Saturday, December 20, 2014

Movie Review: "Top Five" (2014)

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Movie"Top Five"
Director: Chris Rock
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Andre Allen (Chris Rock) was a popular comedic star who hit it big at the box office with his "Hammy the Bear" hokey action comedies. After some big life changes like getting sober and prepping for his marriage to reality star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), Allen is no longer interested in doing comedy. While on a press tour for his new drama "Uprize," about the Haitian revolution, he reluctantly agrees to do an interview with New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). She is unexpectedly able to relate to Allen through her past addictions and is able to get him to open up about the more intimate details of his life and why he wants to give up on comedy. 

"Top Five" pretty much flew past our radars and to our surprise, very few theaters near us have even been offering it to view. It is not a perfect movie, but it's pretty damn entertaining. We're not really huge Chris Rock fans, and lately, like his character Andre Allen, he has been making some horrible career moves (See: "Grown Ups 2"). Rock wrote and directed and starred in this movie and had quite a few poignant things to say about the entertainment industry today. The friend who went with us even compared some parts of it to "Birdman," to which I agreed to an extent. It is about an actor trying to reinvent himself in a genre that is completely foreign to him. In this case, Andre Allen wants to move on from comedy and comedy movies because he doesn't feel funny anymore. In his leap to drama, critics and fans alike have lambasted him for this choice and refuse to see him as anything but a comedic actor. Allen faces the same problems many real-life comedic actors do, where they are forced to choose between doing outrageously dumb movies that they don't enjoy making or even like themselves but are big financial hits (IE: anything Adam Sandler has done for the past decade and a half), or attempting to do more powerful, meaningful pieces of cinematic art that might be important to them personally, but will typically fail at box offices. This movie is pretty much Chris Rock's life, although we aren't certain if he had any substance abuse problems. It's a smart and witty film ripe with present and past cultural references, word play, and a good balance of humor and dramatic, intimate moments. It pokes fun at the current state of modern entertainment where "if it's not on camera, it didn't happen," while simultaneously bringing this notion to light. Our generation is obsessed with reality TV and making it big by "going viral," and all of these elements weave intricately throughout the course of the film. Erica Long, played by Gabrielle Union, could be representative of many, many reality stars who have no discernible talents other than being obnoxious on television. The film as a whole is very self-aware and Rock is not afraid of who it will offend and is willing to take shots at pretty much everyone to get his point across.

All this being said, the movie does feel a bit slow moving at times. Everything that happens in the film happens over the course of one day, but a couple of parts in the movie feel a little contrived and would have worked better if they had happened in brief summation or in flashback form, as many other instances in the film were handled. The romance between Chris Rock's character and Rosario Dawson's character is one you can see coming from a mile away, but we like how they are able to identify with one another based on their common experience with addiction. Beyond this rather obvious ending, the movie is relatively solid all around.

This is also Adam Sandler's best movie in years, and he's only in it for about 5 minutes. We wonder how that makes him feel about his life. He should be thanking his good pal Chris Rock for the cameo and for reminding us that Adam Sandler can actually be funny once in a while.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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