‘This is the End’
This is the End finds Seth Rogen (also co-directing) rounding up all of his comedy actor pals (plus a few more) who he’s been working with since the start to play themselves in a meta-apocalypse comedy. As they all congregate for a party at James Franco’s house, supernatural cataclysmic events occur outside, leaving the core group alone. It amusingly lets you know how self-aware it is by having Rogen chastised in the opening scene by a fan over always playing the same character in every movie. This is the End remains at its best when the actors are spoofing their public personae, like James Franco filling his house with pretentious modern art, and gets a lot of laughs from their ripping on one another (Danny McBride berating Jonah Hill that he should be able to deliver lines more dramatically now he’s an Oscar nominee being a highlight). It’s really a series of sketches though, getting a good deal of laughs in but encompassed around a very weak overarching storyline. It isn’t helped by positing the always irritating Jay Burachel as the lead, but is fine for the first two acts, or so however it undoubtedly dips in quality come the final third.
‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’
Here’s the latest wannabe franchise starting young-adult adaptation. This time around it’s about demons! So we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it features a dull teenage girl who meets some mysterious but super-hot and occasionally shirtless guy. He turns out to be a ‘Shadowhunter’, who mopes around Earth invisibly slaying demons (she’s the only one who can see him). And of course there’s another ‘nice’ guy who’s interested in her. The rest of the film proceeds like a crushingly tedious, effects filled supernatural soap opera that feels far longer than its already generous 2 hours. The only positive to take from it was a reminder that the band AFI are still around and can craft a catchy pop song. Despite flopping, it’s somehow (apparently) getting a sequel.
Screenwriter Diablo Cody made quite a splash with her Oscar-winning debut Juno but hasn’t managed to match that success since, with two underperforming films and one swiftly cancelled TV show to her credit. Here she takes a stab at directing her own work for the first time, but it feels similarly under-the-radar. Paradise starts of in a very interesting manner, as a 21 year old girl called Lamb (Julianne Hough) who’s survived a horrific accident but is now heavily scarred addresses the congregation at her local church. She’s been raised in a very conservative Christian environment her whole life, but shocks everyone by declaring that the accident has made her question her faith and that she wants to leave the town. Rather than exploring all the possibilities this situation could have on a person, Cody just has her swiftly head off to Las Vegas. She quickly hooks up with a couple of characters in a bar, played by the repellent Russell Brand, who seems only capable of playing himself, and the considerably more appealing Octavia Spencer, to explore the pleasures of adult life. A disappointing film that completely wastes its intriguing set-up.
Christian Slater’s latest cheap piece of trash finds him teaming up with the director of, umm, Battlefield Earth, for a sci-fi horror set in space. He plays the commander of a lunar mining base’s small crew who come into trouble when a meteor storm hits them. After recuperating, signs start appearing that a menacing alien presence may have entered the base too to start picking them off in unpleasant ways. Stranded manages to not look as low-budget as it almost certainly was, but it’s a completely unoriginal film that takes cues from many well-known genre films, and ends up feeling like the latest in a long line of Alien clones.