Thursday, June 13, 2013

This Is the End - 4 stars

I'll come right out and say it.  This is the funniest movie I have seen in at least a year.  This will definitely be on my top 10 list in December.

Jay Baruchel goes to LA to visit his friend Seth Rogan, who invites him to a party at James Franco's house.  There are a lot of celebrities at the party, including Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Emma Watson ... the list goes on. 

What's different about this movie is that everyone plays themselves.  When Franco and Rogen are getting stoned, they start talking about ideas for Pineapple Express 2.  The party is a lot of fun.  Mindy Kaling wants to hook up with Michael Cera, who is a coked up womanizer.  Craig Robinson sings a song called "Take Your Panties Off" with Rihanna joining in. 

At some point, all hell breaks loose.  Literally.  The ground starts to shake and the earth opens up, with most of the partygoers falling to a fiery death.  The survivors include Baruchel, Rogen, Robinson, Hill, Franco, and Danny McBride (who wasn't invited to the party in the first place).  The rest of the movie consists of the 6 of them trying to survive in Franco's house.  They have limited rations, and there are monsters of some kind roaming around outside.

The movie reminds me of Shaun of the Dead.  It's a comedy, but it also takes the events of the apocalypse seriously.  There is violence and death at times.  It's actually pretty realistic about the way some people would probably behave in a situation like that. 

It's a lot of fun seeing these actors making fun of each other.  There are several references to the fact that Jonah Hill was nominated for an Oscar for Moneyball, and James Franco keeps props from the movies he is in.  And it was fun seeing the three leads from Superbad standing around together.

The only complaints I had about the movie was it's a little too long.  But the laughs kept on coming, and the ending is a lot of fun.  It was really raunchy, but funny is funny.  I loved this movie.

The Internship - 2 stars

The Internship reunited Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson 8 years after the hilarious Wedding Crashers.  This time, they play out of work watch salesman.  Since they have no skills, and apparently there are no more jobs for salesmen, their best plan is to try and become interns at Google.

This is a very predictable story that I've seen many times before.  The characters are established as losers right away.  Vaughn is being dumped by his girlfriend, and the only job Wilson can find is working for his sister's jerk of a boyfriend, played by Will Ferrell in his least funny cameo ever.  They don't know computers and they don't fit in with the other interns.  But if they want to succeed, they will have to overcome these obstacles.  By the end of the movie, they and their team of interns will have become better people.

In order for the story to work, the characters have to be computer illiterate.  But it's hard to believe than these guys are this dumb.  They have their interview in a google hangout, and they act like they have never seen a webcam before.  They think they have to shout into the mic to be heard.  And why are they interviewing together anyway?

When all the intern are put into teams, they are teamed up with the misfits (who actually seem pretty smart, and would have no trouble finding a team in real life).  Their first challenge is to find a bug in a program.  Vaughn and Wilson have no idea what this means.  Instead of shutting up and letting the computer experts try to figure it out, they won't shut up.  They start brainstorming, coming up with complete nonsense.  It's pretty annoying.  And even though I wouldn't expect them to be familiar with X-Men comics, there have been several highly successful X-Men movies.  The idea that neither of them would have any idea who Professor Charles Xavier is seems kind of far fetched.

Because this is that type of movie, once the team starts to work together, everything starts going their way.  Even though these guys knew less about computers than my 80 year old grandmother, after one night of studying they can handle any type of tech support call.  They become experts by osmosis, it seems.

I could overlook all these flaws of the movie if it were funnier.  But this material just seems tired.  Vaughn and Wilson don't have the creative energy they had in Wedding Crashers.  Maybe a better director could have helped them improvise some better lines.  They are playing the same characters they have played many times before.  And from the moment Wilson meets the lady executive, you know exactly how that romance is going to play out.

I think I laughed maybe 5 times in the entire movie.  The most creative part was the end credits, which must have been designed by Google. 

The Purge - 2 stars

Set in some kind of fascist America in the year 2022, crime is lower than ever.  Unemployement and poverty are almost gone, and once a year crime is legal for 12 hours.  The way it's explained to people is that it's in our nature to be violent, and if we have one day a year to let it all out, then we will be better behaved the rest of the year.

This is an interesting concept, and I could see it being used for a fun, violent grindhouse type movie.  Something like Death Race 2000, Running Man, or even Hunger Games.  What would this kind of society be like?  What would you do if anything was legal once a year?

The problem is instead of having fun with this concept and seeing what happens out in the streets, the entire movie takes place inside one house.  Ethan Hawke and his family have the house sealed up and plan on staying inside all night until the purge is over.  For reasons I won't say, people eventually get into the house and it becomes a simple home invasion story. 

The movie spends too much time building up to the purge.  After all this buildup, nothing happens for a good 20-30 minutes.  It's only the last half hour or so that stuff starts to happen.  It doesn't really make much sense for the best home security system around, built specifically to keep a family safe from intruders, would be so easy to get around.  Once the bad guys show up and say they are going to get in, Ethan Hawke tells his wife that yes, it won't be very hard for them to break in. 

Mild spoilers (which won't really hurt your enjoyment of the movie) - what was the daughter's boyfriend's plan?  He hides inside the house, has a gun, and waits until the house is locked up before he goes to tell her dad that he loves her?  Why did he bring the gun?  I thought he was positioning himself inside the house so he would be able to terrorize the family once the purge began.  Was his plan to kill Ethan Hawke?  It wasn't clear what his intention was, since he confronts the dad at the same time the homeless guy gets in.  There is a quick shootout, the homeless guy is loose somewhere, and the boyfriend is dead.  It seems like that was really pointless.  They could have removed the boyfriend character and it wouldn't have affected the movie at all.

Also, once the parents know that their home is about to be invaded, they do the dumbest things imaginable.  They don't try to make any kind of plan.  They don't go find a good place to fight from.  They don't even stay together, to watch each other's backs.  They could have started shooting the bad guys as soon as the door was open.  But no, they let the invaders walk in, they split up, and walk around the darkened house with guns, hoping to shoot first. 

I was bored and annoyed by this movie.  Bored because it's mostly setup with very little payoff, and annoyed because they could have done so much more with this premise.  Hopefully there will be a direct to DVD sequel that will have some balls, which this movie doesn't.

Now You See Me - 3 stars

Four magicians (including Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson) are recruited by a mysterious benefactor to do ... something.  We don't know what.  A year after they are brought together, they perform a show in Las Vegas where a man is picked at random from the audience, teleported into a bank vault half way around the world, and the money from the vault rains down on the audience.

Did they really teleport him, or is it just an illusion?  If it was, then how is it the bank was really robbed?  The FBI figure they were responsible, they just don't know how they pulled it off.  So after questioning and releasing them, an FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) follows them to New Orleans to witness their next show.

Going in, I thought this would be a movie about magicians.  But it's really a caper film.  And the main character is the FBI agent.  We spend a lot more time watching him track the magicians than we do with the magicians themselves.

My biggest problem with the movie is the magic acts themselves.  As anyone who has ever been to a magic show knows, you know you're watching a trick.  The fun is trying to figure out how it was done.  Or you don't try, and you just enjoy the illusion.  Movies can use editing and special effects to pull off any trick.  That's ok, as long as the filmmakers don't make the trick look like CGI.  The Prestige was a great example of this.  I'm sure they used editing to make it look like Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman were pulling off those illusions, but they looked like tricks a human could perform in the real world (except for the teleportation stuff at the end, but that was part of the story). 

In this movie, they do tricks that are impossible.  For example, when they make the teleportation device appear on stage.  Nothing wrong with taking an empty stage, pulling a black cloth in front of the audience, and then having the cloth drop to reveal a big machine.  But in this movie, the black cloth has to appear out of thin air and fly around the stage.  It's obviously CGI.  Also the bit where the magicians blow big bubbles and fly out over the audience is rediculous.

So I would have liked the movie more if they had tried a bit harder to make the magic shows seem like real magic shows.  I kept expecting them to reveal that these guys were wizards with real magic power.  But in the end, it's all supposed to have been illusion. 

Also, the ending kind of ruins it.  I won't spoil who the mysterious benefactor is or what his/her motiviations are, but it feels like a letdown.

Anyway, I'm giving the movie 3 stars because I still enjoyed it.  Ruffalo carried the story well and I was never bored.  Not a bad heist movie.