Saturday, April 11, 2015
Review: "Top Five" is Chris Rock's Woody Allen Thing
Top Five (2014)
Running time: 102 minutes (1 hour, 42 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong sexual content, nudity, crude humor, language throughout and some drug
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Chris Rock
PRODUCERS: Eli Bush, Barry Diller, and Scott Rudin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Manuel Alberto Claro
EDITOR: Anne McCabe
COMPOSERS: Ludwig Göransson and Ahmir-Khalib “Questlove” Thompson
Black Reel Award winner
Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco, Cedric the Entertainer, Ben Vereen, Sherri Shepherd, Jay Pharoah, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Jones, Hassan Johnson, Tichina Arnold, Luis Guzman, Kevin Hart, Olga Merediz, Laurissa Romain, Miriam Colon, Charlie Rose, Bruce Bruce, Taraji P. Henson, Gabourey Sidibe, Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Sandler, DMX, Jim Norton, and Jerry Seinfeld
Top Five is a 2014 comedy-drama and romance from writer-director Chris Rock. Rock stars as a comedian who is trying to make it as a serious actor, while his fiancée is turning their upcoming wedding into a reality-television event. Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Jay-Z, is a co-producer on this film.
Top Five focuses on Andre Allen (Chris Rock). He had a successful career as a stand-up comedian, and later became a box office star with his hit movie franchise, Hammy The Bear, which yielded three films. Now, Allen is trying to become a serious actor with a new film, Uprize, in which he portrays Dutty Boukman, a prominent figure in the Haitian Revolution.
Allen is also engaged to marry reality-TV star, Erica Long (Gabrielle Union). The wedding planning, the bachelor party, the wedding itself, and even the honeymoon are going to be reality-television programming on the cable network, Bravo. While dealing with the headache of a big wedding, Allen is also busy promoting Uprize, so he grudgingly agrees to a probing interview with The New York Times. Allen is surprised to find himself opening up to Times reporter, Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), but Brown isn't quite being upfront about her intentions.
In Top Five, Chris Rock has delivered a film that recalls the films of Woody Allen. Like Allen, Rock uses comedy to probe the inner recesses of the lead character's mind, faults, shortcomings, and foibles. Also like Allen, Rock uses romance to bring together two conflicted people, whose motivations and yearnings are similar to one another, but are also in conflict with one another.
The drama comes into Top Five because, even with the crazy scenarios and embarrassing moments and revelations, the story takes everything seriously. The sublime and the ridiculous cannot exist without each other, and stupidity does not absolve one of being honest with oneself.
Rock delivers a solid performance, and he only plays himself half the time in the film. Rosario Dawson shows both dramatic and romance-comedy chops. Wow, she is good, and I can't help but think that if she were a white girl that she would have headlined big-time romantic comedies ages ago. Katherine Heigl and Kate Hudson aren't better than Dawson.
J.B. Smoove is smooth, and Cedric the Entertainer kills it and then some in a cameo role. Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Sandler, and Jerry Seinfeld appear together near the end of the film and are a treat, especially Seinfeld, who is a riot. In fact, a number of comic actors and comedians (including Tracy Morgan) make cameo appearances or have bit parts in this movie, and they do their best to make Top Five a must-see movie.
The Hollywood trade press is reporting that producer Scott Rudin wants Chris Rock to quickly make a non-sequel follow-up to Top Five, bringing back some of the cast of this film. This movie is going to be a hard act to follow. Top Five is Rock's best directorial effort to date, and it is one of the best films of 2014. Rock should have received an Oscar nomination for Top Five's screenplay.
9 of 10
Saturday, April 11, 2015
2015 Black Reel Awards: 1 win: “Outstanding Screenplay (Original or Adapted), Motion Picture” (Chris Rock); 6 nominations: “Outstanding Motion Picture” (Scott Rudin and Eli Bush), “Outstanding Actor, Motion Picture” (Chris Rock), “Outstanding Actress, Motion Picture” (Rosario Dawson), “Outstanding Director, Motion Picture” (Chris Rock), “Outstanding Ensemble” (Victoria Thomas), and “Outstanding Original Song (Ahmir-Khalib Thompson-performer and writer and Eliza Colby-performer and writer for the song, “It Ain't Easy”)
2015 Image Awards: 2 nominations: “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture” (Cedric the Entertainer) and “Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture” (Chris Rock)
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