Monkeys And Wolf Packs And Pandas - Memorial Day Movie Nirvana
By Chauncey Telese
Hello again, and I don’t know about you but I’m totally ready to live out Bruno Mars’s “Lazy Song” and enjoy the weekend. It’s been a busy school week and unlike those high school kids who got to graduate before the holiday (which is just ridiculous because the last day of school was always the same day as Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and by the way complaining about it just made feel old).
I hope you all have big plans for Memorial Day weekend be it a BBQ, a pool party, or there’s always the road trip. If you’re not down to spend the gas money there’s always the old reliable trip to the movies because Memorial Day is the biggest weekend of the year.
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Sure, the 4th has one major blockbuster (in my day it typically starred Will Smith), but Memorial Day usually has two blockbusters plus people get a chance to catch up on whatever came out earlier in May. This year we have two movies that appeal to a wide range of people and should generate a ton of money (it better because “Thor” and “Pirates 4” underperformed and the box office needs a bit of a jolt). I’m getting ahead of myself so before we get to that though as always let’s breakdown the week that was in pop culture.
We survived the rapture because the guy was apparently off by five months which makes me wonder how bad of a civil engineer this guy was before he was an abysmal prophet because he was wrong in 94 and wrong again. If you’re wrong about a rapture scenario twice how much credibility can this guy have? Besides, the Mayans already told us when the world is ending so I don’t know where he’s getting his data from.
Sarah Palin is making a documentary about her time as Governor (which I’m sure will only be half as long as a normal documentary) and touring some historic America sights as part of her not so subtle plan to launch a presidential run. This makes me giddy because not only will the Tweets be entertaining but Tina Fey will be back on SNL more often.
“Game of Thrones” is winding down its first season and had Drago give Viserys the golden crown (a horrible way to die) while his sister officially became a queen (by eating a heart no less). Tyrion managed to escape his imprisonment in hilarious fashion, and Ned got to be king for a day. I also loved HBO’s “Too Big to Fail” because it was a very compelling TV movie about the 08 financial collapse and features some great performances by William Hurt (as Henry Paulson), Billy Crudup (as Geithner), and a list of great character actors. It was just as well done as “Recount” and deserves some Emmy love.
Speaking of SNL, Timberlake killed on the season finale (the best of which were “Liquorville” and the “Golden Rule”) which isn’t a shock but what was shocking was how hilarious Lady Gaga was. I’m not her biggest fan but I will say this, the queen of the butter faces performed well in all three of her sketches as well as put on an entertaining musical performance. I hope they give her a shot at hosting because she definitely could become a fixture.
After the kids of New Directions lost at Nationals “Glee” finished its second season and while I’m not bailing on the show I do warn them to go and watch the first season so they remember why “Glee” became a money making juggernaut in the first place. I’m tired of the relationship ADD, the lazy storylines with Sue, the reliance on gimmick episodes and forgetting about characters for no reason. I realize the show is gimmicky in and of itself but they’ve proven that when they care they can make an amazing high school show. Also, “Modern Family concluded it’s second season with Mitch and Cam wanting to adopt another kid, and Jay’s best worst birthday ever (and in the previous episode Alex graduating middle school). “House” ended with him crashing his car into Cuddy’s house because it was easier then pulling an Eminem and tying her to the bed and setting the house on fire. I’m sad that network TV is officially gone until September and it’ll be a while until the big cable shows start up again. Jon Hamm is directing the fifth season premiere of “Mad Men”, Christopher Meloni is leaving SVU (very bummed about that), and sadly “The United States of Tara” got cancelled yet they kept “Nurse Jackie” which sent out a loud and clear message that Showtime isn’t interested in making shows where the characters actually have to grow.
The Mavs and Heat are now going to meet in the finals and I for one am looking forward to Dirk winning his first title. The only con to the NBA Finals starting is that the league will be on lockout until at least February. Also as a Lakers fan could the hiring of Mike Brown not suck any more? I realize he had a great record in Cleveland and took them to the finals in 07, and the whole LeBron thing wasn’t his fault but why did the Lakers hire him? Kobe didn’t exactly give him a ringing endorsement so that’ll be fun to watch all season. If they’re going to transition anyway, wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to hire Brian Shaw and see how he does as they retool the roster. In other sports news, the Mets had to sell 49% of their team for 200 million because Wilpon is going broke so I’m sure every Mets fan is brimming with joy right?
Ok, now onto tonight’s Memorial Day two weekend movies. It was supposed to be four but “The Beaver” and “Everything Must Go” are no longer in theaters so I’ll have to wait until they come out on DVD (bummer). I wanted to have those two in there as some form of counter programming to the empty calorie summer movies and offer your brain a chance to avoid being in spanks by August.
“The Hangover Part II”: The Wolf Pack is Back!
In 2009 audiences everywhere were blown away by three relatively unknown actors getting wasted in Vegas and going through a cavalcade of misadventures. It became the new Vegas staple movie upending “Swingers” and also became the second most quotable comedy (“Anchorman” being the first) and made Ed Helms, Zach Galifinakis, and Bradley Cooper major stars. I don’t think I need to tell you that it was a ginormous hit and that Warner Bros green lit a sequel even before the cash rolled in. I found it funny that “The Hangover” not only caused Vegas to kick out the family elements and return to being sin city, not only did it make everyone want to get smashed and see what happens, but it also lead to a series of idiotic conversations where the guy who didn’t like it tries to convince you it sucked because of the fact that there is no way they could’ve blacked out and done all of that stuff. It was a huge deal is the point I’m making. Now for the sequel we find the three best friends that anyone could have in Bangkok a city that makes Vegas look like Branson, Missouri. Critics have been bashing it all week because they said that this is pretty much the same movie we got in 09 except it is in Thailand. While that may be true I still had a blast, because no matter the plot or the setting, I’d never turn down two hours with the wolf pack.
Quick rant before we get into the story and all of that. I’m okay with people pre-gaming before a movie be it in liquid or vapor form but c’mon America don’t pre-game so hard that you become an annoying a-hole and ruin the movie for everyone else. My buddy Grant and I had to listen to some drunk guy yell at the screen and talk to his buddy every second about how Stu’s being a jerk or Alan’s stupid. People were getting angry until he passed out half way through. Point being is that if you want to have a 40, or a Four Lokos that’s fine but just get buzzed, not tanked.
Back to the movie. As I said this time we follow the wolf pack in Thailand as Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married on a resort and after Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifinakis), Doug (Justin Bartha), and Ted, Stu’s future brother in law have a beer on the beach, Stu, Phil, and Alan wake up in a hotel room in Bangkok. They wake up to cockroaches, a drug dealing monkey, Alan has his head shaved, Stu has a Mike Tyson face tattoo, and notorious gangster Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong). They seem to have lost Ted (though his finger remains in the room) and they have to find him before the wedding in two days. I’d go on, but like the first one, the fun comes out of discovering the debauchery along with them. I will say this, their discoveries are a lot grosser then they were in Vegas and they definitely go through more action then they previously did. As I alluded to, this movie got curbed by critics and they all had the same complaint. They all feel that this is basically the same movie just in a different location and I agree, however that’s not their real complaint. The real complaint is that the surprise of the first one is no longer there because now we know who Alan is so anything he does isn’t shocking, and we know what kinds of things to expect.
Let me give you an analogy. If you can, try and remember the very first time you got wasted. Remember how shocking it was to discover what kind of drunk you or your friends were? How about the times after that? Not as exciting right? That’s because the sense of discovery is gone, sure there are laughs to be had but you already know you’re friend is going to walk around saying funny things or doing karaoke, or trying to fight everyone in the room. It’s all familiar but still kind of fun and that’s what “The Hangover Part II” is like. I didn’t hate it but I could almost see everything coming.
I do wish that they’d have let Doug participate in the night of depravity instead of being back at the resort running interference for the guys. On the positive side though, Ed Helms is the MVP of the movie because he goes through way more then the other two (and he also, to me, had the biggest laughs) and Galifinakis does a fantastic job of showing us just how much Vegas meant to him because for once he had friends and how desperate he is to get that back. Jeong’s Chow also is a lot crazier then the first film if you can believe it and Paul Giamatti is kind of wasted as a mysterious businessman that they encounter. I recommend that you see it but don’t go in expecting to bust out laughing as much as you did the first time. Of course you know to stay for the credits because there are more photos of their night (just like the first one). By the way, regardless of what I or any other critics say this movie is on track to make $125 million over the holiday because, like the honey badger, audiences don’t give a sh—what critics think of a movie like “The Hangover.”
Okay, now our next movie is also a sequel but more for family audiences.
“Kung Fu Panda 2”: Just as Awesome and Heartfelt as the First
In 2008 Dreamworks proved that they weren’t as far away from Pixar in terms of quality with their surprise smash “Kung Fu Panda” which everyone though would just be an hour and a half of Jack Black being Jack Black except as a fat panda bear who says “skidoosh.” To a degree they were right, but what shocked people was that this movie had a ton of heart to it and a very simple yet powerful message, “there is no secret ingredient.”
The marital arts were well done, the visuals were stunning, the score was beautiful, and all of the actors brought their A game (especially Dustin Hoffman’s Master Shifu). It lost to “Wall-E” that year but it was a closer vote then people realize. I was worried that the sequel would start to decline in quality like “Shrek” eventually did, but I was thrilled that it turned out to be just as good as the original and while it probably won’t beat “Rango” (or “Cars 2” which looks cooler and cooler the more trailers I see) it will make a ton of money (figures estimate it making $65 million over the holiday) and at least have a crack at the Oscar.
When we last left Po, he had become the Dragon Warrior and earned the respect of Master Shifu, his village and the Furious Five (Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu, and Jackie Chan, but then again you knew that already) and now must face his toughest opponent yet in Lord Shen, a bitter peacock voiced with perfection by Gary Oldman. Lord Shen has a weapon that can’t be stopped by Kung fu and he plans to take over all of China. Po also is struggling with his origins as he and his dad (who you all should know is a goose) is not his real dad and Po begins to learn the sad truth about where he came from.
That is basically the story, but what makes it work is that it is so simple and allows all of the action to drive the story. The back story on Shen is awesome and is revealed in simple yet gorgeous 2D animation (Po’s is as well) and his character is very well defined and is just as good of a villain as Ian McShane was in the first movie. Jack Black does a terrific job retaining the Po’s enthusiasm about being the Dragon warrior and living with the Furious Five. He also makes us believe how troubled he is by not knowing about his past and struggling to find out who he is and how hard it is for him to find inner peace. The Furious Five all get their moments to shine and the highlight is Angelina Jolie’s Tigress who allows Po to see that she is more vulnerable then she comes off and how much she values Po as a friend. The movie also goes into darker territory then the first one yet it still manages to be as witty and funny as the first.
The visuals are still breathtaking and I heard that it is actually worth the extra money for the 3D. The fight sequences are still engaging and the other action is a lot of fun. My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough of Master Shifu as he is in the very beginning and the very end but that’s a very minor complaint. It also sets up for a sequel or several sequels and, with how it ends, I’m dying to see where Po and the Furious Five go from here. Regardless of what I think, kids will eat this movie up as will parents and, like “Hangover 2,” it’s a great option for the holiday weekend.
Thank you for Reading and stay tuned as next week Brad Pitt and I sit under “The Tree of Life” and then I attend “X-Men First Class”. Remember you can see these and other fine films at your local Edwards. Have a safe and wonderful weekend!