This Is the End (2013)

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It seems easy enough to make fun of other people and their quirks, but you really should be able to laugh at yourself before you can really laugh at someone else. And that’s really a big part of the appeal to movies like This Is The End
. All of the talented actors and comedians in this movie are effectively playing parodied versions of themselves, except they’re in the context of the apocalypse, surrounded by fire, brimstone and bottomless pits.

The cast is something of legend. You’ve got guys like Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Danny McBride, Mindy Kaling, and even Emma “Hermione” Watson. It really feels like you are taking the comedic genius behind strange comedies like Superbad and Pineapple Express, but allowing the actors to “be themselves.” While there are some weaker performances in here (I didn’t really like James Franco in this one), the laughs are definitely there. It’s just not one of those movies for the faint of heart. You’ll hear a lot of cussing and plenty of bathroom humor, plus no shortage of surprise gore and phallic symbols.

This is a film that doesn’t take itself seriously and neither should you. Just sit back and enjoy the laughs.

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

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The first Kick-Ass movie wasn’t afraid to use the shock factor, particularly when it came to the portrayal of 11-year-old Mindy as Hit-Girl. The violence was over the top, blending in just enough comedy into the mix so we could laugh at the utter brutality. It was controversial, to say the least, and it’s clear that they wanted to capitalize on this for the sequel.

But the sequel doesn’t really have that novel shock factor anymore. While it was still an enjoyable 103 minutes, Kick-Ass 2 just doesn’t offer the same kind of charm and originality. Based on the trailers, it looked like Jim Carrey’s Colonel Stars and Stripes was going to be the valiant (albeit mentally-disturbed) leader of a new batch of superheroes, but we never really get that sense of him being a great leader. The origin story reveal didn’t have the impact that the producers had hoped for either.

And just like the original, the title character ends up taking a back seat to Hit-Girl, except this time, we get pulled more into the Mean Girls struggles of Mindy as she tries to adjust to a normal life rather than being pulled into her alter-ego life as a vigilante crime-fighter. That being said, fans of the first movie will find a lot to like here, even if it is flawed in its execution.

Rurouni Kenshin (2012)

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Susanne happens to be a fan of the manga and anime by the same name, so when we heard about a live action version of Rurouni Kenshin, we had to watch it. I can’t say how closely this movie falls in line with the original works; what I can say is that they tried to pack a lot of story into this two-hour adventure. There is a lot going on with intertwined relationships, but it is all reasonably easy to follow.

We are introduced to Kenshin, a one-time assassin for hire who has since turned to a far more peaceful life. Indeed, he carries around a “reverse-edged” sword so that the cutting edge is on the wrong side; he’s made a vow never to kill again. Along the way, we get caught up in the opium trade and the daughter from a fallen dojo, plus we are offered just a brief glimpse into Kenshin’s violent past.

It should surprise no one that, given the skilled Japanese actors in this Japanese-made film, the swordplay is both intense and spiritual in nature. The visuals have a timeless, classical nature about them too. The emotional connection does fall a little flat at times, but Rurouni Kenshin just might be one of the better films that you’ve never heard of.