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Movie Review: The Hangover Part II (2011) June 2, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews, Reviews.
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I’m probably one of the rare few that didn’t think The Hangover was an awesome film.  A clever premise, interesting characters, and some wild, outrageous and completely insane situations — yes — but personally I didn’t find it all that funny.

A couple of my friends told me that the sequel, The Hangover Part II, was very very funny, so despite my wariness, I went and checked it out.

Mmm…like the characters in the film, I honestly couldn’t remember a whole lot about the original, but even so, this sequel felt eerily similar, almost recycled.  The same bunch of guys have a wild night out before a wedding, get plastered, can’t remember anything the next morning, and have to retrace their steps in limited time to find a missing person.  Like the predecessor, it’s crazy, crude, often disgusting and utterly improbable — meaning if you enjoyed the original you’ll probably like this one too.

Unfortunately for me, it meant another pretty average experience.

Moving the ‘Wolfpack’ to Bangkok was a step up from Vegas, and they sure did exploit the beautiful scenery, the vastly different culture, the squalid parts of the city and the language barrier.  I also thought the three main characters — Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) — provided a formidable trio with distinct personalities that meshed well together.

But ultimately, The Hangover Part II just wasn’t very funny.  Well, perhaps I should clarify by saying that it’s not my kind of humour.  Like the first film, it relied on outrageous situations, gross out scenarios and random/awkard/uncomfortable moments provided by Galifianakis (who shot to stardom after the original).  It’s a formula that obviously worked for audiences the first time, but I could count the number of genuine laughs I had from this film on one hand.  A big reason for that was because a lot of the gags, especially the sexual ones, were telegraphed and you could see them coming a mile away.

The biggest disappointment for me was the Asian gangster Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), who for me was absolutely the bright spark of the original.  In the sequel, however, I felt his jokes were more scripted rather than ad libbed, and as a result he wasn’t nearly as funny as he was or should have been.  I still love Ken but he couldn’t lift the film this time.

Having said all that, I still maintained interest in the story most of way through because of the curiosity factor — after all, I did want to find out what happened to them that night.  But as was the case with the original, that knowledge didn’t mean much by the end.

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Limitless (2011) March 25, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews, Reviews.
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Decided to go with the 'alternate' poster

Limitless kind of came out from nowhere to become the number one film on my ‘to see’ list.  I had heard nothing about it until a recent trailer, and it was a good one.  A struggling writer (Bradley Cooper) stumbles across a drug that allows him to use 100% of his brain (humans apparently can only utilise about 20% of it).  How cool is that?  The potential, as the title suggests, is limitless.

However, I was also rather wary.  Techno-thrillers with a slight fantasy edge rarely pan out well.  A smart idea is usually let down by a poor screenplay and clumsy execution.  But surprisingly, Limitless didn’t suffer from either.

This was a slick, stylish film (with some eye-popping sequences) that I found simply exhiliarating at times.  Perhaps it’s because the charismatic Cooper plays a writer (or at least starts off as one), or perhaps it’s because the drug opens up so many exciting possibilities, possibilities we can only dream of — whatever the reason, I just wanted to keep watching to see what would happen next.  And unlike most films of this kind, the ending didn’t totally suck.

That’s not to say Limitless is not flawed, because it is.  It’s too long (it’s just 105 minutes but it felt long) and tonally uneven.  Apart from Cooper, the supporting roles are all pretty thankless (Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro).  And if you really want to look closely you’ll probably find plenty of holes in the story.  But I can overlook all of that because it was interesting, it was thrilling, and it was enjoyable.  A surprise hit.

4 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: The A-Team (2010) August 3, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews.
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To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know much about the 80s series The A-Team upon which the new film of the same name was based.  I was familiar with Mr T, and my old boss had once referred to our particular team for a large legal transaction as “the A-Team” (apart from me, there were two other lawyers — one was a sexual deviant and the other was nicknamed “Freakshow” for his horrible BO, saliva spraying, flaky dandruff, and body hairs poking out of missed button holes), but that was the extent of my knowledge.

This new “A-Team” features Liam Neeson (how can you not like a guy who played Oscar Schindler, Qui-Gon Jinn and kicked serious butt in Taken?) as their leader “Hannibal”, rising star Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) as the slick “Face”, Sharlto Copley (District 9) as “Howling Mad” Murdoch, and MMA fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as BA Baracus (the new Mr T).  These four dudes somehow come together and become extremely close (in condensed off-screen time), blowing things up and making wisecracks while they save the world from corrupt government officials and counterfeit money plates.

The A-Team is what it is.  An all-out, over-the-top action movie with a bunch of cool, wacky guys, a few rather tame/lame jokes, a couple of twists and turns in the plot, and lots and lots of explosions.  It starts with a bang and never lets the foot off the pedal.  Fun and exciting?  For the most part.  Engaging and riveting?  Not exactly.  As far as action movies go, I suppose it could have been a lot worse, but this was definitely no classic.  However, if you just want a couple of hours of light entertainment, The A-Team is actually quite up to the task.

Since I don’t know about the original there’s nothing to compare them to, but I think the chemistry is largely there for this crew.  I would say Jackson, not being a career actor and all, was the weakest link of the foursome.  He just looks uncomfortable out there churning out those lines.

To me, it was the villains that stole the show.  Patrick Wilson (super underrated actor) gets a pretty meaty role as a nasty but inept CIA Agent and seems to really enjoy being a douche, whereas Brian Bloom (I’ve seen him in Dollhouse and a bunch of other TV shows) unexpectedly excels as the evil private security dude.

On the other hand, Jessica Biel received a rather thankless role as the helpless agent on the side slash love-interest.  She was looking slim and pretty but that was about it.

Considering the “average” reception of the film at the box office, whether a sequel will be forthcoming remains to be seen.  In some ways The A-Team failed to live up to expectations because of the popularity of the original TV series, but in other ways it exceeded expectations because most people thought it would be complete trash (but it’s not).  Keep your expectations in check and go along for the ride.

3 stars out of 5

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