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

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Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Being meta and self-referential isn’t a new tool in Hollywood. Although movies rarely “break the fourth wall” and talk to the audience, some are acutely self-aware and make reference to the trappings of film-making. In my last review I opened by talking about Tropic Thunder, which is in itself a film about making a film. You also have the Scream franchise, which became very self-referential and aware of its genre confines. Essentially: it’s not a new technique. So how does this relate to Seven Psychopaths, the follow-up to director Martin McDonagh‘s In Bruges? Read on to find out…

Writer's block... it's a bitch.

Writer’s block… it’s a bitch.

Although the plot kicks and bucks like an unbroken bronco, it can be broken down as a story that follows Marty (Colin Farrell) – a screenwriter struggling from writer’s block whilst penning his latest film: Seven Psychopaths. The only trouble with this screenplay? He’s not got any characters, or plot… or anything. Through talking with his best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) he gradually expands his list. But Billy’s also a dog-knapper: he steals dogs with his partner Hans (Christopher Walken) in order to collect the inevitable reward that is offered by the beleaguered owner. This works out pretty well for the pair until they pick the wrong Shih Tzu to steal… that belonging to Woody Harrelson‘s Charlie, who’s quite frankly a nasty piece of work.

Seven Psychopaths (2012)So therein lies the initial premise of the film, but I’d be doing a disservice to you guys if I said that was “it”. Marty’s journey to write his screenplay is extremely entertaining and not at all predictable. As I mentioned earlier, the plot is anything but predictable. The characters even talk about plot mechanics and how Marty should flaunt the dynamics of a typical thriller and mix it up. The real film (the one you’re watching) then follows suit and switches up. This film is very meta and constantly refers to itself in a none-too-cheesy or obvious way.

As loyal readers of the ‘Phage will know by now, I’m a sucker for a non-linear plot and something that really catches me off-guard. This film did that. In spades. Especially since I was pretty much unaware of this film coming to cinemas at all, spare a trailer that preceded last week’s viewing of Silver Linings Playbook. Although I found the initial opening 20 minutes difficult to immerse myself in (owing to some distracting patrons in my screen), I soon became engulfed in the film. If I wheel back to those trailers, they’d have you believe this is an out-and-out hoot – a real comedy. But this is dark. Really dark. It’s still comedic, but be prepared that this isn’t a light-hearted film about some dog-knappers mixing it up with the wrong people. This isn’t an Adam Sandler / Rob Schneider movie.

Now, the plot is fantastic, but what of the actors? We have here perhaps some of the best performances of the year. I know – a bold statement to make in a year of so many great films. Farrell seems much more at home in this type of role that he does in the other blockbusters he’s been in this year, and he’s allowed to use his Irish brogue, which is a plus. Whilst he’s great, the real honours need to go to Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken. Both are simply incredible in their respective roles. Sam Rockwell‘s Billy is incredibly well written and Rockwell‘s delivery is sublime. Although I’ve seen a lot of his filmography, I’ve never left a screening and felt that he was spectacular in his role. Seven Psychopaths changed all that. He’s funny, unpredictable and captivating. He’d be the runaway best supporting actor if it wasn’t for Christopher Walken, who is on sterling form. I can’t actually recall the last time I saw Walken in a role that wasn’t tongue-in-cheek and a bit camp. But here he’s engaging and incredibly powerful. A scene with him and Harrelson in a hospital is incredibly affecting. Can we have more of this in future please?

Farrell, Rockwell and Walken: the perfect storm.

Farrell, Rockwell and Walken: the perfect storm.

In case you’re unable to put 2 + 2 together, then you should be getting the impression that I really enjoyed Seven Psychopaths. After a somewhat rough opening (owing to non-film based factors) the film really got on track and constantly threw curve balls at me. I love a good twisting plot that is topped off by great acting talent. Although I’ve focused on Farrell, Rockwell and Walken, the other players here are solid. But their performances will never come close to the core three members of the cast here. It’s a very male-centric film, that much is for certain. In fact, the film within a film also mentions that detail. Whether the film is trying to be too clever for its own good is up for debate, but I felt all the meta plot mechanisms worked fluidly and in a really enjoyable way. Or maybe I’m not clever enough to realise that it’s too clever for it’s own good. Damn that’s a clever sentence.

Seven Psychopaths is a brilliant slice of film making. It’ll have its detractors who thought it was too “up itself” for its own good, but those people are probably too “up themselves” too. We’re all up something or other it would seem. How you can’t appreciate Rockwell and Walken in this film is beyond me. Both are on career-best form and this film needs to be seen for that reason alone. Come for the actors, stay for the plot.

So, you’ve had my introduction, ramblings about plot, ramblings about actors, first paragraph of sensible summary and now it’s time for the second paragraph that cleverly ties it all together, right? That’s the Film Phage way after all. That’s what we do. But I’m clearly not clever enough to flaunt my layout and the conventions of a review site. Maybe I’ll just align this paragraph to the right? Yeah, that’s edgy. That’s crazy. That’s meta. Maybe.

Phage Factor:

4.5 Stars