Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Neighbors, Cyber-Seniors, God's Pocket

God's Pocket

Rose Byrne scores the biggest laughs in the frat-versus-family comedy smash "Neighbors," including a line so unexpected and politically incorrect I almost fell over when it came out of her mouth.

She's Kelly, a young mother and wife to Seth Rogen's Mac, and the line perfectly encapsulates her abandonment of feminine niceties as they go to war with Teddy (Zac Efron) when he and the party kings of Delta Psi move in next door. Rogen also gets some laughs, but Efron continues to exist in a sort of cinematic limbo. He's not a gifted comedian, and his attempts at drama (e.g., "At Any Price") feel callow. His Adonis-like body actually works against him, rendering him unapproachable and his presence flat. 

More bounces off the wall than sticks in "Neighbors," but enough works to make it a passable time-killer.

I had a smile on my face throughout the breezy 75-minute documentary "Cyber-Seniors," about a Toronto program pairing senior citizens with high-school students who teach them the basics of the Internet. We may never again see a generation gap this broad, but the kids bring such patience and the seniors such openness, they could only be Canadian. With the help of her mentor Max, a lady named Shura (who says "Talk of angels!" rather than "Speak of the devil!") records a YouTube cooking tutorial involving grilling a cheese sandwich with an iron and preparing corn on the cob in a coffee pot! Thus begins the video contest that gives Saffron Cassaday's picture what little structure it has, as the participants compete for most views, likes, and comments. But the true joy of the movie is best captured in the faces of the elderly residents able to see and talk to the children and grandchildren who've moved away.

Some critics have called actor-turned-director John Slattery's "God's Pocket" a slice of miserabilism, but I took it as a quite funny, Murphy's Law sort of black comedy. (Slattery confirmed as much during a post-screening Q&A, in which he expressed surprise that Rotten Tomatoes had listed it as a drama.) It's one of your last chances to see Philip Seymour Hoffman, and he's matched every bit by Richard Jenkins as an alcoholic newspaper columnist who insinuates himself with Hoffman's wife (a strong Christina Hendricks) after her son is killed on the job and she doesn't buy the official explanation. "God's Pocket" doesn't linger long in the memory, but it knows its working-class neighborhood inside and out.

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