26 May 2011

The Hangover Part II

From left, Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis are shown in a scene from "The Hangover Part II."
Did you enjoy “The Hangover?” Judging from the box office receipts, many of you did. So did the people who made it, so much so that they essentially made the same movie again and called it “The Hangover Part II.”

Before I get into what director Todd Phillips and company did wrong, let me say this: “The Hangover Part II” is consistently funny and entertaining. Leading men Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis easily slip back into their roles, and it is a joy to watch them play off each other.

It was their chemistry and the camaraderie of Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms) and Alan (Galifianakis) that gave the first movie its heart. That and a wildly unpredictable story made “The Hangover” an instant classic and possibly the funniest movie of the past decade. Yes, it has its moments of shock humor, but it’s secondary to the characters and the plot.

Not so with “The Hangover Part II.”

20 May 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Johnny Depp portrays Captain Jack Sparrow, left, and Geoffrey Rush portrays Hector Barbossa in a scene from "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."
You know the old saying “less is more?” I present to you exhibit A: “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”

Of course, it’s only within the context of this franchise that anything about this, the fourth movie inspired by the Disney theme park ride, could be considered “less.”

“On Stranger Tides” is nearly wall-to-wall action, with swashbuckling aplenty; daring escapes and rescues; zombie pirates; vicious mermaids; the British navy; the Spanish navy; and the Fountain of Youth.

But while parts two (“Dead Man’s Chest,” 2006) and three (“At World’s End,” 2007) were bloated, convoluted messes drowning in special effects, “On Stranger Tides” gets back to what made the franchise such a hit in the first place: Johnny Depp as the outrageous, flamboyant pirate Captain Jack Sparrow and action scenes powered more by impressive stunt work than computers.

13 May 2011


From left, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig are shown in a scene from "Bridesmaids."
More and more these days, you just can’t trust the advertising for movies.

Based on what you’ve been able to see of “Bridesmaids” so far, it probably looks like a “chick flick” or the female equivalent of “The Hangover.” The title gives the impression of an ensemble-driven movie.

Though there is a fine cast around her, “Bridesmaids” is principally a vehicle for Kristen Wiig, one of the most valuable performers in the current cast of “Saturday Night Live” and a frequent supporting player in big-screen comedies (“Knocked Up,” “Ghost Town,” “Adventureland,” “Paul”).

The movie, from a script by Wiig and Annie Mumolo and directed by “Freaks and Geeks” creator Paul Feig, isn’t really about a wedding, and it isn’t a wild, “Hangover”-style romp. Sure, it has some of the R-rated raunch typical of a picture from producer Judd Apatow—a dress-shopping scene in which food poisoning leads to vomiting and other unpleasant bodily functions easily springs to mind. But at its heart, this is a movie about friendship.

06 May 2011


Chris Hemsworth, left, and Natalie Portman are shown in a scene from the film "Thor."
As Marvel Entertainment ramps up for next year’s all-star superhero bash “The Avengers,” the trickiest part of the process is undoubtedly “Thor,” one of its lesser-known titles. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because this is the same Thor you might have learned about as a child, the Norse god of thunder.

Despite his superhuman strength, mighty hammer that only he can wield (and only after he’s proven himself worthy of it) and formal way of speaking, this Thor (Chris Hemsworth), when it comes down to it, is just a man, the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and brother of the trickster Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

It’s a comic book movie with gods as characters, but “Thor” is, at its heart, the story of a father and two sons. Thor is the favored child, heir to Odin, the king of Asgard. But he is reckless and arrogant, his actions threatening to start a war with the dangerous frost giants.