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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Top Five

March 16th, 2015

Top Five - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Top Five is the latest film written and directed by Chris Rock. Chris Rock is one of the biggest stand-up comics around; however, his film career has never truly taken off. He has had some missteps with critics, but even films that earned amazing reviews failed to find an audience in theaters. For instance, this film pulled in just $25 million during the holidays. Does it deserve to find a wider audience? Or will critics like this more than the average moviegoer?

The Movie

The film begins partway into the story. We meet Andre Allen and Chelsea Brown in the middle of an interview / political argument. She seems to think the world is a lot more accepting than it used to be, while he thinks nothing has changed. In order to do that, he tries to hail a cab. A black man in New York City trying to hail a cab. ... And he gets one.

The film then flashes back to the beginning where we learn a bit about Andre Allen. He's a stand-up comic who broke into movie stardom with a franchise called Hammy the Bear, where he plays a bear who is also a cop. However, he had an alcohol problem and went into rehab, now he's looking to do more mature fair. His latest movie, Uprize, is a drama about the Haitian Slave uprising and he's hoping it will be his ticket to respectability. He is also dealing with his upcoming marriage to Erica Long, a Reality TV star. (Although if his agent is correct, then he could be doing reality TV if Uprize is a flop.) The latest stress he has to deal with is an interview with someone from The New York Times. He's not happy with this, because the movie critics from the Time, James Nielson, has been ripping him apart for years.

Finally, Andre Allen meets up with the reporter, Chelsea Brown. He's not happy to do this and gets a little annoyed when she wants to go back to her place to pick up her recorder. There he meets her mother and her daughter. He also learns she writes fluff pieces under another name, because she wants to be taken seriously. She tries to talk to him about sobriety and how she thinks it is affecting his career. He's unwilling to open up, until she reveals she is also four-years sober. She gets him to open up and tell her about his rock bottom moment.

I'm not going to give the details here, but I will say you haven't lived till you've watched a sex scene with Descriptive Audio on. I turned it on after accidentally changing the audio and it is surreal watching people have sex while a dispassionate voice describes what is happening on screen.

Anyhoo... That's probably a good place to end the plot summary. The film is essentially a day in the life of the two lead characters, so the individual plot points get into spoiler territory quickly. I can say we see Andre Allen doing radio interviews or bringing Chelsea Brown to meet his old friends, but what happens there are spoilers.

The film's reviews were better than some of this year's Best Picture Oscar nominations were and it is certainly one of the funniest movies I've seen from 2014. Chris Rock has a lot of famous comedian friends and many, many scenes in this movie involve a lot of them riffing at each other. There are also several dramatic moments and and Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson have amazing chemistry together. I also really liked Gabrielle Union in the movie. She could have been little more than the villain in the film, as Erica Long was portrayed as a Reality TV show diva. However, she is given more humanizing moments and that helps make her feel like a person and not a bad movie character.

There are some issues with the movie, one of which is rather petty. The movie takes place in one day, but there are at least two weeks of pre-release publicity crammed into that one day. If you are someone who follows the movie business closely, then you know if a studio only did publicity the day of the film's release, it means they think the film is a dud. They certainly wouldn't cram so much publicity into one day, including doing a newspaper interview that couldn't possibly go to print in time for the film's opening. It sounds nitpicky, and in a way it is, but it does make the film a little clunky at times. Clearly Chris Rock wanted to show what it was like to be on a publicity tour, but also wanted a lot more intimate look at the two lead characters. The combination wasn't the best idea.

The other problem involves the story Andre Allen tells about his rock bottom. The story involves Andre Allen having sex with a couple of women, not knowing they were told they would be paid $1,000. When he refuses to pay them, they scream rape and he is arrested. The myth that most rape accusations, or even a significant fraction of them are false, is an incredibly damaging myth and it shouldn't be used for a cheap laugh. This marred what was otherwise a very funny scene.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary with Chris Rock and J.B. Smoove, who played silk, Andre Allen's assistant / bodyguard. They have good chemistry together. It's Never Just a Movie is a 20-minute making of featurette with a focus on the real life inspiration from Chris Rock's career. There is also a more traditional making of featurette that runs for ten minutes. There are five clips from the stand-up routine Andre Allen does in the movie. There are also outtakes and deleted scenes.

The technical presentation is good, but not great. It's a day-in-the-life comedy, so there's not a lot of visual flair. It's meant to feel more intimate. There's nothing wrong with the image; there are no digital artifacts, compression issues, etc. It's just not a showy film. Likewise, the audio is clear and there's enough activity in the surround sound speakers to not feel bare. ... but it isn't a complicated track. It is exactly what you would expect for a film like this.

The Blu-ray combo pack costs just $20, which is a great price for this type of release. However, the DVD only costs $13, which is a lot less than Blu-ray compared to most first-run releases.

The Verdict

Top Five is absolutely worth checking out and the DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack is worth owning. I'm not 100% sure which format is the better deal, as the DVD is very cheap.

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Filed under: Video Review, Top Five, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Hart, Olga Merediz, Chris Rock, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union