Tag Archives: Mark Wahlberg

Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers_Age_of_Extinction_PosterAt one point, a “Transformers: Age of Extinction” character delivers this gem – “I also have a saying; I don’t care.” Why isn’t that the tagline of this movie? Or the whole “Transformers” film franchise for that matter?

“Age of Extinction” takes place five years after “Dark of the Moon.” Even though the Autobots helped save mankind in Chicago, the US government classifies all Transformers as dangerous fugitives, forcing the Autobots to go into hiding. Meanwhile, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is desperately trying to earn enough money to keep his home and send his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), to college. Trouble is, none of his inventions work very well and he doesn’t make much money fixing CD players and other random things. However, a dilapidated truck Cade gets his hands on is another story because it isn’t just a truck in need of fixing; it’s Optimus Prime.

This part of “Age of Extinction” isn’t all that bad. The idea of the government shunning the Autobots for helping us win a battle we never could have won on our own is a little ridiculous, but it’s well worth the fun of getting the chance to discover the Transformers all over again. The human characters involved in that discovery, however, are so devastatingly poorly written, they almost extinguish the thrill of the Autobot reunion.

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Interview: Lone Survivor’s Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch & Eric Bana

Lone_SurvivorIt’s tough enough to perform in a film loaded with heart, military logistics, and action, but in Lone SurvivorMark WahlbergTaylor KitschEmile Hirsch and Eric Bana were also tasked with delivering an authentic and admirable representation of real Navy SEALs who lost their lives in the hills of Afghanistan during a devastating mid-mission attack.

With the film now playing in limited release and its January 10th nationwide expansion approaching, all four actors sat down for a press conference in New York City to talk about working with the sole survivor of the real-life ambush, Marcus Luttrell, the connections they built with members of the SEAL community, the pressure to honor their sacrifice, and more.

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Review: Pain & Gain

Pain-and-Gain-PosterIt’s a moderately funny, largely deplorable narrative with entirely unlikable leads, but thanks to “Pain & Gain’s” true roots, it gets away with it.

Danny Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) loves his job as a personal trainer and is practically singlehandedly responsible for turning Sun Gym into one of the hottest spots in town. Trouble is, the job still doesn’t pay well enough and Danny is desperate to start living the good life. In an effort to make the big bucks quick and easy, Danny recruits his co-worker, Adrian (Anthony Mackie), and an ex-con, Paul (Dwayne Johnson), to help him kidnap his über wealthy client, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), and torture him into signing over all this finances.

Had “Pain & Gain” not stemmed from true source material, we’d be left with an absolutely outrageous film driven by wholly detestable protagonists and nothing more. However, not only does the true story come with intrinsic intrigue, but then Michael Bay takes it two very effective steps further to ensure you never forget it. At the onset we’re informed, “Unfortunately, this is a true story,” and then, when the absurdity of the scenario hits a peek, he reminds you, “This is still a true story,” forbidding you from writing off all the abysmal behavior and enticing you to actually appreciate it.

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Review: Ted

Not going to lie. I kind of want my own talking teddy bear. But only if he guzzles beer, tells excessively dirty jokes, can drive and wants to be my best friend forever.

As a young kid, John Bennett didn’t have any friends. The kid who got picked on by the local bullies didn’t even want to hang out with him. However, that’s when Ted, came into his life. The adorable stuffed bear was a Christmas present from his parents and while John loved the inanimate plush toy to death, he wanted something more – John wanted Ted to be real and, it turns out, all he needed to do to make that happen was make a wish.

Now in his 30s, John (Mark Wahlberg) is all grown up, but his trash-talking teddy bear (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) is still right by his side. Playfully telling secrets under the covers turns into ogling ladies and indulging in an abundance of pot, and John’s girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), has just about had enough. The breaking point? Ted’s hooker party and a certain something left on the floor. Lori gives Ted the boot, forcing him to make it on his own and John to grow up once and for all.

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Review: Contraband

Movies are all about making your wildest dreams come true, right? Okay, only in some instances, but when you’ve got a film about an elaborate heist, I’d like to bet the real thing, if the real thing even exists, is far less exciting than what goes down when we catch a heist movie. So, naturally, Contraband falls into quite a few ludicrous plot holes, but thanks to strong filmmaking all around, they’re generally accepted for the sake of enjoying the adventure.

Chris Farraday was once into making runs, smuggling illegals items into the country via cargo ships, but now he’s got a wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and two young boys. The problem is, Kate’s little brother, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), picked up Chris’ old habit and when a botched run gets him into some major trouble with the man in charge, Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris has no choice, but to head back to work to settle Andy’s debt.

With his old crew by his side, Chris boards a cargo ship as a carpet cleaner. But, of course, when he isn’t keeping those carpets spick and span, he’s plotting to smuggle a Mini Cooper-sized stack of fake bills from Panama back into the US. Chris is confident he’ll be able to pull off the job, but when Briggs threatens his family, the stakes skyrocket and Chris is forced to reevaluate his plan.

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Review: The Other Guys

Not only do buddy cop comedies come with a major stigma, but so do both of the stars of The Other Guys, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. The guys are guilty of doing the same thing in just about every film, Ferrell in terms of his comedic style and Wahlberg, well, with acting in general. The Other Guys primarily stays within the subgenre mold and Ferrell and Wahlberg remain in their comfort zones, but the film has just enough freshness to it that it makes more of the same acceptable.

Samuel L Jackson and Dwayne Johnson are Highsmith and Danson, New York City’s top cops. They drive the hottest car, sleep with all the ladies, earn medals and cause as much destruction as possible while catching the bad guys. When their reign comes to an abrupt end, it leaves a vacancy in the city’s hero department. That’s where the other guys come in, Allen Gamble and Terry Hoitz (Ferrell and Wahlberg), or as the boys at the station like to call them, Paper Bitch and Yankee Clipper. Allen is always happily buried in paperwork, the trigger happy Terry is constantly losing his temper and both are notorious for screwing up. But they finally get the chance to earn some respect when they stumble upon a high profile case.

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Review: The Lovely Bones

Put a fantastic novel in the hands of an Academy Award winning director and what do you get? Maybe not another award-winning masterpiece, but at the very least a good movie. Well, don’t expect either from Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones. If anything, The Lovely Bones will be remembered as one of the most disappointing productions of the year.

On one fateful afternoon, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) walks home from school and right into the clutches of her neighbor George Harvey (Stanley Tucci). What Susie first expects to be an innocent encounter winds up being a malicious ambush ultimately sending her to the afterlife. Rather than making a B-line to heaven, Susie’s attachment to activities on earth lands her in a realm in between mortal life and the pearly gates. From there, she looks down on her family and watches her passing tear them a part.

Her sister and brother, Lindsey and Buckley (Rose McIver and Christian Thomas Ashdale), are heartbroken, but, naturally, it’s her parents that suffer the most. While her mother Abigail (Rachel Weisz) shuts down and neglects her family, her father Jack (Mark Wahlberg) rages out of control in search of Susie’s killer. The only person keeping the Salmons from crumbling completely is the booze-loving, yet caring Grandma Lynn (Susan Sarandon).

The Lovely Bones is an incomplete story. The only people capable of finding any enjoyment in this film are those who’ve read the Alice Sebold novel the film is based on and that’s only if they’re not completely turned off by its poor adaptation. As for the moviegoers unfamiliar with the material, little to nothing will make much sense.

The film starts off promising. When Susie is alive, so is the story, but once Jackson relocates her to his imaginary world of trippy CGI landscapes, you become completely detached. Co-writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Jackson appear to have just flipped through the book and extracted the scenes most suitable for the big screen treatment without any concern for the grand story that would result.

Not one character is developed enough to be convincing, even the ominous George Harvey. Tucci does a fantastic job at making you extremely uncomfortable and comes the closest to making a significant impact, but in the end, becomes swallowed up by his blatant branding as the villain. Grandma Lynn finds herself in a similar predicament. She has the potential to be a very endearing character, but becomes a caricature in Jackson’s attempt to have her fit a very specific role.

Both Weisz and McIver are victims of plain old shoddy characters. Lindsey doesn’t get nearly as much screen time as she deserves, but at least has one that provokes you to root for her. Abigail Salmon might as well have been removed completely for she makes absolutely no effect on the film and takes away from the more successful characters. When a child dies and her mother fails to make an emotional impact, you know something is seriously wrong. In the context of the film, her actions are completely unjustified and downright ridiculous.

The most poorly casted and painful to watch is Wahlberg. Jack Salmon is a role that calls for an actor with an extreme emotional range capable of portraying a man that loses the thing he loves most. Wahlberg has the emotional range of a stick. If his baby talk voice isn’t making you feel feeble it’s because he’s too busy throwing an unfounded temper tantrum to talk.

The worst part of this film’s failure is that these problems could have easily been avoided. Jackson has fantastic source material in the palm of his hand, but gets far too carried away and completely strips it of any meaning. Jackson’s heaven could have been passable if the audience wasn’t drowned in it. Far too much time is spent showing off cheesy computer tricks when the live action events call for so much more attention. Not only does the misallocation of consideration completely thin out the profound story unfolding on Earth, it makes Jackson’s heaven laughable. Nothing works in The Lovely Bones. It will be a grand disappointment for fans of the book and completely incomprehensible for the rest.

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It’s Time To Grow Up: Books To Read Before Seeing The Movies

I hated reading in high school. In fact, I don’t think I ever read a book assigned in its entirety. It wasn’t that I was rebelling against being forced to read a particular book; I was a good student and almost always did what I was told. I could have picked up a book in my spare time, but I had better things to do. It wasn’t until I had nothing better to do with my free time, that I gave reading a chance.

My first job after graduating from college was a News Assistant at NY1 News. Being a News Assistant is an extremely physically demand job – I’m a small girl who was carrying 60 lbs. in camera equipment ten hours a day – but there’s also a ton of down time. One day, I waited over four hours for a perpetrator to be escorted from a prison to a waiting car. (Yes, capturing a perp walk is that important in local news.) I was desperate for entertainment and that desperation was sated by the medium I despised most, books.

I didn’t do a complete turnaround and become an avid reader. There’s one rule to my book selection process: the book must be in the process of being adapted to film or optioned for adaption. Clearly my passion is film. Combine the entertainment of reading a book with a passion and you get the ultimate source of pleasure. Even beyond the immediacy of the entertainment derived from reading, having read a book before seeing the film adaption is one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever experienced.

The whole process is fascinating; to see who’s cast, what they look like in full costume, seeing the story unfold on screen, even assessing what portions of the book are translated and what parts are removed. When you read a book without accompanied imagery, you’re creating a world using your imagination. Yes, a good author will provide a detailed narrative so the reader can properly assemble the environment the writer strives to convey, but every reader’s world differs to a point. Then, when you see that world come to life on film, the wheels in your mind spin nearly out of control. You’re not just a spectator; you’re part of the film. It’s not just the author’s story being brought to life, it’s yours too.

Most of you will get this experience when you check out Where the Wild Things Are on October 16th, but there’s a whole bunch of movies coming out soon that find their origins in fantastic books. Here are a few you might want to read before seeing the movie.

ShutterIslandCoverShutter Island
I currently have a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to Shutter Island. Not that I don’t expect the film to be any good, I’m just bitter that I have to wait so long to see it. The film adaption of Dennis Lehane’s novel was due to hit theaters this month, but recently was pushed back to a February 2010 release. Maybe I’ll just have to read the book again. It’s about two U.S. Deputy Marshals, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, who are sent to Shutter Island to investigate a missing persons case. This isn’t just any missing person; Rachel Solando is a patient at Shutter Island’s Ashecliffe Psychiatric Hospital, home of the criminally insane. This book makes your head spin so much you’ll feel like an Ashecliffe patient yourself.
(In Theaters February 19th, 2010)

Derby Girl
You’re probably more familiar with the name of the feature film version of this book, Whip It. The book is about a young girl named Bliss Cavendar who’d rather get rowdy on the roller derby track than participate in beauty pageants. Knowing her parents will not approve of her new hobby, Bliss sneaks off to the Doll House to kick some ass as Babe Ruthless of the Hurl Scouts. The character Bliss screams Ellen Page. Think a non-pregnant Juno with athleticism. A fun side note, the author of Derby Girl, Shauna Cross, is a member of the Los Angeles Derby Dolls roller derby league. She also wrote the screenplay for Whip It. The movie already hit theaters, but Derby Girl is a quick read and still worth checking out post-film.
(In Theaters October 2nd, 2009)

UpInTheAirCoverUp In The Air
With all of the Oscar buzz surrounding Up In The Air, reading the Walter Kim novel the film is based on is a must. George Clooney plays the lead character, Ryan Bingham, a guy who travels the country working as a career transition counselor. Simply put, he flies around the country firing people. Ryan’s somber line of work and lack of a social life are of no concern to him. He has something much more important to worry about, earning one million frequent flyer miles. After reading the book it was very hard to imagine it being successfully translated to film. It has a plot, but it doesn’t seem strong enough to drive a feature length film. I guess when you have Jason Reitman behind the lens and George Clooney in front of it, anything is possible.
(Limited Release on December 4th, 2009. Opens Wide on December 25th, 2009)

TheLovelyBonesCoverThe Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones is one of the most moving pieces of literature I’ve ever read. By the time you finish it, you’ll have gone through an incredible range of emotions. It’s about a young girl named Susie Salmon who’s brutally murdered on her way home from school. From there we see her watch over her family from heaven and how her passing changes their lives. While the book may be perfect for film, it’s also a very temperamental piece. Depicting heaven on the big screen can go one of two ways; it can be completely rejected or wholeheartedly embraced. Based on the trailer and early buzz about the film, Peter Jackson will not disappoint. On the other hand, I can’t say the same for Mark Wahlbeg. Thanks to his performance in The Happening and Andy Samberg’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live, it’ll be difficult to take his performance seriously.
(Limited Release on December 11th, 2009. Opens Wide on January 15th, 2010)

Now this is a film that deserves much more attention than it’s been getting. Not only does Twelve have a fantastic cast, but the book that it’s based on is phenomenal. It was written by Nick McDonell when he was just 17-years-old. It’s about a bunch of kids, mostly wealthy, living in Manhattan and the impact drugs, sex and violence have on their lives. Chace Crawford will play the main character, White Mike, an extremely bright student known for selling the best marijuana money can buy but never indulging in any alcohol or drugs himself. I certainly wasn’t picturing White Mike to be as pretty as Crawford, but I’ll sacrifice my imagination to be able to look at Crawford for a couple of hours. Another unusual casting choice is Rory Culkin. I think he’s a fantastic actor, but for obvious reasons, I just don’t see him playing a tall basketball player. Anyway, the best part of the book is the climax. You become so absorbed with the characters that when that grand ending comes you’ll be in a serious state of shock. Seriously.
(In Theaters 2010)

YouthInRevoltCoverYouth In Revolt
If you read any of these books before seeing their film counterparts, Youth In Revolt by C.D. Payne should be the one. A movie with a cast including Michael Cera, Justin Long, Zach Galifianakis, Ray Liotta and Steve Buscemi sounds like a guaranteed success, but it can also turn the tale from a humorous yet meaningful coming-of-age story into a comedic absurdity. Cera plays Nick Twisp, a kid who takes teenage rebellion to the extreme. He starts out as a guy who isn’t thrilled with the parents he’s been given and turns into a wrecking crew when his love for a girl he meets on a family trip drives him insane. With the help of his alter ego, Francois Dillinger, Nick is willing to do just about anything to win Sheeni’s heart. Removing portions of a lengthy book to turn it into a movie is necessary but can be detrimental. Taking out particular parts of Youth in Revolt can easily strip the story of its warmth and turn it into any old teen comedy.
(In Theaters January 15th, 2010)

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