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The Hangover Part II – Film Review

Watching the textural possibilities of a “Hangover” sequel, the thought that comes to mind is how do you capitalize on the notion of lightning trapped in a bottle. With Las Vegas and committing to that experience that everyone has had at one time or another, where do you go that pushes the envelope even farther.

Bangkok is indeed the perfect spot, added to the fact that many people have heard its stories but few have been there. Interesting enough in researching and placing together this idea, writer/director Todd Phillips knows enough about the area and its intensity to both highlight, tempt and resolutely disgust at the same time. What is exceptional is that what comes through at times, which was there in the last one, and upon first viewing, very much so in this one, is simply the character tones inherent in all of the participants.

Zach Galifianakis as Alan accessorizes this notion of a man child who feels truly alive when he is around these friends. Ed Helms as Stu is stuck in his own world of trying to live up to notions of being a man but only releases his demon upon said blowouts. Bradley Cooper as Phil simply goes with the flow although his chastising of Alan shows a very human perception of Zach. It works because they are so disimilar. One never feels as if they don’t get each other. Alan just doesn’t understand what he is doing.

While the first “Hangover” had some cinematic moments, the one that truly stands out here is not the pictures (which are still funnier than hell at the end) but rather Stu singing a new version of a Billy Joel song called “Alan-Town”. It is very unassuming as the three of them travel down a waterway on a longboat. It just seems so effortless and yet almost real. Plus the song’s rewritten lyrics encapsulate the movie at that moment. You get that the actors sense it too.

Moving back from that sense of the movie (which I never quite thought at times Todd Philips would do ten years ago) the simple laugh-out loud possibilities are there in terms of physical comedy but it is Mr. Chow (played with unrepentant energy by Ken Jeong) along with Monkey that truly steals the show. Jeong was good in the last one but now that we know what he is capable of, it is just like music. He and Monkey could do a movie on their own.

Even the car chase through old Bangkok which could have been old hat works because of the set up. The plot importance is there but Chow keeps it like he is going to the store to pick up bread. When he utters the line, when they are almost done with the deal, “maybe get bump”, the whole theater cracked up. From then until the end of the chase, it is bedlam like the old screwball comedies with the Wolfpack simply along along for the wild ride with Chow.

The resolution at the end keeps the structure open and brings the characters back from the brink without too much damage. Again, also showing that Philips knows his landmarks or, at least his location scout connections are killer in Thailand, alot of the third act takes place on top of the LeBua Hotel At State Tower which is one of the coolest hotels in Bangkok which has a Roman temple on top of it with an open air roof that looks like something out of Sodom & Gomorrah. Alot of the high Bangkok shots are shot there as well as some fly by helicopter bits but the place, having been and stayed there, is dope beyond measure.

Thailand, despite any shall we say alternative elements, is painted as beautiful with the opening shots capturing what the country is capable of and is. The first “Hangover” was a postcard of Las Vegas as it really is in all its glory and motivated many people to come back (even in harder economic times) to Sin City. “The Hangover Part II” does the same for Bangkok. Having been there it shows the real side of the city but also the beauty and fun of what makes it a jewel in Asia.

“The Hangover Part II” lived up to the original for me because it took what made the first one exceptional, didn’t lose any of the possibilities and proceeded on. People are who they are and the Wolfpack are no different. No matter what they do, they will end up in these situations again and again. That is what makes them relatable. It’s because their fallible and not dumb, just party animals who happened to hit odd luck twice. Like this movie.

And stay for the pictures again. It is just makes the whole thing funnier.

Flowing Rivers, Lurid Nights & Culinary Temptations: The Golden Vision Of Thailand – Feature – Part II

Thailand is a land of wonder balanced within the structure of the continually changing Asian world. Its many faces dwell within its evolution as both a commerce and cultural mecca bordering the auspices of many countries, both intense and evolving.

After exploring the essence of Chang Mai where the streets bustle with anticipation and journeying along the majesty of the Mekong atop the gentle power of elephants, the Golden Triangle lays its borders to bear while preparing for the transition back to Bangkok where the influx of luxury tempted within society offers possibilities for ever increasing change while still maintaining the balance of spiritualism which makes this country unique.

Atop the Golden Triangle lookout examining the crisscross of three countries (Burma, Laos and Thailand) along a small visible distance, the border disputes inherent become abundantly more clear. When opium trade used to rule the region back in the 70s and 80s, this area was a hotbed of international focus. The pliability here at the present time is a bit more stable though the river border is heavily patrolled especially after dark to prevent possible infractions.

Arriving at the departure point of a river cruise along the River Mekhong, provisions were amply requisitioned including coconuts, soda and Mekong rice whisky for ample punch. Along the river, the essence of Burmese casinos were pointed out in texture since the Thai population, because of their Buddhist beliefs, have banned gambling (and therefore casinos) in the country. Entering Burma requires a 500 Baht ($10 US) entry fee with nothing to distinctify the essence of getting out. Laos, by comparison, offers a brief but distinct mercantile post where the insistance of the militia based government shows its wares.

Quickly stepping up the plank, the unfurling of cobra whiskey twirled with scorpions points to the sense of the dangerous. A vat from which shots were taken lures with the gigantic carcass of a King Cobra while the fermenting element of a nearby reptile waits in cohesion. A mixture of these two shots, never to be combined again, pours from the wooden ladle offering a bit of adrenaline surge, to say nothing of its potency.

After twilight drinks at the wonderous Four Seasons Golden Triangle Luxury Tent Camp where the beauty of the Burma Bar is only matched by the sheer brilliance of the view, the night descended as the river closed.

Disappearing into the night market of Chang Rai, the perception of the C&C Restaurant buoys by its sheer sense of passion and humor. From the insistance of a Tiger Beer after experiencing the pop inducing matter of Nite, the pork sausage rice mixed with teryaki pork, baby corn and peapods along with a spicy serving of Tom Yung Goong soup relished the muscles.

An after dinner walk, perpetuated by the wanton search for tattoo art while the brilliance of commerce floated between the hundreds of hidden stalls, gave soul to the energy flow.

The early morning brought the paradoxical and ultimately fascinating Hall Of Opium Museum made possible by Royal dexterity on the part of the current King’s now departed mother. Because of the strife that the opium trade caused in this region in years past, this intrinsic property is a very distinct and non-biased purview of how the trade came to be, its inherent business opportunities and eventual illegal operations. While many of the historical exhibits are top notch in terms of their balance of both Eastern and Western perceptions, it is the films in the Main Hall before the Rooms Of Reflection that are the most interesting. These films use existing footage to show and explain the inherent evidence, however circumstancial, of CIA involvement in the region over the past 50 years and does so with a visceral but non-accusatory touch.

After skirting for lunch along the Thai/Burmese border with a mixture of rice and vegetables along with a vested pouch of roasted walnuts, Chang Rai Airport approached with a vengaeance as the Thai Airways jet lifted off for Bangkok.

Arriving at the touch of twlight into the bustling city, the Dusit Thani Bangkok welcomes with open arms. Over a dinner at Benjarong, the resort’s luxurt Thai restaurant, tales of American perception and lore mixed with the elements of Thai culturalism makes for spirited conversation. The hotel itself has been host to many music celebrities due to its close location to the Impact Arena including Gwen Stefani, Beyonce and, most recently, Akon. The King of Thailand even orders take out Bento Boxes from the restaurant on occasion from the palace. All high praise indeed.

The food in tandem offers fresh visions in the guise of a soft shell crab esconsced in a spicy chili sauce and an exceptional curry pork made deliciously listful with the inclusion and sweet and slick mojito.

Brought up to explore the top floor luxury of D’Sens, the resort’s top floor ultra-lounge, the plush seats converge into a luxurious view of the city, not unlike the West Lounge in Brentwood. The making of ludicrously smooth Tender Love splashed with Malibu, Grenadine, Pinneapple/Orange and Blue Curacao set the tone right. Another specific kick involves the bathrooms, specifically the men’s, which has an interesting inclusion. Even the girls want to check it out.

Heading out onto the streets of Bangkok, the sounds reach far and wide. Entering O’Reilly’s Irish Tavern on the cusp of the Red Light, the persistance of a Thai Beatles cover band strums the foundation as a Guinness shot is tumbled and the dance floor crowds. Venturing into the street bars looking for the tequila shots needed, the relaxant was perpetrated on a neon filled abode where Tabasco was requisitioned in slight quantity. As is custom, local delicacy is necessary and bugs were the order. Buying a 100 BHT ($3 US) box of grilled crickets and full size grasshoppers from a street vendor, the key was will. For the uninitiated of the bunch, crickets made the grade but grasshoppers were done “wedding style” followed by a generous gulp of Singha and a good cigarello. A night in Bangkok to be sure.

After a quick executive lounge breakfast the following morning reading the daily paper, the call of the Palace Of The Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo) loomed. Experienced the year prior (read here), the impressive nature of the intricacy contained still looms as construction is constantly in flux. The key to remember as with most of the country is that Thailand is indeed a Buddhist nation and when entering the temple, all knees and shoulders should be covered. Women who wear too tight of clothing which, undeniably accepted in the West, are given notice here. Parties excluded of course. But not in the temple.

The speed of a longboat on the swelling Chaophyra River is always a thrill as the different water corridors all have different stories. Some are populated by stores. Others contain waterhouses for the King’s barges. Still others are half way underwater. Military schooners occupy empty docks. Kids swim in the muddy waters, laughing and unabated.

At a crux in the river, the surface seems to come alive with movement of the running of catfish. Using a loaf of bread given in excess to all passengers, the fattened seamongers ravenously attack the food as soon as it hits the water. Not even in the bayous of Louisiana can one expect a show with such ferocity from said fish.

Before the black tie affair leading up to the opening of the new Tower Club at the illustrious LeBua At State Tower, lunch along the river at the Supatra River House offered solace of will…and the best Thai Milk Tea available. The inviting spicy pork balanced by shrimp and noodles and emblazoned in curry and a pepper chicken with bite sealed the deal and gave fuel for the evening.

The LeBua At State Tower is a marvel. It creates that sense of coolness that The Palms In Vegas purveys but with the discreetness of the Mandarin Oriental in NYC. While its entrance and facefront on ground level to the street lacks the rest of its illustrious style (presumably on purpose), its Tower Club check-in on Floor 52 within Breeze, one of its signature nightspots, is simply breathtaking.

With an art deco design mixing Beverly Hills chic and Star Wars, the view over the skyline of Bangkok is unfettered in the disappearing afternoon light. It is a sight to behold.

Entering into the Executive Business Suite, the space is ample despite the fact of an unopening balcony, which at this height might be sound judgment.

As the festivities begin in the Mogu Ballroom to celebrate the 7 Society, the conversation permeates with many executives from the Thailand Beverage Corp who represent many respected international brands in the Thailand marketplace from Bacardi to Belvedere (which serves an exclusive blend at Breeze).

After a delicatable array of culinary delights including chilled Tasmanian ocean trout, goose liver marinated in biscotti crumbs and mango and the tender vision of an olive oil poached snow fish, the beauty of  Johnny Walker King George V, a vintage brand to be sold in its remaining stock of 100 bottles at the upstairs Sky Bar, was sampled. It was heavenly…and it was smooth.

Sashaying to the top of the Sky Bar on Floor 64, tumbler in hand, the sheer Roman-esque nature of the vision permeates throughout. A massive dome of sorts soars above the proceeding, a golden illuminated staircase leading up into its treasures.

Out on the far end, a circle bar almost careens over the side offering an unparalleled view of the city at night. It makes the Ghost Bar in Vegas seem resolutely small. Luxury is the name of the game…and the Tower Club at LeBua has it.

As preparations for the flight back to LAX commence, the last minute buzz of the Chatuchak Weekend Market rings with essence of sweet thai tacos, tayakoes and a welcomed thai milk tea…full circle necessitated.

As the Thai Airways 747 slips away from Bangkok, the relaxing essence of Premium Economy allows for essential calm, a solace in the air as the jetliner heads over the Phillipines and back out into the Pacific…towards home.

Thailand is a multi-pronged destination that delivers a different impact and point of view within each trip. The essence of Chang Mai and the lure of the Golden Triangle provided a definitive paradox in the most wonderful way. There is always a new treasure waiting to be discovered in Thailand. It is just a matter of looking.

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