Is “The Interview” worth WWIII? No, but it is a lot of fun. (Plus the Best and Worst Films of 2014!)

There have been a lot of things said about this movie in the past few weeks, most of which haven’t been about the movie itself but about the events leading up to its eventual release through independent cinemas and VOD services. There are the much publicized Sony hack, the threats from the trolls/assholes that call themselves “The Guardians of Peace,” all major theater chains refusing to release the movie, Sony pushing the movie back indefinitely, and finally President Obama teeing off on the whole shebang.  All of these events have made this silly Rogen/Franco film THE must-see film of the season and possibly of the year. To some, this isn’t just another boner joke comedy; it’s a message. A message to North Korea. This message coming in the form of a massive middle finger, of course. These so-called “Guardians of Peace” threatened innocent people’s lives over a movie made by the same guys who gave us scenes like this…

And this…

Now we have dictators in other counties trying to impose censorship on things they don’t like here in the States. Now contrary to popular belief, the US is not the greatest place on the planet, but we are far from the hell hole that is North Korea, and the last thing we should be doing is bowing down and attempting to appease a country that has active death camps. When we are threatened with violence we shouldn’t stand down. That isn’t the United States. I completely empathize with Sony in wanting to avoid bloodshed/ride the wave of hype on a movie they probably didn’t see becoming this MASSIVE of a deal, (I certainly wouldn’t want to be in that position) but bending to will of some asshole neck beards like the “Guardians of Peace” sets a dangerous precedent. South Park said it best…

Do I agree with these statements? Yes, but my job as the reviewer here is to judge the movie on its own merits.

Right off the bat I should say that I typically avoid reviewing comedies these days. Not because I look down on them. Quite the contrary in fact. I just have the hardest time nailing down what it is I liked about a particular comedy because more so than any other genre of film what I find funny could be vastly different from what someone else considers funny. As previously stated however this movie is now a different kind of animal and is now somewhat important so I won’t miss my chance to cash in…er…I mean give my 2 cents on the movie as a whole. It’s important to note that going into this that there is no way for it to live up to the level of anticipation it received after being pulled from theaters. It isn’t going to change your life once you see it or strike you with some great understanding about the universe. I imagine Rogen and his directing/writing partner Evan Goldberg would be the first to admit that this movie was never meant to do anything remotely close to that. It is a pretty funny comedy that doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of laughs but is film that left me smiling throughout.

the-interview-poster

THE PLOT:

“In the action-comedy The Interview, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show “Skylark Tonight.” When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate Kim Jong-un.” – Sony Pictures Entertainment

THE REVIEW:

The strongest bit about the movie overall for me at least was the chemistry between the two leads. The highest compliment I can give them is they come off as a modern day Laurel and Hardy taking on Kim Jong Un in a way the earlier cinematic duo may have faced off against Adolph Hitler.  Rogen plays strait man this time around with Franco taking the more far-out role as Dave Skylark. Franco damn near runs away with the movie as hyper-real (but not far from the real thing) celebrity interviewer and gets many of the film’s biggest laughs, particularly when he is paired with Randal Park’s Kim Jong Un. Outside of the two leads, Park is without a doubt the best part of the movie. You may recognize him from this classic Office skit:

He succeeds in creating a character we know and hate and making him somewhat likable or at the very least kind of relatable. He is insecure, awkward at times, and loves Western culture to a fault. You know, like the real Kim. One other notable standout is Diana Bang’s Sook, who serves as Kim’s media consultant. She gets some pretty solid laughs throughout particularly when she is paired with Rogen. Mean Girls alum and all-around knockout Lizzy Caplan gets a few scenes but I honestly wish she had been tasked with more to do. She has some real comedy chops and she feels almost wasted here.

The other real strength the film has outside of its cast is that at the end, honest-to-god journalism is what wins the day. Outside of all the frivolous nonsense and celebrity fluff, journalism still has the power to move mountains when done right. This movie has upset quite a few people (well, one country to be specific) which is exactly what good journalism does. Suffice to say, comedy is now the outlet that serves the purpose that the news is supposed to be doing. Look to the millions of people my ages that look to things like The Daily Show and John Oliver to get our news. The Interview, along with Gone Girl and Nightcrawler, serves as the final part of a 2014 trilogy of films that take the media to task and does so in a way that is hilarious and wholly upsetting.

As with any comedy, the film has jokes that are winners and stinkers. There is also a great runner concerning Katy Perry’s “Firework,” which is the utter definition of a guilty pleasure.

Did I have problems with the movie? Sure, but they equal out to minor nitpicks for the most part. I honestly found Rogen and Goldberg’s first movie, This is the End, to be more consistently funny. Hell, I thought Rogen’s other movie from this year, Neighbors, was funnier. I think it has to do with those two movies being more ensembles whereas as this movies rides firmly on the coattails of a few. Rogen and Rose Bryne are a true comedic team in Neighbors. In The Interview, Rogen more or less takes a back seat to Franco. This isn’t a bad things, but when it comes to comedy I much prefer teams to solo acts.

In conclusion, I don’t have too much to say about this movie because it’s just satisfying comedy. Nothing more and nothing less. I personally think the controversy surrounding it are going to linger in my mind a lot longer than my actual thoughts on the film itself, but for what it was, I enjoyed it throughout.

THE 14 BEST FILMS OF 2014

Like last year, I don’t really want to do a top 10 list in a particular order. I liked all of the movies about to appear for very different reasons. My main regret is that there aren’t any documentaries (one of my favorite film genres) on this list because I didn’t get to see that many documentaries this year. It should go without saying, but I could only include movies that I actually saw this year. As I am not a professional reviewer (hell, I barely qualify as an amateur one), I didn’t have the time to see everything that came out this year. I also live in Oklahoma which doesn’t afford much opportunity to see smaller movies in theaters. I have to wait for them to either come out on DVD or find some bootleg on the internet. So these are the 14 best movies (that I saw) in 2014 BEFORE it ended.

The Grand Budapest Hotel  – Wes Anderson’s best film since Life Aquatic, and possibly the best ensemble cast he has rounded up yet.

Guardians of the Galaxy  – Weak villain aside, this is my favorite Marvel movie yet, thanks in large part to writer/director James Gunn, the main cast and the loveably bizarre characters they play; not to mention the best soundtrack of the year, bar none. None of us, Marvel included, were prepared for the cultural phenomenon that would become, “I am Groot.”

Gone Girl – A movie that turned off a lot more people than I think it should have, Gone Girl  was an incredibly dark movie that only mastermind David Fincher could bring to life. While I believe the Oscar gold will ultimately go to Reese Witherspoon’s performance in Wild, Rosmund Pike delivers the best performance by an actress this year in my opinion in role that haunt your dreams for days after the credits roll.

Birdman – Like many, I worried that this movie would rely too much on the gimmick of appearing like it was shot in one, continuous take. Instead, this plays heavily in the film’s favor as it unfolds much like a stage play and sports the best cast of the year. Michael Keaton stars as a washed up actor mainly known for a superhero role he played over 2 decades ago. While Keaton is far from washed up, he is finally given a role he really sink his teeth into and showcase the talent he’s been giving us glimpses of for the better part of a decade. Look for his name to pop up frequently come awards season as well Emma Stone’s and Edward Norton’s. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu takes into the pits of madness and it is at times both hilarious and terrifying.

Snowpiercer – While technically released last year, this science fiction gem didn’t hit theaters in the US until this summer so it has a rightful place on this list.

The Raid 2 – The best action movie since the first Raid. I personally prefer the first movie if only because of its simplicity, but length aside, I did not feel this movie’s 2-and-half hour runtime at all thanks in large part to some of the best action set pieces we are likely to see until the next film comes around.

The Lego Movie  – Talk about a movie that should have sucked. I said as much in my original review, but I’ll say it again: everything about this movie is awesome.

Nightcrawler The single best performance of the year belongs to Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom. This movie is great, but it truly rides on whether this character works or not. Like Gone Girl, this movie is insanely dark (which may reveal why I liked both of them so much) and gives us insight into the grimy world of not only into modern day journalism but also the American Dream as a whole. Gyllenhaal is at times intriguing as well as completely terrifying. I never like to throw around words like “iconic” but his Lou Bloom is the closest thing to an iconic performance we have this year. It’ll be a shame if the Academy passes it by in favor of something more conventional.

Whiplash  I was late to the party on this one and only saw this movie just last week. I was not disappointed and actually felt like it lived up to the level of hype it has received unlike other smaller movies that came out this year. (Looking at you, Boyhood.) Like Michael Keaton in Birdman, J.K. Simmons is finally given a role that he utterly owns in. Miles Teller is similarly spectacular and is either some kind of drum prodigy in real life or trained insanely hard for this role.

The Babadook – Being an avid movie watcher, I appreciate movies more and more that leave a lasting impression and being genuinely afraid during a movie is what I would consider leaving an impression. These days, I am hardly ever moved by horror movies in one direction or the other as a great majority of them suck. I watched this due in great part to the hype surrounding it. I didn’t expect much given how disappointed I was in past horror films that were accompanied by hype (i.e. movies like The Conjuring and Insidious). What I got was a movie that had me afraid to turn off the lights for a few days after seeing it. I’ll skip spoilers and get to the point: watch this movie in the dark for the full effect. Jennifer Kent has shaped a new monster that will plays on the universal fears each and every one of us has of the dark and the things that play around in the corners of our eyes. Not only does it deliver on scares, but on drama too with great performances from its cast full of relative unknowns.

The Imitation Game – I took this clear Oscar bait hook-line-and-sinker. Sure, it’s a fairly conventional period piece based on a true story, but I am a sucker for these kinds of British bio-pics. Alan Turing is a guy that has interested me for years now and its pretty awesome to see him finally get his due on such a grand scale. Benedict Cumberbatch finally takes the lead in a role that he obviously excels in and is supported by a strong cast including Kira Knightly and Matthew Goode.

Foxcatcher – Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum are both spellbinding and haunting in their respective roles here. Place that in sentences that I thought I’d never write. Bennett Miller directs another sports movie that enthralled me in a sport that I could give two shits about in real life.

Captain America: The Winter Solider – I almost gave this spot to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes but Cap won out due to its characters being more interesting. I wrote reviews for both, (which you are all welcome to go back and read for yourselves) and both were fantastic big-budget blockbusters that defied expectations to be even better than their predecessors, but Winter Solider was just a better all-around movie. It was also a greater leap in quality from the first Captain America. 

 Blue Ruin A revenge movie that deconstructs the revenge movie genre as a whole by having its main hero be completely terrible at extracting his revenge. Yet another dark comedy that snuck up on me (via Netflix) and floored me.

THE 14 WORST FILMS OF 2014

There aren’t too many surprises to be found here. I saw most of these movies at home because I rarely venture out of my shell…I mean home for movies I think will be terrible.

Boyhood – Probably going to upset some people with this one, but I have to be brave. Look, this wasn’t a terrible movie but I failed to see it live up to the waves and waves of hype that it received. To me, it didn’t particularly get past its gimmick. Maybe I would have liked it more had the lead actor be a tad more interesting, but seeing the 3 hour origins of a hipster douche isn’t what I categorize as interesting. I was much more invested in his parents (played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke respectively) and kind of wish that the movie had been focused on them and their struggles more. Still this was at least okay but made this list because it was such a let down for me. Richard Linklater is a writer/director I greatly admire and applaud his effort even if the outcome was disappointing.

Noah – Like Boyhood, this wasn’t terrible; just incredibly disappointing given its pedigree.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2  – I was initially in denial about how bad this movie was. I tried to justify it being okay by saying at least it was a smidgen better than the first movie in the new rebooted Spidey film franchise. The more I thought about it, however, the angrier I got. This was an overcrowded mess, and proves once and for all that Sony has absolutely no idea what to do with this franchise anymore. It wastes the talents of the considerable talents it has, and comes off as a movie made by executives instead of actual filmmakers. Sony: Please give the rights to my favorite superhero back to Marvel, a company that actually seems to know what it is doing right now.

Sharknado 2: The Second One – I hate hate hate hate hate HATE HHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTTTTEEEEEEEEE movies that try to be bad. This is a textbook example of a movie trying way too hard to be bad. It lacks the soul of truly bad movie and therefore comes off as pandering which is fucking obnoxious.

Maleficent  – This movie came off as a giant Hot Topic commercial, just like Disney’s live-action redo of Alice in Wonderland. It’s a shame this movie sucked as much as it did given that Angelina Jolie is the perfect choice for the title role. Maleficent is one of Disney’s most iconic villains and she is utterly shortchanged here. From annoying characters (those fairies need to go rot in the furthest depths of hell) to effects that look like lackluster video game cutscenes, this movie fails at even being remotely entertaining or original. Which of course means in made a shitton of money.

I, Frankenstein  – Yes, this was bad. It was always going to be bad. I’m not sure what possessed me to think otherwise.

Need for Speed – Boring. A very boring, Fast and the Furious wannabe.

A Million Ways To Die In The West – Not funny. Like not even remotely funny. This movie is anti-funny and was an utter chore to sit through.

Transformers: Age of Extinction – Optimus Prime teams up with Mark Walburg AND rides a robot dinosaur. This movie would be 14-year-old Tyler’s dream come true. Unfortunately this movie came after the last two joyless Transformer movies. Spoilers: like Boyhood, this movie was almost 3 hours and also joyless.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles –  I wasn’t expecting this to be good. I don’t think anyone was. I just wanted it to be fun. Just because all of the pervious TMNT movies were terrible, does not excuse this one for being equally terrible. In fact, it kind of just makes sense.

Tusk – Another disappointment from Kevin Smith after what seemed like a comeback in the form of Red State. This movie started off strong in spite of its silly premise, but fell apart completely when Johnny Depp’s unfunny Guy Lepointe came into the film and proceeded to decimate any semblance of tension Smith worked so hard to establish. A plethora of unlikable characters that came beforehand didn’t help the situation. This makes me worried for Yoga Hoisers.

Left Behind  – I watched this partly out of morbid interest and partly because of Nicolas Cage. You know the movie is a turd when not even the Cage can save it.

Tammy – Remember when Melissa McCarthy was fun in supporting roles playing the same unpleasant yet likable character. (Bridesmaids. Literally the only movie this happened in was Bridesmaids.) Well someone decided she needed her own movie as that unpleasant yet likable character. The end result? All likeability left, and all we had was unpleasantness. Sheer and utter unpleasantness.

Transcendence – This movie had so much going for it. So much talent and a half way interesting plot. SO WHY WAS IT SO FUCKING BORING?!?!

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