‘This Is The End’: Review

This Is The End

I basically grew up on Apatow films (not that this is one, but c’mon, practically), and anything with Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride or any of the other comedic actors in this. It’s an understatement to say how much I like them, but even bigger is why it took me so long to finally see this. I think part of it was knowing that it was out there, like a white whale of guaranteed hilarity that I knew was out there and I could actually catch, with it being a carrot on a stick kind of thing that I wanted to experience, but knew once it was over, I wouldn’t have that feeling anymore, if that makes any sense… Anyways, it was about what I expected and that’s good!

The whole “apocalypse” setting is really cool and all, and a different place to set a comedy, under such seemingly dark terms, but really it’s all just a simplistic device to get all these guys in the same room together. Not to be unfair, but that’s really all this movie is, all six of these guys (Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride) just shooting the shit, telling jokes, arguing, basically setting up stuff just to riff for comedy. That’s really all I needed or wanted, and we get that in full force. Of course, what’s greater is that they’re all playing themselves, or slight exaggerated versions of themselves, so the humour ran even deeper.

I’m curious to know how this would play for someone having never seen a previous film of these guys, apart or together, and not knowing that they are real life friends. A lot of the comedy, and strengthening of it for me was knowing how they were in real life, and all the references to their films and friendships and how each relationship with each guy was different. It’s funny to me that Jay Baruchel is the outsider guy (while slightly true), and kind of hated on by the group, and how everyone reacts to him. I’d imagine the film would be funny to someone coming in dry, but indeed the film does feature a lot of “in” humour. The Pineapple Express references are a prime example here as well.

Time in and time out goddamn Danny McBride steals the show. There is no line he can’t make funny by delivery, and he has this insane talent to riff on one certain thing and keep going and going and going, somehow still making it funny. Improvising I guess you could say in short. It’s pretty much why Kenny Powers is one of the best TV characters of the past decade, and he continues it into whatever he does.

This is pretty much a group of buddies turning the camera on and having fun. Not to take away from Rogen and Goldberg’s directing which is fine and competent, really all it needs to be, but really we’re focusing on the one thing. Quite simply, it’s another Rogen and company movie that I’ll be happy to pull out whenever I want to laugh at Michael Cera high on cocaine or Kevin Hart dying.

8/10

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‘Spring Breakers’: Review

Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers was primed from the beginning to be a disaster. It was the first film to really change the career trajectories of Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, showing them trying to shed their Disney image of being good-girls on wholesome shows. Every still of them we saw they were clad in skimpy bikinis and were sexualized like we hadn’t seen them particularly before. James Franco was to play a stereotypical “white-guy” rapper with cornrows, grills in his teeth with money to spend and girls to exploit. And, hey, it’s also set during spring break, so get ready for plenty of partying, drugs, alcohol and naked girls. We indeed get all this, but it’s not the outright mess that it seemed destined to be. It has its problems, but navigates its way through the material, in not exactly a fresh way, but in an admirable attempt.

See, it’s not a comedy, as much as on the outset it is. With me not watching movie trailers anymore (except when I’m forced to in theatres), I had no clue, but that’s why I love coming in cold to films, the unexpected of what you get. Sure, it’s funny in parts, but Harmony Korine is definitely aiming at something more meaningful and worthwhile. Hudgens, Gomez and crew are some out-going college girls who of course are looking forward to spending some “quality” time during spring break. Of course, being college girls, they don’t have enough funds to procure said trip to Florida, so sans Gomez they rob a chicken restaurant….. Yeah, I don’t know either. They make it there, have a grand old-time partying it up, until they’re thrown in jail only to be rescued by the bail of James Franco’s “Alien” rapper character. The girls further descend into this world of drugs, money, alcohol and violence. Corrupted by who? Themselves, media, their surroundings, party culture? That’s what Korine is trying to make a social play at, but it falls by the wayside.

I quite enjoyed how serious the film took itself in and of the ridiculousness of rapper mafioso’s and scantily clad women partying one minute and sticking up people for money the next, and then executing a fleet of henchman like it’s the final level of a video game. See, Korine wants to have both sides of the coin, he loves showing the classic “spring break” scenes of topless girls partying, doing drugs, drinking, getting in to trouble, and just generally being loss with their moral that of course every girl does on spring break. But, he also wants to make a commentary on what these activities and pursuits can do to a person, how it changes you and can corrupt you from what you once were. I don’t know if it ever works, though, see the girls were robbing a restaurant with guns before they even came to Florida, and the motivation to do that came out of nowhere. Sure, these girls take charge and become queens of their domain, and of course just because they hang around in bikini’s doesn’t make them less intelligent, but often Kormine’s scope and lens of the film skews it this way. Even so largely as to single out Selena Gomez’s character as the “good” one and have her leave. These girls aren’t trapped in Florida, they can leave at any time, so indeed two out of the four leave, keeping Hudgens and Ashley Benson’s characters to fulfill the sex-fueled and violence laden final scenes.

Maybe, on the one side, the Gomez and Rachel Korine’s characters are the good and moral ones who get out, representing the realizations of what these activities and “party” culture can do to you, and on the other side, is Hudgens and Benson who willingly fall deeper into the hole they created and succumb to their already burgeoning lusts for violence and sex. I just thought about that while writing this, and it’s an interesting tact, but I don’t know if the film is ever really that convinced. Korine’s wants to have his cake and eat it too, exploitation, with some attempted social commentary, but the exploiting still always seems like the main thing Korine has on his mind. It is credit to the film, that I had expected it to just be some throwaway dumb psuedo-comedy, but instead its got me thinking a lot about its intents and skills in actually seeing them through. I could appreciate a viewing against mine, but as far as I can see the classic tenants of sex, drugs, and partying seem to greatly overweight the interest Harmony Korine has in actually saying something meaningful and truthful about it.

6/10

‘The Wicker Man’: Review

Nicolas Cage in the middle of “acting."

Nicolas Cage in the middle of “acting.”

I really don’t even know where to start with this one. Well, some table-setting as I always seem to do, I guess. I’ve been on a Nicolas Cage kick, for, oh, uh, like two months now and am intent on filling in the gaps of his career that I have yet to see. Nonetheless, current day Nic Cage, who just happens to be insane, delivers the most mind-numbing performances that they demand to be seen before any of the handful of his actual “good” films. Of course, The Wicker Man is insanely popular online and such for just how god-awfully, ridiculous and hilariously bad it is. I had to finally see it for myself, and oh my lord how it exceeded all my expectations in how bat-shit it was.

I’m not really sure what the plot was. Something about Cage being a policeman and being summoned to an island strictly inhabited by women in order to find a missing girl, and oh yeah, these women are obsessed with honey and worship bees. Yup, you read that right. It really doesn’t matter, because you and I only watched this movie for everything outside what faintly resembles a plot.

So, what makes a bad movie? Acting? Well, yes, that’s always the chief problem, and it’s bad here of course. But, the dialogue that the actors are saddled with is some of the most baffling words puts together that I’ve ever seen. It’s weirdly cutesy and often attempts to be poetic and philosophical, failing at every chance. Hey did I tell you that Ellen Burstyn is in this? Yes, ELLEN BURSTYN, that ELLEN BURSTYN, playing the matriarch character of the island, who is giving the line-readings of someone who worked a couple days and is just anticipating her check to cashed into her bank account. Molly Parker is also a wonderful actress who has to be terrible here. The wonderful Frances Conroy is very creepy, but deserves oh so much better.

I still can’t process this movie even days after seeing it, so I’m just going to spew out random awful observations from the movie. There is one scene that they cut back to in a flashback for about, no joke, 10 times throughout the movie, providing nothing we didn’t already know. But, hey psychological “horror” movie, right guys? I’m pretty sure they just threw that scene in multiple times just to extend the running time. There’s also about 10 minutes in total, if you combined all the scenes, of Nicolas Cage riding a bicycle. Yup, nothing but him riding to his next destination, but apparently we have to see shot after shot of it. Again, seemingly just to extend the run time. Cage does won of the most hilarious dives into a lake you’ll ever see. There’s a scene where he has a dream within a dream within a dream, and it’s every bit as incredible as you think it could be. Nicolas Cage punches about 37 women throughout the movie, and one such instance he just walks up to an unassuming women, says nothing, and coldcocks her. After he punches some women, he puts on a bear suit, oh my god yes, he puts on a BEAR SUIT and proceed to punch more women. I think it’s time to repeat, that yes, this was a “Hollywood” film that was indeed released in theatres. People worked hard to make this, gaffers, foley, sound, video, sets, costumes, make-up, catering, EVERYTHING. And not once did someone think any of this, not even a small part, was a bad idea. It’s just so, so,so incredible.

It’s so, so, so amazing that this movie is billed as a horror movie. Quite seriously, if they had labeled it as a comedy, we wouldn’t be talking shit about it. No, we’d be hailing it as the funniest movie of 2006. Like, I mean a lot of it is unintentional comedy, but it’s so horrible in spots that it has to be, just has to of been made under knowingly terrible circumstances. Not that it makes it any better, but it’s really just me trying to make sense out of everything. Really the only redeeming aspect of the movie is the ending which is anything but a copout. I guess I should clarify that this is the extended version I’m talking about, whereas the theatrical version has a horrible ending to fall in line with the horrible movie that came before it that randomly has James Franco and Jason Ritter. I don’t know either. I know that I’m missing or forgetting about 1000 other dumb, random incredible bits and quotes that pepper this movie, but it’s impossible to reprint them all without me just copying and pasting the screenplay. Yeah, someone actually sat down and wrote this. Actually, that reminds me of another hilarious thing. Neil LaBute wrote the screenplay, and then felt so obviously connected to the story that he HAD to direct it as well. Apparently, LaBute thinks he’s some kind of auteur like Paul Thomas Anderson or the Coen Brothers. I’m not even watching the movie, but typing words about it is making it melt my brain even more. The Wicker Man, everybody, a movie randomly dedicated to Johnny Ramone. Amazing.

3/10