If you knew the end of the world was coming, you might want to have a last laugh enjoying This is the End, featuring a whole gallery of current Hollywood A-Listers hilariously playing exaggerated versions (?) of themselves. Seth Rogen stars and co-wrote and co-directed with Evan Goldberg this apocalyptic comedy in which Jay Baruchel comes to L.A. to visit old friend Seth and winds up being dragged along to a bacchanal at James Franco’s mansion. As Jay’s discomfort level reaches its peak (he’s not crazy about Seth’s new Hollywood friends, particularly Jonah Hill), he and Seth head out to a convenience store—and lo, the end of the world arrives in the form of explosions, mass chaos and a huge earthquake (which sucks in many game guest stars including Rihanna, Jason Segel and Aziz Ansari), as well as the arrival of some lascivious, murderous, and ravenous monsters. Rogen and Baruchel, along with Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, take refuge at Franco’s house, and all is semi-well (considering it’s the end of the world) until they’re rudely surprised by Danny McBride, who not only has crashed the party, but proceeds to use up many of their supplies for an exorbitantly wasteful breakfast.
Much of This is the End is seriously funny, as the six stars vie for food (especially the Milky Way bar), attention and affection. All the actors are inspired: if you like Rogen, Robinson, Hill, Baruchel and McBride you won’t be disappointed. Michael Cera also scores, playing himself as so coke and sex-obsessed that an errant light pole barely deters him, while an armed Emma Watson makes a welcome appearance until she takes off with the group’s supplies (as the result of a misunderstanding that goes on a little too long). However it is Franco who especially impresses as a screamingly wealthy, secretive, self-centered version of himself who is obsessed with the idea of sacrificing himself to show what a good friend he is---if not in real life, at least with the proposed sequel to Pineapple Express. The idea of sacrifice in the service of friendship runs throughout the hijinks and the carnage, leading to a satisfying ending…at least for most of the cast.
For some reason, The Internship has been gathering some hostile notices. I hope some reviewers aren’t confusing this second Vince Vaughn/Jared Smith-scripted, Shawn Levy-directed collaboration with last year’s The Watch. I mean, The Watch was grim fare indeed with nary a chuckle among the powerhouse cast. The Internship, which reteams Vaughn with Owen Wilson is another matter altogether: light-hearted, fast-paced, genuinely funny at times, while keeping a smile on your face at other times. Vaughn and Wilson are both at the top of their game as career salesmen who are left in the lurch when their watch company goes under. In the ever-changing world of technology, they’re viewed (by others and themselves) as dinosaurs. Vaughn hits upon the idea of interning for Google, and convinces a wary Wilson to brave a Skype interview and join the ranks of summer interns competing for the rare Google paying job.
Much of The Internship can be seen as formulaic; Vaughn and Wilson have to win over their much younger colleagues, as well as their…younger superiors; there are the inevitable screw-ups; there is the one evil guy who wants to sabotage them (although in a nice moment, he says to Vaughn that he doesn’t have to do a thing-Vince can foul up all by himself); some tentative attempts at romance among the younger and the older set; and the inevitable moment when the guys prove they can still be relevant. However, it’s all good clean fun and features some good supporting turns from Assif Mandvi, Rose Byrne and John Goodman, as well as an amusing cameo from Will Ferrell as a man who makes his living with mattresses.
Now You See Me is a lot of fun indeed-- most of the way through. Four magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Isla Fisher) are maneuvered into joining forces by a mysterious benefactor, and one year later, as a group called “The Four Horsemen”, dazzle audiences in Las Vegas with a trick that seemingly involves using an audience member to rob a bank—in Paris—through teleportation. That the trick succeeds all too well brings them to the attention of the FBI (led by Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent) as well as a professional magic-debunker (Morgan Freeman).
From there, the complications mount, and the sleight of hand continues as characters and motives are not necessarily what they seem. While I enjoyed the various twists and turns (though a little Jesse Eisenberg goes a long way), Now You See Me loses momentum at the moment of its biggest trick, consisting of a twist that many might guess in advance—but without an altogether satisfying payoff.