Saturday, May 28, 2011

HANGOVER PART II Review and Reel Rhino Quest for 1000

The quest for 1000 marches on! The official tally, including last evening’s outing, stands at 995. My plan for the next few weeks is pretty simple.

I will discuss my man-date with my Wolfpack below, but between today and my 1000th film, the road is pretty clear.

I am guessing that Kung-Fu Panda (996) will be in my weekend plans and next Friday, X-Men: First Class (997) is on the filmic agenda. The week that follows will probably hold one to two more flicks and if all goes according to plan, I will hit 1000 the weekend of June 10th – June 12th.

So what are my options for that weekend? What shall I see for the big uno-trip-zero?

I see no other option…SUPER 8 will be the way to go. This thing looks stellar and I can think of no better way to enjoy this major milestone as a cinema-freak than taking in some fare from wunderkind director J.J. Abrams and his mentor in this case, the grandpapa of epic tales, Steven Spielberg. This film seems to be filled with a sense of wonder and adventure, the likes of which we haven’t seen in some time, harkening back to the days of Spielberg’s youth.

What say you my friends? How should I do it? Evites? Facebook invites? A quiet night out with the wife? Regardless, a babysitter will be in order so the Reel Rhiness can help me celebrate proper on this grand of evenings.

I am thinking steak? Maybe Italian? Who knows…what goes well with celluloid and movie popcorn?

Soon, 1000 movies will be mine and I have so many memories along the way. I’m glad to have started this blog, so I can share my adventures with you…

Speaking of memories, me thinks I have formed a new WOLFPACK.

I think that I could watch Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Bradley Cooper in anything…children’s theater, Shakespeare in the Park, anything…

The Hangover is in my top 10 films of all-time. It is #2 to Ghostbusters in my favorite comedic films of all-time. It blew my mind. I am watching it as I type this and I find some of the laughs as fresh as the first time I saw it. I saw The Hangover five times at the theater…that was a record for me. I loved this movie.

THE HANGOVER PART II is not the original, but it is still a funny movie. Todd Phillips has a watchable sense of direction and as I said, I love this set of actors…Justin Bartha as well…all the ladies of the series and of course, Mr. Chow.

That’s right, everyone but Heather Graham’s Jade is back for this entry, and of course, with The Hangover Part II focusing on ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK as a celebration for Stu’s wedding, it made sense that Jade would be out. It’s a shame too, because Heather Graham is adorable. Although Jamie Chung’s Lauren, Stu’s new bride to be, is quite an acceptable substitute.

So what is crazier than Vegas? For most males in North America, nothing...and this is the fundamental problem with this film. Yes, I laughed quite a bit and I had a good time with my friends, but this was not the magical experience that The Hangover was. Bangkok is foreign to me, both figuratively and literally. I am sure that Bangkok seemed like a logical place to set the next-level misadventures of Phil, Allen, and Stu, as I am sure many Hollywood big timers have had their share of debauchery in this world class city of sin.

The premise is the same as the first. The celebration before a wedding leads to a blackout blotto night and we find our heroes in peril, waking up with their memory of the preceding night erased. Doug (Bartha) smartly sits out the night on the town and becomes the anchor back at base, keeping the families at bay. With Doug safe and secure, who could be missing? Well that would be Teddy (Mason Lee), Lauren’s 17 year old brother, who was sent innocently to the beach to enjoy the one beer our hapless fellows had planned on enjoying.

We do learn how these guys, who truly planned on a one-beer night, ended up again in the throes of chaos, but that is a spoiler and I will save it for your night at the theater.

The story from here runs very similar to the first film. It becomes a mystery and a thriller within the comedy of the film.

Yes, the danger is ramped up and this is a darker outing for these guys, and in Bangkok, there is nothing off-limits in the service of comedy.

The Hangover was a relatively lighthearted film in the midst of a very adult set of misadventures. The Hangover Part II gets laughs from a much darker place. In the first, we laughed because we could relate; here we laugh some at the pure comedy of the moment, but more times than not the laughs come from the discomfort of the foreign nature of the terrible things we are seeing on screen.

I say The Hangover was lighthearted and that comes through much in the crispness of the image on screen and the bright lights that Vegas offers as a setting.

The Hangover Part II has a grittiness that matches the setting of some of the rougher parts of Bangkok. They filmed this on-location, so that drab appearance was real. It seems as though the choice of filters and lighting was intentional and while that may be so, I think it was a very drastic artistic change from the first film.

So yes, I am comparing these two movies, when in fact it would be far fairer to hold Part II on its own to see how it measures up within the overall realm of comedic films. When you older brother is the State Champ, you have to be ready to endure that comparion.

You may have noticed that Paul Giamatti is listed prominently in the credits on IMDB and elsewhere. His involvement in the film is rather limited and for his part, I thought the use of Giamatti was rather jarring. He plays this type of role (semi-lighthearted heavy) well, but perhaps his recent turns as extraordinarily well-played leading men, caused his presence to be more jarring than organic.

There were rumors aplenty concerning the appearance of Mel Gibson, Liam Neeson, and even former President Bill Clinton as cameos in the film. I won’t tell who is in it and who isn’t, but there is as least one cameo that was a highlight for the film.

There is a monkey in this film and this monkey becomes a character in and of himself. Todd Phillips has taken some heat on this point, as it is still unclear as to whether or not this monkey actual became addicted to cigarettes while shooting this flick. Phillips said it was so when he was interviewed by EW for a piece on the film… he later retracted it as a joke. There is a monkey in this film and he does appear to really smoke cigarettes…but addicted? Whatever the truth may be, I am sure we will never know. But I can say this, The Hangover Part II does not carry the American Humane Society’s “no animal harmed” attachment in the credits. Oh boy.

This movie takes crazy to the next level, occasionally perhaps to a scale that is a little too grand. And for those mad highs, some of the slower moments seemed too lull to long on the other side of the spectrum. I didn’t feel a single draggy bit in the original, while there were several spots here in Part II where I was waiting too long for the next beat.

I liked this movie. I didn’t love it and it doesn’t hold a candle to the original. I said in 2009 after seeing The Hangover for the first time…please God, don’t them make a sequel.

I will see Part II again and I hope that it grows on me. For now, the best I can do is a 3 of 5 Horn rating and I do suggest that you see it.

Oh yeah, my WOLFPACK…I saw this with Dustin, Ross, Bob, Troy, Kevin, and Kevin…we laughed like madmen and then we dined like Kings…well we ate tacos. Bottom line, see this movie with friends. Laughter is infectious and the enjoyment level will be accentuated by the presence of friends. My Wolfpack rated it at its lowest, at 2.5…there was mine and one other 3, then everyone else ran the Spectrum between 3.5 and 4.5. One of our guys gave it a 4.5 instead of a 5 because there was not enough T-n-A and there was a little too much penis for his tastes. Also, another of my pack said this offering is superior to the Original. Yikes…not so much as far as I’m concerned.

For Part II, there was also too much revealed in the trailers. You will laugh again at the pig smash scene, but how great would it have been not to have seen that coming. The Hangover was epic. They didn’t need a lick of advertising for this film and it was completely a disservice for all.

I attribute much I liked about this film to my overwhelming affection for these actors. Ed Helms is great as an everyman in hilarious peril. Every time I see him as Stu, I see a little of the Nard Dog in there as well. I also loved his turn in Cedar Rapids and I think he will continue to shine.

I am happy that Ryan Reynolds is the Green Lantern and I guess Chris Evans will make an acceptable Captain America. But I wonder how Bradley Cooper would have done in that role. He has some juice and it is surprising that as far as super heroes go, that Cooper is yet to pick up anything respectible. He did give us Face Man in The A-Team and he is rumored for Eric Draven in the rumored 2013 remake of The Crow, but I figured someone would have picked him up for something significant. (By the way, The Crow does not need remade. The sequels are not so great from what I have heard, but the original with the fantastic soundtrack and the aura of death in Brandon Lee’s passing while filming, that movie is a cult classic and doesn’t need a re-envisioning. But as always, Hollywood just can’t leave good enough alone – CASE IN POINT: THE HANGOVER PART II.)

Speaking of music…another facet of The Hangover that was so great were the accompanying songs. The soundtrack was epic and few people know that this was essentially when we first get to meet Ke$ha, as she is the female backing vocals in the Flo Rida song that capped the film in that iconic “lost night” photo montage. Part II gives us some Johnny Cash and some cutting-edge hip-hop that gets your toe tapping, but it too falls short from the offerings in the first flick. We are fortunate enough to get another original song from the music styling of Ed Helms, but not as memorable as “What Do Tigers Dream Of.”

The Hangover Part II is worth your dollar and you will find some laughs, but it is not The Hangover, but really, it will be quite some time before that level of comic gold is found again on the silver screen.

See you next time…

Reel Rhino

“Ahhh come on man…I’ll be your Doug”

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