REVIEW: The Hangover Part III

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The Hangover Part III
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Todd Phillips & Craig Mazin (screenplay), Jon Lucas & Scott Moore (characters)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong

Is there any point in trying to look at The Hangover Part III as anything but a petulant piece of filth?  Of course the answer is no, but in a franchise built on uncompromising filth, that isn’t necessarily all bad.  Make no mistake, though: this is a very bad movie.  The story abandons the “What did we do last night?!” set up of the first two installments, and apparently can’t survive without it.

There are scenes of abduction and violence conducted with small crowds of people looking on in the background of the shots.  Several characters are shot and killed and the every men at the center of the story are hardly affected.  And yet, there is a kind of demented charm to this final installment as we get a sense that director Todd Phillips is almost daring us to try and make sense of a series built on sacrificing coherence for gross-out.  With the aid of his three main stars, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis, and a slew of others, he has created a movie that exists as a series of gags barely connected by anything other than familiar faces.

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REVIEW: Flight

Flight
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: John Gatins (screenplay)
Starring: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle and John Goodman

Denzel Washington has an uncanny knack for throwing away his lines while still allowing them to register emotionally on his face.  This tactic serves him quite well in Robert Zemeckis’ Flight because the character he portrays, the alcoholic airplane pilot Whip Whitaker, would be much too volcanic and ineffective if he was played in a straightforward way.  In Washington’s hands, he transforms into a wounded maverick lying his way out of a situation he had no control over.

Unlike many of Zemeckis’ other movies, Flight avoids many opportunities for standard character development and perseverance.  When a standard Orlando-Atlanta flight turns into a nosedive at 30,000 feet because of mechanical malfunctions, Whitaker remarkably flies the plane upside down and stabilizes it for a safe landing.  Of the 102 passengers on board, only six died when all of them should have.

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REVIEW: Argo

Argo
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Written by: Chris Terrio (screenplay), Joshuah Bearman (article)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman

I think Argo is going to win Best Picture, if the studios play their marketing cards smartly and don’t push too hard before the end of the year.  This isn’t because it’s the best movie of the year, but it’s the kind of movie that Academy voters can agree on.  It’s very suspenseful, it has a good ensemble cast decked out in ’70s hair and it’s in part about Hollywood helping rescue hostages in Iran.

Ben Affleck has been steadily building up his directing chops in his previous features Gone Baby Gone and The Town, and in leaving contemporary Boston behind here he has created his most assured movie yet.  Argo is consistently engaging, from its washed out ’70s look to its fluid, precisely orchestrated camera movements.  The first 20 minutes, where the U.S. embassy in Iran is stormed by protesters, are brilliantly conceived.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Written by: Eric Roth (screenplay), Jonathan Safran Foer (book)
Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Max von Sydow

The opening image of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is of a man falling to his death, with papers behind him that fade into the title; its closing image is of a boy swinging upward on a swing, triumphant.  It freezes on this image, asking the audience to pause and share in that triumph.  This is hard to do for many reasons, but mostly because that man who was falling to his death wasn’t doing so because he wanted to.  He is falling from the Twin Towers, and it is Septermber 11th, as the movie and its director, Stephen Daldry, will remind you of several times.

Oskar (Thomas Horn), the troubled boy at the film’s center, torments himself endlessly with the messages his father (Tom Hanks) left on their answering machine while he was trapped in the World Trade Center on what Oskar calls “The Worst Day.”  After finally working up the courage to enter his father’s room, he searches the top shelf, knocking over a blue vase in the process.  Inside that vase is a key whose mysteries occupy the remainder of the narrative.

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REVIEW: Red State

Red State
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Written by: Kevin Smith (screenplay)
Starring: John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Michael Parks and Kyle Gallner

Usually, Kevin Smith’s status as a writer/director mirrors that of Woody Allen.  When he’s on, most notably in Clerks, he’s dead-on and when he’s off in movies like Dogma or Cop Out, he’s just dead.  Red State marks a departure for him as a filmmaker in many ways.  First and foremost is that it’s not really a comedy outside the occasional chuckle, and second is that the grotesque happens just as much as it is talked about.

Red State is neither a total success or complete failure.  It explores a militant anti-gay Christian church in an unnamed state in Middle America.  Though the church is meant to mirror the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, Smith distances himself from that as the church members lay down their picket signs and pick up automatic weapons.

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5 Favorite Film Fools

Last April Fools’ Day, we gave you five movies that fooled you. This year, we thought it’d be a good idea to let the viewer have the last laugh.  The annals of film history are filled with characters that we enjoy purely because of their stupidity.  They don’t know they’re stupid, and that is the root of their comedy.  Here are five memorable screw-ups who wouldn’t be better any other way.

Tommy (Tommy Boy)– Chris Farley made a career (far too short of one at that) out of playing the lovable buffoon.  His most memorable role is opposite David Spade’s dry, no-fun business partner named Richard in this now-iconic buddy film.  It wasn’t anything new when it came out, but it’s one of the funniest road films of the 90s, and arguably of all time.  Farley outdoes himself for idiocy, whether it’s pretending to be surrounded by bees to evade the cops or taking down Dan Aykroyd’s tire tycoon by pretending to be strapped with a bomb.  In the end he saves the day, but he’s not any smarter.

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If they were in television… The Coen Brothers

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Notable Films: Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Miller’s Crossing, The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, O Brother! Where Art Thou?, and A Serious Man

Famous For: Dark humor with a lot of irony, incorporating elements of film noir into everything, and messing with people’s expectations of certain genres.

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