Writers/Directors: Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen
Stars: Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride
Seth Rogen waits at the terminal at LAX for Jay Baruchel to deplane. After quick hello’s Jay reveals his unease with Los Angeles and the people Seth is hanging-out with. Later at Seth’s condominium they enjoy a coffee table full of Jay’s favorite things: weed, beer, Starbursts, and other junk food. Once the goodies are exhausted Seth drops a bomb-shell on Jay, they’re heading to James Franco’s house for a party. Though initially reluctant to attend, Seth convinces Jay to go.
At Franco’s party Jay runs into the who’s who of young actors in Hollywood and Judd Apatow films. He has a heated discussion with Franco about art, and eventually retreats outside to the pool deck for some cigarettes. When Jay runs out of smokes he grabs Seth and they head to the local convieneance store for some more. At the store all hell breaks loose. The earth shakes, sink holes appear, cars crash, and building explode. It’s the End-of-Days and Seth & Jay run back to Franco’s house to ride out the storm.
With the exception of Michael Cera–I hope–and Jonah Hill, to an extent, all the name actors in the film are playing exaggerated and stereotypical versions of themselves and go along for the ride in making fun of themselves.
Franco as Franco designed his own house, painted most of the paintings in the house, and plays-up rumors of his sexuality–there is giant penis sculpture in the house and Danny McBride calls-out Franco for sucking cock when he appears with toothpaste on his mouth. Rogen is confronted by a paparazzi at the airport who calls him out for always playing the same role. Baruchel balks at being called a hipster even after being presented with evidence of all the things that do make him a hipster.
As the six (Baruchel, Rogen, Franco, Hill, Robinson, and McBride) come to terms with what has happened and why they survived, they are faced with the harsh reality of who they are as people, and what they have to do to survive. It’s a journey of self-discovery that involves a lot of crude humor, funny cameos, and Emma Watson robbing the boys of their supplies with an ax.
The success of the film lies both in the well written script by Rogen & Evan Goldberg, and the fun everyone is having playing themselves. All the actors are more than willing to make fun of themselves. And in the case of Michael Cera and another completely surprising cameo, go above and beyond the call of duty.
Unexpected homages to Rosemary’s Baby, Mad Max, and other films abound. The special effects are surprisingly impressive for a film most people will classify as a Frat-Boy movie.
This Is the End is a film that hits all its target. It is funny, smart, engaging, well made, and, in the end, has a good message. It is also proof positive that just because your target audience is young males doesn’t mean that that will be your only audience.
Grade = A
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: David S. Goyer
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Ayelet Zurer, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Michael Shannon
We begin on Krypton with the birth of Kal-El to Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer). From there we are with Jor-El as he presents the impending doom of Krypton to the ruling council, the revolt by General Zod (Michael Shannon), the launch of Kal-El into space towards Earth, the trial of General Zod and his imprisonment into the Phantom Zone, and then the destruction of Krypton. Later we see Kal-El’s ship appear in our solar system and then head to Earth, specifically Kansas. And just before the ship crashes in the field we cut-to present day, a trawler fishing ship.
The principal weaknesses of Man of Steel are the story and the storytelling by the director, Zack Snyder. The story has to cover a lot of ground: the destruction of Krypton, General Zod’s background, Clark Kent discovering his powers, Kal-El discovering himself, the world discovering Superman, and Superman saving the world. Also, in intending to remove kryptonite as a cheat to defeat Superman the filmmakers use General Zod as the primary antagonist. In doing so the audience looses all relatabilitybetween both the good and bad guys. When they battle it is truly gods going to war and we mortals suffer for their conflict.
And though the film has to tell an expansive story it feels flabby. It lingers too long on Krypton at the beginning of the film, and stays too long on the climatic battle scene between Superman and Zod. Put simply, one building collapsing is impressive but by the twentieth it is tedious and numbing.
Where Man of Steel does succeed is in the Clark Kent scenes–the smaller human scenes. How did Clark feel when his powers manifested? How did he learn to control them? How did he find himself as he trekked through life? It is during these smaller intimate scenes we truly connect and identify with the man who would become Superman, and understand the choices he will make.
Henry Cavill makes both a great Clark Kent and Superman. Besides looking the part, he carries the weight of the “otherness” of the Superman character well. Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe are well cast as the adoptive and birth father, respectively of Kal-El. You connect more with Diane Lane as Kal’s earth mother than Ayelet Zurer as his Kryptonian mother; owing more to screen time than anything else. Amy Adams delivers as the investigative reporter Louis Lane but lacked chemistry with Cavill to present a believable attraction. As for Michael Shannon, his General Zod was definitely physically threatening but unfortunately lacking menace.
The look of the film was incredible. Krypton was excellently conveyed as a stagnant civilization. Though they were technologically advanced, everything in their society was in dull shades of grade and looking of being made of stone and not metal. The Smallville of Clark’s youth was filmed in warm & soft lighting. Clark’s present had the blue/gray tones of someone looking for something but not finding it. The final confrontation with Zod and his forces before the final fight with Superman was well choreographed and looked impressive
Overall, though Man of Steel tries to go for too much it is on par with The Avengers. It is a successful retelling of a story we are all familiar with set in a world we can believe exists.
Grade = B
P.S. How does the Man of Steel shave? According to the “Man of Steel” comic mini-series from the mid-80′s he reflects his heat-ray vision off a piece of his rocket ship to burn the stubble from his face.
Fahrenheit 451 is novel written by Ray Bradbury about a dystopian near-future where books are banned, and if discovered burned by “Firemen”. Bradbury himself wrote an adaptation for the stage, and Francois Truffaut & Jean-Louis Richard wrote and adaptation for the screen.
I read Fahrenheit 451 for the first time in September, 2012 while on vacation. I cannot remember the last time a book so affected me and caused me to think. I vaguely remembered a film was made, and while researching the film I discovered that Bradbury also wrote the play. Soon thereafter I bought the play and ordered the film. What follows is my comparison of the three.
The protagonist is Guy Montag, a “Fireman”. His life is changed after meeting and befriending his young neighbor Clarisse. Slowly waking from the apathy of his life, Montag starts to save and read books. He decides the society that he lives in must be challenged and changed.
The near-future of Fahrenheit 451 is a familiar one. More accessible now than when the book was first published and film released. The world presented is one in which everyone is numb and people only care about their immediate pleasures. No one is really connected with each other, even if they are husband & wife. This is represented most clearly through the character of Montag’s wife, Mildred in the book and Linda in the film. She takes pills to sleep, pills to wake, and spends her days in distraction with her “parlor walls” interactive television–where everyone will get their chance at fifteen minutes of fame. Her friends, actually convenient acquaintances, are equally vapid.
Books became banned not through the act of an over reaching government, but through the growing apathy of the citizenry over decades. As the population grew and the pace of life accelerated people wanted their books to be shorter and easy to read. As time went on and the books were abridged and then reduced to bullet points, people wanted only those that made them happy and did not challenge them to think. And still later with the rise of minorities & special interests and the need not to offend becoming prevalent, the people further abandoned and then banned the books.
Compare this future to our present. This is a time of shrinking newspapers and one page internet articles, a time of the two-minute news piece and fluff entertainment interview, a time of hundreds of celebrity articles/posts to one thought-provoking essay. We live in a time of no talent “celebrities” getting their fifteen minutes of fame. A time where the “parlor walls” of Fahrenheit 451 are the smart phones & tablets of today. How many times have you been to dinner and eyed a family across the way where everyone at the table is obsessed not with the conversation between themselves–because there is none–but what they are doing on their smart phone and/or tablet?
The most interesting character is Captain Beatty. The strength of the book and play, and weakness of the film is him. Beatty is a bizarro surrogate for Bradbury. His monologue of how and why books were banned is Bradbury ranting about things to come. It is implied by the book and made explicit in the play that Beatty is not only well read, but also an owner of books. The book leaves you wanting to learn more about him. Bradbury either knew this or wanted to learn more about Beatty himself, because he delivered in spades with the play. On the opposite side, the film reduces the character and the movie surfers for it.
Another key difference between the book and other adaptations is the fate of Clarisse. Bradbury so liked what Truffaut did with the character he emulated it in the play. Also, whereas the book and play have the hound, the film does not–most likely due to the budget and special effects technology at the time.
Experiencing Fahrenheit 451 across three mediums was interesting and proof positive each one must be treated uniquely. The book came first and is a triumph of literature. The film followed and was flawed. And though it was the weakest interpretation of the story, it still had some good take-aways. Having Julie Christie play both Montag’s wife and Clarisse was an inspired choice, and brought into sharp contrast the rot in Montag’s society. The play was last and focused the story to its key components, while at the same time adding new information about the characters.
Book = A
Play = A
Film = C- (you can read my review here)
Director: Francois Truffaut
Writers: Francois Truffaut and Jean-Louis Richard
Stars: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, and Cyril Cusack
Fahrenheit 451 begins interestingly on two-tone color close-up shots of TV antennas on buildings as the credits are narrated–no words to be read.
An alarm sounds and the great red salamander leaves the equally red fire station. The fireman hang from the truck as Keystone Cops of old but more rigid. They arrive at the scene and mobilize to one of the apartments. Inside they search every nook and cranny, behind shelves and inside appliances. They find what they are looking for: books. The books are thrown over the side and mounted in a pile. And then the fireman set to do what they came to do; not put out fires but start them by burning the books.
Later we follow one of the fireman, Montag (Oskar Werner), home. He travels by monorail and meets Clarisse (Julie Christie), a young lady that recognizes him from their neighborhood. Together they walk from the monorail to each other homes and talk the whole way. The experience is completely foreign to Montag. He finds Clarisse peculiar. At his home we meet Montag’s wife Linda (also Julie Christie). An empty women only interested in herself and what she is watching on TV. They are two people living under the same roof but not sharing a life.
Fahrenheit 451 starts off strong, but then the monorail comes off the track. This was the director’s, Francois Truffaut, first film in color and in English. Oskar Werner was an Austrian actor whose first language was German, and grew to dislike Truffaut as a director; both clashing over Werner’s interpretation of the role. The film is English, filmed by a French crew, and staring an Austrian. Communication problems abounded.
Werner delivers a purposely robotic performance to represent his assimilation into his culture, and for the most part it works. Julie Christie in dual roles is an idea that pays off. You do not initially recognize her as the same actress when you meet each character. But by using the same actress Truffaut is showing how easily we can become one thing or the other. Both characters in their life story started the same, but are now vastly different people. But the biggest flaw of the film is Cyril Cusack as The Captain. In a role that carries the weight of The Chancellor from “The Obsolete Man” episode of The Twilight Zone–the primary antagonist representing the State–Cusack’s performance is small and pompous as opposed to commanding and seductive. Without it the film is flat and emotionless.
For being his first film in color, Truffaut uses it to great effect–especially the use of red. Given the technology of the time and his limited budget, he also did an admirable job creating a future world. But the film is dated.
In the end for today’s audience, Fahrenheit 451 is a curiosity. A film to be watched for those who are interested in Truffaut. The film does not carry the weight of the book it is based on, nor give you anything new like the play.
Grade = C-