This Week: May 20
The Hangover Part IIIOpens May 24, 2013
For a franchise known for pushing boundaries, The Hangover Part III isn't nearly outrageous enough. In his wild 2009 original, Todd Phillips goosed the stale men-behaving-badly formula, giving it a rude, hard-R twist. But his Bangkok-set 2011 follow-up felt like a road trip on cruise control. I don't know why, but I came to the latest (and final) chapter with bullish optimism. It seemed like a perfect chance for a course correction, tapping back into the first film's whacked-out Wolfpack spirit. Oh, well.
Hangover III is Alan's story. Played again by the manic potbellied elf Zach Galifianakis, Alan has decided to go off his meds, which results in some bad decisions (even for him), including a joyride with an ill-fated giraffe. An intervention is staged, and it's up to Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms, whose Maori face tattoo has been lasered off), and Doug (Justin Bartha, quickly sidelined again) to take him to rehab in Arizona. During a pit stop in Vegas, they hook up with some familiar faces: Mike Epps' Black Doug, Heather Graham's Jade, Ken Jeong's Mr. Chow. They're also introduced to Marshall (John Goodman), an ascot-wearing heavy who forces the boys to track down Chow and recover $21 million in gold bars that the cocaine-fueled imp has stolen. Mild mayhem ensues.
Part caper, part coming-of-adulthood story, Hangover III never settles into a debauched groove. As a Sin City romp, it's too tame. And as a ''very special'' ode to Alan's journey to responsibility, it's a miscalculation of what fans want from a series featuring a smoking monkey. That said, you should stick around for the end credits because there's a Helms sight gag that's absolutely priceless. The movie could've used more laughs like that one. B-
Fast & Furious 6Opens May 24, 2013
Big dumb action movies are a dime a dozen each summer. But really good big dumb action movies think Predator, Speed, and Independence Day are rare indeed. So when one of them comes off the Hollywood assembly line and zaps your brain's less discerning pleasure centers, attention must be paid. Which brings us to Fast & Furious 6 a borderline ridiculous, over-the-top demolition derby that also happens to be a perfectly constructed low-IQ blast.
I don't mean to sound dismissive of Justin Lin's latest entry in the wildly successful F&F franchise. It takes a certain kind of logistical genius to engineer a movie this giddily entertaining, especially six films in. Back in 2001, when Vin Diesel's chrome-domed ringleader Dom Toretto and Paul Walker's ex-cop Brian O'Conner first got behind the wheel, no one would've guessed that we'd still be invested in a bunch of thrill-seeking grease monkeys more than a decade later. But here we are, happily strapping in for another chapter.
The film kicks off with a tire-screeching chase in the Canary Islands (where Brian and Jordana Brewster's Mia are new parents) before hopscotching to London and Moscow after the gang is tasked by Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) with nabbing a bad guy named Shaw (Luke Evans) in exchange for pardons. Oh, and one other thing: They'll also be reunited with the presumed-dead Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who's risen from the grave (just go with it) and now works for Shaw. Ludacris provides the tech support, Tyrese Gibson the one-liners, Sung Kang and Gal Gadot the sexual tension, and Gina Carano the beatdowns. But let's be clear: This is the aptly named Diesel's vehicle all the way. With his croaky foghorn voice that seems to operate on a frequency all its own, he's the lunkhead heart of the film especially during its bonkers cargo-plane climax. Trust me, it's one of the biggest, dumbest, and most electrifying action sequences in ages. Check your brain at the door and fasten your seat belt. B+
Before MidnightOpens May 24, 2013
The first time we saw Jesse and Celine, the ardent duo played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Richard Linklater's 1995 romantic talkfest Before Sunrise, the two were meeting on a train and spending one long night wandering around Vienna exactly the sort of random encounter that can feel like starry-eyed destiny when you're in your mid-20s. In 2004, Linklater reunited the two characters in the equally lovely Before Sunset, in which the bedazzled possibilities of youth began to bump up against the sobering realities of experience. If, like me, you adored the first two movies, Jesse and Celine will now seem like old friends to you, and it's likely that you'll go into Before Midnight, the third chapter in their saga, expecting another poetically touching conversational love song. Yet Before Midnight confounds expectations in powerful and even haunting ways. It's not just darker than the previous two films. It's bigger, deeper, and more searching. It follows the characters through a tale of embattled love that extends far beyond them.
The movie opens with Jesse at an airport, saying goodbye to his teenage son from a failed marriage. He and Celine then drive through the Greek countryside. We see them talking and arguing in an unbroken shot that lasts for close to 15 minutes. We learn that they are now a couple living in Paris with their twin daughters, and that they still have their back-and-forth rapport, only it's grown testy in its intimacy. Jesse is a successful author of fiction, which he draws all too directly from his own life, and Celine is an environmental advocate who's considering accepting an establishment job. Should she take the plunge? Or should the two move to the U.S. so that Jesse can be closer to his son? Though it's clear that Jesse and Celine still love each other, their every issue and disagreement has become an entangled power struggle.
Linklater is a master of mixed moods. Before Midnight is happy, sad, bitter, tragic, and redemptive, but it is never predictable. There are moments when it evokes the wistful bohemian rapture of the first two movies, especially when the couple are sitting around at lunch with the Europeans they've been staying with on vacation, trading quips and philosophies. I can't remember a sequence in another American film that so ebulliently harks back to the glory of '70s art-house cinema. But it's Before Midnight's shattering second half that truly defines it, as the two characters wind up in a hotel room for what's supposed to be a romantic getaway, and all their pent-up resentments start to bubble to the surface. Hawke and Delpy are both brilliant: They make every moment feel like it's really happening. We've seen this sort of thing before, of course, in films like Scenes From a Marriage, but Linklater stages the escalating relationship war with a casual, flowing virtuosity, and he taps into Jesse and Celine's competitive tensions in a way that reflects the divisive spirit of our era. This deeply bittersweet movie suggests that our long-term relationships sustain themselves over time by dying in order to be reborn. Before Midnight is enchanting entertainment that's also the most honest and moving film about love in years. A