Friday, May 31, 2013


Rated: R

Stars: Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, John Goodman, Melissa McCarthy, Justin Bartha

Director: Todd Phillips

Genre:  Gross-out Comedy

It's hard to catch lightning in a bottle. Todd Phillips and company did it with the original film, which was an instant classic, but you know, milking that cash cow is so hard to resist,(ask Sylvester Stallone) so now we have two sequels that pale in comparison to The Hangover

The Hangover Part III is uneven and inexplicably mean-spirited in tone (I've never understood the mindset that thinks animal cruelty is funny). The film's saving grace, I suppose, is that it's frat-boy humor--and that's what this is from start to finish--slaughters all  sacred cows, so no one should complain that they've been singled out. Yes, there are laughs here and there, but it's the scattershot approach to humor--as in throwing a bunch of crap up against the wall--some of it's going to stick, and some of it is going to plop flat.

In a departure from the formula for the first two films, The Hangover Part III is targeting the action/adventure crowd, as it follows The Wolfpack (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, and Justin Bartha) from Mexico to Las Vegas, with bang 'em up car chases  and dudes getting shot, as the manhunt is on for the maniacal Mr.Chow (Ken Jeong). Chow has ripped-off mega millions in gold bullion from crime boss Marshall,(John Goodman)who has commissioned our boys to bring him back, or else. 

Chow is an over-the-top caricature of an out of control sociopath who has no regard for any kind of life--human or animal--and merely does what is is callously expedient to serve his own single-minded purpose.  He is so far from plausible as any kind of real person that the writers apparently figured anything  and everything  he does will get a guffaw out of some sick puppy in the audience, and even if there are only varied and scattered  pockets of laughter, everyone should come away with at least one or two bits they felt were really bitchin.'

I dunno, I get the impression Bradly Cooper was slumming in this project, as was Ed Helms, who is a considerable comic presence in his own right--as he has shown in the TV hit The Office , and his starring gig in Cedar Rapids--but there wasn't enough room for him to shine with Zach Galifianakis' and Ken Jeong's antics dominating.

While Mr. Chow is the despicable anti-hero, Alan, (Galifianakis) who is equally amoral in his own way, (opening the movie transporting  a CGI  giraffe down the freeway, its neck too long to clear one of the underpasses, and...)is a more endearing presence as the clueless man-child.

The Hangover III is like the third hangover you get when you start drinking as a teenager. The first two you can rack up to innocence and inexperience, but the third one, there's no real excuse for it. And puzzling--to say the least--why, in a film aimed primarily at younger guys, there's no T & A worth mentioning (and I'm wording it that way to forewarn you of a sight gag at the end that flops.) 

There is one great line here, though, and that is as the Wolfpack are cruising into Las Vegas, and someone says  offhandedly, "Somebody should burn this place to the ground."

That really made me smile.

Grade: C--


Oh dear. I hate to ruin that clever visual of me and Tim as boxing 'roos, never quite agreeing on anything. But I'm definitely in his corner when it comes to HANGOVER, PART III. Okay. Every once in a while, like all the other sick puppies in the audience, I'd laugh. I'm a sucker for sight gags. But this film has so little to recommend it that I actually felt guilty for laughing.
What's good about it?
If you've never visited Vegas, you'll feel like you have after watching the long, lingering shots of Caesar's Palace, the water fountains outside The Bellagio, The Strip....
I'm a big fan of Zach Galifianakis so I was looking forward to more of his endearing antics. I'd seen his comedy special on HBO and the guy is truly brilliant. But not in this piece of cinematic claptrap.
Another brilliant comedienne whose talents are underused in HANGOVER, PART III is Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, 2011), who plays Cassie, a less-than-feminine clerk working behind the counter of video games arcade. (Or was it a casino?) Doesn't matter, really, as she was given less on-camera time than the giraffe! As for People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive!" (2011), I'll bet Bradley Cooper is a lot prouder of that achievement than appearing in this over-hyped, super hapless sequel.

Grade: D

Saturday, May 18, 2013

And now, the BIGGEST announcement in the history of  Timmy's Noodle Film Reviews!  (Not that we've had any big announcements prior to this.) Author, Broadway playwright, and former RCA recording artist Jill Williams is joining this blog as a regular contributor--giving you the benefit of two perspectives for the price of one. Jill was married to a two-time Oscar winner, which gives her instant "street cred" as a film reviewer.  

So now you'll get my review, immediately followed by Jill's take on the same movie. We won't always agree--as you will see...oh, will you EVER see...but that's going to be part of the fun.

So please join me in welcoming Jill Williams!   

ON THE ROAD (2012)

Rated: R

Stars: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi, Tom Sturridge

Director: Walter Salles

Genre: Drama/Arthouse

The first thing I want to see at the beginning of a period movie is that the sets and the hairstyles and clothing of the actors is reflective of that era. In other words, to feel that I am authentically THERE. Otherwise, it's pretty stupid to ask you to believe you are watching a scene from the late forties, for example, when all the primary characters have contemporary looking hair styles. It's like they time traveled BACK to that era as their current selves, rather than being the authentic folks FROM that era. Some may think that's a relatively minor point, but I don't. And that's the first thing that irks me about On The Road, the film adaptation of beat poet Jack Kerouac's novel of "high" adventure in late forties and early fifties America.

I read the novel some time back, but if you are unfamiliar with it, you'll need to keep in mind that in the book--as it is in the film--that Kerouac has thinly disguised himself as a character called Sal Paradise, (Sam Riley) and his close friend Neal Cassady,(Garrett Hedlund) as Dean Moriarty. The third primary character is Cassady's free-spirited wife, Marylou (Kristen Stewart). 

Okay, here it comes again...they didn't even try...they didn't even TRY to do anything with Stewart's straightish, beyond shoulder-length hair that looks the same in the movie as it looks in any current publicity shot of her. That's the end of my rant, except that I've posted a picture of what women's hairstyles really looked like in the forties at the head of this review. 

So now they're all off to look for America in a drugged-up haze of weed fumes, Benzedrine and bongo drums. On The Road the movie is, like the book, a rambling recounting of aimless bohemian youth in all its hedonistic glory. It's evident that everyone involved in this production is trying real hard to bring off the unbringable and recreate the spontaneous, frenetic feel of the book, and to an extent they succeed. 

Kristen Stewart, whom up until now has been associated with a variety of vacuous vampire flicks, loses her adolescent image-- along with her duds--as a seductive predecessor to the free love movement of the sixties with a couple of steamy, revealing scenes,including a menage a trois with Paradise and Moriarty. 

Heglund is well cast as Moriarty/Cassady, but Sam Riley as Paradise/Kerouac just felt WRONG! Jack Kerouac had a kind of Boston "blue collar-ness" to him, and a bit of an edge to his personality that Riley--who comes off as slightly effeminate in the role--simply did not bring.

A bevy of household names are here in either small roles or cameos, including Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, and Steve Buscemi. Seems they all wanted to be a part of something legendary. The book is legendary, the movie is not, but On The Road--your quintessential arthouse film-- becomes more fascinating as it snakes and weaves recklessly along its way to a sobering conclusion. 

Grade:  C +


[In case Tim doesn't include this in his introduction, I'm his bona fide movie buddy. We see everything together—and agree on nothing. That's what prompted the idea of me adding my two cents in writing rather than bending his ear in the parking lot.]

I'm usually very quick to have opinions, and strong ones. But ON THE ROAD left me wondering how I felt about it. Hairstyles be damned, it was long and disjointed. And I should have hated it. Only I didn't. And the embarrassing thing is, I can't really tell you why. Except that the film created a kind of innocence of the era. No cell phones, no seat belts. There's a scene—it won't ruin the movie for you—where Sal Paradise/Sam Riley goes into a mom-and-pop store to steal some food and the clerk says he'll be right back, heading for the supply room. Would that happen today? No way. The clerk would probably have a gun hidden below the cash register. I much preferred the road scenes to the endless pot-smoking orgies. Yes, the film meandered. And yes, the main character was nobody I'd ever empathize with. But for once in our joint movie history, I'd rate this flick higher than my male cohort. If for no other reason than to watch all those megastars—especially Steve Buscemi as a smarmy closet gay, and naked-from-the-rear Viggo Mortensen—making quickie appearances.

Grade: B

Friday, May 10, 2013

MUD (2013)

Rated: PG-13

Stars: Matthew McConaughey,  Tye Sheridan, Reese Witherspoon, Jacob Lofland, Ray Mckinnon, Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson

Director: Jeff Nichols

Genre:  Drama

Mud has a little bit of everything--mystery , suspense, romance, rednecks, rootin' tootin' shoot 'em up action,  angst, rednecks, young love, and... uh...rednecks. The cast--many of them with southern roots, including  Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon--are convincingly  "redneckish."

McConaughey is the  loose cannon known as "Mud," whom we find  hanging out on this small island in the Mississippi river. He is discovered there by two adventurous 14 year-old  boys:  Ellis, (Tye Sheridan)  and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland).  Mud has dirt on him throughout most of the movie--especially on his hands--but he doesn't care, and he eats beans from a can with his fingers. (It's never really explained why his name is Mud, but that's what everybody who knows him calls him too. When you're covered with dirt, I guess that's what you get when it rains). Mud  is trying to avoid an unpleasant encounter with the law and a gang of bounty hunters who are on his tail for the killing of a man who was mean to his one and only love, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).

Witherspoon calls upon her Tennessee roots to channel a simple kind of gal in blue jean cutoffs who is waiting in town to hook up with Mud again when the moment is right. Unfortunately, she gets distracted by other men during her vigil, and it gets back to her longtime lover. Part of what Mud is about is the emotional rolllercoaster Mud and Juniper are riding with one another. But it's just as much a coming of age story about the two boys--particularly Ellis--who goes around trying to punch out people who are bigger than him, (in some instances successful, in some not) mostly when he sees a girl being mistreated. In that sense, he is a chip off the old block for Mud, and maybe that's why he takes a shine to the fugitive and believes in his innate goodness. Ellis is more than willing to do the mud man's bidding, which is primarily to act as emissary between Mud and Juniper.    

We're supposed to root for Mud, because he has shown his tender side with his love for and devotion to Juniper. But he has gotten himself into quite a jam...or pickle...or any other food metaphor you want to use, and how he's going to extricate himself won't be determined until Tom, his surrogate father figure from the past, (Sam Shepard) weighs in. Tom is a former sharpshooter with the Marines, and he will have something to say about the outcome before it's all said and done. 

Mud, which starts off  kinda slow, keeps building like a bonfire where more and more kindling is being heaped onto it--and some A-hole has tossed some cherry bombs in there too--leading to an explosive climax that will give action fans plenty of what they want.  

There are numerous subplots--including  Ellis's infatuation with an older girl, which is going to teach him something about women; and the sad state of affairs surrounding Ellis's parents, (Ray McKinnon & Sarah Paulson) who are breaking up, and are too distracted to do much parenting, though his father tries in his  ineffectual way. While McConaughey's performance here is being touted as Oscar worthy, not much due is being given to McKinnon's sensitive and multi-layered portrayal of a man whose world is slowly crumbling around him. It should be noted. He is the true tragic figure in this film.

Ultimately, Mud is pretty unrealistic, but most movies are. The fine performances here overshadow that little detail. Tye Sheridan, as Ellis, gets to show his emotional range, and he is going to turn into a fine actor. With Lofland, we can't really tell, because not much is required of him other than a sidekick's monosyllabic responses here and there. But I swear by looking at these two kids that they were both in Stand By Me--but then, they would be a little long in the tooth for that by now.

Grade:  B + 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Rated:  PG-13

Stars: Robert Redford,  Shia LaBeouf,  Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie

Director: Robert Redford

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Political Thriller 

The Boston Marathon bombing has given The Company You Keep  a kind of relevance and topicality it might not otherwise have appeared to possess. The film pings upon historical events from the politically turbulent sixties and seventies to present a fictionalized story that bears the ring of authenticity.   

The Weather Underground, which came to be known as the Weathermen, grew out of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the late sixties.  It was a revolutionary group that conducted bombings of U.S. government buildings, and other targets, primarily in protest of the Vietnam war. As the movie opens,  a  former member of the group, Sharon Solarz, (Susan Sarandon) who had been hiding out as a suburban housewife, is preparing to turn herself in for her part in a bank robbery that turned deadly back in the seventies.  (Look up Sara Jane Olsen, aka Kathleen Soliah!) 

The ensuing publicity results in one of her cohorts, lawyer Jim Grant, being ferreted out by  cub reporter Ben Shepard, (Shia LaBeouf) who is still cutting his teeth at an Albany, New York newspaper.  Grant (Robert Redford) is in reality Nick Sloan, and he may or may not be guilty of having participated in that same robbery. He goes on the run to attempt to prove his innocence, and in the process reunites with some of his old comrades, which gives Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, and Julie Christie a reason to be in this movie.  

Sloan is particularly anxious to hook up with his old flame, Mimi Lurie, (Julie Christie) who, unlike some of the others, hasn't developed a different perspective through the passage of time. (Christie, who is now in her early seventies, is eerily reminiscent of Katherine Hepburn here.)  Lurie is unapologetic for carrying the same ideals that galvanized her, and many of her contemporaries back in the day, to demonstrate what people power can actually accomplish by bringing an unjust war to an end.  When their clandestine meeting finally occurs,  Lurie still has fire in her eyes--still railing against a system that brought us Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the loss of so many innocent lives on all sides. 

 I think it was Redford's intention, by taking on this project,  to give a little poke at a society that has grown complacent in many ways--and to say HEY, the questions raised in the Vietnam era haven't gone away--they are still here, as relevant today as they ever were. 

To those too young to have lived through these events, The Company You Keep may simply seem to be relating a tale of homegrown terrorism from another era.  Baby boomers are more likely to grasp the complexity of the issues that existed at the time. And while there is  no disputing that  their actions were tragically misguided, the difference between organizations like The Weathermen and the Boston bombers is that the former believed that they loved their country, whereas the latter apparently hated it. 

That said, The Company You Keep  does a good job of bringing some balanced perspective to an era that becomes ever more misunderstood as time passes and we grow farther and farther away from the fact. Efforts to try to rewrite history for the purpose of promoting a particular agenda are something that should be vigilantly guarded against.

There are some intriguing twists and turns, and a few loose ends don't get tied up at the conclusion, but beyond the nuts and bolts of the plot, The Company You Keep is a thoughtful attempt to examine still relevant questions about the use and misuse of government power.

Grade:  B +