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Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - This Is The End

Directed by: Seth Rogen
Evan Goldberg

Produced by: Seth Rogen
Evan Goldberg
James Weaver

Screenplay by: Seth Rogen
Evan Goldberg

Story by: Seth Rogen
Evan Goldberg

Based on: Jay and Seth versus the Apocalyspe by Jason Stone

Starring: James Franco
Jonah Hill
Seth Rogen
Jay Baruchel
Danny McBride
Craig Robinson

Music by: Henry Jackman

Cinematography by: Brandon Trost

Editing by: Zene Baker

Studio(s): Mandate Pictures
Point Grey

Distributed by: Colombia Pictures

Release date(s): June 12, 2013 (United States)
June 28, 2013 (United Kingdom

Running time: 106 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $32 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $96, 800, 000

Aloha there folks, it is still hotter than a mothercanucker (sorry, Canada!) over here in Belfast, and aside from a trip to Stormont with the dog (Belfast Hound Around, check it out!), being one pasty white dude that burns like a vampire with the slightest exposure to good sun rays, I've confined myself to the house for reviewing. Everything's burning up in here: my skin, my dog, my bedroom's like a microwave, Tricolour's (oh, snap!)... Also, me and the good gent at Danland Movies are presently engaged in an interesting discussion as to the pros and cons of Quentin Tarantino on my Facebook page (I'm not gonna tell you where to look, do your research, lazy fool!). So, for movie related banter and just general bullhick, watch this space, and keep your eyes posted!

So, today's movie up for analysis proves to another comedy, This Is The End. Even before the movie went into production, it had an interesting history, given that the movie is based on Jay And Seth Versus The Apocalypse, a nutty little short that served as a pitch for the final product. The big concept of This Is The End is essentially that a bunch of actors portray fictionalised versions of themselves in the midst of the rapture. Get it? Good! Jay Baruchel arrives in Los Angeles to visit his friend Seth Rogen, and the head to a housewarming party hosted by James Franco, and, uncomfortable being around people like Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Michael Cera, Craig Robinson, Baruchel, accompanied by Rogen, heads out to get a packet of cigarettes when all hell breaks loose. The two decide to run back to Franco's house, and thus begins our picture...

Starting with the good, I'll say for one thing that it's an interesting concept having these guys portraying themselves in the midst of the apocalypse, but the fact that they also manage to follow through with it and make a sufficiently solid comedy that is entertaining to people besides those involved is commendable. The Rogen and Evan Goldberg screenplay pulls no punches in terms of refusing to massage the actors' egos, and it's interesting in that you could have the actor's portraying regular people instead of these self-caricatures, but that's an element that gives the film a sense of reflexivity. The cast themselves are also uniformly strong. Franco does an amusing take on the media's take on him, depicting himself as a pseudo-intellectual bumhole, and Danny McBride's even more insane as himself than he's 'onscreen.' The standouts are Jonah Hill, who goes completely in the opposite direction, portraying himself against his onscreen fast-talking and potty-mouthed persona as a soft-spoken, sensitive guy who shows empathy with others, and Craig Robinson, in his own way, manages to steal the show, perfectly capturing the fact that these guys are a bunch of sissies, his regular screaming never failing to conjure up a hearty chuckle. Also a welcome surprise is the score by Henry Jackman. Seeing as how I've had the extreme displeasure of watching two comedy's recently scored by Mr. Murder-By-Numbers Christophe Beck, and here we have music full of personality. Realising the inherent absurdity of absurdity within the artifice of this picture, Jackman harks bark to some of the ridiculousness of 1950s b-movies with anachronistic leitmotifs being used to give this another layer of dexterity. At it's best, it reminded me of the work of the great Ira Newborn, who scored some of the best comedy films of the 1980s. Also, I admired some of the production design and the editing of the film. I think there is a purposefulness in making this come across as a sort of b-movie throwback, as a lot of the design, editing and indeed the effects look kind of hokey and constructed for comedic purposes. Finally, although Rogen and Goldberg have had previous experience as writer's and producer's, both as a team and otherwise, the two make a strong efficient directorial debut in This Is The End. It's the kind of movie that with all of it's various tangibles could have fell flat on it's face, but the two helm the project with confidence and carry it through to, well, the bitter end (puns, aren't very punny, duh?).

These kind words being said, though I liked This Is The End, it does have a number of flaws that deny it from ascending to the status of a great comedy. For instance, though the script has a lot of great things going for it (the self-reflexivity, the self-depracting tone etc.), there are issues with it. For instance, the first act, which takes too long to get into the proverbial heart of darkness, does lag, and although I've obviously been using 'self-' terms, there's an element of self-mythologising in this first part that doesn't back up the deconstruction of the self thereafter as appropriately as it should do. Also, although it's a minor thing, I wasn't won over by the overall inclusion of the Backstreet Boys, which headed too much into the direction of overkill. I'm not gonna spoil anything, but I'm just not a fan of these poxy-comedic dance sequences. Furthermore, although it's obviously meant to be the end of the world, there was something about Brandon Trost's cinematography here that struck me as being too darkly lit. There's a difference between low-key lighting and a low level of visibility, and this at times leant to far towards the latter. Finally, although it's a success in many ways, as I said, it fails to break through into the pantheon of greats.

Despite the first-act issues, an element of self-mythologisation, Backstreet Boys 'references' that head into overkill dance sequence(s) and cinematography that is too darkly lit, This Is The End is, for the most part, a very good comedy. The script though flawed, has a lot of layers to it, and the cast themselves, particularly Craig Robinson and Jonah Hill, are engaging company. The big surprise (especially given that comedy scores often suffer the most) is the fine score by Henry Jackman, that harks back to 1950s b-movies and at best is reminiscent of the work of Ira Newborn in the 1980s. Finally, Rogen and Goldberg prove themselves a solid duo at helming a project from the director's chair (a guess they're drawing straws on that too, given that the term does not extend beyond 'chair - singular') and that although they're best work is probably in front of them, this is a good place to start, delivering a very entertaining comedy.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Bleary (long week with no work to break up the time...)

P.S. The studio name 'Mandate Pictures' is always worthy of a chuckle...

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