Greetings! Have you ever wondered if a movie's worth blowing the money on to see at the theater or what to add next to your NetFlix queue? Then you've come to the right place! Enjoy!

"Whiplash" Review

Powered by a should-be-Oscar-winning performance by J.K. Simmons and some sharp editing, Whiplash manages to convince some viewers that there is a deep, meaningful movie about jazz drumming inside when it's actually little more than a wind-up monkey toy.

Miles Teller is a freshman at an elite New York music conservatory when he is plucked from his class to be part of Simmons' elite Studio Band. There he is subjected to the capricious tyranny of Simmons has he berates, humiliate and physically abuses the musicians. This is the first red flag Whiplash puts up: Why are these young people enduring this abuse? Does graduating from this band lead to fame and fortune? Has Simmons groomed a Buddy Rich, a Charlie Parker, a Wynton Marsalis or Miles Davis? We never know, but apparently it's So Very Important that they be in this band that they'll practice until their hands bleed, auditioning to perform a song for five-hours until their sweaty, trembling wrecks.

Outside of the rehearsal room, Teller is a blank. While Simmons asks how he came to want to be a drummer considering his parents weren't musical, he doesn't really have an answer. We see that his relatives aren't impressed as they fawn over their jock and NHS kids, but when he dumps his girlfriend (Melissa Benoist, soon to be TV's Supergirl, in a nothing role) because he feels she'll be a distraction to his musical pursuits, he doesn't come off as dedicated, but a dick.

The red flags eventually burst into flames in two passages which simply wouldn't happen in reality. The first is an insane series of events involving Teller trying to get to a competition that culminates in his bloody, battered butt being kicked out of the band. The other is the finale which simply couldn't happen because it involves totally career-ending unprofessional behavior from Simmons and the ridiculous premise that all will be resolved with a big wanky drum solo. (I wish I was kidding about this.)

There's a lot of pretension about how Whiplash examines whether genius needs nurturing by any means necessary and whether Simmons' dictatorial musical director is merely misguided in his best intentions, but in the words of Morrissey, he just hasn't earned it yet, baby. A pair of scenes are meant to humanize Simmons, but they're revealed to be wildly false. And that ending....whoo, yeah, no. It would've been more realistic if someone had shot the other than what happens.

So why the acclaim? Because Simmons absolutely KILLS IT as the tyrannical overlord. Simmons has been a long-respected character actor in various roles like his hilarious J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, but he just delivers the goods with such darkly humorous ferocity that we don't notice just how ludicrous the scenarios are. Teller is buttermilk, but fakes the drumming well enough, but this is Simmons show. The editing by Tom Cross is kinetic, but coherent. Great editing makes directors look good; half of Scorsese's accolades should be shared with Thelma Schoonmaker, for instance.

Writer-director Damien Chazelle supposedly based Whiplash on his experiences as a jazz drummer with a mean teacher, but like so many movies about music, he doesn't convey what drives musicians. For some weird reason, movies about musicians made by musicians never seem to capture the vibe of being a musician. Prey For Rock & Roll, the Gina Gershon-starring movie about an all-female band, was written by Cheri Lovedog (guessing not the name on her birth certificate) and it comes off as a Lifetime movie while Tom Hanks' That Thing You Do somehow NAILS the band dynamic despite, as far as I know, Hanks having no musical background.

Whiplash isn't a terrible movie like many of this year's wildly overrated Best Picture nominees are, but it's not that exceptional beyond the aforementioned performance and editing. Just like drumming in general, there's a not of banging going on here, but very rarely does it sing.

Score: 7/10. Rent the DVD.

"The Imitation Game" Review

The Imitation Game is this year's The King's Speech for the Oscars: A well-made, well-acted, veddy British historical drama which manages to make interesting people and events utterly forgettable.

Bernadette Cumberbund plays Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician hired by British Intelligence to crack the code of the Enigma machine, a Nazi device which the Brits managed to get a unit of, but can't use because the initial settings are changed daily. It doesn't matter if they somehow guess the proper code out of 158,962,555,217,826,360,000 possible settings combinations because the next day, the code would change.

Since it would be impossible for humans to run through all the combos, Turing proposes building a machine - which would become considered one of the first electronic computers - that would automate the process, but even that's not enough until a lucky epiphany gives them the key to cracking the code. Ironically, they can't use this knowledge to its fullest extent that they could because if the Germans noticed the Allies were suddenly aware of their doings, they'd change the method and the good guys would be set back to square one.

Bracketing the war effort scenes are sequences set after the war and from Turing's childhood concerning his homosexuality which was super not allowed back then with supposedly tragic consequences. (More below on that.) These scenes are tangential to the story and seemed tacked on to provide a soapbox for gay rights preaching when the way it effects the main war-time story is just as effective. (i.e. Turing discovers a Soviet spy, but doesn't turn him because the spy threatens to out him back.) The chaste "romance" between Turning and a brilliant female on the team, played by Keira Knightley, who doesn't get respect because woman is OK but typical sexism-of-the-era stuff which also fuels Marvel's Agent Carter.

Bandersnatch Cumquat is quite good as Turing, though the character is written as the usual Brilliant A-Hole With Zero People Skills Whom Others Grudgingly Accept Because Genius trope. At least we don't think of Sherlock or Khan 2.0 while watching him. Knightley is also OK, though I'm not sure if she's Oscar-grade. However, Charles Dance, as the boss of this operation, seems to have thought he was still playing Tywin Lannister.

As is the usual with Hollywood's depictions of real events, there's plenty of dispute as to the accuracy of the film but while the substitution of Knightley for the mortal-looking Joan Clarke isn't so bad, the claimed reason and timing for Turning's death really casts suspicion on the agenda of the filmmakers; you shouldn't imply as fact what's clearly not. Also, they never explain in the least how the massive code-breaking machine works - it's just this huge clacking contraption that makes magic.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable.

"Boyhood" Review by Guest Reviewer Hermione

Guest review by my life partner who goes by the pseudonym of "Hermione" on Culture Vultures.

Filmmaker Richard Linklater was one of the first batch of independent filmmakers to break out of the scene in the early Nineties with his Generation X movie Slacker, a plot-less film that followed individuals around for one day in Austin, Texas. This movie put him on the ones-to-watch map and from there he went on to make the '70s high-school dramedy Dazed & Confused - which featured a young Matthew McConaughey in his first movie role - and his trifecta series Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight.

Although he has received accolades, nominal film nominations, and minor awards throughout his film career, it is his 2014 magnum opus Boyhood that has attracted the most attention and garnered him major nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay and has appeared on more critics' annual "best-of" lists in 2014 than any other film released that year. But some critics disagree, including me.

Let me preface this review to say I've enjoyed his other work especially his Before series, I feel that this movie was more about the production than the plot. While I give kudos and agree that the actual making of the movie has never been done before, it is this story has been told over and over. Boyhood was shot over a 12 year period from 2002 to 2013 featuring the same cast. It follows the life of character Mason Evans Jr. from his youth until the age of eighteen and chronicles his fictional family's turmoils along the way. Unfortunately, this movie about his lifetime is more akin to a Lifetime movie.

Ellar Coltrane plays the lead role and is surrounded by a cast that includes Linklater's go-to actors Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette - both whom have acted in his other features - and his own daughter Lorelei Linklater. Although the coming of age movie is based on his character's childhood transition into adulthood, he acts like an observer to his own life rather than an active participant. He let's his life happen to him rather than actively live it.

On the other hand, the other actors give their characters a life of there own even though the story has been told many times over: single mom tries to provide for her family, goes back to school, marries and divorces two drunks, and is the nag while once-a-week "real" dad is the cool one.

Patricia Arquette's role as the mom stands out here and she received an Academy Award nomination for the role and a Golden Globe win for Best Actress. While her character never really grows throughout the twelve years and keeps repeating the same mistakes, at least she is making decisions be them good or bad and it is her physical transformation over the course of the film that captures the scope of the time.

Ethan Hawke plays Ethan Hawke, he is also nominated for his role as Mason Sr. but doesn't bring much to the film other than you understand why the fictional couple never married. He realizes he's not getting any younger and trades in his hot rod for a mini-van and attempts to live his life the way he should have in the first place and by then you just want to smack the snide grin off his face.

Versions of this story can be seen just about any night on any movie on the Lifetime channel. After two hours and forty minutes it seemed like Linklater was unsure on how to conclude the film. It ends abruptly on a psychedelic mushroom induced comment about seizing the moment or letting the moment seize you and living in the moment. All I could think of was how I wasted 165 of my moments watching this movie.

Score: 2/10. Skip it.

"Rushmore" Review

One problem with reviewing those films *everyone* considers to be a "classic" is that if you don't see what everyone else is praising you have to decide whether you're going to be that guy who "doesn't get it" (presumably because stupid) or you're the brave iconoclast whom many will probably disregard in the future because, "He's that stupid guy who doesn't get great movies." So with that clarified, I don't get what the big deal is about Wes Anderson's 1998 film Rushmore.

Jason Schwartzman made his acting debut - not just big-screen, but any screen as you can hear about in this interview or the Wikipedia entry on casting - as Max Fischer, a 15-year-old simultaneous over and underachiever at the private Rushmore Academy. He's the president or founder or captain of a slew of extracurricular activities and clubs while getting such poor marks he's on the verge of being tossed out of school. Why the poor grades? Because all the other stuff he's doing.

He's also smitten with a new teacher, a young widow played by Olivia Williams. She gets increasingly creeped out by Max's affections and shoos him along. When Max tries to impress her with the help of an alumni millionaire (Bill Murray) he gets booted from Rushmore and leaves Murray a clear shot at wooing the widow himself. When word gets back to Max, a nasty little Spy vs. Spy war of vandalism ensues.

While I don't have an axe to grind against Anderson's films, I've never quite seen what the film nerds worship so fervently about him. I liked The Royal Tennenbaums and Fantastic Mr. Fox, I wanted to punch Moonrise Kingdom to death with its excessively cutesy smug whimsy. While Rushmore has a pile of bits that are individually good, the whole is much less than the sum of the bits. I'm writing this less than 24 hours after watching it and had to look up a synopsis to remind myself of several plot details.

It doesn't help that Williams, while adequately attractive, doesn't really offer much to support the thesis that kids and millionaires will do anything to be with her. This movie supposedly helped Bill Murray cross over into "serious acting" (read: Wes Anderson movies and Lost In Translation because he made a TON of crap, too, like TWO Garfield joints), but I didn't find much particularly interesting and too many Murrayisms. Schwartzman, though, is top notch and even if Anderson and Murray provided him with extensive coaching, he's quite up to the task of hauling Anderson's whimsical construct on his back.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable.

"American Sniper" Review

American Sniper has become a Rorschach movie where a lot of people are projecting their ideologies onto it. Liberals are hating it because they hate the military and America. Conservatives are over-praising it like they do anything that's not overtly anti-American/anti-military liberal hate like they did with Act of Valor, a good, but flawed movie. After taking in over $105 million in a record-smashing opening 4-day weekend, liberals have effectively lost their minds even more and declared open jihad on the film, the audience who saw it and even the plastic baby used when the human babies didn't show or were sick on the day. That's how angry, petty and miserable Leftists are.

I figured the reality of American Sniper's quality would lie somewhere between liberal critics bashing and conservative pundits overpraise and the fact it was nominated for Best Picture meant little because the Oscars are such a mess most years that the Golden Globes were invented to build a credibility floor underneath them. What I found was my suspicions were correct.

For those totally unaware, American Sniper is an adaptation of the autobiography of Chris Kyle, America's most lethal sniper with over 160 credited kills in the Iraq War. It opens with Kyle on the verge of his first kill, a gut-wrenching decision involving a young child and a grenade that may be headed for a squad of Marines he's providing overwatch on. The insane rules of engagement our soldiers faced over there adds another layer of tension as his backup reminds him if he's wrong about his decision, he'll be sent to Leavenworth for murder. Nice work if you can get it.

The movie then jumps back for nearly a half-hour crash course on his life, beginning with his childhood protecting his little brother from bullies to his days as a rodeo rider through his decision to join the Navy SEALs after the twin African embassy bombings in the late Nineties. Along the way he meets, courts and marries Taya (Sienna Miller) with their honeymoon cut short as his squad is activated to go to Iraq after 9/11. Caught up for 25 minutes, we return to where we started and he makes the call.

What follows is a familiar structure of war movies lately. We see the soldier gradually worn down by the horrors of war and what waging it requires of those pulling the triggers alternating with Stateside sequences where they can't connect with their concerned loving families. While American Sniper doesn't make Kyle a thrill jockey unable to function at home like Jeremy Renner's character in The Hurt Locker, there's no mistaking the toll PTSD is taking while his need to protect his men draws him back to Iraq.

While the first half moves swiftly and tautly, the second half dragged somewhat for me as the here-there-rinse-repeat pattern became evident. (FWIW, my girlfriend didn't think it lagged at all.) An overarching plot thread involving an insurgent sniper nicknamed "Mustafa" seems cribbed from dueling sniper movies like Enemy at the Gates. A soldier chattering about buying an engagement ring could be call-signed "Goose" (from Top Gun) or "Dead Meat" (Hot Shots). The climatic battle seems choppy and disjointed compared to the spare urban warfare sequences before it like when Kyle's unit encounters The Butcher (who lives up to his nickname) and Mustafa and the final scene before Kyle's death is as cliche as they come.

The bedrock that American Sniper is built upon is Bradley Cooper's transformative performance, packing on 45 pounds of muscle and a reportedly spot-on Texas accent. It's hard to believe this is the same guy who was the sensitive reporter on Alias and the bullying a-hole from Wedding Crashers. I've always thought that he's been sort of marginalized because he's just so damned handsome (People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive 2011), but as he racks up his third straight Oscar nomination (following Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) there's no doubt he's more than just blue eyes and a pretty face. (Dammit!) Though the script gives him little more to do than "be a resolute protector" and "be haunted by the killing" he makes the whole movie seem more significant. Miller is good in the thankless role of the Wife Tending The Home Fires. Eastwood's spare direction doesn't attempt to glamorize or demonize war, in fact forgoing a musical score when most directors would crank the Hans Zimmer Bombast Knob to 11.

While it's tempting to lash back at the haters of the Left by praising American Sniper as a instant classic, honesty precludes me from hopping on that bandwagon. While well-made, exceptionally-acted and a story deserving telling, I just couldn't escape the feeling that Standard Hollywood Structure was being applied to the true story. I haven't read the book or followed the biased media ankle-biting over it and the movie, so I don't know how accurate the story is, but movies must stand on their own merits and if this was exactly how it went down, Eastwood and screenwriter Jason Hall should've found a way to make it seem less familiar and more evocative.

Score: 7/10. Rent the Blu-ray.

"Divergent" Review

I made one of my usual futile attempts to read (I'm REALLY slow at slogging through fiction for some reason) this discount Hunger Games knock-off back in mid-2013 ahead of the film's release, but got bored of the simpy protagonist's hot cheeks (if you've read this thing, you know what I mean) and set it aside about 2/3rds read. Then the movie came and went and I figured I'd catch it on video, but after watching the Honest Movie Trailer and Cinema Sins beatings (posted below), I was even less enthused. However, it was the only thing my girlfriend wasn't adamantly opposed to this evening, so it was time for Discount Hunger Games, er, Divergent.

In a world (heh) called Chicago after an unexplained war which has left the city a ruined dystopia where society has been carved into five distinct factions/cliques: the Farmers (aka Amity), the snooty Brainiacs (Erudite), the Honest (Candor), the Amish Martyrs (Abnegation), and the Cool Kids Who Have All The Fun (Dauntless). Our heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley, whose big neck makes her head look too small) takes the test to determine which club she should join and is informed by the worried test giver/tattoo artist Maggie Q that she appears suited for three cliques and that makes her....wait for it...weird. Just kidding. She's DIVERGENT!!!! and she'd better keep it to herself or bad things will happen. (If you're thinking she'll start lipping off and attracting attention to her defiance, give yourself a nonfat soy mocha latte!)

She chooses the Kool Kidz (Dauntless) and heads off to their Honeycomb Hideout to discover it's not all parkour and cool leather clothes, but brutal (and occasionally deadly) training to avoid being cut and ending up on the streets. Of course there's a cute trainer who digs Tris' fat neck and blah-blah-woof-woof fight the power, yawn. People die, society is cast into turmoil and we're not supposed to wonder why the El train runs into the Cursed Earth where the sequels lie. Just shut up and marvel at the love, kids!

Since Divergent is a direct ripoff to The Hunger Games series, it's not unfair to judge it against that juggernaut. Hmmmm, it fails across the board starting with the premise that the solution to war is to cram people into rigid behavioral castes and then stomp out any free thinkers. The Districts of The Hunger Games were geographic. (Both of the spoof videos also riff on the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter and the One with the Sorting Hat.) From then it follows a rote, checklist path of bringing the book to life for the illiterate or those lacking imagination.

Director Neil Burger helmed my favorite movie of 2011, Limitless, and previously did The Illusionist which was pretty good, but without an imaginative script, there's little for him to do here. The best aspect of Divergent is the seamless VFX to create the post-Apocalyptic Chicago, which presumably wasn't rebuilt after the Decepticons attacked in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

The performances are functional, but unremarkable. When the usually meat-headed Jai Courtney doesn't suck, that sets the level. Kate Winslet is playing the Donald Sutherland part, but doesn't really spark to the trashy slumming she's doing; she doesn't twirl her mustache enough. And as for Woodley, she ain't no J.Law in any dimension. I hear she's popular with the tween girls for her TV show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, but I don't see anything that leads me to believe she'll transcend her roots as Claire Danes did going from a dewy ingenue in My So-Called Life to the unraveling CIA agent in Homeland.

Score: 3/10. Skip it and watch Catching Fire again.

"In A World..." Review

Lake Bell was a virtual unknown to me beyond her bodypainted nude New York magazine cover and some scene from the HBO series How To Make It In America where she appeared topless, so I was intrigued by In A World... which was written and directed by her to star in. Savvy actors have a long history of generating their own projects to showcase their talents - Stallone with Rocky; Damon and Affleck with Good Will Hunting; Nia Vardolos with My Big Fat Greek Wedding; lying child molester Lena Dunham with Tiny Furniture and Girls - but Bell's sweet satirical comedy is an eye-opener.

Winner of the Best Screenplay prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Bell plays a vocal coach and voice artist who's trying to break into the Big Boys Club of movie trailer work. She's been living with her father, a legend in the voiceover biz, who doesn't think much of his daughter's ambitions and tosses her out so he can move in his much younger girlfriend. Bell crashes on the couch of her sister, a concierge of a fancy hotel. inadvertently triggering problems in her marriage.

Taken individually, the pieces of In A World... are familiar and perhaps a bit trite, but Bell has wrapped them in some genuinely sharp and unexpected observations which really elevate the material. It would've been easy to just make it the story of a plucky girl fighting the patriarchy, but there are other angles examined, especially at the end. I don't mean to make it seem overly deep, but where it could've taken shortcuts, it actually attacks things head on.

I started watching Childrens Hospital after this and I see that half of that show's cast (which Bell was a lead player) shows up here and they're all good. Bell also takes a very self-deprecating position on her looks (she dresses like a slob and has one guy comment on how "rough" her face is when she's kind of a cross between Mariel Hemingway and Alexandra Daddario) and plays her role as a bit of a goofy mess. Geena Davis and Cameron Diaz have cool cameos as well as Eva Longoria, who's featured in a trailer.

Based on In A World..., I think the world could use some more Lake Bell-made movies in it.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable. (Amazon Prime shows it in the proper aspect ratio; Netflix has it cropped down.)

"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" Review

Tom Clancy's storied protagonist Jack Ryan has had quite the checkered cinematic career as Alec Baldwin, who fronted The Hunt For Red October, was replaced with Harrison Ford for Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger before getting replaced by Ben Affleck for the political correctness-damaged Sum of All Fears which replaced the novel's Islamist bad guys for generic Euro-trash villains because political correctness. After a dozen years on the bench, Hollywood attempted to reboot the franchise with Chris Pine (Star Trek's Captain Kirk) in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and judging from the results, it may take another dozen years for anyone to care if they try again.

The reboot retcons Ryan's origin story by beginning with him as a Ph.D. candidate at Oxford when 9/11 happens. Like many patriots, he enlists in the War on Terror and gets seriously injured in Afghanistan when his chopper is shot down. While undergoing arduous rehab Stateside, he meets a pretty doctor (a worryingly thin Kiera Knightley) and is tapped by a CIA agent (Kevin Costner) to go back and finish his doctorate and work on Wall Street to sniff out the funding for terrorists.

While there he discerns irregularities in accounts between his firm and their Russian counterparts, so he's dispatched to Moscow to meet with in-no-way-totes-the-bad-guy Kenneth Branagh (who also directed) and hijinks ensue as Ryan tries to unravel a plot to crash the world's economy by shorting the dollar after a terror attack.

While there are a few moments of tricksy spycraft shenanigans, overall Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit plays as a 2nd-string generic spy thriller with little of the intricate intrigue that marks Clancy's novels. It's not egregiously bad, just dull and not engaging. Pine is a charming fellow, but he's doing too much Kirk schtick here and it doesn't fit.

Score: 4/10. Skip it.

One note about where to watch it on streaming: For some reason Netflix has a cropped 1.78:1 version like you'd see on HBO instead of the OAR of 2.40:1. Fortunately, if you have Amazon Prime, they have the correct version.

"The Skeleton Twins" Review

The hook of The Skeleton Twins is to see SNL funny folks Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig in serious roles, but while they do well in their performances, they are undercut by a thin script without full confidence in its story.

Hader is Milo, a gay man in LA who, after a breakup, attempts suicide by cutting his wrists. Wiig is Maggie, who lives across the country and was contemplating taking a handful of pills when the call comes in about Milo. She decides to go get her bro and bring him back home to stay with her and her husband, Luke Wilson in the role Bill Pullman used to play in the Nineties as the decent guy who gets crapped on by an ungrateful significant other.

Rapidly the twins get into bad situations due to their depressed natures. Milo tries to reconnect with a former high school teacher (Ty Burrell) whom he had a relationship with when he was 15. Maggie starts shagging her hunky scuba instructor. There's a visit from their terrible New Agey mother and lots of catching up on the past decade they've spent apart.

While the performances are good - Hader is more a surprise than Wiig, who's done good film work before - the story is annoying because self-defeating people are bad enough when we understand their motivations, but when they just seem to be making bad choices for the purpose of the story, bah. But the worst is when it seems like they realized people really want to see madcap antics from the funny people so they have a painfully contrived scene where they lipsync Starship's kitschy "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." Weak.

Score: 5/10. Catch it on cable.

"The Interview" Review

We had an international incident over this? Really? Such silly times we live in.

Unless you're more detached from reality than the average bear, you've heard about the massive leak of emails from Sony Pictures in which trash talking emails, personal information, unreleased movies, etc. have been flowing onto the Internet. The alleged cause for all these antics is North Korean hackers enraged over The Interview, the latest bromedy from Seth Rogen and James Franco which is about a plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Apparently it's rude to make light of killing real-world foreign leaders or something. (If you're thinking about that fake documentary and other works fantasizing about the assassination of George W. Bush during his time in office not getting any backlash, join the club.)

As the movie was pulled from release, then partially put into theaters, then streamed online to allow everyone a crack at pirating it, it was sometimes touted as one's patriotic duty to see this movie, because screw terrorism. Or something. Again, silly times. Of course, the usual suspects made the usual noises about how terrible it was because of the patriotic marketing angle - leave it to the liberal media to hop onto anything they can to stroke their oikophobia - but all the surrounding noise just elevated/denigrated the movie itself and whatever merits it had.

Franco is Dave Skylark, the host of Skylark Tonight, a frothy chat show peddling celebrity news like Rob Lowe being bald (another great self-deprecating cameo in line with his DirecTV adverts) and Eminem admitting he's gay, the best bit in the movie. (Pay attention to the Chyron's with things like, "CLEANING OUT HIS CLOSET; FINDING HIMSELF?") After his producer (Rogen) runs into an old college classmate who's a producer for 60 Minutes and disses their trivial production, Rogen seeks and finds an opportunity. It seems Kim (Randall Park) is a fan of Skylark's, so he reaches out to get an interview with the reclusive dictator which is accepted.

With a trip to North Korea booked, CIA operative Lizzy Caplan approaches them asking that they "take out" Kim because they'll have a rare opportunity to knock him off. They're not to psyched on the idea - particularly the part about how they'd escape a country whose leader they'd just murdered - but agree to take on the task. Of course everything goes wrong because they're basically gringo Cheech & Chong and not particularly brilliant. Complicating matters is that Skylark is taken in by the facade of happy, well-fed people in front of well-stocked stores and a day spent bro-ing out with Kim makes him believe that killing him would be a mistake because he's just a nice guy with bad PR problems.

Because of all the geo-political tensions surrounding the release, The Interview has been scrutinized waaaaaaaaaaaaay more than it merits. At its core, it's another collaboration with Evan Goldberg with whom Rogen co-directed This Is The End (they also wrote Superbad, Pineapple Express, The Watch and The Green Hornet) and how you like those movies is a good indicator of how you'll appreciate (or not) The Interview. It is lowbrow dudebro humor with plenty of gay jokes, drug humor, slapsticky ultra-violence - you know, all the things you look for in a Jane Austen adaptation. (Wait, what?)

One of the tidbits from the leaked Sony emails were complaints about Franco's performance and it shows that some Hollyweird studio weasels may have a clue because he's pretty awful. However, it's almost funnier because it's bad, but maybe I was just feeling charitable for the holidays. He's pretty bad. Rogen is Rogen; nuff said. Randall Park's Kim is interesting and Diana Bang (not a porn actress!) as the North Korean minder is amusing.

As I write this review a few weeks later, it's hard to remember what the big deal was about The Interview. It's just a dumb movie that caught some unneeded heat.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable.

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