The Hangover Part III (2013)
by Steve Habrat
After taking in the revolting antics of 2011s The Hangover Part II, the question of whether the world truly needed the second Hangover film hung thickly in the summer air. Was the follow-up to the inexplicable 2009 megahit really necessary? Apparently, Warner Bros. and director Todd Phillips thought the world needed a double dose of the Wolfpack. I don’t think there is any doubt that the world DEFINITELY didn’t need a third Hangover movie, but here we are with what is being called the final installment in the Hangover trilogy. Let’s hope so. Let me be clear when I say this—America, this is what you asked for. The Hangover Part III is about the laziest movie I’ve seen all year. It can be commended for breaking the formula of the first two movies and trying something new, but was everyone sleepwalking through the making of this thing? Devoid of any solid laughs and structured with a plot that seems like it was conceived by someone in a drunken stupor, The Hangover Part III is about as flat, arid, and jaded as cash grab sequels come. Even the target audience will have a hard time finding the humor in all of this, and more importantly, they’ll find it nearly impossible to root for the horribly detached heroes Phil, Stu, and Alan. You’ve been warned, folks.
The Hangover Part III focuses much of its attention on bearded oddball Alan Garner (played by Zach Galifianakis), whose bizarre behavior is slowly spiraling more and more out of control He has quit taking his medication and in a seriously foolish move, he purchases a giraffe that is killed while he tows it down the highway. Appalled by his son’s anti-social behavior, Alan’s father, Sid (played by Jeffrey Tambor), drops dead of a heart attack. It doesn’t take long for the grieving family to round up Alan’s best buddies and stage an intervention for the distraught man-child. Among the friends that step in are schoolteacher Phil Wenneck (played by Bradley Cooper), dentist Stu Price (played by Ed Helms), and Alan’s brother-in-law Doug (played by Justin Bartha). The group convinces Alan to go to rehab, but he is only willing to go if the Wolfpack will go with him. While on their way, the guys are rammed off the road and confronted by the pudgy gangster Marshall (played by John Goodman), who demands to know the whereabouts of flamboyant Chinese gangster Leslie Chow (played by Ken Jeong). It turns out that Chow, who has recently broken out of a Bangkok prison, has stolen $21 million dollars in gold bars and that Alan is the only one who has had communication with him since the escape. Marshall takes Doug as collateral and threatens that if the Wolfpack doesn’t track Chow down in three days, he will kill Doug.
The biggest crime of The Hangover Part II was that it recycled the plot of the first film, switched locations, and then padded it with a thick layer of lurid shocks. It was the ultimate endurance test and I’d say Phillips was the true victor. With The Hangover Part III, Phillips wisely moves away from the gross out approach that he used in Part II. You’d think that a toned down feel and a fresh plot that was minus a night of heavy drinking would refresh the franchise and energize the main players, but it’s actually the complete opposite. There is barely a laugh to be found throughout the hour and forty minute runtime, just ask the packed showing that I attended. There was an excited buzz in the air before the opening credits rolled and as the film drug on, you could feel that excitement slowly fading as joke after joke failed to get much of a reaction. To make things worse, Phillips then placed the two most popular characters, Alan and Chow, at the forefront of the entire project. You probably already know I’m not a big fan of either character and I think that a little bit of each one goes a very long way. You can just sense that the studio and the filmmakers are crossing their fingers that Galifianakis and Jeong will carry the film across the finish line. It should be said that they don’t. They stumble and fall the minute they get moving.
The sense of laziness carries over into the performances from Helms and Cooper, both who act like they’d like to just step away from the project altogether. Cooper, who is hot off an Oscar nomination for his surprising performance in Silver Linings Playbook, seems to be preoccupied with his new success and bored with the story. The script doesn’t even bother to elaborate or deepen his character in any way, shape, or form. He’s just going through the motions for a paycheck and its painfully obvious. As far as Helms goes, he was the one doing most of the work in the first two films, but here he seems edged out by Phillips and Galifinakis. He was usually the one who had the best one-liners but he’s nearly invisible this time around. Galifianakis is off his game (and his rocker) the second we catch up with him as he speeds down the freeway with a CGI giraffe being tugged behind him. Every single joke he cracked made me want to bury my face in my hands and shake my head (mind you, that is not a compliment). As far as Jeong’s Chow goes, there is just entirely too much of him. Even the die-hards will have a hard time defending his drastically increased screen time. Goodman puts forth quite a bit of effort as Marshal and he certainly owns the screen when he is squeezed into it, but there is little in the way of substance there. Fans of the first film will rejoice when they catch a glimpse of Mike Epps as “Black” Doug, Heather Graham as Jade, and, yes, even Baby Carlos, but the thrill will instantly fade when you realize they are given absolutely nothing to do besides reminding the audience that they still exist.
While I will agree that The Hangover Part III is a step up from the pitiful second installment, it is still the furthest thing from a great film. There are certainly a few cruel jokes (the worst being the decapitation of the giraffe) but most of them are unbelievably tame, limp, or simply non-existent. There are times when the film seems to be attempting to jump from the comedy mold entirely and into something resembling an action movie/crime caper, but it is far from smooth about this transition and it is just plain awkward. The project doesn’t even perk up when the Wolfpack finally arrives back in their Las Vegas, their blinking and flashing Hell on earth. By that point, it seems like cast and crew have upped and abandoned this turd altogether. Overall, the reshaped plot is a smart move, but the lack of even one memorable joke and the drastic shift in tone seem to have crushed the Wolfpack’s party spirit. They are ready to move on to bigger and better projects, ones that are more deserving of their comedic talents. And you, America, are ready to laugh at something far funnier than these obnoxious and poorly drawn characters. This is the worst film of 2013 so far.
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
by Steve Habrat
While the first Resident Evil film wasn’t high art, it still managed to do the impossible and give a good name to video game movies. It was a solidly made tribute to Night of the Living Dead while coating an industrial gloss over the action. Resident Evil: Apocalypse was certainly a step down from Resident Evil but you were still willing to sit through it until the end for all the zombie mayhem at its core. Now we have arrived at 2007’s Resident Evil: Extinction, a western-esque rip off of George Romero’s 1985 zombie stunner Day of the Dead, George Miller’s 1979 action thriller Mad Max, and Alfred Hitchcock’s classic The Birds. Unlikely to win over fans of any of the films I just listed, Resident Evil: Extinction finds the massively popular franchise running on fumes, with absolutely no clue how to push the story along into territory that is worthwhile. Like any good B-movie franchise, director Russell Mulcahy spends the first ten minutes of the film rehashing plot points that we are already familiar with and then spends the rest of the time sending wave after wave of genetically altered super zombies at our heroine Alice, who now seems to have more superpowers than she knows what to do with. Oh, and did I mention that the film isn’t scary at all?
After nuking Raccoon city at the end of Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the dreaded Umbrella Corporation thought the T-virus was successfully wiped off the map. They were wrong. Apparently, the entire world has been consumed by the T-virus and nearly every man, woman, and child is now a shuffling, rotting corpse with a taste for human flesh. The few Umbrella big wigs that remain hide out in an underground bunker where they sit and debate about how to domesticate the endless sea of zombies above them. They look to Dr. Sam Isaacs (Played by Iain Glen) to figure out how to tame the creatures but he is preoccupied with creating an exact clone of former Umbrella employee Alice (Played by Milla Jovovich), a one-woman army wandering the Nevada desert. Alice, meanwhile, is busy searching for uninfected when she stumbles upon Raccoon City survivors Carlos Olivera (Played by Oded Fehr) and L.J. (Played by Mike Epps), and Claire Redfield (Played by Ali Larter). The group joins forces with the immensely powerful Alice and together, they decide to head for Alaska, which is rumored to have a “safe zone.” As they set out on their journey, the Umbrella Corporation begins tracking them and they plan to unleash a few new mutant surprises on the group.
Free of its horror confines, Resident Evil: Extinction runs rampant with video game-style action and science fiction showdowns that certainly do make good eye candy but are vacant of any intelligence or point, for that matter. Mulcahy fills out the dead spots with scenes that have been borrow for other, better horror movies while also trying to figure out where all this action is heading. The group makes it as far as Las Vegas before Umbrella comes calling and introduces Alice to a few of its new amped up zombies that all dress exactly the same. It is here that the film slams on the breaks and then scrambles to mask the lack of a climax with a messy final showdown between Alice and, yes, another lumbering mutation. I’ll admit that the film does have few interesting scenes but these interesting sequences are fleeting or recycled. There is a suspenseful sequence that finds thousands of infected crows descending upon the group with Alice marching in at the last second to fight the little terrors off. As quickly as the scene begins, the action is over and we never see those pesky crows again. At least they looked cool while they lasted! Another scene finds Alice terrorized by a crew of bloodthirsty survivors who drop her into a pit to fight a handful of those pesky infected dogs from the first two films. Once again, the scene looks cool but it seems like those snarling beasts are just being recycled.
Then there are the performances, which all appear to have been phoned in or strictly for the paycheck. Jovovich is still her one note self with little progression in her character. She can apparently do anything and easily defeat any foe thrown her way, all of which has become tedious by this point. She just does it all in a new, revealing get-up, which allows the male viewer a chance to look down her shirt. Fehr’s Olivera is still the cookie cuter tough guy who appears to have some bottled up feelings for Alice. Oh, and apparently he is really craving a cigarette. Epps returns as L.J., who is only in on the action to remind us all that he is still alive. There is another faint love connection between him and Nurse Betty, who is played by R&B singer Ashanti (Note to Ashanti: stick to singing). Much like the crows and the love spark between Olivera and Alice, their relationship is fleeting and gone before we even noticed it was there. Larter completely sucks as the scowling Claire, who does a terrible job at commanding her group of warriors. She is simply standing in for the inexplicable absent Jill Valentine, who strutted her way through the second film. Also on board is Glen as Dr. Sam Isaacs, a demented scientist who is a second rate Dr. Logan from Day of the Dead.
There was one scene that I actually really enjoyed in Resident Evil: Extinction and that is the scene with Alice and company battling an army of super zombies created by the grinning Dr. Isaacs. It was a fun, mindless sequence that descends into a shrieking bloodbath. I also really liked the look of the decaying normal zombies, something I would have loved to have seen more of but sadly, they are just there to fill up the background. The rest of the film is the same old song and dance, just dressed in a duster rather than a barely-there red dress (and even THAT is still there). I was a blank slate of emotion when multiple main characters die off even though Mulcahy tries hard for emotional responses. The end battle did virtually nothing to set itself apart from the previous two end fight sequences. The only difference was this mutation has tentacles rather than a Gatling gun or a long tongue. Overall, it was crystal clear that the Resident Evil franchise had run its course and was in dire need of a break but when Hollywood has a hit on their hands, they milk that franchise until it is bone dry of creativity. I guess that is why this Resident Evil takes place in a dusty desert.
Resident Evil is available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
by Steve Habrat
In case the cramped zombie/mutant terror of 2002’s Resident Evil left you wanting more action, then you should immediately seek out 2004’s Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Lacking the suspense and the chilling build up that the first film had, Resident Evil: Apocalypse hits the ground sprinting and launches into one long and very loud continuous action scene. A step down in nearly every department, Resident Evil: Apocalypse seems like a fans-only party that plays more like a video game that in its predecessor did. The film has the small group of survivors dodging and darting around a city where zombies stumble through fiery wreckage, Lickers crawl around gothic cathedrals, and a gigantic final boss called Nemesis prowls the streets while firing a rocket launcher at anything that moves a muscle. Where can I find a controller? The film also does a poor job fleshing out the new characters while its evolution of Alice, the gal who shot and kicked her way through the Hive in a little red dress, seems just too phony for us to buy. It’s pedestrian action that even lacks the annoying but memorable score from Marilyn Manson. Well, at least it has a whole bunch of zombies who are really, really hungry.
Just 13 short hours after the initial T-virus outbreak in the Hive, the sinister Umbrella Corporation sends a team of researchers in to reopen the Hive. Naturally, it is a huge mistake and swarms of the undead come stumbling out and kill of the team. In response to the outbreak, Umbrella quickly quarantines the city and begins a hasty evacuation of its highest-ranking employees. One of these employees is Dr. Charles Ashford (Played by Jared Harris), who has a daughter that gets stuck inside the walled off city. As panic rips the city to shreds and the citizens turn into mindless cannibals, Umbrella decides that they are going to nuke the city. With time quickly running out, Dr. Ashford finds Alice (Played by Milla Jovovich), a former employee of Umbrella who is still inside the city. He explains that if Alice can find his daughter, than he will arrange for her to be evacuated from the city. In her search, Alice stumbles upon STARS solider Carlos Olivera (Played by Oded Fehr), police officer Jill Valentine (Played by Sienna Guillory), Sergeant Peyton Wells (Played by Razaaq Adoti), and surviving citizen L.J. (Played by Mike Epps), who all agree to help her battle the endless waves of the undead. The mission gets even more dangerous when Umbrella sends in Nemesis, a mutant super soldier that is seemingly indestructible.
With more special effects, more explosions, and more of Jovovich’s bare chest, Resident Evil: Apocalypse certainly has plenty of eye candy for males between the age of 17 and 30, but the story, if you can believe it, has been extremely watered down even more than it already was. The plot is pretty feeble and seems like it was thought up in a hurry, just to quickly crank the film out so the studio could cash in on the popularity. The film is never very scary and it has only a handful of white-knuckle moments to speak of. In a way, you will find yourself wishing that Paul W.S. Anderson would step in (if you can believe it) and relive new director Alexander Witt, who just seems to be going through the blockbuster motions. Witt isn’t a very interesting director, opting to make things visually stimulating through blurry shots of zombies shuffling up stairways or through windows or low angle shots of characters firing Gatling guns. There is small amount of fun to be had, mostly because the film is padded with infinite amounts of brainless and completely nonsensical action. There is one scene after another of Alice running away from trigger-happy helicopters, jumping through the air with two pistols in her hands, and crashing motorcycles through church windows. It’s wanton destruction just for the sake of destruction.
While the acting in Resident Evil wasn’t anything to write home about, it still fared better than the acting of Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Jovovich is still the tough cookie she was in the first film but with far less personality here. All Witt asks of her is that she be game to flip through the air and fire a couple of machine guns. Guillory’s Valentine struts around in a tube top and posing like she is Victoria Beckham. She is supposed to be a no-nonsense cop but she is rather forgettable version of Lara Croft in a high tech metropolis. Fehr plays the clichéd tough guy commando by the books, doing virtually nothing different with the character he signed on to play. Meanwhile, Mike Epps has a blast wisecracking his way through the role of L.J. He is here to lighten the tension but there is very little tension so he to be found so he just seems out of place. Still, he gets the film’s best one-liners and his encounter with a pair of topless stripper zombies will have you giggling. Jared Harris manages to get by as Dr. Ashford, a character that is largely ignored and there simply to move the poor excuse for a plot along to the next battle scene. Adoti drops in as Wells, a character that is only here to be zombie bait. Also on board is Thomas Kretschmann as Major Tom Cain, an evil Umbrella employee who forces Alice to do battle with Nemesis for his own enjoyment.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse does have some pretty impressive special effects and I have to say that some of the detail on Nemesis is pretty darn dazzling. Granted, the character just walks around and growls but he does make an impression by just stepping on the scene. Sadly, I found the way that they worked him into the action to be pretty pathetic, as he has nothing really to do except hunt down STARS officers and fight a genetically altered Alice. The zombie mayhem is still pretty fun and there are plenty of moments where the ghouls get to viciously rip some human flesh from the bone. I especially enjoyed the scene where Alice and company cut through a graveyard and zombies begin crawling their way out of the ground. It’s a pure B-movie moment but I couldn’t help but wonder if they use coffins in Raccoon city (apparently not). If you happen to be a big fan of the Resident Evil video game franchise, you’re going to love this movie. It’s apparent that Witt is determined to cram in as many characters and references from the game that he can. While I am not a die-hard fan of Resident Evil, I will still give him credit for trying to deliver for the ones who adore these characters and plots, but I wish that they wouldn’t have just thrown characters and plots in for the sake of doing it. Overall, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is a pretty mixed bag of solid zombie carnage, B-movie action, and artificial thrills that are used up before the end credits. Video game controller not included.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.