Catching Up with the Weekly Movie Diary, Part II: “The Hangover Part II,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Beginners”

It's deja vu all over again...

The Hangover Part II

Sequels – good sequels, that is – should continue the journeys of their characters, not replicate them. It is stunning how sloppy and lazy the script for The Hangover Part II is, recycling everything – and I mean everything – from the first film. The same characters go through exactly the same adventures, precipitated by exactly the same events. And in the end, the same character has the same realization he had in the first one. Why does he need to learn to stand up for himself twice? While I like the original Hangover (though I don’t love it), this is a terrible follow up. Sure there are some laughs, but not enough to save it. I have read assurances that the next Hangover movie will take characters someplace new. I hope they do if they want to make up for this mess. (Rating *1/2)

It's deja vu all over again.. wait. Didn't I just say that?

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

I guess the best thing I can say about this movie is it isn’t as bad as the last Pirates movie, but it’s still remarkably bad. There was nothing that struck me as particularly fresh or exciting. Johnny Depp’s clever characterization of Capt. Jack Sparrow feels tired by the fourth installment, but in fairness it was probably played out by the end of the second film. Getting rid of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in favor of Penelope Cruz is appreciated, but there isn’t much Cruz can do with this material. Worse she just looks silly dressed up like a pirate. On Stranger Tides was as depressing a movie I’ve sat through all year: It was boring, insulting, and frustrating in some places. My depression hit its lowest depths when reports of the movie’s massive success, especially from overseas, came in at the end of the weekend, virtually assuring another Pirates movie. Hopefully the filmmakers will decide to take the time and have the pride to make a decent movie, rather than continue with the string of lazy hits. (Rating *)

Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners"

Beginners

When confirmed commitment-phobe Oliver meets and falls beautiful French actress Anna, he is reminded of his father’s final years. His father Hal came out of the closet at the age of 75, only months after Oliver’s mother died, found a young lover, and went on to live for only a few years more. Hal tries to overcome the repression and fear he was taught as a child with the more open and courageous example his father gave him at the end of his life. The movie effortlessly transitions between the beginnings of Oliver’s relationship with Anna (Mélanie Laurent) and the memories of the last years of his father’s life: his relationship with Andy, his increasing involvement with the gay community, and his slow, painful death from cancer. Though the material doesn’t hang together perfectly, it is still a largely good movie. Christopher Plummer really steals the show away from star Ewan McGregor, a clear late career Oscar push. Plummer is exuberant as the newly liberated man, eager to drink in as much life as he can in the short time he has left. Meanwhile McGregor creates a complicated, layered character who uses glibness and irony to avoid commitment. One of the joys of the movie for me was the too few scenes with Mary Page Keller as Oliver’s mother, who we meet in flashbacks to his childhood. She is largely ignored by her closeted husband so she develops a close bond with her son. Her character is quirky and unexpected; the scenes at the LA County Museum of Art are priceless. (“We’re not allowed to interact with the art?”) It is a role that will probably go unrecognized by critics and the public because of her limited screen time. Had she been given a couple more scenes at the same level, I would have been campaigning for best supporting actress. As it is she remains a small part of a good film. (Rating ****)

 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Catching Up with the Weekly Movie Diary, Part II: “The Hangover Part II,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Beginners”

  1. Beginners sounds very beautiful and interesting!

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