Posts Tagged ‘PAIN AND GAIN’

Transformers: Age of Extinction: Stars feel the heat of real explosions


By Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

“We were happy to do whatever was asked of us whenever it was asked of us,” says Transformers: Age of Extinction star Jack Reynor.

The Colorado-born, Irish-raised actor proved he was game for anything when he was given just twenty minutes to prepare for a wild scene that brought him face-to-face with real explosions.

“It is an incredibly intimidating experience in many ways,” he said, “but at the end of the day you have to trust the people around you, that they know what they’re doing that they’re prepared and that you’re safe. We had a great stunt team who worked on this film with us. Those guys really put us at ease.”

Sharing the explosive scene with Reynor were his co-stars Nicola Peltz and Mark Wahlberg.

“They worked so hard to make this huge explosion,” says Peltz, best known for her role as Bradley Martin on Bates Motel. “I think it took a week but we didn’t know about it. We were kind of confused when we got on set and saw ten cameras. (Director) Michael (Bay) told us a few minutes before, ‘You’re going to do this huge stunt. It’s not going to be stunt doubles, it’s going to be you guys and you have to run from here to here in 4.6 seconds.’

“There’s not much acting when there are real explosions behind you,” she says. “You just have to run.”

The experience of sprinting away from live blasts wasn’t exactly what Peltz expected when she signed on for the role in the fourth Transformers film.

“I thought there was going to be more green screen than there actually was but Michael wants everything to be as real as possible so the car chases and the explosions are all real.”

“You can really tell the difference,” says Reynor. “You can tell when a movie is really heavy on CG. It doesn’t really look real. As far as we’ve come with effects and all the advancements we’ve made—some of them are really great—at the end of the day to do it practically and do it for real always looks best on screen. That’s why Michael tries to make it that way. On top of that it makes everything more tangible for us; a lot easier to relate to and react off. That’s why I think these movies have been as incredibly successful as they have because the audience really does feel it.”

Michael Bay doesn’t care what you think, he just keeps making hits

transformers6By Richard Crouse – In Focus Metro Canada

Director Michael Bay once said he doesn’t make movies for critics. The auteur behind such hits as The Rock, Armageddon, Bad Boys 1 and 2 and the Transformers movies is best known for making big, loud films that rake it in at the box office but leave critics reaching for the Advil.

Bay acknowledged the adversarial relationship in a 2005 article by Rene Rodriguez.

“They castrate me,” he told Rodriguez. “They call me the devil and all that crap.”

It’s not hard to see why reviewers have a hard time with his films. He never met a building or car or city he didn’t want to blow up in spectacular fashion and critics often feel like they have to slather on SPF 70 to avoid getting get a tan from the glare off the giant fireballs that light up screen in Bay’s films.

Audiences, however, have flocked to his flicks. According to his ten features have grossed $1,898,048,525, or an average of $189,804,853. That’s a lot of beans.

The release this weekend of Transformers: Age of Extinction promises to add to those totals. The fourth installment of the franchise stars Mark Wahlberg as a single father and struggling inventor who discovers the deactivated Autobots leader Optimus Prime.

The movie promises a whole new raft of Transformers, including bounty hunter Lockdown and the rough and tumble Dinobot Grimlock. Bay promises we’ll also see an “angry Optimus Prime.”

Will the critics like Age of Extinction? Who knows? It probably won’t matter, the Transformers movies are as close to guaranteed hits as Hollywood has these days, so reviews most likely won’t matter to the box office.

Not all of Bay’s films have been critically reviled. “The critics were very nice to me when I first began with Bad Boys,” he says and his last movie, the crime drama Pain and Gain was called “the best movie Michael Bay’s ever made,” by the Newark Star-Ledger.

It has a few things going for it. First, there isn’t a robot in sight. Secondly, a great cast—including Wahlberg, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Anthony Mackie—who bring serious star power and third, it doesn’t really feel like a Michael Bay film. And by that I mean there’s only one shot of the three leads walking away from a slow motion explosion.

Years ago I wrote this about his trademarked aural and optical onslaught: “The former commercial director has a knack for making everything look shiny but having great taste doesn’t make a great film director any more than great taste makes a Snicker’s bar a gourmet meal.” I even coined a word for his style: Hullabayloo, but nothing that any critic or I write matters to the director.

“I’ve actually stopped reading (reviews),” he told Rodriguez.


Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 12.31.58 PM1. Admission: Tina Fey is Portia Nathan, a mildly compulsive Princeton admissions officer—they jokingly call her their “golden retriever” because of her record of recruiting a-plus students—who leads a quiet, ordered life with professor Mark (Michael Sheen). They share a love of poetry, hatred of kids and not much else. Her well ordered life is thrown into disarray when John Pressman (Rudd), a free-spirited former classmate and now teacher at an alternative school, introduces her to Jeremiah Balakian (Nat Wolff), a brilliant young man who may be the child she gave up for adoption seventeen years ago. “Admission” is familiar enough to not jar the sensibilities of undemanding rom com fans, but there is more here than immediately meets the eye.

2. The Bling Ring: Based on actual events, “The Bling Ring” centers around a group of narcissistic Los Angeles area teenagers, Rebecca (Katie Chang), Marc (Israel Broussard), Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Fermiga) and Chloe (Claire Julien).

Their modus operandi? They track the comings and goings of their favorite celebs on via internet. While one-named millennial stars like Paris, Lindsay, Megan or Audrina are out on the town or out of town completely, the Ring “go shopping,” breaking into their homes and help themselves to jewels, designer clothes and loose cash. More than that, they live vicariously through the lives of the rich and famous folks they’re burgling.

“The Bling Ring” plays like a “Law & Order” episode of “The Hills.” The crime spree is device that keeps the story moving forward, but the fascinating thing is the portrait of these self-absorbed kids who aspire to hosting reality shows or becoming a “lifestyle brand” as a career. They want fame and money, but are so tied up with the idea of fame and money they are blind to virtually everything else.

“The Bling Ring” is a fascinating art-house glimpse of fame found, just not the fame the thieving teens sought. They are the robbers TMZ made famous, a group of kids who redefined narcissism in an already narcissistic town.

3. The East: Britt Marling stars as corporate spy Jane Owen, code name Sarah. Her latest job involves going deep undercover to infiltrate a shadowy group of eco-terrorists called The East. The collective—think real life activists Anonymous—run by the charismatic anarchist Benji (Alexander Skarsgård), is on the eve of their biggest demonstration yet, an act of sabotage that will make headlines and make a very public statement of their anti-corporate stance.

Sarah is accepted by the group, save for the truculent Izzy (Ellen Page), and begins to develop Stockholm syndrome. Or does she?

It’s a morally complex movie, with Sarah at the center of the ethical hurricane as she starts to question her role as both a spy and a would-be member of the radical group. She weighs the morality of both sides and… well, go see the movie.

“The East” deliberately paints shades of grey into the story, allowing for good and bad, evil and sympathetic characters on both sides. It may be too nuanced for folks who like their spy stories to take sides, but Sarah, as the source of the plot’s push-and-pull, is too complex a creation to play it straight. Marling brings strength and fighting spirit to Sarah in a performance that could finally make her a star.

4. The Iceman: Based on “The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer” by crime writer Anthony Bruno the movie begins on Kuklinski’s first date with his wife to be Deborah (Winona Ryder). He’s quiet and reserved, but charming and she is won over by his charisma. They marry, have kids and lead a normal life. At least at home. Deborah had no idea her mild mannered husband was an expert assassin, who paid for the kid’s private school and her jewels by slicing throats, shooting and choking the enemies of his boss Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta).

Kuklinski was dubbed the Iceman for two reasons. When he was arrested police found a stash of bodies he had frozen to obscure time of death and because of his icy demeanor. It’s a role Shannon was born to play. From certain angles he looks like an everyman, the kind of guy who goes home at night to his wife and two kids. From other angles he’s menacing, the kind of guy you don’t want to meet in a dark alley.

Shannon is cooler than Mr. Freeze as the title character in “The Iceman,” and he’s joined by Chris Evans in a career making performance as a ice cream truck driving killer, Liotta in mobster mode—between Shannon and Liotta it’s a showdown of the steely stares—the welcome return of Wynonna Ryder and David Schwimmer playing against type as a slimy mafia enforcer.

5. The Last Stand: Near the beginning of the movie the head lawman of the sleepy border town of Summerton Junction, Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger), says, “Should be a quiet weekend.” Of course whenever Arnold, or any eighties action star says, “Should be a quiet weekend,” you know all hell is about to break loose. And break loose it does.

In a parallel story ruthless drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) stages an elaborate escape and heads for the Mexican border, which just happens to lie outside Arnold’s… er… Owens’s town. As Cortez speeds toward the border he has a quick cell phone call with Owens. “Do you wanna play?,” he yells. “Let’s play!” And play they do… with big guns.

Schwarzenegger is moving noticeably slower these days—How are you Sheriff? “Old,” he says.—but his comic timing is still there and no one else can battle through this kind of cheesefest and emerge with his action cred intact.

“The Last Stand” is not a movie to be taken seriously, but it wasn’t made to be taken seriously. Why else would cult director Jee-woon Kim cast Johnny Knoxville?

6. The Lone Ranger: Set against a backdrop of corruption during the building of the railway’s westward expansion through Native American territory, this is the origin story of how attorney John Reid (Armie Hammer), a law and order man who doesn’t believe in vengeance, met Tonto (Johnny Depp) and became the Wild West’s masked crusader.

The unlikely pair are brought together by their mutual enmity toward Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), a cannibalistic outlaw who Reid wants to bring to justice and Tonto wants dead. That pursuit uncovers massive corruption during the building of the railway’s westward expansion through Native American territory beginning with a conspiracy to start a war between the US Calvary and the Comanche Nation.

“The Lone Ranger” is state of the art nouveau Western, complete with circling vultures, unspoiled landscapes, gruff, unshaven men and even a beer drinking horse. Surprisingly nimble footed for a two-and-a-half hour epic, it is unexpectedly funny but more violent than your typical summer tent pole flick.

7. Pacific Rim: Director Guillermo Del Toro has made an end-of-the-world scenario fun.

In the world he creates in “Pacific Rim” the planet is threatened with destruction by Kaijus, colossal beasts with an appetite for destruction. Coming to our world through a breach in a portal beneath the Pacific Ocean, the earth is losing the war against these beasts.  The main of line of defense, giant robots called Jaegers—operated by pilots who mind meld with the metal behemoths; the deeper the connection, the better they fight—are being decommissioned in favor of a giant wall. “Kaijus are evolving,” says one military man, “and we’re losing Jaegers faster than we can build them.”

In the months before the machines are made obsolete a driven colonel, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Alba), assembles a crack team of Jaeger pilots—including burned out former pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie “Sons of Anarchy” Hunnam) and talented but untested trainee Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to launch one last attack to close the portal and save the planet.

Del Toro has supersized a Godzilla story, adding in 50s b-movie tropes with state of the art sci fi to create something fresh. It’s a thrill ride from the beginning, a giant action movie that doesn’t just rely on a cool premise.

In other words, “Battleship” this ain’t.

8. Pain and Gain: Near the beginning a voiceover says, “Unfortunately, this is based on a true story.” It’s the real-life tale of three Miami-based body builders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie) chasing the American Dream. Pumped up and steroid crazy they abduct a prominent local businessman (Tony Shalhoub). They beat and torture the self-made millionaire until he signs over all his wealth—houses, cars, boats and money. The story eventually becomes so outlandish Bay flashes up a graphic in the last half hour reminding us that this is “still a true story.”

This is a seriously weird movie. It’s Bay working with a tiny—for him—budget of just $26 million. The guy has made commercials that cost more than that, but has delivered the darkest comedy—imagine if the Coen Brothers did gruesome slapstick—to come down the pike in a while.

9. Rush: When we first meet Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) they are third stringers, talented Formula 3 drivers desperate for a chance to move up to the big show. Lauda makes a financial deal that lands him on Team Ferrari while Hunt uses tenacity, charm and a touch of desperation to grab a spot with the McLaren team.

Bad blood flows between the two, stemming back to an incident when Hunt edged Lauda off the track the first time they faced off against one another. That rivalry spills over from the track as the two engage in name-calling and spar in the press.

In the 1976 season Lauda seems unstoppable, a sure bet to reclaim his World Champion title. Then tragedy strikes as Lauda is badly burned in a fiery crash. During his recuperation Hunt rises in the ranks, leading to a showdown, just 50 days after Lauda’s accident, for the World Championship at the Japan Grand Prix.

“Rush” is more than “Rocky” on four wheels, it’s an exhilarating, stylish film with pedal-to-the-metal verve.

10. The Sapphires: The year is 1968. Dave Lovelace is an English (Chris O’Dowd) piano player with a love for Otis Redding and booze. While hosting a talent show in remote Australia hosting he discovers three sisters, Cynthia (Miranda Tapsekll), Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy), with amazing voices but a tired country and western style repertoire. Adding cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) as background singer and dance captain, he molds them into the Australian Supremes and gets them their first gigs—in Vietnam singing for the troops.

“The Sapphires” is a feel good movie that succeeds despite the cliché story. It’s based—one imagines very loosely based—on a true story, but make no mistake, this is a Hollywood-ized (filtered through an Australian sensibility) version of the tale.

Authenticity aside, it’s the performances and the music that make “The Sapphires” worth a look. We first noticed O’Dowd on this side of the Atlantic as the charming love interest in “Bridesmaids.” He brings it again in “The Sapphires,” mixing roguish appeal with bang on comic timing.

“The Sapphires” is a slight, but entertaining take on the effect of music to change people’s lives.

11. The To Do List: High school valedictorian Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is an overachiever. She’s the publisher of her own magazine, Women With a Y, a straight A student with a full scholarship to Georgetown University and has a Perfect Attendance certificate proudly hanging on her wall.

She’s also a virgin, a status she hopes to change soon with the help of Rusty Waters (Scott Porter), a college surfer stud with a perfect smile. Attacking her new project with the gusto that won her accolades in school, she gets the advice of friends and family (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele and Rachel Bilson) and makes up a “to do” list, applying the same zeal that made her a mathlete to losing her virginity.

Telling the story from a female point of view is a nice turnaround from the usual boycentric sex comedy story.

“The To Do List” is endearingly off-kilter, a different take on the “Porky’s” style of sexual coming-of-age stories usually that are usually headlined by the male members of the cast. I wish it was a bit shorter—did they really need 100 minutes to tell this story?—and a bit funnier, but for anyone who came of age just as The New Kids on the Block were calling it quits (for the first time) there is much to enjoy here.

12. Warm Bodies: Nicholas Hoult plays R (pronounced “arrgghhgghh”), an existential zombie who wants more out of life… or death, or whatever it is you call his current state. “Why can’t I connect with people?” he wonders in the narration. “Why is my posture so bad? Of yeah, I’m dead.” There’s been a plague of some sort which has left him and most of the population hungry for brains, while the sole human survivors live behind a giant wall.

Zombies and humans alike are terrified of the Bonies—evolved zombies who’ll eat anything with a heartbeat. “So will I,” says R, “but at least I’m conflicted about it.”

On a feeding trip R encounters a team of humans on the search for supplies. One zombie attack later he has eaten the brains of Perry (Dave Franco). When he gets a glimpse of Perry’s girlfriend Julie (Teresa Palmer) he loses his appetite. Perry’s memories come flooding into R’s zombie brain and he begins to feel something he hasn’t felt for a long time—human emotions.

It’s “Walking Dead” meets “Romeo and Juliet” with a twist—it just might be that love and hope can still set hearts a flutter, even ones that haven’t beaten in a while.

Any movie with the line, “I know it’s really hard to meet guys now… in the apocalypse and everything,” is OK by me.

13. You’re Next: On the occasion of their parents 35th wedding anniversary the Davidson kids and assorted wives, girl and boy friends gather at a remote Tudor mansion—is there any other type in these kinds of movies?—to enjoy dinner and one another, but instead end up in a fight for their lives. Only one of the guests, Erin (Sharni Vinson), has the know-how to protect herself, but will it be enough?

It’s hard to discuss “You’re Next,” which had its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival Midnight Madness program, without giving away a major plot twist, but I will say there is a Manson Family aspect to the story that really creeped me out. That plus the anxiety-inducing John Carpenter style score throbbing in the background and the “moist” sound effects accompanying the wet work. It’s all effective but it is the idea behind the movie that is truly disturbing.

There is a rawness to the filmmaking—and let’s just say that there are no future Meryl Streeps in the cast—that although there is very little actual gore, is chilling.

I don’t know what it says about my mental make-up, but I really liked “You’re Next.” It’s disturbing, violent and without any redeeming social value, but I enjoyed sitting in the theatre with my hands over my eyes, afraid of what I might see next. I’m not usually a fan of head trauma, but from what I saw as I peeked through my fingers, it works well.

Ode to the overlooked: Movies you may have missed in 2013

Film Review-Pain and GainSynopsis: From January to December 2013, hundreds of movies opened on our screens. We saw everything from American Hustle to Zero Charisma, from the ridiculous — 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — to the sublime — 12 Years a Slave. The Reel Guys watched a lot of bad movies this year so you don’t have to and saw many great ones to recommend. But some of the good flicks slipped by without finding an audience. This week they revisit some movies you may have missed but should take a look at.

Richard: Mark, Pain and Gain seemed to me like it couldn’t lose. Starring Dwayne Johnson, who was recently named 2013’s biggest money-making star, Mark Wahlberg and directed by Michael “big bucks” Bay, it was the funny-but-true story about a trio of greedy dumb criminals who kidnap a rich guy. It plays like an episode of CSI: Miami performed by the Three Stooges and should have done boffo box office, but for some reason it didn’t. What did you like that slipped through the cracks?

Mark: I loved Pain and Gain, and if anyone told me one of the best movies of the year would be directed by schlockmeister Michael Bay, I would take it as a sign of the upcoming apocalypse. Another overlooked gem to me was Trance, Danny Boyle’s genre buster. Is it about an art heist? Mind control? Sexual obsession? Revenge? Best to ask James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson, both in fine form, and in the case of Dawson, I do mean — ahem — fine form.

RC: Also in fine form were the giant robots and sea monsters in Pacific Rim. I know they always say about Hollywood that “nobody knows anything,” that you never know what will be a hit, but I thought the combo of Guillermo Del Toro, colossal sea beasts with an appetite for destruction and humungous rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots was a winner. It’s a supersize geek freak out that transports you back in time to wherever you were when you were lucky enough to see your first Godzilla movie.

MB: Sorry, Richard, to me, actual rock-em, sock-em robots are more interesting, and are better actors. Another undiscovered gem for me was Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh’s Hitchcockian mindbender from early winter. Starting off as a condemnation of the pharmaceutical industry, it turns a lot of corners and becomes a thrilling cerebral murder mystery. And Jude Law, no longer acting with his looks, is magnificent.

RC: Warm Bodies was essentially one joke — the zombie as a metaphor for awkward teenage love — but it’s a pretty good one and well performed. Too bad more people didn’t see it. The movie doesn’t exactly make sense, particularly if you’re a zombie fan of either the Romero or Walking Dead schools, but no matter how fast and loose it plays with the established mythology of the undead it’s still a new twist on an old form.

MB: Warm Bodies reminded me of Ricky Gervais’ Ghost Town in mood and had the same limitations of premise. A foreign film I thought was brilliant was China’s A Touch Of Sin, which interwove four stories Pulp-Fiction style about the new economy in China and its victims, often ending in sad violent episodes. Brilliant Richard.


pain-and-gain“Pain and Gain,” the new Michael Bay crime movie, has a few things going for it., First, there isn’t a robot in sight. Secondly, a great cast who bring serious star power and third, it doesn’t really feel like a Michael Bay film. And by that I mean there’s only one shot of the three leads walking away from a slow motion explosion.

Near the beginning a voiceover says, “Unfortunately, this is based on a true story.” It’s the real-life tale of three Miami-based body builders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie) chasing the American Dream. Pumped up and steroid crazy they abduct a prominent local businessman (Tony Shalhoub). They beat and torture the self-made millionaire until he signs over all his wealth—houses, cars, boats and money. The story eventually becomes so outlandish Bay flashes up a graphic in the last half hour reminding us that this is “still a true story.”

This is a seriously weird movie. It’s Bay working with a tiny—for him—budget of just $26 million. The guy has made commercials that cost more than that, but has delivered the darkest comedy—imagine if the Coen Brothers did gruesome slapstick—to come down the pike in a while.

Playing somewhere like an episode of “CSI: Miami” performed by the Three Stooges, the story of a trio of greedy dumb criminals—and they don’t get much stupider than this gang who couldn’t shoot straight—is violent, funny and unpredictable. The only thing you know for sure is nothing is going to go as planned.

It’s not understated, but then did you expect a movie directed by Bay and starring the world’s most famous wrestler to be subtle? Any idea of building a thematic treatise around the corrupting powers of he American Dream of wealth and power is thrown out the window early on in favor of Bay’s fixation with the absurd aspects of the story.

Instead it’s a wild ride that cruises along for over two hours—which is maybe twenty minutes too much—with the usual Bay touches—negligible roles for women and stylish photography that makes every shot look like it was ripped from a GQ layout—featuring likeable actors playing unlikable people.

It’s tough to make a funny movie about people who heartlessly kill innocent people. Bay cast well, finding actors who bring goodwill with them, and keep the audience on side even as the tone of the movie turns dark—or as dark as Bay can ever get with his stylish, glittering images.

As the ringleader of this funky bunch, Wahlberg plays a guy whose “heroes are all self-made: Rocky, Scarface and the guys from ‘The Godfather’.” He’s stupid, but doesn’t know it, and Mark shows how being a dim bulb with grandiose ideas can turn dangerous.

After a long series of unrewarding supporting roles Anthony Mackie gets a chance to shine and Shalhoub does impressive work, but the stand out is Johnson who finally has a role that marries his physicality to his impeccable comic timing.

“Pain and Gain” doesn’t scrimp on the violence and the nastiness of the story, but tempers it with some of the best gore gags this side of Tarantino. Case in point, Wahlberg ordering The Rock to “grill these fingerprints” off some decapitated hands. If you can stomach that, buy a ticket. If not, the next “Transformers” movie is set to be released next year.