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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: Sucker Punch (2011) April 10, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews, Reviews.
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In a nutshell, Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch is the one of the most visually impressive but intellectually and emotionally empty films I’ve ever seen.

I’m really stuck on this review right now because I don’t know how to go about it.  The film started off unbelievably well, with virtually zero dialogue and a kick ass soundtrack — but most importantly it told a story, and an interesting one: a deceased mother, a dead sister, an evil stepfather and a girl in a mental institution where she will be lobotomised in five days.

At this point I thought I was in for one of the best films of the year.  I loved the look of the film (in my opinion it exceeded both 300 and Watchmen), I loved the sound (something I don’t usually notice) and I loved where it was heading.  It had a terrific (at least looking) cast led by two sensational Aussies (Emily Browning and Abbie Cornish), plus Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung.

Then, as expected, the film took a turn into fantasy, and from there, the story just went downhill (though I will say it redeemed itself a little towards the end).  I didn’t have a problem with the turn itself, but I disliked the way it was executed.

The effects and fight scenes were amazing to watch, but because you knew it was all ridiculous fantasy, nothing was at stake and as a result there was no genuine excitement.  Incredible to look at (it was like a freaking video game or the best live-action anime of all time) but it left me feeling strangely hollow.  And without giving away anything more about the plot, I also found the progression to be predictable and plodding.  The devices used were, for lack of a better term, lame.

And so I have very mixed feelings about Sucker Punch.  On the one hand the geek inside me was utterly impressed by the super cool visuals, martial arts moves and blazing guns.  There was a scenario for every nerd — war, fantasy, sci-fi.  But on the other, the sane movie-goer in me was disappointed by the lack of a compelling narrative and a complete failure to generate any emotional connection.  It smelt of a lazy film, one that was too focused on the aesthetics and not nearly enough on the heart and soul.  It’s a real shame because with a stronger script, Sucker Punch could have been something quite special.

2.5 stars out of 5

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