I know, this post is way overdue. I'm going to try my best to hit the high points on what I've missed over the past couple of weeks, including a couple of movies that I saw. Things have just been crazy with wrapping up the semester, plus I got sick (and now I'm sick again thanks to trips to the lake, though I had a lot of fun). I'm going to try a slightly new format where I put bold headings in front of what I talk about to make my posts easier to navigate.
Harold and Kumar: Escape From Guantanamo Bay
Unlike most people, I was not introduced to John Cho by American Pie. Instead, a friend of mine was hyping up a little known movie that really hit it off at Sundance called Better Luck Tomorrow where he also played a jerk. I liked most of the actors in this movie (I was one of the few people who thoroughly enjoyed this movie) but I definitely felt like he was the best because he played this antagonist who you had to hate and feel sorry for at the same time so well. Then Harold and Kumar came out and comedy suited him really well. I think that's a testament to how versatile he is as an actor, and he shines just as well in the sequel. Don't get me wrong, I love Kal Penn, I just didn't see The Namesake so I'm not sure how he does in a serious role (he could've been better on "24", which I miss dearly, by the way).
Ok, enough of the drawn-out introduction, let me give you the premise in a sentence in case you haven't seen any of the trailers. It picks up at the very end of the first one (which I recommend seeing first for the funny subtle references to it, but it's not necessary), and so they're trying to get to Amsterdam to find Harold's crush while she's away there for 10 days but Kumar lights a bong on the airplane there. As you can imagine, stupidity ensues and they get thrown into Guantanamo Bay's military prison for being terrorists. As you can tell from that introduction, this is definitely a stoner movie. That being said, it's still a lot more fun than most, if not all, stoner movies out there. You don't have to be high to enjoy the humor or keep up with the story, you just have to have a really forgiving sense of humor (i.e. suspended disbelief). It features a little more gutter humor than the first movie and some improvements in the production quality due to a larger budget, but it still largely feels the same as the first in terms of humor, writing, acting, directing, etc.
To put it plainly: you will not like this movie at all if you didn't like the original. If you haven't seen the original, I think you should see it first just to get a feel for it before you do check out this one. If you don't catch it in theaters, it's really not a big deal because the same friend you borrow the original from will likely buy this one the day it gets released on DVD, and the big screen doesn't add anything incredible to the movie. If you love Sotuhpark, then I venture that you should also definitely see this one. I give this movie a B+ and personally rate it as the same as the original rather than better or worse. It's hard for me to rate a comedy movie as an A unless it's like Stranger Than Fiction or Little Miss Sunshine. This movie is hilarious and a fun ride, but it has its fair share of gross, racist, inappropriate, awkward, and sometimes offensive moments. It's by no means for everyone. If you can loosen up though and not get offended by its pokes at racism using racism or its subtle jabs at male chauvinism by a demonstration, then I think you'll have a good time. I'm personally going to be picking this one up when it comes out on DVD because every time I see the first it gets funnier, and I can easily see the same happening with this one.
This movie completely caught me off guard and just amazed me on all levels. Let me preface the rest of this review with a couple of things though. I was never a fan of Iron Man at all. I thought he was kind of cool, but other than Batman I didn't really get into superheroes without actual special abilities. I was also skeptical about this movie because the trailer was great but it could've easily been doctored to make a bad movie with great visuals look great, and I wasn't sure about Robert Downey, Jr. because I hadn't seen him in a movie in a while. Plus, director Jon Favreau was also responsible for Batman Forever and Daredevil (which wasn't bad but was underwhelming).
Hence, I think what impressed me most about this movie is the fact that it could pull in people who could care less about Tony Stark or Iron Man and keep them clamoring for more. The basic premise (which is revealed in the trailer) is that billionaire CEO of Stark Industries, Tony Stark, is captured by terrorists and when forced to build them one of his own weapons he creates an armored suit so that he can bust out, and returns home to improve it. Then the rest of the movie ensues. While the movie does start out kind of slow after the initial raid to capture Stark (since it goes back in time to give a little more back story on Stark from just before he gets captured), I thought it was completely necessary much like the plot development early in Batman Begins to really establish who Bruce Wayne is. Also like Batman Begins, the movie somehow knows how to give you the perfect dosage of action. It's not so much that you're bored by it (e.g. Matrix Reloaded) and it's not so little that you feel that you've been misled into watching a drama. Unlike Batman though, Tony Stark is really the main attraction since he is Iron Man rather than Bruce Wayne transforming into Batman. The CG is all very nice, but, more importantly, the acting is consistently spot-on. This seriously is the part that Robert Downing, Jr was born to play: an alcoholic, ostentatious playboy who is secretly very talented. In fact, this movie made more in 3 days than any one of his other movies have made in their entire run in theaters. Terrence Howard is great as always, Gwnyth Paltrow does a nice loyal assistant, and I don't want to spoil information about other characters but they all do well. The directing is almost flawless, the cinematography never lets you down, and the writing feels tight.
To cut to the chase here: there's no reason to not see this movie. It's impressive not only as a superhero movie but as an actual movie. It's probably the best movie to be in theaters in quite a while (likely the best until The Dark Knight comes out in July), and it deserves big screen treatment. So please, hold close to your heart my A rating of this movie and run out and see it. When you do see it, be sure to stay after the credits for something special. They're going to try and converge this movie, Thor, The Incre, and Captain America into a master sequel.
Oh, and you need to see the new Dark Knight trailer. It's pretty incredible. It rolls before Iron Man.
I'm disappointed that I was unable to talk about all the great tech news from the past couple of weeks, but I'm sick and need my rest. I'll do my best to post again on Thursday or Friday after my finals are all done. Until then, here are a couple of pictures from today: