REVIEW: The Hangover 2

"A little too overhyped but still pretty funny."

Stu’s getting married, but after the chaos surrounding the Vegas bachelor party, Stu wants something much simpler for his night out with the boys.  But when the Wolfpack’s in the house, it’s time to leave your inhibitions at the door.  One drink by the fire becomes an all-out frenzy across Bangkok when the boys lose Stu’s brother in law the night before the wedding.

A couple summers ago Director Todd Phillips had me laughing in the aisles with THE HANGOVER, a sleeper comedy hit that seemingly came out of nowhere, much like the action hit TAKEN did the year before.  Now I’d seen trailers for both don’t get me wrong, but most of the publicity for these films came out late and sparingly (the red band HANGOVER trailer was pure gold).  The element of surprise isn’t something we see much of these days when it comes to movies.  The studios dump so much money into these films and want them to succeed so badly that they literally flood the internet and TV with trailers (a teaser, a couple trailers, a red band trailer when applicable and then an international trailer or two, not to mention all the stand alone clips) to help the hype train and when it comes to comedies that’s not always a good thing…but first things first.

When it comes to comedy the first and most important question will always be was it funny and in this case yes it was.  The next question is was it funny enough to carry the film forward as a franchise and did it need to be made and of course that answer is a resounding no.  Before I break that down for you, let me first address the mainstream rant about HANGOVER 2 as I understand it.  People are saying this film was more or less a carbon copied clone of the original in a different country and due to this lack originality the film loses credibility.  I disagree.  People are far too critical these days when it comes to films and sequels and they tend to forget that this formula has been done many times and done well at that.  Take the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy for example, can anyone truly deny that each film was pretty much the identical story spread out over three time periods with the same characters, locales and even same lines in some places?  That said, I love those films, well to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the third one but the first two are stellar works of perfection (I even have a prop of Marty’s hoverboard, yeah, I’m THAT big a fan).  Even so, I can’t deny they used the same formula as the HANGOVER films.

What it comes down to for me is that “laughing from the pit of your stomach” feeling you get when you see something outrageously funny and with the original HANGOVER there were many times I laughed so hard that there were tears in my eyes.  I was excited for the Blu-ray release and even got it to review for free.  Double bonus, right?  Well, an odd thing happened while I watching the film for a second time.  I knew the “surprise factor” would be gone but like many of my favourite comedies, I didn’t think it would have such a drastic effect on the film’s second viewing.  Sadly, it did.  The super funny parts were still funny (the fat Jesus bit always cracks me up) but something was missing.  This is how I felt as I watched THE HANGOVER 2.  The first half hour was actually a riot, no joke, I laughed a lot, but when they got into the same hide and go seek mode as the first one the flick slowed down for me.  There was a laugh here and there but it felt like a series of over the top gross out tactics jacked up on steroids in hopes of outdoing the original. 
THE HANGOVER 2 is hilarious in its own right, no question about it and I have no beef with Todd Phillips making these characters act the same way they did in the first film, after all the boys and their off the wall chemistry are the heart of the film.  I mean honestly, if that’s who these guys are then it’s who they are.  Why wouldn’t they act the same way if lighting struck twice?  It worked for John McClane.  The bottom line is that since the shock value was already gone after the first one, the second one had no chance of being on the same level so in order to enjoy it you really have to view it as a separate film which is rough considering it’s the same film all over again.  Therein lies the ironic predicament surrounding THE HANGOVER 2.  Even the pictures at the end (which had me in tears the first time around) were funny but just not THAT funny.  Oh, and speaking of things that aren’t THAT funny, the whole scandal behind Ed Helms sporting the Champ’s tattoo is just plain ridiculous.

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REVIEW: Priest

"Okay, for a genre clone."


Long ago, an order of vampire killers known as Priests, were mankind’s saviour from an unrelenting vampire threat.  Now, with the vampires all dead or locked away the Church swept these warriors the rug until a new vampire threat emerged, one the Church doesn’t believe exists, so it’s up to one priest to go against the Church, hunt down the threat and rescue his niece.

I love vampire movies, I always have but I can’t say I had high expectations for PRIEST.  Director Scott Charles Stewart directed another Paul Bettany led dark action piece a couple years back called LEGION which I went into with similar expectations and exited with the same conclusion.  Both films come at you with a raving concept but both end up being one or two trick ponies.  These ponies are dressed up nice of course and those two tricks are indeed impressive but beyond that we’re left with an unsatisfied longing for more (and I don’t mean sequels).

I liked the idea behind PRIEST but right off the bat I could see far too many similarities.  For one, this looks like JUDGE DREDD with vampires; which is ironic in itself as Karl Urban is rumoured to be Dredd himself in the remake that’s supposedly coming.  Judges, Priests, Clerics, Death Dealers, we’ve seen these run of the mill death squad anti-heroes before so if you’re going to go that route bring something new to the table.  Remember how fresh UNDERWORLD felt when it came out?  Now THAT is how you breathe new life into this genre, anything else is just digging up past efforts and falling short.

On the bright side, I enjoy Paul Bettany and have since A KNIGHT’S TALE.  I liked LEGION just as I liked PRIEST but I wanted to like them far more.  There were a couple interesting ideas here (note that I’m not giving away anything that wasn’t in the trailers); the vampire queen for one.  Problem there is that we only catch a glimpse of her once with no real explanation of what she is, where she came from or anything at all for that matter.  Then there’s the man/vampire concept.  Karl Urban’s character is turned but again, we see this in the trailer so it’s no secret.  The sad part about his “transformation” is that he becomes, well…Blade, a vampire with all their strengths and none of their weaknesses, most importantly the sun.  I’m not opposed to this, but again, at least add something new to the equation so I’m not rolling my eyes thinking he’s simply a Blade rip-off.

PRIEST promised me a lot of action in the trailer which led to another of the film’s downfalls being that all the film’s action WAS in the trailer.  There were some cool weapon tricks (most of which were already used in UNDERWORLD) and that two stone jumping move was one for the books but at the end of the day I was left feeling like this was a snore fest.  The tone was sharp and cold as iron but it was a long while between fight scenes which led up to an all too brief, anti-climactic final battle between Paul Bettany and Blade, I mean, Karl Urban.  The clergy are all mad in the end and still don’t believe vampires are back despite seeing a severed head, leading to a deliberate mention of how the queen wasn’t among the dead, followed by “the war has just begun.”  Well isn’t that nice, they plan on dragging this out further.  I hate ripping on an action based vampire flick, especially in this TWILIGHT day and age but they could have done better with this film and for that I’m disappointed.  Sometimes I think the studios actually want these films to fail and that makes me want to drive a stake through someone’s heart.

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Mortal Kombat Legacy Episode 5

I'm not really feeling these two about Kitana and Mileena, I mean, I like the characters and all but this jumping from real to animated really degrades it in my mind. I don't really know how to feel about these two episodes or Shao Khan. I understand that he's not in armor and helm because you wouldn't just wear those chillin around the house but I guess I was expecting something more.

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TRAILER: Fright Night

The original FRIGHT NIGHT is one of my all time favourite vampire flicks and though I was appalled to hear of this remake there's no point in not going with the flow. I like Colin Farrell and I'm digging his Jerry Dandrich vibe so who knows, this may end up working...that is as long as they keep it rated R and actually have Peter Vincent in there somewhere because he's not around for the trailer which is just odd.


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TRAILER: Final Destination 5

Well, so much for the THE FINAL DESTINATION (FD4) being the last one of the series, gotta love Hollywood. The first one was a great flick with a cool premise but they've gone down from there. This one is just another "1001 ways to die a gruesome death" flick which is alright if you're like me and into that but if not I can't see why you'd care.


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REVIEW: Thor

"Not the best Marvel flick but certainly not bad."

The mystical realm of Asgard has known peace for many years under the leadership of King Odin.  As his two sons reach maturity, the eldest, Thor is in line for the throne but on the day of his coronation his arrogance and carelessness bring about war once again and for this, he’s banished to Earth where he must learn from his mistakes the hard way.

THOR was always going to be a tough jump from comic/animated film to the big screen and for this reason it’s taken this long for it happen.  Thankfully we live in a day and age where the impossible can be brought to life in wondrous detail.  First off, I have to say that THOR was a triumph to behold on so many levels (except for the 3D which was totally useless).  Asgard was gorgeous; a dead ringer to how I’d envisioned it in my head.  The rainbow bridge was cool as hell as was the gate that warped them between realms.  After watching the trailers there were those who scoffed at the costumes, saying they looked a bit too plastic and were way to clean for warriors.  I personally thought the costumes were fine, yes they did look a bit clean but hey, they’re gods for Christ sake and they were at peace so how dirty could their armour possible get anyway?

The story was hit and miss for me.  I know it’s an origin story and all but I hated the fact that we see Thor bumbling around Earth like a lost puppy for the bulk of the film.  I understand why it had to be that way and I’m not totally against it, I guess it’s just that I wanted to see him kicking ass and taking names like he was in the beginning.  Now that said I suppose that’s why the second chapter of most comic book series’ is better because the hero’s been established and we simply jump into the action so all in all I can’t complain about it because I know it had to be this way.  As for the origin story though, it fell short of some of Marvel’s other first instalments, namely IRON MAN, which to me was the best origin story comic book film to date.  This one had its moments, there was comic relief, action and phenomenal effects but I did feel like the pace dragged a bit here and there.  Nothing major but it was noticeable.

As far as the acting was concerned Hemsworth is a fantastic Thor, he brought the God of Thunder to life in an awesome way.  Anthony Hopkins was perfect as Odin and Tom Hiddleston was also cool as Loki, though I’d have loved to see what Josh Hartnett (who was originally rumoured to play the God of Mischief) would’ve brought to the table.  Natalie Portman played a good enough damsel in distress and I dug Idris Elba’s small but memorable role as Heimdall.  Another debate came in the form of Kat Dennings, whose attempts at comic relief were either funny or terrible.  To sum it up simply, she’s that one annoying friend that every girlfriend has, the one who always has something to say and has you wanting to bury her in the backyard long before the night’s over.  Oh, and I love Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, he feels like a perfect fit to me and though his cameo is brief, it’s still pretty damn sweet.

THOR definitely brings the thunder when it comes to Marvel adaptions but clearly isn’t perfect.  One of the major problems this character faces is the same one that HULK and SUPERMAN (for example) face.  These characters (Thor especially because he’s a God) are larger than life and nearly impossible to kill.  At no point did I feel that Thor was in any real danger.  I mean Jesus, he could have single-handedly destroyed all those frost giants himself (who looked badass by the way), and pretty much manhandled Loki as well as everyone else in his path.  I mean how the hell do you create a villain to oppose the God of Thunder?  And as far as Thor and Loki go, well, we don’t get nearly as much from them pitted against one another as we should have gotten, I personally was hoping for more in that regard.  I was also a bit disappointed as I’d heard that the Infinite Gauntlet would be in the film but if it was, I missed it.  I enjoyed the S.H.E.I.L.D boys, they’re always fun and of course like all Marvel flicks, be sure to stay tuned for an extra scene after the credits roll, you’ll be glad to you did.  I’ll be honest and say that I dug FAST FIVE just a little more than THOR but it was still a pretty good time nonetheless.  I’m anxious to see how CAPTAIN AMERICA and GREEN LANTERN fair as the summer progresses.  Hopefully this truly will be a comic book fan’s dream summer.

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TRAILER: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

I'm gonna start by saying that the original APES movies were before my time and something I never had any desire to watch. Tim Burton's vision is still a favourite of mine despite the amount of hate it apparently got. This unique vision feels a touch more grounded in reality (from a scientific perspective) and thus looks very, very interesting.

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TRAILER: The Immortals

Now this is what CLASH OF THE TITANS should have looked like! From the crew who brought us the outstanding 300, we get a rough and gritty look at a war between humans, gods and no doubt a pile of other cool stuff. The only downfall here is that this baby won't hit theatres till November...and that makes me sad (click the trailer to make it bigger).

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TRAILER: Conan The Barbarian

Hmmm, I was very eager when I read the first draft but now I'm not even sure if it's rated R anymore (God I hope it is). Jason Momoa is also in this season of GAME OF THRONES but he's not doing a hell of a whole lot yet so I'm still on the fence about him in general. I love fantasy and love the Conan as a character so I'm gonna give this on the benefit of the doubt until game day.

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TRAILER: Green Lantern

With THOR and CAPTAIN AMERICA getting phenomenal reviews and hype, GREEN LANTERN is definitely the underdog comic book flick this summer. Still, I'm a big fan of Ryan Reynolds so I have faith in him as well as the storyline here as if it's anything like the animated GL origin story FIRST FLIGHT, we'll be in for a treat. The CGI is still a bit of a debate but it was always going to be with a movie like this one.

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TRAILER: The Ledge

I almost passed over this trailer but decided to give it a chance. Much to my surprise, Jax from SONS OF ANARCHY is in it so already I'm pumped to see it. The story is nothing new, kinda reminds me of PHONE BOOTH only on the ledge of a building instead but who knows it could be a sleeper hit.

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Mortal Kombat Legacy Episode 4

Now this one was a mixed bag for me. I dig Kitana and Mileena but some things about this episode don't work for me. One, why go animated? I know it's a bit easier when it comes to connecting A to B but still, I didn't care for it. And Shao Khan didn't look nearly as badass and menacing as he should have. All in all, I'm still down with the series and a one hundred and ten percent supporter but even hardcore fans can nitpick a little, right?

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Mortal Kombat Legacy Episode 3

I always liked Johnny Cage's storyline and this was a very cool approach to his end of the story. The end result is a touch too close to the original film but I'm still feelin where this is going. Sadly, this kinda does feel like they're simply going to introduce the characters this season and then have them fight in the tournament next season...the problem with that is they haven't confirmed another season yet. I sincerely hope they do.

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TRAILER: Transformers: Dark Side Of The Moon

The first TRANSFORMERS flick was good fun, a little campy but good fun. The second one was such an epic letdown that I wanted to beat Michael Bay to death with a Devastator toy. That said, I can't help but be intrigued by this trailer because this actually looks like a decent TRANSFORMERS movie. Then again, so did the second one as a result of the trailers so who really knows at this point. Awhile back I'd heard that Soundwave will have his original voice from the cartoon, if that's still indeed a fact, then colour me excited.

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TRAILER: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2

As I've mentioned before I wasn't hooked on this series until ORDER OF THE PHOENIX but since then I've become an avid fan. I don't know how the books end (I wanted to enjoy the films) so I'm even more excited by this flick. This will be one of the true epic film presentations of our generation and only two things are for certain: One, it's been a hell of a ride and Two, I'm pretty sure J.K. Rowling will have enough money to head up the creation of man's first space station after the end numbers of this film and the complete box set are tallied.

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REVIEW: Fast Five

"Now this was one hell of a way to kick off the summer!"

When Dom gets twenty years, Brian and the crew decide they ain't havin it and bust his ass out of the prison bus.  Fugitives, they end up on the other side of the world with a job of all jobs just waiting to happen.  The bad news is, after falsely being accused of killing some cops, a tough as nails federal agent and his elite team are called in to take them down at any cost.

Not many film franchises hit the fifth installment mark these days and with good reason, as most of them are pretty much played out by the third.  FAST AND THE FURIOUS is a unique example though, seeing as how Vin Diesel pretty much wrote his own ticket with the first one.  Funny thing about Diesel though, back then (at the top of his game) he decided that sequels weren't his style and didn't come back to the second flick.  Paul Walker (who I think is the man btw, and not only because he reminds me of one of my best buds Craig) did his best to keep the momentum rolling forward but all in all I didn't really care for the second one.  TOKYO DRIFT was...well, watchable to say the least and ended up sporting a Dom cameo at the end but it wasn't until the fourth installment that the original cast came back for a solid sequel.  I, like most people, dug the shit out of it and here we are talking about FAST FIVE.  Did it live up?  Hells yeah it did, it was by far the best sequel yet.

The true fire of this series stems from the complex friendship between Dom and Brian and after being reunited in the last one, they pretty much rock the hell out of the screen whenever they're together.  Now how do you up the ante?  Well casting The Rock as the all business agent Hobbs was a damn good start!  I loved the character, loved what The Rock brought to the table and ate up every word of pure gold he had to say.  One of his boys tells him he's got a "good news, bad news" scenario for him and Hobbs says, "You know I like my dessert first," followed by, "Okay, now gimme the veggies."  Pure gold.

The story moves along at a tremendous pace with a rock hard tone that keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time.  This flick kinda feels like Dom's Eleven once he calls in all his pals from the series and it was especially cool to see Vince come back as well.  I thought the overall tone was sharp and the dialogue was as witty as it was hilarious which really adds to the flavour.  One thing I was iffy about were those cables you see attached to the cars pulling along the huge safe.  Those things do some major damage in the film and I'm not sure they could handle that kind of pressure without snapping but hey, details, details.

FAST FIVE was a film I knew I'd enjoy but I had no idea how blown away I'd be by it, it was amazing and I don't mind saying it two or three times.  It's ironic that Diesel's career didn't live up to the hype he thought it would and now the man who vowed to never do a sequel is coming back via sequels (there's more RIDDICK on the horizon as well as another FAST film or two in the works).  Yes, it's funny how that works out but either way, I'm not disappointed with what the guy's putting out and Paul Walker is no slouch of a co-star either.  These guys make a good team and I'm down for more and with the way this one comes to an end, we'll no doubt be seeing more of The Rock too and lemme tell ya, that's a good thing folks.

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