Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, 107 mins, 15

Film review: This is the End - It’s party time! Bring a bottle and the Book of Revelation, dude

 

This summer you can choose between two different comedies about a blokey bunch of mates having their drinking session interrupted by a fiery cataclysm. In July, there’s Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s The World’s End. But first out of the gate is its rambunctious American counterpart, This is the End, which stars Seth Rogen and various other familiar faces from Judd Apatow’s repertory company.

Its big idea – some might say its only idea – is that the actors are playing themselves. (Whether they’ve ever actually played anything else is another matter.) They’re all at a party at James Franco’s Hollywood mansion when the earth starts to shake, and the other guests – including Rihanna and a coke-snorting Michael Cera – are either sucked into gaping holes in the ground or pulled up to the sky by beams of heavenly blue light. Rogen and his pals react in the only way they know: they barricade themselves inside the house and argue over which of them gets to eat the last Milky Way.

And that’s about it for the next half-hour. The central third of the film consists of Rogen, Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson wandering around and bickering, the gag being that they’re more concerned by their supply of drugs and porn, and by the question of whether they should make a sequel to Pineapple Express, than they are by the apocalypse going on outside.

To be fair, their good-natured self-parodying does prompt a few guilty giggles. And despite being little more than a larky home movie with big-budget special effects, This is the End is more disciplined than some of the films that Rogen and chums have starred in. But it would have been a lot better if it had been bolder. For all their dope-smoking, none of the actors risks showing himself in too unflattering a light. Nor does the film make anything of its most daring comic concept: the annoyance of being Jewish and being confronted by a Christian Judgement Day. This is the End raises that notion, but immediately concedes that the Book of Revelation was right all along. This is one foul-mouthed, genitalia-obsessed stoner comedy that should go down well in the Bible Belt.

A rather more high-minded enterprise, The East is a coolly intellectual espionage drama (to call it a thriller would be pushing it) starring and co-written by Brit Marling, who was also behind Sound of my Voice and Another Earth. Marling plays an ambitious former FBI agent who now works for a private intelligence firm in Washington DC. When her boss, the wonderfully frosty Patricia Clarkson, gives her the job of infiltrating an anarchist collective, Marling puts on some Birkenstocks, dyes her hair, and goes to live in a backwoods squat with the crusty likes of Ellen Page and Toby Kebbell. Her new associates favour direct action against the CEOs of eco-unfriendly corporations, so Marling has to decide whether or not to join in as they terrorise America’s one-percenters. It’s a decision that’s complicated when the group’s leader trims his shaggy hair and beard to reveal the chiselled features of Alexander Skarsgard.

Compared to most secret-agent films, The East seems hugely laudable: it has more ideas, more cunning spycraft, and more interest in real-world issues than all four Mission: Impossible episodes put together. But it isn’t all that engaging. Characters in Marling’s films tend to be remote, humourless stiffs, and in The East, true to form, they’re all so wafty and precious that their protests would be more likely to involve conceptual mime than guerilla warfare.

CRITIC'S CHOICE

Romance is on the rocks for Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, reunited  in Before Midnight, a tender  trilogy closer (or is it?) from Richard Linklater. And Iranian maestro  Abbas Kiarostami heads to Japan for the enigmatic miniature Like Someone in Love.

NEXT WEEK Sofia Coppola looks inside The Bling Ring

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen