Sausage Party

August 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: voices of Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Nick Kroll
Directed by: Greg Tiernan (debut) and Conrad Vernon (“Shrek 2”)
Written by: Seth Rogen (“Neighbors 2”), Evan Goldberg (“This is the End”), Kyle Hunter (“The Night Before”) Ariel Shaffir (“The Night Before”)

Ever since the arrival of “Toy Story” two decades ago, computer animated films have routinely included jokes that were arguably just meant for the inevitable adults in the audience. Essentially this is to keep parents entertained while the kids enjoyed whatever Pixar or DreamWorks pumped out, occasionally catching a joke lobbed over the heads of the children in the audience—nothing outright offensive ever makes the cut, but something slightly naughty isn’t off the table.

Perhaps sensing an opening in the market, Sony and frequent collaborators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg set out to fill the void (heh!) and have whipped out (giggle!) an animated movie that adults with a hankering for something filthy they could come to (chortle!) in “Sausage Party,” a movie you definitely shouldn’t take your kids to. Or do, what do I care?

As the inhabitants of a grocery store, various foodstuffs, led by a hot dog named Frank (Seth Rogen) and his hot dog bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig), await their being chosen by the gods (read: humans) to being taken to The Great Beyond (a.k.a. outside the store) to live in paradise. With July 4th rapidly approaching, now is the prime time for hot dogs and buns to make it to eternal salvation. Frank’s faith is rattled, however, when a bottle of honey mustard (Danny McBride) is returned to the store with tales of horror from The Great Beyond. It’s not paradise, it’s a hell where food gets eaten by the gods. Frank and Brenda, along with some Palestinian flat bread (David Krumholtz) and a Jewish bagel (Edward Norton), set out to enlighten the food in the supermarket that the afterlife isn’t like the tales they’ve been told.

While undeniably laugh-out-loud hilarious at times, “Sausage Party” is never quite as funny or quite as edgy as it thinks it is. Viewers could be excused for thinking the film would feature wall-to-wall food sex, thanks to the marketing, but that stuff is saved for after the climax (ha!). What we get instead is vulgar language coming from the mouths of anthropomorphic food and, most unexpectedly, a commentary on the societal dangers of both blind faith and militant atheism—which is a little jarring if you thought you were just coming to watch a movie where a hot dog fucks a bun, you know?

That aside, even at just around 90 minutes, “Sausage Party” starts to drag thanks to a limp (resigned chuckle!) second act that finally gives way to all out weirdness and brutality in a subplot featuring Michael Cera’s Barry, a deformed hot dog who finds out firsthand what happens in The Great Beyond. It’s during a sequence involving a burnout human, a ragtag bunch of junk foods, and the hallucinogenic power of bath salts that the film really turns into the naughty version of a Pixar film promised all along. This sensibility informs the rest of the movie, thankfully, turning the third act into a gleefully demented battle before petering out into some weird stoner shit. That a movie exists where animated grocery items curse, have sex, and engage in racial stereotyping (from a major studio!) is amazing, frankly. With a little more stamina leading up to the climax (heh—wait, used that one) “Sausage Party” could have been legendary.

The Interview

December 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Randall Park
Directed by: Evan Goldberg (“This is the End”) and Seth Rogen (“This is the End”)
Written by: Dan Sterling (debut)

Following a bizarre amalgamation of Hollywood controversy and serious political incidents over the last six months, Sony Pictures, in a quick and unforeseen move after pulling “The Interview” from its docket for a Christmas Day release, decided to drop the film on a handful of VOD platforms Christmas Eve afternoon, and allow theaters that still wanted to screen their film on Dec. 25 to do so. What changed the minds of Sony executives is still unclear (Barack Obama’s wagging finger of disappointment? George Clooney’s smackdown on Sony via – ironically – an interview with Deadline), but at least moviegoers (and VOD users) can put everything behind them and enjoy a classic assassination comedy comprised of enough jokes about assholes to make your grandma blush this holiday season.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, “The Interview” stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as Dave Skylark and Aaron Rapaport, a host and producer of a fluff TV show where getting celebrities to drop juicy TMZ-worthy bombshells is the name of the game. When Dave and Aaron find out they have been given the opportunity to interview North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, they jump at the chance to do some real journalism. The CIA, however, step in and insists that Dave and Aaron kill the North Korean leader during their planned visit.

Although inconsistent with its humor, there are major portions of “The Interview” that are gut-busting funny, especially during the first half where we’re introduced to Dave and Aaron and what their TV job entails and the set up for their trip to North Korea. Franco and Rogen play off one another with ease even when some of the jokes barely register and when the middle part of the movie begins to drag. Keeping up with both is actor Randall Park who plays Jong-un just as the script asks – a lonely and oftentimes sympathetic character that is also lined with playboy tendencies and venom running through his veins, which doesn’t figure into the story until the third act. It’s an interesting and somewhat bold characterization for Jong-un by screenwriter Dan Sterling, who could’ve taken the easy route and made him the kind of fat, pouting diaper-baby Americans love to imagine he is. Sterling finds a lot more comedy in scenes where Dave and Jong-un can pal around and find they have things in common with each other before the shit hits the fan.

Don’t expect some sort of biting satire about the evils of North Korea and the real-life insane man that runs the country. Directors Evan Goldberg and Rogen aren’t those kind of storytellers (if that were the case, we would’ve seen some damning message in their Book of Revelations-inspired comedy “This is the End”). Instead, go into “The Interview” expecting pop culture references to be at an all-time high, hilarious one-liners and someone sticking something large up their rectum. Wouldn’t we be in a better place if that combination was the catalyst for fostering peace and security across the globe?

This is the End

June 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill
Directed by: Seth Rogen (debut) and Evan Goldberg (debut)
Written by: Seth Rogen (“Superbad”) and Evan Goldberg (“Superbad”)

With the impending doom of the Mayan Apocalypse last year, Hollywood took a cue and started churning out apocalypse-themed movies. To the surprise of, well, nobody, we’re all still alive, yet the end of days films keep coming, with nearly a half-dozen in the past two years alone. Based off of a short film made in 2007, Seth Rogen (“Superbad”) makes his co-directorial debut with “This is the End,” a thriller/comedy where some of Hollywood’s funniest young actors get the opportunity to play themselves.

When Jay Baruchel (“She’s Out of My League”) arrives in Los Angeles to visit Rogen, he reluctantly goes with him to a housewarming party at James Franco’s house. While at the party, events of biblical proportion unfold and Baruchel, Rogen, Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride find themselves barricaded in the “127 Hours” star’s house. Friendships are tested and survival plans are initiated as the six actors try to stay alive.

Though the principal cast are playing themselves, they are exaggerated, fictitious versions. Hill, for example plays a overly nice people pleaser who is trying as hard as he can to get Baruchel to like him. Franco’s eccentricities are played up, especially with the design and set-up of his house. Just from a sheer laugh volume standpoint, McBride is probably the most successful of the bunch, something that is clearly by design. McBride nearly goes full Kenny Powers (his character on TV’s “Eastbound & Down”) as an insufferable and hilarious jerk and screenwriters Rogen and Evan Goldberg (and likely some well-executed improvisation) really highlight his fantastic ability to be a complete ass. Along with the main cast is an absurdly long list of cameos, almost all of which come from filmmaker Judd Apatow’s family tree. The best of these is a brief, but incredibly successful appearance by Michael Cera (“Superbad”), who spends every second of his screen time coked out of his mind.

Since the cast is a virtual six degrees of separation with Apatow, most of these actors have worked with each other in the past. The most noticeable are Rogen, Franco, McBride and Robinson who starred together in “Pineapple Express.” There is a certain ease in which these actors, all legitimate real-life friends, interact and play off of each other. Though there is a concern that things might become one giant inside joke, Rogen and company are able to keep the humor pretty broad for the most part. Still, there are plenty of cut-downs and references to lesser-received movies in the various actors’ careers that require a little bit of knowledge of their filmographies.

The laughs are relatively steady throughout the film, though there is a lull towards the middle and end. As more is revealed about what is actually happening, special effects come into play and the results are a bit mixed. While the CGI itself isn’t bad, the jokes that come from them don’t always hit their target. As the characters figure out what must be done to survive, the film begins to return to form a little bit. It does, however, play out more predictable than probably intended. It all builds up to a final scene that is incredibly bizarre and underwhelming.

Despite a pretty decent laugh ratio, the film as a whole feels a bit piecemeal. A few sections are oddly divided, edited and directed. As a meta-comedy, it’s successful and should give audiences fun looks at real life friends stuck in a life or death situation. The heartfelt parts of the story as well as the actual apocalyptic events, however, don’t work as well and feel a bit hollow.

The Green Hornet

January 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz
Directed by: Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”)
Written by: Seth Rogen (“Pineapple Express”) and Evan Goldberg (“Pineapple Express”)
 
There are some major problems with a superhero movie when the best thing about it (and only real evidence that the 3-D effects actually work) is the stylish end credits.
 
As far as superhero movies go, “The Green Hornet” finds itself suck somewhere in the middle of a genre that has been as amazing in recent years as “The Dark Knight” and as abysmal as “Elektra.”
 
In “Hornet,” Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up”) plays rich brat-turned-vigilante Brit Reid, the son of a powerful newspaper publisher, who must take over the business after his father passes away. Teaming up with the family mechanic Kato (Jay Chou), a role made famous in the 1960’s TV series by Bruce Lee, the duo set out to clean up crime in the city much to the dismay of veteran crime boss Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz in a wasted role) who demands respect and doesn’t want to see anyone treading on his turf.
 
Despite some fun martial arts choreography and a few inventive weapons, “Hornet” still has to be chalked up as a disappointment. While visionary director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) has his hands on the project, he’s only able to muster the usual fanfare that makes many of these action movies so ordinary.
 
Comic-book fans will be hard-pressed to remember this one especially with other entries coming soon like “Thor,” “The Green Lantern,” and “X-Men: First Class.” Those movies might end up being just as mundane, but at least they weren’t relegated to the cinematic dumping ground known as the month of January.

Pineapple Express

August 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride
Directed by: David Gordon Green (“All the Real Girls”)
Written by: Seth Rogen (“Superbad”) and Evan Goldberg (“Superbad”)

It might not take much to entertain a group of giggly potheads, but when it comes to stoner comedies, the best are the ones that can entertain even the most levelheaded audiences. Although there will always be an infantile “Harold & Kumar” to cancel out more developed efforts like “The Wackness,” the stoner comedies of today seem to be growing back a few more brain cells.

With a perceptive indie director like David Gordon Green (“Undertow”) leading the way in “Pineapple Express,” smokers and non-smokers alike have something to applaud. Not only is this Green’s most accessible film to date, it’s his first shot with an action/comedy hybrid and he makes it his own.

In “Express,” Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up”) plays Dale Denton, a weed-loving process server who witnesses a murder while smoking a doobie outside the home where he is supposed to serve papers. In his frantic state, Dale tosses the joint and screeches off just before the killers, Ted (Gary Cole) and Carol (Rosie Perez), realize that someone has seen them.

Although a bit too coincidental, Ted is able to track down Dale because the roach he throws out his car window is filled with a rare type of marijuana known as Pineapple Express. He knows what it is because he is the drug kingpin who has smuggled it into the city and handed it over to only one supplier, who, in turn, has only one distributor.

The seller is Saul Silver (James Franco), a full-time pot dealer who spends all his time at his apartment watching old TV shows and finding inventive ways to get high (he creates a “cross joint” that must be lit at three separate points for maximum puffage). Dale and Saul’s business relationship is brand new, but Saul quickly befriends him probably because he is the only one that understands his carefree ways.

Dale turns Saul for help when he sees the murder and the duo hightail it out of Saul’s apartment in fear for their lives. From here, “Express” becomes a buddy comedy with a lot more wit and unusual performances, especially from Franco, whose comedic timing is brilliant. As Saul, Franco shows his flexibility as an actor and always keeps that likeable smirk on his face.

As another Judd Apatow production, “Pineapple Express” is a hilarious and, at times, very violent kick in the pants that combines genres just as well as any other comedy this year. Sure, it might be lacking in plot, but it’s never lacking in pot (and that makes the half-baked humor all the more bizarre).