Posts Tagged ‘Rose Byrne’

Annie: Changed Up But Still Fun—Movie

December 22, 2014

Sometimes a movie surprises you…in a good way…and so it is with the 2014 “Annie.” Extremely entertaining, full of heart and fun, there’s truly not a bad performance in the entire film. And while you won’t tap dance your way out of the theatre, you’ll leave humming with a smile on your face. Directed by Will Gluck with screenplay by Gluck and Aline Brosh McKenna, based on Thomas Meehan’s stage play book and Harold Gray ‘s comic strip, Little Orphan Annie, the best way to enjoy this “Annie” is to leave your memories of yesteryear’s versions behind and appreciate this version on its own merit.

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“Annie” 2014 is less a traditional movie musical and more of a dramedy with musical numbers sprinkled in. Set in present day, Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) lives in a group foster home run by Ms. Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), a one-time wanna-be actress and present-day alcoholic. Annie was abandoned by her parents as a child outside an Italian restaurant, left with nothing but half a locket and a note saying that someday they hoped to see her again at the restaurant. One afternoon, while trying to save a dog from being tortured by some neighborhood boys, she is almost hit by a car, but is swept out of harm’s way by Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), a self-made billionaire running for mayor. His campaign advisor (Bobby Cannavale) thinks there might be benefit to his campaign…giving him some much need humanization…by inviting Annie to live with Stacks for a period of time. And so she and her newly adopted dog, Sandy, come to live with Stacks in his penthouse. Annie’s relationship with Stacks, his assistant, Grace (Rose Byrne), Ms. Hannigan and the girls under her “care” carry the story forward.

Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx, “Annie’s” two leads, are both very good and have terrific chemistry together. Wallis, so winning in her “Beasts of the Southern Wild” film debut, continues to captivate. She’s extremely convincing in conveying Annie’s innocence and street smarts. She definitely has some dance moves and sings well enough in the role. It is no surprise that Foxx can sing and dance, and as Stacks, he is absolutely charmingly perfect in the part.

As good as Wallis and Foxx are, it really is the rest of the cast that helps make Annie as entertaining as it is. At times Cameron Diaz’s Hannigan may seem over the top, but truth be told, she is really good as the drunk longing for the good old days. Her scenes with the girls are fun to watch and her “Easy Street” song and dance with Cannavale is very sweet. Her interaction with David Zayas as the shop owner, Lou, who harbors a crush on Hannigan, is especially good. And when her singing truly counts, her voice in the part works. Rose Byrne’s scenes with Wallis are achingly good. However, the real hands-down scene stealer is Stephanie Kurtzuba as Mrs. Kovacevic, the case worker helping Annie. She is just amazing…funny, musical, and capable of saying so much with just the blink of an eye, she steals every scene she is in without even trying.

There is some very appealing singing and dancing by Annie and the foster girls. “It’s the Hard Knock Life” is particularly enjoyable. “Annie” also features some amusing cameos and has some great NYC and subway shots adding to the film’s overall enjoyment.

See this “Annie” with an open mind and you’ll be glad you did. It’s just a plain good time at the movies.

3 nuggets out of 4

Neighbors: Low Bro—Movie

May 14, 2014

It is true that if you go beneath…way beneath… the wealth of penis and bong jokes that is “Neighbors,” a few interesting subjects are addressed. But let’s face it—no one is going to see “Neighbors” for a discussion on peer pressure, growing up or the meaning of life. That discussion is saved for “This is the End”…just kidding. Directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, “Neighbors” is the story of a young couple, Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) and their baby, Stella, who have moved into their new home only to discover that a fraternity, headed by Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) is moving next door to them.

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Already concerned that their youth is slipping away, Mac and Kelly now feel positively ancient with the frat house so close. The two decide to play it “cool,” by going over to the house with their baby, introducing themselves and just asking the guys if they can remember to try to keep the noise down. The request seems to work…at first. Mac and Teddy bond over “Batman” and Kelly manages to fit in with the frat brothers’ female companions. But then a call to the police goes very bad and soon there is all out warfare between the two homes…some very subtle harassment and other more blatant, explosive attacks.

What “Neighbors” has in spades is some terrific comic acting. Seth Rogen is always spot-on and this film is no different. There’s something about him that is just so loveable that you find yourself immediately on his side, no matter what. But in “Neighbors” he is surprisingly matched step-for-step by Rose Byrne. She proves to be a very talented comedic actress and she and Rogen mesh perfectly. Zac Efron demonstrates again that he is more than just a pretty face. Very good in the little seen drama, “At Any Price,” he shows that he is right at home on comic turf, too. And when the film calls for it, on a slightly more serious side, he does a convincing job portraying someone who doesn’t have much going on other than his fraternity. Dave Franco as Teddy’s sidekick, Pete, has a good turn as the fraternity’s voice of reason and someone who knows when it’s time to put the high jinks behind him. The lead actors are supported by a very strong,  predominately male cast. However, a special shout-out must go to the film’s scene stealers, twins Elise and Zoey Vargas as Stella. These girls are amazing. They really seem to be acting and their work with Rogen is especially good and extremely funny.

But ultimately the writing feels a bit stale and tired. Most of the real laughs have been seen in the previews. After a while penis and pot jokes just aren’t all that funny. “Neighbors” starts out with a bang, but ultimately sputters out…except for baby Stella.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4


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