This Is The End

This Is The End is a riot. Well, not so much a riot as an apocalypse. The movie’s premise is that Jay Baruchel (playing a semi-fictionalised version of himself) – and who’s in self-imposed exile from the Hollywood he finds distasteful – flies to Los Angeles to visit his old Cannuck buddy Seth Rogen (also playing a sort-of- himself). Seth’s rather more enamoured of the Southern California lifestyle, and he drags Jay, quite unwillingly, to a party at the home of James Franco (also playing… you get the picture?). The party is full of ridiculous self-referential celebrities, all playing ridiculous versions of themselves, (stand outs – Michael Cena and Channing Tatum) it’s like a Who’s Who. And then the Apocalypse strikes.

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So: some die and some survive, and those who survive are basically left to verbally roast each other before the demons do. This Is The End is also completely daft, this is also completely crass, this is also completely cringe-worthy at times, but it’s also laugh out loud. So it’s worth a squizz if you can bear the penis jokes. Locations wise, although there are some establishing shots on Melrose in LA, This actually filmed in Louisiana.

Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful is set about 20 years before Dorothy gets whisked away to the magical kingdom by the tornado – so it’s kind of an “Oz origins” story. It tells how the “wizard” – actually a ridiculously crass, greedy and utterly ineffectual conman called Oscar Diggs – arrives in Oz and finds himself in the middle of a supremacy struggle between three witches of very different personalities (Good, Bad, Middling.)



Oz is truly sumptuous to look at – magical, actually – with magnificent SFX. The plot might be wafer-thin, but it cracks along at a fun pace nevertheless, and I quite enjoyed it – tho admittedly without being blown away. It can’t have been easy creating this magical world within the strict constraints set by Warner Bros’ lawyers – everything from the ruby slippers to Theodora’s big green chin were copyrighted and could not be used to recreate the Oz ambience.

Oz filmed in Michigan, courtesy of the State’s (then-) welcoming incentive programme, at the newly built Raleigh Studios there (a venue that swiftly defaulted on its $18 million government loan once the State’s incentive programme was cut back.) Also, I must just add, I think it’s no small irony that James Franco plays Oscar Diggs (or Oz). Franco is obviously one of Hollywood’s own biggest wizards himself, a chameleonic trickster of varying degrees of brilliance or awfulness, who’s somehow persuaded the great and good of Hollywood that he should be heading up this kind of $200 million movie.

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a glossy re-imagining of how the world of the seventies Sci-Fi tv series – where talking chimps rule the world and humans are dumb slave labor – comes about. This time, a crumply scientist (James Franco) tries to cure Alzheimers and creates a brain potion that’s tested on chimps in a slick, impersonal animal testing facility. This new potion heals chimps with damaged brains, but does even more remarkable stuff to apes with healthy brains, advancing their intelligence and reasoning exponentially. And when one of the test subjects begins to object to his cruel and unusual treatment at the hands of impersonal scientists and sadistic welfare workers alike, it’s the dramatic turning point in simian-human relations….

The film is set in San Franscisco, and several city landmarks, notably the zoo and the Golden Gate Bridge, are front-and-center visual icons in the film. However, the film mostly filmed in Canada – the domed roof of the chimp rehabilitation facility is actually the Pacific National Exhibition Center sports facility.

But is it any good? Well, yes, actually – it’s compelling and entertaining and engaging, mostly due to the efforts of CGI-enhanced performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar the chimp. Rise in fact pulls off quite a remarkable feat; for the first time I can ever remember, the movie concludes at the threshold of the humiliation of vicious, kak-handedly brutal and thoughtless mankind, and it feels completely right and proper to celebrate the end of the world as we know it. Having created such sympathy for Caesar, it will be interesting to see how future films (and believe me, there will be more films) turn these apes into the human-like monsters of the original series.

127 Hours

Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours movie about Aron Ralston, that selfish fool who fell down a canyon and had to chop off his own hand with a pen-knife, is horrible-horrible-horrible – so much so that it’s almost unwatchable in places.

Yet it’s also quite brilliant. James Franco is absolutely spot on as the spoilt, thoughtless, resourceful Ralston and he completely carries the film; it’s got to have been hard turning one man’s solitary ordeal in a confined space into 90 minutes of big screen cinema, but Boyle and Franco manage it – via flash backs and dreams, hallucinations and nifty survival techniques – with panache. And the pace – again bear in mind that this is about a man who’s virtually immobile – moves along with balletic briskness. It may be viscerally unpleasant but it’s really worth seeing.

You’ve gathered I’m not much of an outdoorsy person myself – mostly because I’m both lazy and a huge wuss – but Bluejohn Canyon in Utah’s Canyon Country looks spectacularly beautiful (if spectacularly unforgiving.) The Telegraph has a really good piece on it here. And with Trek America you can even hike there yourself.

Milk

Brimming over with integrity, kindness, wit, moral outrage and moral authority; a class act. (And that’s just the movie.)

Thank you Harvey Milk. For everything, really.