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THIS IS THE END
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Emma Watson
Directors: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: October 1, 2013

F**K YOUR HOUSE, FRANCO!”

Film ****

It’s not everyday that a movie you weren’t expecting much out of prior to seeing it turns out to be one of the funniest frickin movies ever made. And trust me, dear reader, when I say that I am not exaggerating that previous statement in anyway. This Is the End basically had me howling with laughter from beginning to end, and that’s very rare for any comedy to pull off these days.

What we have here is the unlikely combination of an end of the world tale crossed with some of the most hysterical celebrity self parody we are ever likely to see, courtesy of writers and first time directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. And in both aspects, Rogen and Goldberg go about as all out as one can possibly go. Everyone here his playing an exaggerated version of themselves, and none of them displaying the slightest bit of shame in making fun of themselves, and the apocalyptic storyline is hands down one of the most insane ever depicted on film…and yet still insanely funny.

We open with Seth Rogen awaiting the arrival of his longtime friend, Jay Baruchel, at LAX. Seth has become a big time Hollywood star, while Jay has pretty much shunned the spotlight. The two plan for a weekend of catching up and getting high, though Seth pleads with Jay, who’s not in a mingling-with-celebs mood, to accompany him to a star-studded housewarming party at James Franco’s, to which he eventually says yes.

They arrive at the party, which is indeed packed with pretty much every single noticeable face from the Judd Apatow library, ranging from Jason Segel to an unbelievably coked out Michael Cera (a performance that must be seen to be believed). Even the likes of Emma Watson, comedian Kevin Hart and pop star Rihanna are in attendance. Seth introduces Jay to his gang of industry buddies, including an overly friendly Jonah Hill (who absolutely adores Jay, despite Jay absolutely despising him) and Craig Robinson, who performs a truly memorable piano-based medley called “Take Yo Panties Off”.

Franco himself garners some of the biggest laughs right off the bat by skewering the art-loving, pretentious persona he seems to have acquired. His own house seems to be a never ending interior art fetish. A speech he gives to Jay (who’s not into art) about all things “art” is nothing short of hysterical brilliance.

But things take a disastrous turn when what sounds like a routine LA earthquake turns out to be nothing less than the apocalypse taking place right outside Franco’s house. A sinkhole develops, taking with it most of the popular faces in hilarious fashion. Before long, Seth, Jay, Jonah, Craig and James are barricaded inside Casa de Franco with enough food, water, alcohol and weed to go through until help arrives.

The next morning, though, trouble appears in the form of Danny McBride, who was getting a little too baked upstairs to keep up with the end of the world proceedings outside. The rest of the gang wakes up to discover that he’s alive, and he’s pretty much gone through all the food thanks to his post weed cravings. McBride, who’s never been funnier, is firing on all cylinders in this exaggerated portrayal of his already crazed comedic persona, and proves to be nothing but trouble for the rest of the guys as the movie progresses.

The tell tale sign of a perfect comedy is when you find yourself chuckling consistently in between the huge laugh out loud moments. That’s exactly what I was doing during the entirety of This Is the End. A lot of the nonstop laugh factor will depend on how well you know the actors poking fun at themselves and if you’ve seen most, if not all, of their work. And credit them for willingly taking jabs for some of their individual career mistakes (Rogen with The Green Hornet, Franco and McBride with Your Highness, etc) as well as taking jabs for garnering more career cred (Jonah Hill with his Moneyball nomination).

This movie may just be the most genius case of meta storytelling ever devised, and I’m someone who was just about done with the whole meta thing, as some shows and films were just using it as an excuse to be clever and wink at the audience. It takes extremely talented writers to really make something hilarious and special out of this form and Rogen and Goldberg have done just that in what is hands down their single funniest effort to date!

As for the end of the world portion of the movie, the movie pulls no punches. In fact, one of the characters comes face to face with a demon equipped with an erect, eh, you’ll just have to see. And this moment is capped off with the uttering of one of the most famous quotes from Rosemary’s Baby. Priceless!

I can’t say enough about this cast for going all out in demolishing themselves in a way most high profile stars wouldn’t even dream of doing. As it turns out, these guys are doing some of their best, if not THE best, work of their careers playing these exact guys. That very factor alone lends even more hilarity to an already hysterical piece of entertainment.

Between this and his recent Roast on Comedy Central, it’s clear that James Franco, in spite of striving to be a true “artist”, is having a blast ridiculing himself. As a result, I’ve never liked him more! And though the movie seemed to include every cameo in the world in the early scenes, the best one is saved near the end of the movie, and I also respect this individual even more now!

And as for the movie’s final surprise appearance…let’s just say you won’t believe your eyes and ears when it happens. But it’s a damn great way to end a movie, and yet another stroke of comedic brilliance in a movie that is filled left and right with strokes of comedic brilliance!

To perfectly sum it up, This Is the End is, for me, not only the year’s funniest movie but one of the funniest movies ever made. In addition, it’s also the most quotable movie in quite some time! In regards to both comedies dealing with the apocalypse and actual celebrity personalities, we won’t see a greater cinematic achievement!

Video ****

This Blu-ray presentation from Sony is quite a knockout, and you don’t always expect that from a comedy release. But the filmmaking here happens to be top-notch quality, and is even loaded with occasional bursts of visual effects that are displayed tremendously well. Colors and image detail are first rate all the way through!

Audio ****

This is one furiously sounding comedy, and the DTS HD mix makes extravagantly great use of that factor. The biggest sound factors come courtesy of an awesome soundtrack (including KRS One and Cypress Hill, among others) as well as instances of some ferocious moments of thunderous sound quality when scenes involving destruction and apocalyptic beasts come into play. Dialogue delivery is, of course, terrifically clear from beginning to end!

Features ****

Sony unleashes what is easily their best list of extras in quite some time for this Blu-ray/DVD combo release. For starters, we get a very funny and entertaining commentary with writer/directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, as well as a featurette titled “Directing Your Friends” and “This Is The Marketing”, which is a collection of shorts used in the movie’s viral marketing. As for extras you’ll only find on the Blu-ray, there’s a most hysterical Gag Reel, as well as Deleted Scenes, Line-O-Rama (a collection of improvised bits) and more featurettes including “Meta-Apocalypse” (a look at the fun everyone’s having spoofing themselves), “Party Time” (which covers the production scale), “The Cannibal King” (a glimpse at Danny McBride collaborating with one of the surprise cameos of the movie), “Let's Get Technical” (which details what went into the more physically challenging scenes) and finally, “The Making Of The Making Of Pineapple Express 2”, which is a look at the making of a low-grade sequel that the guys make within the movie (definitely a highlight of hilarity). Rounding out everything is a short film from 2007, which inspired the current movie, titled “Jay & Seth Vs. The Apocalypse”.

Summary:

Many comedies over the past year and a half have ranged from mediocre to downright terrible, so it’s a relief to see something like This Is the End, which I honestly feel is a newfound classic of the genre. Again, the effect may differ depending on how well you know and keep up with the actors involved, but the mixture of self-effacing actors and the apocalypse is without question one of the most entertainingly hilarious movies you are likely to ever come across! The Blu-ray release from Sony is also one of the best releases of the year!

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