Movie Review: “Top Five”

Starring
Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, JB Smoove, Kevin Hart
Director
Chris Rock

“Top Five” has a secret: the movie’s “B” story is about sobriety, and the struggles many entertainers have with capturing the magic that came so easily to them when they were high. You can see why the studio would downplay that in the ads, because there is nothing funny about sobriety. As it turns out, the movie is plenty funny even with the heavier subject matter. It paints with a broad brush, and it’s clear how things are going to end within the first five minutes, but the journey is nonetheless entertaining, and at times wildly funny.

Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is a former standup comic who wants to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor. His new film, which covers the Haiti Massacre of 1804 (!), comes out the same weekend that Andre is scheduled to marry his reality TV star fiancée Erica (Gabrielle Union) on live television. Andre does a ton of press to promote the movie (where nearly everyone berates him for not being funny anymore), but while he’s hopping from junket to junket, he has an all-day assignment with New York Times writer Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). Andre is suspicious of her because one of Chelsea’s colleagues has made a career out of savaging Andre in the press, but he and Chelsea develop a rapport, and before long, Andre opens up about when he hit rock bottom (there are no words to describe that scene). Now sober for four years, Andre still finds himself tempted, especially when Erica is changing aspects of their wedding, per the network’s instructions, without informing him.

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Movie Review: “Trance”

Starring
James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Danny Sapani
Director
Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle is one of the few directors working today whose projects are almost always met with fervent excitement, and that’s certainly the case with “Trance.” Though moviegoers were forced to wait a few years for Boyle’s much-anticipated follow-up to “127 Hours” – due to other engagements on stage (the National Theatre production of “Frankenstein”) and for his country (the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony) – the delay seemed well worth it following the news that he would be reteaming with frequent collaborator John Hodge (“Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting”). In retrospect, my expectations were probably set a little too high, because although “Trance” is an entertaining psychological thriller, it doesn’t quite live up to Boyle’s more recent, award-winning work.

The film’s whiz-bang opening sets the stage when art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) teams up with a group of criminals to steal Francisco Goya’s 1798 masterpiece “Witches in the Air” during an auction in progress. Everything is going according to plan when Simon suffers a blow to the head during the heist, only to awaken with no memory of where he hid the painting. When more conventional methods (i.e. torture) prove ineffective, the gang’s leader Franck (Vincent Cassel) hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to dig deep into Simon’s psyche and help jog his memory. But as Simon starts to piece together his broken subconscious, he becomes increasingly suspicious of Franck and Elizabeth’s ulterior motives, reconfirming why he chose to stash the painting in the first place.

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