The Hangover: Part II:
The trailer for the first movie was pretty crap, and I wasn't particularly looking forward to seeing it. However, the movie itself was damn good fun, and seeing as it made a shedload of cash a sequel was inevitable. Moving from the 'safe seediness' of Vegas to the 'serious seediness' of Bangkok, the tone is decidedly darker. Vegas is a bit of fun, but if you're lost in Thailand's capital too long it's a case of "Bangkok has you now", never to return. It's grubbier, sweatier and crazier - everything is dialed up to 11 and beyond. The gross stuff gets grosser, the panic gets more palpable, and the sleaze keeps on slithering around you.
Despite the darker tone once the movie gets going, there's plenty of fun to be had - although the movie sticks so closely to the formula, and indeed structure, of the original movie, that it can feel a bit too familiar. No doubt a third will be coming after this sequel blitzed the box office, and hopefully they'll explore new territory (e.g. at least showing us part of the chaotic evening, before segwaying into the chaotic morning after, and bring Justin Bartha's character along for the ride rather than leaving him curiously absent for the most part like in this sequel). So it's very familiar, it's more dangerous, not as good as the original (naturally), but if you dug the original you'll dig this ... and likewise, as has clearly been the case from some critics, if you hated the original, you'll hate this sequel with gusto. Meanwhile the rest of us will be enjoying ourselves.
I was quite looking forward to seeing this after Harrelson's turn in Zombieland, but in the end it's only an okay movie. Harrelson plays a simple man with some problems who masquerades by night as the eponymous hero seeking to bring down Captain Industry, whom he believes killed his mother when he was a child. The pace is a bit too slow, and it never really comes close to hitting a homerun. It's neither funny enough, nor dark enough, considering the subject matter ... although, it's still an interesting little flick, but not quite what I was expecting either unfortunately.
A movie about a runaway train full of explosive chemicals directed by Tony Scott - not much to it then, right? Well, sure it's straight forward stuff, but the pace is perfect and most importantly the drama and action is handled with total skill, making this runaway train movie genuinely gripping at all the right moments.
I'd heard so many good things about this 1980s throwback horror from Adam Green, but clearly those who dug it were seeing something I wasn't. Whipping out a couple of horror icons and relying on cliches as much as you deride them isn't enough to make a decent horror flick. The moments of gore are enjoyable genre fare, but that's only a fraction of the movie. While the main character's buddy Marcus is enjoyably witty throughout, there's little else to keep your attention (even with the brief running time). Bar a handful of decent moments, it was dull and predictable. It neither truly paid homage to the 1980s, or unleashed the self-aware schtick, and the use of Marilyn Manson on the soundtrack is trendy, but totally out-of-place. I really don't get why some apparently enjoyed this so much, but I have heard that the sequel was met with a derisory "meh" during it's brief theatrical stint.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence:
It's been a few years since I watched the first one, so this belated sequel was a little hard to get into when coming to it cold, however the impressive visual style afforded to a very Blade Runner-inspired world where the line between human, cyborg and robot is blurred beyond recognition involves you nonetheless. The cyberpunk stylings are taken to lush and impressive lengths, utilising a mixture of CGI and traditional animation, and while the plot becomes a touch convoluted later on, the noir-like murder investigation that provides the backbone to the plot keeps things together nicely. An efficient 90 minute running time also keeps the flick from descending into ponciness (unlike the latter two Matrix movies, a franchise that was inspired in-part by the original Ghost in the Shell). As an aside, I watched it with the English Dub, which tried to cram too much exposition-filled dialogue into spaces that were too short, and what's more the delivery was robotic and too fast. Quality cyberpunk sci-fi anime.