Tag Archives: James Franco

This is the End (2013)

ImageHollywood’s track record for stretching a simple gimmick into a 90-minute comedy has not been great. But now, the cast and crew of This is the End laughs in the face of Weekend at Bernie’s, Year One, and Me, Myself, and Irene, and somehow manages it so that this movie flies past the hundred-minute mark feeling almost as breezy and morbidly funny as it began.

The “trick” here, of course, is that all the actors play themselves. Had they taken on different names and resumes, This is the End might be a mildly amusing rehash of the disaster movie genre, but since Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Jay Baruchel were cool with poking fun at their previous acting projects and portraying themselves as pricks, the movie takes on a subversive, metafictional layer that has surprising bite. And, oh yeah, there are some pretty funny masturbation jokes, too.

Granted, this isn’t a groundbreaking or even a consistently great comedy, but the jokes land more often than not, and there is something undeniably fun about watching the Apatow crew bitch and moan their way through the apocalypse. They also call in their equally famous friends to get some brilliant, unexpected cameos that are used sparingly but effectively.

In these respects, This is the End provides just about everything fans would want. (They even manage a couple of subtle but reverent Freaks and Geeks references.) And maybe it’s unfair to expect this kind of film to do anything more than that. However, I could help but feel like the whole thing was a bit cheaply constructed. Co-writers Rogen and Evan Goldberg took on directorial duties for the first time, and this may be where ran into trouble. Nobody is asking for Terrence Malick-inspired visuals, but the film has a low-rent look that just pales in comparison to the more cohesive, cinematic polish of movies like 21 Jump Street or Knocked Up. These movies starring the Apatow crew rarely have the cheap or frantic tone that a movie like Year One or Scary Movie does, so This is the End’s lack of finesse unfortunately stands out all the more. It kind of felt like they blew the budget on a couple of CGI-heavy set pieces and figured no one would notice if they cut back on production values a bit and also set 85% of the movie in the same location.

Luckily, the movie is funny and smart enough to excuse most of this. Sure, the rape humour, gore, and dick jokes feel a bit easy, and it would have been nice to get even more of the character-based humour that preys on the actors’ individual tics and insecurities. But the cast here sells what they have to work with. Everyone is great in their own way, but Danny McBride might just steal the show with a balls-to-the-wall crazy version of himself. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Jay Baruchel doesn’t even have many of the big punchlines, but embraces his persnickety, “voice of reason” persona and is actually really good as the closest thing to a “relatable” character that the film offers. He’s also one of the few players who proves to have the chops to pull off the moments of overt vulnerability and (comedic) terror convincingly, which makes him a welcome anchor for the viewer to share the experience with.

Does This is the End completely earn its requisite “heartfelt” moments, given that it spends most of its runtime consciously trying to one-up itself in terms of shock humour and morbidity? Perhaps not. But the character moments are welcome breathers from the chaos nonetheless, and some of the funniest moments are the offhanded anecdotes that no doubt reflect Rogen and Baruchel’s real-life friendship. It’s nice to see the genuine camaraderie among the cast play out, and This is the End is an all-too-rare project that seems to remain true to its vision and gleefully unique in its spirit.

3/5

James Franco, You Should Have Taken Notes

I still haven’t seen The Reader, by the way.

2011 Oscar Post-Mortem

My predictions ended up with an iffy 14/24 accuracy. Not great, but adequate, I’d say. And am I disappointed that The Social Network lost to The King’s Speech? Yes, but it seems like my favourite movie of the year is always nominated, but never wins. But now to the telecast, which I thought, for the most part, was pretty enjoyable.

Highs

  • Anne Hathaway. She did a much better job hosting than I’d expected (here I was thinking that James Franco would be the one to liven things up…) Her boundless exuberance was just the remedy for a lagging, overly long ceremony (as the Oscars often are). She cheered, she sang, she poked fun at herself, and she had an endless array of gorgeous outfits.
  • The opening. Inception, The Social Network, True Grit, The King’s Speech, and Black Swan all received visits from Hathaway and Franco, and the cameos from Alec Baldwin and Morgan Freeman were nice touches.
  • The unending love for Hugh Jackman. He’s kind of become the new Jack Nicholson. He’s not nominated, he just sits there and smiles and has a good time. The presenters and winners seem happy to see him, and he becomes something of a touchstone for them to play off of.
  • James Franco’s grandma.
  • Kirk Dougals’ epic presentation for Best Supporting Actress.
  • Justin Timberlake’s riff on Kirk Douglas’ epic presentation.
  • Zachary Levi performing “I See the Light” from Tangled. Mandy Moore sounded great, too, but for someone who is not primarily a singer (I didn’t even know he could sing before Tangled), Levi came off as a total pro.
  • “That’s gross” – Cate Blanchett
  • Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law’s presentation for Best Visual Effects. Can they just get married already?
  • No clapping during the “In Memoriam” segment. Good call.
  • Sandra Bullock’s presentation to the Best Actor nominees. It was the perfect balance of wit and respect.

Lows

  • The auto-tuned “Year of the movie musical” segment that they created. The Twilight one was kind of amusing, but the others were lazy and tedious.
  • The framing of certain categories with clips from classic movies. It felt a bit forced and random to me, and seemed to unnecessarily lengthen the telecast.
  • Melissa Leo’s speech. Sorry, but I didn’t find it charming. It was kind of annoying and fake, in my opinion. She rambled, and the f-bomb wasn’t interesting.
  • Kind of: James Franco. He had some pretty funny moments (the white unitard, the Marilyn Monroe getup), but he generally seemed out of step with the rest of the ceremony. I don’t think that he was as terrible as some people are saying, but perhaps not the ideal host.
  • The finale. I feel like a heartless bitch, but dragging all those 5th graders up on stage just seemed like the most contrived, obvious finish the show could have gone for.
  • This is kind of a random note, but I would have liked to see a broader scope in terms of the films that they celebrated. Not even in terms of the winners, but just which films got shown/mentioned throughout the broadcast. There were two lengthy montages for the Best Picture nominees, but scarcely a glimpse of any other 2010 films. I get that the show is about the nominees and winners, but the Oscars should also be about celebrating the film industry in general. What about non-winners like The Town, Tron: Legacy, Shutter Island, Easy A, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Kick-Ass, and Jack-Ass 3-D? They all found devoted fanbases and helped make 2010 the year that it was in film.

Best Speeches

  • Colin Firth (Best Actor, The King’s Speech). Always a class act. The wry humour was wonderful, and I love that he’s sang the praises of Tom Ford all season.
  • Natalie Portman (Best Actress, Black Swan). I liked that she thanked the behind-the-scenes people on set, as well as the people that helped her get where she is.
  • Lee Unkrich (Best Animated Picture, Toy Story 3). He gave a gracious, inspiring, economical, and eloquent speech.
  • Luke Matheny (Best Live Action Short Film, God of Love). Matheny probably never thought that his NYU school project would win an Oscar, and his surprise and exuberance was refreshingly sincere. It’s nice to see a “regular” person outside of the big Hollywood machine get recognition.

Best Red Carpet Fashion:

Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue


(click to enlarge)

Vanity Fair, March 2011

Yes, please.

Brief thoughts:

– LOL @ Robert Duvall

– I like everyone on here (I’ve yet to see any of Jennifer Lawrence’s or Noomi Rapace’s films, but they seem cool, I guess?). I would’ve rolled my eyes at Olivia Wilde (especially in that outfit), but I thought she was surprisingly good in TRON: Legacy.

– Rapace and Anthony Mackie (who is fabulous in The Hurt Locker and Half Nelson) are unexpected choices, but it’s nice to see a broader spectrum of actors here (in other words, I’m glad that they didn’t just pick a bunch of twiggy little starlets…though I wouldn’t have minded seeing Emma Stone on here. But I digress.)

– I like that they’re mixing more established actors (the four lovely folks on the first panel) with smart choices in newer actors. Garfield, Hedlund, and Lawrence were practically unknowns a year ago, but they’re three actors who seem to have a bright future ahead. And I like that Jesse Eisenberg, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Mila Kunis, who have been acting for years are finally getting their due.

– The men all look verrrrry dapper 😉

The Hollywood Reporter’s Actors Roundtable

Too much adorable for me to handle. Oh, and some insightful discussion and stuff.

The Hollywood Reporter’s “Roundtable” video series has been going for a few years now, but I must admit that this is the only segment that I’ve ever watched. It probably has something to do with the names involved in this roundtable – Ryan Gosling, James Franco, Colin Firth, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Duvall (who seems a bit like the odd man out, to be honest) – that got me to watch the entire hour’s discussion. And it was pretty interesting. You can click here to watch the whole thing.

It’s nice to see actors discussing the craft in a somewhat more natural way. Yes, it is still a contrived setting and there are “moderators” controlling the discussion. But the desperate need for talk show anecdotes is largely gone. At times, it veers into navel-gazing contemplation about the art of acting, but I’d say that the video is well worth watching, if not only for a few choice moments. Highlights (though I recommend watching the video for yourself):

  • Ryan Gosling’s discussion of Derek Cianfrance’s approach to making Blue Valentine. Coming from a history of documentary film, Cianfrance apparently never did more than one take of a scene (and the actors had no rehearsal time). And an entire night of filming was devoted to capturing whatever Gosling and Michelle Williams improvised while wandering the city. Because of the film’s tight budget, Cianfrance had to give up having lights for the entire film in order to have the resources to film from sunset to sunrise on this one night. As Gosling puts it, “He knew where to spend his money in the hopes of grabbing those moments.”
  • Gosling’s explanation of why he pulled out of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones. Gosling gained sixty pounds for the role, but a lack of communication between actor and filmmaker made for an unpleasant surprise when he showed up on set weighing 210 pounds. But as Gosling says, the weight issue was only a small indicator of the vastly different visions that he and Jackson had for the film and the character. And having seen The Lovely Bones, I think I’d probably prefer Gosling’s version.
  • Jesse Eisenberg’s hyper-self-consciousness. Insecurities fly fast and furious here, and that’s why I find Eisenberg such an unrelentingly fascinating character. He talks about doing 50 takes for a scene on The Social Network, and feeling like 48 of those takes were “terrible and mortifying”. He also talks about the filming of Adventureland, and how he would keep track of which takes and specific lines he thought he delivered well, and request that only those takes be used in the movie (the other roundtable actors get a kick out of that one).
  • Robert Duvall’s incredulousness over David Fincher’s perfectionism and penchant for endless takes.
  • The discussion of doing “bad movies”. Franco talks about his early work, and how doing movies that he hated eventually led to him pursuing other interests and “viewing movies in a different way”. Eisenberg also talks about one instance where he struggled with deciding whether or not to take an early role that he had no interest in.
  • Is it just me, or does Mark Ruffalo seem like the friendliest dude ever? He definitely came across the warmest, adding little jokes and encouragement (and possibly patting Colin Firth’s knee at one point near the end?). He also seemed to take himself the least seriously of the group, which I respect.

As for the Oscar chances of this group (since awards season is the impetus for these videos), I think all of them have a decent shot. I still don’t think that Franco, Eisenberg, and Gosling can all squeeze into the Best Actor category. They’re just too young. But with Jesse Eisenberg’s Best Actor win from the National Board of Review earlier this afternoon, it looks like he could be a major contender. And with Franco as a virtual lock, I fear Gosling might be left out in the cold. Firth and Duvall will also both likely be nominated for Best Actor. The only supporting player involved here is Ruffalo, and I hope that he can still find a spot in his category.