This is the End (US - BD RA)
Jonathan checks out one of two 2013 comedies where the world ends..
This is the End follows six friends trapped in a house after a series of strange and catastrophic events devastate Los Angeles. As the world unravels outside, dwindling supplies and cabin fever threaten to tear apart the friendships inside. Eventually, they are forced to leave the house, facing their fate and the true meaning of redemption. (From Sony's synopsis)
Here is a movie I never thought I would enjoy so much. Even as a fan of Apatow's early films, I was growing a little tired of his cast of comedy actors and their ad lib style. Jonah Hill and James Franco have managed to escape these rolls with more interesting dramatic turns, but most of this cast is known solely for their comedic output. When I saw that they were getting together and starring in a film where they each played themselves, the idea did not sound appealing. Having actors play themselves usually works best as a cameo - like Bill Murray in Zombieland or even Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Backs. The in-jokes get old quick, but This is the End cleverly takes the route of self-deprecation and also gives the actors plenty of things to do other than riff on their true identities.
The movie opens with a big party at James Franco's house, which turns in cameo after cameo. Some exist just to say "Hey look who we know," which grows obnoxious fast. But there are some great bits here. If you've ever thought Michael Cera played too many awkward lovelorn teens, try not to laugh at him playing a cokehead. Jason Segel gets a small scene where he is clearly ripping on his How I Met Your Mother sitcom role. The cameo count may annoy at first, but it makes it all the more funny when the apocalypse strikes and celebrity after celebrity are met with a graphic death or consumed by a giant hole in the earth. Borrowing a little bit from Bill and Ted and Ghostbusters, co-directors Rogen and Goldberg successfully marry their comedic concept with the supernatural. While most of the story sticks to the inside of James Franco's house, there are segments of the outside world filled with convincing big budget effects and awesome looking monsters that would feel right at home on a Slayer album cover. There's people getting impaled and people being set on fire, and it never looks cheap. The filmmakers did not skimp out on the horror side of this genre mash up, and it is much better for it.
Part of the reason the movie succeeds is because it does have a little heart to it. The central story revolves around Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel as long time friends who have grown apart. Watching people bicker in a comedy can be a little grating, but ultimately it helps to ground a movie full of farcical material with something emotionally tangible. It also helps that the movie has a lot of big laughs in it. There's a completely transparent riff on The Exorcist. I know, that movie has been referenced a ton, but this one is unique and had me in stitches. It doesn't make too many nods to other films, but having a horror edge to their usual comedy formula keeps things interesting and exciting. If you are a fan of the cast members, this one is an extremely easy recommendation. If you usually can't stand this lot, I would still recommend a rental. It is among their best comedy work and has enough things going for it aside from the humor to keep you watching.
Sony totes this release as being mastered in 4K, which is no doubt aligned with their campaign for 4K resolution televisions. For the record, "Mastered in 4K" does not mean its a 4K transfer. It was mastered at 4K and has been scaled down to 1080p. This super sampling practice can result in better image quality, and in a perfect world every studio should be doing this for every Blu-ray release. All of that said, this transfer of This is the End looks about like any other modern release from Sony, which isn't a bad thing at all. It was shot on the Red Epic, so expect a really clean picture. Most of the scenes shot indoors are lit by the outside apocalypse, so they are soaked in orange. This doesn't give the look of the movie much range in terms of colors, but it still looks nice. Black levels also feel a little off because of all the orangeness, but it looks the same as I remember it in theaters. It's a very competently filmed movie and its clear that more budget and effort was devoted to it than your average comedy. Detail is strong but feels like it could be better. All in all, the movie has such a stylized look to it that it won't take great advantage of your nice HDTV, but this Blu-ray is a great representation of the theatrical experience I had (twice).
This is the End comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is far more active than your average comedy. Right from the start the surround channels are filled with background noise and chatter at an airport. The party at James Franco's house is kept to the front channels by comparison. The LFE channel gets plenty to do with the movies many scenes of chaos and destruction. The action scenes are loud and appropriately rattling, with creaks and shrieks coming from multiple directions. There is some fun directional noise included in the mix. My favorite use of directional sound is the scene where the cast kicks a severed head around, with multiple POV shots from the head's perspective. The outdoor apocalyptic setting has a nice series of sizzling and rumbling effects going on at all times. Dialogue is very clear and easy to make out, and even echoes around the sound space a bit to match up with the giant open space inside James Franco's house. It's a little inconsistent at times but this track goes above and beyond what is expected in the genre.
The first in a very long line of special features is the Audio Commentary track with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. These two have been working together for years and you can tell. They have a great rapport with one another and it is evident that they really had a blast making this movie with all of their friends. There's a lot of talk of the improvising process. They also talk a lot about the comparisons between the real actors and their movie selves. They have a lot of compliments to give. It isn't a very technical commentary track but they do like to point out some of the less obvious effects in the movie. Next up is Directing Your Friends (HD, 06:31), which is a nice segment with interview footage from Rogen and writing/directing partner Evan Goldberg. They talk about what it was like giving orders to their best friends, and how having a rapport with the people they were directing made it easier for them as first time directors. Some of the actors get a turn to talk too. There's also some fun footage of them goofing around on set.
Meta-Apocalypse (HD, 07:44) comes from the same group of interviews and has the actors talking about what it is like to play amplified versions of themselves. There's a good deal more of them goofing around on set and it is really enjoyable if you're a fan of this bunch. Let's Get Technical (HD, 10:44) gives the stunt men, cinematographers, and other technicians a chance to talk. They show how they got the POV shot of a head being kicked around on the floor by putting the camera inside of a giant styrofoam ball. Rogen and Goldberg talk about how they only had horror movies in mind for the look of the movie. They did not want it to look like a comedy. The look inside the stunt process is awesome too. They talk about how difficult it is to work with fire. This is cool stuff.
Party Time (HD, 12:54), as the title suggests, is a look at the movie's big opening party scene. According to Rogen these are how some of the parties he goes to actually turn out (minus, you know, the apocalypse). It's usually a bunch of friends and then some weird celebrities that are sprinkled into the mix. Rogen and Goldberg talk about how funny Michael Cera was and how he actually got slapped full force by Rihanna in their scene. Emma Watson gets to talk about how hard it was for her to wield a heavy axe. It wraps with Paul Rudd and Jason Segel goofing around together. The Cannibal King (HD, 04:25) is a line-o-rama of the scene where Danny McBride is in his cannibal outfit holding Channing Tatum on a leash. There's also some footage of Tatum drinking blood out of a severed leg that didn't make it into the movie, so there's that.
The Making of 'The Making of Pineapple Express 2' (HD, 06:21) covers the scene in the movie where they make a Pineapple Express sequel. It is one of the movie's more delightfully meta bits. The movie already sets up and executes the bit, so there isn't much more insight here, but the cast gets to talk about how much fun they had getting into their old wardrobes. McBride also talks about the inception of Pineapple Express. Next up is Jay & Seth VS. The Apocalypse - The Original Short (HD, 09:59). This is the 2007 short directed by Jason Stone. The color palette is really the only thing that carried into the feature film. It is rough around the edges like most low budget shorts, and it isn't particularly funny, but it is a nice inclusion.
There are 3 separate Line-o-rama (HD, 12:35) segments that can be viewed separately or together. There's one for the sleeping configuration scene, the stranger at the door scene, and a raunchy argument between James Franco and Danny McBride. This is the Gag Reel (HD, 06:16) is your usual gag reel, cut together professionally with some nice music added. At times it feels like more line-o-rama cause nobody is cracking up or breaking character, but there's plenty of contagious laughter here as well. Moving along we have Deleted Scenes (HD, 15:08), which feels like more line-o-rama riffing at times. Most of these are just extended riffing from scenes that are already in the movie. It feels superfluous, but if you can't get enough of this stuff then here is more of it.
This is the Marketing is listed as one feature but is really a bunch of small featurettes, including some really strange marketing videos. If you want to see the cast goofing around in cat outfits you can watch Marketing Outtakes (HD, 06:39). Aziz Haunts Craig (HD, 01:03) is an additional video confessional from Craig Robinson, like the ones featured in the movie. There's a similar James and Danny Confessional (HD, 01:18), Jonah Confessional (HD, 01:17), and a Seth and Jay Confessional (HD, 00:57). One featurette called The Cast (HD, 03:44) plays like a cable special that comes on in between movies. It has some quick interview footage and an introduction to what the movie is. Last of the marketing materials is the Red Band Sizzle Trailer (HD, 01:53) which plays just like The Cast featurette but with more R-rated content.
I was wary of the idea of these actors playing themselves, but This is the End turned out to be great fun. The movie successfully mixes humor and horror to wildly entertaining results. Fans of the cast members are sure to take away more fond memories, but I imagine even non-fans will find it worth seeing at least once. This Blu-ray release has lots of value, boasting quality AV and a ton of hilarious extras.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 1st October 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French (PAR), Dolby Digital 5.1 English Description Track
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Extras: Commentary with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Directing Your Friends, This is the Marketing, Gag Reel, Deleted Scenes, Line-o-rama, Meta-Apocalypse, Party Time, The Cannibal King, Let's Get Technical, The Making of 'The Making of Pineapple Express 2', Jay & Seth vs. The Apocalypse - The Original Short, Sony Previews, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen
Genre: Comedy and Fantasy
Length: 107 minutes
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