Tag Archives: james franco

‘Why Him?’ Wastes Talented on Both Sides of Camera

Why_HimWalter White meets Harry Osborn. Hilarious, right?!


“Why Him?” stars Bryan Cranston as a father who meets the man his daughter is dating (James Franco) and starts a feud with him during Christmas. Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally and Keegan-Michael Key also star as John Hamburg directs.


Both James Franco and Bryan Cranston have been very funny men in very funny projects. Zoey Deutch was the bright spot of “Dirty Grandpa” and Keegan-Michael Key has had some great supporting roles in his career. Plus John Hamburg directed “I Love You, Man” and wrote “Meet the Parents.” So all these people together should have been able to create a very funny movie; or at least one that wasn’t this lazy.


Winter comedies usually aren’t the strongest. “Daddy’s Home,” “The Interview” and “Grudge Match” are all average-at-best films that ended their respective calendar year with thuds. “Why Him?” continues this tradition as it wastes two proven leads with a script that is determined to put the f-bomb in every other sentence, all while having no idea what it truly wants to accomplish.


The highlight of the film (which in this case is a flashlight in a black hole) is Franco, who is having a blast playing a man-child, running around shirtless with random tattoos and swearing in all the wrong settings. We’ve seen Franco do every kind of role imaginable but this is one where he just looks like he’s having fun and isn’t as pretentious as he has occasionally been accused of being.


Bryan Cranston gives an inexplicably dedicated performance, but he isn’t given many actual jokes. He’s almost the film’s villain, because he doesn’t want his daughter marrying Franco just because the old trope “you’re not worth her.” The two have an underdeveloped feud but Franco is consistently trying to patch things up, so we just see him as the innocent nice guy; having him try to outsmart Cranston to win the daughter’s approval would have made for more compelling cinema.


The rest of the cast turns in awkward performances, including a horrible turn from Griffin Gluck as the young son. His delivery is off, his tone is often wrong and he overacts every line; each time he talked I cringed. I hope Megan Mullally got a nice vacation home from her paycheck, because her twerking and trying to strip Bryan Cranston while high was embarrassing to watch.


Now the film is not without its share of laughs, and while they’re pretty spread out the ones that do hit hit hard. Most of the time it is because the circumstance is so ludicrous and unexpected (or unrealistic) that it is impossible to not be amused. There are also a few cameos that steal their respective scenes, and when they showed up the audience seemed happily surprised.


“Why Him?” isn’t that funny and it wastes its cast, but neither of those things should be that big a surprise given the patterns established by mainstream cinema 2016. “Office Christmas Party” is funnier and more festive (never thought I’d be endorsing that film) so if you want laughs at the theater this winter, that’s your best bet.


Critics Rating: 4/10

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Chuckles, Butts and America in ‘The Interview’

The_Interview_2014_posterNothing says Christmas like Seth Rogen and James Franco trying to kill an Asian dictator.

“The Interview” is the second film to be directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, with a script by the duo and Dan Sterling. In case you have been as secluded from the outside world as a citizen of North Korea for the past seven months, the film follows an American talk show host and his producer (James Franco and Rogen) who are recruited to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park).

Comedy is at its best when it takes risk. And making a film about killing the real-life leader of a country is certainly a risky move by Rogen and Goldberg. And is “The Interview” worth all the extra attention and scrutiny that it has received the past few months? No, not at all. But it is still a pretty funny movie.

I’m a huge Seth Rogen fan and I believe “Pineapple Express” and “This Is the End”, his two previous collaborations with Franco, rank among the greatest comedies of all-time. “The Interview” is not as laugh-out-loud as those two, or Rogen’s other works for that matter, but the screenplay has enough constant chuckles that keep the film flowing when the concept begins to stretch thin.

“The Interview” is essentially a buddy film so chemistry is key, and Franco and Rogen have some of the best in the business. Their give-and-take is second to none and Rogen knows how to deliver his own dialogue.

For some reason, some people hate James Franco. Here he plays a character that is in love with himself and strives to earn other people’s approval. Did Franco use his real-life experiences to tap into his character? I’m not to say, but either way, it’s a fun performance.

The real show stealer is Randall Park, who plays Kim. A huge fanboy of Franco’s show, Park plays Kim as sheepish while at the same time angry. It is a nuanced performance that lends some humanity to Kim and makes the audience question if the assassination is the right thing to do.

The film’s finale is by and far its best part. We get to see the interview with Kim which is entertaining and actually a bit insightful, but also features some fantastic Tarantino-like action sequences. Rogen and Goldberg have some well-staged scenes, partnered with cinematographer Brandon Trost, and the action really comes out of nowhere and grabs your attention.

The film is not perfect. Like I said, the laughs are not as roaring or often as Rogen’s other films, or even as other 2014 comedies including Rogen’s “Neighbors”. There are still plenty of chuckle moments, and a few one-liners that made my sides hurt, but it isn’t crazy.

The film isn’t as much of a biting satire that it could have been, or as much as I think the filmmakers intended. There are a few nuggets of insight and the film almost raises a few points on how America may not actually be any better than North Korea, but then Rogen throws in a butt joke or doesn’t carry the line far enough.

“The Interview” is disappointing in that it isn’t worth getting nuked over, but it still is a fun movie with a few surprises.  Rogen is impossible not to love, Randall Park gives a scene-stealing performance, and the look of the film is engaging. If you don’t run out and see the film will you miss out on a historic event, or lose your right to call yourself an American? No, but like an actual celebrity interview there are enough entertaining and interesting moments to keep your interest if you do.

Critics Rating: 6/10

‘Dawn of Apes’ a Step Down from First Film

Dawn_of_the_Planet_of_the_Apes            It wouldn’t be shocking if the sequel to the second attempted reboot of a film franchise that started in the 1960’s was not any good. In fact, it may be expected. And while “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, the eighth film in the franchise and sequel to 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, is not a bad movie, it is a step down from its predecessor.

Featuring an entirely new human cast, and a new director, “Dawn” picks up 10 years after “Rise”, where a virus has wiped out almost all of mankind (or maybe it was eight years. The film never actually picks a timeline and sticks with it). When a group of human survivors, led by Jason Clarke, comes in contact with the apes, led by motion-capture Andy Serkis, it lights a powder keg that may just begin all-out war. Matt Reeves directs.

I enjoyed “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” because it wasn’t the Tim Burton mess, seemed to know the line to walk between cheesy and serious, and saved its action scene for an emotional climax. While the set pieces and direction in “Dawn” are an improvement over “Rises”, it seems the filmmakers forgot everything else that made the first film a surprise hit.

As with everything he does, Andy Serkis knocks his performance out of the park as Caesar, leader of the apes. Using motion capture, just like he did with King Kong and Gollum, Serkis’ every facial wrinkle and nostril flare are captured, and the man really does deserve an Oscar nomination for something because he has changed CGI in movies. When Caesar is not on screen, you feel his lack of presence, and when he is there he demands your attention.

The special effects are all outstanding and the creative team deserves all the props in the world. You truly believe that you are watching actual apes run around, and every battle scene features glorious explosions. The set pieces are also top notch; whether it is a barricaded ape village or an abandoned human construction site, you are immersed into the world.

Unfortunately, pretty on the surface is really all “Dawn” has to offer. Right from the opening scene, which featured the apes herding deer (or hunting them? Once again, the movie never explains half of what it introduces), I knew this wasn’t going to be the same as the first Apes movie.

First off, the whole thing seems familiar, and not just because it’s a sequel. Whether it is the surviving group finding sanctuary from “Walking Dead” or the encountering of seemingly hostile enemies from “Dances with Wolves”, we’ve seen everything in this film before.

The second thing the film gets wrong is its action scenes. “Rise” knew to hold its action until the climax, that way there is emotional buildup. “Dawn” forces its action scenes, or scene rather, and by the end of the film it seems like it was all pointless to the plot. (Leave pointless action scenes to Michael Bay, please)

The film wants to seem smart and satirical, with its messages of “war is bad” and “let’s all be friends”, but those are both themes most everyone can already agree on. I’m not paying to see a movie that features talking apes riding horses and shooting guns to get any sort of popular propaganda force fed to me.

Serkis is great, and Reeves’ direction and set pieces look fantastic, but the emotion and action, two of the attractions to a movie like this, fall short. There’s going to be a third film, the ending of this one is all but a trailer for it, and I hope the filmmakers can learn from their mistakes and create a solid trilogy (or however long they plan to milk this for), but as it stands now, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is an alright film in a historic franchise.

Critics Rating: 6/10