Tag Archives: Seth Rogen

Monsters Vs Aliens Vs Megamind

Susan (Reese Witherspoon) is a blushing bride-to-be until she’s struck down by a meteorite on her wedding day and mutates into a “monster” – a giant who’ll be called Ginormica. She’s transferred to a government “hotel,” the kind with bars on the windows, where she’ll be kept locked away along with other monsters like her – namely, BOB, a gelatinous type who eats\absorbs everything in his path (voiced by Seth Rogen); Doctor Cockroach, now an actual cockroach after unfortunate experimentation (voiced by Hugh Laurie); The Missing Link (Will Arnett); and Insectosaurus, who’s, yes, a giant bug.

Susan is adamant that she will get better and return home, to her “normal” life, but it seems like life has already moved on without her (I of course refer to her scuzzy, self-sMonsters-vs-alienserving prick of a fiance, Paul Rudd). So the monsters basically sit around playing cards until Doom arrives. Planet Earth is threatened by an evil alien by the name of Gallaxahr (Rainn Wilson), so the government reluctantly calls on the very monsters they’ve imprisoned to save them from certain death. This being a kids’ movie, you can be pretty sure that Good will triumph over Evil, and even better, Susan will start to feel empowered in Ginormica’s skin. It’s colourful and rapid-fire so kids will  be entertained. For adults, though this Dreamworks effort lacks the depth of better animated movies of late, it’s got some great satirical references and a stellar voice cast, including Stephen Colbert, John Krasinski, Ed Helms, Kiefer Sutherland, Julie White, Jeffrey Tambor, Amy Poehler, and Renee Zellweger, in addition to those already named.

If the monsters feel familiar to you, they are indeed inspired by classic monster movies: Ginormica and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman; BOB and The Blob; The Missing Link and Creature From The Black Lagoon; Dr. Cockroach and The Fly; Insectosaurus and… Godzilla? Mothra? The T-rex from Jurassic Park? Some delicious hybrid, is my guess.

Megamind is another Dreamworks animated film with its own references, this time to Superman. The whole movie seems predicated on the question: what would happen if Lex Luthor defeated Superman? Not stepping on any toes, the hero in question is here called Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt), and he’s been keeping Metro City safe from inept villain 960MegaMind (Will Ferrell) since they were kids. With an undeniably familiar origin story and a beautiful ace reporter on the scene (Roxanne Richie, voiced by Tina Fey) and a bumbling camera guy (Jonah Hill), you’ll find a whole new appreciate for Superman and his plight.

On a day when the entirety of Metro City is gathered in adulation of Metro Man, Megamind is finally (surprisingly) victorious. Metro Man is dead. The city belongs to Megamind! Everything goes to hell – Metro City is in ruins, but so is, curiously, Megamind’s mental health. Why? Because a villain isn’t a villain without a hero as his counterpoint. In his infinite wisdom, Megamind thus decides to take awkward camera guy and turn him into Metro City’s new superhero, Tighten.

There is no new ground tread in this film, and it’s not as funny as the excellent voice cast will have you believe – Ben Stiller, David Cross, Justin Theroux, and JK Simmons included. Benignly diverting is the best I can say about it – supposedly Guillermo del Toro lent a hand in editing to make it more exciting, and it is that, but for most, I think it will end up being a little forgettable.

 

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SXSW: The Disaster Artist

Before we talk about this movie, we have to talk about another: The Room. Not Room, the Brie Larson kidnap drama, but The Room, the worst movie ever made. Even better: the BEST bad tumblr_megxu99K4x1ry10fwo1_500movie ever made, the Citizen Kane of bad movies, a movie so bad it’s achieved cult status. Tommy Wiseau was obsessed with movies and had enough cash to get one made, so he did. And he did it with such earnestness and such a complete lack of talent that people love to watch it. Ottawa’s own Mayfair Theatre, one of Canada’s oldest surviving independent movie houses, an official heritage building in our fair city, champion of 35mm film, screener of indies and classics, has been showing it for 92 consecutive months now. Each midnight screening is a riot; this cult film draws fans that know the drill. Matt wrote a great review of it a while back, almost nothing about the movie itself, which defies reviewing, but about the experience of seeing, the rituals that go along with it, the things you yell at the screen, hell, the things you chuck at the screen, it’s all a wild ball of fun.

Greg Sestero, co-star in The Room and Tommy Wiseau BFF wrote a book about making this weird movie with its even weirder director. It’s called The Disaster Artist. Ever a sucker for a great Hollywood story, James Franco read this book one day and immediately got a boner. He brought the script to Seth Rogen on the set of their ill-fated movie The Interview, and the rest is history. Well, future history. I saw the one and only screening of The Disaster Artist at SXSW where it was still billed as a “work in progress.” Tommy Wiseau was in the house, and also seeing it for the first time. Big gulp.

Two things struck me about The Disaster Artist: 1. This film was made with love. It could easily mock The Room, as many have, but it doesn’t. This is a loving ode to The Room, and to the friendship that gave birth to it. 2. This film is fucking hilarious.

Even having never seen The Room, The Disaster Artist is still accessible and relevant. Tommy Wiseau is a goddamned character and James Franco is just the man to play him (although Wiseau pushed for Johnny Depp). Franco got into the part so deeply that he directed while in character too. He was in deep enough to fool Seth Rogen’s grandmother when she visited the set, and in more than deep enough to constantly annoy his little brother “Davey” who co-stars MV5BMjA4ZDZkNjEtNTFkZi00YjhjLWFjZTctNDZlOWVmYzZmZjhhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTM2Mzg4MA@@._V1_with him.  James and Seth debuted Sausage Party at SXSW last year, and for me it was a disappointment. The Disaster Artist, however, gave me continuous giggles. They’ve amassed an impressive cast, some with just bitty walk-on parts, which only proves the love Hollywood has for underdog Tommy Wiseau. Or perhaps for James “I’ll try anything once” Franco. Or maybe James Franco as Tommy Wiseau. In any case, I laughed until I cried, and then I slammed some Diet Pepsi just so I could cry-laugh some more. And I did! This movie will make you rabid for The Room but it stands on its own, a complete movie that probably benefits from NOT being written by Franco or Rogen. It’s an affectionate behind the scenes look at Hollywood gone wrong, but it’s also a kind of heart-warming tale about outsiders who can’t break in so they plow their own field, and even if it’s bad, at least they have potatoes. Know what I’m saying? Oh, hi Mark.

 

 

 

p.s. Check out the comments section for a delightful Q&A with James, Dave & Seth.

Sausage Party

This movie is surprisingly well-reviewed for something based on a pun gone wrong, and is poised to usurp Suicide Squad’s tenuous hold on the box office’s top spot.  But it’s probably the summer’s biggest disappointment for me.

It comes as a surprise to absolutely no one that Sausage Party is peppered with f-bombs and exploding with offensive material. The surprise is that I didn’t buy into it. I’m generally a cusser extraordinaire and have a tongue so salty it makes sailors blush and mumble “aw shucks.” But swearing should be unselfconscious whereas Sausage Party just feels so darn deliberate. Like it’s a 19 million dollar excuse to pack in every bad word Seth Rogen knows, and a few he just made up.

sausage party cabageThe basic premise is: what if your food had feelings? Like, every night when the grocery store closes, the food comes alive in almost exactly the same way the toys do in Toy Story. But in Toy Story, the worst thing we do is neglect our old toys. Worst case play with them too roughly. But we flipping eat food! And before we eat it, we torture it: we cut it, mash it, boil it up, set it on fire. At first the food is blissfully unaware of its weird relationship with us, but when they eventually find out it’s supermarket anarchy.

There are mostly two types of jokes in this movie:

  1. Racial stereotypes. Kosher food, halal food, ethnic food. The Canadian beer that apologizes constantly. The bagel and the lavash are sworn enemies. A little homophobia on the side just to keep things fresh.
  2. Graphic sex. As graphic as a juice box can get, anyway. I mean, the whole plot revolves around a bun (Kristen Wiig) and a sausage (Seth Rogen) who can’t wait to couple. There’s a character who is literally a douche (Nick Kroll). Did you ever want to see a sausage penetrate 3 types of bread products at once? I mean, this is the kind of thing that only comes around once, maybe twice in your life. So get it while it’s hot.

The problem with rude comedy is that if it’s all rude all the time, then rude is the new normal and it all becomes dull pretty quick. I prefer my food orgies to be me at an all you can eat buffet in Vegas, with unlimited mimosas, is what I’m saying.

But even critics, who found Suicide Squad so joyless, are on board for this profanity-filled49033034.cached sausage fest. And of course I cracked a few laughs. I absolutely did. But mostly I didn’t enjoy myself much. I feel too guilty to laugh at something so obvious and offensive as a bottle of “fire water” with a Native American accent (provided by white guy Bill Hader). And while that might be the most culturally inappropriate, it’s not the hardest to watch. Not with a used condom sloppily lamenting its fate, or toilet paper experiencing PTSD.

This should have been a movie right up my bum. Er, alley. Right up my alley. But I guess I’m just too much of an old prude to appreciate it. For me it’s a rare miss from Seth Rogen but I guess my tolerance for glutinous cunnilingus just isn’t what it used to be.

Kung Fu Panda 3

In Xmen: Apocalypse, Cyclops convinces Nightcrawler to have a regular teenaged afternoon-about-town. They stop in at the mall, cruise downtown, and go to the movies, where they happen to catch Return of the Jedi and note that the third one in any trilogy is “always the worst.” Ahem.

Kung Fu Panda is Kung Fu-cked up. Well, maybe it’s not terrible, but it IS boring and useless. The animation is kind of beautiful at times, and it takes stabs at being heart-warming, but by the third installment, this franchise just feels washed out, and I was never its biggest fan to begin with. The plot is a barely-there mishmash of eastern and western tropes and while it says the right things, it fails to engage.

You may know from previous films that Po the panda (voiced by Jack Black) is kung-fu-panda-3raised by a restaurateur goose in a village with no other pandas. There is, however, a Kung-Fu master (Dustin Hoffman) and his protégés (Angelina Jolie, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Lucy Lui) which soon includes Po, as improbable as it seems. In this movie, Po’s biological father (Bryan Cranston) shows up in the noodle shop looking for his long-lost son and is thrilled to find that his son is now a dragon warrior because that’s just what his village needs to be saved from the evil villain Kai (J.K. Simmons). But Kai is a super villain and only a master of chi can possibly stand a chance. And rather than mastering chi, Po’s fucked off to magical Panda village where’s fluffing around with the other pandas, stuffing his gourd and rolling about like a big dumb animal.

Don’t worry, it’s a kids’ movie, so everything goes exactly as it should: learn lessons, make fart jokes, yadda yadda yadda. Nobody gets beheaded. Nobody’s femur snaps like a twig. Nobody’s silky soft fur gets worn by a callous victor like a cape. It’s all very, well, PG. Nothing unexpected happens. The plot feels very derivative of the first film’s, and come to think of it, the second’s. No kung-fu-panda-3_640x480_71452230774matter how much kung-fu we learn there’s always another threat to vanquish – both the physical ones, and the ones inside our head (cue soft pan-pipe music). God I hate cartoons with morals.

This one just felt strained to me. Strained like trying to take a giant panda poop on a steady diet of white rice and cheese. Strained like the look on your adopted father’s face when your “real” dad shows up for #3. Strained like that feeling in your groin when you execute a kung fu thrust kick without first stretching your hammies. Strained like a fourth simile would be. This one’s just not working for me.

Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising

I’m not going to lie: the first 3 times I saw the trailer for this movie in theatres, I believed it was a car commercial for at least 20 seconds. Each time. But then it would dawn on me that this was a sequel to a movie I thought was okay. I could hardly remember it but was sure I’d seen it. And probably didn’t hate it because vitriol lingers longer than indifference (and if you’re doing it right, love).

So on Saturday night, Sean and I went to the drive-in, where we were forced to Untitled-1-xlargewatch 2 shit movies called Xmen Apocalypse and whatever Divergent one is most recent. And across the lawn, in my peripheral vision, the French screen was playing Neighbours 2. Only I didn’t know what they were playing, I just knew that I’d just seen some chick throw up on some dude’s face (I generously warned Sean not to look). Since I’d already survived what had to have been the worst scene in the movie, I figured, why not give the rest a gander.

If you’re susceptible to vomit scenes, squish your eyes shut for the first 130 seconds. Fight through that and you’ll be won over by a cock’n’dildo joke.

The premise: the old people next door, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, are pregnant with their second child and moving on up. Their house is in escrow, so they’re 30 days away from escape. The bad news? Just when they’ve gotten rid of last movie’s Zac Efron-led fraternity, in comes a Zac Efron-led sorority. And is it possible that sororities are WORSE than frats?

The writing on this is wonky. The jokes are pretty solid and I laughed throughout but the script that connects the jokes is a lot weaker. They’re trying like mad to make this the “feminist” raunchy comedy. Did you know that in the U.S., sororities aren’t allowed to party in their own houses? They have to go to frats for that, which is a pretty rapey solution to a shitty, sexist problem. But that’s mostly just lip service. The meat is in the millennials vs. old people situation, even though technically, Seth Rogen is a still grazing millennial status himself (gross!) and Rose Byrne has maybe a baby toe in Generation X. But laughing at millennials is hilarious. The dumb, neighbors-2-2016_sbsysocial media-fixated, instagram-obsessed, teenaged millennials who don’t know anything about the world yet. So the old folks are doing what parents do best: stopping young people from having fun.

Sure it’s tired material. But Rogen & Byrne have the kind of chops that make this thing enjoyable. Are the best parts in the trailer? Of COURSE they are. Isn’t that par for the course these days? Somebody needs to tell movie trailer makers that nobody buys the cow if you’re giving the milk away for free. Except me. I love buying livestock. I practically hoard it. I didn’t even mean to see this one, remember? I just got roped into it when I was paying to see two other movies I had no interest in seeing. Wait – am I single-handedly saving Hollywood by compulsively buying movie tickets?

Anyway. Brainless, harmless. Funny in spots. Excellent use of a Beastie Boys song (but I mean, you can never go wrong with the Beastie Boys). And Zac Efron refuses to take Sean’s advice to keep his shirt on once in a while, if that floats your pontoon. But probably not theatre-worthy. You can afford to rent this one later. Baby oil optional.

 

 

 

 

Celebrity Cameos in Music Videos

Not so very long ago, we were discussing famous movie directors who cut their teeth on MTV, but actors have an even more storied history of popping up in random music videos. Here’s a batch of my favourites (sorry James Van der Beek, as much as I appreciate rainbow lasers, this post is for A-listers only):

Make Some Noise, Beastie Boys

When Adam Yauch was too sick to appear in this video, a whole slew of celebrities lined up to help out their favourite MCs. Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, and Elijah Wood stand in for the Boys, but you’ll need all your fingers and all your toes to count the celebrity cameos on this video. Rashida Jones, Jason Schwartzman, Will Arnett, and Will Ferrell with his cowbell all make appearances, but blink and you’ll miss em! For an extended (like 30 minute) version with Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Adam Scott, Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Dan Aykroyd and more, follow this link.

I Really Like You, Carly Rae Jepson

I would never have heard this song if not for the fact that Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks!) stars in the video, solidifying our already niggling suspicion that Hanks is pretty much the most interesting human being ever. How on earth did they land such a huge star? “I literally had a beer in my hand and I said, ‘Yeah sure I’ll do it,'” – it was as easy as that. This will absolutely put a little joy in your heart, and be sure to stay right to the end when he joins in the inevitable choreography: it’s fucking worth it.

Weapon of Choice, Fatboy Slim

Predictable but absolutely necessary inclusion to the list. This video reinvigorated Christopher Walken, turned him into an icon for a whole other generation, and turned a stale music video industry on its ear.

Giving Up the Gun, Vampire Weekend

They brought out the big guns for this video: Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a drunken tennis player (“Well, that’s the only way anyone’s going to beat me, if I’m that wasted,” Gyllenhaal joked. “They call me, like, the John McEnroe of action films”) showing some major leg – and shout to RZA while we’re at it. “They’re all really cool guys … and the Jonas Brothers, the RZA and Lil Jon, we all usually chill anyway. Actually, we were up in San Francisco, and I was like, ’You guys, do you want to come down with me?’ And Lil Jon was like, ’I’m busy,’ and I was like, ’Come on, man, get in the car!’ So we all chilled out, listened to the whole album, and the RZA was dope. He was great. He sat shotgun, because that’s where he likes to sit usually. … We all hang out because we’re all really good friends.”

Stylo, Gorillaz

So Gorillaz, who are animated, naturally, get into a car chase with Bruce Willis, who is not. Some things are too strange to be made up.

I Want Love, Elton John

It makes sense that the rocket man would tap iron man for a little help once in a while – and before he donned that Marvel suit, Robert Downey Junior had some time on his hands.

Crossfire, Brandon Flowers

Charlize Theron is everyone’s favourite badass heroine, so I suppose this video was probably stolen right from the director’s wet dream.

What Goes Around Comes Around, Justin Timberlake

A huge hit deserves a huge star, so Scarlett Johansson gets cast as the cheating whore who gets what she deserves: a fiery death. Kind of harsh, isn’t it? Brought to you by the same director who did Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Trouble, Pink

Recognize the sherriff of Sharktown? It’s none other than Jeremy Renner in eyeliner and a cowboy hat, that’s who!

Anybody Seen My Baby, The Rolling Stones

Need someobody who’s “more than beautiful?” You can’t do better than Angelina Jolie. Angelina was married at the time (to Jonny Lee Miller) but that didn’t stop her and Mick from hooking up, or from Jagger’s obsessing over her for two whole years.

Mumford & Sons, Hopeless Wanderer

Mumford and his sons prove they DO have a sense of humour about themselves with this spoof video starring Ed Helms, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis,and Will Forte. The video’s a lot of fun, and these guys sing a lot more earnestly than the real sons ever dared to.

Elastic Heart, Sia

This one may push the bounds of A-list, but how can we not talk about hot mess Shia Leboeuf bringing us yet another chapter in the dude’s book of dubious experimentation? I mean, haven’t you ever wanted to watch a 28 year old mentally unstable man beat on a little girl in a cage match?

Honourable mentions: Daniel Radcliffe in Slow Club’s Beginners; Aubrey Plaza in Father John Misty’s Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings; Olivia Wilde in Dashboard Confessional’s Stolen; Rupert Grint in Ed Sheeran’s Lego House; Helena Bonham Carter in Rufus Wainwright’s Out of the Game; Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone in Aerosmith’s Crazy; Courtney Cox in Bruce Springstein’s Dancing in the Dark (or Counting Crows’ Long December); Christina Hendricks in Broken Bells’ The Ghost Inside; Keanu Reeves in Paula Abdul’s Rush Rush; Macaulay Culkin in Michael Jackson’s Black or White; Zach Galifianakis in Kanye West’s Can’t Tell Me Nothin.

 

The Night Before

This is the most easily swallowed holiday movie I’ve ever seen. Maybe that reveals my inner Grinchiness, but the truth is, no matter how magical the season, my threshold for the trite & schmaltzy is painfully low. Every time a family literally gathers around a piano to sing carols, I want to slit my night-before-featwrists and douse all the mistletoe and twinkle lights in my eggnog-infused blood.

Ethan’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) parents died 14 years ago, and his two buddies Chris (Anthony Mackie) and Isaac (Seth Rogen) stepped up to the plate to make sure he’d never be alone at Christmas, establishing an annual tradition of getting right ripped the night before.

This movie is really just a Christmassy version of Rogen’s usual raunchy fare, but it’s worth it just to see Rogen and New York City all dressed up for the holidays – he in a garish Jewish version of the ugly-Christmas-sweater.

Chris is a rising star and Isaac’s about to become a daddy, so they’re hoping that this will be the grand finale on their Christmas obligations; Ethan, however, is stuck, and much less inclined to let go.

Isaac’s very pregnant wife has bestowed him with the penultimate holiday gift: a treasure box filled with drugs. It’s his last chance to go hog wild screen-shot-2015-07-29-at-15-20-21before the baby, and this is Seth Rogen at his best: manic, sweaty, trippin balls, panicked, and awkward. This wires their adventure with the kind of wacky energy we want and need in a film that dares to ask: how much r-rated nastiness can we possibly cram into the holiest of days? And may I just say: how refreshing to see the wife encouraging her husband to spend time with his pals instead of the usual wet-blanket cliche.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is charming as always, but cursed to play it straight in this movie (except for his elf face, which may be worth your $12 ticket alone). Anthony Mackie is the charismatic one who pinballs between the straight arrow and the hot mess, clearly having fun with his strut.

This movie isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as the trailer led me to believe. Some of the bits bog down the hijinks, but you never have to wait for long before the next chapter unfolds (my favourite bit being when Isaac attendsnightbefore3 midnight mass high as fuck – I may have accidentally punched Sean in the balls during that scene – may god, and Spencer, forgive me). This movie is both template-following in terms of Rogen stoner comedies, and refreshingly irreverent in terms of holiday fare: a weird mashup, but what else do you expect from a movie that worships both Run-DMC and Miley Cyrus?

 

Hits & Misses

Steve Jobs: This movie is underperforming at the box office right now so my expectations were tempered, but the truth is, I was the-intense-first-trailer-for-aaron-sorkins-steve-jobs-movie-paints-a-picture-of-an-egotistical-and-difficult-manriveted. Yes, riveted, for the entire 2 hours. Aaron Sorkin has crafted a film in 3 acts, all three covering the moments before big product launches and pivotal times in Jobs’ life. 1984: the Macintosh is launched just days after that historic Superbowl ad while Jobs is angry at having lost Time magazine’s Man of the Year to a computer in part because of his vehement denials of paternity to 5-year-old Lisa. 1988: after the failure of the Macintosh, Jobs has left Apple and is launching the NeXTcube with his eye on the bigger picture. 1998: back at Apple, he’s launching the iMac, computer of tomorrow. Jeff DBildschirmfoto-2015-07-03-um-11_47_44aniels plays the Apple CEO and Kate Winslet plays Jobs’ right hand woman; both exactly as brilliantly as you’d expect. Michael Fassbender is of course Jobs himself, and I have no qualms about his portrayal of an extremely complex man. He’s an egomaniacal dick, and yet we still see his humanity. The surprise for 11730-4866-2536097E00000578-0-image-a-27_1422709812751-2-xlme was Seth Rogen who plays Steve Wozniak, who is a very interesting character. He’s very much the affable, humble counterpart to Jobs’ mad genius, but is also the one who actually knows how to design and build computers (Jobs being more of an idea man). Rogen manages to strike a balance between being second banana, and also being the only one who can truly stand up to Jobs. Colour me impressed, Seth Rogen. Danny Boyle has a well-crafted beast on his hands – maybe a little too rigidly structured, but admirably made. I didn’t expect to love this, but I really did.

Truth: An icon playing an icon – Robert Redford portrays Dan Rather as he becomes embroiled in the journalistic snafu that would end his enviable career. In 2000, Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) was about to break the story of George Bush’s spotty military career. You may remember the highlights: that he pulled strings to be admitted to the National Guard in order to avoid service in Vietnam, then went AWOL and never really completed even that much. It was going to be a big deal inrather an election ultimately decided by just 500-odd votes, but that summer Mapes’ mother died and the story never aired. Four years later, though, the story is revived when someone comes forward with documents. Mapes and her team (Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid) bust it wide open after a lot of teasing and research and legwork, and Dan Rather presents the case on 60 Minutes. But of course Republicans were never going to let this 75story sit, and pretty soon the internet trolls are working feverishly to discredit whatever they can. Truth becomes not just a story about journalism, but about government corruption at the highest level. 60 Minutes is on CBS. CBS was owned by Viacom, a conglomerate that relied on government tax breaks. Can they afford to upset the presidency? Truth, the actual truth, gets lost somewhere in the shuffle. Sean felt it made a better story than a movie, and he may be right. Blanchett is note-perfect, and Redford surprised me – he doesn’t do an impression of Rather, but he does capture his cadence and persona in a way that felt convincing but not mimicky. The film, though, is pretty conventional, and it’s oddly paced. I absolutely believe that a journalist’s job is to ask questions,b ut that doesn’t mean I needed 18 different soliloquies on the topic. I have a headache from being hit over the head with this message. Relax, James Vanderbilt; your premise is solid and the movie is good if not great. No need to be so sanctimonious.

Jem: A complete defilement of my childhood, no 80s baby is going to have anything to do with this travesty. They’ve ruined everything that made the cartoon of our innocence great: the look is wrong (she used to be outrageous!), the sound is wrong, they’ve traded in a talJemMovie00-630x420king, hologramming computer for Youtube. I spent years as a little girl putting on Jem concerts in a neighbour’s garage, so I think I know what I’m talking about. Even the earrings were botched, for crying out loud. And where was the awesome rival band, the Misfits? Jem and the Holograms weren’t just rockstars, they were businesswomen, philanthropists, crime fighters, and foster mothers. While it aired during the mid-80s, it was in the top 3 most watched kids’ cartoons. Why then did the studios spit in the eye of the franchise by making a movie that was sure to fail? And isn’t even good enough to attract a new audience? How would jemaudiences have felt if the same was done to Transformers, a movie that, according to IMDB, had an estimated budget of $150M in 2007. A couple of years later, GI Joe was given $175M and even though the first one didn’t do all that great, they found another $130M to throw at the sequel. Jem, on the other hand, was given an estimated budget of just $5M. So let’s sit with that for a minute and ask ourselves why. Yes, the 80s version was goofy and over the top, but that beats the bland, paint by numbers crap this remake is offering. It’s trying so hard to appeal to millennials it completely denigrates any nostalgic appeal and alienates the people it was first made for. Epic fail.

50/50

50-50-movieCancer, you bitch. She strikes again in this weirdo comedy about a young, prime-of-life dude (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) when he’s struck down by a big, bad tumor with an ugly face. Okay, I made up the part about the face.

Lucky for JGL, he has emotionally stunted pal Seth Rogen along for the ride, who’s there to tell him bald is a bad look on him, and that if he was a casino game, his 50/50 odds would actually sound pretty swell.

Adam (JGL) is a super cautious guy. He waits at the cross walk for the signal to turn. He refuses to drive because accidents are a leading cause of death (true, a couple of slots behind cancer, 50-50-movie_jpgd600but still). When the doctor tells him of his tumour, his knee-jerk response is  “That doesn’t make any sense though. I mean I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I recycle… ” And we agree. It doesn’t make any sense. Cancer doesn’t play by any rules that we’re comfortable with.

Screen writer Will Reiser is using his own experience of cancer in his 20s to inform the script. His friend Seth Rogen was along for the ride and slips very comfortably into recreating the role. In real life, Rogen was apparently on the toilet when Reiser told him his diagnosis but that was deemed too gross to make the movie. They don’t pull many other punches, though: this isn’t your mother’s Terms of Endearment.

This is about a guy in his 20s 5050-007who gets very sick and faces his own mortality. Does he channel cancer sympathy to get himself laid? Sure he does. Does he consume lots of legal weed? You betcha. Does he have sex with hookers while skydiving? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out, but I will tell you this: it isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

This is a surprisingly grown-up script; it toggles between the drama and the laughs pretty seamlessly. It feels honest. Rogen is vulgar, but decent, and that begins to tug on you in quiet and unexpected ways. Director Jonathan Levine manages not to succumb to the usual morose 50-50_movie_screen_scene_40offerings of the genre and presents something touchingly humane. The excellence in casting extends to Bryce Dallas Howard as a girlfriend found wanting, Anjelica Huston gives a powerful turn as a fuss-budget mother, and Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall are welcome additions as co-cancer buddies. I’ll even magnanimously grant that Anna Kendrick is pretty funny as a newbie therapist trying real hard to walk the line. But it’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt who’s leading the pack with a really low-key, uncompromising performance.

 

 

 

 

The Interview

The only thing you need to know about this movie is that it’s profoundly dumb.

interviewWe rented this movie from Google Play on Christmas Eve with middling expectations and they were not exceeded. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are back at it again, both writing and directing, but not quite pulling off this strange and controversial movie. Had it been released as intended, it would have made some decent coin, maybe cracked the top 5 amid all the stellar Oscar contenders also released on Christmas day, but it would have struggled to find an audience in its second week, or to make much of a lasting impression. So thank you Kim Jong-un for giving this movie a crazy boost and a marketing angle that no other campaign could have touched.christmas

James Franco, doing an impression of his little brother Dave, plays Dave Skylark, celebrity interviewer. His producer, Aaron (Seth Rogen) aspires to more so when they hear that North Korea’s Supreme Leader is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him that they hope will lead to bigger and better fish. Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) intends to use the interview as yet another propaganda piece but the CIA have even loftier ambitions – they draft these two numbskulls to “take out” the tyrant.

Now, why on earth the CIA would entrust such a mission to these buffoons is beyond me. Well, okay, no it isn’t. They just wouldn’t. They couldn’t. So you really have to be willing to overlook the extreme wobbliness of this premise in order to enjoy the movie.

Rogen and Goldberg have proved themselves to be an amazing writing team but The Interview has none of the heart of Superbad or the guile of This is the End. And let’s face it, with the world’s youngest basketball-loving head of state, the jokes should write themselves. I mean, he’s a bad dude with more human rights violations than qualifications to run a country. He’d rather let his peasants resort to cannibalism than alter his hacking budget, but still, he’s a joke.

Rogen and Franco do earn lots of laughs. They’re charismatic guys, they work well together, and off each other, and they’re fun to watch. It’s just that the plot is built loosely around one-liners, and for some reason instead of sticking with what they know (socially awkward teenage boys, and smoking weed), the plot involves the assassination of a reclusive dictator. Weirdly, we’ve seen this before. In fact, I think you could oldkimsummarize Zoolander in nearly the same way: celebrities vs despot.

If you’re in the mood for a hilarious take on foreign policy, rewatch Team America: World Police. It’s more continuously funny and more worthy of the label ‘satire.’ But if you’re just a fan of Seth and James, you won’t find another Pineapple Express here, but you’ll find some shit to laugh at (sometimes literally, unfortunately). And in the name of patriotism and free speech and all that hullabaloo, maybe that’s enough.