Tag Archives: Mark Wahlberg

Three Kings (1999, David O. Russell)

Three Kings ought to appeal to every one of my liberal affections–director Russell very seriously wants to look at the Gulf War and how it failed the people it should have been protecting. Over and over, Russell goes out of his way to make the American soldiers take responsibility. Not for the war itself, but for their personal involvement with it and the Iraqis. Not just Iraqi civilians, but the army too. It’s very deliberate and precisely executed. It’s just not enough to drive the entire film; nothing in Three Kings is compelling enough overall.

Political statement aside, there’s a lot of other distinct elements to the film. There’s the writing–Russell’s script is quite funny–lots of inane and mundane details. But it’s also rather responsible, at least while Russell’s establishing the ground situation. Russell sets up an excellent tone and structure to the characters and their relationships. Even though some of the film takes place on an army base, it always feels very small. Maybe because Russell has title overlays identifying the main characters. With amusing commentary, of course.

Then there’s the style. Three Kings is very stylized; high contrast Newton Thomas Sigel photography, very quick cuts, some very slow cuts, some slow motion. Russell directs his actors for this exaggerated style, but with only marginal success. Ice Cube and George Clooney, for instance, have nothing parts. Russell gives all the character material to Mark Wahlberg and Spike Jonze. Neither of them is bad, though Jonze can’t handle the transition between being an uneducated racist redneck to a soulful world traveller. He doesn’t really need to do much after that change because Russell’s moved on to focusing on Wahlberg. Wahlberg’s all right for the first act, but has this big subplot to himself and he can’t hack it. So Jonze and Wahlberg getting the most outlandish direction makes sense. They need the most cover.

By the third act, however, Russell has given in to the comedy a little much. He has Nora Dunn and Jamie Kennedy for the comic relief but he takes it even further. It starts to get absurd, which–were Three Kings more successful–should raise some issues about Russell’s political statements.

Great supporting performances. Cliff Curtis, Dunn, Saïd Taghmaoui, Mykelti Williamson, Holt McCallany. Kennedy’s annoying and probably should signal Russell’s eventual tone problems, but he’s good with Dunn. Williamson is awesome opposite Clooney. Then ppor Taghmaoui has to carry Wahlberg in their important (and informative) showdowns.

Decent music from Carter Burwell. Robert K. Lambert’s editing is probably exactly what Russell wanted, though some of the cuts aren’t graceful enough. Three Kings takes place in all of us, Russell demands the audience engage. Three Kings needs more script busywork and far less technical busywork. It also needs a director more concerned about his actors.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by David O. Russell; screenplay by Russell, based on a story by John Ridley; director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel; edited by Robert K. Lambert; music by Carter Burwell; production designer, Catherine Hardwicke; produced by Charles Roven, Paul Junger Witt and Edward McDonnell; released by Warner Bros.

Starring George Clooney (Archie Gates), Mark Wahlberg (Troy Barlow), Ice Cube (Chief Elgin), Spike Jonze (Conrad Vig), Cliff Curtis (Amir Abdulah), Nora Dunn (Adriana Cruz), Jamie Kennedy (Walter Wogaman), Saïd Taghmaoui (Captain Said), Mykelti Williamson (Colonel Horn), Holt McCallany (Captain Van Meter) and Judy Greer (Cathy Daitch).


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Traveller (1997, Jack N. Green)

Besides Mark Wahlberg, it’s hard to say where Traveller goes wrong. There are some problems with Jim McGlynn’s script, but they’re mostly little ones. Julianna Margulies’s character’s name isn’t repeated enough, leaving her as “Carol from ‘ER'” for a lot of the movie. And even Wahlberg improves somewhat. He’s utterly incapable of humility; sometimes it’s all right, but it’s often not. By the end though, he manages to be likable if insincere.

What Traveller does have going for it is a good leading man performance from Bill Paxton, an utterly fantastic supporting turn from James Gammon and fine direction from Jack N. Green.

And even though McGlynn’s script does have its strengths, whether in plotting or scenes, the relationship between Paxton and Wahlberg (as mentor and protege) never takes off. Traveller‘s about a band of southern Irish con men and the film never shows Wahlberg learn the tricks. Instead, it shows before and after. There’s a significant puzzle piece missing.

McGlynn’s so lazy with naming the characters on screen it’s impossible to identify the heavy who comes into the picture towards the end. That actor (maybe Andrew Porter) is utterly fantastic.

As for the rest of the cast, Margulies is more appealing than she is good. She really has nothing to do. Luke Askew does well as the boss.

Traveller‘s got a great concept, great cast (except Wahlberg) and great crew… but the script’s failings leave them all floundering.

It’s unfortunate; Green, who shoots Traveller too, does an exemplary job.

1/4

CREDITS

Photographed and directed by Jack N. Green; written by Jim McGlynn; edited by Michael Ruscio; music by Andy Paley; production designer, Michael Helmy; produced by Bill Paxton, Brian Swardstrom, Mickey Liddell and David Blocker; released by October Films.

Starring Bill Paxton (Bokky), Mark Wahlberg (Pat), Julianna Margulies (Jean), James Gammon (Double D), Luke Askew (Boss Jack), Nikki Deloach (Kate), Danielle Keaton (Shane), Michael Shaner (Lip), Vincent Chase (Bimbo), Andrew Porter (Pincher) and Jean Speegle Howard (Bokky’s Grandmother).


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Ted (2012, Seth MacFarlane)

Ted has a number of successes; it’s a little hard to identify its most extraordinary one. Is the CG teddy bear, voiced by director MacFarlane, who seems entirely real throughout? Or is it the script, which makes it feasible for a magical, living teddy bear to exist in the real world? Or is it simpler–Ted shows MacFarlane can bring the pop culture references and hilarious inappropriate jokes to live action from adult cartoons?

It’s a good movie, with some major third act problems (mostly revolving around Mila Kunis, whose character arc isn’t believable); Ted goes between being a heartwarming Rob Reiner picture Reiner never made and mocking Rob Reiner pictures. MacFarlane’s direction is surprisingly strong and confident, though he does have a cinematographer (Michael Barrett) who can’t shoot video.

And while MacFarlane and his fuzzy little alter ego are the “star” of Ted, leading man Mark Wahlberg does the film’s heaviest lifting. He makes it believable he’s acting opposite, for extended periods, this talking stuffed animal. There’s an absolutely astounding fight scene between Wahlberg and Ted; it’s too amazing in fact, because one can’t help but wonder how they were able to do it. The special effects technicals overpower the scene’s effectiveness.

The script has a lot of great jokes–the best humor sequence is probably the first one, which had me choking for air–and the supporting cast is strong.

Only Kunis, as Wahlberg’s love interest, falters. She can’t pull off the sophistication required.

Ted‘s an outstanding comedy.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Seth MacFarlane; screenplay by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, based on a story by MacFarlane; director of photography, Michael Barrett; edited by Jeff Freeman; music by Walter Murphy; production designer, Stephen J. Lineweaver; produced by Jason Clark, John Jacobs, MacFarlane, Scott Stuber and Wild; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Mark Wahlberg (John Bennett), Mila Kunis (Lori Collins), Seth MacFarlane (Ted), Joel McHale (Rex), Giovanni Ribisi (Donny), Patrick Warburton (Guy), Matt Walsh (Thomas), Jessica Barth (Tami-Lynn), Aedin Mincks (Robert), Bill Smitrovich (Frank) and Sam J. Jones as the Savior (of the Universe); narrated by Patrick Stewart.


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The Other Guys (2010, Adam McKay), the unrated version

The Other Guys ends with an animation explaining the financial bailout in terms of what it means to the average American (i.e. the viewer). It tangentially relates to the movie’s plot. It might be the “best” use of a mainstream film’s end credits ever. Someone will soon ruin it I’m sure.

Otherwise, The Other Guys is an amiable comedy. Will Ferrell is funny doing his regular thing, only this time in a new setting–though the New York cop movie setting is traditional, so they get to play with the genre a little. Mark Wahlberg is fantastic here, with a self-depreciating performance. Sure, he’s just doing his Departed role (there’s another great Departed reference here too) but it’s still funny. Similarly, Michael Keaton–in his first “big” live action movie in many years–is great. He’s doing a Keaton comedy performance, but it’s excellent. Steve Coogan’s good….

The surprise is Eva Mendes, who’s quite good. She’s really gotten better lately (she has one great scene where she can’t quite contain her laughter opposite Ferrell).

McKay’s direction mimics action movies, so he doesn’t have to do much special with it. It’s a wholly competent production; McKay’s greatest strength as a filmmaker isn’t his composition, which is fine. I mean, the choice of Ice-T as the film’s narrator would be the best thing about it if there weren’t so many other excellent choices.

The Other Guys is a self-aware, intelligently produced diversion.

I can’t believe it made any money.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Adam McKay; written by McKay and Chris Henchy; director of photography, Oliver Wood; edited by Brent White; music by Jon Brion; production designer, Clayton Hartley; produced by Patrick Crowley, McKay, Will Ferrell and Jimmy Miller; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Will Ferrell (Detective Allen Gamble), Mark Wahlberg (Detective Terry Hoitz), Eva Mendes (Dr. Sheila Ramos Gamble), Dwayne Johnson (Detective Christopher Danson), Samuel L. Jackson (Detective PK Highsmith), Michael Keaton (Captain Gene Mauch), Steve Coogan (Sir David Ershon), Ray Stevenson (Roger Wesley), Rob Riggle (Detective Evan Martin), Damon Wayans Jr. (Detective Fosse), Michael Delaney (Bob Littleford), Zach Woods (Douglas), Lindsay Sloane (Francine), Rob Huebel (Officer Watts), Natalie Zea (Christinith) and Anne Heche (Pamela Boardman). Narrated by Ice-T.


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