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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Wahlberg’

AFI Fest 2010 Review: The Fighter

November 18, 2010 1 comment

During AFI Fest last week, Mark Wahlberg spoke before the start of the world premiere of “The Figher” at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Walhberg spoke about how much of a passion project this film was for him. The film had gone through a long development phase before finally getting made. At one point, Darren Aronofsky was attached to direct, and Matt Damon and Brad Pitt at one point attached to star alongside Wahlberg. After many false starts, the film has finally been made.

“The Fighter,” directed by David O. Russell, is based on the true story of boxer,”Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), and his older half-brother Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale). Dickie’s once promising boxing career is over due to the serious crack addiction he has developed. His crack addiction interferes with his training of Micky’s boxing career. As a result, Mickey is forced to decide whether to choose between his family or his boxing career.

First off, Christian Bale is terrific as Dickie Eklund. Bale has always been an actor who fully commits to a role. In this film, he is able to convincingly transform himself into a crack addict by losing weight, thinning his hair, and turning his teeth green. It’s a very showy, charismatic performance, but Bale is able convince the audience that his drug problem, and love for his brother, is genuine. There is one moment in the last scene of the film that blew me away. Bale is talking about his brother and he has to stop before he breaks down and cries. In the hands of another actor that moment might have come across as choreographed and phony. That one genuine little moment, says so much about Dicky’s character.

The other actors in the film are also very good. Mark Wahlberg may be a little too old to play Micky, but he’s the best he has been in a long time. Amy Adams makes you forget about her sweet persona as Wahlberg’s tough, bartender girlfriend. She brings a surprising level of authenticity to that role. I also enjoyed Melissa Leo’s turn as Walhberg and Bale’s mother and manager. She loves her sons, but doesn’t always have their best interest in mind.

The scenes outside the ring were more compelling than the fights in the ring. The family dynamic was compelling and entertaining to watch. It was really fun to watch the large pack of Walhberg’s sisters go at it with Adams. Each boxing scene is properly set up so that we fully understand the stakes they carry. However, I was never fully engaged in these moments and this is probably due to Russell and his cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema, decision to shoot the boxing scenes like we are watching them on a television. I respect this creative decision to keep the audience at a distance.

The film doesn’t have the ambition to be anything other than a better than average uplifting sports picture. The picture’s rhythm and use of music leads me to believe that Russell might be channeling Scorsese. The film kind of falls in the middle of Scorsese’s great boxing picture, “Raging Bull,” and “Rocky.” The film played really well with the crowd and Bale’s performance should land him the Oscar for best supporting actor.

3 1/2 stars

Divorce Yourself from Date Night

Tina Fey and Steve Carell are very funny TV stars, who probably would combine to form a very funny film. It looks like we are going to have to wait for that funny film, because this film isn’t it. It’s always bad when the funniest moments from a film are in the outtake reel during the closing credits.

Carell and Fey play a boring married couple named Phil and Claire Foster who make it a point to go out for at least one night a week. One night they decide to go out to the city and try to get in an exclusive restaurant. Unable to get a table they take the table of another couple called the Tripplehorns. Carell and Fey are having a great time until they are mistaken as the Tripplehorns by thugs working for a mob boss. The real Tripplehorns have stolen some important information from the mob boss. Carell and Fey spend the entire film running away from their would be killers and trying to clear their name.

The film features a roster of credited and uncredited celebrity cameo’s in supporting roles. Some of them hit and miss. Mark Whalberg is amusing as the shirtless security officer who Carell and Fey turn to for help. James Franco and Mila Kunis add some much-needed humor to their interactions with the married couple. Some talented people like Taraji P Henson, as a police officer and Ray Liotta, as the mob boss, are not given anything to do in the film.

The film does have a couple of moments that made me laugh. I’m thinking of an extended car chase involving two cars getting stuck head on. This scene made me laugh mostly because of J.B Smooth playing the taxi cab driver. I loved him as Leon in “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, so I can’t help but be entertained when he shows up on-screen. Fey and Carell do have a couple good moments, like when they perform a lap dance together. However too many of the scenes and lines just fall flat. The director relies too much on cutting to facial reactions of Fey and Carell that are intended to convey humor.

Towards the end of the film the plot really goes off the rails. Fey apparently has no idea what Carell planned,¬†but the film makes it pretty clear that she would have been there when he made the plans. We also get the obligatory scenes of Fey and Carell working out their marriage problems during the middle of them fleeing for their lives. These scenes might have more impact if we actually got to see their marriage troubles on-screen. The first ten to fifteenth minutes of the movie doesn’t show us any of the troubles that the two are having a heart to heart conversation about.

The director of the film, Shawn Levy, was responsible for some sub par comedies from the past decade, like “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “The Pink Panther”, so it’s no wonder that the film’s direction seems lifeless. The script by Josh Klausner doesn’t help either. Steve Carell and Tina Fey are great talents, so it makes you wonder why can’t they pick better projects?

2 stars

The Lovely Bones Ain’t Lovely

December 27, 2009 1 comment

I can at least call this film an interesting failure. Based on the novel “The Lovely Bones,” by Alice Sebold, the film is about the murder of a young teenage girl Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) and how her murder impacts those close to her. Set in the 1970’s Susie narrates the story from a heavenly purgatory. She witnesses her father (Mark Wahlberg) not being able to cope with her death and watches his ongoing obsession into finding her killer. Her father ends up neglecting his wife (Rachel Weisz) who can’t accept that Susie is gone. Susie also keeps watch over her killer, George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), who on the outside appears to be the Salmon’s harmless next door neighbor.

I read the book over a year ago and remember liking it a lot. I’m not a die-hard fan who demands that director Peter Jackson absolutely stay faithful to the novel. I was curious to see what he would do with the film, especially the heaven sequences. While Jackson creates some really intriguing visuals when the film shows us Susie in heaven, the film is empty emotionally. The book left me feeling very emotionally affected. The film has none of that. Jackson has a hard time balancing the visuals of Susie’s heaven with the drama occurring on earth.

I found the emotional drama between the Salmon family seriously lacking. The loss of the daughter and each member of the family’s reaction to it comes across as just barely hitting the surface. I wanted to see more of the family dynamic and see how it destroys their lives. Seeing the two parents just crying wasn’t satisfying enough to represent their pain. Rachel Weisz’s character gets shafted in the film. Her character in the novel has a much more absorbing character arc. Her actions in the film and it’s impact on the family is totally ignored in the film. Mark Whalberg almost borders on “The Happening” type acting here. The only two very good performances in the film are Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci as the killer. Tucci is appropriately disturbing as the child killer.

The visuals that Jackson uses to represent heaven are the film’s most fascinating moments. I remember in the book the heaven was very vaguely described. Jackson gives us a heaven that is full of big colors and images that are metaphors for what her family is going through back home. Some of imagery in alluring, but at times it comes across as distracting and at time ridiculous. One sequence has Susie being the star of her own fashion show. This comes across as very silly. But I guess a dream of a young teenage girl is to be in a fashion show. Jackson does an interesting thing where he will intercut major scenes taking place on earth with Susie experiencing the same thing in heaven. He lets the visuals speak for themselves. This is an intriguing way to let important scenes play out but it’s not always successful in getting his point across.

Jackson and his screenwriters, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, needed to omit some of the novel’s storylines from film. Trying to cram in all these different plots robs them of any poignant impact they might have had. Characters, like Susie’s sisters, are not properly developed. I found Susie’s voice over in the film to be very annoying. The information that she tells the audience is redundant and at times unnecessary. Some of the film’s suspenseful moments are handled effectively well. I only wish the emotional scenes were handled with the same care. In the end, the film’s two narratives never come together in a satisfying way.

2 Stars