This Is the End (Film Review)

This Is the End (Film Review)

Recently released to Netflix Canada, the dark comedy This Is the End brings a little bit of Armageddon to the table for a group of Hollywood actors just trying to enjoy a good party at James Franco’s house.

end2Bordering between a black comedy and a gross-out comedy, This Is the End provides us with a fun view into a bunch of actors who are playing themselves in the film. A cast that includes modern funnymen such as Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and Jay Baruchel, interact together after an apocalyptic event stuns the city of Los Angeles and most people are pulled to the sky with mysterious lights. The survivors do their bumbling best to survive in Franco’s house, with meager supplies, and their fair share of idiocy standing in their way of survival, and ultimately, salvation.

end3There are a few laughs in the film, and it definitely takes on a darker tone than most might expect from a film with this ensemble cast. As the story moved forward, it came with it a surprisingly religious twist that I was not expecting. This is not the funniest film of the year, by any stretch, but there are enough light moments to make it entertaining enough to watch. The high Netflix star rating surprised me, as did the Rotten Tomatoes score of 8.3, and even a strong review from Roger Ebert.

end4Taking the film beyond the comedy aspect, however, it is a pretty decent movie, better than I would have expected. Going into it, I expected a film serving primarily as actors stroking their own egos by playing themselves, and forcing us to care about what would happen to them, above anybody else, should the end of days truly approach it. Instead, we like the characters as they are. There are feuds and issues between them, and they are more than willing to parody themselves in order to accentuate the gags of the film. As an audience member, it is fun to imagine Jay and Jonah hating each other in real life, and everybody seeming to have a man-crush on Rogen, as he serves as the glue that keeps the group together.

Overall, This Is the End is a better film than I expected, albeit a less funny one. With that, it is still worth a watch. There are many enjoyable cameos to enjoy, specifically from the initial party, which is a who’s who of Hollywood at this point in time. Not bad for some slightly more cerebral entertainment than expected.

Rock of Ages (Film Review)

Rock of Ages (Film Review)

Rock of Ages brings the Broadway hit to the big screen, and they do it in the best possible way: dripping with cheese.

I never saw the stage version of this, but now that I have seen the film, I think that I would like to. The story here is simple enough, a young girl heading out to Hollywood with stars in her eyes, where she meets up with her love interest and begins working at the biggest rock bar on the Strip. Here she is able to meet the whole cast of characters, including the burning-out rock star Stacee Jaxx, the biggest thing in music. It is a love story, and a story about fame, as one would expect. There is nothing new here, or particularly original. In fact, the whole film is very predictable and the plot is pretty lame.

But I loved it.

The first thing to discuss in a musical is, of course, the music. It is fantastic. Loaded with rock hits from the 1980’s, Rock of Ages brings new life to the songs, pumping them up, and often, creating them into new, likable, mashups. Probably due to the massive success of Glee, the mashup is an enjoyable new way to listen to old favorites. There is something pretty cool about hearing opposing sides of the street wailing on a version of “We Built This City” crammed together with “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” It’s fun. And that is all that this film tries to be. Fun. If the audience has a good time, then they have really done their job. They are not trying to recreate the musical genre, or provide us with an in-depth look at the perils of the ever-changing music industry. They just want us to laugh a little, and sit back and enjoy the music.

rock3The acting here, while not terribly good, is still fun. The headliner is the beautiful Julianne Hough, who has demonstrated before that she is not the greatest actress, but she makes some movies that are just plain entertaining (I’m looking at you, Footloose). She is always nice to look at, and has a pretty solid voice. She does a reasonably convincing job of portraying the hayseed from Oklahoma that has big dreams when she heads out West. Other stars have smaller roles, such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Alec Baldwin, and Russel Brand. They all get the chance to belt out some hits, as well. Some are great, some are misses, but overall, it seems like they had a good time putting this onto film. And that comes across to the audience, which makes the whole thing that much more lovable. They are having a good time, and so are we.

rock2A highlight has to be Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx. His performance is creepily convincing, as his rock god status is spiraling out of control at the bottom of a bottle, mixed in with groupies, as he is nearing the start of his solo career. Cruise is fun in this role, emulating Jim Morrison and Axl Rose in his stage performances and general demeanor. Love him or hate him, he works in this movie, and by the end, you have a tough time hating Jaxx, even though we probably should.

A little bit Coyote Ugly, a little bit Showgirls, a bit of the “Welcome to the Jungle” music video all mixed together gives us what Rock of Ages is: a fun musical with great tunes. Nothing too complex, nothing too life-changing. Kind of like the 80’s: just a good time.

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman

Today, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his apartment of an apparent heroin overdose. He was 46.

pshA great actor, gone too soon, as too many great actors are. He was great at what he did. The roles I remember him most fondly, and love him the most in, were as the crotchety old music writer in Almost Famous, the caring male nurse in the amazing Magnolia, the weird, just-trying-to-fit-in employee in Boogie Nights, and the non-believing baseball manager in Moneyball. And of course, there is the ultimate guilty pleasure that is Twister. That is not to say that he didn’t have a ton of other great movies. This was, after all, an actor who was nominated for Oscars four times in his career, winning once for his great turn as Truman Capote in Capote. He was always great at giving honest performances of often tortured or complex people, and I loved how he could run his lines in a very stream-of-consciousness type of delivery.

A sad loss for Hollywood, and for us, the audience, as we will no longer get to see his inspired performances.