Review: Top Five

TopFiveThey say three times a charm, and that could not be more accurate for famed comedian, Chris Rock, and his directorial experiences. After two mildly successful comedic films, he hits back after a seven year hiatus with Top Five. Rock has clearly picked up some tricks of the directing trade during his time off and it shows. Here he adds a level of maturity to his direction style, but was still able to keep that edge that we have come to admire about his comedy with no compromises in the end product. Top Five tells the story of Andre Allen (Chris Rock), a highly successful comedian who is at the top of his game. However, he decides that he is done being funny and wants to do more serious films, namely one about the Haitian slave uprising. After playing a talking bear who wields two guns and is a cop its a tad difficult for his fan base to take his new found film identity seriously. Of course the role of Andre Allen reflects Chris Rock’s career pretty directly, and the careers of some other Black comedians in Hollywood. This connection ingratiated me with the character almost immediately. There was no sense for getting to know Andre, we know him by another name so we can move quickly to the meat of the plot. On the eve of Andre’s wedding to reality starlet Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), Andre is asked to be interviewed by a reporter from The New York Times named Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). Chelsea is a go getter who requests to follow Andre around and do an in depth report with him about his life and changing career. Andre reluctantly agrees and goes about his day promoting his film. Chelsea, who is a fan of Allen’s, presses him on why he doesn’t seem funny anymore. She presses his button in the exact way no one has in quite some time. Her uniqueness is what causes him to open up to her and he divulges stories of his past. A story his tells about his early days of “making it” are easily some of the film’s funniest. However, I found the entire film experience to be a laugh out loud good time all the way through.

Rock makes an effort to include up and coming comedians and his friends who are old warhorses in the comedy game as a large part of the film. There have been many films that have tried to do this mix as of late and it frankly hasn’t worked; see the Grown Ups and The Expendables franchises. However, Rock absolutely nails it and utilizes the new and the old crews in the best of ways. There are some stellar cameos that were thankfully not spoiled by over zealous trailer editors. The movie feels, in many ways, to be a reunion of your all time favorites in new and interesting locales. Speaking of locales, the film takes place largely in New York City. This time around, Rock really shows off some incredible cinematic shots of the city. On his day long interview with Chelsea, Andre revisits his old neighborhood and some upscale spots around the city. Rock is able to make each spot feel unique; from gritty to high brow. In the same vein as 2 Days in Paris (Rock was in the sequel, 2 Days in New York), we get to watch Chelsea and Andre truly discover each other over the course of a day. A sweet story that has been told many times, but here it has a flair and style that keeps it fresh.

Earlier I mentioned the film’s level of maturity, and the take on the common story is where that really shines. Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean this movie doesn’t have Rock’s signature no holds barred humor, quite the contrary. However, he is able to weave a story that keeps it from just being a silly exercise. He is able to elevate such a common story to the level of actual freshness, and for that he should commended. Rosario Dawson’s Chelsea has a real sense of depth, mystery, and sadness to her. In the end, she is a woman that we are, know, or are becoming; she feels genuine. Chris Rock’s Andre Allen is a clear reflection of himself and his interesting critique on his own career trajectory. Never taking himself particularly too seriously, he works to just be himself in front and behind the camera. If you are looking for a smart, ill-mannered, and absolutely hilarious movie then Chris Rock’s Top Five is the no-brainer choice.

[easyreview title= "Review of Top Five" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="5.0" overall= false]

Review: Trance

Trance It should come to the surprise of no one who knows me that I love a Danny Boyle flick. From the drug induced views of the Scottish hills in Trainspotting to the sci-fi epic, Sunshine I've seen them all. I often say I've never seen a bad Danny Boyle flick. So along comes his latest outing Trance starring James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent Cassel. Three unlikely individuals who cross paths during a robbery.

When a near priceless painting is stolen by a couple of thieves during an auction Simon (James McAvoy) tries to stop it. The man coordinating the theft is Franck (Vincent Cassel) who ends up hitting Simon in head and causing a serious bout of amnesia. Simon seeks the help of a hypnotherapist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to help him remember key elements of the day of the robbery. Once all three characters are linked by numerous means we are lead on a series of events that are simultaneously frustrating and exhilarating. In and out of hypnotic induced realities, never knowing what's up and what's down, flashbacks or fantasies the movie has you constantly spinning. In the interest of spoilers I want to keep this review as short as possible. Needless to say that when I left the theater I thought I had it all figured out. Until I talked to my wife who postulated another scenario and it changed my point of view...both could be correct or both wrong. Movies like Trance are pure fun for this very reason. I would assume that our two theories are not the only ones out there. I was thoroughly entertained and I can't wait to discuss it more with friends and family. The performances by McAvoy, Dawson, and Cassel were pretty good. Dawson really stood out with her ability to calm any situation versus McAvoy's sometimes mad man antics, which were required in those particular scenes. Cassel always plays a good villain. This go around he was less suave (his Ocean's 12 performance) and more on par with a street level bad guy, but he did a fine job. Danny Boyle's style is here, but rather muted in the first half of the film. The intriguing nature of hypnotism was a new topic for Boyle, and he took it on with style, per usual. Boyle hasn't ever shied away from any film genre and this is another notch in his belt. Trance is just good movie fun, a very enjoyable summer entry from across the pond.

[easyreview title= "Review of Trance" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]