Combustible Celluloid
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With: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Romany Malco, Leslie Jones, Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg
Written by: Chris Rock
Directed by: Chris Rock
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity, crude humor, language throughout and some drug use
Running Time: 101
Date: 12/12/2014

Top Five (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Life's a Stage

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Certainly one of the greatest living comedians, Chris Rock has directed two pretty good movies before, Head of State (2003) and I Think I Love My Wife (2007), and has a successful, if not particularly distinguished movie career. Now, like his character, who wishes to do something more and to tell the truth, he has directed and starred in likely the finest movie of his career, Top Five.

Comedian-turned-actor Andre Allen (Rock) has made a series of idiotic, but successful comedies, and now wants to do something serious, like his new movie, the Haitian slave revolt movie, Uprize! Meanwhile, his fiancee is a reality TV star and every detail of their upcoming wedding is being prepared for the cameras. Meanwhile, a journalist (Rosario Dawson) is spending the day with him, and trying to get him to talk about something other than the usual soundbites. But as he begins revealing the truth about himself, it turns out that she also has some dark secrets. Worse, over the course of the long day, the two are beginning to develop feelings for each other.

Top Five is a showbiz comedy and a Hollywood love triangle, but everything it does is rooted in something genuine. The "interview" format allows for a lot of talking, ruminating, and even exposition, without feeling false or forced. The movie wrestles with the passions, fears, and frustrations of this high-risk business, not to mention everyday human anxiety around having to explain oneself, or having to avoid unwanted attention based on celebrity. (When Andre's driver is involved in a car accident, Andre calmly walks away from the scene, knowing that if he's seen, there will be a lawsuit based on who he is.)

But despite all the glitz and glamour, everything comes down to a universal choice; how does one believe in him or herself, and how does one follow his or her own heart? That, plus this movie is very, very funny. The title refers to personal lists of favorite hip-hop artists. Mine is: Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, Run-DMC, and Jay-Z. What's yours?

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