In the middle of Neighbors , a smart revenge comedy about the frustrations of becoming an adult, Rose Byrne's beleaguered Kelly sings her baby a vulgar nursery rhyme as a way to vent about the rowdy fraternity that's just moved in next door. Whispering expletives while her adorable baby coos and smiles, the scene is both hilarious and disturbing for its tonal contradiction. That Kelly's frustration is woven into what's normally a calming and expressive act speaks to Byrne's skill as a performer and the film's intelligent approach to familiar material.
Director Nicolas Stoller ( The Five Year Engagement ) isn't above slapstick gags and drunken buffoonery; the prolonged community war being waged between Kelly's husband Mac (Seth Rogen) and chief beefcake Teddy (Zac Efron) has its fair share of inventive pranks that violently escalate as the film reaches critical mass. But the undercurrent of panic that defines many of the funniest scenes proves that Neighbors is much more clever than its tagline ("Frat vs. Family") suggests.
Hollywood produces a lot of raunchy laugh-fests, but rarely do we get one this enraged. As young parents who are economically and emotionally invested in a newly purchased home, Mac and Kelly represent survivors of a dwindling American middle class. When Teddy and his clan of binge-drinking ruffians arrive, they destroy the mythical calm that their older neighbors have been trying to secure for years.
Sharp-tongued and swift, Neighbors —which opens Friday, May 9—is a good reminder that comedies can be just as dynamic as action films. The brilliant montage showing three historically significant frat parties is a fine example of the film's spry editing and timing. Even more impressive is the level of sympathy Stoller bestows on his mosaic of irate characters battling for some false sense of suburban supremacy.
Cesar's Last Fast : In 1988, activist Cesar Chavez participated in his last hunger strike in protest of farmers' use of pesticides that harmed immigrant workers in the fields. Richard Rey Perez's documentary uses remarkable found footage to tell this final act in Chavez's amazing life. Screens through May 14 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The German Doctor : A family traveling through Patagonia, Argentina, happens upon a mysterious German doctor hell-bent on continuing his radical experiments left over from World War II.
For No Good Reason : Ralph Steadman is one of the pivotal artists who worked alongside Hunter S. Thompson to advance the gonzo movement. In this documentary by Charlie Paul, Johnny Depp visits Steadman to talk history, hallucinogens and aesthetics. Screens through May 15 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Legend of Oz: Dorothy Returns : Hollywood goes back to the well with this animated sequel to the classic Wizard of Oz , finding Dorothy whisked back to the magical land in order to save her friends from a new villain.
Locke : Set entirely in a car, this thriller follows Ivan Locke's (Tom Hardy) downward spiral after he receives a phone call that sets in motion a series of events that will change his life forever.
Moms' Night Out : Sure to be advancement for modern feminism, this comedy follows a series of mothers who leave their clumsy husbands and rowdy children behind for a night out on the town.
Neighbors : A newly relocated couple can't enjoy their beautiful new residence after a rowdy fraternity moves in next door. Every homeowner's worst nightmare comes true.
No Good, No Master : In Washington, D.C., circa 1919, politicians begin receiving package bombs at their doorsteps, prompting a federal agent (David Strathairn) to begin an investigation that leads him down a dark and seedy path. Screens through May 14 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
One time only
The Short List : A specially curated program of short films from around the world, including entries from Argentina, France, Germany, the U.S. and Uzbekistan. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at the Lemon Grove Library.
Nacho Libre : Jack Black plays a clumsy altar boy south of the border who decides to become a luchador to prove his worth to his church. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Benvenuto Presidente : This satire considers a wacky political situation in which a small-town librarian and fisherman is elected president of Italy. Presented by San Diego Italian Film Festival, it screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 8, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
To Catch a Thief : Cary Grant plays a reformed jewel thief who's framed for a robbery and must smoke out the real burglar in order to prove his innocence. It co-stars the ravishing Grace Kelly. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 8, through Saturday, May 10, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Karaoke Brothers : Two brothers set out to become karaoke champions in this film by San Diegans Raul Bogue, Brad Elsey, Joe Richardson, Derek Steagall and Beastie Ulery. Screens at 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 9, at the Balboa Park Golf Course Clubhouse.
Bad Milo : A guy poops out a demon and then watches it start killing all the people in his life. Talk about symbolism. Screens at 10 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Room : So bad. Screens at midnight on Saturday, May 10, at the Ken Cinema.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty : Ben Stiller stars as the eponymous Life magazine archivist who decides to ditch his stagnant existence and go on an adventure. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 11, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
Godzilla : The original Japanese horror film about a gigantic lizard terrorizing Tokyo, just in time for the most recent Hollywood remake. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 12, at Arclight La Jolla.
American Free Thought, Part 2 : Rod Bradford's documentary centers on women's rights and the separation of church and state. A discussion with the filmmaker will follow the screening. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 12, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
City Island : A boisterous Long Island family drives each other crazy, telling secrets and lies that could destroy their relationship. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 13 at the Point Loma Public Library.
Blancanieves : Hypnotic retelling of the Snow White story, complete with gothic sets and striking black-and-white cinematography. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 13, at the Hall of Nations in Balboa Park.
Heathers : Being cool could get you killed in this iconic dark comedy about a high-school outsider (Winona Ryder) who takes revenge on the bullying "in" crowd. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 14, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Amazing Caves : From the Grand Canyon to the coastal waters off the Caribbean, spelunk into the world's deepest and darkest caves in this mesmerizing IMAX journey that spans the globe. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Amazing Spiderman 2 : Andrew Garfield returns as the high-flying web slinger to battle an assortment of new villains (Dane DeHaan and Jamie Foxx) while trying to save New York City and his beloved Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) from imminent destruction.
Blue Ruin : A bearded drifter goes on a precipitous journey of revenge when his parents' murderer is released from prison after 10 years. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Fading Gigolo : A failed bookstore owner (Woody Allen) convinces his blue-collar friend (John Turturro) to start sleeping with wealthy women for money. Nothing could go wrong with this idea, right?
The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden : Documentary about a real-life murder mystery that occurred in the 1930s on the uninhabited Floreana Island, where settlers found themselves at odds in an undiscovered habitat.
Mercedes Sosa: The Voice of Latin America : This loving musical portrait of one of Latin America's most iconic singers mixes archival interviews and concert footage. Ends May 8 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Walk of Shame: Elizabeth Banks stars as a rising-star news anchor who gets the job interview of a lifetime, only to find herself stranded in downtown Los Angeles without a phone, car or shoes after spending the night with a strange man.
Water & Power : Two brothers working on different sides of the law in Los Angeles find themselves battling for control of the streets. This is the debut film from Richard Montoya of Culture Clash.
Brick Mansions : In the not-so-distant future, an impoverished Detroit neighborhood is sectioned off from the world by a massive containment wall. A volatile detective (Paul Walker) goes undercover to destroy a drug kingpin who holds court over the isolated ghetto.
Dancing in Jaffa : In this documentary, Pierre Dulaine, a world-renowned ballroom dancer, moves back to Jaffa, the city of his birth, to teach Jewish and Palestinian Israelis to dance. Ends May 8 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Only Lovers Left Alive : Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston star as moody vampires who can't quit each other in the brilliant new movie by master filmmaker Jim Jarmusch.
The Other Woman : Hell hath no furry like a woman scorned. In this case three women—Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton—bound together by one cheating bastard.
Walking with the Enemy : In Hungary during the final months of World War II, a young man steals a Nazi uniform and begins a long search for his missing family. It's directed by Mark Schmidt, founder of San Diego-based Liberty Studios.
Bears : Narrated by John C. Reilly, this nature documentary follows a family of Alaskan bears over a period of years.
Finding Vivian Maier : While working as a nanny, Vivian Maier took more than 100,000 photographs, which earned her a posthumous reputation as an accomplished street photographer. But her story goes much deeper than that.
Haunted House 2 : Because humanity needed another sequel to a spoof of a sequel to a bad original film nobody needed.
Heaven is for Real : Drama starring Greg Kinnear, whose young son dies on the operating table but is brought back to life. After waking up, the boy confesses to having been to Heaven, sharing his experience with those who are willing to listen.
The Railway Man : Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman star in this tense drama about a World War II vet who falls in love with a divorcée after meeting her on a train. In order to move forward, both must confront demons from their past and learn to forgive.
Transcendence : After working as cinematographer on Christopher Nolan's Batman films and Inception , Wally Pfister makes his directing debut with this mind-bending sci-fi film about a terminally ill scientist (Johnny Depp) who uploads his mind to a computer after a terrorist attack leaves him in a coma.
Draft Day : Kevin Costner plays the general manager for an NFL team looking to score big on a young player in the latest draft. Somewhere, drama will be created out of thin air.
Under the Skin : In Jonathan Glazer's sci-fi art film, Scarlett Johansson plays a mysterious being that descends to Earth and begins wreaking havoc with lonely men. Ends May 8 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Captain America: Winter Soldier : Chris Evans reprises his role as the patriotic avenger who must now battle a mysterious super soldier who's threatening to destroy Washington, D.C.
Noah : Darren Aronofsky's long-gestating epic about the titular biblical figure (Russell Crowe) and his epic quest to build an ark and save the world's species from a worldwide flood.
Bad Words : A former spelling-bee loser (Jason Bateman, who also directs) decides to find a loophole in the competition rules and participate as an adult.
Divergent : The future is a world divided into factions based on tested virtues. A young woman (Shailene Woodley) threatens to topple this rigorous framework when she's deemed "divergent"—an outsider who must be disappeared.
The Lunchbox : In Mumbai, thousands of lunchboxes are delivered every day, thanks to a famously efficient service run by couriers. When one of these orders is delivered to the wrong address, the mistake inadvertently connects an aging businessman and an unhappy housewife.
Le Week-End : An elderly British couple (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) come to grips with their crumbling marriage while spending a weekend in Paris.
The Grand Budapest Hotel : Ralph Fiennes leads an all-star cast in director Wes Anderson's latest film, which takes place inside an elaborate European hotel populated by eccentric characters.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman : Animated adventure about a father and son who invent a time machine, travel back to witness famous historical events and then find themselves racing to repair the past and save the future.
Journey to the South Pacific : Let the glorious scale of IMAX take you to the tropical islands of West Papua, where life under the sea is just as lush and vibrant as it is on shore. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Lego Movie : That movie adaptation based on a classic toy set you knew was always coming but didn't think would actually get made. Well, it did, and it's here.
Mysteries of the Unseen World : This amazing documentary uses high-speed and time-lapse photography to focus on things that are either too fast or two slow for the eye to see. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.