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Posts Tagged ‘Marky Mark Wahlberg’

All right, time for a bit of an innovation in these parts – exciting, n’est-ce pas? Anyway. You know me, I’ll usually rock up to watch just about anything, but I have to say that the moment I saw the trailer for Sean Anders’ Instant Family I was seized by the absolute conviction that if I watched it I would probably end up vomiting up my stomach lining. I’m not saying that my recent trip to the USA was solely motivated by the desire to avoid this film, but I’m not saying it wasn’t, either. Anyway, my friend the thriller-loving Olinka decided she had the intestinal fortitude to face this particular excursion into (most likely) glutinous sentimentality and has agreed to write about it for your education and entertainment…

I hardly ever write reviews of films I’ve seen. I am an English language teacher, and I teach people how to write reviews as part of their international exam preparation, so that makes me more of a review reader, and a humble pointer out of grammar mistakes, than a review writer. However, since our ringleader, Andy, was on vacation in the USA, and missed our regular Tuesday trip to the cinema, I feel it is my duty to show a little initiative and fill in the gap in his regular blog routine. [A bit late since I’ve been back for a few days now, but better than never I suppose – A]

The choice of film wasn’t hard to make for me and my friend Con-Con, because, let’s face it, what do two hard-working girls want on a no boys evening out? A good giggle, a bit of popcorn [More like a barrel of popcorn knowing you two – A] and a family comedy. We chose Instant Family simply because we wanted to have a good light-hearted time.

So, here we are. The film tells the story of Pete (Mark Wahlberg), and his wife, Ellie (Rose Byrne) [Sigh – A], who, having decided to foster a child, eventually end up with three siblings of Mexican origin: bright, sassy Lizzy (Isabela Moner), shy Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and cute, bossy Lita (Julianna Gamiz). The idea of instantly outdoing their friends who have only one child, and not having to go through sleepless nights and dirty nappies, seems quite appealing at first. But, as you can probably guess, things go off the rails almost straight away.

Being not dissimilar to any new parent – naïve and full of false expectations – the couple soon have to face harsh reality. The initial period of settling in turns out to be an exhausting whirl of tantrums, tears and regular trips to A&E. Add in loads of ruined pastel cream furniture. [Olinka’s eye for interior décor will be well-known to anyone who read the review of Everybody Knows A] Being a new mum myself, I guess I am the perfect target audience for this film, but I couldn’t help smiling at how familiar the whole thing seemed – the helplessness, the chaos, not knowing the right answer, not knowing how to react at times. What becomes clear, I guess, is that, whether or not a child is adopted, when we become parents we never know who our children really are, and one whole life is just not enough time to find out. [This is getting a bit too profound for my liking, do some bad puns – A]

As soon as things settle down a bit, the family gets struck by a new blow. The kids’ biological mother appears in their lives and expresses the wish to take them home. And here for me lies the key question at the heart of the film: What is the love of a child really about? I was reminded of the Biblical story of King Solomon’s Judgement. If you remember, King Solomon has to rule between two women both claiming to be the mother of a child. Solomon suggests cutting the baby in two, so that each woman might receive half. This judgement is designed to reveal the women’s true feelings towards the child. While the non-mother approves of this proposal, the actual mother begs that the child be committed to the care of her rival. The family in this film has a similar decision to make. Will they let go of their loved ones for the sake of their well-being?

Exploring these issues in a gentle, ironic but not mawkish way, the film definitely won me over and brought a tear to my eye (not just me, by the way!). It’s a funny, honest take on the highs and lows of the fostering process, and it is full of insightful set-pieces. Take, for example, adoption picnics, on which potential parents and children meet up for a picnic, strained and stressful experiences which, as the couple in the film rightly point out, resemble a car boot sale of children.

The film overall does an important job in exploring and popularising the idea of fostering, and it busts a couple of myths about adoption, such as, biology makes a family, adopted children won’t fit in, or adoptive parents won’t be able to truly love them. As we see, none of these myths are true, and this is what’s important at the end of the day.

As we were leaving the cinema, my friend commented, ‘I’d like to adopt now!’ and I, to my surprise, answered, “Me too!’ All of which proves my point. This film makes you think this way. It’s message is very simple: be a good person and do something good for other people. I left the cinema with a smile on my face, and a light step. What’s wrong with that? [Hmmm – A]

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There were just under two hours left before we landed at Heathrow, which I reckoned should give me just enough time to enjoy, or not, Peter Berg’s Mile 22, a thriller starring Marky Mark Wahlberg. Berg and Marky Mark have forged a bit of a partnership in recent years, mostly doing based-on-a-real-life-disaster movies like Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day, although I have to say I much prefer his earlier, sillier films like The Rundown and Hancock. My main interest in Mile 22 stemmed not from the involvement of Berg, nor indeed Wahlberg (who I find I can really take or leave as a performer), but that of Iko Uwais, a brilliant Indonesian actor and martial artist who starred in the Raid duology (he was also in one of the stellar conflict movies for about three seconds, but let’s not worry about that). Any film where Uwais gets to do his stuff has a claim on my attention, even when that film gets unfriendly (and that’s putting it charitably!) notices from legitimate film critics.

(Checking out Mile 22 on the in-flight information system, I was startled to find the entry on this movie ran something like ‘Critics have said very unkind things about Mile 22, but these are the same people who didn’t like The Greatest Showman – so why not give it a try?’ I’m all for people being encouraged to make their own minds up, but on the other hand it doesn’t necessarily follow that The Greatest Showman is not, by any rational standard, a massive cheesy wotsit. It didn’t put me in the best of moods, anyway.)

Hey ho. Anyway, the film gets underway with some shadowy American coves, led by Marky Mark, undertaking a secret operation against – so far as I have been able to find out – some Russian spies operating on the US mainland. (This is one of those films which attempts to generate verisimilitude by having the characters rattle out their dialogue in a very terse fashion, and it’s probably not the best movie to listen to over headphones on a crowded plane, even in the wee small hours around dawn.) Things do not go as planned, but for quite a long time it is really not clear what this has to do with the rest of the plot.

This takes place in the fictitious Asian nation of Indocarr, where some radioactive terror dust has gone missing, and the American government would quite like to get it back before people start melting in the street (at least this is what it’s suggested will happen). Marky Mark, who is playing a version of that character whose brilliant brain function excuses the fact he is somewhat sociopathic, is on the job, and it is made clear to us at some length what a tough job it is keeping Uncle US of Stateside safe. Hey ho.

Anyway, up pops Iwo Uwais playing Li Noor, a rogue cop who knows where the terror dust McGuffins are to be found, but will only reveal the information if he is whisked off to the airport (35.4 kilometres away) and given political asylum in the States. The US government isn’t technically allowed to do this sort of thing under the usual international conventions, and so they activate Marky Mark and his team of plausibly deniable agents, who will theoretically be private citizens for the duration of the mission. Also on the team is Lauren Cohan, playing an agent with a challenging personal life, and Ronda Rousey, playing an agent who can clearly bench-press a lot (finely-drawn characterisation isn’t really Mile 22‘s strong point). Shouting at everyone over the radio is John Malkovich. Off they go in their SUVs, and before long an awful lot of people are shooting at them. This makes up the plot of most of the rest of the film.

Hey, you know what? The Greatest Showman is still a massive cheesy wotsit and this film isn’t much cop either. (I should point out that they are very different beasts and even if you are one of those people who thought that Hugh Jackman organising a diversity barn dance was a profoundly uplifting emotional experience, you still probably won’t enjoy Mile 22.)

I remember the critic and commentator Mark Lawson making the observation that when it really boils down to it, there are two kinds of entertainment: Escapist, which attempts to help you forget how awful the world fundamentally is, and Reminder, which grinds your face into the dismal grit of reality. One of the worst mistakes you can make as a storyteller, he suggested, is to be at all unclear on this point, or be under the impression that you’re doing one when you’re really doing the other.

This is the problem with Mile 22. It has a nice high-concept premise to it – team of guys must transport other guy they don’t particularly trust through hostile urban territory – and basically has cheesy knockabout thriller written all over it. Two prominent characters are played by performers with a martial-arts background, after all. However, after all those gravitas-laden true-life stories, it seems that Berg and Marky Mark have no real interest in doing cheesy crowd-pleasing stuff: they are Serious Film-makers now, even if they are now making a film in which Iko Uwais beats three armed opponents to death in his pants.

Thus, that high-concept premises vanishes under a slew of dour, improbable plot-twists, downbeat character bits, and general complications that just make the film less fun to watch. We’re quite a long way into Mile 22 before they start going those twenty-two miles, and the stuff before that is not especially interesting.

It has to be said that the actual twenty-two miles themselves are not much better, mainly because Berg seems to be one of those people who thinks that the secret of a great action sequence is to cut between cameras every three seconds. This is good for generating incipient nausea, but not so good when it comes to tension and excitement. Needless to say, it favours the actors over the martial artists and stuntmen – what’s the point of hiring someone like Uwais if you never show what he’s capable of doing? (That said, Iko Uwais does deliver an impressive English-language acting performance, though I’m not sure the film is worth watching just for this.)

In the end it is just a frustrating and depressing experience, not just because of the tone of the story, but because it feels like you’re watching people with genuine talent actively setting out to make a bad movie on purpose. And you just wonder what the point of the exercise is, unless this is all supposed to be setting up a sequel. Even if it is, I can’t imagine many people feeling sufficiently motivated to come along and check it out. This is pretty much a thorough-going dud.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published September 25th 2003:

‘Hold on a minute, chaps, I’ve thought of something!’ ‘This is the mutual appreciation society..,’ ‘You’re only supposed to blast the flipping roof off!’ Yes, one way and another the 1969 movie The Italian Job has unforgettably embedded itself into the cultural landscape, so it’s hardly surprising the Americans have gone and remade it – really, really loosely.

The new Italian Job, directed by F Gary Gray, kicks off with Marky Mark Wahlberg, who has great hair but very little screen presence, masterminding a bullion heist in Venice with the aid of his gang (who include Donald Sutherland, Seth Green from Buffy and Austin Powers, and that charismatically rotten actor Jason Statham). The scheme, involving dustbinmen, scuba gear, and exploding paint, goes according to plan until one weaselly gang-member (Edward Norton, phoning it in) tries to kill everyone else before running off with all the gold. One year later Marky Mark tracks Norton down to LA and comes up with a new scheme to steal the gold back, recruiting beautiful safecracker Charlize Theron to help out (a case of the bland leading the blonde). The initial plan, which involves sneaking up behind Norton with a sock full of sand, is put on hold when Mini manufacturer BMW offers a skipload of cash in exchange for some serious product placement…

For all that it’s become a much-loved favourite, I’ve always thought that the original Italian Job was a rather crass and jingoistic film which wouldn’t have been made had we not won the Cup in 1966. It’s a shameless bellow of ‘England is best!!!’, utterly contemptuous of every other nationality, and (I’d be prepared to bet) a firm favourite of many soccer hooligans. This is what the original film is about, it’s encoded into its’ DNA. So an American remake, mainly populated by Americans (okay, so there’s a Canadian, a South African and a Brit in there, but let’s not quibble), and set in America, seemed to me to be entirely missing the point.

Well, take this how you will, but there’s very little of the original Job left in the remake: only a couple of character names and, of course, a new version of the famous car chase with the minis. So comprehensive is the re-imagining that the elements of the original movie are the ones that seem peculiarly incongruous. Far better to look at this film on its own merits, which are not inconsiderable – it’s slick, it’s funny, there are some nice performances and the action is well-staged. Admittedly there are some slightly nauseating faux-paternal bonding moments between Sutherland and Marky Mark, but not enough to spoil things completely.

Having said that, Marky Mark really is terribly dull as the main character. This isn’t helped by the fact that a perfectly serviceable leading man for this kind of dumb caper movie is growling and mugging away at his shoulder for most of the movie: yes, it’s Jason Statham, folks. Attentive masochists will know how much I enjoyed The Transporter, Statham’s last vehicle (ho ho), and he’s on the same winning form here. Gallantly, he’s also persuaded the producers to give a tiny cameo to his fiancee, the equally talented Kelly Brook. That said, Seth Green is also extremely funny as the team’s computer geek – he and Statham should both be looking at serious career boosts on the strength of this.

Apart from Marky Mark’s charm shortfall, the film only really disappoints when it comes to the concluding car chase, which is a bit lacklustre compared to the original, and the ending, which inevitably can’t compete with 1969’s literal cliffhanger. But as I say, this is smart and funny and very entertaining in its’ own way. Strangely enough, though, the truth remains that the 1969 Italian Job, while not a particularly great film, is undeniably a classic, and the 2003 version, though not a particularly bad one, isn’t. Funny old world, innit?

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