Tag Archives: Mark Wahlberg

Trailers of the Week — Emmy Rossum’s Gonna Make You Cry

COMET
No date set

This is right up my alley. I’m a sucker for metanarrative romances. About 99% of them clunk hard and don’t work, but the few that do – (500) Days of Summer, The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – are the movies that leave me shaking by the end.

Yeah, Comet‘s stylism could be too much and Justin Long has yet to truly prove himself to me as the equal to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gael Garcia Bernal, or Jim Carrey, but I trust Emmy Rossum as an actress – especially now that she’s picking her roles from more indie stock.

Comet Rossum Long

The trailer works – it hits all the right buttons, pulls me in, makes me wonder, and makes me hope, which means it has all the right ingredients to break my heart and pick me back up again. That’s why I’m a sucker for metaromances – they’re just like the real thing.

BEFORE I DISAPPEAR
No date set

There’s a few reasons to keep this on your radar. Writer-director-actor Shawn Christensen is primary among them – he won an Oscar for Best Live-Action Short in 2012 with Before I Disappear rough draft “Curfew.” Emmy Rossum has been a consistently interesting actor who splits her time between stage and screen. She seems to have struggled a bit with not getting the range of roles she has on stage (in bigger-budget productions, her looks bottled her into playing a certain type of character), so I look forward to seeing her run against type.

Toss in actors like Ron Perlman, Richard Schiff, and Paul Wesley, as well as an intriguing, semi-mumblecore visual style, and you’ve got my attention. Fatima Ptacek, the young girl in the trailer, isn’t exactly a new find. She’s been voicing Dora the Explorer the past three years. I tend to think this is a step up.

THE GAMBLER
Dec. 19 (limited)

Jan. 1 (wide)

I enjoy it when Mark Wahlberg goes back to playing these sorts of antisocial characters picked out of the gutter and dusted off so someone else can use them. These are roles molded from 60s and 70s crime flicks (The Gambler is itself a remake), and few actors hit the exact right note to carry off a modern translation.

That the man using him is played by none other than John Goodman only sweetens the pot.

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
May 1

Hulk smash Iron Man! Thor screams to the gods! Machine guns!!! Tanks!!! BALLERINAS!!!!!

Never change, Joss Whedon. Never change.

(It’s a good thing James Spader is a CGI whatever-he-is in this. If it was live-action James Spader, I’m pretty sure I’d have to root against The Avengers.)

LATE PHASES
No date set

OK, this doesn’t look like fine art, but it has a few things going for it that I love. First off, it’s a horror movie that doesn’t star 30 year-olds pretending they’re 18. They’re all well and good, but I enjoy the idea of a man fighting off a werewolf in a retirement community.

Secondly, I like the idea of a blind veteran as the protagonist. We’re seeing more and more protagonists with disabilities – even characters like Hiccup in kids’ movies like How to Train Your Dragon 2. Part of that comes from increasing understanding that “disability” can be a misnomer, and that people who cope with one can be just as able as the rest of us. Part of that comes from being a nation in multiple wars for 12 years running. Our soldiers don’t always come home the way they left, physically and mentally, and so our heroes in film begin to reflect that a little bit more.

Thirdly, I love werewolf movies. There aren’t enough of them, and there aren’t enough good ones. Late Phases looks pretty unabashedly like a B-movie, and that’s fine. I love a good B-movie, and many of them (Bubba Ho-Tep comes immediately to mind) have much, much more to say than you’d think.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY re-release
Nov. 28

There are a very few films that must be seen in theaters at some point in a cinephile’s life. Lawrence of Arabia is first among these, and I had that brilliant opportunity a few years back. Right behind it, though, is 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s stand-out space horror think piece originally released in 1968.

This is the crowning achievement from an age of science-fiction that was fascinated with the dawning era of space travel and what it meant for mankind as a rebirth into the stars. Writers then didn’t imagine it would become bogged down in a morass of red tape and funding issues. They imagined we would recognize expansion into space as the opportunity to become more as a species than we have been. Instead, that opportunity sits there, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

How to Fix and Break “Transformers” in 3 Hours

Transformers 4 high res coat zipper

What the Transformers franchise lacked before was real star power at its center. Former lead Shia LaBeouf could play a displaced rebel without a cause in his sleep, but that meant he became redundant once he found his cause, and he lacked the charisma to turn into something new. Megan Fox may have been that dynamic core, but she was never afforded the opportunity to do more than scream and run in slow-motion.

Fourth entry Transformers: Age of Extinction shakes off the baggage of previous casts that tended to be more dramatic off-screen than on. In LaBeouf’s place is Mark Wahlberg, one of the few actors you can watch having a sword fight with a robot alien bounty hunter 40 times his size and think, “Yeah, that makes sense.”

He plays failed inventor Cade Yeager, who’s converted his Texas barn into a robotics lab. The first half hour follows Wahlberg in full exasperated 12-year-old mode, a role he’s perfected over the years. He’s broke and he can’t pay for his daughter’s college, but all he really wants to do is build robots. He poses in front of sunsets and American flags while looking across his land as if marking off a country music video checklist, but you know what? Wahlberg pulls that off, too.

Transformers 4 the good part

One day, Cade tows a rusted big-rig in for salvage. Turns out the truck is really Optimus Prime, leader of the heroic Autobots, in disguise. The CIA is hunting him down. The reason why is pretty clever: defense contractor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) is reverse engineering Transformers to develop his own patented robots. Sure, it’s illegal, but he’s promised government insider Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) millions in stock to sign off on it anyway. If this sounds suspiciously similar to how Congress works, it’s because that’s exactly how Congress works.

It’s the last kind of wrinkle I ever expected in a Transformers movie, but with all the other summer blockbusters developing a social conscience, writer Ehren Kruger brings a little subtext. It’s not much, and the movie runs away from anything heavier as soon as things start blowing up, but I’ll give Age of Extinction credit for trying something a little deeper than its predecessors. It’s also refreshing to see director Michael Bay go back to basics, even if it doesn’t last – with Wahlberg front and center, there’s more focus on the humans in the chaos. This means more car and foot chases.

Things are complicated when transforming bounty hunter Lockdown shows up. He wants to capture the Transformers. Good or bad, he insists they’re a threat to humans. He’s supposed to be evil, but given that millions of civilians slaughtered in the first three movies would still be alive without the bunch of them, Lockdown has a point.

Transformers 4 whose extra limb is that

It’s disappointing when Bay’s worst tendencies inevitably take over at the end. If you thought the last movie’s two-sided conflict was filmed confusingly, get ready for Autobots vs. Decepticons vs. CIA vs. Wahlberg vs. China vs. Lockdown vs. Dinobots (don’t ask).

The franchise’s biggest draw and biggest problem remains its action. There are neat shots, but they all happen independently of each other. It’s like paying to see the game but all you’re given is the highlight reel. How many evil Decepticons are there? We’re told 50, but after 20 minutes of battle, are there 45 left or do only three remain? Your guess is as good as mine. Sure, the world’s at stake, but isn’t it always? The moments in between – the juxtaposition of heroic deeds against physical struggle and underlying fear – give action movies their weight. Age of Extinction forgets this halfway through, just about when the Transformers take over as the lead actors.

Go for Wahlberg, or the car chases, or to see Texas filmed beautifully in the first half hour. If you’re looking for an action movie, I’d recommend Edge of Tomorrow instead, especially as 3D goes. Bay’s camera is always moving quickly, backgrounds are usually bright, and the man is a lens glare addict, making the 3D in Transformers: Age of Extinction some of the most headache-inducing around.

It’s rated PG-13 for violence, language, and innuendo, but killing robots instead of people lets Bay get away with much more brutality than PG-13 would usually allow.

Brutal, Heartfelt “Lone Survivor”

Lone Survivor 3

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing soldiers who served at Iwo Jima. They told tales of a naval bombardment that made them feel like the world was shattering itself into pieces. I have a friend who served as a medic in Iraq, and suffers blackouts and PTSD from “having my hands in guts up to my elbows day after day.” I spoke to a marine who served as a guard in Iraq. He told me about having to stay on his side of an invisible ethical boundary, witnessing but being unable to intervene even when children were abused in front of him, lest he start an international incident. What those who face war as combatants must undergo defies the imagination.

We can imagine horrors, we can even imagine facing our own deaths. We can imagine a gunfight. We can begin to imagine explosions, being trapped, seeing a friend violently die, being wounded. We can imagine those things. What those of us who have not been in or around combat cannot imagine are the ethical quandaries faced, the second-guessing of split-second decisions, the evolution one’s mind takes just to survive and stay sane in a reality encompassing all of this for years on end.

Lone Survivor is a story about men who have undergone that evolution. It follows Operation Red Wings, a 2005 counter-insurgency operation in Afghanistan. It’s been compared to Saving Private Ryan, which is inaccurate. While both are superb films, you’ll find no Tom Hanks monologue about what these men are fighting for. The battle at the film’s center is not artistically inclined. The action isn’t about bullets or explosions, tactics or heroics. It contains these things, yes, but combat here is presented as the whittling down of men, piece by piece. One man shoots, another gets shot, until one of them is dead. Repeat. The cinematic sheen we’re so used to seeing accompany war violence, that makes it digestible and popcorn-friendly, has been largely removed.

Lone Survivor 2

Even before this, during their free time, the Navy SEAL team we’ll later see in action talks about an upcoming wedding, whether one can afford a horse for his fiancee, and what color one’s wife is repainting the house. They peer over breakfast at a palette of rose tints and disagree with her choice. They talk about finding a weekend to clear brush for a stables when they get home. They don’t act like they’re in a movie, as if they have dramatic fates, or like any of them is a metaphor for something greater. They act like people taking a load off from a hard job.

The film boasts an excellent cast – Mark Wahlberg (Shooter), Taylor Kitsch (John Carter), Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), and Ben Foster (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) play the SEAL team inserted into the mountains of Afghanistan in order to kill a Taliban leader. If you’ve read the title of the film, you know things don’t go well. Foster’s turn as Matt “Axe” Axelson is particularly memorable.

Lone Survivor is very good, but it is not a masterpiece of storytelling. Another twenty minutes of running time to expand on later moments would have been welcome. It is, however, a masterpiece of heart. It’s directed by Peter Berg, who also helmed Friday Night Lights and The Kingdom. Like those, Lone Survivor exudes emotion. Everything it feels is on that screen. Rather than communicating the geography of a battle, an approach I usually champion, Berg chooses to stay close to his actors. He focuses on the experience of the fight instead of its procedure. It’s a choice that makes the emotion feel quick and organic rather than heavy and scripted.

At the end of these kinds of war films, before the credits roll, photos are shown of the real-life soldiers whom you’ve watched actors portray for the past two hours. Inevitably, a few audience members get up to beat the crowd to the parking lot. Mine was a packed house. There were multiple photos and home videos for all 19 men who died in Operation Red Wings. Not a soul rose to leave. Not a single soul. And, at the end, I joined the loudest round of applause I’ve heard for a movie in years. Lone Survivor is rated R for strong violence and language.

Lone Survivor 1