In Theaters This Weekend: 'Neighbors,' 'Chef,' 'Palo Alto,' 'God's Pocket' and More
This Mothers' Day Weekend, a slew of star-studded comedies and dramas are taking on superhero holdover The Amazing Spider-Man 2, including a Zac Efron-Seth Rogen showdown, a Christian comedy with Patricia Heaton, a sentimental food-porn feature from Jon Favreau, and directorial debuts from Gia Coppola and John Slattery -- the latter of which stars Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last roles.
The first R-rated comedy of the season revolves around a young couple with a baby who live next door to a frat house, starring Efron, Rogen, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco and Lisa Kudrow. THR film critic John DeFore reviewed the Nicholas Stoller film as "very funny at the outset and escalating steadily for most of its brisk running time," and "represents a more real-world point of view than Animal House and Old School, one that understands frat-boy excess not as a joyous manifestation of Bacchanalian life-force, but as a pointless, retrograde enterprise that should be stomped mercilessly." Yet not everyone agrees -- read what other top critics are saying about Neighbors here.
Favreau's small-scale personal-growth comedy serves food-porn shots, social media activity and a slew of stars onscreen, including Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale and Amy Sedaris. DeFore reviewed the film as an easygoing, familiar story, and "a soundtrack full of Latin beats and New Orleans grooves (with a Lone Star blues break starring Gary Clark Jr.) keep things moving along nicely." To prepare for the film, Favreau trained with chef Roy Choi and Platt called on his brother, New York restaurant critic Adam Platt -- read about it here.
Coppola makes her directorial debut with the character-driven, suburban-set drama starring Emma Roberts, Nat Wolff, James Franco, Jack Kilmer and Zoe Levin. THR chief film critic Todd McCarthy noted in his review that "this adaptation of Franco's short-story collection Palo Alto Stories deals with such familiar hot-button teen issues as suicide, drugs, drinking and random sex, but from the coolly observational perspective of a curious artist rather than from a hormonal or sociological point of view." Read what advice Coppola received from her filmmaker family here.
Mad Men actor Slattery also makes his directorial debut with an absurdist black comedy based on the Pete Dexter novel, set in a gritty blue-collar neighborhood where the construction "accident" of a young boy leads to the burial of a body and the truth, and starring Hoffman, Christina Hendricks and Richard Jenkins. McCarthy reviewed that the film "only partly succeeds in its aim to derive outrageous humor from its hardscrabble setting, ultimately playing like a movie by the Coen Brothers directed with one arm tied behind their backs." Read how Slattery managed his first-ever feature-directing duties here.
Mom's Night Out
Sarah Drew, Patricia Heaton and Andrea Logan White star as stressed-out, churchgoing moms who seek a few hours of grown-up escape from parental duties. THR film critic Sheri Linden wrote in her review that the film is "painted in broad comic strokes and with no emotional depth, a valentine to motherhood that’s sweet but not sugarcoated, and which doesn’t hard-sell its Christian message. After Son of God, Noah and Heaven Is for Real, read about whether Hollywood's religious movie boom can extend to comedy here.
Katie Couric serves as narrator and executive producer to examine the issue of childhood obesity, offering perspectives from medical, research and advocacy sources to demonstrate the scope of a public health crisis that impacts issues as disparate as individual longevity and national security, but most crucially lets affected kids speak for themselves. THR film critic Justin Lowe wrote in his review that "director Stephanie Soechtig (Tapped), along with co-writer Mark Monroe, effectively marshals a wide-ranging selection of facts and interviews to make the case for changing the way we view and consume food," but that the "highly relevant film diminishes its central message with distracting details."
Richard Ayoade's Dostoyevsky adaptation follows a man so unable to live his life that a twin-like stranger has to show up to do it for him, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska. DeFore noted in his review that "the heavily stylized film further demonstrates the actor's ability to create self-contained worlds behind the camera, [but] this particular world will be too suffocating for some moviegoers."
Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth star in a dramatization focusing on the period between the murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Ark., and the conviction of three teens who clearly didn't kill them. DeFore reviewed the film as a "compelling feature treatment of the much-documented scandal."