Look what you've started Judd. I'm of course referring to Judd Apatow a filmmaker/producer who first burst out into the scene with 2005's The 40 Year Old Virgin and consequently launched a plethora of smart, adult raunchiness to mainstream theatres (Superbad, Knocked Up, Pineapple Express). In the producers chair for this summers' Bridesmaids, Apatow launches a film that has been dubbed "The Hangover with women" uh oh here come the naysayers. The problem with comparing The Hangover to an Apatow movie is the fact that there really is no comparison. Apatow produced or directed films have a knack for character development and story that the guys at The Hangover strive for. In Bridesmaids Kristen Wiig's Annie lives a life of formidable singleness that as almost become a struggle for her to get out, things get worse when her best friend played by the great Maya Rudolph gets engaged. It's a setup that lets the many talented actresses on screen rip it out and deal with their own femininity.
Compare that to The Hangover 2, Todd Phillips' sequel to his 2008 hit and a film that can't help but bring out the raunchiness in full display. There's dick jokes, drugs, sex and an unusual high amount of racism to boot. Is it funny? at times it is but it's nowhere near as substantial as Bridesmaids which tries to bring humane femininity to a multiplex lacking it. Of course there's pussy jokes too and a hilariously disgusting wedding dress sequence but what The Hangover lacks in human emotions Bridesmaids more than makes up for it in its witty, keenly written script by Wiig and Annie Mumolo. Phillips' Hangover sequel has a sense of deja-vu that ultimately relegates it to cliches, whereas Bridesmaids has a contemporary freshness that brings it all the way home. No wonder it's made more than 85 million dollars so far at the box office and has been a critics darling since its initial release more than 3 weeks ago.
Apatow has started a trend since The 40 Year Old Virgin's release more than 6 years ago. It seems like Hollywood got a wake up call and decided to make adult oriented comedies that had emotion and substance in their scripts. Problem is not everybody can be Judd Apatow and many of these movies forgot rule # 1 in an Apatow movie; Story comes first. The Hangover 2 seems to have forgotten that and decides to concentrate on a sketched out screenplay that sadly resembles the first one, however the freshness isn't there and is replaced by the same old same old. In trying to please the masses director Todd Phillips and his team of writers have struck out and sunk themselves in a pool of no inspiration. If this on makes a lot of money -and I'm sure it will- we'll have to endure another one of these sequels. Better luck next time.
Bridesmaids (R) ★★★
The Hangover 2 (R) ★★½
Fast Five comes out gunning with an opening that open your eyes up and kicks out your adrenaline. It's a sequence that involves cars, guns and a prisoner heist. Too bad the rest of the film is a sort of Jekyll and Hyde action movie. It's all hit and miss from there as our boy Vin Diesel and his posse which includes a more ripped than usual Paul Walker escape to Latin America as the FBI -lead by The Rock- chases them through tunnels and streams in beautiful Rio De Janeiro. I'm a sucker for heist pictures but this one didn't quench my thirst at all. Its preposterous screenplay is juggled with lots of testosterone fueled muscle/action. I had a few chuckles here and there whenever one of the main protagonists would open his or her mouth and say something that is supposed to be deep? or profound? You won't find deep or profound in this film, all you'll find is a by the books Hollywood formula.
Not to say that I was a big fan of the series. I didn't like any of the first 4 movies. But the somewhat positive reviews that came out with this one had me expecting an entertaining ride. Suffice to say this is definitely not the movie I was expecting. Its characters are filled with pompous air and are not sketched out enough to even bring a glimmer of excitement. If you want real good action check out a great 80's buddy cop flick like Lethal Weapon 2 or Die Hard on DVD. Summer 2011 has not had a very kind start in terms of quality and this new film won't help its cause any further. On a side note; Has Vin Diesel ever made a good movie? The answer is yes but you have to go way back more than 10 years ago to find our man duking it out with darkened creatures in Pitch Black. His spurts of quality have been DOA ever since.
Report Card - ★★
Not much to say about Priest except that I saw it in 3d and it was most clearly the most useless 3d one can watch in a movie theatre these days. These studios really need to stop shoving this cinematic medium down our faces. Unless you shoot with 3d cameras -such as is what James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis are doing- don't release your movie in 3d just to have audiences churn out an extra 3 bucks for stupid plastic glasses that were probably made by Taiwanese children and should actually cost a quarter. As for the film itself, it sucked.
Report Card - ★
Summer movie season kicks off with a dud in Kenneth Branagh's ambitious but mildly entertaining Thor, which -to tell you the truth- is a total disappointment. Not to say that it's a total failure but Branagh's film starts and ends in dreadful fashion, its middle is passable but not entirely satisfying enough for what we've come to expect from a comic book movie; escapism. I presume the real problem with Thor is the fact that it is based on a superhero that is one of the least interesting of the Marvel canon, not to mention one of the least humane and more far fetched ones too. Then again there was potential, Branagh is a scholar of Shakespeare and the plot -involving father & son betrayal- is very Shakespearean. Why doesn't it work? well first off there are plodding devices that hammer it down, case in point the uninvolved and frozen love story involving our main man and a heroine ever so lovely played the Black Swan herself Natalie Portman. There's also the intertwining story lines that move back and forth from one realm (A.D) to the other (modern day earth), this gives the movie no time whatsoever to build up its characters so that you care for them at film's end.
Maybe I'm over analyzing everything and I should have just checked my brain at the door but we had good reason to expect much much more from a director like Branagh and a big budget superhero adaptation like this one. Not to say everything fails. The action is there and is sometimes intensely made and compatibly drawn out. The way Branagh directs Thor's maze-like sneak attack on government feds to get his beloved hammer is as gripping as anything else that comes before or after it in this below average comic book hero adaptation. Chris Hemsworth plays the titular charcter with enough charisma to hope for better results when he teams up with Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man & Mark Ruffalo's The Hulk to name a few in next summer's sure to be blockbuster The Avengers. In the meantime, we are left with a sour aftertaste, a kind of introductory movie that tries to be everything at once but ends up being nothing nothing at all really. Better luck next time Kenneth.
REPORT CARD - ★★½
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