Monday, April 29, 2013

Wknd Box Office (& DVD Review): Mud, Pain & Gain, Pawn, The Big Wedding

Here is an interesting article from reviewing some of the movies that came out over the past weekend. This follows this post about some of the movies from last week and THIS POST about some movies that have been released over the past few years that you might have missed! This all follows this post about guidelines to chosing good movies to watch yourself!

Wknd Box Office (& DVD Review): Mud, Pain & Gain, Pawn, The Big Wedding

By Debbie Schlussel

I only liked one of the new movies debuting in theaters today. And I liked another movie which is out on DVD this week and for which I attended a special Detroit screening, last week. But, oh the crap I sit through so you don’t have to.

* “Mud“: This is the best new movie in theaters, this weekend. But in this case, it’s not “relative.” This is a great movie in its own right, and very cute, too (though I wouldn’t take kids to see it because of language issues). I found this adventure/thriller/coming of age movie (it’s all three in one) to be charming, entertaining, relaxing, enjoyable, and a nice slice of small rivertown Southern life in America.

The movie focuses on two young boys from working class families in a small Arkansas town on the Mississippi River. Their families make a living from fishing in the river. The main character is Ellis (played by terrific 16-year-old newcomer Tye Sheridan), who lives on a houseboat with his parents (the father is played by Sam Shepard), who are in a troubled marriage. The government threatens to take their houseboat away in an attempt to “clear” the river. Ellis’ best friend is a constantly-swearing kid, nicknamed “Neckbone,” or “Neck” for short (Jacob Lofland). He lives with his uncle (Michael Shannon), who also fishes for a living, going underwater to capture shellfish.

The two boys like to take a small motorboat to a small, abandoned, forested island nearby. There they discover Mud (Matthew McConaughey), who appears to be a homeless man. He tells them that he is on the island to meet up with the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), who is in town. Mud promises the kids his boat, if they will get him food and supplies and other items he needs while he is on the island, but soon they learn that Mud isn’t exactly who he says he is. Ellis also learns about finding love and losing it (his parents’ rocky marriage), and he and Neck’s friendship grows stronger through their adventures in helping Mud.

I don’t want to say more, or it will give away this terrific movie. If you are scared of snakes, there is a brief, scary scene with them. But if you saw “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” this is nothing.

The movie’s pace is a little slow, but it’s enjoyable and entertaining anyway. This is what fun, escapist movies are all about. And the kids are so cute and such great actors. They steal the movie from the bigger names involved. (The trailer, below, makes the movie seem a lot darker and more melodramatic than it is, so take it with a grain of salt.)


* “Pain & Gain“: They should have stuck with just the first word of this title for accuracy’s sake, because this movie is all pain–and painful to watch. It’s a miserable, disgusting two hours and ten minutes of torture and killing porn. Just horrible. The movie shows people being tortured, murdered, dismembered, and their limbs literally being barbecued on a grill. And if that’s not bad enough, it also presents grotesque visions, including a very hairy girl getting a bikini wax, front and center. Um, no thanks. Oh, and it’s anti-Christian.

“Based” on a true story, real-life attempted murderer Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a Miami physical trainer who is jealous of his wealthy clients at the gym where he works. He attends the seminar of a Tony Robbins-esque motivational speaker and decides to make money by kidnapping his clients and torturing and/or killing them to get their assets. He recruits fellow steroid-using meatheads, including Anthony Mackie and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who help him kidnap Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub–who is an anti-Israel Lebanese Arab in real life, so it’s interesting he’s playing a negative, anti-Semitic stereotype of a Jew), one of the wealthy customers at the gym.

They repeatedly torture Kershaw whom they’ve kidnapped and are holding hostage at a sex toys warehouse. But he refuses to sign over his assets to them until he’s near death. Then, they cause a car he is in to crash, douse it with gasoline and set it on fire, and after that, repeatedly run him over. But he gets away, and police don’t believe his story. So Kershaw has to hire a private detective to build a case to take to police. Meanwhile, Lugo and the gang take over Kershaw’s home and businesses and plot to get money from another wealthy person. They murder the new mark and his girlfriend, and dismember them.

The character played by “The Rock”–who is a made-up composite character–is very Christian (he wears hats and t-shirts that say things like, “Team Jesus” and goes to church) and very stupid, no coincidence. It’s yet another gratuitous Hollywood attack on Christianity. Unnecessary and extremely defamatory of the Christian faith.

Family members of the real-life murder victims of Daniel Lugo and his gang are outraged by this movie because they say it portrays them as likeable-but-dumb crooks in a comedy movie, when they are really cold-blooded killers in a very serious and dastardly set of crimes. I don’t agree that anyone in this movie is portrayed as likeable. They’re all unlikable, and the movie is pointless and disturbing. And, frankly, I don’t think this “comedy” was very funny. Just awful. Still, I understand the outrage over this movie, and I feel the same way. It’s just despicable and depraved.

Mark Wahlberg is promoting his new line of protein and energy bars in connection with this piece of trash movie. Don’t buy them. And if you waste ten bucks and 130 minutes of your life on this pointless exercise in graphic violence, you’re a sucker. And part of the problem with America, not the solution. Skip it.

I used to walk out on movies like this, and I’m mad at myself that I didn’t this time. If you like this movie, there’s something seriously wrong with you.


* “Pawn“: This came out on DVD on Tuesday, and I was invited to a special Detroit screening with the screenwriter, Jay Anthony White who is a native Detroiter. It features an ensemble case, including Ray Liotta (in a novel role for him: mobster), Michael Chiklis, and Forest Whitaker. It’s a caper/thriller movie about a restaurant and its customers taken hostage by a group of British robbers. While the movie is a little bloody and violent, I enjoyed it because the bad guys get theirs in the end and the good guys win (for the most part).

A man (Sean Faris) is returning from a brief stint in jail for car theft. He and his pregnant wife want to start over, and he goes to a diner to discuss some business with someone there. But once he’s there, a group of thugs invade the place and start killing hostages. The plan was to rob the place, but they are really after much more than the restaurant’s cash. And on the outside there is intrigue involving cops, mobsters, and relatives of hostages, as well as confusion regarding the identities of the robbers.

Entertaining and good for some escapist adventure. Not completely bloodless, but I’ve seen far worse in the violence department. A good Netflix rental or DVD purchase for a weekend thriller.


* “The Big Wedding“: This movie was on the shelf for a long time, and that’s where it should have stayed. It’s unwatchable. Unbearable. And just plain stupid and annoying. Someone who saw it with me said they thought it was a “TV movie.” But that’s an insult to TV movies, most of which are far superior to this crappy, groan-inducing waste of time. Filled with inane, silly, sex-laced dumb jokes and the dumbest story ever, it’s yet another wedding movie starring Katherine Heigl (this time as a minor co-star). Plus it mocks religious Catholics–and as reader Sean M correctly points out, it also mocks Hispanics. Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, and Diane Keaton must’ve received a big paycheck for this absolute waste of time.

The story (if you can call it that): a divorced couple (De Niro, Keaton) are about to host the wedding of their adopted son. He is from Colombia, and his birth mother and sister and coming to the wedding. But the birth mother, a devout Catholic, feels it’s Satanic (or something) for the parents of the groom to be divorced, so the divorced parents pretend they are married. The divorced dad’s girlfriend (Sarandon) is mad about this. Meanwhile, everyone in the movie is sex-obsessed and let’s us all know with dumb, groanworthy sex-laden dialogue that isn’t funny. Oh, and there are lots of orgasm noises.

A complete disaster and waste of time. Skip at all cost.


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