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.



Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Oh lovely readers, I am so sorry to have been silent this long.  This past week was a bear at work and rather busy otherwise and this whole month, in fact (typical for this time of year) has simple overwhelmed me.  But I haven’t forgotten about you.  Quite the opposite; sitting down to write a little something here on this blog is a favorite pastime of mine and it feels so good to finally get back at it.  We have a great many things to talk about, so let’s dive right in, shall we?

First and most importantly, like all othervigils in this nation and probably the world over, we here at rms are mourning those lost and wounded in Newtown, Connecticut during the recent atrocity.  There have been so many conflicting reports in the media that we won’t try to speculate on what led to it.  We’ll simply say that like all of you and countless others, our hearts are broken and we’re hoping for brighter days for the families and friends of those who’ve suffered such tremendous loss.

Homeland has completed its second season, and what a season it has been.  You know I’ve been a fan of Rupert Friend’s Peter Quinn from the start, but his stand against David Estes wherein he called Carrie the “best intelligence officer” he’d ever known and promised to target Estes should anything happen to Brody was one of the most powerful scenes the show has given us.  I didn’t know if Brody would live or die or if he’d turn completely and swear vengeance for Abu Nazir’s death but I did think this whole not knowing where his loyalties lay thing had to end.  How could they plausibly keep it going?  Silly me.  They found a way, and a good one.  Did Brody have anything to do with the bombing at Langley?  Was he willing, once again, to risk his own life in order to slaughter those chiefly involved in the drone bombings that killed Issa?  He told Dana he’d changed, that he wasn’t the same man who wore that suicide vest.  But his body language seemed to contradict his words.  He didn’t move to hug or touch his daughter – he was rigid and cold, keeping a reasonable distance.  He spent the night with Carrie and appears genuine in his interactions with her but we know he hasn’t abandoned his faith in Islam, not in itself an indication of guilt but perhaps a sign that he is still the man he became while imprisoned by Nazir.  Does he love Carrie or did he use her to find an escape route?  Estes is dead, which puts Saul in command and Carrie the youngest station chief in CIA history, which is where season 3 will likely pick up.  I cannot wait.

Speaking of Saul Berenson, my thanks to the gods of the Golden Globes for nominating Mandy Patinkin for his truly exceptional performance in the role.  He consistently exercises controlled restraint in his portrayal of Saul, quietly and calmly commanding your attention while allowing his facial expressions to say what his mouth doesn’t.  Patinkin is a total pro and I have no reservations in championing him for the win.

Speaking of the Golden Globes, Tina Fey & Amy Poehler are hosting this year and you can tune in here as we liveblog the event, Jan 13, 2013.

I know this was made and released last year on Christmas but I love it so much, I thought I’d post it again.  (Note to Donald Faison: if I weren’t already married, I’d want to marry you and call you Turk in the boudoir.)  Seriously, I want to hang out with these guys ALL THE TIME.

And finally, the world did not come to an end yesterday, as anyone with even half of a functioning brain could have guessed, but the media’s determination to willfully misinterpret and misrepresent the Mayan calendar did give us this fantastic gem, courtesy of Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Emma Watson, Michael Cera, David Krumholtz, Martin Starr, Mindy Kaling and probably more.  Basically, the majority of the most talented comedic actors currently alive.  Enjoy.

Happy Holidays!

You Can Kill The Revolutionary But You Can’t Kill The Revolution

I saw the new movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this weekend and I admit I went into it with fairly low expectations.  Not because I thought it looked bad, but because someone I work with told me beforehand that it was just mediocre.  Maybe my reaction was skewed since the bar had been set kind of low, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It wasn’t stellar; some of the dialogue was cheesy and, though I am a James Franco fan, he really didn’t pull off the whole scientist thing.  It was obvious as he delivered his lines that he wasn’t comfortable speaking the science lingo.  And one character actually uttered (very dramatically) the line: “You know everything about the brain except how it works.”  Seriously?  Who wrote that gem?  On the other hand, the always-outstanding John Lithgow has a small role in which he proves yet again he is an actor of profound ability.  Whatever that man is doing onscreen, whether it’s an outlandish comedic antic or an act of the deepest compassion, he sells it.  I could probably watch him sit in an empty room and stare at a clock for 2 hours.

Other than the over-the-top delivery of the uber-cheesy “scientific” lines, this flick impressed me.  The special effects were damn good and the plot was well thought-out and nicely executed, with a smooth tie-in to the original Planet of the Apes.  Mad chops to Andy Serkis (as in, the genius mastermind of Gollum of the LOTR trilogy) for bringing his performance capture method of acting to Caesar, the main chimp and true star of this film.  His performance and the gorgeous CGI ape won me over immediately.  And I wasn’t the only one.  The emotional bond between Franco’s character and Caesar, whom Franco took care of from his infancy, was so fully developed, I choked up on more than one occasion.  In fact, it surprised me how strong an emotional response I had to the story.

Director Rupert Wyatt did an excellent job of telling this tale from the apes’ point of view.  I admit I rooted for them pretty much the whole time.  By the end, I was more attached to a few of the apes than to any of the humans.  Not that I wanted to see any humans suffer (except Tom Felton, of Draco Malfoy fame, who played a real prick), but the chimps were treated with such a lack of respect and their pain and suffering met with such complete indifference by the humans “taking care” of them, that it felt good to see them victorious.  As a scientist, I’ve seen so many examples of the ways animals are mistreated in the name of medicine.  Not just euthanized and not just given experimental medication, but actually put into diseased states before being cut open to test the efficiency of a new surgical method, for example, or how well someone with, say, diabetes would do while undergoing a certain procedure.  I get the reasons for this.  I know these drugs/methods must be tested before tried on humans, but I can’t help but ask myself if we humans have the right to grossly manipulate and exploit other forms of life for our own benefit.  This is the reason this movie struck such an emotional chord with me.  Because the truth is, after all I’ve seen firsthand and read/heard about secondhand, if the monkeys ever get smart enough to organize a revolt, no one could say we didn’t have it coming.


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.