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: 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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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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REVIEW: Due Date

Due Date
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel, & Todd Phillips
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakias, Michelle Monaghan, and Jamie Foxx

Watching Zach Galifianakias’ Ethan Tremblay, an aspiring actor, act out a scene given to him by Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.)with  amateurism and then turn it into an emotionally-charged turn reminded me of Mulholland Dr. The comparisons with that 2001 masterpiece and this forgettable buddy comedy should end there, but they don’t.  A lot of Todd Phillips’ latest is a hallucinatory road trip filled with drugs, car wrecks, and bizarre tonal changes.  Take my advice, stick with David Lynch.

Phillips could’ve done anything after he sailed away with the box office last summer with The Hangover.  Instead, he decided to recycle his use of Galifianakias as the awkward, sympathetic idiot and pair him with Robert Downey Jr for a road movie based on Plains, Trains and Automobiles.  It’s an appealing match-up ripe with potential, almost none of which is utilized.  The two actors at the center were almost given too much freedom to be themselves, letting their personalities fill in the (many) blanks the script left out both plot-wise and on the laughing front.

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REVIEW: Dinner for Schmucks

Dinner for Schmucks
Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: David Guion & Michael Handelman
Starring: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, and Jemaine Clement

The mainstream American comedy is in trouble.  Like the America pre-economic meltdown, it’s been lulled into a state of laziness.  Audiences are being tricked into the same movie over and over again by slick, money-grubbing studio executives, not unlike those bankers and brokers.  And so here we are with Dinner for Schmucks, the latest comic swindler from the modern studio system.

At the helm, if it even matters, is director Jay Roach, who previously brought us Meet the Parents, a funny if not overwhelmingly original movie with a diverse cast that drew in a lot of different people.  With this movie, we get the inevitable pairing of Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, who first worked together on the 40 Year Old Virgin.

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