Ep. 137 – Joker, Mister America

October 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod run head-on into the polarizing and problematic JOKER and fail to get totally in on the joke of MISTER AMERICA.

Click here to download the episode!

War Dogs

August 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Brian, Reviews

Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas
Directed by: Todd Phillips (“The Big Short”)
Written by: Stephen Chin (“Another Day in Paradise”), Todd Phillips (“The Big Short”), Jason Smilovic (“Lucky Number Slevin”)

If, upon watching the driving, energetic, rat-a-tat-tat trailer for Todd Phillips’s “War Dogs,” you found yourself thinking, “Huh — looks kinda like “The Big Short, Jr.,” rest assured: You were neither (1) alone nor (2) wrong in that assessment.

Just as you wouldn’t (necessarily) have been alone or wrong had you drawn a line of comparison/inspiration/theoretical parentage between “The Big Short” — last year’s Oscar quintuple-nominee and Best Adapted Screenplay winner — and 2013’s Oscar quintuple-nominee “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Or between “Wolf” and “Goodfellas,” for that matter. (Or “Casino” and “Goodfellas.” Or “Blow” and “Goodfellas.” Or “Boogie Nights” and “Goodfellas.” Or 2009 internet-porn origin story “Middle Men” and “Goodfellas.” And on and on.)

The point: If “War Dogs” is “The Big Short, Jr.,” and “The Big Short” is “The Wolf of Wall Street, Jr.,” does that mean, by the transitive property or some-such, that “Dogs” is “The Wolf of Wall Street, Jr.-Jr.?”

Or, to a lesser extent, “Goodfellas Jr.-Jr.-Jr.?”

More to the point: Yes, kind of.

Even more to the point: That’s not altogether a bad thing.

Based on a jaw-dropping, eminently Google-able true story, “War Dogs” follows David Packouz (Teller), a restless Miami Beach masseur who reconnects with high school best friend/stoner pal (and small-time weapons dealer) Efraim Diveroli (Hill) and is summarily drawn in, at the ground-floor level, to the latter’s nascent get-absurdly-rich-reasonably-quickly venture: Capitalize on an early-2000s, post-Halliburton-scandal “trustbusting” atmosphere — in which federal arms contracts were suddenly opened up via online marketplace to virtually anyone who could fill the orders — by becoming go-between munitions suppliers to the United States government at the ripe old ages of 19 and 23. As Hill/Diveroli puts it: “This is the job. To do business with the people and places the U.S. government can’t do business with directly. It’s as simple as that.”

And, for a while, it is. Of course, what seems simple at first becomes less and less so (I mean, come on: Not to belabor this, but … you’ve seen “Goodfellas,” right?), stakes and price tags spiral upward, allegiances are tested and strained, and our dude-bro DoD diplomats find themselves in well over their heads.

The story is a dilly, and Phillips (who gave us the “Hangover” franchise, “Old School,” and “Road Trip”) handles it well. The presentation is largely slick, snappy, fun — the opening lags a bit, as it calls inevitably to mind other (aforementioned) films that are slicker and snappier — but once the yarn gets to unspooling in earnest, we clip along at a sprightly pace that both ramps up and relieves tension in appropriate and pleasing measures. The later portions of “War Dogs” hold a number of shocks, dumbfoundings, and flabbergasts, and Phillips sticks these critical landings admirably. (One is tempted to wonder — though the timelines probably don’t work out — whether seeing “Anchorman” and “Step Brothers’s” Adam McKay broaden his directorial purview and subsequently score with “The Big Short” made Phillips say, “I can do that.” Whatever the reason, it’s a welcome and ably-turned new leaf.)

The cast is watertight, as well. Hill, as Diveroli, cooks: He’s a hoot, dripping with charismatic, sleazy bravado and frequently emitting a curious (but effective and trademark-ish) high-pitched laugh, like air escaping a balloon, or a baked-out-of-his-mind comic book villain. Teller, tasked with the straight-man burden, is wholly believable, casually-but-adeptly comedic, and elicits much more sympathy than one would expect, for a character who says “bro” as much as he’s asked to. Ana de Armas is solid, Kevin Pollack charming, Bradley Cooper properly unsettling in a minimalist but intriguing cameo.

“War Dogs” will remind you strongly of films you’ve seen before — but they’re very good films, and there’s a strong enough combination of familiar structural/tonal elements, confidence in its own story and style, and harrowing ugly-truth-telling to keep things entertaining and eye-opening all the way through.

The Hangover Part III

May 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis
Directed by: Todd Phillips (“The Hangover,” “The Hangover Part II”)
Written by: Todd Phillips (“Due Date”) and Craig Mazin (“The Hangover Part II”)

In a classic episode of “The Simpsons,” the hyper-violent cartoon show enjoyed by Bart and Lisa Simpson, “Itchy & Scratchy,” has begun to fall in the ratings. In an effort to salvage the show, network executives hold a focus group and, based on the answers they receive from viewers, decide what the show needs is a new character to shake things up. And thus Poochie the rockin’ dog with attitude is born. The viewers, however, immediately hate Poochie and the show deteriorates even further. Desperate to stop the bleeding, the executives hastily kill Poochie off, crudely animating his return to his home planet, a journey that ultimately claims his life.

If only the creative team behind the series of “Hangover” films had taken Poochie’s crucifixion to heart, we would have been spared what Ken Jeong’s insufferable Leslie Chow becomes in “The Hangover Part III.”

After the first film in the series went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time, sequels were inevitable. When “The Hangover Part II” proved to be little more than a carbon-copy of the original, it was a huge letdown, especially since director Todd Phillips had a blank check with which to push the boundaries of his trademark brand of destruction-filled comedy. Phillips apparently listened to detractors, seeing as how “Part III” is nearly a complete departure from the first two in the series. And not in a good way.

“Part III” opens in a Thai prison in the middle of a riot. As the warden cuts his way through the crowd, it becomes evident that the melee was meant to mask prisoner Leslie Chow’s escape. Meanwhile, eternal man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis) loses his father and devolves even further socially. In an effort to help Alan, his fellow members of the Wolfpack, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms), agree to escort him to a treatment facility in Arizona. Along the way, though, the group is hijacked by criminal kingpin Marshall (John Goodman) who needs the Wolfpack to track down the man who stole $21 million in gold from him: Leslie Chow.

To say “The Hangover Part III” isn’t funny is a true statement, but for the first hour it really isn’t trying to be. The scenes with Goodman and Mike Epp’s returning “Black Doug” are seemingly ripped from any number of generic action thrillers, with Goodman playing his part so straight you have to wonder if he even realized this was supposed to be a comedy. On the flip side, Jeong’s Chow, having already worn out his welcome all the way back in the second film, becomes the center of attention (seriously, he might have more lines than either Cooper or Helms) and the focus of nearly every joke, each one landing with a dull thud. If only his home planet needed him, we’d all be better off.

The Hangover Part II

May 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms
Directed by: Todd Phillips (“The Hangover”)
Written by: Craig Mazin (“Superhero Movie”), Scot Armstrong (“Semi-Pro”), Todd Phillips (“Due Date”)
 
Trying to top the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time probably would’ve been a difficult task for director Todd Phillips to accomplish no matter what angle he took with the anticipate sequel “The Hangover Part II,” but at least he could have done something with the least bit of imagination.
 
Instead, Phillips and screenwriters Craig Mazin (“Superhero Movie”) and Scot Armstrong (“Semi-Pro”) have taken the blueprint of the original “Hangover” from 2009, moved the story from Las Vegas to Thailand, and hoped no one in the audience would know it was the same exact movie just with fewer reason to laugh.

Back for a second round of full-frontal male nudity and man-child humor are Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), Stu (Ed Helms), and Doug (Justin Bartha), four best friends who take a little trip out of the country for Stu’s wedding. Stu’s fiancée Lauren (Jamie Chung) asks the boys to hang out with her little brother Teddy (Mason Lee) so he won’t feel left out.

Flash forward to the following morning and Phil, Alan, and Stu wake up in a seedy Bangkok motel. While Doug is safe and sound back at their hotel ready for the wedding, it’s Teddy who has gone missing. Searching for clues, which include a drug-dealing monkey, a severed finger, and Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) naked on the floor, the wolf pack must find Teddy before the city claims him as its own.

Lazily written and with more of a mean streak than the original, “The Hangover Part II” will indulge fans who are fine with the same jokes and set-ups of the first movie. It’s a shame Phillips and screenwriters didn’t take advantage of the free reign to outdo themselves and their first outing. But when a script is filled with punchlines you already know, there’s not much to look forward to except a few special moments with Galifianakis and his shaven head.

Due Date

November 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan
Directed by: Todd Phillips (“The Hangover”)
Written by: Alan R. Cohen (TV’s “King of the Hill”), Alan Freedland (TV’s “King of the Hill”), Adam Sztykiel (“Made of Honor”), Todd Phillips (“Old School”)

We’ll give overrated director Todd Phillips (“The Hangover,” “School for Scoundrels”) the benefit of the doubt and say his new comedy “Due Date” is a homage to 1987’s John Hughes classic “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and not just a raunchy rip-off. With that said, “Due Date” isn’t a lot of other things as well, primarily funny.

Yes, there are amusing moments in “Due Date.” It would be impossible to go through an entire feature film without laughing at something “Hangover” scene-stealer Zach Galifianakis does or without enjoying the darker comic situations conveyed through yet another of Robert Downey Jr.’s cynical characters.

But overall, the odd pairing of Downey Jr. and Galifianakis is far from enough. “Due Date” is nothing more than a barrel-full of cheap and obvious jokes that will hit with mainstream audiences who think the bearded one can do no wrong.

In “Due Date,” Peter Highman (Downey Jr.) is forced to travel cross country with aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) when the two are somehow put on the no-fly list after a ridiculous scenario at the airport with Homeland Security.

Although he is worried he won’t make it from Atlanta to L.A. to witness the birth of his first child, high-strung Peter takes his chances with Ethan, a slouchy guy with “90 friends on Facebook…12 of them are pending” and a dream to star on a sitcom as beloved as “Two and a Half Men.”

What follows is a dim-witted road trip fastened together by scenes of Galifianakis acting as quirky as he can without the slightest bit of common sense. This might work in a movie like “Dumb and Dumber,” but not in a comedy that wants to be both stupid and sincere all in the same breath.

Downey Jr. and Galifianakis have some chemistry that keeps “Due Date” from ending up a lost cause, but without a script that really drives the story forward all that’ s left are gags featuring masturbating mammals and a joke where Galifianakis’ character mistakes a sign that says “Mexico” with “Texaco.” Could the screenwriter really not get any clever than that?

The Hangover

June 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis
Directed by: Todd Phillips (“Old School”)
Written by: Jon Lucas (“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”) and Scott Moore (“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”)

If you were to make an educated guess on which director could get close to recreating the type of comedy Judd Apatow has become famous for over the last four years, Todd Phillips’ name would not be near the top of that list. With popular albeit pointless comedies like “Road Trip,” “Old School,” and “Starsky & Hutch,” it’s never been Phillips’ forte to reach for anything that resembles cleverness. (Crotch pancakes, yes, witty dialogue between two main characters, not so much).

Maybe that’s why for his newest film, “The Hangover,” Phillips takes a step back and relinquishes his screenwriting duties to a couple of young scribes who also have a history of unimpressive comedies (“Rebound,” “Four Christmases,” “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past). Why take two lumps when you only have to take one, right?

The funny thing is, for whatever reason, the Phillips-Lucas-Moore combination works oddly well when Phillips isn’t pretending he’s still working with Will Ferrell and actually buys into the idea that less is always more. It doesn’t always happen in “The Hangover,” but the mostly unknown leading men keep the raunchy comedy from going into Tom Green-mode. And while it’s considered a dark comedy, it never crosses the line into the abyss like 1998’s “Very Bad Things,” another Las Vegas-based bachelor party movie.

As unbalanced as “The Hangover” is, actors Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis manage to keep the story grounded most of the time even when they’re running amuck in Sin City trying to find the friend they lost the night of his bachelor party.

When soon-to-be-groom Doug Billings (Justin Bartha) is no where to be found the morning after a drunken night in Las Vegas, his best friends Phil (Cooper) and Stu (Helms) and his awkward, grizzly-like future brother-in-law Alan (Galifianakis) attempt to sort though the clues left throughout their trashed suite and locate Doug before his wedding in two days.

Evidence of their wild night, however, only leads them to more questions. Why does the valet driver think they are police officers? Why is Stu married to a stripper (Heather Graham)? How the hell does former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson know who they are? It’s all very mysterious in a sort of silly way until the third act when the whole misadventure slowly wears out.

Nevertheless, there’s still a shockingly hilarious pay off just when you think “The Hangover” can’t dig itself out of its dark-comedy hole. Add to that a strong dynamic between the three main leads and Phillips has suprisingly given us his best work to date.