Tag Archive: james franco


This is the End Review

The biggest, brightest and the most prolific stars of modern comedy films play half-real/half-fictional versions of themselves for the Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen directed This is the End. The major characters here are Rogen himself, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride who all attend a party at James Franco’s house. However, during the star studded party, the apocalypse hits and these actors must find a way to survive until they are granted their passage to Heaven.

“I don’t wanna die at James Franco’s house”

The film opens with the self-deprecating humour that will soon become familiar as Seth Rogen is asked about his performances in films and begged to do the ‘annoying’ Rogen laugh. This quickly becomes a theme after the apocalypse arrives as there are many jokes thrown around about some of the casts less successful outings such as Green Hornet, Spider-Man 3 and Your Highness, while also paying tribute to higher points in their careers with the mentions of Moneyball and 127 Hours. Right from the off it becomes clear that this cast has been put together to have fun, they’re not afraid to be themselves or heap criticism on themselves: a very self aware project that reaps the benefits.

 

For the opening act the show completely belongs to one person: Michael Cera. Although he usually plays himself in pretty much every film, Cera takes a step outside of his comfort zone to actually play ‘himself’ and shines as the source of laughter. His new bum slapping, coke fuelled personality is the major highlight of This is the End and Cera really digs in and let loose. This is just one of a number of cameos: Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Emma Watson, David Krumholtz, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd and Channing Tatum (particularly surprising and hilarious) all included.

“We should make a sequel to Pineapple Express

What becomes clear is that this is not a film that is made for everyone. If you have no knowledge of Rogen’s or Franco’s career and friendship in particular, then this is not the film for you. One of the more frequent points in the film is this friendship and Franco’s love for Seth Rogen. And if you don’t like Pineapple Express (which everyone really should) then you are not going to reap the benefits of the hilarious ‘Pineapple Express 2‘ homemade sequel.

 

Every major character has their time in the spotlight, each being allowed to let loose, have fun and provide laughs. Jonah Hill, however, perhaps has the most stand out points which you can look at even out of the context of the whole film and enjoy: the Milky Bar scene, the exorcism and the incredibly camp gun scene. Everything he does is fantastic.

“Dear God, it’s me, Jonah Hill… from Moneyball

The end of the world may be a tired storyline but that only benefits This is the End. With no immediate or heavy concerns with storyline the (half-written) script is allowed to entertain on its own merits. The cast are allowed to live within themselves, push their exciting and over the top performance to the very limits all against the backdrop of destruction. There aren’t many scenes where the laughs die down and there certainly aren’t any jokes that misfire or fall flat.

 

You will either love it or hate it. This is one of those films. But if you know what’s good for you, you’ll love it.

 

My Rating: 8/10.

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Deciding what films to see this month is going to be one tough task. With big blockbusters being released as well as lower budget story heavy features. There’s something for everyone to go and see in June.
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The Stone Roses: Made of Stone – 5th June

Shane Meadows’ documentary about the Manchester rock band is a must see for any fan!
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After Earth – 7th June

I remain unconvinced by this but Will Smith guarantees box office success whether the film is good or not.
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The Iceman – 7th June

The first of two Michael Shannon films released this month; praise has already been high for his performance here as Richard Kuklinski.
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Man of Steel – 14th June

And Michael Shannon plays the villain in Warner Bros. latest attempt to reboot arguably the most boring superhero ever created. Guaranteed box office smash and looks to be the Superman film people have been crying out for.
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Much Ado About Nothing – 14th June

If like me, you are a fan of Marvel and Shakespeare (I appreciate that isn’t a cross section many people anticipate) then Joss Whedon’s take on the famous Shakespeare play is a must see. With Clark Gregg and Nathan Fillion this is the modern sci-fi fan’s biggest wet dream.
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World War Z – 21st June

All the hype so far has been about the poor CGI and uninteresting posters. It’ll be interesting to see if Brad Pitt still has box office appeal – I’m not so sure.
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Despicable Me 2 – 28th June

If you’ve been to the cinema a lot lately you’re probably sick of seeing the teasers for this film, but you have to admit, it does look pretty good. And everyone loves those little minions!
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This is the End – 28th June

James Franco. Seth Rogen. Emma Watson. Jonah Hill. That guy from Pineapple Express and Hot Tub Time Machine. The funny one from Parks and Recreation. Milky Way. I want to see this.

‘The Iceman’ Trailer

UK Release Date: 7th June 2013.

Stars: Ariel Vroman (director), Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, James Franco, Stephen Dorff

Plot: The true story of Richard Kuklinski, the notorious contract killer and family man. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters have any clue about his real profession.

Fortunately, this isn’t an X-Men spin off in the same vein as Wolverine but about the useless Bobby Drake; it’s very different and much better than that. In a summer that’s going to be packed full of blockbusters like Iron Man 3, Fast & Furious 6, Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness and Pacific Rim, The Iceman is going to be a film that sneaks under the radar.

The Iceman is a thriller that has been well received at film festivals and features a pretty good cast. Other than the fact that Chris Evans looks like the creepiest ice-cream man ever to walk the planet, everything looks great!

Despite being a contract killer, you are clearly going to care about Richard Kuklinski; just from the trailer you can tell this is going to be a great character. I can’t wait to see this one.

1939 saw the release of arguably the most iconic film of all time: The Wizard of Oz. Since then, no film has really managed to touch audiences as much as this and influence pop culture in such a fashion. The red slippers, the yellow brick road, the Wicked Witch of the West, the cowardly lion, tin man without a brain and a scarecrow without a heart are all easily recognised and associated with The Wizard of Oz. So why on Earth have Disney decided to try and even come close to the original with Oz: The Great and Powerful.

It should be noted that Oz: The Great and Powerful is not a direct prequel to the 1939 film. It is in fact a prequel to the original novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz due to some complicated copyright business. James Franco is Oscar ‘Oz’ Diggs, a small time magician/con artist who is transported to the magical land of Oz, where he meets three witches and is said to make the prophecy come true and become the king of Oz.

James Franco is an actor who seems to love trying to add strings to his bow, however as any good huntsman will tell you one string is all a bow needs. Fantasy is the latest in a long line of genres Franco has had mixed success in along with comedy, drama, science fiction, superhero films. And it has to be said that fantasy is not a genre Franco looks at all comfortable with. Based on this performance alone I would be surprised if anyone ever let him loose with CGI again; his vision and hands and everything else was all over the place. His performance was elevated thanks to actual on screen actresses in his presence and when this happened (particularly in the scenes with Michelle Williams) Franco actually looked like a professional actor.

The beginning of the film, set in black and white and pushed back into a smaller frame in homage to the original film, is poor at best. Supposedly set in 1907 the dialogue and persona of the characters really lets Oz down. I found it hard to get into the film with poor performances for the first fifteen minutes or so and Oz being quite frankly, a very hard character to like.

As the film goes on Oz: The Great and Powerful does appear to get better but it has more ups and downs than Oz’s hot air balloon ride that got him there. The problem with this being a prequel is that the audience already know where the story leads, but in this case it feels as though the producers of the film have no idea where it is going. On the surface, though, there is a lot to enjoy thanks to incredibly well put together CGI displays and the intricate work done on the flying baboons is fantastic.

The supporting cast does very little to help the film with the exception of Michelle Williams and Joey King who both perform their roles as well as they could. This isn’t a performance that Mila Kunis or Rachel Weisz can be proud of and either with their characters being rather poorly written and just firing information at us as if they were telling us every single thought which we really do not need to hear. Zach Braff as Oz’s first real friend Finley the monkey provides a few much needed laughs but there are a lot of jokes that really miss the mark… by a lot.

There is already a sequel in the works but it is going to need a much better script, much better performances and any sign of a sense of direction because you won’t find that in Oz: The Great and Powerful.

My Rating: 5/10.

What a fantastic month for films. You’re going to have some tough decisions to make when deciding what to go see in the coming weeks!

 

Arbitrage – 1st March

Arbitrage sees a Golden Globe nominated performance from Richard Gere as a powerful magnate desperate to complete the sale of his trading empire whilst trying to cover up a horrible accident that puts his career and life at risk. Gere is supported by a fine supporting cast including the likes of Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth and Brit Marling.

 

Stoker – 1st March

Here we have a bit of a creepy looking horror/thriller film featuring Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska. Stoker is the last film to be produced by the late Tony Scott and the script was ranked number one on the list of the best unproduced scripts doing the rounds in Hollywood back in 2010. And who is the script written by? Wentworth Miller!?! Yes, Prison Break‘s very own Michael Scofield.

 

Oz: The Great and the Powerful – 8th March

Despite apparently being the third choice for the role as the title character early reports suggest that James Franco is the perfect man to lead this journey into Oz. Accompanied by three witched played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams (two very good actresses) this looks to be an epic and beautiful journey.

 

Side Effects – 8th March

There’s not a lot to say about this. It features two very successful stars at the minute in the forms of Channing Tatum and Rooney Mara accompanied by the improving-with-age Jude Law. Side Effects looks like one of the most exciting films to hit the screen so far this year.

 

Jack the Giant Slayer – 22nd March

Bryan Singer is returning to the X-Men series for the next installment but this is his latest CGI clad film based on the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. This is Nicholas Hoult’s first attempt at being a leading man in a big budget Hollywood flick but whether he has what it takes or not I am unsure.

 

The Host – 29th March

We didn’t have to wait too long for a Twilight replacement to come around as Stephanie Meyer’s other novel The Host is now adapted with one of the best young actresses around, Saoirse Ronan, in the lead role. An alien invasion film with a difference.

Troubled sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes finally has it’s leading man. It’s taking some time getting done but Jason Clarke has been cast in the lead role; lets face it, we all knew James Franco really didn’t want to come back so this isn’t really a surprise. What may come as a shock, however, is the news that ‘Dawn‘ is due to take place FIFTEEN years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes so it will be interesting to see how far the apes have come since ‘Rise‘ and how the planet is shaping up. Clarke has previously appeared in Public Enemies, Lawless and most recently Zero Dark Thirty so he has a surprisingly good track record.

 

They haven’t won any Oscars yet but it looks as though David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence clearly enjoyed working together on Silver Linings Playbook because they have agreed to do another two projects together. First it was announced the Lawrence had joined the cast in a lead role in a currently untitled film (previously known as American Bullshit) which also stars former O. Russell collaborators Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) and Christian Bale (The Fighter). The second is The Ends of the Earth; this time it was Lawrence who was already signed on and clearly David O. Russell thoroughly enjoys her company as he has agreed to direct this film too.

 

Marvel have a lot of film projects dotted about studios as well as their own ‘two films per year’ scheme they seem to be operating so you can pretty much guarantee that there will be something in the news regarding them every week, even more so with Bryan Singer back directing X-Men as he LOVES to talk about the project. Firstly, Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) has been cast as Drax the Destroyer in Marvel’s own cosmic team-up film Guardians of the Galaxy, which is moving well on the casting front. As well as this, Momoa’s co-star on Game of Thrones, Peter Dinklage, has been added to the ever expanding cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past. After early speculation of Dinklage playing Alpha Flight team member Puck was dismissed it now seems as though he will be playing a villain, probably Bolivar Trask, creator of the Sentinels.

 

And now, to end on a very good note! The previous James Bond film, Skyfall, was a smash hit around the globe winning both critically and commercially. Now it seems that it is almost dead certain that director Sam Mendes WILL return to direct the 24th Bond film in the series. Bond 24 is already being written by the same writer as Skyfall so to have Mendes back on board would increase expectations even more but I am certain that he can deliver.

Again, nothing seems to have really peaked my interest THAT much in the world of movies this week, other than the release of the brilliant Looper, of course.

First up, the best news of the week I think is the announcement that writer and actor Seth MacFarlane will be hosting the 85th Academy Awards, or the Oscars as the rest of us know them. In recent years the awards have opted for actors/actresses to host the ceremony so it is a nice change that a writer will be hosting it, meaning a lot of his material will be his own. Now this obviously becomes somewhat of a risk because MacFarlane is known for being pretty intense with his jokes and right on the border between what is acceptable and what is not (that line being crossed on more than one occasion). However, I am looking forward to his performance as I do think he is a very talented writer and he should be able to keep everyone entertained with ease. When James Franco co-hosted the Oscars in 2010 (alongside Anne Hathaway) he was nominated for Best Actor, I doubt that MacFarlane’s Ted will be winning anything though.

Also this week Fox announced that Mark Millar has been hired to oversee all of their current Marvel products, much in the same way that Joss Whedon is doing actually AT Marvel but probably to less effect in Millar’s case and to a lot less excitement. That being said, this is probably a good move because Millar has a history writing comic books for Marvel having contributed to X-Men comic books and the Civil War storyline. He clearly has an understanding of how comic books work and how the comic book should influence the movies (much like Whedon) and God knows Fox do need some help with their Marvel properties. Fox currently has X-Men: Days of Future Past and a Fantastic Four reboot in the pipeline.

In other Marvel related news (I don’t know if you can tell from my blog but I do love Marvel) there is more good news! The Amazing Spider-Man came out this year and was without a doubt the best film based on a Marvel property not made by Marvel Studios in a good few years! Part of this was down to the fact that Marc Webb was directing and Andrew Garfield was playing a role he suits down to the ground: Peter Parker. I had always assumed that Garfield would be returning for the sequel but directors are usually more touch and go with many directors leaving after one instalment. But this week the return of both Webb and Garfield was announced to a chorus of cheers.

Sometimes when you see a trailer for a film it can either make you really want to go and see that film or it can make you decide that there is no way you are going to see that film if not even the trailer looks good! I felt the latter about Rise of the Planet of the Apes when it was released last year. However, a friend of mine asked me to go and see this film with him and, never being one to turn down a trip to the cinema no matter how bad a film looks, I went along. I went into the screen expecting to be twiddling my thumbs for an hour and a half; I did not expect to be sat there having my heartstrings played with by a CGI invention but this is what actually occurred!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the story of Will (James Franco) and Caesar (Andy Serkis).  Will is a bright young scientist working on ALZ-112, otherwise known as a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and is desperate for his cure to be put into a phase of human trials after successful trials on apes. This is because Will’s father is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Will cannot cope with his father’s illness and the suffering it is putting the family through. After ‘Bright Eyes’ goes rogue at the lab, all chimpanzees have to be put down. This is where Will and chimp handler Franklin (Tyler Labine) find a new born baby chimp, soon to be known as Caesar. Caesar instantly shows signs that he inherited the ALZ-112 drug from his mother and his intelligence charts off the scale for a chimpanzee. Although this is fantastic new for Will at first, events take their toll as Caesar grows older and more ambitious.

In truth this is not one of James Franco’s best performances but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad performance, just not neccassarily as good as one might expect from a man who put in a terrific performance in 127 Hours and managed to grab an audience’s attention and hold it all by himself for ninety minutes. However, his friendship with Caesar is truly believable. Tyler Labine, Brian Cox and David Oyelowo put in an adequate shift, John Lithgow as Will’s father is one of the best performances whilst Tom Felton and Freida Pinto seemed to be competing in a competition of who could act worse. But the real star, of course, is Andy Serkis as Caesar. Serkis has made a name for himself in motion capture performance with roles as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and King Kong in Peter Jackson’s remake of the classic film. Here, Serkis is once again brilliant; his emotion he brings to the character make Caesar one of my favourite characters (and one of the best characters) of this century.

Caesar’s relationships with the human characters are wonderful to watch. Will and Caesar soon have a mutual respect for each other as Caesar soon becomes one of Will’s closest and only friends where he one was just a test subject. Caesar develops a heart-warming relationship with Will’s dad and some of the most touching scenes take place between these two. So for a film that bases so much of it’s development and early story on relationships it seems almost implausible that there is this ridiculous love story happening at the same time between Franco and Pinto’s characters which really adds little to the overall story.

You’d be surprised how emotionally captivating and driven Caesar can be to say he is just computer generated. His creation is a wonderful credit to the visual team on Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Andy Serkis himself. But it is not just Caesar, in the final act there are hundreds of primates running about the town and the special effects are wonderful – the special effects in this film are among the best that I have ever seen. You would honestly think that they were real chimpanzees at times.

The final act is fantastic. There is the climatic battle on the bridge between humans and apes that audiences have waited for since the beginning of the movie with seeds planted leading to this moment for a while. And it does not disappoint; the action is directed superbly and everything happens so smoothly – it really is great to watch and exciting as the apes bring down the police force and war wages throughout the streets.

There were obviously a few things that annoyed me (besides Freida Pinto’s involvement in the film). Most notably, the fact that in the first twenty five minutes eight years pass by and the only character that ages is Caesar. I know it was important to speed through this so that we could get to Caesar’s story as a grown ape but at least make James Franco and the rest of the cast look eight years older. How hard is it to do that when you’re creating hundreds of apes? Come on.

Anyway, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a very emotional and touching film, not just a nonsense popcorn flick which many people seem to mistakenly believe it to be. I went in with a negative approach and I really enjoyed it, there are some shocks, some great action, fantastic character development in Caesar and a great ending setting up the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, very nicely indeed.

My Rating: 7/10.

UK Release Date: 8th March 2013.

Stars: Sam Raimi (director), James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff.

Plot: Oscar Diggs, small time circus magician, gets hurled into the wonderful world of Oz where he meets three witches who are not convinced that he is the great wizard they have been expecting. Oscar is drawn into the epic problems facing Oz and must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late and transform himself into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz.

Oz: The Great and the Powerful (or just Oz for short) is the prequel that nobody needed and nobody wanted but here it is anyway.

The trailer is actually rather clever in my opinion. The film itself is obviously a prequel to the wonderful classic film Wizard of Oz and the trailer acknowledges it’s ancestory (something which will hopefully be true of the film as well) by starting in black and white for the ‘real world’ and then making the transition to bright and vibrant colourful scenes upon landing in Oz. There is even a hint that the Wicked Witch may appear at the end of the trailer so keep watching for that.

James Franco is always a good performer despite his choice of films being sometimes questionable but it seems as though he is just a guy who wants to have fun with his career so he always puts in his best which is great and I think that he is a fantastic choice for the role of the Wizard. Mila Kunis seems to be the big female lead of this vehicle and seems to be very prominent in Hollywood these days although whether that’s down to her acting abilities or the fact she has been named ‘sexiest woman in the world’ still remains to be seen in the long run.

I’m not quite sure who the audience for Oz is; it looks too mature for kids but too ‘teenagery’ for adults… are today’s generation even interested in The Wizard of Oz? I guess, come next year, we will find out.

***WARNING: WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS***

Pineapple Express is one of my favourite films ever! I’m not a big fan of Seth Rogen, I’m not a big fan of Danny McBride but this film is hilarious. It’s not the best film ever made, but it is one that I could watch over and over again and never get bored of.

Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Pineapple Express is about a process server named Dale Denton (Rogen) and his marijuana dealer Saul (James Franco). The two of them end up on the run after Dale witnesses a murder by Saul’s dealer when trying to serve papers on him. Dale and Saul then get caught up in a turf war between two rival drug dealers all because of a rare form of marijuana called Pineapple Express.

Seth Rogen is, obviously, playing the same kind of character he always does but for some reason, in this film, he isn’t as annoying as usual which is a good thing. Danny McBride, for some reason, annoys me an awful lot and I can’t see past that for the sake of this film either. Amber Heard, as Dale’s high school girlfriend, isn’t featured too much but when called upon she does her job. But the main reason making Pineapple Express worth watching is James Franco; he is absolutely brilliant. Franco’s line delivery and all round performance as Saul is hilarious and well worthy of the Golden Globe he was nominated for.

The growing friendship and relationship between Dale and Saul throughout the film is great to watch as the two drug addicted characters become great friends. Their interactions, in particular in the forest whilst on the run, are fantastic. Rogen and Franco have been friends for years in their personal lives and it shows in their chemistry on screen.

The action scenes are hilarious, especially the one that takes place in Red’s house. The final shootout at the end isn’t the best action sequence in the world but the film was shot on a small budget and it just adds to the comedy aspect of Pineapple Express; some of the deaths are unforgettable, you look past how daft they may be and appreciate the quality of the comedy portrayed.

Pineapple Express manages to spoof the great action films of the eighties and nineties with their ending without making it look corny. When Dale carries an injured Saul out of a barn close to explosion it is clear, from the way the scene is shot, this is a reference to old school action movies. An analogy further emphasised when Red manages to crawl out of said barn after being shot ‘like seven times’ and remain alive and well, an obvious reference to action movie heroes being shot at constantly and going through hell to achieve their goals yet at the end of the film they are unscathed.

It’s not the best film in the world, far from it in fact. Pineapple Express, at times, is absolutely ridiculous but it is in the best possible way. It is one of the funniest films I have ever seen and something I could never tire of watching. The comedy quality here is top notch and I would recommend this film to anyone!

My Rating: 8/10