This Is the End (Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, 2013). It seems like an original idea for a movie: a bunch of celebrities (all playing “themselves”) meet for a party at James Franco’s house, during which the Apocalypse comes. It’s like an End of Days episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. The self-congratulatory nature of the enterprise is reminiscent of the 60s Rat Pack, Ocean’s Eleven done as a sci-fi flick. But this being the 2010s, there is also a layer of ironic self-examination in the self congratulations. There are some good laugh lines, more even than make it into the trailer, and references to everything from Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist to Freaks and Geeks and Pineapple Express. It all adds up to a time-waster and nothing more. 6/10. For a companion piece, watch the entire run of Freaks and Geeks.
Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989). Highly regarded by critics and Allen fans, one of his “profound” movies that at least lacks the hatred of the audience you find in Stardust Memories. There are a few funny moments, although ever since the aforementioned Stardust Memories I’ve felt guilty for laughing, and some of the fine acting we expect from a Woody Allen film. Allen is the worst actor on the screen, which is often the point, but I’m not sure how we’re supposed to take his character this time … is he honorable but pathetic, honorable because he is pathetic, or just a loser? … a better actor might have clarified the character. Also, while it isn’t fair, nonetheless the tabloids have their influence … the kindest relationship in the film is between Allen’s character and a teenage girl who likes to watch old movies with him. It’s a lovely setup, but every time Allen touched her, I shivered, and yes, I know that’s not fair. The film is strongly pessimistic … the bad guys get away with their crimes and misdemeanors … and god doesn’t come off too well, which is OK by me. But I’m long past the point where I care much about Woody Allen’s thoughts on philosophy (it seems noteworthy that Allen bestows more sympathy on the man who arranges a murder than he does on the victim), and Annie Hall is still my favorite of his movies. #235 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 6/10. Watch this with Hannah and Her Sisters.