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Posts Tagged ‘Jonah Hill’

sausage-party-post1“SAUSAGE PARTY”  My rating: B

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The animated “Sausage Party” is so thick with puerile sexuality that a viewer must choose between bailing on the whole experience or embracing it in a spirit of unfettered adolescent humor.

I  mean, here’s an R-rated movie about a hot dog named Frank (Seth Rogen) who dreams that Brenda (Kristen Wiig), the bun he has worshipped from afar, will open up and allow him to nestle his full length in her soft, spongy interior.

Other characters include a lesbian taco with a Mexican accent, a bottle of tequila that talks like a wise old Indian chief, a neurotic jar of honey mustard, a box of grits and even a used condom. Then there’s  Lavosh — a Middle Eastern wrap — who is always exchanging insults with a Jewish bagel. The villain of the piece is the megalomaniac Douche (yes, a feminine hygiene product).

These characters are brought to life by a Who’s Who of voice talent that includes Salma Hayek, Bill Hader, David Krumholtz, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Edward Norton, Michael Cera, Paul Rudd and James Franco.

Narratively “Sausage Party” feels likes something a bunch of stoners dreamed up at 2 in the morning (duh).

It’s July 3 in the supermarket, and all of the products sitting on the shelves are pumped because so many of them will be “chosen” by the “gods” (i.e., human shoppers) and taken out of the store to what they are sure will be a paradisiacal eternity in the Great Beyond. They  celebrate their imminent liberation in a rousing song (music by Alan Menken).

Frank and his fellow wieners (they’re crammed in eight to a package) have been gazing lustfully at a nearby package of buns (six to a package…go figure), awaiting the day they will be joined in the hereafter,  “where all your wildest and wettest dreams come true.”

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James Franco

James Franco

“TRUE STORY” My rating: C+

100 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Every big-city newspaper has a reporter like Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill).  A hotshot writer with an unlimited expense account, Finkel keeps his own schedule, visiting the office only a few times each year to smile condescendingly at his envious colleagues and bathe in their bitter admiration.

Early in writer/director Rupert Goold’s “True Story,” Finkel pays one such rare visit to the newsroom of The New York Times, which has just published his latest Sunday magazine cover story, this one about contemporary slavery in Africa.

Except that this time around Finkel doesn’t have his facts straight. He apparently has combined several individuals into one semi-fictional character (moreover, in the opening scene we saw him pay a source for information…a no-no in the world of legit journalism).

Suddenly this perfect master of newsprint is out on his keister. Plus, once word of the scandal gets out, no other paper will hire him.

“True Story” is based on what happened to the real-life Michael Finkel in the wake of his firing.  He learned that Christian Longo, an Oregon man facing charges of having murdered his wife and three young children, had stolen Finkel’s identity in order to survive on the run.

Having spent way too much time in disgrace, Finkel decides to visit Longo (James Franco) in his jail cell.  Hey, Finkel needs a fan, even if the guy’s a multiple murderer.

He encounters a hooded-eyed sociopath who can seem friendly and perfectly rational, but who refuses to address his own guilt or innocence.  The desperate Finkel,  smelling a best-selling book, cultivates Longo, even coaching him in wordsmithing once the accused man reveals that he’s always wanted to be a writer.

But who’s playing whom?

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wolf 2“THE WOLF OF WALL STREET” My rating: C+ (Opens wide on Dec. 25)

179 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Is “The Wolf of Wall Street” the result of some sort of show-biz wager?

It’s as if Martin Scorsese (arguably America’s greatest living filmmaker) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Scorsese’s latter-day DeNiro) accepted a challenge to make a three-hour movie that would entice us to laugh along with despicable characters – just because they thought they had the special juice to pull it off.

And there are moments when they come close.

“Wolf” is based on the memoir by Jordan Belfort, a poster boy for ‘90s stock market shenanigans, who made millions selling his customers worthless securities and ended up going to prison for his misdeeds.

Now I’m the sort of fellow who tries to find the essential humanity in just about everyone, but Belfort is the financial equivalent of Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot. He’s arrogant and greedy and virtually without conscience – capitalism at its most corrupt.

And DiCaprio and Scorsese have to sweat like stevedores to make him a palatable companion for 180 minutes.

This is a speedball of a movie that maniacally tears along from one scene of misbehavior to the next, hardly ever slowing down to contemplate just what message we’re to take away. Presumably Scorsese disapproves of Belfort and what he represents … but the film feels just the opposite. It seems a monumental  celebration of greed and excess.

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Seth Rogen (center) and friends...avoiding the Apocalypse

Seth Rogen (center) and friends…avoiding the Apocalypse

“THIS IS THE END” My rating: C (Opens wide on June 14)

107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“This Is the End” had so much positive web buzz that I opted to see Seth Rogen’s end-times comedy instead of the new Superman movie.

Note to self: Time to get skeptical about what you read online.

This writing/directing collaboration between Rogen and longtime film partner Evan Goldberg certainly sounded encouraging.  Rogen and other raunch-comedy stars (James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel) play themselves as spoiled, clueless actors trapped in a house when the Rapture sucks all the good people up to Heaven.

Left to their own devices in a city ravaged by flames, earthquakes and rampaging demons, how will these Hollywood horndogs spend what little is left of their lives on Earth?

Not in prayer, certainly.

The film’s first 20 minutes are actually pretty clever. Rogen greets newly-arrived boyhood friend Baruchal at LAX.  The idea is for the two old buds – Rogen is now a fully-vested Angelino, while Baruchal remains at heart a Canadian – to rekindle a friendship that has started to go stale.

Prominent on Rogen’s itinerary is a big blowout at the new home of James Franco. Baruchal is less than enthusiastic because he thinks most of Rogen’s show-biz friends are dicks.

And in fact “This is the End” is at its most amusing and outrageous in the party scenes where dozens of recognizable actors (Paul Rudd, David Krumholtz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, Aziz Ansari, Jason Segal) portray themselves as shallow, vacant creatures of fame and priviledge.

Particularly hysterical is wimpy Michael Cera, who presents himself as a totally coked-up, sexually omnivorous whack job.

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 “MONEYBALL” My rating: B+ (Opening wide on Sept. 23)

133 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

It doesn’t sound all that cinematic: A baseball general manager uses statistical analysis to bridge the money gap between major market teams and the provincial have-nots.

Flow charts? Graphs? Sexxxxy.

And yet “Moneyball” is one of the year’s best films, a thinking person’s sports movie overflowing with humor, drama, terrific characters, drop-dead wonderful dialogue (courtesy of the writing dream team of Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin) and a low-keyed but absolutely wonderful performance from Brad Pitt.

Heck, Bennett Miller’s film even made me appreciate Jonah Hill. It’s that good.

Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill

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