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Archive for November, 2014
“I think I can comfortably say we were all very happy when the movie was over,” says Channing Tatum of making the crime drama Foxcatcher.
Based on a true story, the movie begins with former Olympian Mark Schultz, played by Tatum, training to regain the glory of his past achievements. When he accepts multi-millionaire John du Pont’s (Steve Carell) offer of sponsorship he begins a journey that will end in world championship glory and murder.
Director Bennett Miller wanted Foxcatcher to be the follow-up to his Oscar winning biopic Capote. When he first approached Tatum to play Schultz the muscle bound actor was best known as the eye candy in teen comedies like She’s the Man and dance movies like Step Up.
“I think the first time I read the script I just didn’t understand why you’d want to make the film,” he says. “There’s no resolve to any of this. No lesson learned. It’s way more complicated than that. It’s actually more close to life. It is a portrait of something that happened. I don’t think I was anywhere near to understanding the story or the character. I think I did a lot of growing in those seven years. I fell in love with this idea of attempting this.”
The actor threw himself into the role, studying wrestling, which he says is impossible to fake on screen—“It is just a melee but you get used to being inside that melee.”—and even destroying a hotel room in one powerful scene.
“I told them, ‘Whatever is in that room probably won’t come out not broken.’ That is all from Mark Schultz. He told me he would punish himself so badly after losing that he would make losing so much worse than any physical pain he was going through in the match so he would never want to lose again.”
He kept up that level of intensity for the whole shoot. “It just never stopped,” he said, not even when his wife, actress Jenna Dewan, came to visit.
“My wife was pregnant and she came to Pittsburgh during [the shoot],” he says. “She was supposed to stay a week but left after the second day. She was like, ‘Nope. It is not healthy for me to be here. You’re in a weird place. It’s OK but I’m just going to go now. Love you! Call me at least once a night before you go to bed and we’ll be fine.’”
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At one time or another everyone has fantasized about, if not killing, then at least doing grievous bodily harm to an employer. The guys in Horrible Bosses, the 2011 comedy starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, actually tried to make their fantasies reality.
The idea of squaring off against the boss man struck a chord with a lot of people and the movie raked in more than $100 million. So the inevitable sequel, Horrible Bosses 2, hit theatres earlier this week.
They’ll have to go some ways to top the last trio of bad bosses: Jennifer Aniston as a foul-mouthed sexual predator with a bad habit of using laughing gas as foreplay; a manic boss with no scruples in the form of Kevin Spacey; and a drug-addled loser with a penchant for cocaine and masseuses who inherits a business from his papa, played by Colin Farrell, who berates his employees for coming in late after attending his dad’s and their old boss’s funeral.
“Well, maybe that excuse would have flown when my dad was here, but I’m in charge now.”
But even that terrible trio pales in comparison to the worst movie bosses of all time.
One of the worst is Working Girl’s Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). Parker is two-faced, and attempts to pass off her trusted secretary Tess McGill’s (Melanie Griffith) ideas as her own. Roger Ebert said of Weaver’s performance, “From her first frame on the screen, she has to say all the right things while subtly suggesting that she may not mean any of them.”
In the end, Tess teaches her a lesson about honesty and gets Katharine fired.
Katharine looks like a pussycat compared to Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey), the tyrannical Hollywood producer in Swimming with Sharks.
“You are nothing!” he says to his new assistant Guy (Frank Whaley). “If you were in my toilet I wouldn’t bother flushing it. My bathmat means more to me than you!”
Guy finally snaps, kidnaps Buddy and tortures him. But in an unexpected twist, the extreme behaviour earns Buddy’s respect and Guy gets a promotion.
Finally, if you mix the swooping white hair and bad attitude of Cruella DeVille with the people skills of Vlad the Impaler, you will come up with Miranda Priestly, the worst boss in all of moviedom. Played by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, Priestly is the editrix of a fictional fashion magazine called Runway who never met an assistant she couldn’t humiliate with a withering glance and a few choice words. “By all means, move at a glacial pace,” she says to newbie Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway). “You know how that thrills me.”
If nothing g else “Foxcatcher,” a true-life crime drama from Bennett Miller, director of “Moneyball,” is an exercise in the transformative nature of an under bite. Jutting out his jaw changes Channing Tatum from movie star handsome to thick-necked gym rat Mark Schultz, one third of a story of murder and America’s wealthiest family.
Based on true events, the story begins with Schultz, a gold medal-winning wrestler at the 1984 Olympics, training with his brother David (Mark Ruffalo) to regain the glory of his past achievements. Out of the blue he is contacted by John du Pont (Steve Carell), multi-millionaire and sports enthusiast with a simple but grand offer. The patriotic du Pont asks Schultz to put together a team of wrestlers, who would train at a special facility at Foxcatcher Farms and establish America’s dominance at the upcoming Seoul Olympics. Schultz signs for $25,000 a year–“I just said the highest number in my head.”—beginning a journey that will end in world championship glory and murder.
Even though this is a true story that more or less follows the public record of events I’ve left the synopsis vague so as not to spoil the film’s climax. In doing so I also failed to mention the growing sense of alienation and the slow burn of psychological dysfunction. A pall hangs over the entire film, building toward the culmination of the action that is shocking not only in its randomness, but in its volume. Miller has made a quiet, restrained film, one that demands the viewer to lean forward to appreciate, so when three loud gunshots ring out they shatter the quiet in a jarringly effective depiction of violence.
But for as effective as that scene is, the build-up is demands patience. The leads are uniformly great—particularly Carell who, as a repressed man used to getting what he wants and winning, whether it is a world championship title or play wrestling at a party, hands in a career re-defining performance—but the studied precision of the direction bogs down the pacing. If Miller edited the VERY long pauses in the conversations between Mark and John he could have trimmed half-an-hour from the running time. Some will find the start-and-stop delivery adds to the film’s surreal feel, other will simply find it tedious.
“Foxcatcher” is buoyed by interesting, unexpected performances and an unnerving tone but adds little to the examination of the complex issues that lie at the center of the story. Unchecked privilege and moral decadence are on display but the underlying pathology of the piece remains a mystery.
“The Penguins of Madagascar” is the punniest movie of the year. It never met a pun it didn’t like and these penguins give The Marx Brothers a run for their money in the word play department. Based on spin off characters from the “Madagascar” series, these shifty, flightless birds soar in a movie that is more entertaining than the films that introduced us to them.
Skipper (voice of Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) are penguins on a mission. Dr. Octavius Brine, (voice of John Malkovich) is an octopodian evil genius on a mission to get revenge on a certain quartet of birds for a perceived slight. To save themselves, and perhaps all of penguin-kind, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private reluctantly team with an animal undercover organization known as The North Wind. Led by the suave wolf Agent Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch) they aim to aid the penguins, but will the high tech spies be more of a hindrance than help?
“The Penguins of Madagascar” has a lot in common with other big screen animated entertainment for children. It is paced at the speed of light, has several frenetic action scenes and seems tailor made to inspire a run on cute stuffed toys at Movies ‘R’ Us. The thing that sets it apart from its animated cousins is the spirit of anarchy in its casting, story choices and even the barrage of puns.
How many kid’s movies feature a cameo by the sublimely surreal director Werner Herzog? Can you name another children’s flick where a character says, “You didn’t have a family and we’re all going to die,” to a newborn? Then there are the puns. They come fast and furious, usually in the form of an off hand comment. The movie’s best running gag involves working movie star names into Dr. Brine’s instructions to his minions. “Nicholas! Cage those penguins!” It’s silly and by the time he gets to Elijah Wood, Drew Barrymore and Kevin Bacon, also hilarious.
“The Penguins of Madagascar” is good, zany fun. No lessons will be learned, no morals taught, nothing gained but a good time at the movies.
“Horrible Bosses 2” is being billed as a comedy and stars people—like the Jasons, Bateman and Sudeikis, Charlie Day and Jennifer Aniston—usually associated with making people laugh, but does the almost complete absence of anything giggle worthy preclude us from labeling it a comedy? Discuss.
In the second peek at the pitiful employment record of Nick (Bateman), Kurt (Sudeikis) and Dale (Day), the guys go into business for themselves. Their product, the Shower Buddy—a shower nozzle that shoots shampoo and conditioner as well as water—seems like a sure fire As-Seen-On-TV hit but when a shady billionaire (Christoph Waltz) tries to swindle them out of their livelihood they decide to get even by kidnapping his son (Chris Pine). “If we’ve learned one thing about ourselves,” says Nick, “it’s that we’re not murderers.”
Off the top it has to be said that Bateman, Sudeikis and Day have great chemistry together. They joke, jostle and jape like brothers, giggling their way through the movie as if they are in on a fantastic gag that only they get. The trio seems to be having fun, and judging by the outtake reel that plays over the credits, the set was filled with laughter every time someone blew a line. If only the audience could have as much fun watching the movie as the cast did making it.
“Horrible Bosses 2” is a demotion from the original film. There are more laughs on the average job application than in this workplace “comedy.” It’s misogyny masquerading as humour, with unlikeable characters and an inane premise that diminishes in interest as the running time increases.
Watch the whole thing HERE!