By Sandra Kraisirideja
If there is one thing about the slate of movies opening Friday it’s how many are independent studio releases, as if the companies are trying to get as much audience share as possible before the summer blockbusters take over on Memorial Day weekend.
“Neighbors” is the lone release from Universal, one of the six major studios. The rated-R comedy stars Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and Rose Byrne, and was directed by Nicholas Stoller (“Get Him to the Greek.”) In the movie, Rogen and Byrne play a young married couple who are dealing with arrested development issues as they raise their first child. Efron plays a college student who opens a fraternity next door, which leads to many humorous confrontations as each party tries to get the upperhand.
A much more tame and family friendly comedy is “Moms’ Night Out,” a faith-based movie starring Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, and country singer Trace Adkins. When Allyson (Drew) and her friends head out for a much-needed evening without kids in tow, a series of unfortunate events combine to create a disastrous, yet unforgettable night.
After directing two “Iron Man” movies, Jon Favreau returns to his independent roots with the comedy “Chef,” which he wrote, directed and stars in alongside Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Emjay Anthony, Scarlett Johansson, and Robert Downey, Jr.
Favreau plays Carl Casper, a talented chef who quits his job at a high-profile restaurant after a struggle for creative control leads to a disastrous food critic review and a crises of confidence. Determined to create food he is passionate about, Carl opens a food truck with the help of his friend, his ex-wife (Vergara), and their son. The movie was selected as the AWFJ Movie of the Week and has been getting strong reviews from the film festival circuit.
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in “God’s Pocket” a rated-R drama directed by John Slattery of “Mad Men.” Slattery also co-wrote the movie with Alex Metcalf and was fortunate to have completed the film before Hoffman’s passing from a heroin overdose earlier this year. In the film, which is based on a novel of the same name, Hoffman plays a low-level mafia-type whose attempts to get rid of his stepson’s body, the victim of an apparent construction “accident,” constantly backfire. The film also stars Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins, and John Turturro.
“Palo Alto” is another literary adaptation. Based on the book of short stories by James Franco, “Palo Alto” has the added bonus of being written and directed by Gia Coppola, the granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola and niece of Sofia Coppola. Comparisons are bound to be made to Sofia Coppola’s coming-of-age drama, “The Virgin Suicides.” Even the poster for “Palo Alto” has a dreamy-eyed Emma Roberts laying on her side, just like Kirsten Dunst in “The Virgin Suicides” poster.
“The Double” looks like an intriguing movie both for its cinematography and production design. It reminds me a bit of “Brazil,” and “Being John Malkovich.” The movie stars Jesse Eisenberg as an insecure office worker whose life is disrupted by the appearance of a new employee who looks exactly like him, but nobody else notices.
I’ll probably regret seeing “Fed Up,” the documentary about the evils of sugar and how it’s in everything. It’s an important subject that everyone should know about.
The crime drama “Devil’s Knot” is based on the true crime book, “Devilís Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three” by Mara Leveritt. It tells the story of three teenagers accused of the brutal 1993 murder of three 8-year old boys in Memphis, Ark. They became known as the West Memphis Three and two of them sentenced to life imprisonment and one to death. The film stars Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Amy Ryan, Mireille Enos, Stephen Moyer, Alessandro Nivola, Dane DeHaan.