Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “This Is The End.”
The Movie: “This is the End”
Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen
Director: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Six Los Angeles celebrities are stuck in James Franco’s house after a series of devastating events just destroyed the city. Inside, the group not only have to face the apocalypse, but themselves.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83 percent
Brown: I think we’ve been in the gift-giving mood lately here on the JOE-DOWN.
Last week, Froemming decided to pick my favorite movie in “Goodfellas.” I thought it would be some ploy where Froemming would be all persnickety about the flick and piss me off. However, “Goodfellas” is too good to do that.
So this week, I decided to give Froemming his own treat by having a movie where Michael Cera meets a grizzly end (if you read our “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” review, Froemming does not like Michael Cera).
So, this week’s pick was “This is the End,” where a pack of Hollywood’s leading comedians try to survive the rapture… and Danny McBride being, well, every Danny McBride character.
I saw this movie in theaters when it came out in 2013 and enjoyed the hell out of it with how over the top everything in this world is, from the characters to the premise.
Froemming, give us your first take while I figure out who gets our lone Milky Way bar.
Froemming: This was my first time seeing this. And, it being a Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy, it was pretty much what I expected. With the exception of two highlights: The Death of Michael Cera and The Death of James Franco.
James Franco is history’s greatest monster. I have been saying that since our college days, and recent events seem to support this.
These stoner comedies can be hit-and-miss with me. This one falls into the middle, in which it was dumb fun, but I’d rather have been watching “Pineapple Express.”
I also learned this is based on a pretty dark short film Rogen and Baruchel had made, which I watched after this and I really enjoyed.
I sort of wish they leaned into this darker thing than a crazy comedy, but that is just me.
Brown, as I kick Aziz Ansari into the pits of hell for tripping me outside Franco’s house, why don’t you kick this off.
Brown: A quick note for anyone that hasn’t seen this movie: This is played like it’s in real-life Hollywood, so all the actors are playing exaggerated versions of themselves. At least in theory.
So this movie opens with actor/screenwriter Jay Baruchel arriving at LAX to hang out with Seth Rogen for the weekend. Apparently Jay isn’t into the LA scene and stays in Canada while Seth Rogen is, you know, one of the most popular comedic actors in the 2010s.
And the first thing Jay wants to do when he goes to LA is *checks notes* go to Carl’s Jr.?
… There’s In-and-Out in California and you want (REDACTED) Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s?
Froemming: You say that like a Monster Burger doesn’t exist.
Brown: I dunno, man. I don’t know if I could take that grease bomb. As a man who conquered Arby’s Meat Mountain, I think you’re better equipped to handle Hardee’s.
I will say I enjoyed when, in the car, Rogen talks about feeling healthier because he’s on a gluten-free diet, then has an orgasmic-like reaction to having a greasy-ass Carl’s Jr. burger. I laugh because I would probably react the same way.
The two head to Seth’s house to play video games and smoke weed all day because it’s a Seth Rogen movie and of course it’ll have a bunch of weed.
Froemming: Seth says his buddy, James Franco, is having a housewarming party that night and they should go. Here we find out Jay pretty much hates Franco (I am 100 percent on board with this thinking) and Jonah Hill is an asshole.
Brown: Jonah’s one of those types that isn’t an outward asshole but is laying on the kindness so think that he’s absolutely being an asshole. Which is worse.
Froemming: One of my favorite elements of this movie is Jonah going way over-the-top on being nice to Jay. I know people who do this. And my response to them is this:
So, after some back and forth, these two take a cab to Franco’s new place. Which, in the era of Uber and whatnot, it was kinda jarring to see a taxi. I have not used one in probably six years.
Brown: Yeah, it’s probably been four years or so for me. And it only happened because the taxi happened to show up as we fired up the Uber app.
There’s a who’s who at this party, like Craig Robinson, who is being the R-rated Daryl that he probably always wanted to be at Dunder Mifflin. There’s Kevin Hart. There’s Jason Segel, who’s like how I am at a party and asking weird, deep questions like “Do you go to therapy?”
Froemming: He will always be Mike to me.
Brown: Rihanna’s here, too.
And then there’s Michael Cera, who is a coked-up monster in this movie.
Our intro to Michael Cera is him snorting a line of coke and slapping Rihanna’s ass, only for Rihanna to cock back and slap the everloving shit out of Cera.
Apparently the slap is 100 percent real (Rihanna knew about the oncoming butt slap) and they did six takes.
Froemming, I’m sure you’d love to be a fly on the wall during all six of those slaps.
Froemming: I was thinking more of Mindy Kaling having a thing for pale skinny guys, and with Michael Cera and Ryan Howard, it adds up.
There is also this weird thing Franco has with Rogen, where he even has Seth’s name on a painting in his home. I figured they would play more into that, but no, it is just a weird obsession he has for the first act only.
Brown: It’s not hinted as strongly the rest of the way but come on, Froemming, Franco sacrifices himself for Rogen later.
Froemming: Only because he knows it gets him into heaven. And he blows that right away.
Anywho, Jay really wants to bail on the party. And I don’t blame him. Michael Cera is there blowing cocaine in McLovin’s face like an asshole. He uses an excuse to run to the store to buy some smokes to ditch out. I appreciate he uses the “father abandoning his family in the 1970s” technique.
And at the store, we meet my favorite character of the movie: The cashier who yells at a father and daughter for wanting to use the restroom, when the sign clearly states it is for customers only. Rules are rules, people.
Brown: Let’s be honest with ourselves, Froemming: Jay’s mingling (or lack thereof) at this party is how you and I mingle at house parties. Once a party goes over six people, I’m keeping my back to the wall and an eye on the exit like we’re Tony Soprano eating onion rings.
Froemming: Of course, I hate parties. And if you were the boss of North Jersey after an almost war broke out with New York, you’d be paranoid too.
In the store, we also get some foreshadowing on the TV, as a sinkhole is destroying some country. Then the earth begins shaking, blue lights shoot down for the chosen ones to ascend, and a (REDACTED) AC unit falls on the head of my favorite character (the cashier), killing her instantly.
Brown: Yeah… the Hollywood Hills are burning, people are fleeing and getting smoked by cars. There’s something so visceral about watching people — even if it’s CGI — getting hit by cars and just flopping in the breeze.
There’s a point, too, where there’s earthquakes and I had a mini-panic attack when it dawned on me that, living in the midwest, I’d have no (REDACTED) clue what to do during an earthquake.
Froemming: Seth and Jay return to Franco’s house amid this chaos, and when describing what happened with the blue light, Jay looks like a crazy person and Seth throws him under the bus.
Seth must be related to this other Canadian dick:
Brown: When the party goes outside during a tremor, that’s when shit hits the fan.
In this time:
- Michael Cera meets his end via light pole impalement. I’ll put the video here to please Froemming.
- A sinkhole opens in front of the house, sending Rihanna, among others, plummeting to their deaths.
- Paul Rudd, who showed up to the party late, steps on a woman’s head and crushes it.
- Aziz Ansari gets kicked into the hole thanks to Kevin Hart’s foot.
- Jay falls into the hole but manages to hang on and climb out
All that’s left in James Franco’s house is Jay, Seth, James, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson. They’re left to assess the damage, ration their food and water, board up the house (to James Franco’s chagrin) and except for Franco, all spoon together in the living room while waiting for help.
Well, there’s one more partygoer that no one knows was actually there. And it’s Danny McBride, pretty much acting as Froemming’s avatar to the rest of this party.
Froemming: Look, if you are not having a great breakfast in the morning, you’re living life wrong.
And since he passed out early, when they inform him the end of the world is happening, he rightfully assumes they all probably took acid the night before. Also, he is pretty happy Cera was killed.
Brown: My question here is how did no one wake up when Danny is downstairs? The night before, everyone but Franco talks about how they can hear Seth and Jay whisper to each other because of the floor plan of the house. Yet, Danny gets up, slams water bottles and fires up a blender and there isn’t a single bit of movement from anyone? The living room leads directly to the kitchen with no wall!
Froemming: Why are you trying to bring logic to a Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg comedy? Why do the cops in “Superbad” help McLovin’? Who the (REDACTED) knows!
Brown: In five-plus years of the JOE-DOWN, I’ve also tried bringing logic to “The Room” and John Travola’s entire filmography.
So to answer your question, because I apparently hate myself.
Froemming: We then hear someone trying to get into the house. As the group debate why they should since they boarded up the place to make sure that didn’t happen, the guy’s head is chopped off, getting blood all over Franco’s floor. At least Henry Hill got an apology when that happened to him in “Goodfellas.”
We then have Franco set up his camcorder and do one of those confessionals like in “The Real World,” where he complains about Danny showing up uninvited to his party, as McBride looms behind him. If I were trapped in the apocalypse, I would prefer being around Danny McBride over Franco and his weird pillow girlfriend.
Brown: We all would, Froemming.
Tension builds as you’d expect when five egocentric actors are forced to live together and figure out when they’ll get rescued. Jay thinks he knows what’s going on: the rapture. The beams of light from the start of this were good people getting sent to heaven, leaving those unworthy of heaven to fend for themselves as Satan arrives from Hell. I’m probably not explaining this well because I’ve never read the Bible and, honestly, I’m probably getting left behind in this scenario.
There is a bit of a reprieve for the group when they take a bunch of the leftover drugs and shoot a “Pineapple Express” sequel with Franco’s camcorder.
I’m guessing this made Froemming’s desire to rather watch “Pineapple Express” skyrocket.
Froemming: This sequel had a stronger plot than this movie, which was odd.
Then, Emma Watson comes back to the house (I am glad they didn’t just waste her on a brief cameo) saying they are in a zombie invasion. She has been out there for a while, and they let her stay. One reason, which made me chuckle, was because they could give her the bad food because she is British and used to lousy tasting meals.
Brown: I mean, where’s the lie?
Froemming: Then, when she goes to bed to rest, they hang out in the hallway, and the conversation heads south as they don’t want to give her weird vibes, which leads to rape insinuations.
The crew is right, Jay brought this conversation to a dark place.
Of course, due to Franco’s house making audio carry every which way, Emma hears this and robs them blind before heading off into the chaos outside the house.
Brown: It’s a … problematic sequence for 2021. I did enjoy afterwards where McBride says in his confessional “Hermione stole all our shit.” Plus, I’m sure Froemming enjoyed when Emma Watson jabbed the butt end of an axe handle into Seth Rogen’s nose.
So James Franco remembers that he has two jugs of water in the basement of his house which… can only be accessed outside the house. That seems like a massive design flaw. But, they have no more water so someone has to go outside and get the jugs. The unfortunate task is left to Craig Ferguson, who runs into an unseen monster while out there, which gives validity to Jay’s claims of a biblical apocalypse.
Because, again, it’s in the basement, the group starts making a hole in James’ kitchen in hopes of reaching the water.
James, you built an impractical, shitty house.
Froemming: Also, in the rescue of Craig, Jonah Hill throws a knife right into Jay’s leg. Which is a wound that would need water, but we never hear about it again.
So they are pounding through the floor, taking turns, and they eventually smash into the basement, which again, why was there not a door in the house to get into the basement?
Then, with the water, comes the exile of Danny McBride, who goes all crazy with it because he does not want to ration the stuff.
Brown: Danny McBride is pretty much Kenny Powers in this movie. I am in full support of all things Kenny Powers.
Froemming: Which, leads to one of my favorite scenes:
We find out that Jay has been coming to LA more frequently, just not staying with or letting Seth know. Because their friendship has fractured or something? I dunno, Jay’s whole motivation here makes little sense as all these people are stoners who love nothing more than to do nothing but smoke pot.
Brown: Well, consider that before the apocalypse, hanging with this crew probably meant also being around Michael Cera. Even with mountains of weed, Froemming, would you want to get stoned in a friends circle with James Franco and Michael Cera? Jay’s logic is flawed but I kind of get it.
Tension is at an all-time high, to the point that Jonah Hill actually prays to God and says it would be “so tight” if God killed Jay. Something about saying “so tight” during a prayer seems so unwholesome, like flying a kite at night.
During the night, Jonah gets a visit from an erect demon who rapes Jonah in a scene shot much like the one in “Rosemary’s Baby.”
So great, now I have to think of Roman Polanski while watching this movie.
Froemming: Jonah becomes possessed, and Jay and Craig go off to find water and food, because Jay is now shunned for being a dick friend.
Jay and Craig find a house with cupboards full of food, and Jay suggests maybe they don’t need to go back to Franco’s place. Again, real dick friend here. Then a demon shows up and ruins this completely.
Also, the CGI demons in this look a lot better than the CGI bullshit in that “Justice League” movie a few years ago. And next month, Zack Snyder is unleashing a FOUR hour version of that piece of shit.
Brown: I thought this dog-like demon was a relative of Vinz Clortho and Zuul from “Ghostbusters.” But no, we don’t get Sigourney Weaver. Instead, we get stoner comedians.
Also, Jay and Craig screwed up because they found all this food. Yes, they had to deal with the demon dog first, but they eventually get back to the house with NOTHING. So good job, Jay: You’re a dick AND you’re incompetent.
Froemming: Well, things at the house are not going well either, as Jonah Hill has become a demon and vomits all over Seth and James, and is terrorizing them.
Brown: This is one of my favorite sequences of the movie, just because the idea of a possessed person being super sarcastic is somehow really funny to me.
Froemming: They tie Jonah to a bed and Jay — with a makeshift cross – repeats lines from “The Exorcist,” thinking this will do the job.
It does not.
What does the job is a knocked over candle that sets Jonah Hill ablaze like he is a member of the Manson Family breaking into Rick Dalton’s house.
Brown: Between the fictional deaths of celebrities you don’t like and James Franco’s house burning down, this movie had to be pure schadenfreude for you, Froemming.
Well, Franco’s house burns down, and to get to his Prius (how much smug does this thing contribute to the atmosphere?) Craig sacrifices himself by distracting a demon.
And for this action, Craig ascends to heaven.
And shortly after this, Franco’s Prius is cut down via semi and a gang that looks like a hodgepodge of rejected gang members from “The Warriors.“
Their leader? You guessed it,
Frank Stallone Danny McBride!
Brown: Danny is awfully glad to see his old friends. Not because they’re alive but because he’s now leading a “Max Max”-looking horde of cannibals.
And in maybe my favorite cameo of all time, Danny has a leashed-up gimp played by Channing Tatum. I remember how audible the gasps and laugher was when I saw this scene in the theater.
Apparently, Tatum agreed to do this after seeing an email from Rogen late at night and while under the influence of booze and Ambien, according to Tatum.
And in his short time on screen, Tatum just goes for it. Say what you will about Magic Mike, dude got a big laugh from me.
Froemming: Franco decides to sacrifice himself to save Rogan and then the blue light comes down for him to head up to heaven.
But Franco decides to mock Danny and all, so I guess Heaven changed its mind with him. Good. Because Danny and his gang then literally eats him alive.
While running away from that whole scene, Satan shows up (swinging dork and all) to kill off our two stoner leads. And with an apology to Seth, Jay gets to head to Heaven now via blue light.
I don’t understand the Bible at all.
Brown: My knowledge of the Bible is based largely on Rev. Lovejoy.
As Satan is about to swallow Jay and Seth, Jay apologies for being a shitty friend and this atonement sends him to Heaven. Seth isn’t there yet, but the two hold hands while Jay ascends. However, Satan is on their tail and Seth is weighing Jay down from going up. Seth decides to let go Jay. And just as he’s about to go down Satan’s throat, Seth gets a beam of light as a crescendo of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” blasts through your speakers. Jay and Seth have been raptured!
Yeah, it’s similar to a joke Rogen used in “The Interview” with a version of Katy Perry’s “Firework,” but I do like the musical choices of this movie. I mean, it has two Black Sabbath songs on the soundtrack so that’ll always win me over.
Froemming: Those were good, but I enjoyed the fact that when they are in Heaven, Jay’s wish is for the Backstreet Boys to reunite and sing “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” Which is a callback to earlier in the film when that song played, I thought, for no reason. That was a solid payoff I say.
And with that, they all are in Heaven smoking weed and whatnot, because it is a Seth Rogen movie.
Brown: I was shocked by this. I thought only the Mormons got to Heaven.
Froemming: Brown, let’s drive our Prius down to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Yeah. I find this movie really entertaining as long as you’re into the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg style of movies. I don’t mind ‘em at all.
Froemming: Sure, it is very much a Rogen movie, so know that going in.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: