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Review: The Hangover Part III

The Hangover Part III

I told myself, I would never come back.

When is a comedy not a comedy?

The Hangover Part III is an odd film. With the second entry in the series running on fumes, Part III shakes the formula up by ditching the set-up of the prior films and plays it more or less straightforward. There’s a bigger scope to this film that’s evident from the off as it opens with Mr Chow (Ken Jeong, the Wolf Pack’s nemesis in the first two films), escaping from a south-Asian prison and seemingly on his way back to the US.

Meanwhile Zach Galifianakis’ Alan is displaying some highly erratic behaviour. So Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Doug (Justin Bartha) decide to intervene, offering to help by driving Alan to a facility to get the help he needs. On the way there, they’re ambushed by a gang of criminals led by John Goodman’s Marshall, who needs their help to locate Chow and $21 million in missing gold bars.

While I can’t say that part III is as blasé as part II, it is nevertheless a strikingly unfunny film; a step back from its predecessor which still managed to drudge up some (crude) laughs. Director Todd Philips opts for a crime/heist caper rather than the “men behaving badly” pastiche, answering critics who thought part II was more of the same. So while it isn’t (somehow) as juvenile as before, in terms of tone it becomes two different genres clashing awkwardly. What was fun and irreverent before is now po-faced and more than a bit morbid.

It ties up elements of the franchise you didn’t know, and quite frankly never needed tying up. The plotting is contrived, lazy and tired with characters (especially Chow) having inexplicable knowledge of certain things just to move the story onwards. There’s no rhyme and very little reason as to what’s happening and why you should care. It’s a series that could, and should, have ended after the first film.

Part III isn’t unwatchable but it is much of a nothingness: a nondescript, lethargic film with characters that have less maturity than a five-year old. Philips directs as if he’s on auto-pilot and the whole enterprise would be unremarkable save for some surreal moments involving Melissa McCarthy’s Cassie. Like most of Philips’ recent output there’s a mean-spirited nature about its humour, with characters shouting at the elderly, smothering a chicken and sniffing another person’s backside like a dog would. At times its bizarre and demented. Philips and screenwriter Craig Mazin seem to think that’s funny.

It isn’t. It’s actually really boring.

4/10

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Review: The Hangover Part II

Hangover 2

It happened again…

After the surprise success of the original Todd Philips film, The Hangover Part II sees the return of Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) as they travel to Thailand for Stu’s wedding to Lauren (Jamie Chung).

With the memory of their previous bachelor’s party in Las Vegas still lingering, Stu is reluctant to take any chances. Two nights before the wedding Stu gives in, has a drink and wonders ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’

What’s surprising about this sequel is just how similar it is to the previous film. Alike in structure, content and in some moments, laughs, what makes this film ever so slightly different from its predecessor is the setting of Bangkok.

If you could imagine viewing The Hangover through a dirty, stained window then its sequel is seen through a dirty, stained and cracked one that revels in the depravity Bangkok offers, taking advantage of the numerous situations the city provides.

The set ups and pay-offs deliver in a manner you’d expect, meaning the novelty and surprise factor of the original’s narrative fade as the film rigidly adheres to the template set by the first film. It never surprises and conforms to the expectations that more of the same is adequate enough.

Is The Hangover Part II an unmissable sequel? Not in the slightest. For audiences who haven’t seen the original or those who simply enjoy seeing the shenanigans of the Wolf pack on the big screen again, then Part II fits the remit of a film designed to provide a familiar experience. For audiences looking for something fresh, you may feel you’re watching Déjà Vu: The Return.

Review: Limitless

M 49c Bradley Cooper stars in Relativity Media's LIMITLESS.

Your powers are a gift from God or whoever the hell wrote your life script

‘What if a pill could make you rich and powerful?’ is the tagline to Neil Burger’s latest film Limitless and the morality it poses is interesting. If given the opportunity, we would throw ethics out the window and do whatever the hell we wanted.

Limitless brings it a style and assuredness that helps lift its potentially trashy sci-fi premise into something a little more credible.

Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) is Eddie Mora, a struggling writer suffering from writer’s block and coming off a breakup with his ex, Lindy (Abbie Cornish, Candy). He runs into his former brother-in-law from who introduces Eddie to a new wonder drug – NZT-48 – under the pretense that it will help him unlock 100% of his brain’s capacity. Mora starts his meteoric rise to the top; the problem is others have begun to take notice.

Perhaps the hardest thing to believe in Limitless is not the fictional drug could exist, but that Cooper could ever look so shabby looking.

Cooper demonstrates he has the acting chops to draw an audience in. If his previous roles painted him as helpless (Alias), an obnoxious jock (Wedding Crashers) or a stud (The Hangover), this film gives him more to play with and he gives Mora an exuberance that at times crosses over into arrogance, which is a good fit for the character.

Limitless plays out like Scarface, a rags to riches tale that accelerates into the hedonism of Mora’s Alpha Male lifestyle. The film resists becoming too smug; playing with the ideas of power, responsibility as well drug abuse without becoming too preachy about them.

Robert De Niro finally remembers he can act  in much better films than Little Fockers and is memorable as a prominent Wall Street banker who pulls various strings in the background. In one monologue he encapsulates how the world works, reminding Mora of his place in this world and who has the power.

Their relationship turns Limitless into a power struggle. Placing it in the world of business mergers and stock valuation may seem dull at first, but with the money and influence adds to the stakes of the story and makes it less of a fantastical concept.

With a wry voiceover from Cooper, hallucinatory sequences and fractured narrative, taken seriously Limitless would not be half the fun it is. Consistently entertaining it cements Cooper’s place as a leading man and hopefully unlike Mora, he won’t let that go to his head.

7/10

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