Welcome to the NME Film Blog, coming to you every Friday, sorting the cinematic wheat from the chaff.
The Big Release
The Hangover: Part Two
What’s the story? Two years on from their roofie-fueled night in Las Vegas, Doug, Alan and Phil take a trip to Thailand to celebrate Stu’s impending marriage. Determined not to replicate the events of Vegas, they drink only from pre-sealed beers and eat roasted marshmallows. So how do they wake up in a Bangkok hotel, missing Stu’s soon to be brother-in-law and gaining a monkey…
Cast: Bradley Cooper (Limitless, The Wedding Crashers), Ed Helms (Cedar Rapids, The Office), Zach Galifianakis (Due Date, Dinner For Schmucks). Director: Todd Philips (Starsky and Hutch, Road Trip).
Plus points: When The Hangover first hit in 2009, stars were born all round. A clever concept, deeply flawed yet likeable characters and some wonderfully dark jokes about finding babies in a Chuck E Cheese. By far and away the sleeper comedy of 2009.
Let downs: What a difference a year or two can make. While there would always be those that thought of this as a shameless cash-in from the get-go, few really expected such a cheap, lazy carbon copy. With almost precisely matching running times (100 mins and 102 mins respectively) it won’t be long before some clever internet wag mashes them together Pink Floyd and Wizard of Oz-style showing every beat hit in unsion.
Critics said: “Hangover II marks one of the most derivative sequels of the year” (USA Today), it’s “tasteless, pointless, tactless and pretty much anything else you care to stick the ‘-less’ suffix on” (Ultraculture). 33% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: A huge let down for anyone expecting a replication of the joy of the first film without a replication of every single joke. The darker tone makes for a more dramatic ride – the stakes are upped from ‘missing wedding’ to possible ‘missing life’- but nobody paid for their money for a thriller. Like meeting up with old friends and wondering why you liked them in the first place.
What’s the story? Two friends Marie and Francis become obsessed with the same young man. As their obsession grows and the three become increasingly intimate, the strains on their friendship stretch to breaking point.
Cast: Xavier Dolan (I Killed My Mother), Niels Scneider (Everything is Fine). Director: Xavier Dolan (I Killed My Mother).
Plus points: A hit at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Heartbeats cements the arrival of some seriously strong French talent in writer/director/actor Xavier Dolan. If the story itself doesn’t exactly set the world on fire with originality, the look of the film is enough to keep audiences rapt.
Let downs: As always with foreign fare it’s tracking a copy of the fucker down that proves its biggest let down, with multiplexes running a mile at the concept of ‘words on a screen’. Also best to avoid if you’re looking for a fluffy, ‘love conquers all’ romp or have an allergy to anything faintly ‘arty’.
Critics said: “Every frame is a joy to look at, and the three leads very appealing ” (Film4). Heartbeats is “a vibrant insight into twentysomething attitudes to life, love and loyalty” (Empire). 75% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: Jules et Jim, The Dreamers, Y tu mamá también, Rita, Sue et Bob tu (sic), the ménage à trois movie gets another suitably frank addition to its canon. Aerosmith were wrong with their claim, two heads aren’t always better than one.
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules
What’s the story? Greg Heffley, the titular Wimpy Kid, returns with more demeaning childhood memories that would probably lead to years of counselling. This time Greg has to contend with his older brother, the most unsuitable babysitter since [insert own paedophile joke here].
Cast: Zachary Gordon (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Brother’s Bloom), Devon Bostick (Saw VI, Adoration). David Bowers (Astro Boy, Flushed Away).
Plus points: A huge hit in America which kept Sucker Punch off the box-office top spot. And anything that stops Sucker Punch doing anything noteworthy is always commendable. Steve Zahn pops up as ‘the dad’, and anything Steve Zahn does is also always commendable. Except Daddy Day Care. And Evil Women. And quite a few others really. But he’s aces in Treme.
Let downs: A low-budget product that looks made for TV, featuring TV performances and TV morals. Other let downs, er, well, it has no tits in it. The Hangover: Part Two does. That has tits in it. And balls. And tits with balls.
Critics said: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, “is full of lively slapstick” (Time), a “broad comedy that should guarantee that it goes down well with five- to ten-year-olds” (Radio Times) . 43% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: A quickly hashed out sequel that doesn’t manage to prove a complete let-down for fans of the original. Todd Philips take note. Still, a shame it wasn’t Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Riddick Rules. Vin Diesel’s blind alien thing would have un-wimpyfied that kid quick sharp.
What’s the story? Beginning with ‘The End’ this Vietnam epic sees Captain Ben Willard sent to ‘terminate with extreme prejudice’ an off the radar Colonel. Along the way he learns why you sit on your helmet, how reluctant Charlie is to surf and what happens when a man is ‘clear in his mind, but his soul is mad’. The classic. The classic.
Cast: Martin Sheen (The Departed, Badlands), Marlon Brando (Superman, The Godfather). Director: Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, The Conversation).
Plus points: Arguably the greatest war movie of all time containing, arguably, the greatest soundtrack. A film that truly encapsulates what was at the heart of Nam: Chaos. The chance to see Apocalypse Now on the big screen needs to be taken.
Let downs: The film almost killed its leading man which would have been a real bummer. Imagine no President Bartlet! Multiple versions of Apocalypse Now give it that Blade Runner, ‘which one is this’ feel. Minor gripes though.
Critics said: “A gilt-edged, no-messing, accept-no-substitutes masterpiece” (Little White Lies), it really is “a film that needs to be seen on the big screen.” (The Guardian). A near-perfect 99% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: If you only see one film about Americans getting fucked up in South East Asia this weekend make sure it’s Apocalypse Now.
The Best Film Still Showing
A hat-trick of excellence from Tom McCarthy, Win Win is an absolute pleasure from start to finish. Actors who can actually portray the emotion they’re aiming for, a script that is both layered and laugh out loud funny and a moral core that feels believable without being righteous. It even has a ‘montage’ to Bon Jovi that works. For every dumb spectacle of a blockbuster we get, if American cinema throws us a gem like this, summer at the movies might just be a wondrous place after all.