Archives for posts with tag: Mark Wahlberg

Grade C-

An inferior remake of the original, “Planet Of The Apes” (2001) has Mark Wahlberg playing an astronaut who gets sucked into a time warp thingy in space and crash lands on a planet where apes rule and enslave primitive humans.   Luckily for Wahlberg, a female ape (played by Helena Bonham Carter) has the hots for him (!) and sets him free.  With the help of a couple of apes and a band of humans Wahlberg has set loose, they search for his ship that contains a device that can send an S.O.S. to Wahlberg’s mother ship.  Closing in behind Wahlberg’s group is a large, ape army all stirred up to kill Wahlberg and any human who dares defy the dominance of apes.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Planet Of The Apes” is the final scene, which is a surprise, twist ending.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t make sense.  I suspect idiot, studio executives were to blame, probably counting their chickens before they hatched (or should I say counting their monkeys before they were born), looking for a way to introduce a possible sequel and didn’t care that it made no sense.  Damn you, idiot, studio execs!   Damn you all to hell!

In a nutshell, this remake of “Planet Of The Apes” is a rock covered in a fancy wrapper.  It doesn’t matter how pretty the wrapper is…what you have is still a rock.

— M

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Mark Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, a real life prizefighter back in the 1980s who had dreams of becoming a champion.  The life of a professional boxer is grueling; and for Wahlberg, it is made worse by a washed-out, boxer brother (played by Christian Bale) who is addicted to crack, and a mother/manager who sometimes doesn’t have Wahlberg’s best interests in mind.  Enter Amy Adams, who plays Wahlberg’s new girlfriend, and persona non grata to Wahlberg’s mother and cadre of sisters, further adding more unwanted drama and distractions to Wahlberg.  Adams seems to be one of the few straight arrows that can steer Wahlberg toward his dream of becoming a champion; but his family is always close by, threatening to destroy everything that Wahlberg has worked hard for.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Fighter” is the scene when Bale is being arrested and beaten after impersonating a police officer, robbing people, and assaulting police officers.  Wahlberg intervenes, and he is held down and his left hand is deliberately broken by a cop; and then he’s arrested.  Ouch.

The runner-up for my memorable moments of this movie is a scene when Wahlberg is on his first date with Adams.  After they walk out of the movie theater, Adams asks why Wahlberg would take her to a movie that he clearly wasn’t interested in, and in a town where no one knew them.  Is there a wife or girlfriend he’s hiding?  Wahlberg quietly tells Adams that he told everyone in their hometown he would win the boxing match he had a few days ago.  Tired of letting his family and friends down, and obviously embarrassed, Wahlberg just wanted to avoid facing those people.  This is the moment when I wanted this guy to win.  I’ve been down like that a few times, so that scene got to me.

Amazing performances by Bale and Adams, and another good showing for Wahlberg, help make “The Fighter” a must see for boxing movie fans.  There are many elements here that many viewers can relate to: a loving but dysfunctional family; the bond between brothers; addiction; working hard to make something meaningful out of one’s life; and finding love and letting that love make you a better and stronger person.  Congratulations to director David O. Russell for another outstanding job.

— M

Mark Wahlberg plays the title role in “The Gambler,” and his character is probably one of the most self-destructive that I’ve seen in movie history.  Wahlberg has a knack for winning early in whatever games he plays (usually blackjack or roulette), but he just doesn’t know when to quit; and that is what leads to his ever increasing problems, the biggest being Wahlberg owing large amounts to 3 different gangsters.  His solution to his problems?  Borrow more money from the same gangsters and hope to win his way out of the deep hole he put himself in.

I believe most viewers will not like Wahlberg’s character, as he is abrasive and puts the lives of those who care for him (his mother (Jessica Lange) and sometime girlfriend (Brie Larson)) in jeopardy because of his addiction.  But those who have ever had a monkey on their back will be more forgiving, as they know firsthand how destructive and hard to kick an addiction is.

However you size up Wahlberg, he will not bore you.  It’s like watching a runaway train that is doomed for a devastating wreck at some point.  Although “The Gambler” isn’t an action movie, it had my heart pumping like it was.  Scenes that had Wahlberg betting thousands of dollars — and in some cases, hundreds of thousands — had me feeling like I was there and I was the one making those huge, dangerous bets.  Oh, that excitement of either winning large or losing large, that’s one of the addictive qualities of gambling.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the first gambling scene.  Wahlberg comes in with ten thousand dollars, and bets it all on one hand of blackjack.  He wins, and lets it all ride on the next hand.  Win, repeat.  Cool as can be, as if he’s betting ten dollars.  Of course, no lucky streak lasts forever.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Gambler” is the scene when Wahlberg reveals to Larson that if he can’t have it all, he’d rather die.  To be or not to be; all or nothing.  Of course, there is more to his behavior than what Wahlberg states.  He’s a degenerate gambler, therefore, even if he gets everything that he wants and needs, he still has that desire to gamble.  And how long before he loses it all and is right back where he started?

For those still struggling with their gambling habit: the only way to win at gambling is to not gamble at all.  Yes, I know, easier said than done.  Despite all the science out there about gamblers having different brain reactions to gambling; and gambling addiction is a disease…bottom line, we all have a choice.

— M

In 2005, a four man team of Navy SEALs are sent on a mission in Afghanistan to find and capture or kill high-ranking members of the Taliban. Problems with their communications equipment and encountering 3 Afghan, goat herders compromise the SEALs’ mission, producing a brutal fight that lasts for days.  This is “Lone Survivor,” based on the book by Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor of the four man SEAL team.

The opening of the movie shows real footage of Navy soldiers going through the hell of SEAL training.  It’s a great way to show the audience how tough these soldiers are early in the movie, which ties in well with how hard the team fought when the mission went sour.  It also shows the strong bond these men form early in their training.  When you’ve been through the same crap together in training, and then in combat, you become brothers, risking your life and willing to die so that your brother may live.  There are many instances of that in the second and third acts of “Lone Survivor.”

One example of the SEAL team’s brotherhood and sacrifice is my most memorable, movie moment of “Lone Survivor.”  That would be the scene when Taylor Kitsch (playing team leader Mike Murphy, who was soon to be married at the time) tells Mark Wahlberg (playing Marcus Luttrell) that Kitsch will climb to a higher and open area to make a call for help using a satellite phone while they are under heavy, enemy fire.  Wahlberg, knowing that the chances of Kitsch getting killed by doing this is very high, disagrees with the decision; but Kitsch has already made up his mind, and begins to give the few magazines of ammo he has left to Wahlberg.  Wahlberg says, “Sorry Mike.”  Kitsch replies, “For what?”  Wow.  Just think about that reply for a minute.

Coming in second place for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when the SEAL team discuss what to do with their 3 goat herder prisoners (a boy, a teenager with hatred in his eyes, and an old man).  Various options were mentioned: let the prisoners go and they’ll probably go back to the Taliban village and rat out the SEALs; tie up the prisoners and the SEALs scrub the mission and go to the extraction point, but the prisoners could freeze to death or get eaten by a wild animal, therefore making the SEALs responsible for civilian deaths; or kill the prisoners and keep going with the mission, but that would violate the rules of engagement, and make the SEALs murderers.  It’s a hell of a discussion, and many of you will probably wonder what decision you would have made.  What the SEALs do decide regarding their prisoners is something they will pay a heavy price for.

Third place for my most memorable, movie moment of “Lone Survivor” is the speech given by a new SEAL member during his hazing ritual.  It is an affirmation of living life to the fullest, going for it balls out, and wanting more.  I admire people like that.  I wish I could say that speech and actually mean it; but I live a hum-drum life and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.

As far as action movies go, “Lone Survivor” delivers what you would expect of it.  But it’s more than a movie, it is a testament to the courage, toughness, sacrifice, and bond of these special men of the Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land forces.

–M

Michael Bay takes a break from the high intensity, action genre to delve into a high intensity, comedy/crime drama genre.  Bay being Bay, cannot do anything small and quiet.  So a story that can be served well in a 2 hour, Dateline NBC show has become a super-pumped, super-charged, theatrically released flick that gives lots of laughs, shocks, and action.  “Pain & Gain” is based on a true story of bodybuilders in Florida who kidnap, torture, and kill people for money and property.

Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie portray the three criminal bodybuilders; and Tony Shalhoub plays their first victim.  Wahlberg, Johnson, and Mackie are big on muscles but are intellectual midgets.  Not able to gain wealth with their brains, they try to achieve it with their brawn.  Enter Shalhoub, who is a multi-millionaire entrepreneur whose personal trainer is Wahlberg.  Endless blabbing about how much money Shalhoub has to Wahlberg gives Wahlberg the idea that Shalhoub would be a good candidate for some forced, property exchange.

Wahlberg and his 2 bodybuilder friends soon have Shalhoub in their clutches, torturing him so that he would sign over all his property to his 3 kidnappers.  And here is where I stop describing what happens in “Pain & Gain,” because this movie has so many twists and turns and shocks that I don’t want to ruin any of it for you.  And yes, as crazy as this movie gets, most of what you’ll see is true.

You’ve heard of the saying “truth is stranger than fiction?”  For the most part, that’s bulls#@t.  Come on, what truth can compare with “Star Wars” or “The Lord of The Rings?”  But, with “Pain & Gain,” that saying is true.  Bay’s talents has turned a made-for-tv story into a mesmerizing train wreck that is impossible to look away from.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Mackie and Johnson are at a strip club.  While Johnson is focused on the strippers, Mackie keeps pestering Johnson about mixing breast milk with steroids to get bigger; and how Mackie’s breast milk source is clean, and how Mackie wants to get so big he has to walk through doors sideways.  Mackie’s more obsessed with being muscular than the Bubba character was obsessed with shrimp in “Forrest Gump.”

Coming in first place for my most memorable, movie moment of “Pain & Gain” is the scene when Johnson was grilling the fingerprints off the severed hands of his victims…while he was outside and waving to a neighbor.  At the bottom of the screen the words “this is still a true story” appear!

Oh, boy.  Bay got some flack for making the true-life criminals into likeable goofs who just want to get a bigger piece of the American Dream.  I can understand how someone — especially families of the victims — would be upset by this.  But keep in mind that this isn’t a history lesson; that movies are always subject to the interpretations of the writer, director, producer, lead actors, so on and so forth.   And yes, I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I liked the Wahlberg and Johnson characters.  And I sure as hell like this movie!

–M

Screenwriter and director M. Night Shyamalan continues his downward slide into mediocrity with “The Happening,” a movie about some type of poison that is released in the air and makes any human that breathes it become suicidal.  At this point, some critics would make a joke that connects watching this movie with wanting to commit suicide.  No, no, this movie isn’t that bad.  Mediocre, yes, but not bad.  Of course, this being a Hollywood movie that costs about $50 million, I’d expect more.  I got more, all right, but it was more disappointment.

Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel play a married couple who evacuate their home in a big city when reports of possible terrorist-released poison gas are reported all throughout the East Coast.  Their escape comes to a halt when the train they are on suddenly stops in a small town because the conductors have lost all contact with the rest of the world.  The passengers soon make a run for middle America when it’s reported on the news that only the East Coast have been attacked.  Wahlberg, Deschanel, and the daughter of Wahlberg’s best friend join a large group of survivors who are not only trying to avoid the poisoned air, they are also trying to solve the mystery of who is responsible for releasing the poison into the air.

Unfortunately for the viewer, the answer to the mystery is revealed very early in the movie.  Earlier Shyamalan movies are known for their surprise, twist endings.  No such thing in “The Happening.”  Okay, so is that, in and of itself, the reason why this movie is mediocre?  No, but there are other reasons.

Reason 1: Wahlberg and Deschanel are horribly miscast in this movie, not just as leads, but as a married couple.   They simply have no chemistry together.  It’s like mixing whiskey with orange juice.  Huh, what?  There you go.  Wahlberg, of course, is best suited for the tough guy, action role.  But here, the screenplay wimps him out to the point where he is laughable.  The scene when his small group of survivors are freaking out and asking Wahlberg what they should do, and Wahlberg screams out something like “Will someone just give me a Goddamned minute!” brought out laughter from the audience when I first watched it years ago in the movie theaters.   There are many more moments like these.  Moments that make me wonder if Shyamalan was making a hybrid comedy/suspense/thriller/drama.

My wondering is over: this is just — reason 2 — unfocused screenwriting.   There’s a lot of unevenness to “The Happening.”  The first 10 minutes are intense and horrifying, with zero humor.  What happens after that is a mish-mosh of comedy, edge of your seat suspense, and uninspired acting.

Reason 3: Shyamalan.  Hey, as an experienced writer/director, he should know better.  The script needed a hell of a lot more polishing, he should’ve been on the ball with the casting of the leads, and his direction should have been tighter.

(Sigh) Despite all this, I still enjoyed this movie, the first time, and this time also.  Why?  Because the opening sequence really hooks you in!  It’s that good.  And there are a few scenes after the first act that show Shyamalan’s talents as a master of suspense.

One such scene is my most memorable, movie moment of “The Happening”: the part where people are in a Jeep Wrangler (I think that’s the vehicle) driving slowly through Princeton, looking for friends and relatives who may still be alive; but all they see on the streets are dead people.  The air around them is poisoned, and there is a tear in the fabric roof of the vehicle!

Coming in second place for my most memorable moment of this movie is the scene when Wahlberg, Deschanel, and the little girl are taking shelter in a weird woman’s house.  All of a sudden the weird woman tells Wahlberg that she suspects he will murder her in her sleep.  She walks away, and the camera zooms in on Wahlberg’s face as he replies, “Whaaaat?  Noooooooo!”  Ha-ha!  It’s the most hilarious part in the movie.  Shyamalan completely destroyed the mood/atmosphere/tone/intensity of the movie once again.  But hey, at least I got a laugh out of it, and so did the majority of the audience in the movie theater.

Oh, when the movie ended, and I was in the men’s room relieving myself, one person who watched “The Happening” asked his friend “Who wrote this story, Al Gore?”  Hee-hee, watch the movie and you’ll find out what he meant.

— M

There are more subplots to “Transformers 4” than there are submenus on the latest smart phone; and so I will stick to the main plots or else this will be a very long review.

Because of what happened in the previous movie, all Transformers (the good Autobots as well as the evil Decepticons) are hunted down by the U.S. government.   But it’s not as black and white as keeping humans safe.   The government has a secret reason for hunting and destroying the alien robots: to use them as spare parts and for experimentation.   Corporations have partnered with government agencies to reverse-engineer the Transformers in order to gain knowledge of their technology, and ultimately be able to build their own Transformers.

Not wanting to go the way of most Native American nations, the few surviving Transformers hide from the humans.   Enter Mark Wahlberg, who plays a mechanic/failed robot inventor.  Spotting a wrecked truck, he buys it for salvage, and soon finds out that it is the badly damaged body of Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots.  Wahlberg fixes Prime so that he is at least functional — and just in time, too, as the government’s eyes and ears are always watching and listening; and the goon squad arrives at Wahlberg’s house to collect Prime, by any means necessary, including threatening to put a bullet in Wahlberg’s daughter, played by Nicola Peltz.

Wahlberg, Peltz, and Prime are now on the run, seeking help from the Autobots that are still alive.  They’ll need all the help they can get, because it’s not just humans that are after them, there are government-created transformers that are activated to destroy the Autobots; and there is an alien race that have come to collect and punish the Transformers whom they implied were created by the alien race.

One of my memorable, movie moments of “T4” is the scene that shows us the first appearance of the Dinobots.  Dinobots!  Remember them?  If so, then you’re at least as old as I am.  Oh, the memories of watching the “Transformers” cartoons after coming home from school.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is the scene when Bumblebee (taking the guise of an old Camaro) is in the corporate headquarters of where Transformers are secretly being built.   Bumblebee’s driver looks at a mock-up of a corporate made Transformer, and mentions how good they look compared to the real thing.  Oops.  This guy obviously doesn’t know the Transformer he’s in is sensitive to remarks about the way he looks.  Bumblebee punishes the driver by shoving his steering wheel into his body.  Serves him right!

I’ve seen all the Transformers movies, and “T4” would rank last among the four.   That’s not to say it’s a bad movie.  I like “T4,” it’s just my least favorite of the four.   Typical of the other 3 movies, you have large, action sequences, humor, heart, great special effects, and a long running time.  It’s about 165 minutes, and I really felt it.   That’s a sign that something is not working right with the movie.  For example, one of the characters  —  who plays Peltz’s boyfriend — was not engaging.  His character needed more work to get the audience to care about him and root for him.  Then you have Wahlberg’s constant whining about how he just found out his daughter has a boyfriend, and the endless warnings to him about keeping his hands off his kid.  That got annoying very quickly.  But most of the problems of this movie is that some of the action sequences were too long.   It felt like a song that is overdone: you know, when a singer takes 10 seconds to sing one word, trying to show off her range and power.

Bottom line, if you enjoyed the previous Transformers movies, you should watch this one.  It’s not the best, but it’s still a good movie…better if you watch it at home so you can pause it and go to the bathroom and get snacks — you’ll need to do those things with a near 3 hour movie that drags sometimes.

I happen to have watched it at the drive-in, and that in and of itself makes “Transformers: Age of Extinction” more appealing.

— M

My friends and I at the drive-in theater to see "Transformers: Age of Extinction."

My friends and I at the drive-in theater to see “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

If you like action movies that has elements of government conspiracies and corruption, I think you will like “Shooter” very much.  Mark Wahlberg plays a United States Marine Corps sniper who was betrayed by the US government during a mission in Ethiopia.  After getting payback at the ones who crossed him and his spotter, he retires from the USMC and lives a solitary life — except for his large dog — up in the mountains somewhere in the US.  The peace in his life is broken when a high level, government agency visits Wahlberg and asks for his help in foiling a possible, assassination attempt on the US President during an upcoming speech.   Wahlberg accepts the mission, an assassination attempt is made on the President, and Wahlberg is set up to take the fall for the shooting.   This leads us to fast paced scenes from the second to the third act where Wahlberg is not only trying to evade capture and death from cops and government spooks, he’s also trying to piece together who framed him and why.

One of my memorable, movie moments of “Shooter” is the scene early in the movie where Wahlberg, with the help of his spotter, snipes at moving targets hundreds of yards away in order to help with the extraction of US forces from the killing zone.  This is the most intense sequence of the movie.  The enemy has no idea of exactly where Wahlberg is, they only know the general direction.  So they shoot and lob mortar rounds at Wahlberg, who keeps shooting at the enemy despite all the bullets and explosives hitting all around him.

My most memorable, movie moment of this movie is the scene when the FBI agent who believes in some government conspiracy regarding the assassination attempt on the President has been captured by government spooks.  The spooks install a rig on the FBI agent’s right arm, shoulder, back and head in order to make him shoot himself in the head and make it look like a suicide.   Very wicked s@#t!  I wonder if such a rig does exist.

Antoine Fuqua has done a fine job directing “Shooter,” and I expect nothing less from this man, as he is fast becoming one of the best action/thriller/suspense directors in Hollywood.

“Shooter” gives the added benefit of showing us how complicated sniping is.  It’s not just about putting your target in your crosshairs and pulling the trigger.  The sniper and his spotter have to factor in things like: the weight, composition, and shape of the bullet; the powder that’s in the cartridge; wind velocity and direction; distance; humidity, etc.  I like guns so I love all this stuff.  What!   You’re shocked that I like guns, what with all the mass shootings going on?  Well, about 11,000 Americans die each year due to drunken driving, and I still enjoy cars and booze; just not both at the same time.  If we’re going to be afraid or hate anything that can kill us, then we should also hate knives, water, air, electricity, airplanes, etc.

And for those reading this and are getting very upset with me because I’m not showing the proper amount of “let’s ban guns” yada yada, let me ask you this: where is your outrage regarding the 11,000 Americans who are killed each year due to drunk driving?  Where is your outrage regarding the over 100,000 Americans who die each year due to hospital/medical errors?  Where is all the media coverage on those?   Where are all the tough talk from the politicians?  Where are the quickly enacted laws that will help to prevent all those deaths?   That’s what I thought.

Now sit your $5 ass down before I make change.

M

 

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