Archive for July 5th, 2009

#1549: The Hangover

Doug (Justin Bartha) is traveling to Las Vegas with his friends Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) as well as his soon to be brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis).    Stu’s stuck with a harridan for a girlfriend, Phil’s excited to get away from his wife and kid and Alan … well, Alan’s just got a few screws loose.  They arrive at Sin City in Doug’s future father-in-law’s vintage Mercedes, do a couple of shots of Jagermeister on the roof and a few hours later, the gang minus Doug wakes up in their swank hotel room.    There’s a baby in the linen closet, a tiger in the bathroom, Stu the dentist is missing a tooth, and no one has any idea where Doug is.

Thus begins The Hangover.

I think I must be the only person in America who doesn’t find Zach Galifianakis all that funny in this movie.  His portrayal of Alan is one of a brain damaged, socially inept whacko who reads awkward speeches about wolf packs and has a Rain Man moment in a casino.   While his performance is worth a few chuckles, he’s mostly way out there and a source of strange tension.

The real comedy of The Hangover is in the strange, absurd moments like the tiger in the bathroom or a naked man popping out of the trunk of a car and beating everyone in the vicinity with a tire iron.   The constant apparitions of the unknown and bizarre keep the film lively, interesting and funny.   These events are paced so well, the film doesn’t even peak early with a hilarious cameo from Mike Tyson a third into the movie.

The friends’ desperate search to find Doug in time for his wedding back in LA is comical but the payoff to the search isn’t as good as one hopes it will be.   In fact, almost all the characters in The Hangover smack of buddy-comedy / road trip clichés; it’s really the variety of the absurd that makes the movie worth watching.

Worth the $9.50 a piece Younger Sister and I spent to see it, but nothing life-changing.

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#1548: Brick

“Ask any dope rat where their junk sprang and they’ll say they scraped it from that, who scored it from this, who bought it off so, and after four or five connections the list always ends with The Pin. But I bet you, if you got every rat in town together and said “Show your hands” if any of them’ve actually seen The Pin, you’d get a crowd of full pockets.”


Here’s the rub with Brick: If you’re into the movie in the first five minutes, you’re in for good.  If not, you won’t buy it.   Rian Johnson (director and writer) made what is essentially an homage to detective stories and film noir set in a high school.   The meat of the film is in the words and if the words aren’t grabbing you or sound funnily discordant, then you won’t be a very happy camper.

Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) is a loner whose girlfriend Emily calls him in a panic from a payphone.   She spits out words that make little sense to Brendan.   When she goes missing and then later turns up dead, Brendan doggedly pursues the truth of what happened to Emily, no matter what the cost.

Brick is a detective story set in an unconventional place.   The fact that the main characters are high school kids in a high school at times can feel off-kilter and odd, but Rian Johnson’s writing is the real star of the show.   It’s smart, keen writing that is something new and something old all at the same time.   The writing wouldn’t be much without someone to carry it off and Joseph Gordon Leavitt does a remarkable job of making Brendan Frye relatable while delivering lines that feel more at home in something made in the ’30’s.  The supporting cast are good but Gordon Leavitt is really who the film is hanging its hat on, so to speak, and he does a terrific job.

Multiple threads of the plot are interwoven and twisted about while a merry-go-round of high school degenerates float in and out of the picture; all threads meet nicely at the end when Brendan solves the mystery at hand.   Brick is more than just a mystery film.   It’s at times heart-breaking and saddening and at others, it’s darkly funny.   Combine this with a haunting, original soundtrack and you have one hell of a movie.

Worth your time to Netflix, folks.

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