The Interview (Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, 2014). In most ways, this is an easy movie to review, in a consumer guide way: if you liked movies such as Pineapple Express or This Is the End, you will like The Interview. If those movies weren’t your cup of tea, don’t bother with The Interview. Of course, that’s not what people want to know … they want to know if it really is outrageous enough to deserve censure. Well, as Annalee Newitz noted, it is pro-assassination. You might come into The Interview thinking it’s just another comedy … I did the same thing when I said you’d like it if you liked those earlier films. But where The Interview enters unfamiliar terrain is in advocating the assassination of an actual, living leader. I’m not saying this makes it a bad movie, or a good one. But there are reasons this movie has been singled out. Is it good? The first half is as good as those other movies. The second half gradually sneaks violence into the mix, and this isn’t like Bonnie and Clyde, where we laugh right up until the moment when the guy gets shot in the face, and we realize we are implicated. No, this is just supposed to be the hilarious ending of a comedy. To me, it wasn’t funny anymore. I didn’t find it objectionable, I just wasn’t laughing. But that’s me … my problems with modern comedies are well-documented. Outside of the hubbub surrounding The Interview, I think its value is interchangeable with This Is the End. Watch one, watch them both, skip them both, it doesn’t really matter. 6/10.
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (Paul Weitz, 2009). I showed my ignorance when this movie popped up. I’d never heard of it, so my son-in-law said we should watch it (“It’s got Salma Hayek,” he said, knowing my tastes in such things). I was surprised I didn’t know the film when the credits rolled: in the cast, besides Salma, were John C. Reilly, Josh Hutcherson, Ray “Titus Pullo” Stevenson, Patrick Fugit, Ken Watanabe, Orlando Jones, Frankie Faison, Jane Krakowski, Kristen Schaal, and Willem Dafoe. We also noted it was based on a series of books, and of course, I hadn’t heard of them, either. Thus, I was prepared to smugly hate-watch a piece of junk. Well, it wasn’t junk. The tone was wobbly … there were real issues at stake (no pun intended), complicated groups battling each other, and plenty of interesting characters in the freak circus. But I was mostly confused, and so didn’t get involved in the plot. I was left to the individual performances, and the problem was there were too many of them. I would have liked to see more of Salma Hayek as a bearded lady, and Frankie Faison as Rhamus Twobellies. But they were just window dressing to the basic plot about a budding vampire’s assistant. Fair enough … the title warned me … but I found it an amiable time-waster, no more. On Xmas Day, at a family party, I was talking about the movie to my brother, and a couple of people knew exactly what I was talking about. I went from being smug to feeling pretty dumb … after all, I was the one who assumed because I hadn’t heard of it, no one had heard of it. One person explained that this movie was based on a trilogy, which helps explain the hurried plot and confusing passages. I got the feeling he felt the movie was a failed attempt to get the books to the screen, and he may be right … it cost $40 million and only took in $39 million at the box office. 6/10.