Tag: james franco

MOVIE REVIEW | The Interview (2014)

The Interview

“Do not fight the tiger. You will lose”

Last year, Seth Rogen and Even Goldberg made a movie that made me laugh probably more than any other movie of 2013. This is the End could have crumbled under its own weight of meta, inside jokes. Rogen and his famous friends could have disappeared up their own asses as they played heightened versions of themselves. But somehow, Rogen and Goldberg pulled it off. They made themselves and their famous friends the butt of the jokes and those jokes were hilarious. All of that is to say This is the End had the advantage of my low expectations. But now, with that under their belt, I really wanted and expected The Interview to be good.

Dave Skylark (James Franco) hosts a sensational news interview show where he serves up puffy or baited questions to people like Eminem and Rob Lowe, so they can come out as gay and bald respectively. His Executive Producer Aaron Rappaport (Rogen), wants to do legitimate news. When they find out that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (Randall Park) is a fan of their show, they think it is the key to what they both want, mammoth ratings for Dave, journalistic respect for Aaron. They make a call, and after a clandestine meeting in remote China, the interview is a go. (more…)

***2013 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | This is the End

The End

There’s nothing worse than a trailer for comedy that shows all the jokes, so once you’re in the cinema, the only things left are the exposition and awkward struggle for an emotional payoff.  Well, This is the End is not that.  The trailer is hilarious and packed with solid jokes.  And even with all the teasers, sneak peeks and pre-release extras that come with an Apatow affiliated movie, that mountain of promotional material is still only a fraction of the non-stop jokes hurled at you every second of This is the End.  And the best part is, almost all of them hit their mark.

The trailer sets up what you’ll be dealing with.  Most of the Apatow crew, playing themselves, with a few pop culture cameos thrown in, are at a party at James Franco’s house.  The drugs, drink and douche baggery flow thick and fast until rudely interrupted by the apocalypse.  In what has the be one of the biggest mass character killings in comedy film history, almost everyone is offed in the first third, then the real movie kicks in.  How do entitled, spoilt, selfish, pampered, useless movie stars deal with a crisis?

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the movie focuses on Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robertson, Danny McBride, James Franco and Jay Baruchel playing heightened, not so flattering versions of themselves.  But that’s just the beginning.  What drives the story, the laughs and even the heart of This is the End, is how it uses preconceptions about these guys, and Hollywood stars in general.  It reinforces some stereotypes and character traits, overblows others to insane levels and flips a few completely on their head in ways that make sure there are plenty of surprises long after you expect the premise to have run out of steam.  It’s also great to see that nothing, including dubious film choices the actors have made in real life in the past, seems to be off limits.  The Green Hornet, Your Highness and their shared success based on playing Apatow-style man children all come under fire.

Writers (and first time directors) Rogen and Evan Goldberg have clearly learnt a lot under Judd Apatow and his fingerprints are all over this.  Especially in the vulgarity to heart ratio.  It’s a tried and tested recipe, plenty of swearing, insults and consistent aggression throughout, that somehow makes the heart and emotional climax seem totally earned and not at all schmaltzy.  I really was surprised at how invested I was in the “lesson” the heroes need to learn to survive the end of the days.   And even though I knew what was coming and had predicted exactly how it would happen the first time I saw the bright blue beams of light, Rogen and Goldberg manage to find plenty of ways to add twists and turns before you get there.  Especially through their use of the core characters.  I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to say not all of them learn a lesson, find redemption or get a happy ending.

This is the End is exactly what I was hoping for going in.  I’m a fan of the Apatow stable and got what I wanted.  Rogen and Goldberg prove jokes can be profane and smart at the same time, they prove the third act of a comedy doesn’t have to lose all momentum just so they can wrap up the plot, and they prove that they might have the healthiest perspective of anyone in Hollywood about how lucky they are the live the lives they live.  It takes real talent to highlight how much better you have it than your audience, but still make your characters sympathetic.

This is the End
Directed By – Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogan
Written By – Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogan

MOVIE REVIEW | Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)


Sam Raimi began the new millennium in real style.  The Bryan Singer X-Men movies were solid, but Raimi’s 2002 Spiderman is really responsible for the invasion of mega budget superhero franchises we’ve had since then.  He followed it up with a great first sequel and a not so great (but not as bad as people say) second sequel.  A couple of years of letting the disappointment of Spiderman 3 die down and he returned to his roots with a low budget horror movie called Drag Me to Hell that you probably never saw.  Meaning this year’s Oz the Great and Powerful was his return to a huge budget, big name stars and a property we’re all familiar with.  And I think he nailed it.

James Franco is Oscar “Oz” Diggs, a turn of the 20th century travelling magician and grifter.  When he works one con too many, he escapes his vengeful victims in a hot air balloon, flying right into tornado.  Until this point, everything is in square screened black and white.  As Franco takes in his new surroundings, the aspect ratio widens and the spectrum exploding colours fade in to show the land of Oz in all its glory.

Franco quickly meets a witch played by Mila Kunis, a winged monkey voiced by Zach Braff, another witch played Rachel Weisz’s Evenora. an anthropomorphised china doll named appropriately (or is that lazily), China Girl and yet another witch, this one played by Michelle Williams.  There’s a prophecy to live up to, a mountain of gold at stake, a war to be won and innocent lives to save.  And I’ll be buggered if Franco’s Oscar Diggs doesn’t also learn a few valuable lessons along the way.  This thing really does move at breakneck speed and never really stops for a breather.

One thing struck me half way through Oz.  If everything in The Wizard of Oz was just Dorothy’s dream, how and why does the world exist outside of her head?  Do her dreams come with back story to fill in what happened before she got there?  I’ve never read the source books by L. Frank Baum, and let’s be honest, I probably never will.  So maybe he explains this, but to me, that realisation sort of took the wind out of the movie’s sails a little.  But only a little.

Heavy reliance on CGI gets a lot of criticism, and generally it’s deserved, but when used well, like it is in Oz the Great and Powerful, it can be just another tool at a director’s disposal to tell their story in the best, most effective way.  The little China Girl is a great example.  She’s more realistic and more effective as a character than anything crapped out in Avatar.  The CGI is also offset by the old fashioned, mechanical nature of the gadgets the Diggs character and his band of Tinkers build to use in their fight against the evil sister witches.  Even though computers were used to create pretty much everything we see on the screen, the fact that they’re depicting Edison style, early 20th century inventions gives these super modern effects a certain old fashioned charm.

Oz the Great and Powerful will never have the enduring legacy or classic status of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, but if we had to get a 21st century, CGI heavy version of this world, I’m glad they gave the reigns to Sam Raimi.  And I’m glad he gave the lead role to James Franco who jumps in head first and really delivers on the charisma needed to make Oscar Diggs the conman and reluctant hero this movie needed.        

Directed By – Sam Raimi
Written By – Mitchell Kapner, David Lyndsay-Abaire