Movie Review: This Is the End [2013]

This Is the End [2013]

This Is the End [2013]
Directors: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Screenplay: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Genre: Action/Comedy
Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride
Running Time: 107 minutes

“Something totally not chill happened last night.”

This Is the End is the type of comedy that has something for everyone. Its cast is a veritable who’s who of today’s most popular comedians (all of whom are playing themselves), there are a number of hilarious cameo appearances and, of course, seemingly endless raunchy jokes. Oh, and it’s an apocalyptic flick that isn’t afraid to show its fair share of gore.

When Jay Baruchel arrives in Los Angeles, he’s expecting a weekend of sitting around, getting high and playing video games with his old friend, Seth Rogen. However, Baruchel is reluctantly dragged to a housewarming party held by James Franco where a large number of Rogen’s other, “new” friends are hanging out. Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera and Emma Watson are among the attendees, but Baruchel doesn’t really know any of them. Feeling left out, Jay asks Seth to take a walk with him to the convenience store for cigarettes.

It’s here where the apocalypse hits. Hellfire and brimstone.

This is the End [2013]

The two of them quickly head back to the party where everyone is seemingly oblivious to the end of the world happening outside. A massive sinkhole then erupts outside of Franco’s “fortress”, wiping out most of the partygoers.

Eventually just Franco, Rogen, Baruchel, Robinson, Hill and an unexpected Danny McBride are left inside the house. The six of them band together in an attempt to survive the apocalypse.

As expected with a houseful of comedians, hilarity ensues.

This Is the End [2013]

This is easily one of the funniest movies I have seen in a while, and a lot of that goes to how willing these celebrities are to make fun of themselves. There is *a lot* of self-deprecating humor here, as everything from Rogen’s acting skills to Franco’s sexuality are the recipients of harsh — but hilarious — jokes.

The cameos are even better. Michael Cera damn near steals the show in his limited screen time by blowing countless lines of coke and engaging in illicit party acts. It’s Cera as you’ve never seen him. Another brilliant cameo — one which I will not spoil — happens near the end of the film when a Pulp Fiction Gimp-like character makes an appearance. You’ll never guess who’s under the mask.

Also, this movie gets major props for getting Emma Watson to drop an F-bomb.

This Is the End [2013]

This is the End may be self-indulgent, as it revolves around Rogen (who co-directed and co-wrote this) and his friends, but damn if it isn’t funny as hell. Every character has their fair share of great lines, with everyone playing some version of their own self (though Danny McBride is near full-on Kenny Powers here).

The horror elements come in the form of painful character deaths (an impalement and a severed head are just two notable examples) as well as some rather grotesque-looking demons and other creatures of Hell. The CGI is surpisingly well-done for the latter, though the characters are crudely designed (let’s just say some are so well-endowed that Dr. Manhattan would be jealous).

All of this ties together to form the best comedy of the year so far. I haven’t laughed this hard in a theater in ages, and nearly every line had the audience in stitches. Who knew the apocalypse could be so funny?

8/10

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Movie Review: Spring Breakers [2013]

Spring Breakers [2013]

Spring Breakers [2013]
Director: Harmony Korine
Screenplay: Harmony Korine
Genre: Drama
Starring: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Gucci Mane
Running Time: 94 minutes

Oh how I would have loved to have attended an opening night screening of Spring Breakers, just to gauge the reactions from a full audience. Here is a film that is so polarizing and divisive among critics and movie fans alike, and one that is bound to infuriate those simply looking for a party movie.

Director Harmony Korine, perhaps best known for writing the controversial 1995 film, Kids, has crafted a film unlike any I have ever seen, a rare feat in this day and age.

Spring Breakers tells the story of a quartet of young female college students, two of whom just so happen to be played by former Disney starlets. These four girls — Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Faith (Selena Gomez) — are all so desperate to leave their boring college town and go on a spring break vacation that they are willing to do anything to come up with enough cash to do so. Their solution? Rob a restaurant using hammers and squirt guns. Shockingly, it works, and the girls head to St. Petersburg, Florida to party their asses off.

The girls are enjoying themselves, drinking, doing drugs, and riding scooters in their tiny bikinis, but their vacation is turned on its head when they meet Alien (James Franco, never better).

Spring Breakers [2013]

Alien is a goofy-looking rapper/gangster (those grills! those cornrows!) who the girls quickly take a liking to, and they get soaked up in his world of crime. What was a typical spring break vacation full of debauchery turns into something none of them could have imagined. It’s here where the film will lose half of its audience, as it goes in a completely different direction than expected.

Harmony Korine deserves major credit for keeping his viewers on their toes, as he seemingly drops bits of foreshadowing then completely disregards them. I had no idea where the film was going to go, and for that, I am impressed.

However, I can’t say I was entirely thrilled with the film’s editing choices. Monologues and certain moments are repeated over and over again, and this repetition grows monotonous over the course of film. At the same time, this is clearly what Korine intended to do, as it is readily apparent he does not care if we are actually entertained. Not everything he does *works*, but he certainly doesn’t lack the courage to do whatever the hell he wants to do.

Spring Breakers [2013]

If there is any common ground in this film, it likely comes in the form of appeal for James Franco and his unforgettable performance as Alien. He is completely ridiculous but also wildly entertaining. People will be talking about him in this film for quite some time. The girls also do well in their roles, though their characters mostly blend together. Only Gomez is given a different story arc, as her character is frequently at odds with the lack of morals presented by her friends.

Spring Breakers is pretty far out there, and as such, it will appeal to a select audience. It’s a challenging, curious film, one that I am not fully in love with, but one that I appreciate all the same. It oozes style, dares to go in directions most films won’t, and it even manages to make Skrillex tolerable. That alone makes it a winner in my book.

7/10

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]
Director: Sam Raimi
Screenplay: Mitchell Kapner & David Lindsay-Abaire
Genre: Adventure/Family/Fantasy
Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis
Running Time: 130 minutes

Oz the Great and Powerful begins with a wonderful black-and-white prologue. In 1905, a hack magician named Oscar Diggs (James Franco) performs a small-time circus act in between trying to shag the local women. He flirts with the wrong girl, however, and ends up running for his life. Diggs (also known by his stage name, Oz) escapes in a hot air balloon, only to get sucked into a nearby tornado. Somehow this tornado takes him to the Land of Oz, and it is here that the film pans out to full technicolor, bringing this magical new world to life.

Oscar, confused but grateful to no longer be in danger, wanders around his new surroundings before meeting the witch, Theodora (Mila Kunis). She believes that Oscar is actually the wizard that has been prophesied to return and overthrow the Wicked Witch, and she brings him to meet her sister, fellow witch Evanora (Rachel Weisz). They send him to the Dark Forest to destroy the Wicked Witch’s wand, but he discovers that this witch is not so wicked after all — she’s actually Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams). Now Oscar finds himself caught in the middle of a battle between the two sides, all while being forced to masquerade as the powerful Wizard of Oz.

Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

As a film, Oz the Great and Powerful is likely exactly as you might expect it to be. It works well as a kid’s film — Oscar meets some crowd-pleasing fantasy characters on his way, including a china doll and a flying monkey — though its 2+ hour running time might be a burden for some little ones. The Land of Oz is colorful and vibrant, and the Munchkin inhabitants of Emerald City are sure to be a hit (despite having a very small role). In this regard, the film succeeds.

However, it’s hard not to expect more in the hands of director Sam Raimi. The characters are hardly interesting. James Franco makes Oz come across as a total sleazeball, and it’s hard to buy in to the fact that he has any ‘good’ values underneath. Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz do well with their material, but Mila Kunis is completely out of her element as Theodora. Kunis isn’t given much to work with, but her performance is devoid of any real emotion.

Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

I also noticed some issues with the CGI — there were multiple occasions where the actors’ interactions with the artificial characters were completely off (i.e. Franco trying to shake the china girl’s hand but there being a noticable gap in between). For a film with a budget north of $200 million, these quirks are inexcusable.

And so goes Oz the Great and Powerful, a superficially pretty film without any real depth. Judging from my audience’s reaction, the kids seem to be digging it, so the film has that going for it. It’s just a shame that it isn’t as magical as it could have been.

6/10

127 Hours [2010]

127 Hours [2010]

127 Hours [2010]
Directors: Danny Boyle
Genre: Adventure/Drama/Thriller
Language: English
Country: USA

What would you do to survive? That is the $1,000,000 question in 127 Hours, Danny Boyle’s latest film. The movie is based on the real life story of Aron Ralston, a mountain climber and all-around adrenaline junkie who became trapped by a boulder in the massive Blue John Canyon in Utah in 2003. With his arm stuck between the boulder and a rock wall, Aron is forced to make a difficult decision: stay where he’s at and hope for some kind of miracle (that’s not going to happen), or cut off his arm and live the rest of his life as an amputee? Obviously, as this was a major news story when it happened, most people should be familiar with the end result. It’s one hell of a story, but I had to question how well it would translate to the big screen.

In the wrong hands, there’s no doubt that 127 Hours could have been a disaster. However, this is a Danny Boyle film. The man can do no wrong. His trademark visual styles are in tact, and his frenetic action shots are exactly what this kind of film needs. Still riding high from Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle teamed up with Indian composer extraordinaire A.R. Rahman once again, and the man put together one hell of a soundtrack. The music is diverse and accurately encapsulates the gamut of feelings that Ralston is experiencing on screen. I am ecstatic that these guys teamed up again, and I hope they do so again in the future.

127 Hours [starring James Franco]

Rest assured, this is also the James Franco Show. This is arguably his strongest performance yet, as he perfectly portrays the cockiness and eccentric behavior that is Aron Ralston. We learn more about Ralston’s back story and his thought processes via occasional flashbacks and hallucinations, but the majority of the movie is just Franco in a canyon with his arm smashed against a rock wall. Luckily Franco plays a very likable character, and he keeps things fresh by talking to his camcorder, hilariously interviewing himself and by trying anything he can think of to stay alive and escape.

When the movie finally gets to the breaking point of Ralston cutting off his arm (with a piss poor dull knife, mind you), it is some powerful, powerful stuff. It’s a gruesome scene, no doubt, but there is a huge sense of relief when it finally happens. 127 Hours is an adrenaline rush from beginning to end, and it should not be missed.

8/10