Tag Archives: Dave Franco

“The Lego Ninjago Movie”



Come and get it folks! Come and get your nice, steaming pile of the latest Hollywood slop. This time it’s in the form of the inexcusably apathetic and offensively lazy latest movie in the already tired Lego franchise, “The Lego Ninjago Movie.” This animated kid flick is the very definition of throwaway entertainment (and that’s using the word “entertainment” very, very loosely).

I sat through this whole movie and I can’t tell you what happened — that’s how disengaged I was and how half-hearted the film’s plot and message are. The whole project feels unenergetic and cheap, with ugly animation, unamusing jokes, and flat voice acting (by talented people who should’ve known better and could’ve done better, like Justin Theroux, Fred Armisen and especially you, Dave Franco). This year will be a first: I can guarantee not one but two films in one franchise will appear on my Worst Movies of 2017 list (the other is “The Lego Batman Movie“).

Everything is unfunny, exhausting, and repetitive; a weak, uninspired, and utterly pointless movie that’s devoid of any and all fun. It’s so bad that there’s no point in writing a review. After 90 minutes of this exasperating stupidity, why bother?

Sundance Review: “The Little Hours”



I really wanted to love “The Little Hours,” the latest film from “Life After Beth” and “Joshy” director Jeff Baena. He has a sense of humor that directly mirrors mine and when I heard that he was tackling a religious themed comedy based on Giovanni Boccaccio’s classic literary text “The Decameron” as his next project, I was sold. Unfortunately, the film aimlessly wanders around the screen in a cloudy haze of expletives for two hours instead of being something truly special.

The film is full of talented, funny comic actors but they just don’t have great material to work with. We first meet Sister Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza), Sister Alessandra (Alison Brie), and Sister Genevra (Kate Micucci) quietly going about their daily routine. When the gardener wishes them a good morning, they turn violent, verbally abusing him with an f-bomb laced tirade, throwing turnips at his face, and spitting at him. A group of nasty, rude and cursing nuns is a funny premise for sure, but this one-note joke gets stretched over the entire course of the film and quickly becomes repetitive (and rapidly loses its humor).

Mother Superior (Molly Shannon) runs the convent with Father Tommasso  (John C. Reilly, the true scene stealer in the film). After a chance encounter in the woods, Tommasso crosses paths with runaway servant Massetto (Dave Franco), a man who has been kicked out of his master’s (Nick Offerman) castle for schtupping the lady of the house. Father Tommasso drunkenly laments that he ran out of water and “had to drink the sacramental wine,” and comes up with the grand idea to invite Massetto  back to live with and work for him. Once Massetto arrives he grabs the attention of the sexually repressed, bi-curious nuns, and they scheme to seduce the new farmhand by any means necessary.

While it’s not an original idea to take a classic piece of literature and put a modern spin on the story, there are some truly hilarious concepts at play, including several riotous confession scenes that will no doubt be memorable long after you see the movie. Although the film is set in a 14th century Italian convent, the trio of bad nuns speak in modern slang and give in to their uncontrollable carnal desires, habit be damned.

The film is off-color, bawdy, and seems hell-bent with determination to push the buttons of the devout. I’m not a religious person (nor am I a prude) but I did find many of the jokes, at the expense of Catholics in particular, for the most part only mildly humorous. The film wants to be a screwball comedy but it just gets too weird too fast — and it’s not the good kind of weird. There are several orgy scenes (including what are basically attempted rapes), a bizarre subplot about a coven of witches (who take to nude dancing around a woodland fire), and a laundry list of curse words that would make a sailor blush.

The entire project feels as if it’s raunchy solely for the sake of being raunchy, and I wanted so much more.

This film was screened and reviewed at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.




The fast paced teen thriller “Nerve” sets out to present a modern criticism of social media and it succeeds: sort of. The film tackles the glamour and appeal of internet obsessed Millennials who all want to have the most followers and become insta-famous. The social commentary is ultimately unsatisfying but the film’s cutting edge cinematography and overall style is a winner.

Based on the 2012 techno-suspense novel of the same name by Jeanne Ryan, this frenzied, fast paced film is a little far fetched but at least it’s interesting. High school senior Venus (Emma Roberts) is a goody-goody student with a fairly boring life. When her wild child best friend Sydney (Emily Meade) pokes fun of her dullness, Venus decides to become a player in a very popular black market internet game called Nerve. She must complete a series of adrenaline junkie dares to earn money and ultimately win the game. When the anonymous watchers decide to pair her up with fellow player Ian (Dave Franco), a strange romance blossoms. It doesn’t take long before the game takes a sinister turn, with the risky dares getting more and more dangerous as the night goes on.

This isn’t a sophisticated story, it’s riddled with numerous plot holes, and there’s an unexpected lack of chemistry between the always delightful Roberts and Franco, but the film is exciting and engrossing enough that I was able to overlook its flaws (okay, except for the ridiculously silly ending). It’s visually unique and artistically refreshing, and it reminds me of the way I felt after I first saw “Spring Breakers” by Harmony Korine (another movie that reads like a time capsule for the Instagram age that clocked in at #3 on my Best Movies of 2013 list).

The subject matter is a bit dark but the film is pulsating with vibrant, intoxicating energy from start to finish.


“Nerve” is a cool idea in search of a better story. The demand for movies based on well-known young adult (YA) novels, once a hot commodity in Hollywood, is clearly cooling off and “Nerve” feels like a half-assed attempt to tap into what was once a powerful market segment in teens.

The idea is simple enough. “Nerve” is an Internet game where players are paid to take dares suggested by an online community of watchers, who pay for the opportunity to watch. Vee (Emma Roberts) is a bookish intelligent high school senior who has never taken a risk in her life. Her best friend Sydney (Emily Meade) is (of course) the exact opposite. After being goaded by Sydney about her play-it-safe lifestyle one too many times, Vee signs up for “Nerve” as a player. The dares start out innocent enough, and through her first dare she meets fellow player Ian (Dave Franco). The two team up together for a series of dares that become increasingly risky (and profitable), until the stakes are raised to the point where players’ lives are at risk.

This movie lives on the chemistry of Roberts and Franco. It’s impossible not to like them, and as a result you’re rooting for them even as the plot becomes more and more ridiculous and logic becomes tortured in the aim to continue raising the stakes. But then at some point, it becomes a little too farfetched and impossible to suspend disbelief. By the time we get to the climax, the plot holes have become too glaring and the film has become too unbelievable for it to work. At the end, I had mentally checked out and it was simply too late to rehabilitate the characters or my interest.

Still, the movie wasn’t without its fun moments so it’s not a total stinker. It’s worth checking out if the concept or actors interest you. Otherwise, skip it.


“Now You See Me 2”



Most moviegoers weren’t clamoring for a follow-up to 2013’s smart magic heist thriller “Now You See Me,” but here’s one of the rare instances where the sequel is actually better than the original. While viewing the first film would be helpful before seeing “Now You See Me 2,” it’s not necessary. Even newbies can follow along with this slick magic show.

The Four Horsemen are back, this time fighting the powers that be with even greater illusions. Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt (Woody Harrelson) and Jack (Dave Franco) are now joined by Lula (Lizzy Caplan, a welcome replacement for Isla Fisher as the “girl Horseman”). Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) plays a tech nerd who forces the Horsemen to steal a chip so he can control all of the computers in the entire world — but who is really pulling the curtain? Mark Ruffalo is back as FBI agent and magician Rhodes. Here he still aids the Horsemen (and seeks to find some closure with Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman), a man Rhodes blames for the death of his father). Yes, there’s a lot going on in this convoluted plot, but it is exciting from beginning to end.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the movie is the elevated performances. I love the trend of casting accomplished actors in fun summer movies; I think audiences get a better movie for it. These are talented actors who visibly enjoyed working together; they play off each other with an effortless believability. Their repartee is lively and their visible enthusiasm for their roles (and the film) is contagious and as a result, I was smiling throughout the whole movie. Harrelson will probably be taking some jabs for his partially silly turn (I don’t want to say how because I don’t want to spoil it), but I thought he was ridiculously amusing. No matter how you feel about the film, you have to agree that these characters are a hoot to spend a few hours with.

As with the first film, this one is packed full of entertaining twists and fun “gotchas!” A lot of it is, of course, ridiculous, but interspersed throughout the flashy trickery are some truly funny and memorable moments. Most of the stunts are CGI animation but even though they are fake, they’re still pretty damn cool. The big finale may be predictable but that makes it no less fun. I love the all of the misdirection this film includes (it’s the perfect homage to real magicians and tricksters), and it’s done in a witty and skilled fashion. Is this film as clever as it thinks it is? No. But so what? It’s a fun, wild ride.


Now You See Me,” which told the story of a group of sensational illusionists that call themselves “The Four Horsemen,” was a sleeper hit in the summer of 2013. What worked so well about the first movie was that it used the illusion / magic angle to tell a twisty heist drama that kept the audience guessing. Attentive theatergoers who like to figure out whodunit found themselves challenged not only by the mystery of who, what, and why, but also the how. How, as in, how did they do that?

I’m pleased to report that the movie’s sequel, “Now You See Me 2” works just as well as the first film. As in, if you enjoyed the first movie, you will probably like this one, too.

“NYSM2” is effective because it doesn’t try to simply rehash the first film. As it opens, the Horsemen — Daniel, Merritt, and Jack (played by Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco) have separated and Henley (Isla Fisher) is nowhere to be found. Their principal benefactor brings them back together to respond to a growing threat, and brings along new Horseman Lula (Lizzy Caplan) to help as their fourth. The tables are quickly turned on the Horsemen, and they find themselves challenged by a new threat. This cast has great chemistry; they are all likeable, they work well together and they are a ton of fun to watch. Caplan is a great addition, adding an outsider’s viewpoint to the group combined with a healthy dose of humor.

The illusions are not necessarily bigger or better, but they are different from the ones we saw last time. They are just as spectacular and fun to watch, and it’s just as enjoyable to try to figure out how you (and the other characters) are being misdirected. The movie keeps you guessing, which I absolutely love.

“NYSM2”, like its predecessor, rewards the attentive. Don’t bother trying to watch this film while multitasking with something else. You won’t be able to follow it and consequently, you might not like it as much as I did. But if you’re willing to put away all of your devices and distractions and get lost in a movie for a couple of hours, this one would be an excellent choice.


“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”



“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is the latest recycled sequel to a movie that wasn’t good in the first place (2014’s “Neighbors“). I had zero expectations for this movie and I’m surprised to say how much I enjoyed it! This movie is silly and absurd and requires viewers to seriously suspend disbelief, but it is really quite funny and — surprise! — smartly insightful. The rapid pacing kept me thoroughly entertained and the jokes kept me laughing. These weren’t just a few chuckles, this was hearty, sustained laughter. Comedy is subjective, but I found “Neighbors 2” hilarious.

Most of the original cast is back, including co-stars Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, and Carla Gallo. Parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are expecting baby number 2 and have just sold their house. They have a 30 day escrow period where the buyers are encouraged to stop by unannounced at any time (see where this is going)?

Flash to the local college where a fraternity party is in full swing. Socially awkward and slightly geeky freshmen Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) cross paths at the party, are disgusted by its “rapey” atmosphere, and decide to move off campus and start their own sorority, Kappa Nu. When the Kappas rent the house next door, they team up with former frat king Teddy (Zac Efron) for advice on how to grow membership, raise capital, and of course, throw killer parties. When the sorority girls have a run-in with their neighbors, the formula from movie #1 kicks into gear and the war begins.

This isn’t a lazy film, however; many of the gags from the first film are NOT recycled. The big twist is that Efron teams up with Rogen and Byrne to fight against the girls’ “right to party.” It’s a fun premise and it works. There are some truly inspired bits of comedy on display, making this one of the better sequels I’ve seen in a while. The actresses are likeable across the board, even when they repeatedly refer to Rogen and Byrne as “old people.” Efron and Rogen have an authentic, easygoing chemistry. The gags are goofy but amusing, with a good mix of both cerebral and physical humor. And there’s a pretty sweet scene involving a seriously buff, shirtless, dancing Efron and a grilled ham.

Despite the silly partying scenes, the movie has an unexpected strong, positive feminist message about girl power and friendship. I didn’t see it coming but I heartily applaud the filmmakers and writers for successfully doing more with what could’ve been another typical college party comedy. This movie is ambitious for cohesively mixing a gross-out comedy with a message movie — and it actually works. “Neighbors 2” is bawdy, funny and has a big heart. This movie surprised me, and I also think it’ll surprise you.


“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is the rare sequel that is not just better than the original, it’s significantly better. The trailer would have you believe that “Neighbors 2” is just the first movie all over again, except with a sorority this time instead of a fraternity. It isn’t.

In this movie, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are still living in the same home with baby Stella (Elise Vargas) and getting ready to have a second baby. They are enjoying the peace and quiet that has come after the fraternity next door led by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) has long since left the house. Meanwhile, Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her friends have learned that, surprisingly, sororities in the Greek college system aren’t allowed to have parties. In response, they create their own sorority outside of the system and rent a house. . . and of course it’s the one next to Mac and Kelly.

There is much to like about this movie, starting with its attitudes — which are refreshingly progressive without feeling forced or preachy. In “Neighbors 2,” a major theme is gender equality: Shelby and her friends aren’t looking for boyfriends, and only want a place where they can enjoy college and sisterhood on their own terms. Gay marriage is treated seriously — this may be the first mainstream, R-rated adult comedy featuring a gay relationship that is never played for laughs.

The actors are all well within their element here and are obviously having fun with this material. Zac Efron, in particular, is delightful as Teddy and provides some of the best laughs of the film. Despite its similarity to the first movie, the jokes here don’t feel recycled. With the possible exception of Lisa Kudrow‘s character (Dean Gladstone), all of the returning characters feel like they have a reason for being here which isn’t “hey, do you remember me from the first movie?”

While the movie certainly deserves its R rating, it doesn’t rely on gross out humor to earn its laughs (with one notable exception). For the most part, it’s an inspired comedy and it’s worth seeing.