As I walked into the backyard I could see him out the corner of my eye, crouched down and staring intently at me. He did not move until I called out his name. Immediately after hearing me he sprung up and bounded over to the fence that separated our two yards. He was the youngest of my neighbors’ three dogs and knew he would be getting a back rub once I called out his name. I have even seen him get down on all fours as soon as he hears me pull my car into the garage, for he knows I will be coming out the side door and giving him a back rub. While I was massaging him the neighbor happened to come outside to do some yard work. We talked briefly; he caught me up on the latest news around our neighborhood. He also told me they were thinking of putting up a privacy fence around their yard but they wanted to check with me first and see what I thought about it. I told him I did not have a problem but their dog might get upset; we both had a good laugh over my comment. I have to say I have been very fortunate with the neighbors who live around me. We are respectful and mindful of each other; asking each others’ opinions before undertaking a major project or at least letting others know about repairs that could be intrusive for a short time. I have been lucky that I have not experienced any drama, violence or even out of control loud parties when it comes to my neighbors. There is no way I could live in the type of neighborhood that was in this movie. WITH their house on the verge of being sold Mac and Kelly Radner, played by Seth Rogen (Steve Jobs, The Interview) and Rose Byrne (Spy, The Meddler), only needed 30 more days before the sale would finally close. Unfortunately a lot can happen when a sorority moves in next door to you. This comedic sequel followed a similar game plan to the first film which involved a fraternity instead. I liked what the writers were trying to do here and credit them for allowing Zac Efron (That Awkward Moment, Dirty Grandpa) as Teddy Sanders to shine with his comedic timing. He surprised me with how well he did in this picture. The trailers unfortunately showed several of the highlights in this film so my reactions to the scenes were somewhat subdued. Most of the humor was made up of sight gags; however, I felt the writers could have gotten more punch out of the story if they would have given more focus to Teddy’s household skills. It seems like Zac’s recent film roles make sure he is in some form of undress during them; maybe the movie studios are hoping it will give them better reviews. Fans into that will not be disappointed with this film. My disappointment was due to the story being pretty predictable and similar to the previous film.
2 1/3 stars
The pool of friends started out large enough where they could have used a small school bus to fit them all in. They all grew up together having survived the blizzard of the century that kept them home from school for several days, besides puberty. During their high school years the group expanded whenever any of them started dating; the dates just became a part of the culture they had created, hanging out at the pizza place or meeting at the beach when the weather was warm enough. When it came time to go to college the group temporarily diminished by those friends that went out of state. However, any time they returned home there always would be plans in place for everyone to meet up. A change started forming around this time, where those in relationships that were solidifying did not hang out as much with the gang. It wasn’t too soon before that school bus could be traded in for a limo or minivan to fit in all the friends. Not that they did not stop being friends, they just did not hang out due to new commitments like relationship and job. Once the college years were over, the group got even smaller. Some friends had to relocate to a new city or country for their employer. It was time to trade in the minivan for a compact car. And do you know what the hardest part was among the friends? It was the one friend left standing, who was still available to be the driver since they did not have any commitments that would take them away from hanging out with their friends. It could be a tough spot to be in which explained why some friends set up a rotating date to see each other, just like the friends in this comedy. EVERY Christmas Eve childhood friends Ethan, Isaac and Chris; played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk, Don Jon), Seth Rogen (Steve Jobs, The Interview) and Anthony Mackie (Our Brand is Crisis, The Hurt Locker); got together. Growing older would eventually challenge their annual night of fun. I found this movie to be a mixture of good and bad. The story was nothing new but there were some funny scenes throughout the film. There were times whereI felt things were scattered, going from serious to comedy and back; but at least the actors were okay doing it. Though I have to say Seth’s role seemed no different to several of his other ones; this one appeared a bit stale to me. I did enjoy the cameo roles through this picture which helped me stay alert since I found some scenes dull. Will this film turn into an annual Christmas movie? I do not know; but if one needs to take a break from the hectic frenzy of the season, this movie could be a candidate to let you sit back and do nothing.
2 1/4 stars
The sign in the window that said, “Lost Our Lease” Sale, was what caught your eye. It was just enough of a catalyst to drive you straight through the store’s double doors. I know because I have had the same thing happen to me. The assumption is the prices have all been marked way down to move the products out of the store, lowering the moving costs for the retail establishment’s relocation. If you are like me, you wind up buying stuff just because it is a perceived bargain. Who knew you were peeling potatoes the wrong way all these years; you now had this contraption where the potato would be placed on a skewer and you would turn a handle to make the potato twirl around, while a fine thin blade sliced the peel off the potato. It really did not do a better job than your old handheld potato peeler, but now you had more things to clean up. What did upset you was discovering the store never closed; it signed a new long term lease. So for all the hype there was nothing really satisfying to show for it. THIS is how I felt after running like a crazy person to go see this “controversial” comedy. Let me start by saying Sony Pictures got the largest holiday gift they could have ever gotten–free publicity. With newscasters talking about the cyber-hacking of Sony Pictures, the online threats if this movie was released, the pulling of the film then the smaller release of it; there was news about this picture every single day. If none of this had taken place this movie would have, in my opinion, had a decent opening before fading into the background. Seth Rogen (This is the End, Pineapple Express) played television producer Aaron Rapaport for talk show host Dave Skylark, played by James Franco (Howl, 127 Hours). Discovering North Korean President Kim Jong-un, played by Randall Park (Larry Crowne, Neighbors), was a big fan lead the 2 men to land an exclusive interview with the president. However, the CIA had other plans for them. I honestly do not understand how of all things this film’s story became the biggest focus regarding the hacking of Sony. It turned out the movie trailer showed the highlights because I found most of the humor to be crude and repetitive. The story was a crazy idea that lent itself to becoming a fun satire; there were a couple of parts where I chuckled. Overall this action film was no big deal. I have seen harsher satirical treatments done of Kim Jong-un on television. Without a doubt this whole episode was a marketer’s dream; it almost makes one wonder if the hackers were getting a kickback for all the free publicity.
When your mother has three strong minded sisters, you have no choice but accept the fact that you have one mother and three motherly aunts. There was no way any of us kids could get away with something. The oldest aunt was the tallest, bearing a strong resemblance to Bea Arthur’s Maude character. She never had to raise her hand in a threatening way; she only had to change the tone of her voice. When you heard that cold, deliberate slow voice you knew to stop whatever you were doing and back away from her. The youngest aunt was an officer in the WAC’s with a vise like grip and a quick punch. Then there was the middle aunt who was the best cook and had the loudest yell. Sitting for this mother and son road trip movie was like eating chicken noodle soup without the noodles. Barbra Streisand (The Prince of Tides, Yentl) was New Jersey native Joyce Brewster. When her inventor son Andy, played by Seth Rogen (Superbad, Pineapple Express), stopped for a quick visit; she took him up on his offer to accompany him on a cross country road trip. In Barbra’s favor, it appeared the director just let her be herself. Not that I would ever imagine she would sit down to devour a 50 ounce steak, but I could see her sitting at a kitchen table kibitzing with friends. There did not seem to be much chemistry between her and Seth. I felt some scenes were flat and unrealistic; nothing made me laugh out loud, only a couple of smiles to the face. I know this was billed as a comedy, but it would have helped if there was some added drama. The long spans of jokes became tiresome to me and as I mentioned, they were not that funny. After growing up in a matriarchal family like mine, this film was just a lightweight.