For some reason, Judge Patrick Naugle wouldn't mind being Danny McBride's bitch.
Welcome to THE END.
Although there have been a lot of movies that deal with the subject of our final days, none of them have come close to matching This is The End's sheer audacity to mix populist comedy with theological contemplation. A sleeper hit during the summer of 2013, the movie arrives on Blu-ray care of Sony Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, playing himself) picks up one of his best friends, Jay Baruchel (How To Train Your Dragon, as himself), at LAX for a visit filled with weed, video games, and drunken celebrations at James Franco's (Oz The Great and Powerful, also as himself) house. When Rogen and Baruchel get to Franco's swanky pad, they meet up with a bevy of other Hollywood celebrities also ready to mingle, including Jonah Hill (The Babysitter), Craig Robinson (The Office), Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down), Emma Watson (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), and Michael Cera (Superbad), among others. While enjoying a night of star studded debauchery, Tinsel Town's hottest celebrities come face-to-face with a disaster even Roland Emmerich couldn't predict: the one and only Rapture. After beams of blue light whisk away the chosen few into the night skies, those left behind must now deal with fiery earthquakes, cannibalistic looters, and demonic monsters out for unholy blood. Who among Hollywood's elite will survive mankind's final day of reckoning?
As the summers roll on, I'm starting to sense a trend: franchise fatigue. Each year, studios usher out their newest sequel/reboot/remake/prequel/spin-off, almost all of which (with few exceptions) end up disappointing audiences even as they rake in Billions of dollars in worldwide revenue. Summer 2013 was certainly no exception: studios gambled big on well-known properties, only to see them skewered by critical reaction (Man of Steel), met with shoulder-shrugging indifference (Kick Ass 2), or end up as costly flops (The Lone Ranger). The fact is every summer audiences are bombarded by familiar stories and characters that feel warmed over from two summers ago. Heck, even when audiences don't seem to care very much about a franchise, we're still force-fed sequels that nobody was asking for (Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, I'm looking at you).
This made seeing This is The End all the more exciting. Written by Seth Rogen and his long time collaborator Evan Goldberg (both sharing a co-directing credit), this is one of the craziest, weirdest, and flat out ballsiest summer studio movies to ever grace the silver screen. Rogen and Goldberg are somehow able to fuse the spirit of Cheech & Chong into a story culled from the "Left Behind" book series, then proceeded to give the film some actual backbone by discussing—however lightly—the theories behind The Book of Revelation and the impeding judgment of mankind. It's all pretty heady stuff for a movie whose cast has primarily dealt in dick & fart jokes.
Rogen and Goldberg make the genius decision to have all the characters be played by themselves, only in exaggerated forms. What we get are the main players—Rogen, Robinson, Baruchel, Franco, Hill, and McBride—spoofing their images to spectacular effect. Rogen and Baruchel—who both take center stage, and whose friendship form the emotional core of the film—are pot smoking buddies who just like to party and have a good time. Franco is an artsy egomaniac who keeps props from his movies lying around his house. Robinson and Hill are generally nice guys, even if it often just seem like an act (and Hill's eventual fate makes me wonder just what kind of guy he really is). Then there's Danny McBride, who ends up being the biggest prick at the party, and generating the biggest laughs. Just for fun, the beginning features a lot of "blink or you'll miss them" cameos by dozens of famous and semi-famous actors and actresses, most of which get swallowed up by a giant gaping fire pit to hell. How can you hate a movie that takes Michael Cera and skewers him on a sharp pole within the first half hour?
The most fascinating aspect about This is The End is the fact that, while the characters are played for laughs, the situation—the Biblical end-of-the-world rapture—is actually taken very seriously. The horrors that await these characters, both inside and outside Franco's house, are very real and never silly (ala Little Nicky). Rogen and Goldberg seem to understand what makes this material funny isn't making the material silly or goofy, but how the characters play off the dire consequences of their situation. In a way, this can be seen as a companion piece of Edgar Wright's superior Shaun of the Dead, which also did a great job of taking funny characters and plopping them down into a very real and horrifying supernatural disaster.
This is The End is a movie that will not sit well with some people, especially those who have no interest in finding humor in religion and Biblical prophecies. Much like Kevin Smith's wildly rambunctious Dogma (and probably even more so), this film seems to both be trying to say something "big and important" while simultaneously poking fun at God and religion. That said, one needs to remember this is a movie—not a literal account of eventual tribulations—and by that measure it makes for a truly unique and amusing movie. Let's just hope all parties involved were smart enough to make sure there isn't a sequel.
Presented in 2.40:1/1080p HD widescreen in 1080p high definition, Sony's work on this transfer is very good; the colors and black levels are all represented well. However, This is The End is still a very dark movie, and the image doesn't really jump off the screen at viewers, though this may be more of a creative decision than a problem with the transfer (the final twenty minutes featuring fire and brimstone is effectively terrifying and colorful). The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is quite effective with directional effects and surround sounds fully engaged throughout (check out the opening scene that swallows up a lot of the party guests). Fans will be thrilled their sound system will get a hearty workout. Also included is a Dolby 5.1 mix in English, as well as English SDH and French subtitles.
Bonus features include an entertaining audio commentary from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, multiple short featurettes on the technical and creative making of the film ("Directing Your Friends," "Meta-Apocalypse," "Let's Get Technical," "Party Time," "The Cannibal King," "The Making of The Making of Pineapple Express 2," "Jay & Seth vs. The Apocalypse," "Line-O-Rama"), a gag reel, a few deleted scenes, a collection of marketing promos ("This is The Marketing"), a few previews for other Sony titles, a bonus DVD copy, and an UltraViolet download of the film.
This is The End is not a movie for everyone. Those who don't like their theology mixed with gags about boobs and smoking joints may want to steer clear. Those who don't bristle quite so easily will find it to be a raucous, offensively gut-busting affair from start to finish.
A blasphemous good time!
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