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Well, thank goodness for long-running franchises that keep pumping out movies. If not for them we’d have almost nothing to even talk about this week. But alas, the gang’s back with another hangover, another gang has the need for speed and we get an epic flick.

Just remember, I'm not reviewing these movies, but rather predicting where they'll end up on the Tomatometer. Let's take a look at what This Rotten Week has to offer.

The Hangover Part III
It’s a sad state of affairs when entertainment is created with little more motivation than a payday. Of course I understand much of entertainment revolves around the notion of money, but originality and quality should drive market forces rather than repackaging and regurgitation. Again, I’m not treading any new ground here, it just pisses me off. Let’s look at the The Hangover II as an example that fuels my ire; a movie made solely for the Benjamins. How could it be for anything else? The script was essentially identical to the first flick save a new setting and some minor tweaks. The rhythm, timing and plot elements were exactly, and unapologetically the same. I found it offensive, and not in a hilarious, fat-kid-pumping-Zack-Galifianakis’s-nads-full-of-50,000-volts kind of way. It was offensive because it was lazy and a blatant money grab. But it worked, so here we are again a few years later, doing the whole thing once more except this time they just chose the same setting as the original. So I suspect we will just get the exact, exact same movie. What a shame.

But I don’t blame the players. Who can begrudge someone filling their wallet? No one was going to say no to another trip to the Vegas Strip for a blacked out night and a subsequent 24 hours of putting the pieces back together in ever-fantastic fashion. What made/ makes The Hangover such a great watch was how everything the guys went through took plausibility right up to the breaking point. Tiger in a hotel room? Not likely but not impossible. Finding a baby in the closet? Probably not, but hey who hasn’t brought home a mommy/stripper? Running afoul of a local mob leader? In the cards for sure. Now we’ve got Zach G cruising down the highway with a giraffe in tow.

Todd Phillips directed the The Hangover (79%) but also gave us the The Hangover Part II (34%). The rest of his career is a similar give and take with Old School (60%) and Starsky & Hutch (63%) but also Due Date (39%). I think this franchise finale scores more like the second offering. And here’s to hoping we don’t see Mitch, Beanie and Frank the Tank relive the glories of fraternity life all over again. The Rotten Watch for The Hangover Part III is 35%
Fast & Furious 6
Speaking of additions to crazy successful franchises. Dominic Toretto and rest of his band of merry cranksters are back doing what they do best: driving real fast and acting real poorly. Where the Fast and Furious franchise differs from The Hangover (besides the obvious) is that it cleared the second and third installment malaise and kept trucking right on ahead into more critically acclaimed and lucrative territory. Before we delve further into this mystery, let’s look at the facts (Tokyo Drift excluded):

The Fast and the Furious (52%) $207 million box office

2 Fast 2 Furious (36%) $236 million box office

Fast & Furious (27%) $363 million box office

Fast Five (78%) $626 million box office

So the question is: What the [email protected]#$ with that last one? How does it so powerfully outperform its predecessors in both metrics? The simple answer would be: it’s better. But I don’t really believe that to be true. I’m sure to the Fast and Furious connoisseur there are micro, and maybe some macro, distinctions that make this a superior product. But to the undiscerning eye, many similarities exist. The director was Justin Lin (also did Fast & Furious) and the cast is relatively identical to the previous films. The acting is rough to say the least. The cars are just as cool. The stunts are a bit bigger. But the plot points remain consistent (read: silly) and the basic conceit of the other films is there. Why the spike in praise and dollars? Because car lovers and Vin Diesel fans alone don’t account for this kind of uptick. I think it comes down to one thing: expectations.

I think after a number of less-than-stellar sequels to the first film, people had resigned themselves to a certain Fast and Furious fate. The franchise was sort of a running joke, predicated on Diesel’s and Walker’s monosyllabic acting chops and the idea that the “cars are the main character.” But then all of a sudden, Fast Five is coming and people are like, “Wait, they’re still doing this? And it’s not, like, a joke? Nice, game on!” And people head to the theaters expecting to ironically laugh at everything. And they do, and now all of a sudden people like the movie. Because it is a joke. But everyone knows its a joke now (I suspect even the actors). And when everyone’s in on the joke, then the stakes change a bit. The expectations are diminished, allowing for people (and critics) to walk into the theater expecting very little and walking out pleasantly surprised.

Do I think this latest installment will be good? No, none of the movies in this franchise are good. But it’ll for damned sure be entertaining. The action is high, the acting is well, who cares about the acting, and the cars are cool. You know what you’re getting and that’s fine. And unlike maybe The Hangover III the expectations are low. The Rotten Watch for Fast & Furious 6 is 72%
I prefer the cozy confines of my little abode, choosing to only go outside during commercial breaks for a little stretch. So it’s hard to imagine living in the wild, as a miniature person no less, dealing with the inherent dangers of nature like talking snails, malevolent spiders, little dudes dressed up in leaf armor and creatures that fly around on pigeons shooting arrows at you. I’m assuming this is what happens. Again, I don’t go out much.

Which is what makes watching a movie like Epic so refreshing. It gives guys like me a chance to see what’s happening in the great outdoors. [email protected]# out there is way crazier than I imagined and diverges fairly significantly from those Biology and Environmental Science courses I snoozed through in high school and college. Namely, an army of leaf men is out there fighting the ecological good fight against enemies unknown (to me at least).

Based on the children’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs by William Joyce, Epic is the latest from Blue Sky Studio and Chris Wedge who also gave us Robots (64%) and Ice Age(77%). Those are two good, not great, flicks join Blue Sky’s other works Rio (72%) and Horton Hears a Who (79%).

That resume leaves it trailing behind the big dog, Pixar, and for the moment Dreamworks (mostly because of output) in the animated game. That’s not to say there isn’t room for a third though and Blue Sky produces quality flicks. They just haven’t garnered the gaga affection of the former, and to a lesser extent, the latter.

There’s reason to suspect Epic will score favorably with critics, though it’s hard to make a case for something in the upper levels of the Tomatometer. In addition to Blue Sky’s resume, Joyce other book-turned-movie Meet the Robinsons (66%) (based on A Day with Wilbur Robinson) fits in with the other scores we’ve thrown out here. And though they’ve given the movie an adjectively favorable title, I think something like “Pretty Good” would have sufficed. The Rotten Watch for Epic is 65%

Which Rotten movie will have the highest final Tomatometer score?

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Recapping last week:

A direct hit with Star Trek Into Darkness (Predicted: 86% Actual: 86%). Granted, I had a sizable head start on this one, but the score dipped ever-so-slightly during the week, making this a win. Katey’s review pointed out some of the flaws in the film, but as a whole, the film scored in line with the first in the J.J. Abrams line of Enterprises. It certainly bodes well for Star Wars that Abrams knows how to handle a transcendent franchise. Episode VII looks like its in good hands. Not that I necessarily doubted that, but it’s nice to have a little confirmation because making Star Trek and Star Wars fans happy ain’t easy.

Next time around we see head back to Earth and rob banks using magic. It’s going to be a Rotten Week!