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‘Top Five’ isn’t your typical Chris Rock comedy

Date: 1/8/2015

A wide variety of movies are offered for your consideration in this week’s film review column.

In theaters: Top Five

“Top Five” may have become lost a bit on the Christmas releasing season, but it’s well worth your discovery as long as you understand this is a drama with comedic moments rather than a flat-out comedy.

Chris Rock wrote, directed and starred in the film in which one day in the life of a superstar comic is examined. Rock is playing Andre Allen, a comic who is attempting to make a break from being funny to being dramatic. On the day his new film is set to open in New York City, a reporter from the New York Times, Chelsea Brown, (played with charm by Rosario Dawson) is assigned to accompany him for a profile piece.

Initially he isn’t interested in cooperating as a Times critic has been routinely eviscerating him and his movies, but as the day wears on Allen reveals more and more about himself: his upcoming televised marriage to a reality star, his struggle to remain sober and finally why he is turning his back on comedy.

There are some very funny moments, but this is essentially a serious look at two characters and how they confront subjects in their lives from which they hide.

This is a well-crafted film and one that is quite worthy for your attention.

On DVD and Netflix: Ragnarok
As is becoming more and more the habit, smaller video labels are working out distribution deals for their films that allow them to appear in several formats at once.

This Norwegian film calls into this new plan for distribution and it’s actually a rarity: a scary movie you can watch with kids.

This is a classic giant monster movie. Sigurd, a Norwegian archeologist (played by Pal Sverre Hagen) has been working for years to uncover the meaning of runes associated with the discovery of a preserved Viking ship from 1,000 years ago.

What he and his friend discover is a stone that acts as map to the spot known as “the Eye of Odin,” which is tied into the myth of Ragnarok, the ancient Norse belief on how the world will end.

Sigurd and his friend and his assistant decide to seek out “the Eye of Odin” and it being summer, Sigurd, a single dad, brings along this two children promising them a good time in the northern Norwegian wilderness.   

Let’s just say they have a memorable time as they discover a huge lake monster is protecting “The Eye of Odin,” which is a small island in the middle of an isolated lake.

In the hands of a different director, this could have been a nasty piece of work, but Mikkel Braenne goes a route that will be more familiar to Baby Boomers. There is no gore in this film, but it does have quite a few suspenseful and mysterious moments.  The nastiness stays off-screen.

The approach is wonderfully old-fashioned and welcomed by this cinematic geezer who saw it as being quite fresh in today’s climate. 

If you’re a fan of Godzilla, or the giant ants in “Them” or even the original “King Kong” I think you’ll get a kick out of this film.

On DVD and Netflix: Legends of the Knight

I was at first quite dubious about a film in which people are interviewed about how their love of Batman changed their lives. It sounded like something one would see on “Inside Edition.”

I was wrong.

This documentary presents the idea that people are deeply influenced by the fiction they read and if they read of fictional characters who are heroic and attempt to change or protect society, they can be better persons themselves.

Director Brent Culp interviews on camera literary critics, psychologists and social scientists who put forth this theory. He then illustrates it with a variety of stories how Batman has changed people’s lives.

There’s a police captain in Las Vegas whose love of the character brought him into law enforcement and the masked 19 year-old who dresses like Batman and performs charitable acts in his hometown of Petaluma, CA. There’s a little boy who was inspired by Batman as he was treated for his cancer and a rabbi who as a child was able to process his mother’s stories of the Holocaust through his love for Batman.  

This is not just a bunch stories about comic book nerds, but also rather a serious and very moving film about the role of fiction in people’s lives. It may be a bit difficult to keep a dry eye at times.

Even if you’re not a comic book fan, this is a film that you should see if you’re interested in how something that is not real can make a positive change in a person’s life.