Thursday, November 26, 2015
The Night Before
Dir. Jonathan Levine
Who better to hit off the Christmas season than Seth Rogen and his writing/producing partner Evan Goldberg - a couple of Jewish stoners? Though Rogen didn't have a hand in writing or directing this time, The Night Before marks a reunion for 50/50 stars Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and director Jonathan Levine, and it still has that distinctive "Rogen" stamp on it. The story is like Superbad with sleigh bells; buddies Isaac (Rogen), Chris (Anthony Mackie), and Ethan (Levitt) go out every Christmas Eve for a night of drunken karaoke and misadventures on the anniversary of the death of Ethan's parents. But this year, now in their 30's, they want to make it their last hurrah, and they're going to go out with a bang at the mysterious annual Nutcracker Ball. The Night Before is more or less a series of semi-linked sketches with this overarching theme of maturing into adulthood and making the effort to hold onto friendships as one gets older. Rogen has returned to this coming-of-age theme again and again in his films, often times with much funnier results (Neighbors, This is the End, etc), but The Night Before should still satisfy his fans, such as myself, looking for cheap dick jokes and potty humor.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Dir. Sam Mendes
Warning: This review contains some character-related spoilers - ye be warned!
Since the series was "rebooted" in 2006 with Casino Royale, James Bond has perpetually gotten more and more serious. Gone are the days of the campy, fun Bond of yesteryear; I'm pretty sure Daniel Craig is the most joyless version of the character yet, as all of his films seem to ask the question: why is Bond still relevant? Spectre is Sam Mendes' follow-up to Skyfall, which is undoubtedly one of the best-looking Bond films and among the best in the series overall. But it too at times fell victim to the "I'm still here!" idea of James Bond trying to keep up in a world dominated by cyber attacks and anonymous hackers; a quick fistfight or a car chase seems irrelevant when the worst baddies can control the world behind a keyboard. But whereas Skyfall managed to weave in an intriguing relationship between Bond and M (Judi Dench) and presented a chilling villain in Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), Spectre pretty much lacks any human-feeling qualities, and its villain(s) are terribly disappointing. Add to that an infuriatingly overused plot of a mysterious crime ring that controls everything (we literally just saw this in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation), a few slick, yet uninteresting action setpieces, and a really drawn out run time, Spectre is a pretty big disappointment.