Not sure what it says about contemporary society, but this week we've got two movies about battening down the hatches and holing up at home while the outside world goes down the drain.
Opening Friday, The Purge features one of those seemingly-so-unreal-it might-actually-happen premises: It's 2022 and America is just peachy. Crime is down, the economy is up and there are less "undesirables" leeching the system, partially because one single night each year any and all crimes are legal, as part of a "purge" designed to help people get the violence out of their systems. Murder is everyone's favourite of course, and as such purge night is absolute mayhem. While rich families hole up in secure communities, packs of elitist hunters roam the streets murdering pretty much anyone not rich enough to be holed up. Be happy, it keeps the country running smooth.
Ethan Hawke (Reality Bites, Before Midnight) stars as a loving father/security-system conglomerate raking in the cash setting up secure homes for the rich. Of course, his own system get breeched on purge night. Thanks to his kids, Hawke ends up with two extra guests in his armour-fortified home and one of them has a posse of determined murderers on his tail. The Purge is a cross between The Strangers and Panic Room with a Straw Dogs ending, but overall this is a decent, tense 14A-rated thriller. Director James DeMonaco could have pushed the satirical bite a bit farther and developed this future world a bit more fully, but as a fun summer popcorn flick, this is ok.
The second stay-at-home flick this week doesn't open until Tuesday but for the stokers, tokers and midnight smokers it might just be the film event of the summer.
This is the End is a horror-comedy directed and written by B.C. buddies Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad). Jay Baruchel stars as himself, a Canadian actor going to L.A. to visit fellow Canadian Rogen, also playing himself. They end up at a party at James Franco's house and everything is going great (especially for Michael Cera) when suddenly the apocalypse/rapture strikes and everyone dies except Franco, Rogen, Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson. Holed up in Franco's place, amidst props from his various films, the crew devolves into dick jokes and other lowbrow hilarity while trying to figure out how to stay alive with dwindling supplies of food water and weed. It's a slacker Armageddon and then Emma Watson shows up.
At almost 1 hour 50 minutes This is the End is probably a bit too long, but if you like these comedians (and have the extra bag of M&Ms) this will be well worth your time. Part celebrity roast, part genius improv, part "you've changed man" storyline (with some badass special effects and gore thrown in for kicks) this one hits most of the right notes. The meta-gimmick of having actors playing their public personas (Franco's a narcissistic dick, Baruchel's a hermitical shit-talker, Rogen's a jolly old stoner) works because it allows the filmmakers to riff on, pander to and subvert our expectations. It works, it's funny and it's the best horror comedy since Shawn of the Dead.
The last film opening this week is The Internship where everyone's favourite two fish out of water from a decade ago (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) lose their jobs at a wristwatch company and end up competing for an internship at Google. For sure Vaughn and Wilson will have a bit of that old Wedding Crashers chemistry left in their Erlenmeyer flasks, but with a rehashed script as pedantic as this one, the boys really should start Google-searching for better agents. Avoid at all costs, just stay home.