The Hangover Part 3 Review – Never Drinking Again!

Director: Todd Phillips

Writers: Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong

Release date: May 23rd, 2013

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 100 minutes


Best part: John Goodman as a sadistic mob boss.

Worst part: Jeong and Galifianakis.

Some film series’ rely entirely on an absence of logic. Much like John McClane in the Die Hard series, the main characters in the Hangover series continually get into disastrous and confusing situations. Hollywood has now sucked both these series’ dry for a quick profit. Much like this year’s Die Hard instalment, The Hangover Part 3 is one of the most unnecessary, repetitive, and preposterous sequels ever made.

Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms.

Part 3 is a stupid and unfunny action-comedy. It’s not terrible, but it needed something special to separate it from the other Hollywood comedies of its type. In this latest adventure, confused and pathetic layabout Alan (Zach Galifianakis) causes a stir when his new pet Giraffe is decapitated on a freeway, causing an epic car crash. As a result, his family and the other ‘Wolf Pack’ members, Doug (Justin Bartha), Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Stu (Ed Helms), stage an intervention, believing that rehab is Alan’s best hope. Their plans are soon cut short by an angry mobster, Marshall (John Goodman). Marshall is looking for Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), the same man the Wolf Pack has run into on previous adventures. Taking Doug hostage, Marshall orders the Wolf Pack to find Chow and the money he stole from him.

Ken Jeong.

This set up promises that the following events will be climactic and enjoyable. However, from this point on, the film rapidly descends into being awkward and unfunny. This is the biggest disappointment of 2013 so far (and that’s really saying something!). Please don’t think of me as a cynic when it comes to Hollywood comedies. I fell in love with The Hangover upon its release back in 2009. Its bursts of energy and hysterical gross-out jokes helped it become one of the biggest box-office success stories of the last decade. However, in 2011, a carbon-copy sequel took away the series’ enjoyability and thrills. The stench of laziness festering in that sequel is also apparent in this one. I suspect that the public may wish to avoid this new instalment after its predecessor (or at least go into it with extremely low expectations). This cynical sequel is proof that worthwhile ‘R-rated’ comedies are difficult to pull off. This sequel may have deviated, story-wise, from the first two instalments, but it’s still as uninteresting as the second film. It feels like this sequel was made by someone with little to no knowledge of gross-out comedy logistics. Director Todd Phillips (Old School, Starsky & Hutch) has gone from being the king of gross-out comedies and road trip films (Road Trip), to pumping out one disappointing farce after another (Due Date).

John Goodman.

His latest Hangover is more agonising and annoying than an actual hangover. The intrigue and zaniness promised in the fun trailers is missing. The screenplay is one of this sequel’s biggest problems. The original’s witty yet shocking jokes have been replaced with cheap references to the first two films and mean-spirited insults. The comedy consists almost entirely of animal murder and physical violence. Chickens, dogs, and the aforementioned Giraffe are needlessly slaughtered for a quick laugh. Phillips is obviously a big fan of crass/black/frat-boy humour of this type (hence the tranquillised tiger and drug-dealing monkey in the previous instalments). However, the audience I saw it with wasn’t impressed. Jokes fell flat on regular basis, while the strange lack of gross-out gags was alarmingly noticeable. I wouldn’t have minded all this if the movie had a quick pace and some mindlessly fun moments, but these elements are also sorely absent. The negative aspects of this instalment don’t stop there. It inorganically transitions from a gross-out comedy, to an Ocean’s 11-style heist flick, to a trip back to where it all began for the Wolf Pack. Whereas the original seamlessly mixed elements of gross-out comedy and film noir, this instalment has no original or innovative surprises at all. It came to a point where I was inexplicably clamouring for another Mike Tyson cameo!

“My name’s Allan and I bought a giraffe! Oh, my life’s perfect!” (Alan (Zach Galifianakis), The Hangover Part 3).

The Wolf Pack.

The characters here spend their whole time repeating lines and yelling at one another. These characters, that we once found hysterical and endearing, have been reduced to one dimensional caricatures. I will say that I chuckled during the film’s first third. the characters’ charming re-introductions almost convinced me that this instalment would be a breath of fresh air compared to Part 2. However, my hopes were quickly dashed when Chow eats dog food and sniffs Stu’s butt (I wish I was joking!). Worst of all is the sub-plot involving a bromance between Alan and Chow. Galifianakis and Jeong hit the big time after their hilarious performances in the original. However, their crazy antics, seen in this and many other movies, have become increasingly tiresome. Their shtick also becomes repetitive rather quickly. Galifianakis’ character has gone from a well-meaning weirdo to a narcissistic and mean-spirited moron who refuses to change. Alan, Chow’s infuriating Asian stereotype, and Melissa McCarthy’s tough-chick persona are as tolerable as three car alarms going off at once! Cooper and Helms look extremely bored throughout the entire film. Meanwhile, Heather Graham makes a pointless cameo as Stu’s ex-Vegas wife. The only tolerable performance here is from Goodman, acting like he’s in a Coen Brothers’ crime-comedy.

The original set the bar extremely high for Hollywood comedy. However, the sequels have taken that bar, lowered it, then snapped it in half, and used it to mix the crazy alcoholic drinks the Wolf Pack would’ve guzzled down during their wild drunken adventures. I can safely say that I would rather suffer an actual hangover than suffer through Parts 2 and 3 again. Sorry, frat-boys.

Verdict: An irritating, offensive, and disappointing end to the Hangover trilogy.

Star Trek into Darkness Review – Khan-do Attitude!

Director: J.J. Abrams

Writers: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Damon Lindelof

Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch

Release date: May 16th, 2013

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 133 minutes


Best part: The villain.

Worst part: The underused supporting characters.

In 1966, a sci-fi TV show called Star Trek hit the airwaves. It contained a low budget, some groovy outfits, and an over-acting William Shatner. With all that said, it’s difficult to comprehend that Trek is now a pop culture phenomenon. 47 years later, the Starship Enterprise is still going where no man has gone before. The latest offering, Star Trek into Darkness, proves this franchise has many more successful voyages to come.

Zachary Quinto & Chris Pine.

The twelfth film to be crafted from Gene Rodenberry’s original creation, Star Trek into Darkness is a visually stunning and powerful blockbuster. This may be a strong statement, but the movie is in serious contention to be the best big-budget movie of 2013. This sequel/reboot/prequel/whatever starts off with an exciting race against time for our plucky band of heroes. After Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Dr. Bones McCoy (Karl Urban) are chased by an alien tribe, Dr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) comes to be in charge of saving the tribe’s planet from destruction. Whilst saving Spock from being burnt alive inside an active volcano, Kirk comes under fire from Starfleet for breaking the mission’s ‘Prime Directive’. However, Kirk and Spock’s demotions are the least of Starfleet’s problems. Super-powered secret agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) betrays the Federation and blows up London’s Starfleet Archives building. With a point to prove, Kirk and Spock are reinstated and tasked with eradicating Harrison by any means necessary. However, the universe and Harrison hold many surprises for the Enterprise’s crew.

Benedict Cumberbatch.

The real captain of this multi-layered ship is J.J. Abrams. Abrams is one of the busiest and most engaging producer/directors currently working. When he’s not creating shows like Lost, he’s directing big-budget flicks like Mission Impossible 3 and Super 8. His first Star Trek film, back in 2009, revived a once flagging franchise; smartly and efficiently bringing together the beloved group of Starfleet officers in an alternate timeline. Once again, his directorial flair shines in every scene. Clearly inspired by the early works of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, he injects charm and wonder into every shot. His film hits warp speed rather quickly. This instalment, despite containing a convoluted screenplay by Lost writers Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci, excels at keeping everything balanced and weightless. Despite some familiar and unnecessary plot points, the screenplay keeps you guessing whilst keeping the extraneous Trek jargon to a minimum. Unlike most sequels, the plot, characters, and special effect/action sequences fit together seamlessly to propel the story forward. This instalment owes a debt of gratitude to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Whilst containing some major spoilers, this instalment matches the classic Trek sequel in emotion and thrills. Both Trekkies and average film-goers will savour Abrams’ take on these eternally culturally-relevant characters.

Alice Eve.

This time around, Abrams has beefed up the series’ ‘Mac Store’ look. The film switches mostly between futuristic Earth settings and scenic vistas of the universe. Every setting is slick, expansive, and brightly lit; adding to this already awe-inspiring experience. Some may find Abrams’ lens flares to be jarring, while everyone else will quickly be immersed in his expansive creation. Abrams, hurriedly becoming an auteur, has a keen eye for universe building. The production design immediately impresses with the opening scene. The threatened planet, featuring a lush, red forest and black and white-painted tribesman, becomes an enthralling sight to behold. The inventive cinematography and score also stand out. Abrams’ unique camera-work presents the Enterprise as an intricate, maze-like creation. The action set-pieces come thick and fast. Spaceship battles, foot chases, and shoot outs are some of the film’s most enthralling moments. The ship is nearly destroyed on multiple occasions, somehow coping with whatever the universe throws at it. However, Abrams never allows style to overtake substance. His references to the original series and movies are subtle and, at points, extremely clever. The famous quotes and signs (Vulcan salute, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” etc.) are subtly thrown in when required. The comedic moments are also fun, and delivered particularly well by the film’s immensely-talented cast.

“KHAAANNNN!” (Spock (Zachary Quinto), Star Trek into Darkness).

Despite the heavy amount of exposition in some scenes, the dialogue is delivered flawlessly by this stellar cast. The cast now comfortably fits into every key role. Abrams balances wit and drama whilst controlling the film’s colourful array of personalities. Pine is a charismatic and powerful presence on screen. Kirk is a man of many talents, but continually fails to follow orders. His arc here is both familiar and touching. To conquer this ominous threat, he must trust his crew members and learn the importance of humility. His friendship with Spock becomes more naturalistic as the film progresses. Quinto flawed me here with his nuanced and delicate portrayal of Spock. Here, Spock is in an internal tug of war with his Vulcan sense of duty and humanistic sense of modesty. Cumberbatch’s Harrison is a menacing and sympathetic villain. Essentially a 23rd Century terrorist, his startling actions draw many comparisons to current events. He represents the enemies that major organisations struggle to find. This vengeful character’s motivations are clear and understandable. However, this is one of many recent blockbusters to depict the lead villain being intentionally captured (this cliché has now officially run its course!). The supporting cast, including Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, John Cho, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, and Zoe Saldana, are effective in small roles. However, newcomers Peter Weller (‘Robocop’ himself) and Alice Eve fail to make the most of their underdeveloped characters.

Tense in some scenes and tear-jerking in others, Star Trek into Darkness is an almost flawless big-budget, sci-fi action flick. The cast, kinetic visuals, and fun action set pieces form a thrilling and enlightening film-going experience. With Abrams making Star Trek instalments of this quality, let’s hope that Into Darkness isn’t his final frontier.

Verdict: An exciting and profound sci-fi spectacle. 

Evil Dead Review – Fright Night!

Director: Fede Alvarez

Writers: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues

Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas

Release date: April 5th, 2013

Distributor: TriStar Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 95 minutes


Best part: The ultra-effective gore.

Worst part: The uninteresting characters.

As of late, the world has become obsessed with director Sam Raimi. Geek girls and boys look up to this man due to his startling talent. Last year, The Amazing Spider-man adhered too closely to Raimi’s original Spider-man film. His most recent directorial effort, Oz the Great and Powerful, proved that he can handle popular material. Now, a remake of his 1981 masterpiece, The Evil Dead, is hitting our screens.

Jane Levy.

Evil Dead may be inferior to Raimi’s horror-comedy classic, but it’s still enjoyable. It’s a sprawling, excessive, and occasionally cloying horror flick. However, if you’ve seen the original, you won’t be surprised by this remake. Mia (Jane Levy) is an angsty young woman struggling to kick a nasty drug addiction. She also feels abandoned and angry after her mother’s death and brother’s self-exile. Her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) calls for an intervention at the family cabin. Three of their friends, Olivia (Jessica Lucas), Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), decide to help. However, this spooky pseudo-rehab clinic soon turns into the perfect setting for the ultimate nightmare. A discovery by Eric awakens something foul in the surrounding woods.

Jessica Lucas.

Back in ‘81, Raimi changed horror cinema with a couple of inventive camera movements and some make up kits. I have to admit, I’m not the biggest horror movie fan. Having seen last year’s stand out horror flick The Cabin in the Woods, I find it difficult to take them seriously. Much like 2011’s The Thing, Evil Dead is a re-imagining that tries too hard to top the original. This version may have its positives, but it spends too much time digging its own grave. I’m still clueless as to whether it’s trying to be its own thing or an homage to the original. There are major story and character elements that have changed, yet it still takes the time to reference the original’s chainsaw, cars, tree rape incidents, and kooky dialogue. Despite my gripes with this version, I had a hell of a time watching it! (to be fair, it may have do with the audience I saw it with). It gripped me from the prologue. It’s a tight, tense, and gruelling first few minutes that also add to this series’ already stellar mythology. This sequence contains the remake’s best ideas. However, the film hurriedly slows down when it switches to the five lead characters. Sub-plots are introduced and dropped without warning and the back-stories are clichéd and forgettable. So why did I like this film as much as I did?

Shiloh Fernandez.

It has to do with the film’s technical elements. Director Fede Alvarez is obviously passionate about both the Evil Dead trilogy and horror genre logistics. Raimi’s version is a visceral and comedic ‘bottle’ film. Whilst lacking Raimi’s imaginative touch, Alvarez’s work here is highly commendable. After the evil book(Naturom Demonto)’s introduction, the tension and violence drastically increases. He makes a great decision in using practical effects instead of CGI. CGI-based horror never works (2011’s The Thing is a prime example). Here, CGI is used only to touch up vital sequences. Startlingly original and inventive; the gore creates a disturbing and sensory experience. Sharp objects, including Stanley knives, syringes, and machetes, all have their destructive and disgusting purposes. Every stab, amputation, gun shot, and slice will leave a lasting impression on you. Blood squirts and splatters cover the screen at nearly every turn. The stand out moments include tongues being sliced in half and arms being severed with electric carving knifes. Somehow, the practical effects make these gratuitous and gruesome events seem tangible. Alvarez emulates Raimi’s inventive cinematography and production design. Here, the camera barely stops moving. It ducks and weaves through every crevasse of the decaying cabin. The stylistic flourishes ascend in quality and quantity; building to the gruelling and wince-inducing final third. The sound design is also top notch. Whilst never becoming over the top, the sound effects elevate many of the film’s best jump scares.

I just don’t want to become the Devil’s bitch.” (Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Evil Dead).

The demons at bay.

Raimi’s original trilogy has one powerful ingredient that elevates it above other influential horror franchises – Bruce Campbell. The expressive and charismatic actor, along with Raimi’s dark sense of humour, brought life to a low-budget trilogy containing simple stories and visceral thrills. This straight-faced remake lacks the original trilogy’s charismatic characters. The five lead characters here lack chemistry and quickly become unlikeable. None of them are anywhere near as intriguing or beguiling as Campbell’s character Ash. Once the blood-curdling theatrics begin, the character development stops. The acting is also hit and miss. Levy gives it her all as the psychologically-damaged lead character. Alvarez makes another compelling choice in telling this story from the drug addict’s perspective. Mia is forced into some uncomfortable and slimy situations; depicting the darkest sides of her physical and mental trauma. Playing both a sweet girl and a writhing demon, Levy’s immense talent shines through in every scene. Pucci also stands out, becoming both a charming comic relief and human knife block. Fernandez is as wooden as the notorious cabin. It doesn’t help that his character makes some painfully stupid decisions.

Despite its flaws, Evil Dead is a fun and exhilarating experience. The gore is startlingly effective and the atmosphere is gripping up until the film’s final frame. Raimi’s original Evil Dead films are difficult to emulate, let alone top. Alvarez smartly focuses on many of the original’s most creative and alluring elements.

Verdict: A fun and ultra-violent horror flick.