Posted on 13 October 2009.
This column has produced a number of little seen gems throughout its tenure. One of the rules to the column is that we try to avoid films that have become cult classics. In general, of course, this is a judgment call, because everyone has their own definition of what may or may not be a cult hit film. Obvious examples would be movies like Clerks or Donnie Darko. For me, David O. Russell’s intelligent I Heart Huckabees finds itself firmly entrenched in this gray area, so I am giving it the green light for a write up in this edition of Films-U-Missed. “Huckabees” was largely passed over in it’s 2004 theatrical run, earning just north of $12 million which was roughly half of it’s reported budget. By most accounts a box office failure, but it seemed to have found some stable footing on video shelves, as evidenced by the 33,000+ rating votes on its IMDB page.
“Huckabees” was directed by the notoriously tough-to-get-along-with, David O. Russell. He is almost more famous for his riffs with actor George Clooney and of course, the infamous one with Lily Tomlin, than he is for helming quality works such as 1996′s Flirting with Disaster (with Ben Stiller), or 1999′s Three Kings, with Wahlberg, buddy Spike Jonze, rapper Ice Cube and of course, Clooney. The turmoil he has caused some actors might make for fun headlines, but distracts from a filmmakers oeuvre who continually challenges himself and filmgoers, with I Heart Huckabees being a prime example.
An A-list ensemble cast was on board for “Huckabees,” a difficult film to describe about existential existence. When the tagline states “an existential comedy,” one knows they are not in for the average movie going experience, which perhaps explains why it was widely overlooked initially. Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin play a husband and wife team of investigators who aim their work at helping people uncover their existential being; their “true self” which will help grant them meaning and purpose on Earth. Among the cast whose intertwining storylines come into play in the film are Mark Wahlberg as a firefighter struggling with familial and career issues, Jude Law, as a corporate hack and boyfriend to Naomi Watts, a model who begins to reject her looks. It is Jason Schwartzman’s “Albert” who kicks it all into gear as a guy attempting to figure out why he has seen a strange individual on multiple occasions. The themes of interconnectedness, randomness and circumstance all play a significant role in the piece as the plot (often hilariously) unravels in a who-done-it sort of way.
Hoffman, Tomlin and Schwartzman play off of each other brilliantly, offering up ranges between manic and confused, which might confound some moviegoers but I think serves to heighten the viewing experience. They record and observe their subjects in every aspects of their lives. While they are showering, sleeping, sh*tting. The mysterious set-up with sleuths on the case framing the story place the viewer in the proper mind frame necessary to try to tackle the difficult subject matter. Wahlberg hasn’t been this funny outside of Boogie Nights and Watts may not have been sexier playing the misinformed blonde. O. Russell keeps the pace flowing; the movie is continually off-kilter, never allowing the viewer to settle into the idea that they have a complete handle on what is taking place or what the films message is.
On that front, ultimately trying to explain the film is futile and against the wishes of the filmmakers, in my opinion. The purpose, in large part, is for individual viewers to examine the movie for themselves and form their own takes. The beauty of an outside-the-box film like this is that there is no clear right or wrong. Its a thinking man’s movie that is open to interpretation. Fans of heavy-handed direct messages or popcorn-flick fare need not apply. Michael Bay (Transformers 2) might not care for this. While we await David’s The Fighter (another Wahlberg starring movie) next, if you have yet to see this, it is worth a viewing, likely multiple, for those that enjoy the concept. Rich layers of story, character and performance nuances are uncovered upon repeat viewings as we try to figure out our own concept of what our existential beings are. It comes recommended, but I think your existential being probably already knew that.
Posted on 24 September 2009.
David O. Russell’s The Fighter is one of the films that has been on my radar for some time. It was once set to be in the hands of Darren Aronofsky, but ended up with O. Russell who should do the story justice. The film tells the story of “Irish” Micky Ward, portrayed by Mark Wahlberg, as a boxer brought about by his half-brother and trainer Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). Dicky had a history of crime and drug abuse but came to aid Micky’s run through a career of pugilism that lasted throughout the mid-’80s and ’90s. Ward is best remembered for his epic trilogy of brawls with the now deceased and notorious bleeder Arturo Gotti. Two of those fights are remembered as fights of the year in their respective years and are among the greatest in the history of the sport. Amy Adams, of Sunshine Cleaning and Doubt fame, plays the eventual girlfriend of Ward. She is a “tough, gritty bartender and former college high-jumper” for whatever that is worth. The Fighter is set punch its way into our hearts next year.
Below we have a look at some photos of the film and characters as well as a few behind the scenes videos of Wahlberg and his workouts in order to capture the Irish legend (my heritage too!) on screen. Good stuff for fight and film fans alike, I suspect. The source IamRogue via /film, has a boatload more of pics if interested. As a fan of the sport (used to be a big fan) and films that cover the topic, like Tyson, I eagerly anticipate this one. The boxing realism, often is a make or break feature of these films and with Ward being the brawler that he was (he loved to fight on the inside and was regularly bloodied as a result), this will be interesting to see how O. Russell (Three Kings) handles it. Because I want you to truly enjoy this post, I even left you a classic Marky Mark workout video at the end. Shredded and hilarious. Out.
Posted on 30 June 2009.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a David O. Russell film. 2004, to be exact. That’s when I Heart Huckabees was released and became more well-known for the on-set tirades between the director and actress Lily Tomlin. He has lensed a film, titled Nailed, recently, which stars Jessica Biel and Jake Gyllenhaal, but it’s been struggling to find a release for some reason, so who knows when that film will grace us with its presence.
Until then, we turn our eyes toward Russell’s next effort, The Fighter. The cast already includes Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Wahlberg is to play Irish boxer Mickey Ward, and Bale his trainer and half-brother. Today, it was announced that Amy Adams, star of and the forthcoming Sunshine Cleaning and Julie & Julia has been cast as a tough-girl bartender who winds up dating Wahlberg’s character.
The film is set to start shooting in the next month or two and at the moment is aiming for a 2011 release. The Fighter details the life of Ward and his Boston upbringing, through his rise to prominence on the boxing circuit.
I pray this film is completely unlike Fighting, with Channing Tatum, which was released just a bit ago. Adams is great and so is the rest of the cast. I think the film’s success lies in the hands of Russell, who’s always possessed a kind of quirky style, which I wonder how it will meld into this type of story.
What are your thoughts on Adams’ casting and the film’s chances as a whole?
Posted on 08 April 2009.
The biggest news of the day has to belong to Terminator Salvation. My Governor, your action hero, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger has officially confirmed the long hinted at/rumored about cameo of himself in McG’s new film. [MTV Movies Blog] has the exclusive and we wanted to be sure to pass it on.
Continuing in line with the last few days of set pics, [Aintitcool] gives you some shots of Sly Stallone’s action-fest, The Expendables.
Director David O. Russell (Three Kings, I (Heart) Huckabees) has lined up his next project after the to-be-released-later-this-year Nailed, in Aaron and Sarah. Supposedly in the style of a John Hughes comedy. No word on if he plans to blow-up on-set. For that matter, there was no word on the set of Nailed, either? Do you think it happened or did Bale just make more headlines? [Collider]
The lead singer of My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way (No, I didn’t know that off the top of my head. Ask me the leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, though), has a comic book series that was put out by Dark Horse Comics called “Umbrealla Academy.” Shock of all shocks, it’s about superheroes. It’s been optioned for adaptation consideration. Yea. [Cinematical]
For those that live in SoCal, Ralph’s is the primary grocery store chain. I pronounce it “Rafe’s” in honor of Ralph (pronounced “Rafe”) Fiennes. Mr. Fiennes has been attached to the remake of 1981′s Clash of the Titans. He will be baddie Hades in a script written by Lawrence Kasdan (Chinatown) and directed by Louis Letterier (The Incredible Hulk). Sounds awesome at this point. [JoBlo]
Capping off today’s news, here’s a recent clip of Billy Bob Thornton channeling the infamous Joaquin Phoenix interview, posted at [In Contention]. Be sure to check it out if you’re a fan of aloofness.
Posted on 04 February 2009.
There are a few other items that I have come across in regards to Christian Bale’s blow-up, that make me want to finally finish this topic off (hopefully). First off, do you want to be up on the trendy tip? Then there is this shirt that you can buy from /film that covers this topic. You can buy the shirt here, for those that want to be up on something so silly. Have to hand to the entrepreneurs who put this together, I guess.
It’s not as expensive as say, the “Watch Paris Die” t-shirts that were a big deal when Paris Hilton was in that House of Wax flick, so that’s a plus.
Honestly, sometimes perspective is necessary in these matters. I still don’t condone his behavior in any way, but it’s not like this is all that uncommon. It just so happens that with the profile of actor in this case, he is Batman after all, and with the access to stories such as this being made so much easier than in the past, that news like this becomes bigger than it warrants. In all respects, it should have stayed on set. But remember there are always tales of actors losing it on set. Case in point, the classic Lily Tomlin blow-up at David O. Russell while filming I Heart Huckabees. This was news back then, not nearly as big due to the name involved or scope of project, but by all accounts, everyone hates David O. Russell, so this is common place. I mean, if the George Clooney/O. Russell blow-up was caught on film rather than a war of words, who knows where that might have taken us?
So in the end, where does this all leave us? Probably just with something that was hot enough to make news in the entertainment world, but certainly nothing earth shattering. I still think perceptions are no doubt going to be shaped on Bale as a result of this, but I don’t think anyone will do anything drastic like skip Batman 3 as a result. Agree or disagree?