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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On Location: Las Vegas

Immersion is the essence of cinema. Nobody famous or important that I know of said that, but someone probably said something similar at one point. I’m not even going to Google it; that’s how confident I am. But there’s truth to it— a movie can be as much about its setting as it can be about its story. Engaging the audience’s senses by building a relationship between the story elements and the setting is an undervalued art achieved by only masterful art directors and storytellers. Think of how cleverly and subtly Tim Burton exploits the Florida suburbs in Edward Scissorhands to provide thematic contrast for his character or how carefully Ben Affleck pans the Boston sky for his cop and crime dramas.

The relationship works both ways. Their stories and styles also influence the way we perceive places we haven’t yet been, or places we visit. Imagine going to the Empire State Building without thinking of scenes from King Kong or Spiderman. The Twilight series may be unbearable, but look what its done to romanticize our image of the Pacific Northwest and boost tourism in the region. Our idea of the Vegas strip wouldn’t be the same without great casino films like these.

This has been my personal introduction to our newest series: On location. In this series we will pick an iconic place and look at the movies that shaped our idea of that place as well as how the movie portraits the setting. First up: sin city.

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REVIEW: The Hangover Part II

The Hangover Part II
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong, & Todd Phillips (screenplay)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, and Justin Bartha

I swear I wrote this review a few days ago, but here goes nothing.  The Wolf Pack packs up for another wedding, this time Stu’s (Ed Helms), and go on another drunken rage, this time in Bangkok, Thailand.

If you thought their masculinity was under fire in the first installment, wait until you get a whiff of transvestite prostitutes and staff wielding monks.  They are strangers in a strange land, and xenophobia set in long before the plane landed.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: The Hangover

The Hangover
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore (screenplay)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, and Justin Bartha

When you’re watching comedy, it’s interesting to pause for a moment and examine why a joke was intended to be funny.  What is the target of the joke, and who is it aimed at?  In mainstream Hollywood’s comedy, more often than not, you’ll find that answer to be pretty simple: masculinity is the target, and men are obviously the intended recipients as well as the writers, directors, and stars.

Rarely has this been more apparent than in Todd Phillips’ The Hangover, a runaway box office success and a raunchy male fantasy with a nasty aftertaste.  It takes that guy party in Vegas idea that zips through many films (Knocked Up is a recent example) and instead of devoting maybe 15 or so minutes, builds an entire movie out of it.

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BLACKLIGHT: Bradley Cooper

The surprising success and appreciation — the backlash, however, wasn’t a surprise — for our first “Spotlight” series to shine the blacklight on and expose the unimpressive marks of the overrated and overpaid Jenifer Aniston did not go unnoticed. Though with love and a fan base, she has far more charms than Bradley Cooper, who only has hair that doesn’t even compare to Aniston’s or the new Gaga track.  So in this post, he won’t be spared to find five “at least they aren’t that bad films” — mostly because there aren’t any — but to give his most cringe-worthy performances celebrated before he rakes in his Hangover 2 Memorial Day weekend dough. Continue reading

REVIEW: Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids
Directed by: Paul Feig
Written by: Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig (screenplay)
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, and Melissa McCarthy

Behold something new in Bridesmaids.  It’s possible that such an innovation, which is buried beneath a mound of plot cliches and character types, will go unnoticed by the masses.  It is simply this: Bridesmaids takes pieces of the old genres and makes them new.  It is the successful merging of the male-targeted buddy comedy with the female-targeted romantic comedy.

When two genres merge, the film either tends to lean hard on one element or another, but Bridesmaids carefully walks the tightrope between both in an effective, hilarious mix.

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The New Movie Stereotypes

When there are hundreds of movies made every year, patterns start to show up.  Whether it’s the characters or the ending, there isn’t much in the way of originality in the movies.  This is especially true with characters, whose archetypes have been mixed and matched since Hollywood’s inception.  As time progressed, new characters have emerged, and been implemented and overused just like the old stereotypes before them.  Here is a list of movie characters we’ve seen time and again the past few years, and that we’ll probably continue to see for many more to come.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl- Realizing your dreams and fulfilling your potential is one of the most common goals of movie protagonists.  Young male independent writers/directors like to do this with the help of a leading lady.  At first, these characters almost demand to be recognized as free spirits, but as soon as love and narrative momentum chains them down, they become muses whose only purpose is to help the main character fulfill their own potential while they are left unfulfilled.  The phrase was first coined by critic Nathan Rabin, who used the term in his review of Elizabethtown. Find them in: Garden State (Natalie Portman), (500) Days of Summer (Zooey Deschanel), Almost Famous (Kate Hudson) and Elizabethtown (Kirsten Dunst)

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