This Is the End Directed by: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg Written by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg (screenplay), Jason Stone (short film) Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel
This Is the End rotates between being one of the funniest mainstream comedies in recent memory and one of the sloppiest. If the budget had been hacked in half and forced directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to go without all the CGI demons, it would have been ten times as good.
As it stands, though, it’s hard to argue with a movie where some of the funniest Hollywood actors play themselves during the apocalypse. Every actor is at the top of their self-mocking form, and when the movie doesn’t detour into much weaker action territory, it’s hilarious.
Take Shelter Directed by: Jeff Nichols Written by: Jeff Nichols (screenplay) Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart and Shea Whigham
Madness and the movies have an unprecedented history in front of and behind the camera, from the institutional insanity of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to Francis Ford Coppola’s infamous filming nightmare during Apocalypse Now. Madness inhabited the whole of both of those productions, but the writer/director Jeff Nichols takes an individual approach with his new film Take Shelter.
Take Shelter has much more in common with Melancholia (another apocalyptic vision from 2011) than it does with either of those 70s hysteria classics, though. Its focus is individual madness by way of the apocalypse. Pairing the two together, however, makes the madness justified. Curtis (Michael Shannon) is plagued with frightening nightmares in his sleep and in reality; his dog attacks him, zombie-like strangers abduct his deaf daughter and a menacing swarm of birds zip around the cloudy sky.
Nichols restrains those visions though, holding back on gore in favor of mood and tension. Take Shelter is a fairly basic “Why doesn’t anybody believe me?!” story on the surface, but Nichols throws a wrench in those proceedings by alienating the audience from Curtis as well. Not only do his wife (Jessica Chastain) and co-workers slowly drift away from him, but the audience privy to his disturbing hallucinations do as well. Depending on how you read the ending, though, Curtis may have the last wicked laugh.
Melancholia Directed by: Lars von Trier Written by: Lars von Trier (screenplay) Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland and Alexander Skarsgard
When Lars von Trier announced “No more happy endings,” after the premiere of his last film, Antichrist, people were a little dismayed. Had any of his movies actually had a happy ending in the traditional sense? Bjork dangling from a rope at the end of Dancer in the Dark, an entire village (and America by extension) facing a woman scorned at the end of Dogville, a man walking through the woods and then being overcome by persecuted female ghosts (or something like that) in Antichrist- he’s not exactly Disney material.
His latest, Melancholia, certainly contains a grim conclusion whether or not you subscribe to the “more” part of his proclamation. This is a film in which the world ends and everyone on it perishes, but not before a young woman succumbs to crippling depression during her wedding.