Top Five reviews

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Re: Top Five reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Jan 05, 2015 2:08 am

I might like the film even more than you. I'm sure there are negative things one could say about the film, but what's the point when it's as funny as this? I'll echo what you said: it covers a fair amount of ground. I guess I just wasn't expecting it to be as loose and freewheeling about doing so. I also wasn't expecting him to trust us to accept that this dynamic between Rock and Dawson could be set so early on. Comedic persona plus savvy reporter foil. They have terrific chemistry and credit Rosario Dawson for making it feel probably more organic than it should. After what feels like less than ten minutes, the movie is essentially these two interrupted by brief interludes of stories, career obligation, and most joyously family gatherings. When it must curl into a full character arc, it's a bit obvious and he definitely wears his influences on his sleeve but they're good influences.
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Re: Top Five reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jan 04, 2015 5:42 pm

Given the film's hugely disappointing box, I thought maybe this was a case of critics overstating a film's assets. But I thought it was pretty much as described: a very funny, mostly intelligent film that's got a rom-com core but covers a fair amount of ground. It's not a great movie, but it has solid detail work (a wonderful scene of Rock and Dawson making their way carefully through a liquor store), and laugh-out-loud moments (my favorite a JFK/Marilyn Monroe joke). It's a huge step forward for Chris Rock, and it's very sad it seems destined to go in the books as a failure.

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Re: Top Five reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Wed Sep 10, 2014 6:08 pm

OscarGuy wrote:In the last ten years, only two films haven't earned some sort of Oscar nomination as a result of the Audience Award at Toronto. Bella in 2006 and Where Do We Go Now? in 2011. Half of the ten were also Best Picture nominees. I'm guessing this film earns zero nominations if it does win the audience award.


I'm now thinking "Wild" is going to win the Audience Award, but if Top Five wins and it's a hit movie, why not a screenplay nomination?
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Re: Top Five reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Sun Sep 07, 2014 8:43 pm

In the last ten years, only two films haven't earned some sort of Oscar nomination as a result of the Audience Award at Toronto. Bella in 2006 and Where Do We Go Now? in 2011. Half of the ten were also Best Picture nominees. I'm guessing this film earns zero nominations if it does win the audience award.
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Re: Top Five reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Sep 07, 2014 8:04 pm

Surprise indeed. This may end up winning the People's Choice award.
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Top Five reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 07, 2014 3:30 pm

A so-far desultory Toronto needed a surprise, and apparently Chris Rock's film is it.


Variety
Scott Foundas
Chief Film Critic @foundasonfilm

“Sometimes a movie is just a movie,” remarks one character early on in Chris Rock’s “Top Five”; but in the case of Rock’s own third turn in the director’s chair, it’s also a candid, fresh, ferociously funny snapshot of life in the celebrity bubble. After a couple of ambitious but middling first attempts (“Head of State,” “I Think I Love My Wife”), Rock has finally found a big-screen vehicle for himself that comes close to capturing the electric wit, shrewd social observations and deeply autobiographical vein of his standup comedy. At once personal in its sensibilities, yet made with an eye towards reaching a broad, mainstream audience, “Top Five” sparked a well-deserved bidding war following its Toronto premiere, and should soon become a welcome addition to some lucky distrib’s slate.

Whereas Rock turned to French New Wave master Eric Rohmer as the source for “I Love My Wife,” “Top Five” bears the conspicuous influence of classic-era Woody Allen in its ever-present scenes of characters walking and kvetching on the streets of Manhattan and its jaundiced depiction (shades of “Stardust Memories”) of a once-successful comic actor whose fans clamor for him to get back to his “earlier, funnier” self. Perhaps that’s one reason Rock has borrowed Allen’s surname for his “Top Five” alter-ego, Andre Allen, a former standup who hit the Hollywood big-time as the title star of “Hammy the Bear,” an action-comedy trilogy in which he plays the ursine partner of a human policeman.

But whereas Michael Keaton’s similarly franchise-fatigued “Birdman” character seeks career validation in Broadway and Raymond Carver, Andre seeks his in the form of “Uprize!” a big-screen passion project dramatizing the 1791 Haitian Revolution that, when “Top Five” opens, has just been savagely panned in The New York Times. (Clips suggest a cross between “12 Years a Slave” and “Apocalypto,” as directed by Mel Brooks.) That gives Andre pause when he’s asked to spend the film’s opening day in the company of Times profile writer Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), but under pressure from his agent (a fiery, flustered Kevin Hart), he finally acquiesces. And when he meets Chelsea and sees that she’s nobody’s fool, he begins to open up to her.

Nothing in “Top Five” requires as much suspension of disbelief as the notion that, in this clamped-down media age, a celebrity of Allen’s stature would give any journalist — even one this smart and beautiful — the kind of access Andre ends up giving Chelsea here. But that’s the sort of minor quibble most audiences will be laughing too hard to notice. As the day winds on and reporter and subject grow flirtatiously closer, Rock stages at least a half-dozen rude and outrageous set pieces that recall the Farrelly brothers at their most inspiredly irreverent, starting with Andre’s recollection of a Texas hotel-room tryst involving a couple of enthusiastic hookers and a good-old-boy concert promoter (played to the hilt by Cedric the Entertainer) that ends in tears of shame, police activity, and several crop-circle-sized stains on the mattress.

Most movies could scarcely top such a scene, and yet Rock manages to do just that only a short while later, when Chelsea one-ups Andre by describing the evolution of her boyfriend’s suspect sexual fetish. But while Rock delivers some great, gross-out payoffs here, they’re leavened with lots of wry pop-culture commentary (including inspired bits on Obama, Tyler Perry, the racial subtext of “Planet of the Apes” and the black man’s difficulty of hailing a cab in New York) and an unusually rich investment in character that always keeps the movie tethered to reality. Rock may be playing close to the vest (it’s tempting to see “Hammy” as an analogue for the star’s voice work in the blockbuster “Madagascar” series), but he’s also very much playing a role, with lots of additional, un-Rock-like dimensions that may not stem directly from personal experience but which have the feel of close observation.

Andre is an alcoholic (as was Rock’s brother, Charles, who died in 2006), in recovery but only holding on by a thread, and wondering if sobriety has dulled his ability to be funny. (The one fleeting scene of Andre and Chelsea — also a recovering addict — browsing a liquor store’s shelves like kids in a candy store is more affecting than all of Kevin Costner’s “Lost Weekend”-ish swilling in concurrent Toronto premiere “Black and White.”) Moreover, he’s a newly-minted reality-TV star, with a Bravo series documenting his impending nuptials to Erica (Gabrielle Union), who helped him to get on the wagon but may not be the love of his life.

It can be hard for a movie to dwell on the problems of the rich and famous without seeming a touch self-serving, but Rock always keeps things in perspective. He shows us how far Andre has strayed from the prodigal comic he was in his youth, and how much he’d like to go back, but how hard that is in the sycophantic, yes-man bubble of A-list fame. In one of the movie’s best stretches, Andre takes Chelsea to visit friends and family in the housing projects where he grew up — a loose, Altmanesque sequence, rich in its sense of community roots, that allows a host of first-rate comic actors (including a pre-accident Tracy Morgan) to riff off each other’s rankings of the all-time greatest hip-hop artists (the top five of the movie’s title).

Rock is enormously appealing here, balancing his patented comic abrasiveness with a real tenderness, the faint bewilderment of an ordinary man blindsided by his own success. And Dawson makes an excellent foil, especially once the movie deploys a genuinely clever third-act twist that radically redraws the boundaries on their relationship. Unsurprisingly, Rock stuffs the film with a surfeit of unbilled celebrity cameos, the best of which involves a confluence of Charlie Chaplin and a titan of contemporary hip-hop that any movie in “Top Five'”s flight path will be hard pressed to top for sheer blissful weirdness. A top-tier tech package results in a sleeker, slicker look than most American comedies, particularly Lars von Trier cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro’s beautiful widescreen lensing, which makes New York itself a vivid and ever-present character as Rock and Dawson zig-zag the city from Morningside Heights to East Harlem, and from the West Village to Union Square.

Hollywood Reporter
by Jordan Mintzer

The Bottom Line

Chris Rock brings it big time in this uproarious celebrity self-portrait

“I don’t feel funny anymore,” claims Andre Allen, the alter ego of writer, director and star Chris Rock in his new movie Top Five, which marks the notorious comic’s third stint behind the camera. For the next 100 minutes, he then proceeds to be the exact opposite, piling on one hilarious sequence after another in a barrage of hard-hitting humor that has rarely been so successfully dished out in a single film. It’s like watching a first-rate standup routine transformed into fiction, or in this case auto-fiction, as Rock has more on his mind than just making us laugh, offering up a witty celebrity satire that doubles as a love story set during one long and eventful New York City day.

While the comedian’s 2003 debut, Head of State, was a more conventional-style effort, his 2007 follow-up, I Think I Love My Wife (which he co-wrote with Louis C.K.), already revealed a higher artistic ambition, updating the Eric Rohmer classic Chloe in the Afternoon to focus on a modern-day black couple living in the burbs. But with this latest work, Rock takes things to another level, letting his terrific stage monologues infuse a midlife crisis narrative that recalls the Manhattan-set tales of Woody Allen and the entertainment industry sendups of Larry David, except with dick jokes, n-bombs, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Following an electrifying Toronto premiere, Top Five should find its way to the top of many a distributor’s wish list, with both critical and box office success more or less guaranteed.

From its opening sequence-shot, where Andre (Rock) and nubile New York Times journalist, Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), engage in a walk-and-talk that ends in a perfectly timed gag involving a taxi, it’s clear that the film will be freer in form and more audacious in content than your typical broad comedy, giving Rock carte blanche to address his many grievances about Hollywood and the world in general.

We then cut to a talk with Charlie Rose, during which we learn that Andre was once a hugely successful comic and binge-drinking party boy, but has finally managed to get his life in check, quitting the booze and dating a beautiful celeb (Gabrielle Union) with whom he’s about to get hitched. Yet the more Andre follows the straight path, the further he seems to stray from his comedic roots, which is what Chelsea discovers as she profiles him during the release day of his latest movie – a ridiculous, self-serious drama about the Haitian slave rebellion called Uprizing.

The 24-hour structure is a simple yet effective tool, allowing Andre and Chelsea – not unlike Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy – to delve into one another’s backstories while growing closer as the day drags on. It also lets Rock bring in a boatload of other comedians for a series of riotous cameos, including: Kevin Hart, playing Andre’s n-word slinging agent; JB Smoove as his longtime bodyguard and confidant; Tracy Morgan as a hapless couch potato from the projects; and Cedric the Entertainer as a sizzurp-slurping promoter, who appears in a standout set-piece culminating in what’s best described as the “sperm bed" gag.

There are many other such highlights throughout, yet Top Five is much less a feature-length sketch comedy in the SNL tradition than it is an actual story with real characters and consequences. Andre’s battles with alcohol and his need to be recognized as a serious artist may seem like your typical bouts of celebrity vanity, but they also feel genuine, especially when we encounter his dad (the great Ben Vereen) during a rather unsettling scene set in the old neighborhood. And Chelsea is much more than just a sounding board for Andre’s nonstop banter, standing on her own as a single mom with a slew of bad relationships and sexual encounters (watch out for the “hot sauce" gag), and allowing Dawson to reveal a comic range we’ve never seen before.

The writing is strong enough that when the humor gives way to drama in the second half, there’s enough at stake to keep us interested, although Rock still has plenty of jokes in store for the finale, as well as some more walk-ons by fellow funny people Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg and Jerry Seinfeld. The latter is perhaps the talent who's ultimately felt the most throughout Top Five, which, like the Seinfeld show, is also the tale of a New York comedian who’s much better at being on stage than being in real life, and who’s forever trying to reconcile his two disparate selves.

Filmed in colorful fluid images by DP Manuel Alberto Claro (Melancholia, Nymphomaniac), and edited with pitch-perfect timing by Anne McCabe (Margaret), the movie provides a rich aesthetic palette that gives the Big Apple locations an almost magical feel, even if the action is always grounded in a certain reality. A soundtrack heavy with hip-hop hits – the "top five" of the title refers to one's five favorite rappers – is blended with an upbeat score by Ludwing Gorannson (We're the Millers) and Questlove of The Roots. Otherwise, the sound mix at the Toronto screening seemed iffy at times, although that may be because the theater was literally Rocked with laughter from start to finish.


Screen Daily
Mark Adams, chief film critic

Dir/scr: Chris Rock. US. 2014. 101mins

Chris Rock is at his rude, ribald and raucous best in the laugh-out-loud Top Five, a deliriously funny film that looks destined to be a box office hit. Written, directed and starting Rock, the film mines similar territory to Woody Allen at his younger best – sex, comedy, paranoia, insecurity and more sex – but with a much rawer and uncensored edge.

Playing a successful comedian and movie star who is trying to prove to the world that there is more to him than the laughs, Rock naturally treads a fine line between performance and real life, and while the film’s structure is pretty straightforward the film very much reflects Rock’s personality – smart, savvy, insightful, rude and constantly on the move. Brimming with cameo performances and wonderfully explicit gags it could have the ability to really break out, and certainly shows that after his debut as documentary filmmaker (with Good Hair) he more than has the ability to succeed as a feature director.

The film follows a day in the life of New York stand-up comedian turned movie star Andre Allen (Rock) as he heads into a vital period. A recovering alcoholic, he is a big star thanks a series of comedy-action film series (he played a machine-gun toting bear in three hit films), but has recently put all of his efforts into Uprize, the dramatic story of a hero of the Haitian revolution. He is due to spend the day in New York promoting the film, and is set to marry fiancé Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), the star of her own reality TV show, the following day

His agent forces him to be interviewed by journalist Chelsea Brown (the always wonderful Rosario Dawson) for a New York Time profile piece – he hates the idea because his work has been constantly savaged by the paper’s writer James Neilson – and the two spend the time wandering through New York as he does press interviews, chatting about his life, comedy, alcoholism, his roots (cue a to trip to meet his family and friends) and his upcoming marriage.

The bickering and sparring between Dawson and Rock is the spine of the film as they both gradually reveal the truths of themselves and Rock gets the chance to muse over what it is to be a comedian and the pressures to perform.

There are some wonderful – and often hilariously cringe-worthy – comedy moments to relish, though perhaps best (and most revealing of all) is at his bachelor party where he sits down with Jerry Seinfeld, Whoopi Goldberg and Adam Sandler to discuss life, marriage and comedy. Naturally romance is in the air and the film follows a pretty predictable arc, but that doesn’t make it less fresh, accessible, delightfully performed and downright hilarious.


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