Film Review: The Hangover

Inspired by the release of the trailer for the sequel to The Hangover, a remarkably popular “bromance” film from 2009, I decided to finally watch the original for myself, so see what all the fuss was about. Anyone who knows me will know that I wasn’t likely to be impressed. They would have been right.

This film doesn’t take a massive leap of imagination as to why I didn’t like it. To put it bluntly, it just isn’t very good. The film is unoriginally set in Las Vegas, on the stag party for one of the main characters. The next day the groom is missing, and it’s up to the rest of the party, the self monikered “Wolfpack”, to try and find him for his wedding, the day after. Where The Hangover’s immediate appeal lies is the fact that you never see the actual stag night. You are introduced to the morning after, and along with the characters, you are led to piece together what actually happened the night before.

Unfortunately the film doesn’t really make any use of this comedy-mystery set up, using it only as a shallow way to take you from one mediocre sketch to another. The film has a pretty negative vibe around it, mainly to do with one of the characters being softly bullied throughout, for being different and fairly simple, although in an actual mental deficiency kind of way, as opposed to a funny Stan Laurel kind of way. They later drop a hint that this may be as a result of drug experimentation, but the damage is already done. For a film which has such a loose grip on reality, it’s a bit overbearing to consistently touch on a subject that can be quite personal and distressing.

The primary characters (three of them) are covered quite well by the storyline, although none of them are particularly likeable, but the film also throws many other, more interesting characters at you, none of whom are explored at all. It’s actually rather depressing that so many characters, all of whom are introduced to us as an essential and fascinating part of the story, can be so dismissed and underdeveloped. Many other “bachelor comedies” manage to develop and personalise far more than just three characters, in films that usually have less opportunity to do so.

If a film is a piece of string, from beginning to end, this film is severely frayed and tangled into a bit of a mess. The jokes aren’t that funny, and the “mysteries” are obvious and drawn out.  This is a film that’s made for middle class, office working American bachelors, probably the sort who were too conservative to watch Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies (US title: Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle), which is a shame, because that is a superior film. The Hangover seems to want to take on the edginess of that film, but at every corner fails. Harold and Kumar mock stereotypes, but in a funny, inoffensive way, often self parodying themselves, or making the joke so surreal that it cannot possibly offend. In The Hangover however, every character that isn’t a white male is subjected to some odd, unfunny stereotype. They manage to include a stupid black drug dealer, a violent black boxer (passed off like an American “gangsta”), an overly camp Chinese guy, a stupid female stripper, and a misogynistic Italian-American. It seems like only the white men are allowed to be normal functioning people in this film, and that’s an obvious problem.

Like a lot of mainstream American comedies, this film has a large Jewish influence in it, from some of the actors, to the production team. This has caused a bit of controversy lately, when it was announced that Mel Gibson would cameo in the sequel. Due to some frankly disgusting anti-Semitic remarks that Gibson has made in the past, many of the crew were unhappy about having to work with him, which is understandable to a point. Gibson was dropped from the film, to be replaced by Liam Neeson. My problem, you see, is that when a crew choose to take the moral high ground in terms of hiring actors, even for cameos, they need to be very careful, as the message it sends out is “we only hire people who we agree with morally and ethically”. A fair enough message, would it not be that they hired a convicted rapist and drug abuser to appear in this one. Abysmal acting aside, Mike Tyson is not a desirable human being. Do the team honestly think that making an anti-Semitic remark is worse than rape? I doubt it, but they need to be careful to what they are inadvertently may be condoning, by being so openly selective in who they hire.

This is a film about unlikeable people being prats with too much money. Maybe that will appeal to those who can in some way relate to the characters, but for the rest of you I think it will maybe raise a few chuckles at best. To me, this film was a bit like trying to watch a really great movie that has a huge dick blocking the view. There’s something really interesting going on back there, and it’s criminal that it doesn’t get more screen time, but something self obsessed and undesirable is taking up the majority of it.

If I had to grade it, I’d consider giving it 5 out of 10. There’s something amusing in there somewhere, but it’s a vapid, intelligence free affair, one that depressed me more than entertained.

Film Review: Toy Story 3

Foreword

For my first review, I’m taking on the controversial Toy Story 3. No the film itself isn’t controversial, but reviewing it is.

Toy Story 1 and 2 enjoyed incredible success on film rankings website Rotten Tomatoes, both achieving a 100% success rate, with Toy Story 2 being the top rated film on the whole site last time I awoke from my booze fuelled slumber and checked. Toy Story 3 was set to join them, and so be the first trilogy in RT history that had achieved 100% for the whole shebang.

History rarely works out that way, and Armond White, the New York Press’ fairly famous critic slammed it, for reasons I shall myself explore later. Not long after, fantastic critic Cole Smithy followed suit and more recently Jeremy Heilman from Movie Martyr also didn’t like it.

For those who are reading this and not sure of the significance, allow me to  explain. Rotten Tomatoes ranks its scores by accumulating respected critics own opinions into one overall grade, not unlike those insurance comparison websites. In order to achieve 100%, no viable critic (and by viable I mean people who get paid, unlike me) can openly dislike it. Therefore, there are some great films with 100%. How do they differentiate between these high ranking films? They rate them next by quantity of reviews. Therefore if Toy Story 2 got more reviews than the Godfather, even though they both achieved a 100% score, Toy Story 2 would rank higher, as though it was more 100% than the Godfathers 100%.

The flaws in this system are multiple and obvious. Firstly, there are multiple variables. It’s a safe assumption that we all did science in school, and the first thing you learn is that a real experiment only has one variable. There are two major variables at play here- The quality of reviews and the quantity of reviews. There is also an intrinsic unfairness to this system as there are many websites/magazines/television shows that are not dedicated to film, yet nevertheless do film reviews that are suitable for the target audience; the main one being of course children and parent aimed media. It’s a safe bet that a children’s site would not review the Godfather, but would be likely to review Toy Story.

Then there is my favourite bug bear, the fact that the films are rated on their inoffensiveness. Take a brilliant film like Oldboy. This film will never get 100%, or even a great score, despite being a great film. It has to battle controversy, it has to battle the inevitable xenophobia of the west, and it has to battle its limited release in countries such as the USA. Then, those special websites come along again, and slam a film like this for being gory, or non-Christian. These fucktards rate films on how detrimental to society they are, regardless of artistic content, or evidence to the contrary. Indeed, only films that really make the top of the list are:

  • Inoffensive
  • Aimed at children, but appeal to adults
  • Recognised by the “Industry” as masterpieces
  • Historical classics

So why is this an issue? People take a lot of cues from Rotten Tomatoes, and consider it a good indication of what is a good film, rarely actually reading many of the reviews. Sure you can’t just come onto a blog like this and make your mind up about films, as I could have just started this for free to piss on your favourite title. People should read this, and a professional, conflicting review, and then make up their own mind by actually watching the fucking film, but then when would they have time to spend, sitting with their thumb up their arse?

For their negative reviews of Toy Story 3, Smithy and White both received hate mail or hate email, although the latter sounds like a letter sent from an earthquake struck Caribbean country.  My review isn’t positive, so if you feel the need to send me an abusive email or comment, be prepared for me to print it off, wallpaper my house with it, and toss off all over your user name

Review

It has been 11 years since the unnecessary Toy Story sequel, and due to some unwritten law somewhere, everything must come in threes. Maybe it’s a biblical attitude that brings so many trilogies to our tables? After all 3 is the recurring number in the bible, dotted all over the place like an explosion in a fridge magnet factory. The religious theme incidentally carries on throughout the film, but more on that later.

There are plenty of sequels coming out now to Disney/Pixar films and they will continue to do so, as they are cheap money magnets. There is nothing new about this. Aladdin, for example, was another trilogy. The main difference nowadays, is that the sequels to computer generated films can be of better quality as the really hard work, the modelling, has already been done. You can take the models from the previous film, reanimate them, and you have a sequel to the same exact quality (image wise at least) of the original.

This attitude to remaking, however, cannot, and should not be applied to the flagship film that launched your company into the really big time. Toy Story was a heart-warming and funny story of rejection and redemption, and it warmed the hearts of the world. 15 years on, and we would expect to see a massive graphics upgrade… and… we don’t really. Of course we don’t. The original was designed specifically to make the most of the technology of the time, and things have moved on faaaar since then. Therefore Toy Story 3 has to showcase this advance in smaller ways, probably to cut negative comparisons between themselves, and their previous Pixar film, the fantastic Up!

In order to showcase this advance in quality, the intro scene is a fantasy land where the toys are being played in. I have to say, it looks fantastic. A monkey bomb (don’t ask) is released, and as someone who has tried (and failed) digital animation, I can say it must have taken ages to do. It’s just a shame that the writing for this sequence is so piss-fucking-poor. Fans of the series will instantly recognise many of the lines and dialogue in this sequence from previous Toy Story instalments, mainly the second one. These are shown to be obvious references to the previous films, and they quite successfully set you up for the rest of the film-one big rip off of Toy Story 2

Yes, we’ve been here before, only some things have changed. Mainly Andy, who is now a teenage brat about to go to “College” as the colonies call University, except he’s not a brat, he’s the same wooden half wit as he was in the other films. The boy has thrown away most of his toys, including most of the soldiers, but not apparently Mr AND Mrs Potato Head (surely one is enough? Maybe he relates to them?), and now only has a small collection of his main toys, who incidentally are all of the main characters from the other two films. Convenient that. A jumbled mess ensues as he is given the option to throw them out, put them in the attic or donate them to day care. Some random, extremely predictable, yet somehow very unlikely turn of events occurs, and the toys end up on the street to be thrown away, despite Andy’s intentions. Only Woody is free from this as Andy has decided to take him to College, like all 17 year old boys do. The other toys, angry at rejection, stow away in a car to go to day care, where they will be immortal and played with forever.

So far, it’s a complete reverse of Toy Story 2. In TS2, Woody gets taken by a collector, but then learns to love where he is, and in this the other toys choose to go to day care, only to learn to hate it. Throughout all of this, Woody is the only one who ever seems to be right, which makes you wonder is he is named after the big one he must have gained from his ego. Other aspects of the story are also the same as TS2. For starters there is a dominating male toy that plays the bad guy, with his own sob story which isn’t that sympathetic. This time, instead of a prospector, he’s being played by a bear that’s an actual toy in America, but nowhere else, giving the yanks a joke that the rest of the world doesn’t get. Similarly, there’s space age Buzz again this time it’s because he’s been reset by the evil toys. The film pulls an extra trick out of his hat by later resetting him to “Spanish Buzz”, throwing out every stereotype of Spanish people, short of throwing bananas at black footballers. This isn’t that funny, and as ridiculous as it sounds in a film about talking toys, it isn’t believable! I don’t know about the US, but our toys over here don’t reset languages by the click of a button! It is gimmicky to provide a cheap laugh, and a hollow one at that. Especially with the new additions to the toys, and the removal of select other toys, you can see what this film is really about, and it is illustrated vibrantly by its most dislikeable aspect yet.

The whole film puts a massive focus on Barbie and Ken. Barbie was supposed to appear in the first film, yet didn’t as Mattel refused to allow her likeness to be used. When Toy Story went supernova, and became a marketing hit, someone at Mattel probably got fired, and they got on the phone to discuss Toy Story 2.After all, advertising like Toy Story doesn’t come along every day. I don’t know the details, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mattel paid for her to be included, and the gentle piss taking of Barbie and what it stands for was a very small price to pay for the exposure.

This time round, however, Barbie is thrust into our faces unashamedly, and Ken is introduced. Cue more piss taking, which is funny, BUT the amount of emphasis on them is disconcerting. It becomes very clear that this film is a huge product placement, and I for one don’t appreciate that. There are other characters that aren’t being used, who already have had their personality defined, but are either ignored or removed completely from the film. Why? They won’t sell. Bo Peep and Wheezy? Gone. Bullseye? Ignored almost completely. The aliens, although they provide a pivotal moment in the film barely have any screen time, and the soldiers bugger off in the first 5 minutes. They don’t make for great sales, while the teddy bears, octopusses and Ken dolls DO make for good sales, hence their inclusion, and that’s what is intrinsically wrong with this film. It’s an extended advert, one shoved in our faces packaged as a film, but with minimal effort involved. Toy Story 2 managed to be different to Toy Story, while Toy Story 3 seems just to be an invert of Toy Story2!

You could go on to say how this film is about life and death. There is certainly the air of Buddhism around it, with reincarnation and karma playing a massive part of the storyline. That, however, is the easiest story to tell, and it’s disappointing that this film improved so little in 11 years, when Toy Story 2 managed so well after only 6. Other complaints are a simplistic dialogue, and sacrificing storytelling for nostalgia. The writers clearly don’t know what to do with Jessie, but are too scared just to cut her from the film. Seriously, watch her throughout the film; she just stands there, barely animated, with no decent lines, just coming off as a massive bitch. It’s like a limb that you can’t use, and don’t need, that keeps getting in the way, and caught in things.

It’s easy to watch a well produced film like this and rate it highly, when you compare it to the mass amount of contemptuous shite that leaks out of Hollywood’s asshole. Indeed, James Cameron is currently swimming in money Scrooge McDuck style because of this attitude. Good visuals and sound quality, however, don’t make for a great film, and if both Avatar and Toy Story 3 have proved anything, it’s that you can polish a turd, and people will like it, but won’t be able to shake that smell from under their noses. Fuck 3D. Fuck gimmicks. Write a decent film, like I know you can! At least Jessie didn’t fucking sing this time.