Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising Review

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     Let me tell you upfront that the majority of sequels to comedic films suck, or at the very least don’t live up to the originals. Really think about that. And after I saw Zoolander 2 earlier this year (twice) I was ready to say fuck all to comedy sequels.
     So imagine my trepidation to Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. I love the original Neighbors. It’s my go to happy movie; its makes me laugh to no end. And I generally like the films that Seth Rogan writes, but this is the first time that he has put together a sequel to one of his original works. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t laugh heartily like I did with the first Neighbors.
     Mac (Seth Rogan) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are finally moving out of their house, but their new house is in escrow so they need to be on their best behavior.
     Until the new rogue sorority headed by Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) and starts causing some real shit. With their options exhausted, they call on an old enemy: Teddy (Zac Efron).
     If you look at the plot, Neighbors 2 has the exact same plot as the first one bit with a sorority instead of a fraternity. The difference with this comedy sequel is that it doesn’t undo the growths and arcs of the previous film (I’m looking at you, Ted 2!). Even the way that the jokes that get recycled come off as clever, because it isn’t the same shit that was in the first flick.
     I have to bring up that the movie has a bit to say about the sexism that is inherently embedded within the Greek system of Sororities, and that may bug some people (I call them Assholes), but it’s done with care and fucked up humor. Humor will always be the best way to tackle social issues, and I like to learn shit too.
     At the most basic level, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is not a waste of time or film, unlike most comedy sequels. Shit, most of them render the first one pointless retroactively, but not here. I am truly astonished that this movie was fucking good, and funny. It goes without say, that if you loved the first one, then you’ll love the living fuck out of this one.

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The Nice Guys Review

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     It makes perfect sense that The Nice Guys takes place in the 1970s, since it is a throwback to the buddy cop movies of around that era.
     Director Shane Black pretty much perfected the buddy cop formula when he wrote the first Lethal Weapon flick, so much so that every film he made after that was just a variation on that formula. I have always said that formula is not a bad thing when its done correctly; namely a sense of fun, and some relishing in the conventions of said formula. And that is exactly what The Nice Guys manages to pull off expertly.
     As with any riff on Film Noir, the case starts off with a missing girl in danger with two men on the opposite ends of the case: Holland Marsh (Ryan Gosling) is tasked with finding her as a person of interest, while Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is tasked with beating the shit out of anybody looking for her.
     Its how these two guys became friends.
     Well, sort of. They join forces because something doesn’t add up, and they’re right. As with any Noir film, not everything is so clear cut.
     Thinking back to the flick, I realized that the main inspiration is Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye with its laid back, devil may care attitude. It’s genuinely the kind of movie that isn’t really made that much in Hollywood nowadays; the kind that you just relax and laugh your ass off.
     Earlier I mentioned that the film is formulaic to a degree, and that is very true, but what makes The Nice Guys thrive is the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe. The humor and dialogue comes across so naturally between the two that you settle into the story before you even know it.
     As a detective story, there are twists and turns abound, and as predictable as it may come across, the fun is trying to figure out where the plot is going to head. The spiritual cousin of the movie is Shane Black’s own Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, very alike yet the two have their own flavor. The best example of having formula done differently.
     At the end of the day, The Nice Guys shows us that there can be more to summer season explosions. Not only is this one of the funniest films I have seen this year, but I wouldnt be surprised if it ends up on my best of the year list come December. So fucking see it already.       

How The Final Episode of “Angel” Saved My Life

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     I know the title of this post is a bit overdramatic, but hear me out though. We all have that one movie, show, game or book that gave us the hope for a better future in our lives. For me it was Angel, a show about vampire with a soul trying to atone for all the horrific shit he did in the past. As today is the 12th anniversary of the finale, entitled appropriately Not Fade Away, I want to express how the ending of the show became the beginning of my life.
     I have always been a shy, lonely, insecure person. That’s putting it very mildly. When it came to my love life, I didn’t have one. I tried, but it just always ended in embarrassment and shame. I had this unyielding need to be validated through the love of a woman.
     In 2003-2004, I thought I finally found her.
     This girl was perfect for me in every conceivable way. I know this because my best friend at the time told me so.
     So to get on with the whole point, this girl said she liked my best friend, but that at one point liked me as well. Maybe it was out of pity, maybe it was sincere, maybe she owes me for my therapy bills, I’ll never know. So, my best friend told me he liked her and, of course, I gave my blessing because they both deserved to be happy; even if that meant that I would get tossed like a parking ticket.
     How can doing something noble, the right thing as it were, and have it feel like I lost the only shot at happiness?
     This is where Not Fade Away comes in.
     The show was already cancelled at this point, so I waited with anticipated dread that this was the last I would see of my favorite show. Never did I think that it would stay with me for this long.
     So how could a show teach me the true value of “The Good Fight”?  From the beginning that’s what the show has always been about. But right out of the gate, the writers did something that shook me to my core: The prophecy that would have given Angel his redemption, was voided by Angel himself. He had to, in order to gain the trust of Hell’s representation on Earth. He will never become human; he will never be able to atone for his sins. He gave it up.
     The Circle of the Black Thorn, Hell’s representation to be clear, have their hands in everything from politics to… well that’s bad enough. They are so powerful, that you could maybe fuck up their day, but you cannot beat them. But to quote Angel himself:
     They’re not there to be beaten. They’re there to be fought.
     The remaining members of his crew, Wesley, Spike, Lorne, Gunn, and Illyria know that this could be the end of their lives. They know they’re not going to win. But they have to try.
     Imagine emotional pain, and turmoil in the guise of a single episode of your stories, and you’re nowhere near the devastation that Not Fade Away inflicts upon you. When you see one of the biggest pain in the ass characters to ever exist in any medium, archenemy Lindsay, get gunned down by the comic relief of the show… it changes you. Especially when Lindsay gasps that Angel is supposed to kill him…
     Wesley. Fuck. I’ll try to get through this. Wesley got shit on a lot, and that’s an understatement. He recently lost the love of his life because some asshole had to bring back an old god. Winifred, or Fred, was hollowed out from the inside and her soul was destroyed. She doesn’t exist anymore. The god, Illyria, is trying to become human, but Wesley begrudgingly helps her, even if she resembles Fred. Illyria was trying to be nice in taking Fred’s form so Wesley can have one last perfect day, but he said that would be a lie.
     So as the entire gang is all tasked with taking out the head members of The Black Thorn, Wesley is knifed, and lays dying when Illyria appears, because she was worried about him. She then says the saddest fucking line in the history of lines:

    Would you like for me to lie to you now?

     What follows is just the most tear jerking scene you can ever fucking endure. I can’t describe it because I’m in a public place and I don’t want people to see me cry.
     I’m back. And composed. 
     To get further along to the point, and move pass some overwhelming details, the last scene takes place in an alley with no way out. As the remaining characters meet up, this being Spike and Angel, Gunn appears exhausted. Then he realizes that he’s bleeding out. Illyria appears mourning Wesley; wishing to do more violence. As these four characters look on they see the armies of Hell coming towards them (complete with dragon). Its at this moment that the line that sums up the show is uttered after Illyria says to Gunn that he’s fading and will last only ten minutes at best:
   
     Then let’s make them memorable.

     The screen cuts to black as they begin to fight.
     Comic Book continuations be damned, we never did find out what happened to them. On some days I like to think that they made it out no problem. On others, I think they perished in the battle. And I like that ending in my mind. They never gave up. They all knew that what they were fighting was going to get them killed, and they didn’t care. They fucked up Hell’s day. Or hour. Doesn’t matter, what does matter is that they did the right thing, and goddam it they went out in a blaze of glory.
     So how did this save my life? Remember I mentioned that Angel gave up his redemption to gain the trust of the Black Thorn? That’s what did it. Angel realized, like I did, that you don’t do the right thing to get a reward; you do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do. My best friend at that time deserved to be happy, and so did the object of my affections. When I stood as Best Man at their wedding, I knew that I did the right thing, even though I had nothing to show for it.
     If Joss Whedon, Jeffrey Bell or anyone from the show were to read this, fucking thank you so much. The show made me strive to be a better man, a more hopeful man especially in times of despair. I owe them a Coke.

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                Angel 1999-2004

Captain America: Civil War Review

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     It’s May, that means a new Marvel movie is out. Yay. This film has been eagerly anticipated by both sides of the fence (Film and comic fans), and it’s finally here.
     Yay.
     After dealing with the fallout from previous Marvel films, namely The Winter Soldier, things finally come to a head. Captain America (Chris Evans) is handling the deaths of hundreds of people caused accidentally by The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). To add to that shit pile, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) is implicated in the attack as well. Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt) wants the heroes to be regulated, which Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is all for.
     That’s when shits about to go down.
     Now, this is a busy little movie. A lot of shit happens in it. That summary? First 20 minutes of movie. Almost everyone from the other movies is in it, or referred to in someway. But does the movie work though?
     Yes*
     The good stuff is seeing the characters together; no secret that I always enjoy that. The political stuff is what truly fascinated me, especially the stuff with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). That guy steals the fucking show, and I’ve never wanted to see a character get his own movie so much.
     But the movie does have rushed elements that I wished would have been expanded upon, like the moral dilemma of having themselves be regulated, which could endanger lives more than it’ll save, or how even deep bonds among colleagues can shatter. The action stuff I’m good on; I just like characterization more.
     The film works, don’t get me wrong. But this is Avengers 3, not strictly a Captain America flick. It’s entertaining, and even fun. Like the Spiderman stuff, even if that was totally shoehorned in at the last second. Civil War accomplishes its task very well, even if its getting to be a bit old hat now.