Thursday, June 9, 2011

Raunchy Comedy Double Feature: Bridesmaids and The Hangover Part II

(note: Because I was late for the screening, I missed the first twenty minutes or so of Bridesmaids. If anything in my review of the film sounds a little off, it's for this reason.)

Review: The Hangover Part II

The Hangover Part II is the very definition of a critic-proof movie. Despite consistent negative reviews from nearly every major film critic in the country, the film has already grossed $343,814,465 worldwide. The film also had the second highest opening weekend for any R-rated film ($85,946,294) behind The Matrix Reloaded ($91,774,413).

Now, I should say this upfront, I always thought The Hangover was an incredibly overrated film. I didn't hate the movie, or even dislike it, I just thought it wasn't nearly as funny as everyone made it out to be. Still, the film had its great moments (Stu's song is priceless), but one of them was not Ken Jeong's performance as Mr. Chang. Whenever his character would enter the screen, all I would do would wish for him to get off as soon as possible. While I do know comedy is subjective, I doubt many in the theater were laughing the fifth time Mr. Chang said "Gay Boys" in his extremely stereotypical Chinese accent.

Most Hollywood sequels just take the original film, find what the audiences enjoyed the most, and then cram the sequel with so much of it that the audience can't take it anymore. So unsurprisingly, The Hangover Part II is just The Hangover with more raunch, more violence, and more of my nemesis, Mr. Chang.

This is a hard film to review because the film is extremely well made, and I give a lot of credit to director Todd Phillips. There is a five minute car chase in this movie shot in the streets of Bangkok which would not be out of place in a Mission Impossible or Bourne film. It's incredibly well shot, right down to the smallest camera movement. The only problem with the scene is that it really isn't too funny.

Zach Galifianakis was hysterical in The Hangover, but here he plays Alan like he has a mental disorder, rather than simply being extremely weird like in the first film. It's a bizarre feeling when you are concerned over the mental health of a character who is supposed to be oddly hilarious. While I hate to make this comparison (I really do), the closest comparison I can find to Zach Galifianakis's portrayal of Alan in this film, would be Sandra Bullock's portrayal of Mary in All About Steve. With every dumb remark Alan makes, instead of laughing (though I will still laugh sometimes), I just pity this character more.

The Hangover Part II is not a good film, but it's kind of funny, and very well made. But you don't go into a comedy looking for a well shot film (though it's certainly nice when it happens), you go into a comedy to laugh. So when there are no good jokes to be found, it becomes very disappointing.

Grade: C-

Review: Bridesmaids

Let me begin this review by stating the obvious: This is a much better film than The Hangover Part II in nearly every comprehensible way, shape, or form. This film is better shot than The Hangover Part II (my one real praise of the film), the film has a better cast than The Hangover Part II, and most importantly, the film is at least twenty times funnier than The Hangover Part II. I nearly loved every aspect of this film, right down to the smallest subtle joke.

Good comedy is comedy you remember three weeks after you see it, and gives you a chuckle while you're bored. Good comedy is not some gag you laugh at in the theater, but forget about instantaneously. While this may seem obvious because of my gushing opening, Bridesmaids is full of good comedy. Actually, it's full of great comedy.

This movie has heart, laughs, and two of the most hysterical and simply fantastic performances all year: Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. After years of stealing the spotlight on Saturday Night Live, Kristen Wiig has finally landed into the world of mainstream lead performances. She was hilarious in the underrated comedy gem Macgruber, and she's even funnier here. Melissa McCarthy was an actor that I had never heard of before this movie, but she is absolutely brilliant as one of Maya Rudolph's bridesmaids.

This movie is hilarious, and if you can, should probably seek it out over The Hangover Part II.

Grade: A-

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams 2D (B-)

As I sat through the repetitive imagery shown in Werner Hertzog's new documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams, I deeply wished that I had been able to view the film in 3D. The film had clearly been made for the format. This was proved by the multiple references to how the cave art could be seen in three dimensions, along with various shots of this previously mentioned cave art specifically framed for a 3D audience. Unfortunately for those who are forced to see the film in 2D, all these shots and references to the nonexistent 3D play out extremely awkwardly, and occasionally tediously as well.

The film follows Werner Hertzog, his film crew, and a quirky group of scientists, as they journey through the depths of the Chauvet Caves in order study the cave art found inside. But these aren't your average examples of cave art; most of the sketches found in the cave are estimated to be over 30,000 years old. Armed with a four person crew and a countless number of restrictions, Hertzog is given the once in a lifetime opportunity to film inside the cave from the French government (Usually only guards and a select group of scientists are legally allowed to enter the cave).

The examples of the cave art seen in this film are spectacular, but Hertzog's dilemma is that he only has enough footage (or entertaining footage at least) for a 45-minute television special. So to compensate for this, he constantly shows the audience the same sketches again and again with different commentary and a different score.

Luckily, there are some respites from the repetition. There's a five minute scene where a scientist attempts to show Hertzog how neanderthal man would hunt. It's a fun, quirky scene which has little to do with the rest of the film, but acts like a refreshing break from the cave.

While this may seem like a negative review (and it slightly is), I am defiantly going to give the film a break because of the format I viewed it in. In 2D, the cave art seen couldn't have possibly been as grand as if it was in 3D. Still, just to see some of the art on display, this movie should still be seen. Just preferably in 3D.

Grade: B-