Zac Efron

Robert De Niro in Grudge Match

We can never have too many wacky road trip comedies, but they need to involve particular formula to make things extra off-the-wall. Here’s one version: take a no-nonsense youngster — extra points if he’s a millennial completely dependent on technology who doesn’t appreciate how good things are nowadays (a mile uphill in the snow to school, etc., etc.) — and pair him with a zany sex-obsessed octogenarian who just wants to party. And party hard! Where we going? Vegas? Why? Who cares? Such an adventure is set to star Zac Efron and Robert De Niro with a script by John Phillips and direction by frequent Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator Dan Mazer (he’s a writer on Borat, Bruno and The Dictator). The project is going through a bit of an identity crisis at this point — it’s either called Dirty Grandpa or Driving Dick Kelly, depending on which outlet you consult. But the premise is the same no matter the name: Efron will play a very uptight young man with a huge problem: he’s going to marry the wrong woman! He is also tricked into driving his grandfather (De Niro), a retired, recently widowed and — this is important — perverted Army general, down to Florida for spring break. We all know where it goes from there. Spring. Break. Forevahhh. Question: How would Robert De Niro look in a pastel colored balaclava while holding a machine gun? Is there any answer besides amazing?

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Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in The Trip

The best thing about the new comedy Neighbors (as opposed to the old comedies with the same name) is that it’s two movies in one. You’ve got your movie about adults dealing with growing older and having a baby and how the new frat house next door is challenging both their maturity and their patience, and then you’ve got your basic college comedy in which a hotshot frat boy is dealing with his brothers, particularly his best friend, maturing and moving on near the end of their senior year. The latter might seem more derivative, but as one part of the Neighbors whole it works really well. Of course, I still can’t help but focus on those predecessors. Fortunately most frat comedies are terrible and I won’t recommend them. But the obvious best has to be recognized, just in case there are youngsters going to see Seth Rogen and Zac Efron battle it out without having seen the necessary classics. As for the other storyline, it mostly just reminded me of the canceled NBC sitcom Up All Night. The following is a list of strictly movies that I thought of during Neighbors, some because of similar plot tropes and others because of talent involved. I think all of them are worth being familiar with if you’re going to now be familiar with this new movie. As usual, this week’s Movies to Watch list could involve spoilers for the new release, here Neighbors, so only venture forth if you’ve seen it or don’t care.

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Zac Efron and Seth Rogen in NEIGHBORS

Editor’s note: Our review of Neighbors originally ran during this year’s SXSW film festival, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in theaters. You might expect an R-rated comedy starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, directed by the guy who made Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Five-Year Engagement, to be loose and sloppy, like Rogen’s torso. But Neighbors turns out to be tight and lean and eminently watchable, like Efron’s torso. It’s boisterously funny, yet also focused and perceptive. Who knew a Rogen movie could be all of those things at once? Rogen and the suddenly indispensable Rose Byrne play Mac and Kelly, new parents working through the mixed emotions of loving their adorable baby girl while missing their old, fun lives. After a few lukewarm gags along the usual lines (they want to go to a late-night party but fall asleep instead!), we get to the crux of the matter as a fraternity moves in to the house next door. Under the guidance of dude-bros Teddy (Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), the frat behaves exactly the way Mac and Kelly were afraid they would, with raucous nightly parties. (For some reason they’re the only neighbors bothered by the noise.) The new situation intensifies Mac and Kelly’s insecurity about becoming grown-ups. They want to be cool, and even more than that, they want to be cool in the eyes of hot college kids (Mac unhesitatingly calls Teddy “the sexiest man I’ve ever seen”). With a joint as a peace […]

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Neighbors

Wholesomeness does not last forever, especially the kind seemingly cooked up in a Disney or Nickelodeon lab somewhere. Plenty of child stars – squeaky clean in their tween years – have fallen from grace in some way or another. Naked pictures! Rehab! Drugs! (Maybe that last one before rehab! Maybe also after, though!) Indie movies! It’s a rough world out there, and it’s hard to stay on the straight and narrow (or the at least overly family-friendly) path for too long. Such is the case with young Zac Efron. The three-time star of the Disney Channel’s hugely popular High School Musical series (a gem of modern kiddie fare, and don’t you ever forget it) has had some, well, troubles. There’s been some drugs. Some rehab. Some getting peed on by Nicole Kidman on screen. There’s been some oat-sowing, okay? But although Efron has made some missteps and mistakes in both his personal and professional lives, but it looks like he might have finally found a way to marry his panache for the bad boy stuff with something that might actually make some damn money. It’s called Neighbors, and you’re not going to be able escape it this time next month. 

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review that awkward moment

Women, amirite? One minute you’re entering them from behind, and the next they’re asking you just where this relationship is heading. Jason (Zac Efron) is so familiar with it he’s taken to calling the moment ‘the so,’ as in “so, what are we doing here?” Happily though he’s mastered the clean pull-out and sees no reason to change his behavior anytime soon. Daniel (Miles Teller) isn’t quite the same level of player, but he still enjoys building and tending to his roster of girls. Their friend Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) has left the game behind and married his college sweetheart, but that’s where the trouble begins. Mikey’s wife reveals that not only is she having an affair with a man who looks like Morris Chestnut, but she’s also filing for divorce. In an effort towards solidarity, Jason and Daniel join him in a promise and a pact that they’ll all remain single and avoid relationships. But then Jason meets Ellie (Imogen Poots), Daniel starts to fall for his “wing man” Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), and Mikey? He’s hoping to win his wife back. That Awkward Moment offers a glimpse into the world of twenty-something guys hanging out with friends, looking for interchangeable tail, and avoiding the types of girls who inevitably want more than just a mutually rewarding night of fornication. This would be fine if the film was attempting some kind of commentary, managed any degree of character depth, or achieved the mix of playful rom-com and Judd Apatow raunch […]

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Anyone who saw his performance as a charming young drunk earlier this year in James Ponsoldt’s phenomenal The Spectacular Now has to be primed to get some more Miles Teller in their life. Well, there’s good news and even better news on that front. The good news is that he’s got a new comedy coming out soon called That Awkward Moment. The even better news is that a red band trailer for the film has been released, and we’ve got an embed of it right here. That Awkward Moment sees Teller teaming up with Zac Efron and Michael B. Jordan as a trio of hard-partying friends who all make a pact that they won’t get into serious relationships right around the time that each of them meets a girl who is just the sort of lady they’ve always dreamt about. You know, they’re the types of girls who you could get into one of those extra-special relationships, where you’re basically the same height, so your crotches line up when you lay next to each other, with. Anyway, That Awkward Moment seems like it has a handful of gags that land, its three leads are all real charmers, and it also includes a parade of comely young actresses like Imogen Poots, Addison Timlin, and Jessica Lucas who cycle through the story—but the real reason you’re probably going to want to click through and watch the trailer is to see Efron naked and trying to pee while he has a boner. We […]

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Neighbors

“Welcome to the darkness, bitches.” Imagine you’re a young professional enjoying life in your picturesque neighborhood with your happy little family. Life’s good – you’re not terribly unhip yet, you’ve got a smoking hot wife, and a newborn baby. But things get upended when the new neighbors you’ve been so anxious to meet and probably make be your news best friends turn out to be the world’s rowdiest fraternity, as is the case in Neighbors (formerly known as Townies), the comedy from Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, The Muppets) about ruining Seth Rogen‘s suburban dreams. Now, if you’re Rogen and wife Rose Byrne, you’re going to do the yuppie thing, which is politely reason with frat leader Zac Efron to stop. And when that doesn’t work, you’re going to start fighting back against all the public sex, raucous parties, literal cannonballs and debauchery with your own shenanigans. Check out the NSFW trailer for yourself:

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Parkland

Most red-blooded Americans know the story of the JFK assassination, but few know what happened in the dramatic hours immediately after his shooting, as doctors struggled to save his life and the Secret Service attempted to find the man responsible. Though we’ve already seen a few stills, the full trailer for Peter Landesman‘s Parkland puts together a more cohesive look at a day that changed the United States. Through interwoven stories, Parkland focuses on the assassination through the eyes of people helping the president, instead of more prominent figures like the Kennedys themselves. There’s the rookie doctor (Zac Efron) tasked with attempting to save his life and the head nurse (Marcia Gay Harden) who looks pretty resigned to the fact that he won’t be able to do it. Paul Giamatti is Abraham Zapruder, the cameraman with the only footage of the shooting, while Billy Bob Thornton plays a Secret Service agent who is out for the head of whomever did this. Hint: It’s Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong). It might be odd to call an assassination drama refreshing, but it’s a welcome change of pace to see a historical drama not tell the same story we’ve seen time and again. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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The assassination of President John F. Kennedy is one of those days that will forever remain in the minds of the American people. And though everyone knows the story of what happened when JFK was shot (unless you’re a conspiracy theorist), many aren’t aware of what happened immediately after the president’s brutal murder. Enter Parkland, which promises on its poster a portrayal of “the JFK assassination as you’ve never seen it before.” The film centers on the events at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy was taken after being shot, and is based on the book “Four Days in November” by Vincent Bugliosi. These stills, courtesy of Yahoo! Movies, depict some of the principal characters tasked with taking care of the dying president — and even the one responsible. Paul Giamatti steps behind a camera as Abraham Zapruder, the cameraman who captured the only known footage of the assassination, while Jeremy Strong is a dead ringer for Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s killer. Billy Bob Thornton is a terrifying-looking secret service agent and just a generally grumpy-looking man who rushed to Kennedy’s side after the shooting. Zac Efron is interestingly cast as Dr. James Carrico, who tended to Kennedy upon his arrival at the hospital. I won’t judge too harshly before seeing his performance, but Efron, you always look 15 and flustered, kid. Marcia Gay Harden, as Nurse Doris Nelson, looks terribly worried, but you can imagine that she’s just seen some shit. Take a look after the break.

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zac-efron

It’s clear what you’re thinking. “How could anyone as perfectly quaffed and frequently shirtless as Zac Efron be anything other than a totally trustworthy person?” It’s a valid question, but one that’s going to be put to the test as Fox asks him to tap into his traitorous side to star in a new project they’re putting together called Narc. To be penned by studio-employed scribe Grant Meyers, Narc is being described as a college-set Donnie Brasco, which essentially means that it’s taking the plot of Donnie Brasco and changing it so that the studio can exclusively cast attractive young people—which isn’t really a bad idea at all.

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Ramin

At Any Price is like a film someone stored in a time capsule during the 1970s, and we’re just now finally opening it. Influenced by Five Easy Pieces and other landmarks of that era, director Ramin Bahrani set out to make a rural drama that, despite popular belief, has an audience. He ran into resistance while seeking financing, and one might think that was because of the film’s unlikable huckster protagonist, Henry (Dennis Quaid). The trouble didn’t come from the anti-hero lead, however, but rather in the story’s rural setting. According to the money men, nobody wants to watch a movie that’s not set in a major city. Bahrani finds, understandably so, that belief to be ludicrous. And At Any Price has made its way to screen with its setting intact, a fact he is pleased with. The writer and director behind Goodbye Solo and Chop Shop originally had his eyes set on making a western, which didn’t come to fruition. Funny enough, At Any Price wasn’t much easier to get made, despite not being a part of what some consider a “dead genre”.

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3

At Any Price is truly a baffling film. At many times I found myself laughing, I found my mouth agape, I buried my head in my hands… And I hardly think that was the filmmaker’s intended audience reaction. It’s almost hard to believe that someone actually wrote this thing, that the film is even for real. This is especially surprising since the film’s writer/director, Ramin Bahrani (who co-scripted with Hallie Elizabeth Newton), has several good indie films under his belt, including Goodbye Solo and Man Push Cart. The film throws logic and caution to the wind, features an insanely campy performance from Dennis Quaid, flip-flops each character’s motivation with abandon, has zero regard for morality and never ceases to have a cheese factor that explodes through the roof. On the positive end (which is understandably quite narrow), the two race car scenes were shot well, as they were quickly paced and tension-filled. And Zac Efron is always a sight for sore eyes, especially during his two passion-filled sex scenes.

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Tom Hardy

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news roundup that’s bursting at the seams after Hollywood had a very gabby twenty-four hours. Dig in. Tom Hardy: quite simply, he’s awesome. But can he do a Russian accent? We’re likely to find out now that he’s signed up to co-star alongside the also awesome Noomi Rapace in a new film called Child 44. Deadline reports that this one is about a Soviet war hero who uncovers a mass murder and is suddenly faced with doubts about the country he’s spent his life believing in and fighting for. Michael R. Roskam will be directing the film, which is an adaptation of the first in a trilogy of Tom Rob Smith novels. So, if you like bleak Soviet Union-set murder stories, you might be getting sequels!

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At Any Price

At first glance, the trailer for At Any Price looks like it’s advertising a melodramatic movie that takes a mock-heroic look at being a farmer, but when you see that this thing has been directed by Ramin Bahrani, the guy who made minimal but affecting work like Chop Shop, Man Push Cart, and Goodbye Solo, you know there has to be something else there. And having seen this one at last year’s TIFF, I can confirm that there is indeed something else there. In between this trailer’s fast-cutting of fist fights, yelling, and make-out sessions, you can catch glimpses of the story at the heart of the film. It’s not only one of fathers and sons, and the pains and pressures that they put on one another, but it’s one of the pressures put on the modern farmer, and how big corporations are taking over the business of producing our food and forcing the people who have been producing it up to this point to either get big too or get out of the way. Like each of Bahrani’s works to date, this one is a real eye-opener.

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hr_Alvin_and_the_Chipmunks-_The_Squeakuel_1

What is Casting Couch? It’s the movie news column that’s easing into Christmas with a cup of coffee and some casting reports. Let’s take this one step at a time. Marvel Studios is on such a roll now that any movie they make that ties directly into their upcoming Avengers 2 is going to be a big deal—even if it’s based off of a comic book that nobody’s ever heard of like Guardians of the Galaxy. So, the competition among young actors to get cast as the Guardians’ leader, Star-Lord, is pretty fierce. According to Variety, that competition has been narrowed down to two guys. The trade reports that Jim Sturgess is the sole survivor of the original crop of five actors the studio screen tested for the role, and Zachary Levi impressed so much playing the smaller role of Fandral in Thor 2, that Marvel is looking to give him a larger role in their universe by maybe making him the half-human, half-alien leader of this ragtag crew. Who would you find more believable commanding a gun-toting space-raccoon?

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Josh Hutcherson

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting column that has updates on the careers of some promising young talent. And Matthias Schoenaerts. Josh Hutcherson is one of the hottest young actors in the business right now, but when you first hear that he’s negotiating to star in a movie about Pablo Escobar, it sounds a little confusing. Never fear though, because Deadline has an explanation. Paradise Lost is the movie about Escobar that’s being written and directed by Life of Pi actor Andrea di Stefano and is starring Benicio Del Toro as the infamous drug lord. The reason that Hutcherson is said to be negotiating for the lead role is because, while Del Toro gets to do the showy stuff as Escobar, Hutcherson’s character is the one whose eyes we see the story through. If he signs on he’ll be playing an Irish surfer who falls in love with Escobar’s niece and then has to meet her murdering, drug-dealing uncle. Colombia sounds fun.

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Christoph Waltz

What is Casting Couch? It’s a daily roundup of all the casting news you care about, and maybe (probably) one or two items you don’t. Some info has finally leaked about James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller’s upcoming sequel to The Muppets. Turns out it’s going to be a caper movie, somewhat along the lines of The Great Muppet Caper, but with more of an international flair. How international? So international that THR is reporting they’re closing in on signing Christoph Waltz to play one of the main, non-Muppet roles—that of an Interpol inspector. Other important parts for humans are said to include a Russian femme fatale and a male lead with mysterious intentions. Actors looking to land the part should start sending in their shifty-eyed head shots now.

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the paperboy

The Paperboy is, to put it bluntly, quite like a swamp. It is hazy, disorienting, and full of disgusting images. It is so densely packed and so haphazardly arranged that the experience of watching it is not unlike trying to find one’s way out of the Everglades with only a machete and a faulty compass. With this, his third feature, Lee Daniels has created a fictional universe in which rhyme and reason, focus and direction, and even basic character motivation seem like forgotten concepts. It is the sort of film that makes you miss Mystery Science Theater 3000. It’s amazing. Ostensibly, this is a Southern-fried film noir, riffing on such films as In the Heat of the Night and Mississippi Burning. Matthew McConaughey is Ward Jansen, a muckraking journalist for the Miami Times, back in his tiny home town to expose the wrongful conviction of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) for the murder of the county sheriff. He was given the tip by Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), who is currently engaged to Hillary even though they’ve never actually met. Ward’s partner is the dashing and difficult Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo), a sort of British take on Virgil Tibbs. They hire Ward’s buff brother Jack (Zac Efron) as their driver. All of this is narrated by the Jansen’s former maid, Anita Chester (Macy Gray). In the ensuing detective drama not much actually gets investigated. It’s the summer of ’69, the air is sticky and sweltering, and the entire cast is in […]

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After the critical and commercial success of Precious, director Lee Daniels most likely had offers flooding into his office. Considering the way he describes the post-Precious period, that was indeed the case. There were plenty of movies Daniels could have made and for large sums of money as well. In the end, Daniels decided to followup Precious with The Paperboy, a movie many have called “pulpy.” Pulpy material usually doesn’t equal commercial success, but after making a hit, Daniels decided to stick with his gut even if his gut told him to turn down millions. The Paperboy, as ludicrous as it certainly is at times, remains a personal story for Daniels. Some may not see through the sweat and violence of the picture, but he saw this as another tale filled with people he knows well and who we don’t see on screen often enough: characters with a death wish. The world those characters inhabits is one you’ll either love or hate. Here’s what director Lee Daniels had to say about his artist side superseding commercialism, when the magic happens on set, and why he really shows Zac Efron in his underwear so much:

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When you live in small-town Middle America, it seems that you have only three options. You farm, you drive a race car, or you leave. Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart; Chop Shop; Goodbye Solo) is a filmmaker who tends to look at immigrants in America who are trying to find a livelihood away from home. With his new film, At Any Price, he takes a closer look at the struggles of Middle America and how the shift in business models over the generations threatens the very fabric and moral pride of the people. Due to the bigger demand for more-focused growing, it’s become impossible for small farmers to survive on their own. As a result, these people become either antiquated and bankrupt or form progressive, self-made conglomerates. We then see the effect of corporate America and ask, “Is this great for the economy? The man? Both? Neither?” In At Any Price we see Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) as the farmer trying to be as progressive as possible. One of his first scenes puts him at another farmer’s funeral, offering to purchase land from the man’s bereaved son. Henry’s passion is his farm. He wants to make it into an even better business than he received from his father, so that he can then hand it off to his son. The problem is that he’s made some morally questionable decisions in the process of seeking to resolve his ambitions. And these decisions eventually come back to haunt him.

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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