zach galifianakis

[Movie Review] ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ is the Hilarious and Heartfelt Hero We Deserve

In 2016 we saw Batman twice in theaters and for most of us, we left those two encounters less than enthusiastic. With Warner Bros. flailing wildly in need of a hit, in steps some tiny plastic toys to save the day. Even with as good as The LEGO Batman Movie is, it also amplifies how inept Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were at the most fundamental level–being entertaining. In a way, the latest in the Batman universe acts as a sincere apology for the aforementioned disappointments.

To be fair The LEGO Batman Movie has the benefit of irreverent humor that leans heavily in meta territory. The film exists in a world where Gotham City and its citizens are kind of tired of Batman’s shenanigans. Years of fighting bad guys and yet crime rates are as high as ever. Even Batman’s greatest enemy, Joker, has decided that he must concoct a new scheme to get the Caped Crusader in touch with his emotions. With the help of a recently adopted orphan, Dick Grayson, and the city’s new commissioner, Barbara Gordon, Batman embarks on a mission to save his tarnished reputation and the city.  (more…)

Movie Review: The Hangover Part III (2013)

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At this point THE HANGOVER franchise is to comedic cinema what the TRANSFORMERS franchise is to blockbuster action cinema- the first films each getting their fair share of love, but the sequels were met with an army of haters. Todd Phillips took a lot of hate when THE HANGOVER PART II came out with the exact same formula as the first film and PART III goes way off the beaten path. However, where I actually really liked the first sequel in spite of cloned formula, I find that THE HANGOVER PART III is completely void of the energy or humor that either of the first two were able to squeeze out of this premise.

The third film in the franchise finds Alan (Zach Galifianakis) target by his family and friends as a man in serious need of help and stage and intervention to get him the help he needs. It’s then up to Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) to drive him there. While on the road the Wolfpack is run off the road and kidnapped by Marshall (John Goodman) who informs them that their hijinx in Vegas ultimately made him cross paths with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) who then stole $20 million in gold bars from him and he wants the Wolfpack to track him down- something turns out to be easy, except that Chow refuses to give up without a fight.

I’ll be honest, I love Ken Jeong- well I sometimes do- but I hate his character of Leslie Chow in these movies. He’s my least favorite aspect of the first two and his extended role here is excruciatingly bad this time around. If that’s not bad enough, everything that’s ever been funny about Alan, Stu and Phil’s relationship goes in and out of mildly funny moments to sometimes barely even noticeable. Essentially while the second film may very well be dark it at least was crazy enough to be interesting and funny, but PART III is mainly just dark, mean and suspiciously light on jokes.

Galifiankis definitely has a knack at playing a crazy oddball and he continues to provide some okay laughs here, but they are usually fleeting chuckles followed by awkward silences. There were several occasions that what I’m sure are supposed to be jokes were mead with barely a scoff in my theater- the only thing missing were the cricket churps. I wanted to be able to applaud Phillips and company for intensely embracing the incredibly dark mean spirited comedy, but this time around there is very little that’s memorable or redeeming to the characters or their eventual outcome.

THE HANGOVER PART III does indeed break from the shot for shot duplication of the formula from the first two, but it does something far worse in return by relying far too much on Jeong being a ridiculous racial stereotype and essentially a raunchy cartoon character. The script also relies too much on Galifianakis being really weird- the problem being that it misses more often than it hits. Everyone else here I’m not entirely convinced were working off a script since it seems like Helms and Cooper were working off a script that was entitled THE HANGOVER: WHAT THE F*CK! Down every “twist” and “turn” the Phil and Stu are basically following Alan around giving him curious looks or screaming “What the f*ck” or “What the f*ck is going on?” If the lack of comedy and good ideas isn’t bad enough Phillips is weirdly obsessed with killing every single animal you see on screen even when there is no good reason to do so when it comes to a couple of dogs- I don’t work for PETA or anything, but at that point the cruelty to animals was extremely awkward for a movie that has no good reason to include so much of it.

I’ll admit it, the trailer fooled me and it didn’t take long before I started to believe that the trailer condensed every single passable moment into less than three minutes. THE HANGOVER PART III clocks in at just under two hours and even with a half hour cut off of it I think it would still be well over an hour too long. The time it takes to get from point A to point B fumbles every opportunity at sequences of decent comedy and instead ends up just being an aggressively mediocre film that appears to be more buddy action film than raunchy comedy- the fact that it tries to have its cake and eat it too just puts the icing on the aforementioned incredibly stale cake.

THE HANGOVER was the breakout mainstream hit- THE HANGOVER PART III felt like the extremely dark remake of the first that in my opinion is better than people give it credit for- THE HANGOVER PART III feels like nothing more than a reunion where everyone involved holds nothing but disdain for one another and as a result there’s very little fun to be had. With each film Phillips delves deeper and deeper into material that is really hard to laugh at- the first sequel danced dangerously with making these characters overwhelmingly unlikable whereas THE HANGOVER PART III shoves the characters into the deep end of unredeemable and drowns them in it. The first two films had energy and took chances while this time around the proceedings seem really lame and tame which makes the awkwardly dark moments all the more out of place and stupid. THE HANGOVER PART III is an on the nose example of people needing to be careful what they wish for- the film breaks away from its predecessors in almost every way and it suffers immensely for doing so.

Rating D-

Movie Review: The Campaign (2012)

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Two of the most recognized comedic actors working right now might seem like a dream come true for fans of each- but what about for people that have grown cold to their shtick? I rarely ever enjoy Will Ferrell and when I do it’s usually in small doses where as I’ve enjoyed most of what Zach Galifianakis has done even though most of his characters fail to differentiate much from role to role. Having the two of them in one movie seem like a potential volatile mix if you are on the fence and yet even with my doubts I had a feeling it could at least be good for a chuckle or two. To my surprise THE CAMPAIGN is not just a throwaway summer comedy and instead is often an uproarious R rated political comedy that embraces its absurdity and repetition, often to a fault.

Will Ferrell plays the very definition of a dirty bad boy politician, Cam Brady, who constantly says inappropriate things either behind closed doors or on a religious family’s answering machine and has an annoying familiar trope of a wife that only stays latched to his wagon as long as he’s successful then bails at any sign of trouble (the exact same thing befalls his character in TALLADEGA NIGHTS). Galifianakis once again plays an ambiguously gay screw up, Marty Huggins, with unflinching optimism (same type of character as in DUE DATE), but this time he’s also actually a devoted family man as well. Huggins is chosen by two sneering big money executives played by John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd to oppose Brady as Congressman so that they can then convince Huggins to approve a deal they have made to bring cheap Chinese labor into the country to quadruple profits of their company by cutting down dramatically on shipping and any number of other clichéd bad guy scheming. Huggins and Brady for the most part are unaware of the behind the scenes dealing as they focus on making each other’s lives as miserable as possible with a series of increasingly despicable pranks and bodily harm. Its dirty politics at its funniest and at its most stripped down basics.

Right off the bat the most refreshing thing about THE CAMPAIGN that I initially took out was how great it was that the trailers were vastly different from the final product. So many times I find myself being incredibly let down by comedies that show all the funniest parts in the trailer which then end up consequently being less funny on screen now that you’ve already seen it- unless taking the entire scene into context actually adds to the comedy. Here though not only are some of these scenes from the trailer funnier, they are also completely different from what you see in the trailer- that is to say that the actual lines of dialogue and jokes are different takes that end up being dirtier and funnier than they were in the trailer and certain items used are traded out for something entirely different (I’m referring to a scene in the trailer where Huggins shoots Brady in the leg with a crossbow). It made the film a little less predictable at least when it came to the gags that the two leads inflict upon each other- the overall events of the plot and the ending are all pretty cut and dry, which if not for the nasty back and forth between Ferrell and Galifianakis plus a select few of the supporting actors, this would have been much more of a just standard affair comedy if not a mediocre one.

I really like Ferrell in this movie, more so than Galifianakis which is completely flip flopped from how I went into the film. Ferrell tends to get on my nerves at times, but I like him best when he is at his most vulgar and this is about as vulgar as I’ve ever seen him which cracked me up almost every time his mouth opens. Galifianakis plays his role as he’s become accustomed to by just being mostly aloof and saying odd things here and there, while selling most of his comedy with his awkward body language and facial expressions. One supporting character that stole every scene he was in was Dylan McDermott as Huggins campaign manager Tim Wattley (which kept sending me into Seinfeld flashbacks every time they said his name)- as goofy as Ferrell and Galifianakis are McDermott adds that hilarious grimacing mean guy that you can’t help but smile as soon as he makes his entrance on screen and says something crazy or just stares angrily at the screen in the background while something somewhat heartfelt might be happening in the foreground. Aykroyd and Lithgow are pretty generic bad guy stereotypes that could have been played by almost anyone as is Jason Sudeikis as Brady’s campaign manager, although he does get in a few good lines here and there.

I do think the film has a pretty great cast in spite of the fact some have very little to do to add much to the comedy. There’s a great deal of mean spirited jokes that don’t quite fit with some of the over-the-top goofs on display- I mean how serious can you take a film where someone brutally punches a baby and later show the baby with a massive black eye. There are plenty of ridiculously fun jokes and sequences here that are laugh out loud funny that are hinted at in the trailer and handful that came as a surprise. The problems I had with some of the jokes is that there are at three if not more that get repeated several times throughout- there’s Brady punching something adorable that happens more than once, news montages that follow something horrible a candidate did and the fact that Ferrell’s character just can’t stand pugs. The first time each of these things happen is very funny, the second is chuckle worthy but for some when we get into the third time the repetition seems much more transparent as time filler and that the filmmakers ran out of ideas.

Still, even with an excess of repetition and rehashed character types THE CAMPAIGN is a hysterical political satire. The comedy does at times lean a little too much on the shock of excessively vulgar language to hammer home its laughs, but more often than not the set ups lend favorably to the excessive amount of expletives. THE CAMPAIGN marches out a hefty amount of familiar faces that at times I found distracting and given how weak some the characters are even left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed and disappointed at how great it really could have been. In end though, it may not be the be all end all of perfectly structured comedies of 2012, but it’s still a hell of a good time.

Rating: B

Movie Review: Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (2012)

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Someone needs to point me in the direction of anyone even close to developing the technology that will eventually lead to time travel so that I can be around the second it’s completed. There are many things I would go back and correct for myself, and somewhere on that list keeping myself from ever watching TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE takes priority over even some of my smallest errors in judgement. Remember when TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE’s trailer told you it was so scary you’d have to remind yourself it was just a movie? Well this time around reminding yourself that this is a movie IS the scary part. I can also say that I owe Tom Six an apology as in retrospect HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2’s poop gags now seem less offensive to me than one in particular in TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE.
The set up here is two guys, Tim and Eric were given a billion dollars to make a movie, one that when shows to studio executives is only minutes long and all the money was spent in vastly irresponsible ways and are forced to pay the money back or be sued. So naturally as most people do when they need a billion dollars they decide to take over a ghetto mall based on a commercial that says they will effortlessly make a billion dollars if they do so. The death of comedy ensues.

The saddest thing here is that there plenty of funny people showing their faces on screen here. Any other time I might be able to say I was entertained by their presence, but this movie stunned my sense of humor into a coma within the first 10 minutes. I like random nonsensical humor, I’m not some upright old fool that is hopelessly out of touch with what people think is hip, cool or funny- I simply just don’t get this. I am not on the fringe of understanding what makes Tim and Eric funny, I don’t want anyone sticking with me for a few moments while they wait for the joke to sink in- the moment has passed and I’m looking for any reason to leave this conversation.

For the time being I’ll humor the film for the sake of at least pushing across the fact that I gave it a chance. I didn’t hate certain parts of the movie in the first 10 minutes I was at least mildly amused and then things just went downhill. The remaining 60 minutes of this movie almost made me lose faith in comedy altogether- I watched stone faced at every failed gag and by the time one of the members of the “comedic” duo sat in a bathtub while a bunch of young boys filled it with explosive diarrhea I became angry. There’s jokes that are in bad taste (no pun intended based on the horrid poop gag) and then there’s jokes that are an insult to your existence as a human being.

I guess you could argue that what these guys do can be considered creative- the only problem being that the things they’ve come up with here I just didn’t find particularly amusing or even interesting. It wasn’t just my sense of humor that was sent packing in that first 10 minutes but also my interest. It took everything I had not to just shot this off and move on to something else, not to mention how hard it was to not fast forward through most of it- although I’d argue it may have been funnier that way.
It’s true that I have never watched the show that these guys do, but I can guarantee that after this I’m glad I never watched it and have no plans to start. The brand of “comedy” on display here may be better suited for a 10 to 15 minute TV show, but stretched to just over an hour is tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment. It’s not just a misguided poop joke stretched too long that had me at odds, but a slew of shock for the sake of shock body mutilation jokes and extremely off beat sense of style and humor that I failed to connect with on any level. I suppose I can fathom this being someone people might find entertaining, but would never entertain someone trying to defend this film and its humor to me. Some movies just aren’t for everyone and TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE is 60 minutes of my worst enemy screaming that concept into my ear.

Rating: F

Movie Review: The Hangover Part II (2011)

Todd Phillips struck lightning in a bottle with his top grossing R rated comedy, THE HANGOVER. Phillips didn’t have the same critical and financial success with DUE DATE, a film I really enjoyed. So now Phillips has emerged once again with a sequel to his breakout hit and dishes out even more drunken craziness with THE HANGOVER PART II. In the great tradition of sequels the stakes have increased significantly and the debauchery here makes the events of the first film seem like a weekend church retreat. PART II follows the EXACT same structure as the first film, but the events are much darker and at times even funnier than the first, making THE HANGOVER PART II familiar but still a welcome follow-up.

I refuse to believe anyone reading this has not seen THE HANGOVER, so taking up a lot of space breaking down the story might seem redundant. In THE HANGOVER PART II Stu is getting married and is hesitant to risk the same events from Vegas but despite his precautions they manage to wake up in the middle of Bangkok and are missing his wife to be’s little 16 year old brother, Teddy. Stu, Phil and Alan proceed to run around Bangkok in order to find Teddy before the wedding.

It’s worth noting that Stu is not marrying the stripper (Heather Graham) from Vegas. Instead there is a brief reference to the disintegration of that relationship that lead to him meeting his new fiancé, Lauren (Jaime Chung). When things go south this time around there seems to be a significant increase in panic and the sense of urgency even when things get a little ridiculous. Stu is desperate to find Teddy because Lauren is incredibly important to him and Lauren’s father hates Stu but Teddy is the father’s pride and joy. The events of Vegas were outrageous and fun but compared to the danger they face in Bangkok things seem much more hopeless.

THE HANGOVER PART II really does emulate the exact same beginning middle and end of THE HANGOVER. The phone call that opens the film to inform someone that something bad went down. The toast and time-lapse to the morning after, the guys having to return something they stole, the discovery of what happened that caused them to not remember, the light bulb moment where a character finally puts things together, the Ed Helms musical number and the wedding confrontation. There are just minor tweaks to each of them and people will be debating rather this makes PART II lazy or if that’s just part of the humor. Personally, I thought at first the similarities might be annoying, but it was also part of the fun in trying to piece it together right along with the characters. After the success of THE HANGOVER it’s really not that big of a mystery to see why Phillips and the writers would not want to change things up too much, and personally I think they amped up the craziness enough to overlook the structure recycling. I also think it’s way too easy and lazy to write the film off or hate it for it being so similar in style to the first film. If you love the characters and loved the first film, then I don’t see the harm in presenting the characters in a similar situation with all new problems to deal with.

Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are both as funny as they were before and Zack Galifianakis is just as crazy and funny as he was before. It definitely feels like Galifianakis has much more to do this time around as does Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow. I happen to love Jeong as a comedic performer, but I can only take so much of his performance as Mr. Chow. Jeong does have some really funny moments but at times it did kind of feel like too much. It’s always good to see Paul Giamatti even if he is extremely underutilized and Tyson once again makes a musical cameo.

The drunken shenanigans in THE HANGOVER PART II reach a pretty insane height, both in the ridiculous and in how dangerous things get. There is a very large amount of drug use depicted, a drug dealing monkey, silent monks, tranny strippers, riots and more. If the male genitalia makes you uncomfortable you might squirm in your seat here and there. All of these things add up to some very funny gags that all one up the comedy in the first film, but the laughs are not all light hearted as some are very uncomfortable laughs due to how dark things get.

THE HANGOVER PART II might not be as fresh as the first installment, but what it lacks in originality it makes up for with some very funny and dark laughs. The thing is that anyone who has ever drank too much knows that it always seems like you make the same mistakes but with varying consequences and to me that’s where THE HANGOVER PART II succeeds. The more things change the more they stay the same and despite a recycled style the gags and debauchery are cranked up to eleven and the film is often funnier than its predecessor because of it. For the haters, THE HANGOVER PART II is nothing more than that lingering headache that is a painful reminder of what you ingested the night before. From this fan’s perspective though, the new adventures of Phil, Stu and Alan are viciously funny and consistently entertaining.

Movie Review: Due Date (2010)

A year ago Todd Phillips was the director of what would become the top grossing R rated comedy, THE HANGOVER. Fast forward to now, Phillips is back with an all new R rated comedy, DUE DATE, which feels pretty similar to his previous film. DUE DATE is consistently funny at least for the first hour and is carried almost entirely on the capable shoulders of Robert Downey Jr.

Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is a successful architect in Atlanta for business and looking to get home to his pregnant wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan), in time for the birth of their first baby. Peter arrives at the airport where a traffic incident introduces him for the first time to Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), an aspiring actor who claims to have glaucoma and is obsessed with TWO AND A HALF MEN. Once on the plane a seat belt mishap sends Ethan to first class with Peter and an increasingly heated argument gets them ejected from the plane and put on a no fly list. Peter’s wallet and I’d are left on the plane and he is unable to rent a car, until Ethan pulls up and offers him a ride to LA. Peter reluctantly agrees and the two begin a wild and crazy jaunt across the country.

I’d like to start by saying that I believe that DUE DATE is just as funny as THE HANGOVER, but the formula of both films are so similar that many times DUE DATE hits been there done that territory. That’s not to say that I think it is a vastly inferior film, because I found myself laughing out loud several times. I really believe that Phillips is a very talented comedic director, but his last two films contain a first hour of film that are consistently hilarious, but what plagues the films is a third act that starts to fall flat.

The best thing going for DUE DATE was the casting of the ticking time bomb of rage that is Robert Downey Jr. What I love about Downey’s character is that he says all the things I wish I could say to people and does all the things I wish I could do when I get overwhelmingly mad. Some of the best moments are when he is an erupting volcano and lashes out verbally and physically. He also embodies the type of person I can be that when he says or does these mean things he almost immediately feels bad and tries to reach out and apologize for what he’s done. There is something inherently real and human about that type of behavior and is something I can relate to. Galifianakis on the other hand is very much a caricature and his character should just as well had been named Alan as from THE HANGOVER. Ethan is essentially the exact same character except with an expanded role and SLIGHTLY less crazy. I say only slightly because there are some pretty cool moments where a Galifianakis shows a more level side and shows even in a goofball comedy he can show a range of emotion. However, the majority of his role is him being weird and crazy and in an ensemble piece like THE HANGOVER it works in small doses, but grows tiresome with only two main characters. Downey and Galifianakis do have a certain amount of chemistry as a comedic team but it’s pretty clear to me that Galifianakis is no match for Downey’s talent, and it should be mentioned that I enjoyed Downey as Peter Highman in DUE DATE more than his performance as Tony Stark in the IRON MAN films, which is significant because I loved his performance as Stark.

Aside from a few different song selections the music cues seemed to be pasted directly from Phillips’ hit from last year. In fact, there are several gags and jokes that feel like they could have fit right in with THE HANGOVER, but for me they worked slightly better with Robert Downey Jr. spouting the lines and performing the physical comedy, but they still don’t feel as fresh as they might have if this was released first. Another weak aspect of the film is the goofier and over the top moments of the film which include a scene with Danny McBride that starts off very funny then gets extremely ridiculous. There’s also a point towards the end involving a car chase that becomes more and more unbelievable as there doesn’t seem to be any real consequences to the most heinous things the characters are involved in.

There are a few scenes and implied character traits that never really amount to much of anything. When Peter and Ethan arrive in Dallas they meet up with one of Peter’s friends, Daryl (Jamie Foxx), who is apparently a football player with a previous relationship with Sarah, and is a source of contention and jealousy for Peter; but blink and you’ll miss it, because his character is gone almost as soon as he appears, but with a mention at the climax. Also, the film seems to imply that Ethan gay; it is never explicitly said, but with the way that he walks, talks and a conversation towards the end between him and Peter just about spells it out.

For what it is, DUE DATE succeeds in providing a healthy dose of laughs. It’s an easy movie to enjoy if you just sit back shut your brain off and not take too seriously. At times it evokes several déjà vu moments but is different enough from Phillips’ previous films to justify its existence. DUE DATE in the end is two thirds of a laugh out loud road trip comedy that loses steam once the third act kicks in. Phillips though, proves that he can show us a hilarious and fun time out at the movies.