Fraternities don’t get much love in the movies, unless we’re talking about the stories of underdog, rogue frats: “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” “Revenge Of the Nerds,” “Old School.”
The rest of the time, fraternities are the headquarters for misogynistic yahoos who think they invented drinking, or secret organizations involving mysterious rituals where the occasional murder occurs and is then covered up because Daddy’s a United States senator and he’ll fix it.
(Sororities in the movies? That’s where girls get naked and/or murdered. It rarely goes much deeper than that.)
One of the things I liked about “Neighbors” was the way the film embraced the usual dopey stereotypes about frats while also giving us at least a little bit of perspective and insight. Even some of the most dedicated members of this particular fraternity realize the ridiculousness of the rituals they’re supposed to take so seriously.
Helmed with terrific timing by Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), with a hit-and-miss screenplay by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien that does feature a couple of priceless visual gags and some sharp one-liners, “Neighbors” is an obviously implausible but likable comedy pitting “bros against breeders.”
In a bit of inspired casting, Seth Rogen, who just two minutes ago was playing irresponsible stoners in a series of movies, is now suddenly the grumpy old man, at least relatively speaking. Rogen’s Mac Radner and Rose Byrne’s Kelly Radner are new parents marveling at every little thing the baby does — and shocked at how exhausting it is to be responsible for a tiny human every second of their lives. (In one hilarious sequence, Mac and Kelly get fired up for a big night on the town to prove they can still rage — but the mere process of getting ready wears them out.) …
I’ll never understand the mentality of the Cheering Bystander Behind the Barricades in comic book movies.
Let’s say you were on vacation in Times Square when all of a sudden a giant, glowing, growling, electrified creature began knocking out the power, toppling over the neon signs for “Mamma Mia!” and “Jersey Boys,” and oh yeah, sending police vehicles flying through the sky while fending off a hail of gunfire.
A. Run for your life.
B. Gather behind the conveniently and instantly erected police barricades to heckle the villain and cheer the arrival of Spider-Man.
You can probably guess what happens in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
This is an overlong, energetic, sometimes thrilling and way too overcrowded sequel to the 2012 reboot of the franchise from way back in the 2000s. Director Marc Webb and his forces come up with some gorgeous special effects, and Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have terrific chemistry, but as is with the case with far too many superhero movies, the plot is a bit of an overstuffed mess, with at least one villain too many and a final act that could have been just about perfect if not for being overly occupied with setting up the next chapter in the series.
Garfield is a talented actor who makes Peter Parker one of the more interesting alter egos this side of Tony Stark. (The 30-year-old Garfield and the 25-year-old Stone are too old to play graduating high school seniors. Why not give us a Spidey story where the characters are playing closer to the actors’ ages?)
Though madly in love with Gwen — and who wouldn’t be, as she’s all big brains and crinkly smiles and kind heart — Peter is torn by his promise to Gwen’s late father, the NYPD Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary, who appears as a disapproving vision to Peter) that he would let go of Gwen so she wouldn’t be in constant jeopardy. They try to break up, but it’s tough to make that stick, what with Spidey keeping tabs on Gwen from high above the city, and Gwen doing some sort of super duper recent high school graduate summer work at Oscorp, where Peter’s childhood friend Harry (Dane DeHaan, doing an impersonation of a young Leonardo DiCaprio) has assumed control of the $200 billion company following his father’s gruesome demise…
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