Seth Rogen

Long Shot

First Hit: Although there some hilarious bits, I didn’t buy the premise of these two being their characters.

The storyline is for the audience to believe that Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is the current Secretary of State for President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk). The President is more interested in a movie career than being President, and so his staff is really running the country. Although the film makes attempts, Fields character as Secretary, isn’t quite established well enough for me. Something was slightly missing.

On the other side of the story, we have Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) who is supposed to be an independent journalist writing for an online publication. He only cares about what he perceives to be the truth and because he writes well and is willing to put himself in awkward positions, there is a self-righteousness to his character that comes across as a bit snarky.

To set up Flarsky as indeed someone willing to do anything to get the story, we find him in the process of becoming a member of a white supremacist group. In the induction meeting, he’s supposed to pledge hatred for Jews (although he’s sitting there - obviously a Jew) and gets goaded into getting a swastika tattoo. While getting the tattoo, one of the members finds out he’s really a journalist and is impersonating wanting to become part of the group. He escapes. This set-up is filled with both funny and vile setups and statements of hatred.

Fields is beautiful, smart, and powerful while Flarsky is schlubby, somewhat full of himself – regarding the truth as he sees it, and ill-mannered. Because of his self-aggrandizing ways, he quits his job when a tasteless publication company buys out the publication he works.

In his sadness and anger, he contacts Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) his longtime best friend who consoles him by inviting him to an upscale gathering after taking him to a few bars to imbibe him.

There Flarsky sees Field who he recognized as his old baby sitter when he was 12 years old. They liked each other then, but the storyline has him recall getting an erection when they kissed. The film spends a bit too much time talking about this and in the end, I’m sure it wasn’t needed for the overall story.

Fields hires him as a speechwriter (first to punch up her humor quotient) and as they work together, he becomes more of her full-time writer. As they work together, they grow to know each other, just as they did as children.

The other side of the slightly overdone plot was the President who spends his time running lines in his office and watching his past performances as a President on a television program. The flippant way in which the President, Secretary of State and the people who work for them acted became something that, in the end, didn’t work for me.

Many of the political aspects and situations portrayed in this movie were pointedly reflective of today’s political environment and current office holders. The story also points out how exploitive publishers act.

Some of the amusing bits include when Fields team discusses her strengths and weaknesses. Also what happens to the tattoo Flarsky got at the suprematist meeting. Another hilarious scene was when the Prime Minister of Canada James Steward (Alexander Skarsgard) shares with Fields how he’s had to learn how to laugh.

As everyone in the audience knows that having Flarsky and Fields falling in love is a Long Shot, the story does end up in its prescribed ending.

Theron is solid as a comedic actress in this role and is absolutely stunning on the screen. Rogen is Rogen. He’s the same character in every film, and my general dislike of his character or personality continues here. June Diane Raphael (as Fields assistant Maggie) is strong. I liked how she pushed her agenda on to Fields. Ravi Patel (as Tom, another Fields assistant) is good. His subservient nature to Maggie was funny. Skarsgard was really funny, especially when he’s showing Fields how he learned how to laugh properly. Jackson Jr. was solid as Flarsky’s black conservative motivational friend. Odenkirk was silly and hilarious as a President who wanted to be a film star. Tristan D. Lalla as Agent M, Fields bodyguard, was outstanding. His sly looks while doing his job were precious. Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah wrote this screenplay. It pushed the edge of being overtly gross more than it needed to be. Jonathan Levine directed the film. I thought many of the scenes were clever, but then when they are pushed towards being overtly overdone, it made me wonder.

Overall: The amusing bits outweighed the overtly unpolished parts.

The Night Before

First Hit:  A few sparse funny scenes in this uninteresting poorly scripted film.

There are some out-loud funny scenes but I cannot recall any of them the day after – I just remember laughing, however, most of the time I spent wondering who thought up this stuff. Low grade attempts at humor mixed in with a few heart driven points.

One of the heart felt moments was when Chris Roberts' (Anthony Mackie) mother, Mrs. Roberts (Lorraine Toussaint), tells Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to seize the moment for love if it arises and to not be afraid.

The scenes I disliked the most were with Isaac (Seth Rogen) as I didn’t find him funny – mostly low brow high-school humor. The mushroom trip he was on was not effectively shared and was not accurate to a "shroom" experience. The wearing of a large black Star of David woven into his light-blue and white Christmas sweater – was poorly contrived. His running out of the church yelling “we didn’t kill Jesus” was stupid and no one in the theater thought it funny – as there were audible groans.

The film's premise was reasonable in that Ethan’s friends, Chris and Isaac, supported him through each holiday season because his parents died early, but the execution just didn’t seem well thought out. The best part of the film were the scenes with Mr. Green (Michael Shannon) the long time drug/pot dealer.

Gordon-Levitt was fair in this poorly constructed role. Mackie was one of the better parts of the film in that he was believable. Rogen wasn’t believable stoned or otherwise and his annoying laugh made it worse. Shannon was the best part of the film, scary, insightful and thoughtful all at the same time. Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, and Evan Goldberg wrote a non-cohesive, sophomoric, mostly unfunny script – it felt like it was developed and agreed upon by committee. Jonathan Levine did little to enhance the poor script although a few of the sets were well crafted.

Overall:  I went to this film because of the dearth of new films out this week – should of stayed home.

Steve Jobs

First Hit:  I liked the intensity brought forth in this film of Steve Jobs as played by Michael Fassbender and developed by writer Aaron Sorkin.

I’ve seen a number of Steve Jobs films and have read Walter Isaacson’s book and numerous articles about Steve and what works for me about this one, as a biographical drama, is that it takes 3 product launches and builds the Jobs’ persona and struggles around and through these launches. And although these launches probably didn’t have all the interactions shown this this film, it gives the audience a view of the man.

The often rumored Jobs' intensity and single mindedness is well represented in these 3 product launches: The issues and his responses around the demo’s not working, his distaste for Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) the mother of his daughter, his lack of acknowledgment, support and love for his daughter Lisa (Makenzie Moss – 5, Ripley Sobo – 9, and Perla Haney-Jardine – 19), the struggle with the Apple Board of Directors, his admiration and anger towards John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), the friendship and differences between himself and Steve Wozniak’s (Seth Rogen) view of their relationship and computers, and how much he depended on his Marketing Executive Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet).

Sorkin’s script is crisp and brings out many of Steve’s strengths and challenges while Danny Boyle’s direction puts all this on the screen in an interesting, dynamic way.

Fassbender is strong and intense in delivering the Jobs identity. Rogan is very good as Woz and the scene in the final product launch was excellent. Moss, Sobo, and Haney-Jardine, especially, were excellent as Lisa in their different ages. Daniels was outstanding as Sculley. Winslet was amazing as Hoffman and kept the whole film centered. Sorkin wrote an marvelous script and kept it focused. Boyle clearly did an excellent job of directing the characters through the script and scenes.

Overall:  I was fully engaged in this film and all the ups and downs experienced by each character.

The Interview

First Hit:  Funny enough but the sprinkles of very low-brow bits made it less fun and interesting than it could have been.

Seth Rogen has the ability to make funny films and funny situations. What doesn’t work for me in his films is that he appears to be compelled to make sure he sticks in low-brow dialogue or high-school genre fart jokes and bits that take away from the overall film.

I thought the concept of having Dave Skylark (James Franco) a popular and without a lot of substance television interviewer selected by North Korea’s President Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) to give a once in a lifetime interview was genius. And there are parts of this film that are truly funny and I appreciated those moments. It was just unfortunate that when push came to shove, if Rogan thinks it’s not funny enough he reverts to less intelligent stuff.

Franco at times is really funny and his interviews of Eminem and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were funny and I thoroughly enjoyed him. Rogan as Skylark’s producer Aaron Rappaport as well as writer and co-director was both really good and also misplaced. Lizzy Caplan as CIA Agent Lacey was funny. Park as Kim was really funny and had enough of the "god like" features that helped hold the story together. Diana Bang as Sook who interfaced between Skylark, Rappaport and Kim was really funny. Her bit to overthrow Kim was great. Rogan, Evan Goldberg, and Dan Sterling wrote the story and script which at times was brilliant and other times, sophomoric. Rogan and Goldberg directed this film with both brilliance and stupidity.

Overall:  I enjoyed the film more than not – and that, I suppose, is a good thing.

This Is the End

First Hit:  There were some very funny moments, but not enough to move it out of cheesiness. Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, and Emma Watson are playing themselves caught in a night of partying and “The Apocalypse”. To “get this film” the audience probably needs to know all the rumors about each actor so that you are in on the dialogue. For instance, at the very beginning of the film Rogen is walking through the airport and someone off camera states: “Hey it’s Seth Rogen, how come you always play yourself.” It is general criticism of Seth, of which I have the same view – he just plays himself, nothing more and nothing less. Rogen and Baruchel go to Franco’s new digs for a party when "The Apocalypse" comes. It takes them a while to figure it out and when they do, it’s funny what happens to Franco. Along the way there is a number of site and physical jokes and some are really funny.

As each person is playing themselves there’s nothing to say about their acting. Whom did I enjoy watching? Michael Cera, Emma Watson and a short scene with Tatum Channing. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote an amusing and inventive screen play while their direction was good enough.

Overall:  Nothing great but it was funny enough to enjoy.