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Review: The Hangover Part III by Jamie

In 2009 a little comedy film about four friends travelling to Las Vegas for a bachelor party was released and took the world by storm. It took a concept we could all understand, getting so fucked up that you can’t remember anything about the night before, and built a comedic mystery around it. It was a crude comedy that actually had a decent plot but more importantly, the characters were great and that was important because this kind of comedy absolutely depends on the characters. It would be the cinematic breakthrough for the actors portraying those characters as well, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis were all propelled to a level of fame they hadn’t had before and the world was glad of it.

Then in 2011, the sequel was released. It was pretty much the exact same plot except this time the Wolfpack found themselves in Bnagkok. There were many complaints about it being the exact same movie and to a certain degree those criticisms were valid. Still, I enjoyed it for the most part because I liked the charactes and getting to see another one of their adventures was, for the most part, enjoyable.

So no we come to 2013 and the release of the trilogy ending Part three. I rewatched the first two before going to see it at the cinema and so I was looking forward to it. Yes, it would most likely be the exact same thing all over again but I accepted that and was just looking forward to laughing for a bit. Fuck, was I wrong.

The Hangover Part III is literally the definition of a disappointing sequel. The second asked you to buy into the conceit that the same thing could happen to these guys all over again and I did. I was ready to buy into that conceit again. Unfortunately it seems as though Todd Philips heard the criticisms regarding this and decided that if people wanted something different, he would give them something different. And so he did. There is no hangover. He completely removed the mystery element from the plot. Sure, there’s something there which has some of the trappings of a mystery but it really isn’t. Instead it’s just a straightforward story with little hints of mystery that all get solved far to quickly and that just isn’t fun.

It isn’t just not fun for the audience however. Everyone in the film looks like they’re just here due to contractual obligations. No one wants to be here as they’ve moved on to bigger and better things. This is mostly apparent through Bradley Cooper’s performance. It’s almost like he’s begrudgingly helping a friend move house, that’s the impression you get from him. If the film’s cast can’t even be bothered to care about this movie then why should I?

It may be as a result of this disregard for the quality of the film and the boredom of the actors that all of the characters seem off as well. In the first film, Alan was a naïve manchild that you could feel somewhat sympathetic towards. In the second film he became a little more of an asshole but for the most part he was still someone you could enjoy. The third film, however, just decides to make him a complete dick. He’s a dick to his mother, a dick to his friends with the exception of Phil who it almost seems as though he just wants to fuck now. If you can’t feel sympathy for the character than there’s absolutely no reason to care about him at all and I didn’t.

But perhaps the second biggest problem with this movie is the larger role for Chow. Again, in the first movie he was a somewhat minor character without much screen time. The second increased his role and he was certainly irritating but again, his screen time was somewhat limited. Part three is Chow’s movie and Jesus fuck is it annoying. I’ll be honest, I’m really starting to hate Ken Jeong and this is a major problem because it seems as though he will be in every comedy film forever and ever. The character he plays is just an asshole.

And so we come to the biggest problem with this movie. Everyone is a fucking asshole. Like I said before, in the first film Alan was sympathetic. Stu was the straight-laced one who had gotten in over his head and Phil was admittedly an asshole but in some weird way he kept the group together and kept the plot moving forward. In this film there is no distinction between the characters any more. Everyone is just a fucking asshole. Ok, maybe Alan is different in that he’s a slightly stupider asshole than the others but still, a fucking asshole. And you know what? There’s nothing entertaining or funny about watching a bunch of fucking assholes being fucking assholes to each other so that they can save their fucking asshole of a friend.

Is there anything redeeming about this film? Anything at all? Well, I guess there’s small mercy in the fact that it’s the shortest film in the series. And on reflection, I guess there were a few moments that made me chuckle and the scene during the credits is actually funny but other than that, this movie is an irredeemable piece of shit that tarnishes an otherwise enjoyable if not always groundbreaking series. A half pint out of five. Fuck this movie.

No, seriously, fuck this fucking movie.



Review: The Big Wedding by Jamie

Oh boy. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Weddings! They’re a joyous occasion that bring people together to celebrate the love of two individuals! Or they’re a ridiculously outdated concept that go against the natural instincts of the human animal! Whichever way you slice it, I think we can all agree that weddings are a thing that exist. And because of their existence, Hollywood makes movies out of them. The wedding comedy is a cinema mainstay that will probably around as long as the ridiculous tradition itself. It makes sense. Weddings are big, meticulously planned affairs where strangers are forced to mingle and there’s a great deal of alcohol. Any number of things can go wrong. It’s perfect comedy fodder.

It’s because of the familiarity of the setting and an almost inborn understanding of the premise that so many wedding comedies get produced. These are movies that will play to the largest possible audience because everyone understands them. Also they can be produced relatively cheaply. This combination of cheap production and large audience draw means that these kinds of films are always guaranteed to make some kind of money. They don’t even need to be big box office smashes. They just need to exist.

And so we come to 2013s entry in the big wedding comedy genre titled, erm, “The Big Wedding”. Has it got stars? It’s got Robert De Niro! Susan Sarandon! Diane Keaton! Robin Williams is there also! And you know what? Everyone in this film does a perfectly fine job. No one is terrible, nobody sucks. Everybody does just fine. It’s just that when you get a big cast together, they really should have something great to work with. The Big Wedding leave them with nothing.

Well, not entirely nothing. You’re average wedding comedy is generally not excessively crude. It’s the kind of thing a woman, her grown up daughter and the grandmother can all enjoy together. The Big Wedding decides not to go that route. Within the first twenty minutes or so, Robert De Niro has nearly eaten out Susan Sarandon and called his ex-wife (Keaton) a cunt. Am I shocked by this kind of humour? No, of course not but you know who hates the word cunt? Particularly when it‘s being used to refer to a woman? My mum. And that’s the problem with this movie.

Who is the target audience? You can’t have sophomoric, sub-frat boy jokes based on curse words and cunnilingus and expect an older crowd that would be attracted by the casting of De Niro, Keating and Sarandon in a wedding comedy and expect them to enjoy it. You can’t have a wedding comedy and expect a bunch of young guys who might be more inclined to laugh at your crude humour to show up. This movie does not know what it wants to be who or it wants to appeal to and therefore it ends up appealing to nobody. It’s like an adult version of the Smurfs movie. No, I don’t mean it contains Smurf porn but in The Smurfs they made a movie about tiny, blue cartoon characters but included a subplot involving an ad-exec who’s not doing great at a job, has a pregnant wife and he’s not sure if he wants to actually have a baby or not. You know, the kinds of things kids love!

So yes, just who this movie is aimed at is a massive problem but then so is everything else. It’s the same old tired plot line we’ve seen a thousand times before from exactly these kinds of movies but with a thin layer of crude comedy painted on top to make it seem freh. There are two characters pretending to be married, parents disapproving of the groom, a girl who doesn’t get along with her father, a boy trying to lose his virginity. Everything is telegraphed and you know exactly from the opening few scenes just where this movie is going to go.

In conclusion, it’s like I said nobody is terrible in this movie but no one is exactly acting their socks off. It’s pretty clear that this is a pay check for everyone involved. I’ll admit that I chuckled here and there but that’s about it. I saw this at a pretty full screening and I can’t really think of any times when everyone laughed out loud. In fact, it was kind of weird just how quiet the audience remained throughout. There was definitely a bad atmosphere projected from the crowd toward the movie and it did end up feeling weirdly uncomfortable. I will say that I kind of enjoyed Topher Grace’s performance the most but that’s because he was basically playing a thirty year old version of Eric Foreman, his character from That 70s Show and I used to love that show growing up. Oh, and I did enjoy some of the humour about Catholicism but I’m a sucker for jokes about religion so take that with a grain of salt. Overall there’s just not that much to recommend though. One pint out of five. Laterz. And yeah, I know I didn’t do a synopsis. Do you really care what it’s about. If you do then just watch the trailer below and you have my pity.

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Review: Epic by Jamie

I often moan about 3D. I find it unnecessary and it generally takes away from the cinema experience rather than enhance it. When I saw Toy Story 3, for example, I’d forgotten that I was even watching it in 3D after around ten minutes. If that’s the case, then what’s the point? Of all the 3D movies I’ve seen, only two have ever impressed me. Piranha 3D which used the 3D as the gimmick it is, and Transformers 3 though that may have been me trying to grasp onto anything I could possibly enjoy from that shit pile.

And so it is that for the most part I see movies in 2D whenever possible. But sometimes that isn’t possible like when a preview screening of Epic sells out in 2D because the world is an annoying place. So after much bitching and moaning I buckled down, paid the extra money for the “3D experience” and the stupid 3D glasses as well. And goddamnit, it was actually worth it this time. For the first time that I can remember, the 3D actually added something. It probably has to do with the nature of the movie. In a forest, you really can make a depth of vision that’s noticeable especially when you’re experiencing it at the height of a bug. So yes, first off I’ll admit that the 3D was actually good throughout and I’d recommend seeing it this way if you do choose to see it.

Still 3D isn’t the reason people go to the cinema. They want to be entertained. They want to see something new. Epic succeeds on the first part, the second well kinda. Obviously this is a story we’ve all seen before, inhabitants of a forest trying to save said forest. An outsider being shrunk down and helping in that battle is also something we’ve seen before. Yes, Epic is very, very similar to “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest” except now we have a snail and a slug instead of a bat as the comic-relief.

So yeah, you know the story. There’s a scientist named Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) who’s obsessed with discovering a race of tiny men that he believes live in the forest. His daughter MK (Amanda Seyfried) comes to stay with him after her mother dies but believes him to be insane because of said obsession. Events unfurl that lead to MK being shrunk, finding out that her dad was right and having to help the tiny race known as the Leaf Men fight their enemy, The Boggans, who spread rot.

Honestly, the film sounds like it’s literally been reassembled from the assorted carcass of other movies like some kind of Frankenfilm’s monster. Take a bit of Ferngully, a bit of ‘Honey I Shrunk The Kids’, a little ‘Lord of the Rings’, stitch it all together and you get Epic. Despite all that there is an enjoyable story here and there’s some innovative stuff that I’ve never seen on film before like the theory that Bomba comes up with that we can’t see the race of little people because they live faster than we do. Hence when MK is shrunk, all the larger animals seem to be moving in slow motion. It’s not completely insane. Pigeons, for example, see in slow motion. That’s why they leave it until the last second before moving out of the way of danger. They’re not completely stupid… Just partially stupid.

The voice talent is all pretty good. Biggest surprise was Steven Tyler as an old caterpillar (caterpillars do not work that way) called Nim Galuu. His voice fit the role well and he did a pretty decent job. The slug and the snail voiced by Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd respectively were entertaining enough. Sure, they had a few jokes that fell flat but the kids in the audience seemed to enjoy them so fair enough. The stand out, however, is of course Christoph Waltz as Mandrake, the villain. What can I say? He’s Christoph fucking Waltz for fucks sake, of course he’s good. Perhaps most interesting for the character itself was that he has a son and he actually seems proud of him. This is surprising because normally when a villain has a child, they find them bumbling or incompetent and quite an embarrassment. This was a nice change. Also Mandrake wears the skin of a bat which may have been a mistake on the film makers part. You expect me to root against a character wearing a bat cape and cowl? For shame.

Another big surprise was Colin Farrell as Ronin, the leader of the Leaf Men. He brings a lot of humanity to a character that, in a lesser film, would just be a gruff hard ass who’s always getting on the case of the male lead, Nod (Josh Hutcherson). Instead he’s a layered character who cares about Nod due to his relationship with Nod’s father and it’s his unresolved emotional feelings towards the Queen of the forest (Beyonce Knowles) and his strong sense of duty that really drive him on his quest.

So yeah, overall a perfectly enjoyable film and one that is actually improved through it’s use of 3D. There’s a battle sequence early on between the Leaf Men and the Boggans that’s fast paced and extremely lively just because of the way they’ve used the depth and vibrancy that the 3D provides them and I applaud them for it. Still, it probably doesn’t quite deserve the title Epic. Maybe Good but who’s going to see a movie just called Good? No one. There are moments where the film seems to slow down just a little too much and he relationship between the two leads never really develops naturally like it should. I’d probably rank this just below your better non-Pixar CGI films. It never really reaches the heights of ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ or ‘Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs’ but it’s certainly better than stuff like the Ice Age or Madagascar sequels. Three pints out of five. Laters.

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Review: Fast And Furious 6 by Jamie

I’m not a car guy. Never have been, never will be. Because of this fact I pretty much ignored the Fast and Furious franchise for quite some time until pretty much earlier this year, or maybe late last, when I began listening to a podcast called “How Did This Get Made“. It has quickly become not just one of my favourite podcasts but one of my favourite things. Anyway, one episode they delved into Fast 5 and, being somewhat obsessively compulsive when it comes to film, I decided to watch all five entries in the series. Back to back. To say it was something of an endurance test would be understating it.

The first four films are terrible. At least I think they are. I remember literally nothing from part 4. Nothing. Then I watched the fifth one and it was, well, it was stupid but it was fun. Ridiculously fun. Yes, it was still a pretty bad film but it was unashamedly so. It was pure, high-octane insanity and the thing that made it beautiful was how little it relied on CGI. Things actually happened. Cars were wrecked, things exploded and stunts were pulled. It was also greatly improved by the inclusion of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who, it could be argued, is literally impossible to hate.

So what then of the 6th installment of this series? Does the insanity continue? Well, I’m happy to say that it does. Not only that but, and I realise that I risk losing some credibility here but fuck it, it’s a legitimately good movie. I mean that wholeheartedly. I didn’t like this film ironically or sarcastically. I enjoyed it pretty much from beginning to end, an end which literally had me on the edge of my seat. I understand that the trailer somewhat spoils the last scene though so it’s a good thing I managed to avoid it.

That’s not to say that the film isn’t stupid in places. It is but it revels in it’s stupidity in such an endearing and enjoyable way that you can’t fault it for it and the bits of the film that are great are genuinely great.

Once again the stunt work here is amazing. You can tell that the film makers love cars and want to try and get them to do crazy shit you haven’t seen before. There may be a little more reliance on CG here than in, say, part five but the basic skeleton of it is all practical stunts and just seeing it all unfold is wonderful.

I will say that this is the first Fast and Furious film that I’ve actually seen at the cinema and it’s entirely possible that seeing the stunt work on the big screen with surround sound is part of why I loved it so much. In fact I’m sure it is. It’s entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that my opinion will change when revisiting this film on Blu-ray. But that’s all in the future, for now I’ll just say see this movie where it will be most effective.

As for the plot well, and this is very rare for me to say this, the plot isn’t that important. Still what is here is a perfectly serviceable means to get from point A from point B. In this episode of the series, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew are approached by special agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to help him take down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and his crew who are robbing and wreaking havoc all across Europe. Hobbs offers them a full pardon for their past transgression and sweetens the deal even more by informing the crew that the formerly thought dead Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), Toretto’s past love, is working with Shaw. The mission laid out, the crew head to London to stop Shaw and get Ortiz back.

So yeah, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. There are countless times that retired criminals are offered a pardon in exchange for helping law enforcement catch someone who are just like them. In movies, I mean. Not in real life. That’d be awesome though…

Still, the movie points out the ridiculous in the plot even going so far as having the comic relief Roman (Tyrese Gibson) point out that the villains are essentially the crew’s evil twins. It’s as if the movie is saying “Look, we’re on the same wavelength here. We know that you’re not really here for a deep, involved story. You want stunts and explosions. Trust us, so do we. Just stick with us while we get this out of the way and we’ll return you to that.”

Adding to this is the fact that Hobbs is referred to three times as different Marvel superheroes. Captain America, The Hulk and Thor. Again it’s almost like the film is referencing them directly as if to say “Look, those superhero movies you all like are equally as ridiculous as this and you love them. Love us.” I may be overthinking that one, I’ll admit. It may just be that The Rock is ridiculously muscled.

Still, the story moments are enjoyable because the characters are all, in some way or another, likeable. Are they all somewhat cliches that serve to fulfill certain cliched roles? Yes, to an extent but they’re all just having so much fun with it and sometimes you just need something simple and uncomplicated with pretty cars even when you didn’t know that’s what you needed. Seriously guys, I loved this fucking movie.

My biggest problem with it? Probably Vin Diesel. I just kinda don’t like the guy. He’s aweome in Pitch Black and, to hi credit, he does exactly what he needs to here but there’s just something about the guy that rubs me the wrong way. My fault not the movies.

So yeah, the plot’s paper thin and it’s all something you’ve seen before but you’ve never seen it this way before. And it’ eminently enjoyable. Four pints out of five. Laterz.

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Review: The Great Gatsby by Jamie

Warning: This review may feature spoilers for a book that was first published in 1925 and that you can easily read in an afternoon…

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any film,” he told me, “just remember that all the movies in this world haven’t had the advantages that Jaws had.”

In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has led to the discovery of many curious hidden gems and also made me the victim of not a few films that were best left not viewed by the eyes of anyone.

And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit… I’m sorry, I’ll stop now. The point is that I saw ‘The Great Gatsby’ after reading/listening to the book and watching all four of Baz’s previous films. At the end of all this preparation I came to two conclusions. The first was that I really liked F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 book which is beautifully written and a mesmerizing account of regret, the decay of the American dream and unfulfilled hope and a stunning portrayal of decadently rich youths during the 1920s in America. The second was that for the most part I really like Baz Luhrmann films. There are quibbles here and there and none of them are making it into my top ten but for the most part all four films are entertaining in one way or another. So it was with somewhat raised expectations that I went into the Great Gatsby.

I shall spare you the normal lengthy synopsis because, as I believe I may have mentioned earlier, The Great Gatsby is based on a novel from 1925 which can easily be read in the course of an afternoon. Now the important things. Is it any good? Well, yes and no. As a film it’s certainly the kind of entertaining thing you’d expect from Baz Luhrmann. It’s bright, it’s brash, it’s glitzy and it’s glamorous. It’s a visual feast that’s at times reminiscent of ‘Moulin Rouge’. As an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, however, it’s woefully inadequate. Sure, the major beats of the story are there but that’s all it feels like Luhrmann’s doing, making sure he hit’s the very basic beats of the story without any of the substance. It’s as though he brought in an exorcist that removed the soul from the story.

At it’s very worst, the framework of the novel feels like it’s being used as a means for Luhrmann to get from one elaborate, raucous set-piece to the next. At it’s best you’ll walk away from the film knowing what the story is without really knowing what it’s about.

In the novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald manages to make you feel something for the characters be it revulsion, sympathy or at times a strange mixture of the two which I have dubbed revulpathy. In the film I end up feeling very little for anyone, not that it’s any of the actors fault in particular. They’re all perfectly serviceable with the exception of Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker and Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. To me, Maguire almost seems like he’s just playing his Peter Parker but in 1920s era costume. Somewhere along the line, Maguire seems to have been the go to guy for wide-eyed naivety but to me he always just seems to come of more as something of a gormless buffoon.

DiCaprio, on the other hand, is on the other end of the scale. He does more than a serviceable job. He’s the one bright star in the film in that his portrayal of Gatsby is pretty damn great. Out of the whole thing, his was the character I came closest to caring about though still the nature of the movie left me just short of that.

As for Debicki, well, she’s actually fine it’s just that the character of Jordan seems to be almost completely cut from the story after Gatsby’s first party and any further relationship between her and Nick is barely even hinted at.

The same goes for other characters who have vital scenes in the book such as the Owl-Eyes and Meyer Wolfsheim, both of whom I would argue are vital to the books ending, who are here little more than cameos early on in the movie. Then there’s the case of Henry C. Gatz who is cut altogether. The fact that Luhrmann seems to pay far more attention to the beginning of the book rather than it’s conclusion just seems to add more weight to the accusation that the director cares far more about putting scenes of big, glitzy 1920s era parties, most of which occur in the first half of the book, on film than he does the actual story he’s supposedly adapting.

Then there’s the music. Oh boy. You see, these big, glitzy 1920s era parties all feature music which blends jazz of the time with modern hip-hop and other modern music styles. I can understand what they were going for. I get that you wanted to get across the point that hip-hop today is like jazz was in the 20s. And I liked the use of modern music in Moulin Rouge. It fit there because the 1900s of that film is portrayed as some kind of insane, cartoonish reality, it shows the characters as being really ahead of their time and it just works. This, however, is supposedly an adaptation of The Great Gatsby. It’s jarring. Really jarring and it completely took me out of the film every time. Don’t get me wrong either. For the most part, I really liked the music. It just doesn’t fit.

And so we come to the end the review and what’s left to say? Well, like I said, as a film it’ll keep you entertained and it’s pretty much everything you’ve come to expect from Baz Luhrmann but as an adaptation of such a wonderful book, it’s a miserable failure. There was nothing stopping Luhrmann from making an original film set in the 20s with an anachronistic soundtrack. Hell, he could have made it a spiritual sequel to Moulin Rouge and everyone probably would have been perfectly happy with it. Instead it feels like he wanted to make a film set in the 20s but didn’t want to go to the work of developing a story for it so he took The Great Gatsby and filmed the visually stunning party scenes he’d been dreaming of. Then he realised that shit, he’d probably better try and actually adapt the actual story too and he did so, paying lip service to it and stripping away anything that made said story special in the first place.

As far as I can tell none of the various attempts at adapting the book into a film have been particularly successful with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald themselves famously walking out of the 1926 effort. Maybe a good adaptation will come some day. Maybe not. It eluded us this time, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Two pints out of five. Laterz.

It's The Great Gatsby, Old Sport!




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