Tag Archives: Seth Rogen

Chump Change

Dumb Money

by Hope Madden

Do you remember when GameStop stock became newsworthy? I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie does, and he thinks you will enjoy learning a bit more about that slice of American economic history.

Channeling Adam McKay’s rage with none of his snark, Gillespie spins Dumb Money into a laid-back tale of sticking it to the rich guy.

Which are always the best stories.

Paul Dano plays Keith Gill, an underemployed new dad who took a shine to GameStop and shared his lowkey enthusiasm via videos on Reddit. His earnest goofiness, absolute transparency and love of cats drew an audience. That audience grew into a revolution.

Gillespie cuts nimbly from storyline to storyline, introducing us to many of the Average Joes who took Gill’s advice. Anthony Ramos is the most fun, playing Marcus Barcia, a GameStop employee who liked Megan Thee Stallion and did not like Brad (Dane DeHaan), his manager. America Ferrera gets another righteously indignant character to bring to vivid life, while Seth Rogen, Nick Offerman, Vincent D’Onofrio and Gillespie favorite Sebastian Stan relish the rich dick roles.

The film never talks down to its audience, doesn’t over-explain or under-explain its financial underpinnings. We understand about as much as our main characters. Writers Lauren Schunker Blum, Rebecca Angelo and Ben Mezrich may be a bit precious about the long-term impact of the revolution, but they stay focused on character without losing the financial specifics that make the justice that much sweeter.

Dumb Money is a crowd pleaser, partly because the writing team keeps the script simple, and partly because Gillespie keeps the energy high. But mostly because it’s never not fun to see somebody stick it to the man.

Adult Education

Good Boys

by George Wolf

So apparently kids today get names like Brixlee, Soren and Thor. That’s new.

And when puberty hits, they pretend they’re plenty world wise, are tempted by peer pressure and worry that missing the big kissing party would be the end of the world. That’s not so new.

With Superbad‘s Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg on board as producers, Good Boys takes that film’s trusty formula and backs it up a few years, scoring a fair amount of solid laughs but not quite as much of the heartfelt smarts.

Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and yes, Thor (Brady Noon) are new sixth graders and best friends, the Bean Bag Boys for Life! “Because we have bean bags.” Duh.

They drop F-bombs, hope other kids think they’re cool, and will stop at nothing to make Soren’s (Izaac Wang) party where Max hopes to meet up with Brixlee (Millie Davis) and finally get the chance to puck up or shut up.

But the ‘tween universe sends plenty of obstacles to keep the boys from the bash, some of which include drugs, alcohol, anal beads, angry high school girls, cops, a very busy highway, and a frantic paint ball battle at a nasty frat house (which turns out be a pretty inspired bit).

There’s always some inherent humor in kids talking dirty and crossing paths with very adult things while misunderstanding most of them. Good Boys, to its credit, wants to be more, it’s just unsure about how to get there.

Writer Gene Stupnitsky (Bad Teacher, Year One), directing his first feature, is at a disadvantage from the start. Superbad and Booksmart (you should see it!) both benefited from a leaving-for-college premise, which is just more of a life change than leaving for middle school.

But those films also found a tender heart inside their core friendships that Good Boys can’t quite pin down. The boys are all adorable, and plenty of laughs – especially Tremblay’s hilariously deadpan line about a sex doll- do land flush.

By the final bell, though, it’s caught between caring about the boys and laughing at them, and so are we.

Power Couple

Long Shot

by George Wolf

Long Shot‘s first success comes before the opening credits even start rolling. It’s right there on the movie poster: “Unlikely, but not impossible.”

So before you can scoff at the idea of Charlize Theron giving Seth Rogen the time ‘o day, your protest of the premise is a) acknowledged, and b) set aside, leaving plenty of loophole to just appreciate an R-rated romantic comedy that’s brash, smart, timely, and pretty damn funny.

Rogen is Fred Flarsky, a scruffy, sweatsuit-loving online journalist known for cutting-edge exposes such as “F*&^ You, Exxon,” and “The Two Party System Can Suck a D&^%.” When media monarch Rupert Murdoch, er, I mean Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis) buys the digital magazine Fred works for, he quits in protest.

Theron plays Secretary of State Charlotte Field, a graceful, brilliant stateswoman who’s ready to make a run for the Oval Office and could use a speechwriter. Back in her teens, Charlotte was Fred’s babysitter (!), and after they cross paths at an ill-fated fundraiser, he’s brought on to give Charlotte’s speeches a little of that Fred Flarsky feeling.

The surprising (but not impossible!) romance that follows doesn’t thrill Team Charlotte (the slideshow explaining how it might impact her poll numbers is a scream) but credit writers Dan Sterling (The Interview) and Liz Hannah (The Post) for having more on their minds than a dude makeover.

Keeping just enough of that Rogen stoner-comedy vibe, Long Shot skewers Bernie Bros, female candidate double standards, romantic comedy tropes, celebrity presidents and, most pointedly and hilariously of all, Fox News.

Theron and Rogen elevate every bit of it, working as a comedic power couple out in front of an ensemble cast full of standouts, most notably June Diane Raphael as Charlotte’s disapproving Chief of Staff and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. as Fred’s motivational best friend.

Director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness, 50/50, The Night Before) keeps things grounded and character-focused. Just when the parody or implauseability is in danger of running amok, he gets us back in the semi-real world of crowd pleasing entertainment.

And though that does mean a third act that gives in to overt sentimentality, Long Shot has the heart, charm and hilarity to win you over long before then.

Fight for Your Right

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

by George Wolf

So, sororities aren’t permitted to have parties in their houses? Is that a real thing?

Obviously, I didn’t go Greek in college, but what kind of bullshit is that?

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising not only finds it a teachable moment, but the perfect springboard for a funny, and dare I say, socially conscious sequel.

College freshmen Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her new friends Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein – younger sister of Jonah Hill) don’t appreciate the “super-rapey” nature of frat bashes, so they decide to start Kappa Nu, an independent sorority dedicated to the high life. Guess where they find a perfect home base?

It’s the old Delta Psi house from four years earlier, right next door to the home Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) have just put in escrow. The buyers have 30 days to think it over, so the desperate Radners turn to an old frenemy, former Delta Psi president Teddy Sanders, (Zac Efron), to help them drive the Nu neighbors out before their ragers tank the sale.

Director Nicholas Stoller and the writing team led by Rogen and frequent partner Evan Goldberg are all back, so expect more of what made the first film such a down and dirty treat. Byrne’s return is also integral, and not just because she’s proven to be a true comic talent.

Kelly’s spirited participation in the sex, drugs and body fluid-based gags made part one a refreshingly equal offender, and Neighbors 2 spreads similar wealth throughout the ladies of Kappa Nu. There’s a clear feminist undercurrent here, even if it is presented with the occasional awkwardness you might expect from a team of male filmmakers.

Moretz is a worthy new adversary for “the old people,” as she seems to relish the chance at digging in to comic edges we haven’t yet seen. Efron is even better, rising above another beefcake role to add sympathetic layers to Teddy’s struggle with life as an aging bro.

Though not quite as riotous as the original, Neighbors 2 still lands as one of the better comedy sequels. The laughs are familiar but they are steady, finding a comfort zone where raunchy charm and admirable conscience co-exist just fine thank you.




The Weed of Christmas Present

The Night Before

by Hope Madden

It was fun spending the apocalypse with Seth Rogen and his friends, so why not Christmas?

The Night Before gives you that chance. Isaac (Rogen) and BFF Chris (Anthony Mackie) have spent Christmas Eve with Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) every year since his parents died. They have the same routine, hit the same spots, seek the same elusive party. But the tradition’s getting a little pathetic as the trio heads into their mid-thirties, so this is their last holiday hurrah.

It’s a lame set-up about embracing adulthood without abandoning your true friends, but there’s magical Christmas weed and a slew of hilarious cameos, so maybe things will work out OK?

JGL is reliably likeable, Rogen is – well, you know what you get with him. Mackie is no comic genius and his performance feels a bit too broad. But the secret here is in the supporting players.

Jillian Bell is characteristically hilarious, as is Broad City’s Ilana Glazer, but the way Michael Shannon walks away with scenes is tantamount to larceny. He doesn’t do a lot of comedy (unless you count that sorority girl’s letter online), but his deadpan performance is easily the highlight of the film.

It’s hard to tell whether the film is too silly or not silly enough. It has its laughs, raunchy though they are, but the adventure feels simultaneously slapped together and formulaic.

Director Jonathan Levine (50/50) and his team of writers (including Evan Goldberg, natch) dip a toe in schmaltz rather than investing at all in actual character development, preferring to string together episodes of goofball fun.

The zany misadventures aren’t enough to carry the film, and lacking depth of character creates a “holiday spirit” climax that is tough to care about.


Spies Like Them

The Interview

by George Wolf

Forget the theories about this whole thing being a marketing ploy. If it is, it’s the worst marketing ploy ever, as The Interview is going to end up making millions less than it might have if the whole North Korea threatdown would have been handled differently.

But anyway…is it funny?

Yes it is., sometimes very funny. It also has some dry stretches, jokes that fall flat, and plenty of toilet humor, but Seth Rogen and James Franco do hit their targets fairly often. They get a big assist from Randall Park, who turns in a hilarious sendup of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and continually gives the film a boost at precisely the right moments .

On the Rogen/Franco scale, its no Pineapple Express, This Is the End or Neighbors, but The Interview is far from a national disgrace.

America! F&^% yeah!