' The Hangover Part III'
2 1/2 stars = Average
In a world where franchises refuse to let go until every last ounce of humor or action or excitement or merchandising has been wrung out, "The Hangover" is mercifully stopping at three.
This time, the focus is on Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who has gone off his meds and his rocker. Still a stay-at-home son at 42, he's bought a giraffe, which meets an unfortunate end on the freeway and triggers a massive pileup and, then, the fatal collapse of Alan's father.
After the funeral, Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) participate in an intervention and start to escort Alan to a facility in Arizona to get him help, but they end up entangled with characters and criminals from their past, notably the wily mayhem magnet Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong).
Turns out he stole millions in gold from the wrong guy, Marshall (John Goodman), who takes Doug captive and threatens to kill him unless the other three find Mr. Chow, for starters.
And the men are off to Tijuana and beyond, reconnecting with other familiar faces and introducing a potential love interest for Alan and bringing the curtain down on director Todd Phillips' trilogy.
Everyone does a little ad-libbing now and then, but Mr. Galifianakis comes out with the wackiest things that seem to take his co-stars by surprise.
If it's rare that a sequel is better than the original, it's even less common for the third movie in a trilogy to rise above its predecessors. "Part III" does not do that; it's the least funny of the three although it brings the boys full circle, complete with another heckuva hangover.
Extras include outtakes, extended scenes, "Inside Focus: The Real Chow" and three making-of featurettes.
Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, some violence and drug content, and brief graphic nudity.
' After Earth'
2 stars = Mediocre
The new Jaden and Will Smith movie takes us to the ends of Earth to share a simple lesson: "Fear is not real."
Cypher Raige (Will), a heroic general in the United Ranger Corps 1,000 or so years from now, is trapped with two broken legs in a crashed spaceship that landed on Earth. The only other survivor, his teenage boy, Kitai (Jaden), must head miles away in this strange, perilous land declared unfit for habitation long ago.
The planet, free of Earthlings who poisoned it and watched it succumb to natural disasters, now is pristine but dominated by animals that have evolved to kill humans. The survivors' only hope for summoning help is a beacon that landed miles away from the main wreckage.
Kitai must scale mountains, navigate rivers and confront creatures familiar and alien in the case of something called an Ursa that preys on the pheromones humans secrete when scared.
"After Earth" is based on a story by the Smiths, who first envisioned a father-son trip in the Alaskan wilderness but then changed the backdrop to the far future. Director M. Night Shyamalan and Gary Whitta wrote the screenplay, which the maker of "The Sixth Sense" then directed.
"After Earth" is a handsome movie with two appealing leads, but it's not as emotionally involving as you might expect, given the subject. Humor is in short supply, and the sci-fi action movie cannot match the fun factor of other summer blockbusters.
Extras include featurettes with the Smiths, the film on-location and "The Nature of the Future." The Blu-ray adds alternate opening sequence and three other making-of featurettes.
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some disturbing images.
' The Purge'
2 stars = Mediocre
Kill or be killed.
That's the choice faced by the family in "The Purge," a bloody horror movie masquerading as thriller and social commentary about the near-future, when the "new founding fathers" have rewritten the rules about crime and punishment.
It's March 21, 2022, and, once a year, all criminal activity including murder becomes legal for a 12-hour period known as "the Purge," when Americans can release their violence and aggression. Often, their targets are the poor, needy and sick who are unable to defend themselves, as police, fire and medical help stand down that night.
James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), however, thinks he has his family covered.
He lives in a gated community and sells expensive security systems, which turn a house into a fortress with metal panels that slide down over doors and windows. James, his wife (Lena Headey) and their children have guns in a home safe, as a precaution, although they don't intend to use them.
But things go awry, thanks to the lovestruck boyfriend of the couple's 16-year-old daughter (Adelaide Kane) and their 14-year-old son (Max Burkholder), who takes pity on a homeless man (Edwin Hodge) outside pleading for refuge.
"The Purge," written and directed by James DeMonaco, poses intriguing questions, but despite creating a claustrophobic, moody atmosphere, it degenerates into a horrendous game of hide and seek and sickening series of killings.
It comes with a making-off featurette.
Rated R for strong disturbing violence and some language.
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-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers
First Published October 9, 2013 8:00 PM