Let’s call the newest entry into this Bitter Life Through Cinema a look at the Good, The Even Better and the Absolute Ugly. First…the even better.
And let me say right off the bat that this is not better than its predecessor; however, it is much better than I anticipated it being. Honestly, you’d have to be a cold brute to not find the titular character of the non-sequel Finding Dory at the very least endearing, if not absolutely adorable. Kudos only begin to skim the surface when we consider the expert voiceover work by Ellen DeGeneres, again voicing little Dory. The creators at Disny/Pixar have gone to very decent lengths to uniquely continue the lives of our old friends whilst still dividing the interplaying stories between the original Nemo family (this film begins a year after Finding Nemo) and why Dory is also a little gal all alone. This non-sequel contains a ton of flashbacks, triggering the question and answer, though often forgotten by our little protagonist, of what happened to his mum and dad. It’s interesting to note that Disney has, this time around, left both parents alive, surprisingly. The film is mostly set in a large, aquarium/attraction-style park in Cali while the voice of Sigourney Weaver guides visitors and us through a series of jokes that will continue to make you laugh throughout the film’s duration. New characters aid little Dory in her search for her parents like octopus, Hank, voiced by Ed O’Neill to incredible success. Add in comedic sidekicks and aider and abetters like the whale shark named Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a Beluga named Bailey (Modern Family’s Ty Burrell), a moronic sea lion, and a seriously brain-deficient bird and you get a load of different laughs from all sides. There are more than enough moments when the film gives you a glimpse of a more interesting disorientation: seeing the world (and our own idiosyncratic natures!) through little Dory’s big eyes whilst also giving a big SHOUT OUT! to family. I’d say the film hosts as many, if not more, laughs than Finding Nemo but in a way, you kind of know everything that’s going to happen…but you still love every minute of it! ####
Next comes the good…and this entry is long because I was beyond surprised by how much I actually enjoyed the sequel called Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising. There was much abuzz to do about the original film Neighbours when it first appeared on the big screen in 2014. That original was the cutie, Disney image-destroyer of handsome actor Zac Efron and another boost in the little brother career of Dave Franco (James is his elder brother). While I found little to swoon over with that first, all-too-telling yet interesting take on uni life, I was absolutely taken aback by the more overt realism of this latest venture in this university film serial. While all the original characters have moved on somewhat in life, it’s the unexpected way that writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien along with co-writers and director Nicholas Stoller and producers Seth Rogen (main star of the film, as well) and buddy Evan Goldberg craft a film about young adult girls, for uni girls, about uni girls…and yet they are all straight, white or Jewish males in their thirties. Being a man can often make it a difficult task to write from a woman’s point of view. That said, they way this group has created this gem of a freshman gal’s tale from college to uni makes me convinced they must have had and still have really tight-knit and strong, platonic relationships with gal pals from way back in the day…sisters from other misters, if you will. When a cool couple agree to buy Mac and Kelly’s (Rogen and the always-great Rose Byrne) house, they fall into the necessary escrow mandate of 30 days’ grace period for the couple to inspect the house and make sure that everything is up to snuff before being legally-bound to take the house. Bad news for the protagonists, as right next door in their quasi-pristine suburb, a new sorority called Kappa Nu make a stride into new territory by move in. That is also when we discover a true fact that many people do not know. Fraternities are the only half of the university Greek system who are allowed to throw parties! And when fraternities throw parties, the girls are targets, the drinks are spiked, and the sex isn’t always consensual, and that has become a huge problem on campuses worldwide. So Shelby (played by my fave young actress Chloe Grace Moretz) unites a ragtag team of girls who form said Kappa Nu to make it an any-girls’ party sorority. Mayhem ensues. What is so different in this comedy is how well the timing and acting is throughout the film. Honestly, from the way they tackle gay marriage amongst a group of very “dude” dudes to the authenticity of having an involved yet still very much atypical male father role, all meshed against a group of self-actualising and intelligent, hilarious 18-19 year old US girls is spot on. And being fair again, Efron slays, perfectly representing a guy lost yet so found; to think about it, all the characters shine in such a realistic way, and that is exactly at the heart of what makes this movie so fun to watch and memorable, especially as a “bromedy.” ###-1/2
Lastly, the bad…and it’s very bad, kids. Gods of Egypt. Firstly, the name alone is dumb as hell. I spent years studying Ancient Egyptian History and it comes off as thoughtless and cheap. Secondly, the way this film continues the indignant usage of white “stars” to play ancient Egyptians merely serves to exonerate the baseless nonsense so easily spewed upon us from Hollywood and its ilk. A Muppets’ version of Egyptian lore would have been more adequate than this trite drivel slopped to us from director mediocre Alexander Proyas, and that is even more of a shame, as this man was born in Alexandria, Egypt to Greco-Egyptian parents who then moved him and raised him in an obvious white-washed reality in Sydney. The plot goes as such in a nutshell: On the day that the god Horus (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is due to be crowned king of Egypt by his father Osiris (Bryan Brown), the latter’s hardened and exiled brother Set (Gerard Butler) crashes the coronation, kills Osiris, seizes the crown, and pulls out Horus’s eyeballs. Then, he announces that all norms for reaching the Afterlife are changing. “…The hugest, most luxurious Afterlife you’ve ever seen!” Enter stage left the hero of the story, Bek, played by the gift-less actor Brenton Thwaites (who’d he blow for the role?), a lowly mortal and thief who steals into Set’s treasure vault and makes off with Horus' magic eyeballs. Following, still? Well stop! The story is cornball and old-fashioned, and the casting distressingly ill-thought out, but still visually, Gods of Egypt isn’t without its entertaining moments, but there’s a fundamental disconnect between its attempts at mixing ancient lore in Egyptian mythology with the spectacle of life-size characters and a terrible script/plot. This outing was a total fail….#-1/2