This Is the End

You’re glad when This Is the End comes to an end. Sure, it’s got some laughs, particularly early on, and its emotional end is kind of warm, but otherwise, this is a self-indulgent flick that should never have been expanded from the short film it is based on.

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The deets:

Released June 12, 2013

Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on the short film by Jason Stone

Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen

Starring Rihanna, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, and cameos from plenty of other celebs.

Rated: R

*     *     *     *     *

In This Is the End, the actors play characters that are ostensibly more nutzo and ridiculous versions of themselves.

Story

Jay Baruchel arrives in LA to spend a weekend or so with his pal, Seth Rogen. They have a day of video games and pot smoking and wind up at James Franco’s house for a big party. Baruchel is anti-social and doesn’t really want to be there, but he goes at Seth’s urging.

At the party are a large number of recognizable faces, including Rihanna, Aziz Ansari, the names listed above, and the sadly unfunny Kevin Hart. Before long, Baruchel wants to ditch the festivities, but Rogen convinces him to stick around. But then the Rapture happens and the Apocalypse shows up and everything goes to pot.

None of the celebrities are taken up in the initial Rapture. Most of them die messily, leaving the group of Baruchel, Rogen, Franco, Hill, Robinson, and McBride to try to find a way to survive the apocalypse. Baruchel starts quoting from the book of Revelations, although the quotes we hear aren’t really from the Bible; they’re paraphrases and purely made up.

After a fiasco with Emma Watson, the group of selfish survivors has to figure out what’s going on. Finally they come to a realization that they might need to be nice to others, leading to the final scenes where friendship and sacrifice lead to a very disturbing vision of heaven.

Critique

The central premise of This Is the End is funny enough for a skit or very short film: celebrities play awful versions of themselves shoved into an apocalyptic situation wherein they do desperate things to stay alive. The visions of Cera being some kind of girl magnet and these people being more awful to others than we could imagine provide several very funny moments. There are even some solid scenes of dialogue and physical comedy that provide bright spots.

But the story takes a back seat to gross-out humor and celebrities making tongue-in-cheek jokes that seem designed to make the audience think, “Gosh these guys are cool and don’t take themselves seriously.”

Only Franco really was able to find an actual character to play and he does a bang up job. Everybody else coasts and the film drags and its payoff is, while momentarily warming and entertaining, pretty flat.

Ultimately, This Is the End has one joke that it tells over and over in several different ways, and that joke can’t carry the film through some truly gross and graphic language and visuals and scenes. This is a lazy, self-indulgent, mostly flat, surprisingly boring movie.

Stay away from this one. Why audiences loved the movie so much says very bad things about the people who love it.

Content warnings: Everything bad and awful you can imagine is in this, save for female nudity. Language, bloody violence, etc– all there.

Writing: 1          Acting: 2.5          Overall: 1.5

Share this review so people know not to spend any money or time or soul on this movie. Seriously. Get the word out; it’s trash.

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Battleship

Look, Battleship is another movie based on a game/toy and that’s a bit ridiculous. But you gotta give Peter Berg props for really going for the gold ring here and all in all, Battleship is actually a surprising amount of fun, mainly because it knows it’s pretty ridiculous.

Here’s a preview:

Here are the deets:

Released May 18, 2012

Written by Erich Hoeber and John Hoeber

Directed by Peter Berg

Starring Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Tadanobu Asano, and Jesse Plemons

Rated: PG-13

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Battleship begins with Alex Hopper (Kitsch) screwing up his life royally as his brother, Stone Hopper (Skarsgard), an officer in the Navy, watches. Romantically, Alex screws his life up in the pursuit of a girl he finds irresistible, Sam Shane (Decker), because he just has to get her a chicken burrito.

Stone is torqued off at his brother and makes him join the Navy so he can turn his life around. Apparently Alex does this, because the story then picks up with Alex somehow being a Lieutenant, yes an officer, and dating Sam. Based on dialogue, it’s probably been about two years. The lovebirds want to get married.

But first, Alex has to demonstrate he’s still a rogue by being a total stud but reckless in the soccer game that is part of the RimPac International Navy Exercises. Then Alex has to ship out with the rest of the Hawai’i based navy fleet for the exercises. Also, the commander of the fleet is Admiral Shane (Neeson), who is Sam’s father.

Unfortunately the naval exercises are interrupted by invading aliens who wipe out the fleet’s ability to communicate and use normal radar, and the aliens also isolate Alex’s destroyer, his brother’s destroyer, and the destroyer commanded by Alex’s Japanese nemesis, Nagata (Asano). What’s more, Sam, the fiancee, is a physical therapist who is taking a walk up a mountain with a crippled vet who thinks he’s less than a man. That mountain happens to have a huge communications array on it.

Now stop and think this through. Can you guess what’s going to happen? Is someone going to die to make the emotional stakes high? Is there going to be a grudging respect formed between nemeses? Is the vet going to have a chance to redeem himself?

That’s the story.

Critique

I’ve mocked enough. The movie is cliched and cheesy and delightfully so. The only time it takes itself seriously is when Admiral Shane is honoring a group of older naval soldiers. Not a lot of effort went into trying to craft surprising plot twists and the cleverest and most authentic of dialogue.

But think it through again. Alex misses the game-winning goal, despite the classic build up to what would typically be a winning scene. A clever, physics-defying move wins the day. Teamwork and trust and determination prove vital to victory.

This movie is all heart and effects. It’s aware of its cheesiness and pokes intermittent fun at the sometimes unbelievable dialogue of the soldiers. Watch for the scientist who asks, “Who talks like that?” The scientist who comes through in the end.

Every note that this kind of movie is supposed to hit is hit, right on. It’s not overwrought like Armageddon, not melodramatic like stuff by Michael Bay. It’s practically a love letter to the Navy, only with incredible stationery and penmanship.

I was thoroughly entertained. The acting had some good and some ‘meh’ moments. Liam Neeson is wasted, but Rihanna does a nice job. This is also Taylor Kitsch’s best work. Jesse Plemons (who was in Friday Night Lights with Kitsch (which was developed by Peter Berg, the director)) plays his FNL character, Landry Clark, on a military ship. Jesse’s going to need to get some acting lessons under his belt. Asano does a fine job as Nagata.

The writing is very self-aware, which serves the movie well. If it had tried to take itself seriously, like the Transformers films, it would have been a disaster. However, we never really find out what it is the aliens want. They would have been a lot more interesting if we knew what they were after.

Then there’s the issue of physics. Just forget everything you know about physics and you’ll have a much better time in Battleship.

Finally, as evidence of the self-awareness and light-heartedness of the script, notice how the dialogue treats harsh language. A very nice touch. And if you want to see the set-up for the sequel (because there will be one), stay to the end of the credits.

Content warnings: some mildish profanity and plenty of explosions and non-graphic violence.

Writing: 4          Acting: 3.5           Overall: 3.5

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