I've seen two very good films in the past week: "The Hangover" and "Avatar." One is a gritty reality based film, and the other one is directed by James Cameron. "Avatar" costs over $300 million to make, but the majority of that is up there on the big screen, especially if you're wearing 3-D glasses while watching it. "Avatar" was an amazing and ground-breaking film visually. The special effects were seamless, and innovative. The storyline on the other hand was right out of some politically correct B-movie. We cannot really expect much more from the writer and director of "Titanic." Why is his ego so big that he refuses to hire a professional screenwriter? He is an amazing director of technical films, that show off the latest and greatest in CGI; but his stories are simplistic Manichean views of the world (universe.) Luckily, the eye candy onscreen distracts you from the fact that the story is the same-old same-old. All that being said, "Avatar" is a four-star movie for the visual effects alone. This is a film to see on the big screen, and preferably in 3-D. Think about the lame storyline later.
I kept intending to see "The Hangover" in the theater, and I easily could have, because it was at a theater mere blocks away for months. I bought it when it was released on DVD, believing the hype and reviews that it would live up to my expectations. It's another in a recent spate of successful R-rated comedies. This was in not connected to Judd Apatow, but it has that feel. It doesn't back away from edgy adult humor and succeeds hands-down. I was never a fan of the Farrelly Brothers films ("Dumb & Dumber," "There's Something About Mary,) because I thought they were both vulgar and juvenile. Fart jokes only go so far, unless you happen to be four-years-old. The Apatow related comedies of recent years are both funny and smart. And one other thing they have in common is a heart. Films like "Superbad" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" have their poignant moments, and that's because the writing makes you care about the characters.
"The Hangover" is -- on the surface -- your typical R-rated comedy aimed at college-age, beer-drinking males. (Four guys head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party.) Where is rises above that genre is in the inventiveness of its storytelling; and its straight-out laugh 'til-you-cry funny. Some of the funniest bits involve a baby, but it's not used as a gimmick for cute "Aw" moments from the audience. If anything it plays against that, even off-handedly referring to "Three Men and a Baby" at one point. Basically, guys wake up after a night of hard partying in Las Vegas and do not remember a thing. They must trace their steps from the night before and try find the groom of the party, because he's missing. Justin Bartha plays Doug Billings, the missing groom. He's kind of the Zeppo to the other funny Marx Brothers. Thankfully, he's off screen for the majority of the movie. Not only is the groom missing, but there is a chicken strutting about the room, and a baby in the closet.
"The Hangover" is definitely a disc to rent, if not own. And "Avatar" is without a doubt a film (like last summer's "Star Trek") to be enjoyed on the big screen.