Film Review: War Dogs

War Dogs

Todd Phillips’ War Dogs is a funny and engaging crime comedy-drama. The film entertains throughout its madcap tale.

David Packouz is at a standstill career-wise, when is school friend Efraim Diveroli arrives back into town. Efraim is making a great success of bidding on US military contracts, and invites David to join him. With their business expanding, the pair try to enter the big leagues of arms dealing…

Based on a Rolling Stone article, War Dogs is the true story of two high-school friends who became arms dealers during the Afghanistan war. Certainly some of the incidents in the film may appear far-fetched, but they are based in reality. The film is certainly a case of the truth being stranger than fiction.

The film is told from the point of view of David, a somewhat naive young man who shows insight later. It is easy to see why David is beguiled by his old friend Efraim; the latter appears to have a vociferous appetite for living. Nevertheless, at times David seems a bit too gullible in believing his friend’s excuses or reasoning. Overall, the pair have good chemistry, and are tremendous fun to watch.

The reason that War Dogs works so well is because of the tone that permeates the film. The tale gives an insight into arms dealing and the US military that few will know about. Phillips gives a clear opinion on what he thinks of this. Yet the film is funny and informative without being preachy or flippant. Similarly, there are shades of grey with the protagonists. Phillips does not completely condemn or absolve them, making for a more engaging film.

Miles Teller is decent as David. It is Jonah Hill who steals the show, however, as Efraim. It is one of the actor’s strongest roles to date – he is a lot of fun to watch. Bradley Cooper also amuses in a small role. The soundtrack to the film works well, much like in Phillips’ The Hangover.

Phillips perfectly blends entertainment with education in War Dogs. A great watch.

Previews: War Dogs Trailer, Finding Dory and more!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the War Dogs trailer, Star Trek Beyond, Finding Dory and more…

War Dogs Trailer

Here is the War Dogs trailer. The Hangover director Todd Phillips helms this action comedy. Jonah Hill and Miles Teller star as two unlikely arms traders who travel to Afghanistan. Based on a true story, the film also stars Bradley Cooper. War Dogs reaches UK screens on 26th August 2016.

Star Trek Beyond Featurette

Rihanna talks about her love for Star Trek and her new song for the upcoming Star Trek Beyond. Justin Lin takes over directing duty from J.J. Abrams for this latest instalment of the franchise, which sees the crew of the USS Enterprise encountering a new threat. Star Trek Beyond will hit UK screens on 22nd July 2016.

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson Trailer

It is a bit strange to see the movie version of an event that many will remember took place less than a decade ago. Tom Hanks stars as the pilot who saved his passengers by landing the plane on the Hudson River. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film also stars Laura Linney and Aaron Eckhart. Sully: Miracle on the Hudson is released in cinemas on 2nd December 2016.

Finding Dory Clip

Baby Dory is just adorable. Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory shifts the attention to Marlin’s friend Dory. Along with her friends, Dory searches for answers about her past in this latest film. Finding Dory will hit UK screens on 29th July 2016.

Nerve TV Spot

From the directors of Catfish and Paranormal Activity 3, comes Nerve. Starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, the film is about a high school student who joins a popular online game. Nerve will be released in UK cinemas on 11th August 2016.

Morgan Trailer

Morgan is a science-fiction thriller produced by Ridley Scott. The film stars Kate Mara as a corporate troubleshooter is set to a remote environment to investigate an accident. Also starring Toby Jones and Paul Giamatti, Morgan is set for release in September 2016.

Film Review: The Hangover Part III

The Hangover Part III

The Hangover Part III fails to recapture the humour of the franchise’s first film, but entertains sufficiently.

After Alan comes off his medication, his family stage an intervention. The wolfpack agree to drive Alan to a treatment facility. Once on the road, however, things don’t go according to plan…

The Hangover Part III is an improvement on the second film in that it at least modifies the narrative. The basic formula is still apparent, but Part III does not adhere to the flashback format of the previous two films.

This is not to say that The Hangover Part III feels particularly fresh however. Much of the humour relies upon familiarity with the characters from the franchise. The film does not feel particularly raucous; a hallmark of the previous two adventures. This is in spite of some expensive set pieces, which are not as amusing as perhaps director and co-writer Todd Phillips intended.

The film loses its momentum in the final third. This is coincides with a shift in mood. There is a little more emphasis on a more serious aspect in this final episode. Alan, the standout character from the first film, is on both a physical and metaphorical journey. Phillips must hope by this time that the audience really care about the characters. Some avid fans no doubt will, while others will find the more emotional scenes a bit dull.

There are plenty of moments to cause titters, but few real laugh out loud moments. That is the real crux; viewers will want The Hangover Part III to be funnier than it actually is. The cast reprise their roles adequately, although Bradley Cooper’s Phil is often played as frustrated and over the situation. Perhaps not much acting was required for this.

Fans of the franchise will go and see the film and laugh, but perhaps not as often as they would like. Those not overly enamoured with the wolfpack will give The Hangover Part III a wide berth.

Stuff To Look At

All manner of upcoming film-related items to occupy you for at least a few minutes…

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby has some mighty fine artwork. Art Deco reigns supreme in these new character posters. You can view the latest trailer for the film here. The Great Gatsby is out in UK cinemas on 16th May 2013.

The Hangover Part III

This new trailer for The Hangover Part III gives a good idea of the plot of the film. All the regular faces return for this final instalment, directed by Todd Phillips. The Hangover Part III is released in UK cinemas on 23rd May 2013.

21 and Over

21 and Over is a rites of passage comedy from the writers of The Hangover. Jeff Chang’s two best friends come to town to celebrate his 21st birthday, but he has an important interview the next morning. Starring Project X‘s Miles Teller, the trailer lets viewers know exactly what to expect. 21 and Over is out in UK cinemas on 3rd May 2013.

The Iceman

With a stellar cast that includes Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder and Ray Liotta, The Iceman is based on the story of real-life hitman Richard Kuklinski. The critically acclaimed film is due for release in the UK on 7th June 2013.

The Conjuring

Well this looks suitably terrifying. Here is the main trailer for horror movie The Conjuring. Starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, the film hits UK screens on 19th July 2013.

Film Review: Project X

It has often been said that women get a raw deal in movies. The same can be said of teenage boys. Project X does nothing to rectify this, although the film does amuse in places.

On his seventeenth birthday, high school student Thomas is encouraged by his friends Costa and JB to throw a party. The trio are not the most popular students at school, and Costa thinks a big party will put them on the map. Thomas and his friends are filmed by a fellow colleague as the party gets started…

With barely a semblance of a plot, Nima Nourizadeh’s Project X is all about crass humour and bad behaviour. From the outset, this will turn off numerous viewers. Project X is likely to appeal to and satisfy a particular demographic. The 18 certificate may hinder the film’s chances of box office success as many viewers likely to be attracted by it will be under this age. Filmmakers may have been wiser to make a few cuts in order to get the 15 rating.

Project X is funny, but this humour tends to be rather base and crass. The film will often go for cheap jokes instead of relying on more intelligent writing. The humour works for the type of film that it is, although not sufficiently to sustain the entire production. Certain slurs and language is used over and over again. This is more offensive for the fact that it is a dull steroetype rather than for the actual terms used.

The film is noticeably misogynistic in its depiction of characters. Women are little more than eye candy, and are treated accordingly by the film’s main protagonists. The three main characters do not come off well because of this, and it is a rather unoriginal depiction of teenage boys.

Many teen films will feature parties that will either make viewers envious, or nostalgic for their youth. Project X bucks the trend by offering a party that is most undesirable. There is a conscious display of sweating, dilated pupils and mess; a far cry from more glamorous images of the American high school party. Perhaps this was the aim of Nourizadeh and producer Todd Phillips.

The film does boast a great soundtrack however. Some of the sequences function like a music video with the use of montage. Performances are also fine, with Oliver Cooper excelling as the stereotypical antagonistic pal Costa. If crass humour and debauched teens is your thing, than Project X is the film for you.

Trailer Round-Up

There are four trailers from the past week that are worth a look. A little bit of horror, LA crime drama, teen shenanigans and East End violence seem to be the shape of things to come.

The Cabin in the Woods

 I have seen The Cabin in the Woods, but I am sworn to secrecy. The film was co-written and produced by Joss Whedon. Go and see it when it comes out on 13th April 2012.

 Rampart

There is not enough noir in modern cinema. Rampart, released Friday 24th February, appears to go some way to rectifying this. Featuring a screenplay by L.A. Confidential‘s James Ellroy, Rampart focuses on a veteran cop in the LAPD. The film features an all-star cast including Woody Harrelson, Sigourney Weaver and Steve Buscemi.

 Project X

Project X seems to be a teen party movie with a twist. The film is about a seventeenth birthday party which high school students shoot with their digital cameras. Project X is produced by The Hangover‘s Todd Phillips and The Matrix‘s Joel Silver. The film is released in cinemas on 2nd March 2012.

 Pusher

Pusher is a remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s film of the same name. This version is set in East London and stars Agyness Deyn, Ruchard Coyle and Bronson Webb. The remake has the approval of Winding Refn, who acts as executive producer of the project. Pusher is due for release this year.

Project X Trailer

From producer Todd Phillips, of The Hangover fame, Project X is due for release in March 2012. The film is about a high school party that gets out of control. Judging by the above teaser trailer, it seems as if the film works from the perspective of as if we had seen the infamous night in Phillips’ The Hangover. Except with teenagers. The teaser does not give away too much, it will be interesting to see the exact angle Project X takes.

Film Review: The Hangover Part II

After the enormous and unexpected success of The Hangover, it seemed inevitable that there would be a sequel. Although some sequels rival the original in terms of quality, sadly this is not the case with The Hangover Part II.

Stu, Phil, Alan and Doug travel to Thailand for Stu’s upcoming wedding to Lauren. Stu is not keen on having a bachelor’s party, but the guys convince him to have one drink on the beach. When Stu, Phil and Alan wake up the next morning they cannot remember a thing. Moreover, Lauren’s little brother Teddy is missing…

The Hangover Part II follows the exact same formula as its predecessor. It is practically identical, except for the fact that it is set in Thailand for most of the duration. As such, the film offers no surprises; it is incredibly lazy story telling. It lacks the fresh ideas that made the original film so entertaining.

The only aspect of innovation to be found is the pushing of boundaries. Those who thought the first film was debauched will be even less impressed with this effort. In attempting to go one bigger, director and co-writer Todd Phillips includes material that may be offensive to some.

There are some good humorous moments, but these are not enough to sustain the entire film. In re-treading the same steps as The Hangover, Part II makes the aspects that were funny in the 2009 film appear tired and unoriginal. Moreover, elements that worked well in the first film have been pushed too far in this sequel. Alan was a genuinely funny character; an oddball who stole a lot of the scenes in the 2009 film. In realising the character was a hit, Phillips, Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong have amplified the character’s more unusual traits. Rather than making Alan more comedic, this has the opposite effect; his childlikeness grows annoying quickly.

Performances in The Hangover Part II are fine. Ed Helms is energetic as Stu; at times the actor seems desperate to make scenes funnier than they actually are. Bradley Cooper is again attractive but of dubious morals as Phil. Zach Galifianakis is a good comedy actor, but is hampered by the writing. Similar to the 2009 film, Justin Bartha has a small role as Doug. It seems a shame to sideline this character; perhaps his inclusion in Bangkok would have added a new and interesting dimension to the fold. Ken Jeong’s over-the-top Mr Chow is hit and miss.

The Hangover Part II will probably be a success because fans of the first film will flock to see it. Many will surely be disappointed however, as the film is more Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 than The Godfather: Part II.

Film Review: Due Date

Due Date has been heavily advertised as ‘from the director of The Hangover’, hoping to capitalise on the success of Todd Phillips 2009 film. Sadly, Due Date does not rise to the same plane as Phillips’ earlier film, although it desperately tries to.

After he is put on a no-fly list, Peter Highman is forced to hitch a ride with Ethan Tremblay, the guy responsible for his troubles, in order to get back to Los Angeles in time for the birth of his first child. Although the pair have days to get there, it is a tumultuous journey…

Due Date borrows heavily from the 1987 film Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Due Date takes the premise of John Hughes’ film (two mis-matched companions having to make a long journey in order to make it home for an event) and tweaks only minor elements. Anyone who has seen the 1987 film will recognise the similarities from the very off.

Originality aside, the crucial mistake made by the film is to try and inject too many emotional or more serious moments. The humour in Due Date is sometimes crude but ultimately funny. Yet the filmmakers decided to feature more poignant scenes that just do not gel with this type of comedy. The result is a film that is amusing for the most part, but one that is interrupted by a story that thinks it is necessary to give an emotional layer to its characters. The combination of drama and comedy can work together incredibly well, but Due Date‘s reluctance to play down the emotion may irritate some viewers.

Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis have great chemistry, and are well cast as the odd couple. Downey Jr. does highly strung very well, which is in complete contrast to Galifianakis’ relaxed but annoying Ethan. Juliette Lewis is fun as ever in a minor role.

Phillips direction is good, keeping an appropriate pace and capturing some amusing visual gags, a number of which feature Ethan’s dog. Influence from The Hangover is clear in the soundtrack and the pop culture references.

Due Date is entertaining enough, but its flaws are inescapable. Hopefully the sequel to The Hangover will see a return to form for Phillips.