This Is The End (2013)

This Is The End (2013)

You know what I like? When films are meta and self-referential. When they’re not afraid to mock themselves or even parody themselves to some extent. I like it even more when actors are willing to poke fun at themselves on-screen. I mean, they must all be aware of their public persona and the way they’re depicted in the media. That’s why it’s great when they get involved with roles / pieces that poke fun at themselves, no matter how subtly. From Zach Galiafanakis‘ Between Two Ferns webisode series of interviews through to Bill Murray in Zombieland, where he answers “do you have any regrets?” with “Garfield, maybe”. I like it. So, how do you make a film about the rapture and the end of days a bit comical? Well, how about getting some of the industry’s current comedic frat-pack and throwing them into the film… as themselves…

This Is The End (2013)

Yes, This Is The End tells the tale of how the world will end – all fire and brimstone whilst the good are raptured into heaven and the rest of us are abandoned here as the Earth becomes engulfed in flames and is dominated by demonic entities. So where does our film decide to position itself for this apocalyptic event? James Franco‘s house warming party of course. And who else is there? Let’s throw in Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride. Not enough for you? Then how about Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and a whole heap of others. Yes, this is one star-studded film. But don’t for a second think back to the appalling Movie 43 as a reference point here. Thankfully, This Is The End is a far better movie… and is actually rather funny!

This Is The End (2013)

What’s most pleasing about the film is the rapport and on-screen dialogue between the stars. Some are really sending up their characters and acting in a totally atypical way, such as Michael Cera, whilst others embrace how the public perceives them, such as Seth Rogan and James Franco. Rogan has jokes thrown at him about his wooden acting, jarring laugh and inability to play a different character, whilst Franco embraces this artsy, higher-than-thou attitude he’s sometimes painted as having owing to his personal dalliances with trying to acquire every degree under the sun in his spare time. It is simply very, very funny to watch. All of the actors work brilliantly as an ensemble – quite how much is ad-lib and how much is scripted, I’m not entirely sure, but it all works seamlessly.

But what of the plotting? What starts out as a somewhat loose and meandering premise: “oh it’s the end of the world”, suddenly becomes quite compelling and I genuinely found myself enrapt in the world of the rapture. I wanted to know how Franco et al. were going to get out of this situation! Things also got a little crazy when the film started to actually spend money on special effects… you see, This Is The End is quite low tech for the most part; relying heavily on the rapport between the characters and their humorous dialogue. This is great, and thankfully works… but the film turns on its head in its final act. You see, what started out as a humorous little romp about the end of the world turns into something rapidly approaching horror.

This Is The End (2013)

Yes, you read that right… This Is The End actually brings in some effective scares and beautifully animated demons and nasties into the mix. I liked this. Even if it did make me think I was watching the dog-demons from Ghostbusters at one point. I found this change of pace and tone to be quite refreshing and really kept me entertained until the bitter end. The movie doesn’t market itself this way, which is a bit perplexing, but nevertheless – I enjoyed it!

This Is The End (2013)

That brings us to the humour… what of it? As I’ve alluded to until now, the humour works and had me laughing. For the most part. Maybe I’m getting a little too long in the tooth nowadays, but drug jokes / gore jokes / dick jokes don’t make me laugh as much as they used to. And there are a lot of those jokes in here. If you’re not a fan of Superbad, Pineapple Express or any other of the films associated with Seth Rogan and chums, you’re probably not going to be too impressed. Thankfully, for the movie, I am for the most part. But this is probably the film’s biggest weakness, because if you’re not a fan of this humour, you’re going to strongly dislike the movie itself. This is a shame as I genuinely think you should nip out and see this whilst you can.

This Is The End can stand proud: it’s a movie that lives up to the sum of its parts. It doesn’t collapse under its own star power and doesn’t bill itself as the “greatest ensemble cast ever assembled” like that Movie 43 abomination. What you have here is a sharp, funny and mildly horrifying take on the end of the world. It won’t be to everybody’s tastes, that’s for sure, but if you’re at least a fan of some of the stars in this movie then it’ll definitely appeal to you. I can quite confidently state that this may be the best comedy of 2013 so far… but unless the end of the world comes tomorrow, this may yet change… stay tuned!

“It’s the end of the world as we know it”… Well, that’s what REM sang a good while ago. Sure, the rapture looks horrific in This Is The End and I wouldn’t fancy squaring up to any of those demons. But I’m trying to wonder what I’d rather be faced with… a lifetime of fire and brimstone, being tracked down by fierce looking demons, or being forced to watch and re-watch Movie 43 over and over again… Hmmm… just how hot are those coals again??

Phage Factor:

4 Star

ParaNorman (2012)

It’s not unusual for a children’s movie to pander to adults as well as their target demographic nowadays. Gone are the times of cartoons that were simplistic and one dimensional. Now you can expect sub-plots, innuendo and pop culture references galore that are designed to amuse adults whilst the children laugh at an animal slipping on a banana skin, or whatever trite is passing as comedy in the newest Madagascar movie… probably something involving Chris Tucker talking gibberish. This brings us nicely to ParaNorman – a movie which on face value is for children: it’s animated, doesn’t contain bad language and stars a child protagonist. But after watching it I’m not entirely sure ParaNorman knows exactly who it’s for, or what it wants to be…

Just your typical American family. Two parents, two kids… and a spectral grandma.

The eponymous Norman is a bit of an outcast: he’s bullied at school, harassed by his father and sees dead people. Wait, what? Yes, Norman takes a page out of The Sixth Sense‘s play book insofar that he can see the deceased as ghosts. Not only this, but he can talk to them and yes, you guessed it – no-one else can. The premise of the film, once we get over the alienation pretense, is that Norman is tasked with preventing a witch’s curse from resurrecting the dead in zombie form. And I won’t be ruining anything by saying that the lack of belief by the townsfolk results in the dead rising and creating merry mayhem.

Now from first glance this should automatically be flagging up some issues for a “children’s” movie where there are ghosts and the undead at play. But the film gets incredibly emotional and poignant towards its climax too. Not in the Up way, but it still resonated strongly with me. It also brought up some rather mature “adult” issues in the closing five minutes too that provoked several youths to exclaim “WHAT?!” (when you see the film, you’ll pinpoint this moment fairly accurately).

All this being said… is the movie any good? After all, that’s why you’ve come to Film Phage isn’t it? Well it is a good movie (a very good one)… but it’s not a great one. Although the film runs in at just over 90 minutes, I felt that the first act took an absolute age to develop. Yes, we understand that Norman is an outcast that leads a sombre life, but it was very plodding. I’ll admit that this added a lot of emotional weight and poignancy to the film’s pay off at the end, but it still seemed laboured. The film never gripped me in a way that so many others (both animated and not) have this past month. And I bloody love zombies.

However, what the film does do right, it does in spades. Firstly: those visuals. The film employs an absolutely beautiful use of stop-motion to create a world that’s alive and bustling. This isn’t Wallace & Gromit “clunky” stop-motion – this is a seamless use of the technique. Every set and character looks lovingly crafted and created and there’s no doubt that a lot of effort has been spent making the world so rich. And if you’re recognising that “look”, then it’s because it’s come from the makers of Coraline – another movie that was marketed as a “children’s” movie, but dealt with much more mature issues. Less button eyes in this one though, and much more limb severance.

Painstaking work that contributed to a truly beautiful film.

In terms of voice work, it’s all perfectly suited to the film, though I’m loathe to comment on someone’s “acting” abilities when they’re contributing voices. If you’re looking for “big name” talent, then there aren’t any true A-list tent pole names to draw you in. There’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Casey Affleck and John Goodman, but there’s no single huge star, and for me that’s no bad thing at all. It allows the film-makers to focus on the entire cast as opposed to featuring one character heavily just to justify paying the A-lister’s fee.

“So the film looks good, it sounds good, but it’s got a stilted first act? Is that it? Is that why you’re not raving about it?” Well yes and no. I just failed to really latch on to the movie as a whole. The story is entertaining, but isn’t what I was expecting entirely. It was all a little too downbeat for me with too few smiling moments and even less belly laughs (though there were some to be had). Ok, I never expect a zombie story to be a laughter riot, but this film is clearly aimed at the younger demographic – and they weren’t laughing either despite me being in a packed screening.

So there’s your word of warning: it’s an oddball movie that I’m struggling to classify. It was a good, enjoyable film, but its sombre tone also dampened my happiness. I can’t yet say if it’s the best of the glut of “children’s Halloween movies” hitting cinemas right now, but I certainly doubt it’ll be the worst. It’s poignant, beautiful and bewitching, but just lacked that spark to really captivate me.

ParaNorman is that social pariah of a movie: too mature to be an all-out kid’s flick, yet it deals with issues relevant to youngsters. Except the “seeing ghosts” bit… that probably only affects like 1 in 10,000 children. And that’s probably just a sign of too much sugar in their diet. That or they genuinely do see ghosts. No doubt they’ll get their own “based on a true story” film in about 15 years time after they’re possessed with the ghost of Walt Disney…

Phage Factor:

3.5 Star