Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Dave Franco
Synopsis: This is a sequel to the popular and hilarious "Neighbors," which debuted during the summer of 2014. It was about a couple (Rogen and Byrne), who are new parents, that are trying to survive when a hard-partying fraternity moves in next door. Their battle with the leaders of that frat — played by Efron and Franco — formed the basis of the comedy. In the sequel, the frat is gone and the couple is expecting a second child and planning a move to the suburbs, but they have to sell their house first. When a hard-partying sorority moves in next door, it poses some challenges. They are forced to contend with the ladies, this time with the help of their former nemesis. Rogen is great in these kind of films, especially since this one is a little more restrained than some of Rogen's other comedies. He is particularly great with Byrne, who shines in this role, too. I liked what Efron did, too, and the ladies of the sorority filled their roles nicely. This isn't a deep or complicated film. It hues very close to the original, too, in terms of the arc of the story. But it's a nice, light, entertaining 92 minutes in the theater. That's all you really want or need from a summer comedy.
Rating: R for crude sexual content including brief graphic nudity, language throughout, drug use and teen partying. Enter with caution.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
The Nice Guys
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Margaret Qualley, and Kim Basinger
Synopsis: We are in the midst of the summer movie season, and the releases are coming fast and furious. After a quiet first few weeks as “Captain America: Civil War” dominated at the Box Office, last Friday saw three new wide releases. Among them were an animated feature based on a popular game, “Angry Birds,” and a comedy sequel, “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.” But the gem of the group was “The Nice Guys,” an action-comedy set in the 1970s. Writer/director Shane Black has a feel for mixing action and comedy into an engrossing story. He first plied his craft as the screenwriter of “Lethal Weapon” and “Lethal Weapon 2,” moving on to craft the script for “The Last Boy Scout.” After a break, he returned in the early 2000s with “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” before moving on to write and direct “Iron Man 2” for Marvel. With “The Nice Guys” he returns to a favorite formula, a pair of mismatched partners on the trail of a case that is bringing plenty of danger and plenty of opportunity for one-liners. And in Ryan Gosling, Black has found a near perfect vehicle for his unique writing patterns. Black has a gift for writing these kind of stories where all the pieces at first seem odd and disconnected, but eventually come together in a fascinating way. He plies that trade to the story here, which he co-wrote with Anthony Bagarozzi. The screen story also pays wonderful homage to both the city of Los Angeles — a familiar secondary character in Black’s work — and to the era. From the killer smog to the parties to the gas lines, the film takes right to a specific time and place that play crucial roles in the story. But it’s the cast that really makes this film sing. Rice is great as Holly. She adds a lot of depth to the scenes and plays well off the two leads. She helps drive the story and becomes an essential character, serving as an emotional foil to both Crowe and Gosling in different ways. This is a different kind of part for Crowe, who’s used to playing the big, heroic lead. Here he’s still heroic, and he still has an action part to play, but it’s a subtle and nuanced performance, too. But everyone in the film takes a back seat to Gosling, who does so much in this role without even speaking lines. His delivery, his facial expressions and his physicality all work well here. He adds a great dimension of humor to the character that really helps the story pop on the screen. “The Nice Guys” delivers on its promise. It’s a gentle blend of humor and action, has some nostalgic elements and tells an interesting story. It’s the perfect kind of film for summer that also manages to nail the tone and storytelling the whole way through, delivering a satisfying resolution, too.
Rating: R for violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use. Enter with caution.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
Friday, May 27 — "X-Men: Apocalypse," "Alice Through The Looking Glass"