You know what we probably have too many of these days? Movies. That's why we need movie reviews. They help the average person who may not have time to watch every film that comes out to easily differentiate between what they should and should not watch. However, the critics can't be right all the time, and movies that deserve at least a little bit of acclaim never really get it. Sometimes, this happens over the course of several movies. We talk about a few underrated film series from recent history on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by Cracked luminaries Alex Schmidt and Tom Reimann. I'm also talking about a few in this column here today. Let's get to it!
Remember when bro comedies were all the rage? It was a simpler time, when films like American Pie and Road Trip were box office gold and misogyny was still the bedrock of American filmmaking. In other words, like so many other "simpler times" people often yearn for, it was an unquestionably dark period in history. For obvious reasons, public perception of these movies has taken a turn for the negative over the years.
With that in mind, it's perfectly understandable if the 2014 Seth Rogen / Zac Efron vehicle Neighbors didn't make its way to your personal radar. "Seth Rogen and Zac Efron star in a comedy about a frat house" is a premise that seems like it's about 10 years past its expiration date. Which makes it all the more surprising that Neighbors is Rogen's highest-grossing non-animated movie ever. That's not for nothing. It's a shockingly funny movie which manages to not be douchey or gross, even though it's operating within a genre which practically requires both of those traits.
Even if you can't stomach Rogen, the chemistry between Efron and Dave Franco makes it all worth it. There's a reason they took home an MTV Movie Award for Best Onscreen Duo, and it's that they are absolutely adorable from start to finish. Efron also took home the award for Best Shirtless Scene, because the MTV awards are the stupidest and bullshittiest of all the stupid bullshit awards out there.
Popcorn you can't eat is the literal definition of garbage.
Still, acclaim is acclaim, and this movie got more of that than any of us would have expected the first time we saw the trailer. I know I wasn't expecting much, anyway. That was doubly true when I learned a sequel was in the works, and it seemed like my lowered expectations were warranted when Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising grossed less than half of what the first film did on a way larger budget.
I'd actually forgotten the sequel even happened until I saw it on Amazon Prime recently. Solely out of reverence for the first installment, I decided to give it a courtesy rent, and was pleasantly surprised to find that, in a lot of ways, it's an even better movie than the original. The premise isn't radically dissimilar: A house full of rowdy college kids move in next door to Rogen and Rose Byrne, jeopardizing the couple's ability to live in / sell their house. The difference, as the title implies, is that this time, the house is occupied by an upstart sorority.
Radical departure alert!
Early in the movie, we're treated to surprising but true-in-real-life revelation: Sororities aren't allowed to party. By that, I mean they aren't allowed to host events where alcohol is served. To do that, they have to go to a frat house, because holy shit ... why?
From there, the movie unfolds pretty much how you'd imagine, but with a surprisingly positive message that you wouldn't expect from a Seth Rogen movie involving a frat house.
When it comes to Vin Diesel and movie franchises, the first thing that comes to mind are the Fast & Furious movies. That's perfectly respectable and understandable. We probably would've forgotten about Vin Diesel a long time ago without those movies, and oh, the Facebook posts we would've missed out on if that was the case.
Yes, I know it's a YouTube video, but it was posted on his goddamn magical Facebook page first.
Still, there's another franchise which, for my money, constitutes the most fun and entertaining work Diesel has done this side of being the voice of the Iron Giant. I'm speaking, of course, of the Riddick series. If you're unfamiliar, it kicked off with 2000's space horror epic Pitch Black.
Weirdly, he lip syncs a Beyonce song in this, too.
It's by not a groundbreaking movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a whole lot of fun to watch. Vin plays a Richard B. Riddick, a criminal who's been captured by a bounty hunter who's transporting him to some far-off space prison. Unfortunately, their craft crashes and, you guessed it, Riddick and his freaky night vision become the passengers' only hope for survival. It's a role that requires almost no emotion from Diesel. In other words, he's operating firmly within his wheelhouse.
A few years later, we were treated to the batshit insanity that is The Chronicles Of Riddick, a highly enjoyable film that everyone hated, possibly because there's no way to look at the evil army and their stupid helmets ...
The Chronicles of Riddick
... or hear their insane name (Necromongers) said over and over without feeling like a little bit of a dork. However, if you can get past all that (which critics and moviegoers definitely could not), it's the most fun you'll ever have watching Vin Diesel scowl his way through a space set.
Though critics weren't especially kind to either film, Vin obviously felt otherwise. He initially walked away from the Fast & Furious franchise after the first movie, but was coaxed into doing a cameo in the third one in exchange for the rights to the Riddick franchise.
It took another decade for the third installment, simply titled Riddick, to roll around. But when the Deez outwits an angry space dog by appealing to its innate desire to play fetch within the first ten minutes of the film, you know the wait was well worth it.