Movie Review: This is the End (2013)

September 29, 2013 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

This-Is-The-End-Poster

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.

Movie Review: 30 Minutes or Less (2011)

January 2, 2012 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

The good thing about being stuck a home with a baby is that I can finally start to catch up on my backlog of posts without having an opportunity to increase that backlog.

So today I am going to start with a movie review, the surprisingly decent 30 Minutes or Less.

Danny McBride is a somewhat polarising figure.  We know he can be funny (Pineapple Express) but we also know he can be annoyingly unfunny (Your Highness).  Now we know he can play nasty, stupid villain quite well too.

In the Ruben Fleischer-directed 30 Minutes or Less, he plays a scheming slacker who is after his father’s “fortune”, and together with his bumbling but  knowledgeable sidekick (Nick Swardson) come up with an unnecessary convoluted plan to get his hands on the money.  Without giving away too much more, that plan somehow involves putting under duress Jesse Eisenberg’s character Nick, an abused pizza delivery boy who works for a pizza joint that offers the titular “30 minutes or less” delivery policy (or you get your pizza free and the money comes out of the delivery boy’s wages).

Like many other McBride films, 30 Minutes or Less is highly sporadic, relies on sex jokes (though not as extreme or frequently as some of his other films) and is frankly a little hit and miss — that said, I did find it quite funny.  There was more plot than I had expected (which, for a McBride movie, doesn’t necessarily mean much), but what I think helped the film was the wonderfully talented comedic cast.

Jesse Eisenberg, coming off his performance as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, isn’t overtly funny but does a great job as the straight man in this farce.  It’s similar to what he did in Zombieland, also a film directed by Ruben Fleischer.

Eisenberg allows the comedic talents of the other actors to shine through, in particular his best friend, Indian-American comedian  Aziz Ansari, who has some ripper lines and, for lack of a better expression, a funny face.  Another, who almost steals the show, is Michael Pena, who is utterly hilarious as an assassin.  Fred Ward, who plays McBride’s domineering father, is pretty good as well.

I guess it depends on your tolerance level for jokes based on stupidity and crudeness.  For me, 30 Minutes or Less pressed my buttons but didn’t cross my threshold, which is why I thought it was one of the better comedies of the year.

3.5 stars out of 5!

DVD Review: Your Highness (2011)

August 11, 2011 in Best Of, Movie Reviews, Reviews

Amazingly, when I searched for this movie poster with the search term ‘Your Highness’, most of the results featured pictures of Natalie Portman’s infamous butt scene.

Your Highness is the ultimate ‘stoner’ movie.  The writers were likely stoned when they wrote the ‘script’.  The director and actors were probably stoned when they shot the film.  And as the title of the film suggests, you most definitely have to be stoned (or 8 years old, probably both) to find it funny.  Sadly for me, I wasn’t.  My single feeble attempt in Amsterdam several years ago (with a space cake and lollipop) did nothing except put me to sleep.  A great sleep, mind you, but nevertheless…

I actually had relatively high expectations for Your Highness.  I’m a big fan of Pineapple Express, which featured the two lead stars of this film, Danny McBride and James Franco. This time, they are two polar-opposite princes, and it’s not hard to guess which one is the prince charming and which one is the slacker.  Throw in two of my favourite actresses, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel, and put them all in a farcical high fantasy setting — the potential for belly-ripping laughs was enormous.

But as it turned out, Your Highness was 102 minutes of adolescent, poorly conceived sex, penis and gay jokes and gags, laced with copious amounts of mostly ill-timed profanity (well-timed profanity can be funny).  If you were as high as the people who made the film, maybe you would have found it as funny as they did, but I simply found it, for the most part, incredibly lame.  A few mild cackles here and there, but nothing approaching a genuine laugh.

I really don’t understand what they were trying to achieve with this.  As a comedy, it wasn’t funny, or at least nowhere near funny enough.  As a fantasy, it was cliched, unimaginative and lacking in wonder (and the special effects were atrocious, though perhaps intentionally so).  As an action film, the fight scenes were tame and lethargic.  Calling it ‘mediocre’ would be a huge compliment.

After doing some research, I discovered that the dialogue for Your Highness was ‘entirely improvised’, save for a basic written outline by scriptwriters Ben Best and Danny McBride.  That explains a lot.

1.5 stars out of 5