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Movie Review: The Hangover Part III

The Hangover Part III is a somewhat entertaining mash-up of The Hangover and Due Date. We've come to expect a certain level of debauchery and funny in a series that started like a casino on fire and The Hangover Part III disappoints... that's right, disappoints.

First there was The Hangover, a what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas concept comedy that bristled with excitement and laughter. Then there was The Hangover II, a carbon copy of The Hangover that found itself in Bangkok, and asked you to just roll with it... and a monkey.

The problem with The Hangover Part III is that it's trying to be The Hangover without using the same formula dished out in The Hangover Part II. "How many times can the same thing happen to the same guys?" is a problem most sequels have to deal with and The Hangover Part III sidesteps collective "amnesia" formula in favour of a sequel that's almost entirely about The Hangover's mascot, Zach Galifianakis.

While Galifianakis is the lynchpin to this comedy series, his coming-of-age "manning up" forms the basis for Part III. It's as if the wolf pack can only be disbanded if all the bachelors have finally been paired off. After his father dies, the pack stage an intervention for 42-year-old whose life has failed to launch. When a men's retreat goes off the rails, the group are put under pressure to make up for a mistake from their first misadventure.

What ensues is within The Hangover world, but cut adrift from the series as the wolf pack begin a man hunt for a one old friend to save another. The Hangover Part III is not as funny as you'd expect and includes a trip down to no-donkeys-were-harmed-in-the-making-of-this-film Tijuana with some references to the previous films. This Mexican connection, Zach Galifianakis and director Todd Phillips trigger the same border control mayhem in the buddy movie Due Date, which was just funnier.

We've got the same players in Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha and Ken Jeong, who do their best to revive this limp Hangover sequel, but it's a case of being neither here nor there as the vapid plotting seems to swing them from one type of thriller to another. There's a stale seen-it-all-before feeling to the The Hangover Part III that makes it feel like the b-movie to The Hangover it is.

What was needed is a complete overhaul, but they've opted to go for a generic bag of money thriller with a side order of comedy, mostly thanks to over-the-top shenanigans from Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong. It's somewhat disappointing, cruising in on the coat tails of its predecessors. They've traded the smart situational comedic tone of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in for a darker, more tenacious Very Bad Things flavour.

So it's not a great film, but it does enough to hold your attention, spicing things up with some ridiculously funny Zach Galifianakis moments and intermittent appearances from the likes of Heather Graham, Melissa McCarthy and John Goodman. We're so busy tracking their next hair-brained scheme, and waiting for it to shift up a gear, that it's over before you know it.

Once you've seen the movie trailer, there are very few highlights to report and without live-wire cast chemistry or a provocative sense of curiousity, there's very little to spur it on. Todd Phillips has underplayed his hand on a safe bet and while the film is punctuated by the odd laugh, it just fades out without much to take away. All you'll have left is a bland recollection of funnier and more frenetic times in The Hangover and The Hangover Part II.

The bottom line: Disappointing

Movie Review: Fast & Furious 6

Fast cars, leggy women, big guns, money and loads of piston-pumping action is the stuff of the Fast & Furious. Six movies in and it's like they're just starting their engines as the flags go down and the winner takes all. Although to be fair, the road has had some twists, veering into new territory with Tyrese Gibson in 2 Fast 2 Furious and then reinventing the series altogether with the third one, Tokyo Drift.

The Fast & Furious franchise has come a long way - peaking with their hybrid of Ocean's Eleven, The Italian Job and Elite Squad in Fast Five. Throwing Rio de Janeiro culture and Dwayne Johnson into the mix certainly added to the weight, machismo and chemistry of the team, piling on plenty of pressure for the London-based follow-up, Fast & Furious 6.

The burgeoning Fast & Furious family continues to expand. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson reprise their long-running co-lead characters, while it's a welcome return for Fast Five heroes: Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Jordana Brewster and a long lost Michelle Rodriguez. Each actor brings their particular set of skills to the team with great tension between Diesel and Johnson for star and team leader. The new recruits include MMA and Haywire star, Gina Carano, as a second-in-comand for Hobbs and a slick British villain in Luke Evans.

The sixth film is set in London and takes some cues from Sherlock, a new contemporary TV series, which inspired at least two scenes involving observation and sniper rifles. Justin Lin has directed the majority of Fast & Furious films, including Fast Five, and has a good handle on what works. This sequel focuses on three major action set pieces with plotting, posing and humour filling in the gaps.

The team are doing "one last mission" for Hobbs to take down a high-powered criminal in exchange for a full pardon. What results is a Fast & Furious versus Fast & Furious showdown, as the "Ocean's Eleven" crew are pitted against an equal-opposite British team, who are arguably stronger, better equipped and more street savvy. The high octane action continues, knocking things up a notch with some Burnout style takedowns and high tensile cable mayhem.

Fast & Furious 6 has a spill of new characters and egos to worry about, giving ample time for each player to show their stuff with prevalence towards an amnesia plot involving Diesel and Rodriguez. The film see-saws between the teams as they try to stay one step ahead of their competition without falling prey to the police or bad intel with Rodriguez and freedom as main prize.

It's spectacular, bringing the same level of stunt work and special effects as Fast Five, within the confines of a bustling London. The effects team have used tensile steel cables to elevate action pay offs - connecting vehicles for more death-defying moments. Unfortunately, Lin's imagination is unhinged and the third act goes from unbelievable to virtually impossible.

The film must have been partly inspired by the success of The Avengers, which was a compilation of three climax-worthy action set pieces. In doing so, they've given the characters special attributes that make Dwayne Johnson's other film, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, look like a documentary. Yet, these two films are bound by more than a central star. They both share similar popcorn aspirations, leveraging the success of Fast Five or "The Brazilian Job" and pushing the audience to the limit of possibility.

The quick pacing, solid action cast, slick visuals, funny chirps and video game plot make for easy-viewing. However, the final climax just seems unnecessary, over-the-top and unintentionally funny, turning what started as another solid sequel into a ridiculous thrill ride in the realm of superheroes. It's not terrible, it just becomes terribly funny as one miraculous stunt dwarfs another.

The bottom line: Entertaining


Movie Review: Bernie

Jack Black is an irrepressible jack-in-the-box and pent up ball of energy ready to explode. At least, that's how most of his characters come across - making him funny, outrageous and supremely entertaining. When he does tone his performance down in something more sedate, we notice. Bernie is one of those films, reconnecting Jack Black with School of Rock director, Richard Linklater, to tune into his sweeter side in a remarkable true story.

Bernie Tiede, a small town mortician, was a very popular man in the small Texan town of Carthage. Friendly, sweet-natured and generous, he was heavily involved in the church and local upliftment programmes, making him a firm favourite among locals. So much so that when he befriended a wealthy widow and murdered her, it was almost as if he had cast a spell on the townsfolk.

Bernie is a dark comedy that would be best described as a true crime TV documentary in the style of Christopher Guest. Bernie echoes the work of Guest's improvised comedies: Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and Waiting for Guffman. The documentary style interviews with locals set the scene as we get to know the lead characters unpacking a series of questions surrounding the crime. There's even a touch of Wes Anderson's Rushmore, portraying a sweet, naieve and likable character, whose misguided pursuit for love and acceptance in a closed environment lands him in a predicament.

We're immersed in the culture, introduced to Bernie by the sympathetic locals, before the real story plays out. Jack Black plays Bernie like a mixture between Poirot and well, Jack Black. He's sweet, round, well-mannered, effeminate and courteous to the point of murder. Black manages to keep a lid on his energy, channeling it into the business of his character, who seems intent on turning the film into a musical.

He's supported by Shirley MacLaine as Majorie Nugent, who plays a shade of what's become a regular character outing for her. She's tempestuous, bitter and largely despised by her counterparts, who are only too quick to tell it how it is. It's a rather thankless role and antithesis for the charms of Jack Black, which eventually makes way for another good turn by Matthew McConaughey as self-appointed chief justice and District Attorney, Danny Buck.

Jack Black's composed performance as Bernie and Richard Linklater's ode to the work of Christopher Guest and Wes Anderson give this comedy class. The film's 'based on a true story' tag line grounds it, dulling some of the comedy and creating a strange small town tension around the nature of the crime with a bunch of colourful commentaries from locals.

Bernie is character-driven and we derive enjoyment from the details, customs, wardrobe, state of mind and sense of humour of Carthage. The blot of murder on Bernie's clean sheet reputation show how a popular gentleman's lifetime of good deeds blur the lines of justice. It's an entertaining, sharp-witted, fascinating and sympathetic character study into the life and times of a irrepressibly sweet and seemingly innocent man.

The bottom line: Charmed

'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' poster unveiled at Cannes...

The first poster for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the long-awaited adaptation of Nelson Mandela's autobiography, was unveiled at an event with producer, Anant Singh and Harvey Weinstein at the Cannes International Film Festival. The movie poster features a close-up of Idris Elba and is the first official image of Elba as Nelson Mandela. The colour scheme incorporates the traditional ANC colours of dark green, yellow and black set against a red backdrop with the tagline "It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die". Read more about the film...

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