing almost exactly the same as the 2013 indie drama Jobs (starring Ashton Freaking Kutcher).
Peruse the M&M Report category page for previous episodes of the podcast. Thanks for listening!
Steve Jobs was innovative, creative, driven, dogged and inestimably intelligent. But was he an interesting person?
Judging by Steve Jobs, a feature film meticulously scripted by Aaron Sorkin and studiously crafted by Danny Boyle, the answer is…maybe not? Kind of? It’s hard to tell what the filmmakers think, let alone what you’re supposed to after spending two hours with him. As enlivened with dazzling intensity by Michael Fassbender, the Jobs of this film vociferously berates his coworkers, belittles his female colleague and confidant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) and rejects all notions of responsible parenting. Yet by the end, he is redeemed, or at least validated.
The movie doesn’t provide insight into how he gets there, nor does it transcend the limitations of its genre. The first two acts set up a fascinating story of a man overcoming professional setbacks without even the barest hint of interpersonal skills, but the third act doesn’t nail the dismount. What’s left is a cheap and lazily rendered stab at sentimentality that’s supposed to make you feel bad for a guy who spent the previous two-thirds of the movie alienating everyone around him – and you. Instead, you just feel bad for the people who will accept this cop-out as honest.
Sony Pictures Entertainment announced on Wednesday that they would not be releasing The Interview, the film depicting a fictional assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The move came in response to threats of terrorism against theaters showing the movie from the group known as Guardians of the Peace. The group stole and released huge amounts of Sony’s internal communications and is believed to be working with the North Korean government in some capacity.
My friend Devin Mitchell invited me to discuss this issue with him. Below, a transcript of our online conversation.
Earlier this year, the directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller tackled the perils of conformity and the joys of creativity in The Lego Movie, which took America by storm and became the year’s highest-grossing movie so far. Having previously adapted Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and revived 21 Jump Street for the big screen, Lord and Miller were no strangers to Hollywood success, but The Lego Movie elevated their profile to previously unthinkable heights.
22 Jump Street ought to do it again. It’s as funny as the original, with an extra layer of metacommentary on the inevitable fatigue and repetition that plagues most movie sequels. Better yet, the metacommentary exists not as a mere distraction from a dearth of originality, but rather a springboard from which new ideas emerge. The movie is about the hapless Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and the muscular Jenkoff (Channing Tatum) chasing their former glory and confronting the unusual nature of their relationship. As in the first movie, there are car chases, preposterous plot twists, romantic entanglements, professional jealousies, pop-culture references, celebrity cameos and tidy resolutions. Working from a script by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman, Lord and Miller manage to freshen this retread with self-awareness and a genuine layer of compassion.
This week on The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I discuss the recent controversy involving Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday’s assertion that Hollywood movies contribute to the culture that allowed an incident like last Friday’s shooting at UCSB to take place. We talked about Seth Rogen’s unfortunate response to the piece and debated whether Hornaday’s arguments of causation were valid and productive.
After that, we reviewed Jon Favreau’s food dramedy Chef, which made us very hungry indeed.
Finally, we took a look back at the first part of the final season of AMC’s Mad Men. We couldn’t come to a consensus on the musical number in the season finale, but we liked the rest of it quite a bit.
Come back soon for our thoughts on Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, summer movies and much more. Thanks for listening!
Neighbors, in which a married couple with a newborn child squares off against the rowdy band of fraternity brothers next door, might seem disingenuous in the wake of recent sexual assault scandals in the world of Greek life. But director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien assuage those concerns with a big-budget studio comedy that’s just a tad smarter than you’d expect, and considerably funnier.
The majority of the movie takes place on a single suburban street, in and around two adjacent homes. In one, Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) grapple with the trials and tribulations of raising a daughter, maintaining their relationship and staying sane. In the other, Delta Psi president Teddy (Efron) and his brothers aspire to earn a place on the fraternity’s coveted wall of history-making party antics. Naturally, these two goals can’t easily co-exist. Mac and Kelly initially, and haphazardly, attempt to win over the bros with their rusty youthful charm, but things turn sour once the couple realizes their baby is more important than some ‘shrooms and a carefully orchestrated “swordfight.”
And now, the story of an Arrested Development fan/admirer who likes the fourth season more than some people and less than others.
I binged-watched the first three (and, until 2013, only) seasons of Arrested Development over the summer, marveling at the volume and velocity of the gags, the spiraling awfulness of the main characters, the casual brilliance of the social criticism, the comedic transcendence of the actors in peak form. The first two seasons whizzed by in a nearly flawless blaze of acidic, frequently self-referential hilarity. The third season, while funny and arguably more absurd and labyrinthine than the first two, seemed more desperate to be liked than its predecessors, and the comedy suffered as a result. (The metacommentary began to swallow the show’s plot, and the less said about the “For British Eyes Only” arc, the better.) Nonetheless, I finished my binge satisfied with the fruits of my “labor.” (The “Next Episode” button doesn’t press itself, after all.)
I started the first season right around the time that the fourth season dropped on Netflix. I didn’t have a chance to decide whether the show’s three seasons were sufficient before another one was in the works. But when I finished “Development Arrested,” which mirrors the pilot and offers a surprisingly satisfying conclusion to the saga of Annyong, I didn’t find myself clamoring for more. Especially with a show as densely packed as Arrested Development, there’s value in concentrating the brilliance.