Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
What's a director of classic musicals doing in science fiction? Making Saturn 3, one of the worst of the genre Hollywood made in the immediate post-Star Wars / Alien era. Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) takes to it about as well as you'd expect; he's in over his head.
Military marksman Col. Jim McQuade (Gregory Hines, Running Scared) is called into top-secret duty to neutralize a surveillance robot gone haywire in San Francisco. It won't be easy, because for one thing, the android is undetectable from a human. For another, it has a built-in nuclear bomb that will detonate upon imminent threat.
I plead guilty: My friends and I have goofed around with a camcorder before and made stupid movies, but we were smart enough to know that no one outside ourselves would think they were funny. If only the makers of Caesar and Otto's Deadly Xmas realized the same.
To me, few things are as annoying as being stuck in a
conversation with a group of stoners who’ve spent most of the day
tokin’ it up.
I wasted so much of my 20s hanging out with these 420-types, sitting bored in their thrift-store-furnished living rooms, desperately looking at my watch while the person who was usually my ride sank deeper and deeper into the couch as the thick whiffs of chronic sunk deeper and deeper into their lungs. They were all having a great time, laughing and joking as I prayed forcefully that, at that moment, Jesus would return to Earth and the rapture would take me up to heaven, just so I could have a decent enough excuse to get out of the situation.
In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have been such a sticky-icky in the mud and just peer-pressured myself into their world, eschewing my typical high-and-mighty jerkdom in favor of cannabis-drenched camaraderie. At least when the food cravings hit them, I’d be guaranteed a free meal of sorts. Puff, puff, pass me another slice of pizza, dudes!
The latest Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg joint — pun fully intended — wistfully took me back to those days, and even better, reinstilled those feelings of virtuous denial I’ve repressed for so long. This Is the End is the cinematic equivalent of being stuck in a living room with a group of High Times subscribers who have plenty of money to burn and plenty of fart jokes to release. Yes, there is a twist to it all, but it seems more like an afterthought than an actual plot point.
Rogen (The Guilt Trip) and Jay Baruchel (Goon), playing exaggerated versions of themselves, are having a reunion of sorts and end up at a party at the house of James Franco (Spring Breakers). Surrounded by all of their Judd Apatow bros, including Craig Robinson (TV’s The Office), Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street), Michael Cera (TV’s Arrested Development), etc. — all playing even more greatly exaggerated versions of themselves — they party it up, smoke it up and throw it up, engaging in the type of rowdy ’n’ raunchy young Hollywood behavior that would make Kenneth Anger gasp and swoon with the vapors.
The twist comes when the biblical rapture strikes, sucking all of the good people up into heaven in a blue beam of light, leaving behind not only all of these superstar jerk-offs, but surrounding the party house in hellfire, rapist demons and Danny McBride (TV’s Eastbound & Down), who is the film’s true high point, admittedly bringing coughing-fit laughter every time he’s onscreen, thanks to his wickedly sharp, consistently assholish delivery and demeanor. Sadly, he leaves halfway through the movie.
The trouble is that as interesting as an idea as this all is, for about a good hour or so, it’s pretty much thrown on the floor of the backseat in favor of a constant barrage of continual semen jokes, gay jokes, masturbation jokes and, if that weren’t enough, rape jokes. So many rape jokes. Some at the expense of Emma Watson (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Channing Tatum (Magic Mike), surely fulfilling someone’s fan-fic prophecies. But, in the end, it’s really just these dudes, hanging out, getting high and arguing over candy bars and porno mags, and getting paid to do it.
When Rogen and the boys first hit the screen in movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, it was fresh and funny, but, here, it’s just all so forced and expected, much like 2011’s Your Highness. The jokes are so constant and rapid-fire and just one variation of the F-word after another, that the viewer, unless red-eyed on the ganja himself, becomes almost immediately desensitized, taking what starts as hearty belly laughs to quiet chuckles to watch-checking sighs by the time the quickly wrapped-up Backstreet Boys in-joke finale — all of which feels like an Saturday Night Live sketch that doesn’t know how to end itself — finally fades to black.
Don’t get me wrong: Although I am in my 30s and, therefore, too old and mature and full of hope and dreams and ambition to smoke weed, I am all for marijuana comedies. I can watch Up in Smoke or Friday anytime, anyplace, anywhere. But the difference is those movies had stories. They had characters. And they had comedy that, while weed-based, wasn’t weed-dependent for laughs. This Is the Enddoesn’t have the insight or ability to subtly blow the smoke tauntingly in your face; instead, it shoves a bong right down your throat and forces you to inhale under penalty of not being one of the guys.
To quote a famous ’80s anti-drug catchphrase, I’m going to have to just say no to This Is the End. At least until Redbox, wherein you and your pals would probably enjoy it more, roach clips and Doritos not included. —Louis Fowler