'The Hangover' giveth and 'The Hangover' taketh away.
The first 'Hangover' made Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and especially Zach Galifianakis stars, and it elevated Todd Phillips from middling Hollywood director to name-brand comic auteur. But in the film industry, success that surprising and enormous demands more success; the beast must be fed. But as 'The Hangover Part II' and especially the new 'Hangover Part III' prove, it is very hard to make a good sequel to a truly original idea. 'Part II' went the rehash route, recycling the plot of the first movie so brazenly you almost had to admire its chutzpah. 'Part III' finally breaks with the formula a little (SPOILER ALERT: there is no hangover), but still doesn't produce anything even remotely worthy of the first film.
'Frances Ha' is the movie I imagine Woody Allen would make today if Woody Allen wasn't 77 years old and ensconced in an impermeable bubble of wealth and fame. Unlike Woody's recent films -- some of which are actually pretty entertaining -- Noah Baumbach still feels in touch with, as David Bowie puts it in a song that makes an effective appearance in the film, modern love. His characters live on the Lower rather than the Upper East Side. They watch television instead of Ingmar Bergman movies. They struggle to make ends meet as artists but poo-poo potential jobs at 'Saturday Night Live' because "it's gone so downhill."
With 'Star Trek Into Darkness,' Abrams' follow up to the 2009 'Star Trek' reboot (or continuation of the series, if you are Spock Prime) he has solidified his position as a master of propulsive, visceral filmmaking. Dude knows where to put the camera, when the music should swell, when the characters should zing each another or when they should project pathos to the cheap seats. The 'Star Wars' films are mostly gut and little brains and, unfortunately, that is what we have here. The movie still works as an exemplary thrill ride – I laughed, I cried, I cheered – but woe be to anyone who gets caught in a conversation afterwards trying to explain the overly complicated and, at times, silly plot. If you expect something a little sharper out of 'Star Trek' you may come away with some mixed emotions.
If you asked me to sum up Craig Robinson's onscreen presence in a word, the one I'd choose is "likable." Even when he's playing a jerk or a heavy -- like the bouncer in "Knocked Up" or baseball star Reg Mackworthy on "Eastbound & Down" -- his inherent sweetness shines through. Nobody else could say the line "I would tear that ass up," and make it sound like a kind, sensitive compliment. That's Robinson's gift. Try as he might to be a jerk, he'll always be nice. He's the kind of guy you'd want your daughter to marry.
It's precisely that quality that 'Peeples' tries to play off of by casting him as Wade, a typically amiable Robinson character whose relationship with Grace (Kerry Washington) hits a snag when she refuses to introduce him to her family, out of fear of her stern father Virgil (David Alan Grier). But c'mon; he's Craig Robinson. How could anyone not like him?
If you spend any time talking to an evolutionary psychologist, you may come away feeling depressed. We are beastly, horrible creatures whose brutal nature may still be a few steps behind our notions of morality. (One neuroscientist, Sam Harris, argues that we don't even possess free will – not because of any theological notions of predestination, but because we are not yet equipped to master the synaptic responses in our brain which build from environmental factors.) The “New Founding Fathers” in the sci-fi/horror/thriller/whatsit picture 'The Purge' seem to agree with all this, or at least use it as an excuse to implement their very unique (okay, far-fetched) plan to pacify the American public.
Well, you did it Baz Luhrmann. Even with an enormous budget, outrageous costumes, beautiful actors, native 3D and a camera that can fly around and do just about anything, you still made watching 'The Great Gatsby' just as boring as sitting through 8th period English.
Since before the Neolithic revolution of 10,000 BC there have been stories. (I know this from reading in-depth about the Lascaux cave paintings and also from seeing 'The Croods.') While there was, is and always will be fiction, much of artistic expression has been used as a means to record what happened to us. 'Og Nearly Got Eaten by a Mastodon Today' – that would have been a big hit in the stone age.
Part of this process can be a search for an undeniable truth and part of it is self-discovery. That's at the heart of 'Stories We Tell,' a remarkable first-person documentary actor/director Sarah Polley made after she dug into some secrets about her own unorthodox upbringing.
From the earliest days of his appearances in Marvel Comics' 'Tales of Suspense,' Tony Stark has always been modeled after aviator/inventor/industrialist Howard Hughes. With 'Iron Man 3,' Stark assumes a new dimension of Hughes' persona: that of the paranoid shut-in who, in his later years, became notorious for roaming his private floor of the Desert Inn Hotel in Las Vegas, freaking out about invisible germs and collecting jars of his own urine. 'Iron Man 3's' Tony Stark, played once again by the inimitable Robert Downey Jr.isn't quite that bad, but he's getting there.
After the events chronicled in 'The Avengers,' where Manhattan was nearly leveled by invading aliens and Tony himself was almost killed, he's become obsessed with upgrading his armor -- leaping all the way from the Mark VII to the Mark 42 in a matter of months. When anyone mentions New York or aliens, Tony gets panic attacks. There's a reason Daredevil, not Iron Man, is the Marvel hero known as "The Man Without Fear." Poor Tony is terrified.
I watch a lot of 'Project Runway.' My wife likes it -- and, yeah, I like it too. A show dedicated to fashion design that features creative and powerful women is a weird thing to think about while watching a Michael Bay movie but that's exactly what I did during 'Pain and Gain.' Bay could learn a thing or two from that show about editing. Not in the cinematic, cutting shots together sense; that he's got. This is a different kind of editing.
It's the kind that is often called out by the 'Runway' judges when they tell the contestants (I'm paraphrasing), "This is too busy. You need to edit. That blue fuzzy hat that looks like a tribble distracts from the gorgeous, ornately sequined dress. The dress is enough. You don't need the tribble hat. Edit."
A Michael Bay movie -- particularly 'Pain & Gain' -- is a sequined dress with a blue tribble hat.
'Oblivion' is best described as opportunity, squandered. Its landscape – conceptual and physical – feels remarkably unique and bursting with possibilities, but the exploration of both lacks originality, and energy. Joe Kosinski’s follow-up to 'TRON: Legacy' is, like its predecessor, a gorgeously mounted, inventive world-building endeavor, but it’s also equally bloodless -- ponderous without being thoughtful, ambitious without being inspired, much less inspiring. The chronicle of a battle for the fate of humankind that possesses little humanity of its own, 'Oblivion' is an overstuffed compendium of familiar genre tropes rendered with ornamental beauty but not much emotional depth.
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