NEIGHBORS (2014) starring Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron and Dave Franco

The new comedy movie NEIGHBORS from the producing team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg could be construed as an extreme re-imagining of the 1981 dark comedy of the same name starring the late John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd. The general plot is basically the same, consisting of a couple of quiet suburban homeowners whose lifestyle is threatened by new obnoxious neighbors. But from that point onward the similarities end.

The 2014 version has the quiet homeowners (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) adjusting to life as new parents with their ever-so-cute baby girl. A monkey wrench suddenly has been thrown into their midst in the form of a noisy hard-partying fraternity moving next door. Things between the family and the crew of Delta Psi lead by pretty boys Zac Efron and his 2nd in command (Dave Franco) start off friendly, with Rogen & Byrne joining in on their raucous fun, putting the frat boys and their friends at ease, as a ploy to get them to “keep it down” for future reference.

Unfortunately the situation soon turns into an all out war, once both sides feel they have betrayed the other. Soon, sabotage ensues between the neighbors. The homeowners vie to get the fraternity evicted, while the raucous frat brothers are on a mission to make life a living hell for the suburban family (mainly Green and Byrne, the frat actually adores their baby girl – how can one not) that they either will want to move, or give up and co-exist with the frat without compromises on toning down the loud parties.

As she had done in the previous comedies GET HIM TO THE GREEK and BRIDESMAIDS, Byrne again steals the movie with her comic timing, aggressive antics and (in this particular case,) foul-mouth cursing, showing a different side to her almost melancholic movie persona showcased in horror films, like INSIDOUS and 28 WEEKS LATER. With her talent, she is poised to be the next Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock once she is given the chance to carry a major film on her own and shines.
Rogen is his usual carefree stoner buddy self, seen in nearly all of his previous films. But that is why we enjoy watching him. He plays very relatable dudes, the kind of guys most of us know personally, if we are not a version of him ourselves.

Efron and Franco make for charismatic semi-villains as they tend to have a caring softer side that sometimes juxtaposes with a dark pathos – they do have moments of remorse throughout the film.

Which brings me to the some of the minor problems I had with the movie. Given the nature of the original Belushi/Ackroyd film, as well as Rogen and partner Evan Goldberg’s previous hit, THIS IS THE END, I was expecting NEIGHBORS to go further into dark territory as the comedic moments become equally outrageous and over-the-top. At times, it appeared the film was going that way, but then it suddenly shifts into lightheartedness that kind of betrays the overall premise of the film. I believe NEIGHBORS would be a better film if the plot tension and stakes were raised to ridiculous proportions. However, since over time, I knew the movie was not going in that direction, I feel it should have ended earlier than it had. The final epilogue feels tacked on and anti-climatic.

That said, I still really enjoyed the movie and I laughed many times throughout. As uneven as it seems, NEIGHBORS is a fun, rollicking ride through the animal house!




I’m glad I was to  donate to my friend/up & coming filmmaker Akiko Izumitani‘s new action/martial arts short film The Other Side, starring TV show HEROES actor James Kyson and co-produced by Jason Hampton (producer on my upcoming project THE CIRCLE) and Hunter Woo.
Akiko directing an action scene.

Producers Jason Hampton and Hunter Woo

Akiko is an accomplished feature documentary filmmaker with a few other narrative shorts under her belt. She is also on imdb’s list of Top Rising Asian-American Directors: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls056929608?ref_=bio_rls_2

With THE OTHER SIDE, Akiko is making her debut foray into the serious action/drama genre.

The film is shot. As of yesterday, her campaign have surpassed the $9999 needed to complete Post-Production, but are still accepting donations until the campaign ends today. So, check out their Kickstarter page and donate HERE!: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/26048159/the-other-side-a-short-film-by-akiko-izumitani


Here’s a little behind-the-scenes photo of actor James Kyson (from NBC’s HEREOS) on set for THE OTHER SIDE.


 The Other Side also features actor/stunt coordinator Alfred Hsing.

About Alfred Hsing (邢思杰) – He is an actor and martial artist who is the first American to win a gold medal at the World Wushu Championships. After that stunning achievement, Alfred moved to China to work for JET LI.

After completing two major Chinese blockbusters with JET LI (“The Sorcerer and the White Snakeand TSUI HARK’s “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate“), Alfred decided to continue his education in the performing arts. He was accepted into the Beijing Film Academy where he enrolled in and completed an advanced studies acting program.

Since Alfred’s move to China, he has worked as an actor, stuntman, action coordinator, and production associate. Some notable projects he has worked on include national commercials for Adidas, Feng Xiaogang’s “Back to 1942” with ADRIEN BRODY and TIM ROBBINS, and “My Lucky Star” starring ZHANG ZIYI and WANG LEEHOM.

Again, check out the campaign and DONATE!: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/26048159/the-other-side-a-short-film-by-akiko-izumitani/posts/806905

CONGRATULATIONS Akiko Izumitani and Jason Hampton!!!












Today is the one year anniversary of the passing JEFF HANNEMAN – guitarist & (best) songwriter of Los Angeles-based Thrash Metal icons SLAYER.

Next to AC/DC, SLAYER is one of my top favorite bands of all time. Ever since their second release, the “Haunting The Chapel” EP, they instantly became the band I was the most ravenous about – something about their aggression and tales of the darkside attracted me like no other band has since. Though musically, their albums have been spotty ranging to god to mundane after of the release of “Seasons In The Abyss” – they still were the incredible live act with one of the, most craziest, joyously violent fans on the planet.


In the early days, it was guitarist/founder Kerry King that drew my attention. With his overtly Satanic image and ominous -looking nail wrist band, he kinda became the band mascot akin to AC/DC’s Angus Young in his schoolboy uniform. However later, Jeff started to get my attention. Most of my favorite songs were written mainly by him and he was always had an energetic stage presence with his long blond mane rapidly swinging in time to SLAYER’s thrashing beat.

My fondest memory of him, was when I got to see SLAYER perform for a 2nd time ever in 1985 (during their “Hell Awaits” tour at The Stone in San Francisco with local evil thrashers POSSESSED opening up). At some point during the show, I wanted to stage dive, so I wound up being thrown to the stage and I landed at the feet of Jeff Hanneman. Lying on my back, I was kind of stuck their on the floor between him on one side, playing and headbanging away and the crowd on the otherside. We made eye contact, and I knew I needed to get the hell off the stage immediately. I kept wondering what was going through his head seeing the site of little black kid metalhead lying at his feet. Though I was nervous, I banged my fist on his leg three times like a true metal head to acknowledge how bad ass he was, then I got up and lept off the stage. I always think myself that he could have easily kicked me off the stage like a football – yes, I was that tiny then at 15 years old. But he didn’t. He just kept playing away, and I got to have memory that has stayed with me for all of these years.

(photo of EXODUS live below to get an idea of what I’m describing above – c/o Brian Lew: MURDER IN THE FRONT ROW Book)

Cut to last year, when SLAYER announced to the world that Jeff had passed due to a weakened liver, most likely from drinking too much while still recovery from necrotizing fasciitis caused by a brown recluse spider bite. Because of this incident, he was unable to tour with the band, missing out on playing some seminal shows in the America, consisting of METALLICA, SLAYER MEGADETH and ANTHRAX aka the BIG 4. These former thrash metal rivals did play together (with a healthy Jeff) in Europe.

But then Jeff got bit shortly afterwards at his home. He did manage to make one triumphant appearance with his bandmates, playing one song towards the end of their set at the last of the BIG 4 shows in Southern California. With his arms raised, he wasn’t shy at revealing at what had become of his arm due to the flesheating disease the spider bite had caused (he had to undergo many skin grafts to get his arm to heal). I don’t know what had happened afterwards from the time of this show to his death (there has been many seculations on his personal life as SLAYER had to continue onward without him with fill in guitarist Gary Holt of San Francisco Bay Area Thrashers EXODUS, longtime friends of all of the BIG 4 bands).

MAY 23, 2013 – JEEF HANNEMAN MEMORIAL at the Hollywood Palladium
The event was cool, yet bittersweet as Kerry King and other close family & friends talked about their favorite memories of Jeff. This was followed by montage video of Jeff’s life both personal, showing him a s a child to personal photos, including wedding photos with his wife and of course with the band and other musician friends. You can view some of the pics I took on Facebook – click here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151458726704562.1073741832.580404561&type=1&l=b77d5fc03f

At a certain point during the memorial, the SLAYER song “Raining Blood” written by JEFF HANNEMAN blared over the speakers and INSTANTLY 5 thrash circle pits erupted on the floor. At this exact moment, I was caught between 2 pits – this one in front of me and another one behind me. Had to snap this quick and then protect my belongings, while pushing thrashers out of my way, like I used to do back in the day.

Overall, the memorial was a great event, and one year later, Jeff Hanneman is still sorely missed by all of us SLAYER fans around the world! REST IN PEACE.





I thought THE QUIET ONES was an effective supernatural movie that recalls modern horror films like THE CONJURING (2013) and HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009) to much earlier classics such as THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973) and THE ENTITY (1982). Some of the visual imagery was also reminiscent of EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC (1977), namely the electronic hypnotherapy contraption that Linda Blair wore on her head in that film, plus a particular bathroom incident seemed to be a homage to a scene in THE LEGACY (1978). Furthermore, the excellent British cast, locales and the recreated early 70’s period gave the movie that beloved Hammer Horror vibe, that I could see Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee in their prime, playing the psychoanalyst role that Jared Harris (AMC’s MAD MEN; SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS) embodies this time around. Taking cues from THE HAUNTING (1963), sound plays a major role in creating tension and jump scares throughout, making the film come across as the exact opposite of quiet. I found THE QUIET ONES is worth seeing on the big screen and to be the new, rebirthed Hammer Films‘ best release to date.



I loved ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE. Storywise, on the surface, it reminded me a little bit of Xan (Alexandria) CassevettesKISS OF THE DAMNED (2012), in regards to a certain character (those of you whom have seen that film will recognize who & what I mean). That said, this is very MUCH a Jim Jarmusch film with all of his quirky & amusing sensibilities, plus some cool poetic cinematography (vinyl record lovers will certainly enjoy this aspect)! To me, the film seems to comment on the lack of appreciation from the masses for real artists, visionaries and craftsmanship (especially of vintage guitars) that only a select few can truly understand, like our long-living lovers in the film. There are also sly witty references to well known historical figures, and the passion for music truly had me hooked. I MUST find the soundtrack & score immediately, especially for this song “Trapped By This Thing Called Love” by DENISE LASALLE: http://youtu.be/s7qvvJWkUXk – a GREAT moment in the film.




OCULUS was good. Unsettling creepiness – to a lesser degree it’s THE SHINING meets THE CONJURING. I have to give the filmmakers kudos for the ending. Also just realized because of National Siblings Day, that possibly was one of the reasons they released the movie the day after, given the two lead characters are brother & sister.




Had my 2 and a quarter doses of Scarlett Johansson on the big screen lately via CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, the LUCY trailer and now with UNDER THE SKIN directed by Jonathan Glazer (SEXY BEAST and BIRTH) – this unconventional sci-fi/horror/noir thriller plays a lot like John SaylesBROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET (1984) meets Nicolas Winding Refn‘s VALHALLA RISING (2009) in character-study theme and slow pacing with minimal dialogue (and thankfully no story/plot exposition)! I enjoyed it. But UNDER THE SKIN definitely is not a film for your average mainstream movie goer. Those with eclectic/adventuresome cinema tastes should dig it.


OUTRAGE Movie Review

My review of Takeshi Kitano’s awesome cinematic return to the yakuza: OUTRAGE, now up at LIVID AMBITION.COM!!! Click image below!



Recently reviewed ANOTHER HAPPY DAY the debut film from director Sam Levinson (son of filmmaker Barry Levinson). I enjoyed this dark comedy drama very much! Click image for review!



I have begun to review the occasional movie & music CDs again, this time for a new site called LIVID AMBITION. A lifestyle entertainment website created by my dear friend, journalist/author/comedienne/actress Dana Davidson.
Harley Dana Davidson

The first one I completed was for the indie film I MELT WITH YOU. To say the least, I didn’t melt with the movie. Click the image below to read my thoughts.


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