Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Hangover Part II & Bridesmaids

The Hangover Part II




















In the last several years Hollywood has run out of ideas so instead of making new movies, they just recycle old ones. Usually, it takes a decade or two before a movie is remade. In this case, it took just two years.

The Hangover Part II is essentially a shot for shot remake of the first film. But instead of being in Vegas, we get Thailand.

The first twenty minutes is a reunion of sort: all the guys come back together for another shindig. They catch up, rag on each other, and react to Alan’s bizarre behavior and antics. Nothing big happens, but the beginning is charming and funny.

And that’s when the sequel kicks into cliché gear. You can almost picture a cheesy narrator announcing: “Here we go again!”

The boys get lost in Thailand, this time with a few new characters. Ken Jeong plays a bigger part as Mr. Chow, and the new lost guy is Teddy, the young brother-in-law.

The boys retrace their steps once again, and discover all the havoc they created the night before. They cause a riot, hang out with a monkey, and meet some chicks with dicks. This time around the scenes are even more absurd, but not nearly as funny.

There are lots of laughs, but without the clever writing and mystery, the Hangover 2 loses its charm. The original movie was so successful because even without the comedy, it was still a well-made who-done-it. Even my Mom liked the first one because she wanted to know what happened (that and she thinks Bradley Cooper is hot.)

But in the sequel (or the remake), we basically know what’s going to happen before every scene. As a result, it’s just another raunchy comedy with hit and miss laughs.

Fortunately, the Hangover II still boasts three great characters that make the movie watchable. Alan’s antics get a little old by the end, but he does provide a number of laughs. Phil is the straight man, and Stu mixes things up with his nice guy routine. My favorite bit may have been Stu’s rendition of Allentown by Billy Joel (one of two Billy Joel songs featured in the film, the other being “The Downeaster Alexa.”)

The last 30 minutes or so felt a lot like a hangover. My senses were dulled, my head hurt a little, and I kind of wished it would stop. The scenes with Paul Giamatti were useless and the twists were incredibly predictable or just plain absurd.

The traditional slideshow ended the movie on a fun note, but this hangover was not nearly enjoyable as the first. I guess Hangover’s are never as fun the second time around. (Review of The Hangover.)

Bridesmaids




















Waiting in line for Bridesmaids was one of those really uncomfortable experiences. For some reason, they made us wait outside on the street for all to see me. And I couldn’t pretend I was seeing something else…the signs made it very clear that it was a line for Bridesmaids. I tilted my head down and pretended to look for something on the ground to blind my face. Sure, there were a few other guys, but they were either overly enthusiastic to be there or dragged along by their girlfriends. It felt like Sex and the City 3 more than anything else. I just wanted to get in there and watch it already.

But maybe I stumbled onto something brilliant: picking up girls at the movies. I’ve never tried it and still haven’t. But there must be a group of creepy and desperate guys who scout out chick flicks just to meet women. I wonder if it works.

Before I delve into the movie, I need to preface it with this: I am a misogynist when it comes to comedy. My top 10 favorite comedians are all men. My top 10 comedy movies feature male main characters. I don’t get Rosie, Ellen, and Chelsea. The Sweetest Thing certainly was not the funniest thing. Bride Wars and Monster-in-Law—no thank you. Even Sarah Silverman doesn’t do it for me. I know this isn’t getting me any points with the ladies. I can picture mobs of women banding together to burn me at the stake. I’m sorry, but that’s just how I feel.

So when I saw a trailer for Bridesmaids, I immediately cringed. Watching women catfight at a bachelorette party and fart from eating too much just wasn’t my idea of funny. I secretly hoped the film would tank so the attempted female comedies would just stop already.

But then something happened. Everyone I spoke to raved about Bridesmaids. Sure, it was mostly from women, but they were so happy. One friend enjoyed it so much, she felt drunk afterwards (the good kind of drunk.) She couldn’t stop smiling. A pair of random girls next to me at lunch (whom I eavesdropped on) grinned ear to ear as they described their favorite scenes.

And I cannot hide the fact that I’ve actually been a bridesmaid. No, I didn’t wear a dress (couldn’t lose enough weight), but I was on the emails about the bachelorette party. I gained new insight into how women think and how they plan parties. I even considered attending the bachelorette party, but at the last minute, I joined the guys instead. The guys made fun of me, but I was proud to be a bridesmaid. It was fun!

So I finally hiked up my skirt and decided to go see the movie.

Bridesmaids is smart and the writers took their time crafting a fairly good comedy. The first scene gets the audience into it right away. You can never go wrong, chick flick or not, with sex in the first few minutes. And it’s fun to see a woman’s perspective of how men are in bed. Apparently, we’re not as good as we think we are.

Kriten Wiig plays Annie, the nice girl lovable loser. To understand better, she’s basically Ben Stiller from Meet the Parents or There’s Something About Mary, but she’s a lady. Everyone craps on her even though she’s a cool girl.

Her life is down in the dumps but things get worse when she’s asked to be Lillian’s maid of honor. She’s in charge of all the bachelorette duties and has to put up with an eclectic mix of weirdo chicks.

The movie works for the most part because the characters are either relatable or funny. It helps that there’s a nice balance between the straight characters and wacky ones. So when the craziness erupts, we’re on the side of Annie, and the comedy doesn’t seem so forced.

There are a few “big” scenes. Some work, some don’t. But give Kristen Wiig credit. She puts in every ounce of energy to try and make them successful. My favorite scene takes place on an airplane. It’s reminiscent of the classic Seinfeld episode where Jerry sits first class and Elaine is in coach, and it’s just as funny. And the heavyset girl, played by Melissa McCarthy, steals a number of scenes too.

Bridesmaids lost me at some points, maybe because I was a guy. As some women shrieked in the audience in laughter, I simply smiled or just shrugged deeming them as cute scenes. The catfighting got a little tiresome, and I was thankful when the main character finally put an end to it.

Bridesmaids was not the life changing experience that some of my female friends described, but it was a decent movie. And I understood their excitement. Finally, there was a comedy featuring women that was both sincere and kind of funny.

So guys, if your girlfriend drags you along to this chick flick, it’s not a bad deal. You’ll laugh a bit, and learn a little something about women at the same time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Pump, Koosh Balls, and Other Random Stuff from the 1990's

Last week my friend revealed a childhood story that had been haunting her for years. Twenty years before, she had been dissed and dismissed by her fellow classmates for not wearing the right clothes. Champion sweatshirts were in, and she didn’t have any.

So she begged her mom over and over again, but still nothing. She pointed out that Sally from down the block had 5 of these sweatshirts. Why couldn’t she have one?

So on Christmas day, a package awaited her from under the tree. She frantically opened it up, eyes wide, and smile bright. When she unraveled the gift, it wasn’t a champion sweatshirt at all. It was a pair of champion socks.

She feigned excitement but wore her socks proudly often pointing out the champion symbol to her friends as a means of acceptance. But it didn’t really work. To this day, she still remembers pining for that sweatshirt.

I had a similar story revolving around a special pair of sneakers: The Pump. This lead to a discussion about the forgotten decade: the 1990’s.  These are the clothes, toys, and random items that I remember:  

Koosh Balls















These light and fluffy creations were fun to throw around, and just plain snuggle with. Despite their exceptional kooshiness, they somehow just vanished.

Diablo Juggling




















At summer camp, there was always one kid who could perform amazing tricks with this thing. We’d watch him in awe, and then deal with our jealousy by making fun of him. After 1999, I never saw diablo juggling or that kid ever again. 

Scrunchies















Girls will have more to say about this, but the 1990’s were all about the scrunchie. They tied up your hair and you could also fling them at people. Apparently, most women wouldn’t be caught wearing one today, but I still think they’re cool.


Snap Bracelets





















These things were brilliant. In one moment they looked like simple bookmarks, but when slapped on a wrist, BAM, they were bracelets. Hours of fun could be had snapping bracelets onto each other. Now, they’re nowhere to be found.

Champion Sweatshirts

Like my friend’s story, these shirts were the craze in the 90’s. Their bold colors and comfiness were bound to gain you popularity amongst all of your high school classmates, even the bitchy judgmental ones. The coolest people wore them a few sizes too large to they could be extra baggy and thus cool.

The Pump

















I begged my parents for the pump, but never got it. I settled for pumping up other kid’s shoes. We all cheered in unison when the air was released from the pump. It was a life changing experience. Even the deaf kid at my school with no friends was suddenly super popular when he showed up wearing a brand new pair of pumps.  He would point to his shoes, and although he had trouble speaking, there were two words he could clearly utter: “The pump!”

Umbros

These soccer shorts tore through my camp and school in the early 90’s. The key was to wear them properly, with your boxers creeping out underneath. I remember the day when I combined my Simpsons boxers with some hand me down Umbros from my brother. I felt like a King. Sure, the shorts were short, rode up, and often revealed too much, but it was worth it.

Coed Naked T-Shirts/ Big Johnson T-Shirts

I was shocked when I described these shirts to some under 30 youngens, and they never heard of them. Co-ed naked shirts combined sports with sexual innuendos; it was brilliant. Some examples:

Coed Naked Tennis: “It’s in. It’s out. It’s over.”

Coed Naked Lacrosse: “Rough, tuff, and in the buff!”



And one cannot forget about Big Johnson T-shirts. My friends and I often bought these inexplicably dirty shirts at crappy beach shops during camp. We’d wear them once only to be told never to wear them again because they were inappropriate. But we thought they were classy!

Slogans included:


Big Johnson Bar & Casino: “Liquor up front, poker in the rear.”

Big Johnson Motorcycles: “You’ll never have to ride a hog when you have a Big Johnson.”

Big Johnson Quarters Tournament: “Hit the rim and slip it in.”











Hypercolor T-Shirts














Tell me this: who wouldn’t want a t-shirt that changed colors when you touched it? I am flabbergasted (and I rarely use this word) that these shirts ever went out of style…they were the coolest. And it always gave girls a reason to touch you. I really need these shirts to make a comeback. 

Z-Cavariccis 





















These insanely overpriced pants were boss in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They rode up, had a tight waist, were pleated, and had AC Slater written all over them.

Girbaud

These pants gained you immediate popularity especially when you showed the label near the zipper. My friend Randy outgrew his pair of Girbauds and gave them to me. I’ll never forget the first day I wore them. Kids spoke to me that I had never heard from before.  Girls smiled. It was a wonderful time. But eventually, I outgrew them too, and couldn’t afford to buy another pair.  

Skidz


I wore my Skidz proudly in the early 90’s. My pair was green and yellow, and plain hideous. But they felt like pajamas so that made it okay.









Game Hats


















There was nothing fancy about these ball caps, but they used to be hot. These hats were usually found on the heads of cool high school kids and douche bag fraternity guys. The brim was arched and pushed down just enough so you couldn’t see while wearing the hat.

The school logo or mascot name appeared on the front in capital letters. And underneath in small letters was the entire school name. The most risqué version was the University of South Carolina because on top it read in bold letters the team mascot, COCKS.  


Casio Digital Watch




















The Casio digital watch was like the iphone of the early 1990’s except it couldn’t make phone calls, go on the internet, have apps, etc. But it did have a mean stopwatch, told the time, was waterproof, and some even had a calculator. Pretty sick!

TI-82 Calculators






















In the early 1990’s, I was in middle school and these things ruled our world. They were supposed to be used to graph in math class, but the genius kids learned how to program games, and even used them to cheat on tests (not that I ever did that.) It looked like we were studying a lot, but really we were just playing lots of homemade video games like Snake. The kids nowadays have better technology to play with, but twenty years ago, they were a way of life.  

Sunday, May 1, 2011

NBA Playoffs 2011



Even after my roommate showed it to me, I still didn’t believe him. There was no way. It couldn’t be. But there it was right in front of me.

It was Lebron James’ mom’s phone number; then a text from her; then a pic of the two of them. Somehow, my roommate had turned into Delonte West overnight. He assured me it was harmless. He had a random, late night drunken dinner in Atlantic City with Mrs. James and her buddy. And since then they simply traded a few friendly texts.

















It happened about a month before Lebron made his grand “decision.” I wonder if my roommate, a native New Yorker had any impact on Lebron’s choice. Maybe he didn’t want to play in a city where random guys texted his mom. 

My roommate hasn’t heard from Mrs. James in a while. She’s been busy and so has her son. After dispatching the Sixers in 5 effortless games, the Heat now host the Celtics in the 2nd round of the playoffs: the new big 3 versus the old big 3; the king, flash, and bosh versus KG, the truth, and Jesus. Lebron’s Mom versus Ray Allen’s Mom. Let’s get it on! 

NBA Predictions:

Miami versus Boston














This is going to be an epic series. The Heat have youth, athleticism, and lots of egos. The Celtics have experience, teamwork, and creaky bones. Some say the series will come down to Shaq’s health, but the real wildcard will be the bench. The Celtics are missing that energy/swagger guys from years past: the Leon Powe’s, Nate Robinson’s, Tony Allen’s (who has been amazing for Memphis), Rasheed Wallace’s, Kendrick Perkins’. You really think Jeff Green is going to finally wake up? I sure don’t.

Miami in 7

Chicago versus Atlanta

I met Jamal Crawford last year. He shook my hand and was extremely friendly. But on the court, he is all business. He is a scoring machine, and is one of those players that has no conscious. He truly thinks every one of his shots is going in; a great guy to have in the playoffs.
















Unfortunately for him, they’re up against Chicago and Derrick Rose. Rose might not be able to take his SATs, but on the court he is unstoppable. I’m on the bandwagon for him to win MVP. He has the best crossover since Iverson, also includes his teammates, and has even found his range from three point land. Chicago has great athletes, and is also a team. Coach Thibodeau has preached defense, and they've responded. They also have bought into the concept of team; everyone knows their role and they do it no questions asked. 

The only question for Chicago is lack of experience, and a few lingering injuries. But those flaws won’t bother them for this series. Plus, they have Brian Scalabrine. Enough said.  














Chicago in 6

Los Angeles versus Dallas

I lived in LA for five years, and besides the traffic, the worst part was seeing those damn Lakers flags attached to cars in May and June. LA has some of the worst fans in the world, and seeing them suddenly pumped for another championship run makes me feel ill.












But it’s not a surprise when they have the best basketball player in the world. Kobe is old, brash, stubborn, and let’s face it, an asshole. But he refuses to lose. The last playoff series he lost was to the Celtics in 2008. Since then he has been absolutely dominant. He has molded his game each year so he can play through injuries and fatigue. It helps that he has 3 seven foot beasts (Gasol, Bynum, Odom), and a coach who intimidates most other coaches.

Some people like Dallas because Kobe’s a little banged up. But in the end, do you ever really want to bet against Kobe?   I don’t think so.  

LA in 6

Oklahoma City versus Memphis














Alex Trebek: And the category is cities. Oklahoma city, Memphis.

What are two cities I will probably never visit?

Alex Trebek: No. Sorry. We we’re looking for: What is the Western Conference Semi Finals?

While I love Oklahoma City, especially with the addition of Kendrick Perkins, the real story is the Memphis Grizzlies. These guys are a collection of castoffs and scrappers that nobody wanted.  They’re just the fourth 8th seed to ever upend a number one. How did they do it: defense, hustle and heart. They locked down the Spurs on nearly every possession: diving into the stands, hitting the floor, taking charges, boxing out. They looked like a high school or college team that came together, not for money, but for the love of the game. I wish the Celtics had a few of these guys (see Tony Allen.)

Memphis doesn’t quite have the manpower to shut down Durant and Westbrook, but they’re going to try every trick in the book. It’s always dangerous when the underdog knows they have nothing to lose and are willing to try anything. But Durant has come too far and is too competitive to lose this one.

Oklahoma City in 7

For you gamblers out there:

In the last 28 years, only 7 franchises have won the NBA title: Boston, LA, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, San Antonio, Miami. Compare that to the MLB (19), NFL (14), and NHL (14) and suddenly the NBA doesn’t seem to have much parity.

If you happen to be in Vegas or Atlantic City, you may want to put some money on LA, Boston, Chicago or Miami. And while you’re there, look out for Lebron’s mom. Maybe she’ll buy you dinner one night too.