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The Interview Review, A Controversial Comedy of Mediocre Preportions

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The Interview

Directed by: Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg

Starring: Seth Rogan, James Franco, Lizzy Caplan, and Randall Park

I don’t know if there has been a movie that has received this much attention by the media in a long time. It is well-known that Sony recently got hacked and threatened by a terrorist organization to remove this movie from theater or else there will be grave consequences. Not long after theaters began refusing to show the film. Sony eventually pulled it from release all together, which lead to a public outcry. The United States didn’t appreciate Sony giving into the demands of a terrorist, so Sony decided to release the movie on VOD and select theaters. Usually movies that cause this kind of controversy are movies like Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom or In The Realm of the Senses, not some comedy starring Seth Rogan. In short was all the controversy necessary; absolutely not. But does that mean it is a bad movie? Short answer, No.

Dave Skylark (James Franco) is a popular televsion personality who runs a show called Skylark Tonight. It is a show where he interviews celebrities and reveal personal things about them. Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogan) is his producer and his best friend. One day the two learn that North Korean dictator Kim Jung-Un (Randall Park) is a big fan of his show. They end up scoring a personal interview with him. Not long after they receive this news the CIA come to them to go on a mission to assassinate him. Once they get to North Korea things go differently than they or the CIA expected.

To me, these are two separate movies, the first being a standard Seth Rogan comedy involving two buddies and their closer than normal relationship and the second is a movie about the assassination of Kim Jung-Un. Some choices made in the first half the movie don’t work as well as they should but once the movie gets going it feels fresh and interesting. There are many ways that the movie could have handled the “assassination” portion. I know if they created a fake dictator ruling a fake country, instead of North Korea, would have created the same effect. The fact they are making a statement about the hell that goes on there is pretty ballsy of them and I respect the movie for doing that.

Once the main characters reach North Korea the movie becomes exactly what you would have expected from it. During this part of the movie we really get a sympathetic look at Kim Jung-Un, who is played with great sincerity by Randall Park. They humanize a man that we all perceived to be a monster. Sure, in the end, he is still an evil dictator but the movie shows a much deeper and tortured side to him. The movie doesn’t just make a commentary on North Korea, it also says something about America today and the interest we have in celebrity life rather than actual “news”. It’s a satire to its core but it combines what Seth Rogan does well with its harsh political commentary.

I have a lot of problems with James Franco’s performance as Dave Skylark. For a man with an Oscar nomination under his belt, he isn’t able to bring life to his character. Lately his movie choices have been a little odd, focusing in directing and acting in multiple movies in a single year. After a while you can see the fatigue with his performances. He does have a lot of good interactions with Seth Rogan and Randall Park but nothing to make him interesting.

The beginning of the movie I have the most trouble with. Early on I believed that the movie will be a complete mess. Seth Rogan has developed this sense of humor that has branched out for many years and has become mainstream now. If there isn’t a drugs, gross out scenes, or male friends that appear to be way to “close” to each other. This is all that the first part of the story is. Like 22 Jump Street and Neighbors, this kind of comedy doesn’t appeal to me.  They abandon this template and go for something a little different. I like that transition and wish that would have done that throughout the entire movie.

The Interview is rather dumb comedy that manages to go for something new. It achieves a lot with their insane premise but doesn’t quite live up to its potential.

Grade: C+

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Guardians of the Galaxy tops another slow weekend

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It’s official Guardians of the Galaxy is now the highest grossing film of the year but considering just how slow the year has been it’s not surprising. Last year three movie made more the Guardians did at this point. So far the box office has been the worst in almost 20 years. Not a single film has grossed more than $300 hundred million and it looks as if Guardians is the only one going to do so until November comes around.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is continuing to impress and is currently well above expectations but even then $166.4 million isn’t anything to special when it comes to blockbusters. It is doing much better than the first G.I. Joe, which was released at the same time, but not as great as Transformers, another Bay production.

In third place is Let’s Be Cops, which is still over performing considering to horrid reception. With $10.6 million and nearly $60 million total, Let’s Be Cops managed to make back much more than the limited budget and can be considered a success even if it didn’t receive good reviews.

Even this weekends new releases didn’t make a dent. The November Man seemed to be riding off the goodwill of the Taken franchise but didn’t make nearly the money that both of those movies received. As Above, So Below failed to to gross anything of note and even for a horror movie in a summer deprived of horror movies this movie didn’t register well with it’s intended audience.

With Intersteller, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies coming out the box office should make a comeback in a way but this just might be one the worst years for movie, box office wise, that I have seen in a while.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Returns to the Top of the Box Office

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This weekend was a down weekend for the box-office. Each weekend so far provide some much needed business but not this weekend. Guardians of the Galaxy managed to return to the number one spot at the box office with 17.1 million, after two weeks of losing to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The new releases this weekend didn’t do anything to lend to the already bad summer. If I Stay opened at number 3 with 16.3 million. The biggest failure this weekend was Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (read my review here). It opened at 6.3 million, nearly 13 million under tracking. I don’t see a third film anytime soon consider the budget was anywhere between 50 and 70 million.

The biggest surprise this weekend was the impressive hold of Let’s Be Cops (read my review here). It dropped only 38% to a good 11 million. Considering the horrible reviews I was expecting something much steeper but then again it shows that critical dismissal doesn’t always translate to terrible box office returns.

This officially ends the summer box office. This year has been the worst at the box office in a long time. No film surpassed the 300 million dollar mark domestically and the highest grossing domestic release sits at 251 million. Hopefully the rest of the year can improve but if not than it should be noted that big budget films are slowly becoming irrelevant.

Lets Be Cops Review, A Comedy That Doesn’t Embrace it’s Concept

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Let’s Be Cops

Directed by: Luke Greenfield

Starring: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans Jr., Andy Garcia, Rob Riggle, and Nina Dobrev

The one thing that I thought from this trailer was that it had an interesting concept but I thought it would be vanilla and safe. I like New Girl for what it is and the dynamic of the two leads is what brought me to this movie. This year has been an interesting year in comedy. Neighbors and 22 Jump Street both impressed at the box office but those are nothing stellar about them. Let’s Be Cops is another one that follows suit. For the most part I enjoyed what I was watching but it never impressed me. The comedy is the typical R-rated humor that is typically hit or miss with me. Comedy, like horror, is very subjective. Everyone has their own take on comedy and if it makes you laugh than it is successful for you. I thought 22 Jump Street accomplished what it set out to do but it felt like a bad sequel that recycled the plot but had a lot of good humor. Lets Be Cops is similar, in a sense.

Ryan Davis (Jake Johnson), a failed quarterback, and Justin Chang (Damon Wayans Jr.), a video game developer, attend their high school reunion, with a theme of a masquerade, dressed as cops. They begin to realize just how bad their lives have become. On their walk back to their apartment Ryan and Justin begin to notice that the people around them are intimidated by their uniforms. After a night of fun and debauchery Ryan gets the idea to impersonate cops so that they can cheat the system and gain more respect from those around them. Soon they begin to get out of control. One night they run into Officer  Seagars (Rob Riggle) which leads them into a conspiracy that involves a madman drug dealer. Soon they realize they are way over their heads leading them way farther down the rabbit hole than they were expecting.

There was a lot that I liked about this movie. Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. are great together, they share a chemistry that worked well here and perfected suited the comedy at work. Jake Johnson seems to be playing Nick from New Girl but it seems to be what he is good at so I can’t complain. He is down on his luck and finds an opportunity to make his life into something new but that leads him into a bunch of uncontrollable situations. Damon Wayans Jr. is great as well and plays a tight ass who eventually changes his ways. Personally I feel that he is the most talented of his family and has a chance to have a well defined career. Outside of the comedy and the premise the movie is rather bland.

The core story isn’t anything new. The Other Guys, 21 Jump Street and The Heat tried to do something similar and they succeeded while on the other hand Let’s Be Cops fails on that level. It ends up going the route of every movie of this caliber. The movie doesn’t try to be new or try something different it goes down the road that every comedy like this does. You have two unexperienced cops wrapped up in some type of conspiracy that is completely out of their hands. The villains are one note drug dealers who’s only purpose is to do evil things and look evil nothing else. The only developed characters are the two leads and the others are just there to progress the story.

The biggest thing that bugged me was the fact that the third act felt like a completely different movie. I’ll even go as far and say that the third act is extremely well done and the first two felt like they had a set goal and just improvised it. The third act made the movie interesting and worth seeing. It brings the idea that the real thing that they’ve gotten themselves into is much scarier than anyone can imagine. There is one scene in particular that I would label as a great scene. It starts with Damon Wayans Jr. narrating about his video game telling them that he wanted the view to experience what the real thing felt like. During this we have a scene with Ryan, scared out of his mind, making his way to his apartment having just learned that the villains will stop at nothing to kill him. The way that this scene was shot and edited belonged in a completely different movie. It actually used the plot line to it’s potential and showed just what the director is capable of.

It’s too  bad that this and the third act really didn’t work in this movie. This movie had so much potential. The concept was funny but the execution was lacking. Even though I enjoyed the comedy side of this movie it is wholly uneven and feels like two completely different movies wrapped into one.

Grade: C-

Just how bad is this summer’s Hollywood box-office slump?

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Just from my experience the summer blockbusters this year have been slightly miserable. I haven’t them all but I saved myself from certain movies and took close looks at what I saw. Every big movie in May opened really high and dropped off like a rock. June had a few hits while a big box office failure by the name of How to Train Your Dragon 2 and that’s surprising to me. So far Edge of Tomorrow, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are my favorite blockbusters to come out but one isn’t doing well box office wise and the other only just started it’s run. Films are starting to become more expensive and lasting theaters for only a couple weeks. Now most movies make a lot of money opening weekend and then drop significantly. With budgets so high and marketing matching the budget, it take more money to make the studio profit. Movies like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 cost more than 250 million dollars and only making 700 million doesn’t work well in the end. The invest the studio are putting into these movies aren’t paying off as one would expect. Could this be the decline of the big budget movie or just a fluke? To me it might just be a fluke but I don’t know at this point.