TRAINWRECK (2015)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 5 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Sexual Content, Nudity, Language and some Drug Use

Trainwreck poster

Directed by: Judd Apatow

Written by: Amy Schumer

Starring: Amy Schumer, Tilda Swinton, Bill Hader, John Cena, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn & LeBron James

Romantic comedies aren’t exactly the kind of films that can majorly change over time. You have two people who fall in love with each other before encountering turbulence in their relationship that threatens to separate them before eventually reuniting and rekindling their affection for each other. It’s a well-known, often-used formula that’s associated with rom-coms and chick flicks. While TRAINWRECK doesn’t buck that decades-old trend, it happens to be directed by Judd Apatow (the man behind KNOCKED UP, one of my favorite rom-coms) and was penned and stars Amy Schumer. So with a hard R rating and crude sensibilities, TRAINWRECK should more than please couples who enjoy dirty-minded comedy with a soft side. It’s that sort of movie.

TRAINWRECK, Amy Schumer (left), 2015. ©Universal Pictures

Ever since she was a child, Amy was hammered with the idea that monogamy wasn’t realistic. As result, Amy has grown into a loose, heavy-drinking, drug-using writer working for a tabloid magazine. She’s never had a committed relationship, because she never thought that lifestyle was for her. This all changes when she’s assigned to write an article on sports doctor Aaron. Aaron is the polar opposite of Amy. He’s a conservative, nerdy guy and hopeless romantic. Somehow, Amy and Aaron hit it off well during an interview and go out for dinner. Dinner turns into drinks and drinks turns into sleeping together. Aaron has fallen head over heels for Amy and she’s trying to cope with the fact that she’s finally found someone she loves. That’s the set up and it’s not exactly hard to guess where the film goes from there, but it’s highly entertaining to watch.

TRAINWRECK, from left: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, 2015. ©Universal Pictures

TRAINWRECK isn’t exactly immune from clichés of the rom-com formula, but openly mocks them as it goes along. The screenplay is especially impressive seeing that it’s the first actual full-length narrative that Schumer has written as her past work consists of skits and stand-up comedy. It definitely helps if you like her material (and I do) as her crude sense of humor and talent both translate well onto the screen. The movie throws in a lot of fun plot details and manages to get a lot of mileage out of them. A ton of laughs come from Amy’s job at the Tabloid magazine (especially her mentoring an oddball intern) and frequent conversations with a homeless man on her street. As crude and lewd as TRAINWRECK can be, the film has a definite sweet side as well. A lot of the movie hinges on Schumer’s performance and she brings her character to the screen very well. In other hands, this character could have been downright despicable and unlikable on all fronts. However, we realize she’s a damaged woman with a lot of baggage. Watching her journey is an enjoyable experience, even when you don’t agree with her actions.

Trainwreck 3

As far as the rest of the cast goes, everyone else delivers in their parts. Bill Hader (who has been on a roll lately with THE SKELETON TWINS and INSIDE OUT) plays Aaron as someone we can sympathize with. While he’s not so much of the focus of the film as Amy is, the two have good chemistry together as a couple. Meanwhile, LeBron James is hilarious as an exaggerated version of himself. Brie Larson is great as Amy’s polar opposite sister and Mike Birbiglia is well-cast as said sister’s husband. I was surprised by John Cena’s performance. I haven’t seen him in much (besides the godawful MARINE), but Cena impressed as Amy’s ultra-sensitive beefcake fling. He’s not a huge character, but makes the most of every scene he’s given. The biggest problem in TRAINWRECK comes with pretty much every Apatow comedy of late. The running time is too long. It’s not enough to dissuade anybody from watching this movie, but there are scenes that definitely could have been removed entirely and nothing would be missed (e.g. one useless montage and an “intervention” scene that only serves as an excuse for a few cameos). It feels like TRAINWRECK definitely could have benefitted from more time in the cutting room.

TRAINWRECK, from bottom: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, 2015. ©Universal Pictures

TRAINWRECK is a dirty-minded, foul-mouthed rom-com with a heart of gold. Much like KNOCKED UP, the movie feels very honest in spite of its unavoidable clichés. Amy Schumer’s script is well-written and her performance is dramatically different from what you might expect from her. The film is definite date-night material for couples who happen to love Schumer’s comedy. You could do far, far worse in the chick flick department. Dare I call TRAINWRECK the best chick flick I’ve seen in a long time. I think I shall. If it sounds up your alley, give it watch!

Grade: B+

THE INTERVIEW (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 52 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Language, Crude and Sexual Humor, Nudity, some Drug Use and Bloody Violence

Interview poster

Directed by: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg

Written by: Dan Sterling

Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons, Charles Rahi Chun & Rob Lowe

It has become impossible to bring up THE INTERVIEW without mentioning the unnecessary controversy around it. I would be silly to summarize the ridiculous situation that erupted before this film’s release (you already all know about it), but will say that all the news surrounding THE INTERVIEW was hyping me up to see this movie. In all honesty, I was pretty stoked. Instead of going the VOD route, luck would have it that a movie theater within reasonable distance was showing this film (complete with extra security and all). If North Korea hadn’t issued threats and Sony wasn’t hacked, then THE INTERVIEW would have come and gone as a good comedy that might be mentioned from time to time. Instead, this movie has now become an unintentional event film and seeing it in a sold out theater definitely contributed to my overall enjoyment. The film isn’t going to be as funny or entertaining if watched directly from YouTube or by yourself in a living room. If at all possible, go see THE INTERVIEW in a theater.

Interview 1

Dave Skylark is the popular host of a trashy talk show that covers insignificant celebrity stories masquerading as serious news. His producer, Aaron, is sick of having created 1,000 episodes of cheap excuses for journalism and encourages Skylark to aim higher. This results in an interview being set up with feared dictator Kim Jong-Un in the far recesses of North Korea. Before Skylark and Aaron can catch their flight to Korea, the CIA recruits the pair into an assassination plot to take down Kim. Things don’t go as simply as planned due to Dave’s stupidity, Aaron hitting on one of Kim’s officials, and Kim seeming like a nice guy. Wacky hijinks and political poop jokes ensue, as well as a lot of unnecessary controversy in the real world.

Seth Rogen;James Franco;Lizzy Caplan

If you’re not a fan of Seth Rogen comedies, you’re probably not going to like THE INTERVIEW. However, I think Rogen is very funny and has far more hits than misfires. Flaunting a creative and ingenious (in bad taste) premise, the film is as juvenile and raunchy as to be expected. Rogen and Franco still have good chemistry as believable best friends. Rogen is a more serious straight-man than usual and Franco is the biggest dumbass he’s ever played. Some might find Franco to be the funniest part of the film (I’ll get more into that later on), but I found that mostly unknown Randall Park stole the show as Kim Jong-Un. Besides capturing the evil that lies beneath a good guy persona he puts on for Skylark, Park manages to get a majority of the big laughs from his nuances and goofiness as the shy dictator with a horrible hair style.

Interview 3

THE INTERVIEW was filmed in Vancouver, but you could have fooled me as this looks convincingly like North Korea (not that I’ve ever been there or plan on visiting there). Lots of digital trickery was employed to sell this film as appearing to take place in one of the most dangerous countries on the planet and I fell for every bit of it. The sense of humor is riskier this time around compared to Rogen’s previous work. You’d imagine that it would have to be given that this comedy revolves around the potential assassination of a world leader, but it gets graphically gory and far darker than I was initially expecting. It’s very R-rated (tons of profanity, wacky violence, and over-the-top sex) and should entertain fans of this kind of comedy. I was cracking up through multiple points in the film, a highlight of which being Rogen’s night-time encounter with a Siberian Tiger.

James Franco;Seth Rogen

THE INTERVIEW is not high-brow filmmaking by any stretch of the imagination and can get too juvenile. Though some have praised Franco’s moronic Skylark, I actually found him to be the most trying character in the film. Rogen and Park got far more laughs out of me. Lizzy Caplan (who was awesome in HOT TUB TIME MACHINE) is underused as the CIA agent recruiting the pair of would-be assassins. The film compromises an otherwise hilarious crucial moment with a poop joke that felt distracting. There were also five running jokes that are used throughout the movie (right down until the end) that really aren’t amusing the first time around and become eye-rolling by the fourth time we get a certain piece of dialogue. Besides these flat jokes and two so-so characters, THE INTERVIEW is a lot of fun!

Interview 5

Despite how you feel about it, THE INTERVIEW has left a brief spot in cinematic history and will be discussed for absurd controversy in future years (potentially decades) to come. I can see how others might not enjoy it as much as I did, but I had a great time watching this movie. Maybe, I was partially built up to like it because of the controversy and watching it in a large sold out movie theater probably hoisted this film’s grade for me as well. If you haven’t watched THE INTERVIEW and plan on doing so, go see it with a packed audience or invite some friends over and make a party of it. Either of those would make for an ideal viewing experience. Thanks to all the craziness, hacking, and international threats, THE INTERVIEW 2 won’t happen, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel. Do Putin next!

Grade: B+

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