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The Hangover Part III (2013)
Hangover III: Chowabunga!
The movie opens with Alan in the midst of transporting a giraffe in a trailer he is pulling. I don't need to elaborate that this trip does not end well. As the result of Alan's mishap we see the gang first appear together at a funeral for Alans father played by a scene stealing Jeffrey Tambor. The fact that the film starts at a funeral instead of a wedding is a not so subtle hint that this hangover will prove to be even darker than the first two. The introduction sequence ends with the gang driving Alan to a mental health spa after an intervention.
The film takes another tangent and the set up for the inciting incident comes from a gangster out of the past that kidnaps one of the gang and sending the wolf pack back into action to rescue their own. This is quite a bit different than the initial two films. There is not hangover and they didn't do anything wrong...yet. The gangster is played by John Goodman and there are not many actors that are such a sure thing as he is in any role. There is even a surprise character here from the past that while this may not have been the most creative plot, they were a stickler for detail and a lot of attention is paid to the details. if you keep your eyes open there are shout outs and homages throughout.
The movie here really focuses on Alan and Mr. Chow as not only the main characters, but really the only characters. Stu, Phil and Doug could have just been cardboard props for the movie and you would have saved a ton of money and lost very little in the way of acting. Ken Jeong, as Mr. Chow, absolutely steals the show. His character should have a place in all time best character anti hero. This film would not be watchable without Mr. Chow. he takes a film on life support and gives it a level up to a pretty decent movie. It's not a great film, it's a pretty decent movie. It's shot wonderfully, lit perfectly, great audio, decent to really good acting and enough plot twists and nostalgia to be worthwhile. Make sure you wait to watch the credits. It's a steal at redbox or the Dollar show and if you get your tickets at costco like I do it's a fair deal. Big screen is always best. Support the craft by seeing it in theaters and support the theaters by buying some concessions. Till Next time.
Todd at the Movies, on twitter for your entertainment
The Rift (2012)
Trouble with grading on a curve
I have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to screen The Rift. This is a Short Film debut release from the newly formed Vantis Pictures. The Director is Robert Kouba and his most ambitious project to date. The score I gave this film is a refection of the parts and it's "weight class". It's not fair to judge a debut micro budget short as if it was a major studio release. There is a lot to be excited about in general from Vantis Pictures and Robert Kouba.
First thing that struck me was the quality of the equipment used. The camera work was excellent and lighting too. These are little things new directors often do poorly on. The casting of Eileen Grubba was great, she was a stand out. The CGI and editing were also really strong points. Robert Kouba may be young, but he has a firm grasp of movie making mechanics. I expect big things from him in the future...along with big budgets comes big responsibility.
Now let's focus a little sharper on the issues I had with The Rift. You would think with the great equipment and skill level on the mechanics it would be a slam dunk winner. Unfortunately this is more of a calling card than a movie. More attention was put into the craftsmanship than the actual story. Outside of Grubba, the cast was sub par. For having such a small script (18-20 pages?) it wasn't very tight. Normally with new Directors the one thing in their control is the story and script and they lack the tools or skill. This is backwards. There was nothing new. The characters were stereotypes and the dialogue was hard to listen too. Even the really well done special effects were familiar, from 10 different movies.
In summary I think Robert Kouba is capable of making some really great films in his future, but I hope he puts as much effort in having something to say in his next movie as he does making it look good.
~Todd at the movies
Haywire was so bad it made me mad!
I don't know where to begin, it was just awful. Reviews with a negative base are never taken seriously or noted as helpful but I am here to tell you DON'T SEE THIS MOVIE! There has been so much praise and hype about this movie its mind boggling. I enjoy an action movie, heck I even enjoyed Mark Wahlberg's movie "Contraband". Gina Carano simply cannot act. Not even a little bit. I heard they reedited her voice for the movie and for the life of me I can't imagine it was worse then it is now. The scenes were painfully long and incredibly slow. The fighting was predictable and terrible. Now let's talk about the movie.
The movie starts with Gina, a special op for hire, meeting a colleague for some unspecified covert meet and some nondescript diner. After some Thoroughly confusing double talk, a fight ensues. This quick action and actually decent fight scene gets ones hopes up that we may be in store for a good movie quickly deteriorates to the dumbest escape scenes ever. This entails hijacking a random car with a guy who she proceeds to tell her out of Sequence life story to. The storytelling is fractured and set in a 70's kind of vibe and feel, very similar to "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" but not remotely as successful.
I could bore you with details about how there's a double cross and she wants to get even with everybody, but why? The movie is packed with stars and directed by Soderbergh and can't manage to be watchable. With low expectations I was still brutally disappointed. Do yourself a favor if you must see it
wait till redbox. Even then it will suck but you'll only be out $1.50 for Blu-ray.
IMDb has it about right 6.5
This movie had one of the best trailers I have seen. From the visual style and music and poetry, it set the expectations pretty high. The movie opened strong with a vast majority of the trailer shown in the first 5 minutes. I found that lost some of the weight it would have had later in the film, you know after I got emotionally invested in the main character that never really happened for me.
This was a storyline we have come to know well in the independent film community. It was told from a new perspective and it was raw and urban and real. The problem I had was that aside from the plight of the repressed adolescent, I didn't really care about her. I almost found every other character more interesting including a surprising performance in the girl that played her little sister. I find it hard to really have a coming of age, be true to yourself storyline work unless the audience really connects with the character. At times I just saw an ungrateful child who thought her life was so much harder than everyone else's.
What really did work in this movie was the fact that coming of age or "coming out" is hard in any setting. This movie showed that barriers exist in all races and all families. It was a bold movie and let me experience life from a completely different world. But I felt more like a voyeur and was never really transported into her life. It's not a bad way to spend an evening but maybe I'd wait to rent this.
Contraband is Paint by Numbers
Contraband is a paint by numbers action/thriller. It would be easy to pick on everything that this movie wasn't, but can you blame chicken nuggets for being chicken nuggets? With a rookie screenwriter at the helm, the script suffers from a mash-up of cliché's. They start with "One last heist" and end with "If you want to save your family you'll do as you're told". There were many déjà-vu moments of been there and done that.
The star power was strong, but given so very little to work with in the way of character back story. All the characters were two dimensional representations of stereotypes. The locations (New Orleans & Panama) were interesting choices but never really quite fit. While the movie wasn't action packed, it moved at a good pace and kept my interest the whole time. The film work was solid as a whole. There was one particular action sequence that takes place around the halfway mark that was done very well.
If you have a craving that only chicken nuggets will satisfy, then I think you will come away fairly happy. Not a necessity to see on the big screen, but that helps it a little. Leave your thinking cap outside, that's the contraband that will keep you from enjoying this as it was intended.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
You must be kidding
Let's start with the very simple premise that all filmmakers know, one page of script is roughly equal to one minute of film time. I did not read the novel nor see the TV series, but I am told the novel is 400 pages. Taking that into account the film must cut corners and cut corners they did. The movie was filmed with an absolute cloak of heaviness and shot well, but I did not see any groundbreaking techniques. What did come across was a heavy dose of despair. They managed to fit all the complexities of this masterful spy plot, but they left ALL character connections DOA. Gary Oldman does his best to convey the character and demeanor of a person that would occupy that station. That is simply not enough.
It was well acted for what was written. Well shot for where and when it took place. But it simply made no connection whatsoever to the characters and the audience. If you read the book your mind will most likely fill the gaps automatically, but for the rest of us it simply was devoid of interest. This was way more "The Good Sheperd" than "No Way Out". I love a good slow character driven movie. This movie was slow and with no character development. It will no doubt win many awards and be a favorite, but mostly from accolades it did not earn.
Old fashioned movie making
I would like to start off my review with a little back story. I was off from work on a beautiful Southern California day and just watched Woody Allen's Manhattan Murder Mystery last night so this was a nice complimentary movie.
The basic premise of the movie is the interactions of two sets of parents who are getting together for the sole purpose of an altercation between their children. Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly are the parents of the injured child (Ethan). Kate Winslet and Christopher Waltz are the parents of the boy that hit Ethan (Zachery). The movie starts and ends in the confines of the Longstreet's apartment (Reilly & Foster). What ensues is the breakdown of civility between the two parties.
I really enjoyed the movie, especially as it was the right movie for my mood, but also because the casting was great, dialogue was sharp and as usual the directing was spot on. I went in expecting Reilly to be miscast, but he not only held his own but had some real moments. Foster is easy to hate and the one I think an award nomination is due. Winslet had a great metamorphosis as too chic investment banker. Waltz was maybe not fleshed out as much, but easily the most enjoyable. All things considered it was a Thoroughly enjoyable movie.
There is very little not to like but taken in the essence of an old fashioned ensemble And that it's wrapped up nicely with a bow, not many loose ends, it's a great 80 minute Escape from the HD life we live.