Oh Set Me Up With The Spirit In The Sky

TITEmovieposterAll right, all you haters, I’m saying this first to get it out of the way: I like Seth Rogen.  I like Seth Rogen and James Franco and Jonah Hill and Jay Baruchel and all those other Judd Apatow boys.  I liked them in Freaks and Geeks.  I liked them in Undeclared and I’ve liked them in every movie they’ve spawned from Knocked-Up to I Love You, Man.  Honestly, I wish that I knew these guys in real life and could hang out with them on the regular.  So, before you read this review, just know that I am already their fan.

This Is The End is a story about the end – as in, the end of civilization as we know it, the end of the earth as it stands now.  It’s the story of what may happen to Seth Rogen and his boy Jay Baruchel should the apocalypse occur while they happen to be attending a house-warming party at James Franco’s new Hollywood mansion.  These guys (and so many others) play themselves.  Well… exaggerated, semi-ridiculous versions of themselves.  Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride round out this sausage-heavy sextet who fill nearly every scene.  There are cameos galore, dick and ejaculation jokes out the wazoo and a fifty foot tall Satan sporting one seriously intimidating boner.  That’s right – in this apocalyptic flick, the apocalypse is REAL.  No zombies, no flesh-eating plague, no nuclear war.  Just the earth opening up to swallow all the sinners, fire and brimstone kind of apocalypse that the Bible has promised us.  Or at least, as writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg imagine it.

And it is raucously funny.  It isn’t deep or complex by any possible definition.  There is no greater religious or social meaning, no intricate plot to be found.  The story is nothing more than what these guys imagine might happen to them should the apocalypse suddenly, finally, come.  What ensues is an hour and 45 minutes of shenanigans.  The good news, I laughed for a solid 90 minutes of that 105 min. span.  Say what you will about these fellas, they are funny.  Yes, their jokes are absurd and juvenile and I freely admit that dick jokes can and most certainly do get old.  But they can also hit the mark and in this flick, with this cast, they do, over and over again.  Of course, they aren’t all dick and cum jokes, but a great many of them are and they are, somehow, consistently funny.  Honestly, I kept waiting to get tired of them, to start yawning instead of laughing but it just didn’t happen.  These guys take some of the most inane and predictable material and deliver it in a way that makes people laugh.  A lot.

And there’s something about watching actors play themselves in a self-deprecating, mocking way that just amuses the hell out of me.  When I first saw the trailer for this, I wondered if it would feel self-indulgent.  Like, ‘hey look how much money we’ve got now, we can make any ol’ stupid, shallow movie we want!’  But that never came through, not one bit.  Rather than stroke their own egos, they poke fun at themselves and instead of feeling like a voyeur on the lives of the rich and famous, you just feel like you’re in on the fun.

The cast is great, exactly what we’ve come to expect from this crew.  Rogen and Baruchel play the leads and their chemistry as old friends whoThis-Is-The-End-all-six may have slightly out-grown each other works perfectly.  McBride is every bit the selfish, insensitive jerk I imagine him to be in the film’s most villainous role (other than that of Satan, of course) and even Franco is capable of making fun of himself by playing on the rumors that he’s awfully full of himself and unhealthily attached to his boy, Seth.  Jonah Hill is actually more likeable here, playing himself, than in his earlier roles as the self-absorbed douche bag and each and every cameo will leave you smiling.  (Some more than others – ahem, Channing Tatum.)  The stand-out in this gang is Craig Robinson, who is simply delightful.  He has perfect comedic timing and can do everything from deadpan (The Office) to absurdly silly (Zack and Miri Make A Porno) and he’s hilarious at it all.  For real, Robinson belongs in ALL the comedies.

If you hate this crew and have never liked any of their work, I’d say this likely won’t change your mind.  But even if your feelings toward them are luke warm, I’d bet you’ll enjoy this.  It won’t win any awards or earn a place in cinematic history, but it certainly is one fun gigglefest of a flick.

~Nikki

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I Wish It Had Been Free…

30 Minutes or Less is a pitiful little disappointment of a film, one that I was hoping would be great, given the pretty awesome cast and hilarious-sounding premise.  Unfortunately, it didn’t really “deliver” what I wanted. (Groan)

The adorably nervous and socially awkward Jesse Eisenberg (who kicked all kinds of ass in movies like The Social Network, The Squid and the Whale, and Zombieland) stars as Nick, a guy who has literally nothing going for him, except that he delivers pizza.  Poor Nick becomes a kidnap/hostage-type victim who is forced (with the use of a bomb strapped to his chest) to rob a bank by two hillbillies (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) who need cash quick to pay a hitman to off Kenny Powers’ asshole father, so they can inherit his millions.  Wow.  Typing that out felt even more ridiculous than I imagined it would.  Nick literally has no one to turn to for help except his former best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari).  Who in the fuck’s name is Chet?

My problems with this film stem mainly from its mean spirit, which can work if done well, but this was just sloppy, slightly stupid, and didn’t give its talented cast enough to work with.  There’s a fine line between a dark comedy and something that is just unpleasant.  I’m not a prude, and I’m not trying to say something blatantly ridiculous like I was disturbed by this film; I just felt like the meanness outweighed the funny.  Director Ruben Fleischer also helmed Zombieland, which was made of so, so, SO much awesome, and there’s none of that energy here.

The more I marinate on the cast, the sadder I become.  I love Danny McBride, and while Kenny Powers is a MASSIVE douche, he’s infused with SO. MUCH. HILARITY. that it’s okay, and he becomes a lovable douche.  In this film, his Dwayne was such a hateful, white trash evil pig from hell, that I had a hard time even laughing at him.  Nick Swardson’s Travis was Dwayne’s partner in crime, and the brains behind the bombs.  All I can ever see Swardson as is Reno 911‘s Terry Bernardino, the flaming, coked-out, roller skating wacko. And I LOVE that dude.  Travis didn’t really give Swardson any opportunity to be especially funny, and he’s more than capable of it.  Eisenberg was fine, he was a slight variation on the same kind of character he usually plays – the nervous, nerdy, weird, straight man.  Aziz Ansari is the final nail in the coffin – that dude usually CRACKS ME UP.  (Shout out to my boy TOM HAVERFORD).  He’s the kind of person who makes normal sentences, that would not be funny at all, HILARIOUS, just by the tone of his voice and vocal inflection.  Here, he tried his damnest, but it just wasn’t funny enough.

I don’t even feel much like going into the plot – it just doesn’t matter.  This might be funny if you were stoned, on your couch, with NOTHING else to do, but as an actual trip to the movies, it’s a bummer.  I didn’t despise this film, but it added nothing to my day, and is utterly forgettable.  About halfway through, four people straight up left the theater.  Out of TEN.  I can’t remember the last time I was at a movie where people actually LEFT.  I’d say leaving was a tad extreme, but looking back, I can’t really blame them.  They didn’t miss much.                                                                                                                                            ~Annie

Note the double entendre

Those Cats Were Fast As Lightning

Po, the schlubby, lovable, kung fu-fighting panda, returns to help kick off the summer movie season in the highly enjoyable Kung Fu Panda 2.  As far as sequels go (and Dreamworks looooves sequels), this was a solid effort.

First off, the animation is stunning.  Just astonishingly beautiful.  Vibrant colors, sweeping landscapes, and tons of fireworks.  I love fireworks.  I chose NOT to see this in 3D, which I started to regret about 3/4 of the way through.  I hadn’t heard one way or the other if it was worth it or not, and I always err on the side of NO 3D when it comes to blockbusters.  That being said, it might have been a mistake.

The plot centers around the maniac outcast Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) trying to take over China with his powerful new weapon, a cannon.  Surely kung fu is no match for massive gunfire, or is it?  (What do you think?)  Along the way, the fact that Po is a panda and his father is a GOOSE is addressed, and you find out where he really comes from.  You better brace yourself though, it is really, REALLY SAD (Baby Po is the cutest THING EVER).  No surprise then, that this one had more emotional heft than the first.

The cast is capable enough.  I don’t find the vocal talents of the “Furious Five” – Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, David Cross, and Seth Rogen (yucky voice) to be anything so remarkable that you couldn’t fill those roles with somebody else, however some characters are cast perfectly.  Jack Black’s manic goofball energy is well suited to an animated persona, especially somebody like Po.  Several of the more minor characters had voices that worked very well with their role – Dennis Haysbert as Master Ox, James Hong as Mr. Ping, Po’s father.  The award for most exciting, expressive, and generally awesome voice goes to  Gary Oldman (can he GET any cooler?), who is delicious as the evil villain, a peacock who has been denied his birthright and shunned by his parents.  His voice conveys unhinged regal authority with expert ease.

The score by John Powell (who did the killer score for How To Train Your Dragon) and Hans Zimmer (who has done amazing scores for shitloads of amazing movies) is lovely.  And scores matter.  (Future post to come)

I enjoyed this about as much as the original, although there’s a little less comedy this time around.  Who knows what the future holds for the third one (that’s right) because there’s a shocking final scene that pretty much guarantees a trilogy.  With a killer setup, more gorgeous animation, and (hopefully) another enchanting story, Dreamworks can breathe a sigh of relief, because I’m already looking forward to buying that ticket.

~Annie

I Love You, But You’re Boring

James Franco, Danny McBride & Natalie Portman: honestly, what were you thinking?!  I so wanted to like this movie (I’m a big fan of both Franco and McBride) but I simply could find no saving grace.  It had a handful of funny lines but was otherwise completely ridiculous.  And not in a good, “Dumb & Dumber” kind of way.  More like if the guys who wrote “Hot Shots Part Deux” had written “Lord of the Rings.”

The story is faulty enough.  McBride and Franco are brothers, sons of the reigning king, but could not be more different.  Danny McBride plays Thadeus, a ne’er do well who parties all the time and seduces fair maidens while his brother and heir to the throne, Fabious (Franco, of course), kills evil adversaries and wins the heart of the lovely Belladonna (played by a vapid Zooey Deschanel), whom he rescues from the sorcerer Leezar.  Before he can marry her, she is taken captive, again, by Leezar who plans to rape her during a lunar eclipse so they could conceive a dragon (like I said, ridiculous).  Thadeus is forced to join his brother on the quest to rescue her, again, and along the way they encounter many trials and tribulations, which, eventually, lead to Thadeus’s growing up and acting like the valiant prince his brother always knew he truly was.  I’ll bet you’re racing to the theater now, aren’t you?

Funniest moment: Zooey Deschanel asks her captor (shortly before the aforementioned rape) how he even knows if his penis works.  His reply: “I’ve tried it.  If your vagina is anything like my hand, there will be no problem.”

Look, I love profanity and crude humor, which are both rampant throughout this flick, but there’s just no compensating for the shit plot and the absurd 80s-style visual effects.  (Not enough money for CGI, or a throwback, perhaps?  Either way, it didn’t work.)  McBride and Franco were their usual charming selves, yet the whole time, I couldn’t help but wonder why the hell they chose to add this film to their resumes.  And Natalie Portman, seriously, this is your follow-up to “Black Swan?”  (I guess “No Strings Attached” immediately followed “Black Swan,” but still.)

I hate to beat up on it because I certainly have seen worse.  But I’ve seen what these guys are capable of – “Eastbound & Down,” “Pineapple Express,” just to name a couple – and I expected better.  This time around, they sold themselves far short.  I’m still a fan, just a disappointed one.