Tag Archives: Seth Rogen

Observe and Report

When we were in Mexico I was reading a book about cyber warfare – not your typical beach read mind you but very informative and interesting (David Sanger’s The Perfect Weapon). Among many things it discussed the Sony hack. Basically, North Korea was very mad about a Seth Rogen movie called The Interview that involved the assassination of their leader. Apparently North Koreans can’t take a joke. I mean, lots of North Americans don’t find Seth Rogen particularly funny either, but most of them don’t commit cyber crime in retaliation. They released a whole bunch of very embarrassing emails for Sony but it actually had the opposite effect. Whereas the big whigs had been debating pulling the plug on The Interview, now they HAD to release it so that the terrorists didn’t win or some such American flag-waving sentiment. So they got a theatre and VOD release and a bunch of us watched it just to see what the fuss was all about.

I rewatched it out of curiosity but found that I’d already reviewed it on this site and I was shocked to find that we’ve been at this that long (it came out in 2014) but my opinion hasn’t wavered much. It is profoundly dumb and yet if you’re a fan of Rogen’s, you will find a chance or two to chuckle. But the movie really did benefit from North Korea’s interference, spurring a marketing campaign that money couldn’t buy and Hollywood couldn’t think up.

On a Seth Rogen kick, I gave Observe and Report a second chance as well. And the truth is, I found it even harder to laugh at this one. Rogen plays mall security guard Ronnie, hopelessly in love with makeup counter girl Brandi (Anna Faris) and even more hopelessly determined to be a real cop. When a flasher starts haunting the mall, Ronnie sees it as his opportunity to shine and does not take kindly to a real detective, the surly detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), stealing his thunder.

Possibly it’s hard to genuinely laugh at Ronnie because he’s dubbed bipolar and his single-minded delusions just come off as illness. Or possibly it’s because the film has a real mean streak. But probably it’s because the script is bad and director Jody Hill didn’t have the chops to wrangle his cast and crew. The film is simply too sloppy to guess whether Hill’s script is subversive or actually deeply racist and misogynistic. I can tell you that it feels like laughter borne in ignorance and I’m just not comfortable joining in. We deserve better, and frankly, so does Ronnie.

The Lion King (2019)

I’m still unconvinced by all these Disney remakes, and I’m particularly skeptical about “live action” remakes that aren’t actually live action at all, but just fancier animation. That said, I didn’t hate The Lion King (2019), and that’s head and shoulders (or can I say mane and tails) ahead of where I thought we’d be. I was fully prepared to hate this but instead the CGI animation’s beauty and realism swept me away. But while that sounds like a strength, it’s also the movie’s weakness.

The thing about traditional animation, like the original The Lion King (1994), is that literally ANYTHING can happen in a cartoon. They’re not constrained by any limitations. Your heart can awooooooga out of your chest when you’re in love, your feet can pedal a car, you can literally levitate off the ground in sheer happiness. And yes, a cross section of jungle animals can come together in perfect harmony.

The problem with this gorgeous, accurate, and photo-real animation is that these lions, who look exactly like the ones you see on National Geographic (minus the buttholes and genitals, Sean wants you to know), are still being made to talk. And sing. But not dance. That would be crazy. So director Jon Favreau and company are asking you to embrace the realism of Scar, who has none of his cartoony presence, but suspend your disbelief enough to invests in his sibling rivalry and Hamlet-style ambition, but then not be too disappointed when they drastically cut his big musical number.

Recently, while reviewing the earlier Toy Story movies, I noted, with some wonder, that Woody has 229 animation points of movement in his face. But while The Lion King’s animation WILL astonish you down to the dew drops in a spider’s web, the animals’ faces remain nearly blank. Their mouths move minimally, to indicate that they are speaking, but there’s not a lot of expression going on there, and I can’t help but feel that this gets in the way of my investing in them emotionally. The original Simba cried when his father died. He was a mere cartoon character, but I felt for him. When I re-screened the movie recently, that scene nearly broke me, reminding me of my nephew and his relationship with his dad. The new movie just couldn’t move me in the same ways.

And it’s not just the emotion that’s lacking, it’s the joy. I Just Can’t Wait To Be King is one of my all-time favourite Disney songs, but it’s not quite the same because in “real life,” ostriches don’t allow lions to ride them. So I’ve heard. And it’s hard to get zebras and giraffes and hippos to agree on choreography. So the song still sounds great, but there’s a little less pizzazz to the musical number.

Speaking of songs: you may have heard Beyonce is on board, voicing the grown-up Nala, and contributing an Oscar-eligible brand new song to the film’s soundtrack. I sort of thought I might miss some the iconic voice work from the original film: Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Jeremy Irons. But in fact, the 2019 film does an excellent job of filling those roles. It’s different, but it works. Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, Alfre Woodard, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner: it’s a tall list, packed with talent, and everyone’s working at peak capacity. But I will say: it’s actually really great to have James Earl Jones return in his role as Mufasa. First, it seems impossible to replace him, and harder still to find someone with balls enough to try those step into those paws. But mostly it feels like he is passing the baton; he’s a link from the old to the new (it’s been 25 years!) and it is comforting as heck to hear that voice again.

Most of The Lion King 2019 edition is a toned-down recreation of the original, but there are a few new scenes, expanded roles for Timon & Pumbaa, and especially for some of the female members of the pride, drawing inspiration from the Broadway musical where Nala and Sarabi are featured more prominently. I mean, if you get Beyonce, you use her, ya know?

I suppose if you’ve never known another Lion King, this one has a lot to recommend it. For fans of the original, this one won’t really compare. But if you’ve got room in your heart for two Lion Kings, you might just feel the love (tonight).

Long Shot

On my more cynical days, I sometimes feel the only reason we have cinema is so that unattractive men can kiss beautiful women who would otherwise be unattainable to them. No shade against Seth Rogen, but let’s face it: the man is a schlub. An endearing, lovable schlub, sure. But Rose Byrne? Michelle Williams? Elizabeth Banks? Let’s call it a stretch of the imagination, one that Hollywood asks us to take a little too often. In this particular movie, it’s Charlize Theron, while Seth’s character, in a ubiquitous teal windbreaker, is actually mistaken for a homeless man.

Charlotte Field (Theron) is not just a beautiful, out-of-his-league woman, she’s the goddamn Secretary of State. Fred Flarsky (Rogen) is not exactly a slouch: he’s a journalist MV5BZWVhODA5ZmItOWYwOC00OTU3LWJiNTEtODcwMDIyMTBjZWY3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1291,1000_AL_who goes the extra mile to get a juicy story, BUT he just got fired. Well, okay, he quit on principle, but the net effect is, he’s unemployed. Which kinda works out perfectly because the Secretary of State is about to announce her run for President, and she just needs someone with a comedic touch to punch up her scripts a bit. Enter Fred, who in fact has crossed paths with her before. She was the babysitter he had prepubescent chub for, and maybe he’s been carrying just the tiniest lit torch ever since.

Anyway, Fred is the last man on earth Charlotte should be falling for just as she’s about bet her life on the polls. And yet, hormones. Theron and Rogen have some major oddball chemistry going. It turns out Theron can hold her own in pretty much any movie. But this one is more interested in pointing fingers at the ridiculousness of their pairing than exploring who either of them are as people, or explaining how exactly Fred is worthy of Charlotte (or indeed the other way around – their romance is largely inexplicable).

It works adequately as a superficial, no questions asked rom-com, and moderately better as a political comedy. There’s a familiar cynicism there, but it’s nowhere near as biting or incisive as Veep. Still, I laughed. And Sean snorted. That counts for something in an era where the comedy genre should probably be renamed “attempt at comedy.” It’s kind of a crap shoot, but Long Shot turns out to be a pretty good bet.

Take This Waltz

Margot and Daniel meet over the whipping of an adulterer in old Montreal (one of this old-timey reenactment thingies). It’s brief, and it’s awkward, but they’re not exactly displeased to find each other sitting side by side on the plane ride home to Toronto. They’re pithy and flirty with each other, and it seems fairly cracking until the split cab ride home reveals two alarming truths: Daniel (Luke Kirby) is Margot’s neighbour, which prompts Margot (Michelle Williams to hurriedly confess that she is married. Happily. To Lou the cookbook writer (Seth Rogen).

Gem Sarah Polley writes and directs, and through her scenes of mundane domesticity, we see a content and comfortable marriage. The detail in their MV5BMTQwMTc2MTY2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDQ5NjU3Nw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1503,1000_AL_coupledom, the weird little quirks that pepper their relationship, these things are so specific they feel true. This couple feels solid. But while Margot knows inner contours of Lou’s every thought, Daniel is tantalizingly unknown. It’s hot: both the steaming Toronto summer and the relationship growing between neighbours. Maybe it’s even hotter because they’re trying to be good. Margot’s trying to be married to Lou, who gives her no reason to stray, and yet. And yet Daniel is mysterious and alluring. He’s new. Falling in love is not just about this other person, it’s about seeing your best self through their eyes. Of course Lou still thinks she’s beautiful, but beautiful in the way of a couple who’s been together a long time and hardly notices each other anymore. Beautiful even though he’s seen her bloated, he’s seen her blemished, he’s seen her hangry and petty and wearing sweat pants for 3 days straight. Beautiful in a way that when she’s naked in the shower, he’s more concerned about pranking her than ogling her body. Meanwhile, Daniel is deeply fetishizing her. She’s still a manic pixie girl to him, full of dark corners and intoxicating unavailability.

And here’s the true truth that Sarah Polley eventually gets around to: the grass isn’t greener. Or rather, the grass is greenest where you water it. Don’t take love for granted and don’t mistake novelty for connection. Take This Waltz is bittersweet and filled with melancholy despite having a saturated look about it, with reds that pop and yellows that burn like sunshine. It’s a great little movie that’s depressingly honest – a romance that defies its genre.

Knocked Up

A little later than most, we’ve been watching Dirty John on Netflix. It’s apparently based on a true story, about a woman who gets stuck in an abusive relationship with a pathological liar, thief, and drug addict – John, played by Eric Bana. To cleanse our palettes I suggested we find a movie featuring Eric Bana in a  nicer light but perusing his filmography on IMDB, we discovered that Bana’s good movies are fewer and further between than we’d imagined. Troy? King Arthur? Lone Survivor? No thanks. I had this foggy memory of a movie where the characters discuss Eric Bana, and how his role in Munich would get them all laid that night. So, logically, instead of watching Munich, we watched Knocked Up, which doesn’t have Eric Bana at all, but does have the above mentioned scene. It seemed easier to digest.

26JPMAUDE1-jumboIn it, a straight-laced TV producer, Alison (Katherine Heigl), gets drunk and has sex with an improbable mate, stoner Ben (Seth Rogen), and though that encounter is destined to be a one-night stand, she gets pregnant and it forces them together way beyond what’s reasonable for a couple of opposites.

Actually, I accidentally just referenced this movie the other day. Seth Rogen has another movie coming out, another romantic comedy (or as romantic as a guy like Rogen can tolerate) and in my mind, I thought it was Katherine Heigl again. It isn’t. It’s actually Charlize Theron. Sean suggested my mistake meant that somewhere in the world, Charlize was feeling vaguely insulted without knowing why. Sorry Charlize.

Anyway, Knocked Up is sort of funny. Actually, it’s definitely funny, thanks in no part to Katherine Heigl, but thanks in large part to its very talented extended cast – including early inclusions of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig who both maximize small roles. And VF_OSCAR_2019_JB_190224_CARD_03_0324Harold Ramis as Rogen’s father, who is a delight for every single moment he’s on screen. Leslie Mann plays Alison’s sister, married with kids, who were played by her real-life kids with writer-director Judd Apatow, Maude and Iris Apatow. Which is crazy because the kids are teeny tiny in this movie, but in 2019, Maude Apatow just went to the Vanity Fair Oscars party with her parents, looking very grown up. And we saw her last year at SXSW at the premiere of her mother’s movie, Blockers. She’s a lady now. Katherine Heigl is washed up. And Oscar winner Charlize Theron is signed on for the next Seth Rogen movie. What a crazy world in which we live.

Anyway, this is a better movie than you’d think. It kind of has some smart and sad stuff to say about marriage – it’s weirdly wise for a movie that makes fart jokes, and more raw and explicit about the realities of birth than any drama has dared to be. It may not have Eric Bana in it, but it did restore our faith in humanity, so job done, DVD we found in our garage.

Like Father

Rachel, a workaholic, gets left at the altar by stinky Owen who never deserved her anyway. But that’s only the second worst thing that happens to her that day: her estranged father, a shithead who doesn’t even have cupholders, crashes her wedding and witnesses her heartbreak and humiliation. Ouch.

Rachel (Kristen Bell) compounds the chaos by agreeing to go drinking with dad Harry (Kelsey Grammer) and in their inebriation, they somehow end up on the cruise that was meant to be her honeymoon. Drama!

Rachel and Harry make loads of friends on their weird little daddy-daughter cruise (including a dashing, divorced Canadian) but will they help their rapprochement or MV5BNzI2MTc5OTEyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjE1NjIwNjM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_drive them further apart? Oh who am I kidding – there’s isn’t a single inch of this movie you don’t see coming, but somehow I don’t mind the cornball cutesie comedy of it all because Grammer and Bell have such a sweet chemistry between them. There’s pretty much nothing of Bell’s that I won’t give a go, she’s so luminous and honest and I just find her enjoyable and I’m pretty sure that would be true even if she was changing a tire, or the laundry, or her mind for the 15th time as we stand outside the movie theatre in the rain.

Like Father was written and directed by the dashing Canadian’s wife, Lauren Miller Rogen, who I only know from Hilarity for Charity, a comedy event that fund-raises for her Alzheimer’s foundation, which does spectacular work. I think it’s cool that she’s testing out her talents and interests, and Netflix is a good place for a budding director (she’s only got a couple of shorts that are more than a decade old under her belt) to gain some experience. And even if she’s a noob, she’s clearly been around film making for some time, and for every generic scene there’s just a hint of something better.

Although, to be fair, as the daughter of an estranged father, there’s pretty much no amount of sequined blazers that have the power to reunite us. But even a cold, dark heart like mine can be made slightly lukewarm by the power of forgiveness and karaoke.

Paul

There’s just something right to me about a Nick Frost – Simon Pegg pairing. And this movie celebrates their inherent dweebitude. Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are just a couple of nerds visiting the U.S. for comic con and then an alien-themed road trip, you know, Area 51, Roswell, New Mexico, all those popular conspiracy theorist tourist traps. Only this road trip just happens to bring them a real alien, and his name is Paul (voiced\motion captured by Seth Rogen).

MV5BMTQxODA4NDc2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjQzMDQ2NA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_.jpgPaul crash-landed here decades ago and has put up amiably with interrogation and testing, but he’s making his escape now that the only thing left is to slice and dice him. Is the government simply going to let him get away? Of course not. Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, and Joe Lo Truglio are all hot on his tail (he doesn’t have a tail). Graeme and Clive have an RV and a religious one-eyed woman named Ruth (Kristen Wiig) and that’s about it: not ideal fleeing-the-government provisions, but it’ll have to do.

Paul is a love letter to science fiction fans. Pegg and Frost made the film’s pilgrimage in real life, and based the script on some of their odd encounters. The idea first came to them on a rainy night on the set of Shaun of the Dead, where they quickly sketched the character. Cameos and references to pop (science) fiction abound – how many can you spot? Paul is a real tribute to the genre but also just genuinely funny, even for those of us without an intrinsic love of extraterrestrials. This isn’t an excellent movie, but it’s a good enough movie, and frankly, it’s funnier than anything presently in theatres.