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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Chris Rock
Cast:
Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Cedric the Entertainer, JB Smoove, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart, Anders Holm, Jay Pharoah, Michael Che, Sherri Shepherd, Leslie Jones
Writing Credits:
Chris Rock .

Synopsis:
A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancée talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$6,896,593 on 979 Screens.
Domestic Gross
$25,317,291.

MPAA:
Rated R

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Description
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 3/17/15

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director/Actor Chris Rock and Actor JB Smoove
• Three Scenes
• “It’s Never Just a Movie” Featurette
• “The Making of Top Five” Featurette
• “Top Five Andre Allen Standup Outtakes” Featurette
• “Top Five Moments You Didn’t See in the Film” Featurette
• DVD Copy


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Top Five (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 4, 2015)

While Chris Rock achieved a great deal of success after Saturday Night Live, he never quite became a movie star. Oh, he appeared in hits, but those instances occurred when he did a voice in an animated flick or when he played a supporting role in someone else’s effort.

2014’s Top Five offers Rock’s attempt to try again – and to try as writer, director and actor. Andre Allen (Rock) started as a stand-up comic but attained his biggest fame as the star of the super-successful “Hammy the Bear” movies.

Tired of this trend, Andre tries to reinvent himself as a serious actor, and he makes Uprize!, a flick about an 18th century slave rebellion in Haiti. Uprize! opens while Andre stands on the verge of marriage to Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), a reality TV star who ensures every aspect of the nuptials will appear in public.

As he works the publicity rounds for Uprize!, Andre consents to an interview with New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). Due to the abuse his work consistently receives from mysterious Times critic James Nielson, Andre goes into the chat with a negative attitude, but he soon connects with Chelsea. We follow their long day together and a variety of complications.

One can’t help but view Five as more than slightly autobiographical, as Rock clearly knows what it’s like to ride stand-up comedy to big-screen success. Perhaps all the nastiness Rock aims at the Hammy franchise reflects his feelings toward the Madagascar series, though I find it hard to believe the public constantly calls him “Marty” the way they refer to Andre as “Hammy”. I can’t quite figure out why people mistake Andre for his character when apparently he spends all his cinematic “Hammy time” in a costume anyway.

That’s just one of the many aspects of Five that fail to connect with the real world. Five feels like Rock’s attempt to do the Woody Allen thing, but Allen’s better works come with a sense of verisimilitude that Rock’s film lacks. Even with the apparent autobiographic slant, Five comes across as consistently contrived and forced. There’s just little about it that makes sense on a frequent basis, and that makes the movie awkward and disjointed.

Like Andre himself, Rock seems to want to “go serious”, but he can’t do it. Rock makes Five a jumbled mess of comedy and drama, one that doesn’t do either side well. The comedy usually feels gratuitous, and the drama comes across as banal and trite.

It doesn’t help that Five suffers from atrocious pacing and lacks any real sense of narrative flow. For instance, we learn that Andre is a recovering alcoholic, and we get a flashback to the moment where he “hit rock bottom”. This scene goes on forever and disrupts the main story without much payoff; it rambles on and on but never delivers the purpose it needs.

Like the rest of the movie, that “rock bottom” flashback suffers from Rock’s aforementioned inability to commit to real drama. I guess we’re supposed to view this sequence as a moment of true darkness for Andre, but Rock never presents it as particularly scary or dramatic. Instead, he plays it for laughs, so we find it hard to take Andre’s “moment of clarity” as anything other than silly.

The film’s narrative also suffers from the random, pointless progression of Andre’s day. Rather than focus on his chat with Chelsea, the film takes many random detours, most of which appear to exist mainly to exploit Rock’s Rolodex. We get scads of cameos from his famous friends; some of these amuse, but they almost always feel out of place.

Rock doesn’t seem to have the confidence that his movie will succeed on its own, so he stacks the deck with his popular pals – and harms his movie as a result. Is it funny to see Jerry Seinfeld “make it rain” at a strip club? Sure, but that bit subverts a moment of drama and detracts from the necessary impact, all more evidence that Rock seems to fear the consistent pursuit of drama and resorts to inappropriate comedy at the worst times.

It doesn’t help that Rock cannot act. As a comedic personality, he’s often very entertaining, but when he tries to do more than play “Chris Rock”, he fails.

As Andre, Rock scowls, smirks and bugs his eyes – that’s it. He can’t bring any depth to the part whatsoever, and it hurts that he works alongside so many real actors.

In particular, the constant juxtaposition of Rock and Dawson becomes an issue. She doesn’t turn in her best work here, but she actually knows how to act and she blows Rock off the screen. Rock’s desire to undercut drama at every turn hurts the movie enough, but his poor performance makes it so tough to take Andre seriously that the movie becomes even less effective.

I wanted to like Top Five, and I thought I would like Top Five, but I didn’t. Ponderous, disjointed and clumsy, the movie gives us an occasional laugh but fails in most ways. This leaves it as a slow film that seems to last much longer than its mere 102 minutes.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

Top Five appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I found no problems with this excellent presentation.

Colors veered from a light teal feel to a mild amber impression. These stylistic choices worked fine, as they hues seemed appropriate for the selected palette. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows showed nice clarity.

Sharpness excelled. All shots – wide, close and in-between – provided solid clarity and definition. If any unintentional softness emerged, I didn’t see it. Jaggies and shimmering were absent, and edge haloes weren’t a factor. No signs of source flaws emerged, and I didn’t sense any digital noise reduction; the film featured good natural grain. Across the board, this was a pleasing transfer.

Comedies don’t usually boast dynamic audio, so don’t expect much from the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Top Five. The soundfield remained pretty limited through most of the film. Music showed nice stereo presence, and a few scenes – usually those in clubs or on the streets - opened up the environment in a reasonably satisfying manner. These gave the soundscape a bit of oomph and created a good setting for the events.

Audio quality was solid. Speech always came across as natural and distinctive, with no signs of edginess or reediness. Music sounded lush and warm, while effects – as minor as they were – appeared accurate enough. At no point did this threaten to become a superior soundscape, but it seemed better than average for a film of this sort.

When we shift to the set’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from writer/director/actor Chris Rock and actor JB Smoove. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, autobiographical moments, NYC locations, cast and performances, editing, music, and general observations on life.

The last topic takes up the most time, as Rock and Smoove tend to mostly muse about different domains. Some of those provide comedy – the commentary delivers decent laughs – but too much of the track lacks oomph. The guys either praise the movie or ramble about not much in particular. There’s enough humor here to maintain interest, but the commentary tells us little about the movie’s creation and doesn’t do a lot for me.

Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of three minutes, 30 seconds. We find “Andre Raps” (1:55), “First Day Your Movie Comes Out” (0:40) and “These Shoes” (0:55). “Raps” offers what it implies, as we hear Andre do verses of NWA during a talk show appearance; it’s somewhat funny but totally superfluous.

“Movie” keeps us on the Charlie Rose set, but it shows “excerpts” from two “Andre Allen” flicks not depicted in the final cut; like “Raps”, it’s fun but not important. “Shoes” offers a quick chat with Andre’s fiancée about her awesome new footwear. Like its siblings, it’s good it landed on the cutting room floor.

A few featurettes follow. It’s Never Just a Movie goes for 20 minutes, eight seconds and includes notes from Rock, Smoove, executive music producer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, and actors Cedric the Entertainer, Rosario Dawson, Sherri Shepherd, Kevin Hart, Ben Vereen, Romany Malco, Gabrielle Union, Jay Pharoah, Leslie Jones, and Michael Che. The piece covers Rock’s start in comedy and his career, story/character areas, cast and performances, shooting in New York, and Rock’s work as director.

Some interesting archival footage emerges along with some outtakes, but this is mostly a love letter to Rock. Much of the program focuses on praise for the writer/director/actor, and that tendency gets old pretty fast. Despite the smattering of good tidbits, this ends up as a lackluster featurette.

With The Making of Top Five, we locate a 10-minute, 26-second piece with Rock, Dawson, Smoove, Union, Shepherd, Cedric, and Thompson. We get some notes about Rock’s goals for the film as well as his approach to the material and cast and performances. Like “Movie”, this one comes with some good behind the scenes footage, but like “Movie”, it also lavishes a lot of praise on Rock. That continues to be a less than charming approach.

Top Five Andre Allen Standup Outtakes runs six minutes, 22 seconds and shows what it states. We get shots of Rock at work on stage. These offer some amusement and become a fun extra.

Finally, the set provides Top Five Moments You Didn’t See in the Film. This one takes up four minutes, 16 seconds and displays outtakes. We get a bunch of alternate lines from various actors in this entertaining compilation.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Top Five. It lacks any of the Blu-ray’s extras.

While not without funny moments, Top Five plods too much. It comes with flat characters and a general lack of insight as it meanders across its running time. The Blu-ray delivers excellent visuals and positive audio as well as a mediocre collection of bonus materials. Top Five occasionally amuses but it falters too often to become a winner.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main