Movie Review: This is the End (2013)

September 29, 2013 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

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While I’m not the biggest fan of Seth Rogen, I was really looking forward to This is the End,  an apocalypse movie featuring a bunch of comedic actors as parodied versions of themselves. The list of celebrities in the film is long — the leads include Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride, with cameos from the likes of Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Kevin Hart, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Krumholtz, Channing Tatum and Aziz Ansari. The film has received mixed reviews, and I can see why. It’s undoubtedly a good time and funny, albeit a little too hit-and-miss, and could have and probably should have been a lot funnier.

The central character of the whole thing is actually Jay Baruchel (She’s Out of My League, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and How to Train Your Dragon), who arrives in LA to catch up with his buddy Seth Rogen as they head off to a house party at James Franco’s house attended by all the above stars. Midway through the party the biblical End of Days (as depicted in the Arnie movie of the same name) descends upon them and the surviving celebs must find a way to deal with the terrifying aftermath, one that involves demonic monsters and possession.

It’s such an obvious idea, but as you can imagine, it’s also brimming with potential for laughs. I imagine the writers, Rogen and buddy Evan Goldberg, were likely stoned when they wrote this loose script, and it shows. There isn’t much of a plot, and the majority of the movie involves moronic, childish and sexually explicit banter and one-liners from the cast that serve to lampoon themselves.

Each of the actors plays a version of their real-life persona, one that corresponds with the public perception of them. Rogen, for example, is the same goofball you see in all his films, while McBride is the obnoxious slacker he portrayed in Your Highness. James Franco is interesting as a pretentious, sexually ambiguous nerd, though the funniest (and also most obvious) one is Michael Cera, whose has played this over-the-top douchebag version of himself so many times now that it has to make you wonder…

With so many comedians given free rein to show what they can do, you can expect at least some laughs, though how funny you find This is the End will likely depend on how much you like the particular brand of comedy of the six lead characters — ie, loud, profane, occasionally sharp, random, politically incorrect stoner comedy. I’ve always found this type of comedy a bit of a mixed bag. For instance, I really enjoyed Pineapple Express but hated Your Highness and thought films like Superbad and Knocked Up were overrated. I would place this film near the higher end the spectrum, mainly because no particular actor dominates and it was fun watching them play off each other. A couple of clever ideas had me laughing out loud pretty hard.

That said, I think it could have been funnier — perhaps with more scripted jokes, or less, or more editing to refine the material down to just the best parts. There were just too many jokes wasted for missing the mark or being too obvious.

Still, This is the End has enough quality stuff packed into it to make it one of the more memorable comedies of the year. Strangely, even though the story becomes more farcical as it progressed, it did not feel as though there was a mismatch with the “reality” TV style of comedy they were trying to make. That probably says more about reality TV than it does about this film.

3.5 stars out of 5

PS: Excellent ending sequence, so stick around for the surprise.

Return to Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan (Hong Kong)

September 29, 2013 in Food, Hong Kong, Reviews, Travel by pacejmiller

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The first time I blogged about Tim Ho Wan, a Hong Kong dim sum restaurant famous for earning a prestigious Michelin star, was in 2010 (that post is here). At the time, there was only one store in the Mong Kok area, and a 2-hour wait was a frequent occurrence at the tiny joint.

Now, that place has relocated and there are four Tim Ho Wan branches across Hong Kong (Sham Shui Po, North Point, Tai Kok Tsui and Hong Kong Station). There are also two or three outlets in Singapore.

It was our last morning in Hong Kong and so we decided to check out the Hong Kong Station branch (which I see every time I visit HK), which is located in the row of shops between HK Station and the IFC Mall. It’s open 9am-9pm and I thought a visit around 10:30am would be relatively wait-free. I was wrong, but it wasn’t too bad — about a 15-minute wait in the end.

Admittedly, this new Tim Ho Wan has lost some of its original hole-in-the-wall charm. It’s obviously more commercialized, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The place is now more spacious, looks cleaner and better organized than it was before. And the prices are still very reasonable and you can get full for less than HK$40.

We ordered a lot of stuff.

The must-get is still the BBQ pork buns, which are world-famous because of the different skin that makes it almost like a pineapple bun. So the outside is crusty, crunchy, and the interior is hot and filled with delicious BBQ pork.

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The quality of the rest of their stuff is also excellent. I particularly liked the salty dumpling, which is probably the best I’ve had anywhere.

 

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The regulars, such as the shui mai, har gao (prawn dumplings), turnip cake and vermicelli roll are also great. Just good ingredients and nicely made, with just the right mix of flavours.

 

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Two dishes that I didn’t really like were the Cantonese sponge cake and the Medlar laurel blossom cake, but only because I’m not a fan of this type of dessert. My wife liked them a lot though, so it’s just a matter of personal preference.

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You know what? My experience of Tim Ho Wan this time was probably even better than the first. It’s not a typical yum cha place where you can sit down and enjoy a long meal, but as far as the food and service are concerned you can’t really do any better.

9/10

Details

Tim Ho Wan (添好運)

Address: Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station (Podium Level 1, IFC Mall) , Central

Phone: 2332 3078

Hours: 9am-9pm