Pay-per-view offers relief for those with no interest in ‘Neighbors 2’

Pay-per-view offers relief for those with no interest in ‘Neighbors 2’

The dismal sequel to the hit comedy “Neighbors,” which premiered this past weekend is indicative of what passes for entertainment these days. Take a modest box office winner from a couple of summers ago and use it to launch another one.

It’s easier than coming up with more original material.

Everything in “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is recycled. The plot, which centers around an average couple, The Radners (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), having to suffer through a fraternity living next door, has now been change to sorority with Chloe Grace Moretz as the leader of the pack instead of Zac Ephron, who switches ranks to help the couple dispose of the cacophonous coeds. It’s crass, tasteless and a prime example of lazy filmmaking. Just rehash a storyline, rehire the same actors and hope for the best — or in this case, the worst.

At least it made it into theaters, which is more than can be said for some of the movies clogging up the pay-per-view channels on cable or satellite TV. It wasn’t that long ago when PPV offered the chance to see art house movies or other small niche films that did not go into wide release. Now a quick look at the rundown shows a lot of weak features that, for one reason or another, did not make it into theaters.

Unfortunately, most of these never went into wide distribution because they are really bad star vehicles that cannot recoup the cost it took to make them, so they languish and then pop up on PPV where they are marketed as “pre-releases.” Mostly, it’s a nasty trick to play on a paying audience. And lately there have been a slew of these including “The Family Fang,” a definite loser starring Nicole Kidman; “I Am Wrath,” yet another John Travolta dud; and “Infinite Polar Bear” starring Mark Ruffalo as a bi-polar single dad. This one did well at Sundance last year but never found distribution footing.

Some, like “Mississippi Grind,” happen to be pretty good. This stars Ryan Reynolds and Australian character actor Ben Mendelsohn as two small-time gamblers on a road trip to shake off their losing streak. Reynolds is good, but this is Mendelsohn’s show. If you’ve seen the Netflix-produced “Bloodline,” you’ve seen some of his best work lately as the black sheep brother who returns home to wreak havoc on his family. Strictly on the strength of his performance, this is worth a watch.

What isn’t is “Jane Got A Gun,” the Natalie Portman movie that was actually made in 2013 and sat on the shelf for three years before popping into theaters for less than two weeks then going to PPV. In this western, which had major production troubles, Portman plays a pioneer wife out to avenge her husband’s death by seeking out an old beau (Joel Edgerton) to help her learn how to shoot the bad guy (Ewan McGregor). It’s pretty awful, even for the bargain price of $7.79.

The same is true for “Fathers and Daughters,” the Russell Crowe movie that never gained a distributor before segueing straight to PPV. It’s a soapy drama about a writer and his little girl, with half of the story set 25 year later. Amanda Seyfried plays the daughter as a young woman in the present time with lots of issues because of her childhood. If you need a cheap cry, go for it.

Occasionally PPV does offer some good stuff. One of these features is “Deadpool,” the comic book movie that came to theaters in early spring. Starring Ryan Reynolds as the caustic character, it’s awfully violent, but Reynolds is super good as the anti superhero with a huge chip on his shoulder.

Finally there is documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s latest, “Where To Invade Next,” which takes a sober look at how European countries offer contrasting views of social issues. It’s an eye-opener as only Moore can do — controversial, but a critical hit that features a different perspective.

And if you missed any of the Oscar nominees, some are still available. “The Revenant” is definitely one to watch, while “Joy” left me joyless. “The Martian” was one of my holiday favorites, but “Steve Jobs” is strictly for Apple-heads.

Coming to theaters next week is one of the big summer entries, “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which will go head-to-head with “Captain America: Civil War,” the rival production that has already earned $347 million in three weeks.

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