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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Wahlberg’

Garret Hedlund, Oscar Isaac

Garrett Hedlund, Oscar Isaac

“MOJAVE” My rating: C

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Oscar Isaac is a pretty great actor, but not even he can find a way to make sense of “Mojave,” a mashup of behind-the-scenes Hollywood existentialism and stalker thriller.

The film was written and directed by William Monahan, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for Scorsese’s “The Departed.” Alas, “Mojave” has more in common with the Monahan-penned “The Gambler” from 2014.

There’s hardly a moment here that rings true…but then maybe that’s all part of Monahan’s view of the emptiness of life in Tinseltown’s fast lane. Or maybe not. It’s hard to care, really.

Garrett Hedlund is Thomas, a filmmaker of some renown. His success has bought him a spread in the Hollywood hills (which he is allowing to go to seed) and access to women and drugs. Has this made him happy?

Hah!

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Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg

Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg

“DADDY’S HOME”  My rating : B-

96 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13.

Going in, “Daddy’s Home” looks like another case of been-there-done-that.

A needy, good-guy stepdad (Will Ferrell) is threatened by the arrival of the kids’ natural father, a hunky rover (Mark Wahlberg) who will stop at nothing to reclaim his family.

Pretty familiar stuff. Except that “Daddy’s Home” is often screamingly funny. It even has a bit of heart.

Brad (Ferrell) has been married for six months to Sarah (Linda Cardellini).  Over that time he has struggled to gain the acceptance of her two young children.  Being sterile, Brad knows that this is as close to fatherhood as he’s going to get.

And just when the kids are warming to him, word arrives that their real Daddy, Dusty (Wahlberg), is returning to town.  Dusty wasn’t much of a husband and father, but now he wants to start over. And he doesn’t much appreciate Brad being in the way.

Neither Ferrell nor Wahlberg are going out on a limb here. They’ve each been cast in roles that play to their strengths — good-natured klutz and cycle-riding bad boy.

But here familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. Director Sean Anders (“Horrible Bosses II”) and co-writers Brian Burns and John Morris develop very amusing situations that give the cast members room to have fun, and many of the laughs take us by surprise.

Cardellini does a nice job of playing a woman who knows her original husband was bad news but can’t help being swayed by his machismo, and Thomas Haden Church is a scream as Brad’s boss, a much-married Lothario with an absurd real-life story to illuminate (usually inappropriately) any situation.

| Robert W. Butler

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Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg

“THE GAMBLER”  My rating: C

111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The protagonist of “The Gambler” is an infuriatingly self-centered, stubbornly self-destructive mess. Except that he’s being sold to us as a romantic, devil-may-care rugged individualist.

Sorry, I’m not buying.

In the opening moments of director Rupert Wyatt’s film (a remake of the Karel Reisz melodrama from 1974), Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) drops in on an illegal casino in the basement of a sprawling seaside LA mansion. He heads immediately for the blackjack table.

Jim doesn’t mess around with strategy. He bets everything he has — $10,000 — on a turn of the card. When he wins, he then bets all of that on the next hand.  This continues until he loses everything and walks away with empty pockets.

Actually, his pockets aren’t empty.  They contain  $250,000 in I.O.U.s from Mr. Lee (Alvin Ing), the Korean gangster who runs the establishment, and from Neville (Michael K. Williams), a well-heeled local banger who sagely observes: “I think you’re the kind of guy who likes to lose.”

Owing so much to such unpleasant characters would be enough to make most of us curtail our gambling activities. But not Jim. He wheedles and begs until he gets another loan, loses that money, and then shrugs when the heavies show up to demand payback.

Jim is what is known in the trade as a “degenerate gambler,” a guy who couldn’t stop if his life depended upon it — which in this case it does. Ironically, during daylight hours Jim is kinda respectable — a published novelist who teaches college-level English lit — although from what we hear of his lectures, his class should be called “Early 21st Century Pretentiousness.”

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lone-survivor-wahlberg“LONE SURVIVOR” My rating: B (Opens wide on Jan. 10)

121 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A superior action film based on real events, “Lone Survivor” is a modern update of the classic “lost patrol” movie in which a small unit of soldiers is trapped behind enemy lines and, often, doomed to fight to the last man.

It was inspired by Operation Red Wings, a 2005 mission in which four Navy SEALs were dropped in the mountains of Afghanistan to locate and keep tabs on a Taliban war lord.  As the title suggests, it didn’t go well.

The opening credits of writer/director Peter Berg’s action drama unfold against documentary footage of the grueling (some might say sadistic) training that potential SEALs must negotiate to become part of this elite fighting force. It’s so rough that bodies and spirits begin to break down. For some classes the dropout rate is 90 percent.

The ones who last are tough bastards.

The film proper begins with one of the SEALSs, Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), being evacuated by a rescue team. He’s been badly wounded and dies as the medics scramble to revive and stabilize him.

Berg’s screenplay, adapted from the non-fiction book by Luttrell and Patrick Robinson (obviously, Luttrell lived to tell the tale), then flashes back several days as the four members of Operation Red Wings are briefed and make preparations for their mission.

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broken-city 1“BROKEN CITY” My rating: C (Opens wide on Jan. 18)

109 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Yawn.

Not even an A-list cast can do much with “Broken City,” this year’s indifferent released-in-January thriller from Mark Wahlberg.

Written by first-timer Brian Tucker and directed by Allen Hughes (half of the directing Hughes Brothers who gave us “From Hell” and the solid doc “American Pimp”), this overcomplicated mashup of film noir elements and Big Apple misdeeds never finds its voice or presents a story compelling enough to grab our interest.

Private eye Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) used to be a cop — until he shot to death a homeboy who raped and murderd the sister of Billy’s girlfriend. Billy beat the rap but at the insistence of NYC’s garroulous Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) and Police Commisioner Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) resigned from the force.

Now, years later,  Billy specializes in chasing cheating husbands.

Still, he’s surprised when  Hostetler offers him $50,000 to follow the Mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and prove she’s having an affair. Billy finds that New York’s First Lady is indeed hanging around with another man (Kyle Chandler, late of “Friday Night Lights”). Not just any man, but the campaign director of a city councilman who hopes to unseat Mayor Hostetler in a fiercely contested election. (more…)

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“CONTRABAND” My rating: C-  (Opening January 13)

110 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Absolutely nothing.

Those were the two words that came immediately to mind after viewing “Cotnraband,” the latest from the hugely productive actor/producer Mark Wahlberg.

This crime drama generates a couple of generic thrills, but that’s about it.

Well, one supposes that not everything Wahlberg touches can be gold.  Every movie can’t be “The Fighter.” But, sheesh, he’s not even trying here.

The premise finds former international smuggler Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) living the straight life in New Orleans with his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and their kids. He long ago quit the criminal trade and now installs homes security systems. (more…)

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