Aftershock (2013)

AftershockReleased: May 10, 2013. Directed by: Nicolás López. Starring: Eli Roth, Ariel Levy, Nicolás Martínez. Runtime: 89 min.

Aftershock is a Spanish-American film directed and co-written by Nicolás López, written with Guillermo Amoedo and Eli Roth. I’m curious to know which writers handled which aspect of the film. The movie is a disaster flick, a commentary on the ugliness of human nature, and it feels like an exploitation film at times. I’d imagine Roth handled that last aspect. Roth, also a star of the movie, gets a few laughs. Also featured are stars mostly known for foreign films. One, Nicolás Martínez, strikes me as a Chilean version of Zach Galifianakis. At least his last name is easier to say. Selena Gomez makes a short cameo as a random party girl. All the actors portray their characters well, at least well enough for a horror film.

The screenplay runs into problems early on that will bother some viewers; the problem is establishing character’s names. The character banter is actually funny (Martínez gives us the most laugh-out-loud moments), but for whatever reason not knowing the character’s names is a distraction to me. It’s sort-of like if I were to meet someone and I forgot their name mid-conversation, I wouldn’t be able to focus because I’d be so sidetracked trying to think of their name. Next time, the screenwriters should make it a habit of letting us know the characters’ names by their first or second scene, third at the latest. For those curious, not until 36 minutes in are all of the primary characters’ names established. Too often was I referring to characters as That Short-Haired Girl, Spanish Fat Alan, and Eli Roth. It turns out Roth’s character’s name is extremely generic, Gringo, a term used for English-speaking foreigners (mainly Americans) in Spanish-speaking countries.

Gringo is visiting his buddy Ariel (Ariel Levy) in Chile, taking in the sights. The two, and Ariel’s friend Pollo (Nicolás Martínez) go on the town to parties, where they meet a few pretty girls who are vacationing in Chile. It seems to me they’re all from Budapest or Hungary. One is named Monica (Andrea Osvárt) who is a controlling older half-sister of Kylie (Lorenza Izzo). Travelling with them is another pretty woman named Irina (Natasha Yarovenko). The characters are pretty okay, I like their chemistry and banter. On their second night of partying together, they’re in an underground night club when an earthquake strikes. When they reach the surface, it seems that the earthquake was only the beginning of their troubles. While trying to survive, they learn the horrors of human nature.

I like the flow of the plot. Technically speaking, it’s good – the cinematography is chaotic at times, but I think it’s used to highlight the chaos of the situation. The visual effects are cool and the sound editing is great. I think the score is well done, too. The cinematography captures some really nice Chilean landscapes. What I think is impressive about this film, is that even though the film’s not great at establishing character’s names, you care about a few of them and audience members feel some of the character’s pain. I think some parts are actually pretty sad. Other character developments aren’t the strongest; notably Roth’s Gringo, who never downplays the fact that he’s a Jew. Some of the things he says are funny at first, but it then it just becomes an irritating character trait. Enough about the characters, because there’s not much more to discuss here.

A layer of intensity is added when a group of convicts are able to escape from the local prison because of the earthquake. This keeps the story going and adds antagonists other than mother nature. The ugliness of human nature is analyzed by some character’s decisions, for example – when a random character doesn’t help a person, even though that said person helped her. That’s just a simple way to show how people can be crappy. The ways it shows how humans are ugly is only rarely so tame in Aftershock.

It seems to me, the reason why people might dislike this film is that there’s just a lot that it’s trying to juggle. It’s partly a disaster film, while expressing the ugliness of humans, as well showing each character’s will to survive. All with lots of gore. There are a lot of simplistic themes throughout, but I think they’re handled well. However, juggling all of these approaches to this kind-of filmmaking doesn’t allow it to boast full control and focus. This also takes the traditional horror route a bit too often. It seems that the viewer will have to decide whether this is a profound analysis of the ugliness of human nature or just another exploitation flick from Eli Roth’s extensive cannon. It feels like both to me, and both approaches are good.

Score63/100

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The Hangover Part III (2013)

The Hangover 3

Release Date: May 23, 2013

Director: Todd Phillips

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis

Runtime: 100 min

Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms star in an original tale of bad decisions and mayhem. The movie I’m talking about is 2009’s The Hangover. The first sequel has a severe case of sequelitis (exact same thing as the first). We now arrive at The Hangover Part III, a movie that suffers from a far more common and simple occurrence: bad movie syndrome.

The movie opens at the prison where Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) is now escaping, under the cover of a prison riot. He crawls in the sewer, but comes out clean on the other side. It then changes tone to follow the wolfpack. After the death of Alan’s father, the wolfpack take Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to a mental hospital to get his problems sorted out. On the way there, they are assaulted and Doug is kidnapped (again). They must find Leslie Chow and bring him to Marshall, Doug’s kidnapper, in order to save Doug.

This isn’t able to cut ties to the original or the first sequel. The plot afoot, where Marshall (John Goodman) kidnaps Doug (Justin Bartha), in consequence to what Chow did in the first. They go to Las Vegas, again. There’s a trade-off in the desert, again. The filmmakers don’t keep some of the best components: Stu singing a song, Mike Tyson, good comedy, and worst of all, a hangover. These guys are never drunk during the movie! Frankly, these sober guys aren’t so fun to watch. Todd Phillips is so terrified of making the same movie three times; he changes the overall tone. Viewers who are expecting to cry from laughter will be sorely disappointed. It has some funny scenes, because you might laugh at Alan being his idiotic self; but most of the content is so dark, it can’t be considered funny.

Doug (Justin Bartha) has always been a secondary presence, since this Princess Peach-esque character is kidnapped so much. Black Doug (Mike Epps), honorary wolfpack member, has always been the better Doug. He is a star of one of the only hilarious scenes in the entire movie. The other humour suddenly becomes tired because we’ve seen it in the trailers already. One joke that becomes exhausting is when Alan pretends to give someone a high five, but it’s a sike-out and he grooms his hair instead. It’s a little funny the first time; and since it’s not so funny the second time, it sure as hell won’t be funny the third freaking time. Stu (Ed Helms) is relied on to make gagging noises at disgusting parts. The only characters that have should-be funny dialogue are Alan (of course), Chow and Black Doug.

The problem is, both Alan and Chow become more and more irritating as the movie progresses. Alan is more moronic than ever, and Chow is more sociopathic than ever. The hilarious content is limited. The fact that thinking of a truly funny scene in a comedy movie, especially one of The Hangover franchise, is a huge issue. This one is memorable for all the wrong reasons. The first produces a laugh-a-minute, almost, but here you’ll be lucky to laugh every ten. This is truly the most bizarre out of the three; and the plotting is ludicrous, even if if there is an evident plot.

The humour is mean-spirited and, often enough, downright despicable. These sociopathic and passive-aggressive characters only seem to care about retrieving Doug. Alan, an overweight toddler with an awesome beard, has a bit of a heart because he begins to realize his actions have a very negative outcome, and he tries to fix it. Phil is still the calm and collected one, but he’s generally unfunny, here. This will be remembered as that one movie that broke Bradley Cooper’s hot streak.

Do you want to know some really despicable and enfuriating humour at play here? (I’ll tell you anyway.) In the trailer, Alan’s car goes under a low bridge, but the giraffe doesn’t. Todd Phillips shows the giraffe’s severed head crashing into a windshield. At a later moment, Phil says, “I think it’s kinda funny. It’s a giraffe, who the f*ck cares?” Of course this is all for shock, but Phillips is definitely receiving angry calls from PETA this weekend.

This has a few forgettable laughs, but its dark tone makes this memorable for the wrong reason. This really should be excellent, because the trailers make this look promising. Optimistic fans of the franchise will not find a bigger disappointment this summer season. If you are disappointed, don’t make the same mistake I did by walking out of the theatre right when the end credits start to roll. Apparently, there’s a hilarious scene part-way through the credits. This movie is like a cruel, sad little man with a cold, sociopathic heart. The filmmakers give making a good movie the old college try; but giving something ‘the old college try’ shouldn’t mean it will feel like it’s written by mentally disturbed college students.

25/100

The Campaign (2012)

The CampaignThe Campaign

Release Date: August 10, 2012

Director: Jay Roach

Stars: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis

Runtime: 85 min

Tagline: May the best loser win

After Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) accidentally dials the wrong number and leaves a sexual message on a stranger’s answering machine, his local likeability plummets. Two CEOs, Glenn (John Lithgow) and Wade (Dan Aykroyd) Motch, see this an opportunity to oust the long-term candidate and gain further influence on this North Carolina district. Brady, a man who usually runs unopposed, meets his biggest match yet: the extremely naive and all-too-kind Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis).

 
This is a decent political satire. It may be offensive to some – but it was usually very funny. However, the humour can get very obnoxious. The character of Cam Brady gets a little lame, as all he really cares about is sex and power. Granted, what else can you really expect from a Will Ferrell character? Usually, his characters are funny – but the writing just makes him come off as rude and, worst of all, usually unfunny. However, he does have his moments, and when those come, they’re pretty awesome – because we’re seeing Ferrell shine again. Brady’s campaign advisor, Mitch (Jason Sudeikis), is also rather unfunny. The only really funny characters are Marty Huggins, sometimes Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) and Mrs. Yao (Karen Maruyama), Raymond Huggins’ Asian maid who gets paid extra to talk in a 1960’s black maid voice.

 
While only half the characters are usually funny, the plot isn’t all that amazing. It’s decent, but the political battles are pretty boring. Also, Marty’s change of attitude starts to get irritating after a while – since his life and his family life gets enveloped by the campaign. He doesn’t have much time for his family any more, and he starts to act a bit like the obnoxious Brady. That’s isn’t good, as I have not subtly expressed my dislike of Brady. He is most likeable when he’s enjoying life with his family. Especially near the beginning, one of the funniest scenes is the Huggins’ dinner table confessions. After that, it resorts to a few lame jokes like punching a baby in the face. That scene may have been more effective if they hadn’t shown it in the trailer, because it would have added to the comedy shock factor. It got to a point of tastelessness because it was done in a slow-motion, boxing fashion. However, when a dog gets punched by Brady – that’s hilarious. Does that mean I’m a dog hater? No, that punch was simply done much better because it wasn’t as overdone.

 
The idea of two great comedians – Will Ferrell (who has brought us classic characters like Ricky Bobby and Ron Burgundy) and Zach Galifianakis (more commonly known as Alan from The Hangover because his last name is just so bothersome to spell) – working together on a rude comedy like this is so much better than the end product. And (partly) because of this, the film is not satisfying enough. The Campaign turns out to be a usually funny, but sometimes boring and lame, political satire. There are some scenes that make it worth the watch, but mostly, it’s nothing to recommend wholeheartedly. Regardless of all that, you all better vote Marty Huggins so Chinese factories can be kept out of North Carolina!

60/100