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 06 October 2009.
Working Title Films is moving forward with a U.S. Version of the Icelandic film,”Reykjavik-Rotterdam”. The film is being developed with actor Mark Wahlberg in the lead role. Aaron Guzikowski (“Prisoners”) is writing the script for the film, which is a remake of the Icelandic thriller, which has already won most of the major Icelandic film awards. The original film is also being submitted to this years Oscars, in contention for Best Foreign Language Film. We have some of possible Oscar films looked at here. The story of the film is described here:
The story follows an ex-freight ship worker, fired for smuggling alcohol between Reykjavik and Rotterdam, who’s struggling as a security guard until his best friend persuades him to sign on for one last crooked job.
It has been Hollywood’s policy recently to scoop up notable foreign language films, and adapt them for American audiences. Last year’s hit Let the Right One In, which just recently announced its casting for the American version, also got the same treatment. “Reykjavik-Rotterdam” sounds intriguing, and I hope to see the original film before the U.S. version is released. It also seems Wahlberg is getting a lot of good roles lately – and its great to see. With this film, as well as the upcoming The Lovely Bones and David O. Russell’s The Fighter, Mark Wahlberg is stacking up a lot of great projects, all with Oscar potential. What do you all think of this remake? Also, if anyone has seen the original and would care to comment, we welcome your thoughts as well. Source: Variety
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 14 August 2009.
Frequent Will Ferrell director, Adam McKay, is joining forces with his comedic muse yet again. Their last director-star collaboration was 2008′s Step Brothers, so McKay has maintained a strong box office track record, but Ferrell’s is more hit-and-miss and we’ve wondered if it may be going downhill.
Ferrell and McKay’s in-development film is The Other Guys. The story is about star cops in New York City, like Bruce Willis in Die Hard or Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon who go out there and live adventure, leaving behind “the other guys.” They are the desk-jockey, pencil-pushers. Right now, Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are partnered up as one pair of “other guys.” While Rob Riggle (“Pow-pow” from Step Brothers, “In the Face!” from The Hangover) and perhaps Craig Robinson (Zack and Miri Make A Porno) play the pair competing against them.
This sounds like a pretty cool premise to me. It’s kind of an odd choice for Walhberg to included in this, as I don’t know recall him playing broad comedy since maybe I (Heart) Huckabees, but maybe he’s doing his best to get there. It’ll be interesting to see how he meshes with proven comedic personalities. I’ve been critical of a lot of McKay/Ferrell productions in the past, but I do find a certain enjoyment in Step Brothers (especially the musical commentary with b-ball star Baron Davis). Riggle may be a star in the making and Robinson is a certified talent. I’ll be looking forward to this. How about you?
Posted on 22 July 2009.
When Boogie Nights was released in 1997, Mark Wahlberg was still known to most audiences as rapper and underwear model Marky Mark. This is the movie that started his career and led to brilliant performances in movies such as The Happening and Max Payne. I’m only kidding, but Wahlberg has given some great performances in his career. For every The Happening and Max Payne he stars in, we also get The Departed and I Heart Huckabees. You could say Wahlberg is very hit and miss when it comes to choosing films.
Boogie Nights was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and for me personally, this film along with There Will be Blood are his finest efforts to date. Boogie Nights is the story of young Eddie Adams (Wahlberg), a high school dropout with a very big “hidden” talent. This so called “talent”of his leads him to film producer Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) and the adult entertainment business. After Eddie becomes a big star under the name Dirk Diggler, he falls into the star cliché of sex (obviously), drugs, and rock ‘n roll. With all these factors in the mix, Dirk falls into the next logical step: rock bottom.
In the scene below, Dirk and a couple of friends (including Thomas Jane and John C. Reilly) who are desperate for money, try to sell some baking soda disguised as cocaine to Rahad Jackson (Alfred Molina), the one guy they probably shouldn’t try to screw over, as he has a tendency to play Russian roulette and shoot firecrackers off in his own home. This is a superbly acted scene by everyone, especially Molina, who is truly unpredictably terrifying here. Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted a memorable scene through the use of music on the stereo and the sound of fire crackers in the background, which are very effective at racheting up the tension felt by Dirk and his cohorts. Behold this scene that is well worth its running time. (Note: the audio on this isn’t the best, and trust me, we have poured over several videos trying to find one as good as this has.)
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 22 April 2009.
Often times, rappers are trying to create a persona for themselves to stand out from the crowd in a music industry that covets personality more than talent. Therefore, it is an almost natural transition for many rappers to try to make the plunge into acting. With the Black Eyed Peas front man Will I. Am’s first film role coming in this summer’s Wolverine, I figured I would compile a list of rappers turned actors (or at least dabbling in acting) in studio films. You can call these guys rapper actors if you like. I look at those in studio films because tons of these guys (and gals) are doing smaller fare and putting it out themselves, see the blueprint set by Master P. A few rules for the list: the artist has to have been a legitimately known MC (so no Gravy aka Jamal Woolard from Notorious.) Also, you have to also have done more than one film as well (Will I. Am excluded since he is inspiration for the piece), so you will not see Eminem (8 Mile) below. Here are 21 Rappers Turned Big Screen Actors. This is not an entirely comprehensive list by any means, so feel free to add any you see as necessary or comment on those you see here.
The former gangster rap star is still going strong on TV with “Law & Order” (9 years in!), but lest we forget he was in Trespass, New Jack City, and Ricochet back in the day. He actually kind of started this whole movement. He has the longest list of credits of any rapper you will find with more than 70 acting credits to his name. It is amusing that he played a cop in “New Jack” and a detective in “Law” considering he boastfully sang “Cop Killer” more than 15 years ago. He obviously has something that works to get him by, so respect is due.
He seems a natural to try his hand at this but has been hit or miss in my view so far. He had Be Cool, Four Brothers and Guy Ritchie’s underseen Revolver, but Idlewild with partner Big Boi (ATL, Who’s Your Caddy?) flopped. Still, he was good in the indy Battle In Seattle proving that he has a chance in acting for the foreseeable future. To his credit, he is willing to stretch himself and is seemingly serious about the craft at least.
The youngster had Like Mike, which put him on the map, and roles in Roll Bounce and Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Will he be forever known as a child rapper/actor or can he transition as a man? It remains to be seen but has as few projects in the works.
Getting a role as Wraith in Wolverine is surprising only because it is his first acting role ever and now he gets to turn up in what is anticipated to be one of this summer’s biggest films and a possible franchise. Slightly curious to see how he does. Here is his somewhat convincing Wraith spot in case you missed it.
The man dubbed “Ladies Love” has had enough opportunities to turn this into a legitimate big screen career and I don’t think it is happening at this point. Deep Blue Sea, Any Given Sunday and S.W.A.T. showed what he can do, but it appears he is going to be sticking with smaller TV roles at this point. It’s always been hard for me to see him as anything other than LL for the most part, since he was a pretty big star.
The man who was shot 9 times (and still lived!) seems to be more focused on acting nowadays after becoming among the biggest music stars on the planet at one point. He has done his Get Rich or Die Tryin’ biopic but then was in Righteous Kill and has the busiest slate of anyone on the list with at least 6 projects coming in the next two years. I wonder if he can stick around, now that he is out of the music limelight (at this juncture).
While some may find him a stretch to be included as a rapper, he was a pretty big star with his Funky Bunch hits (“Good Vibrations”, “Wildside”) back in the day and has been highly successful as an actor by any measure. Boogie Nights’ Dirk Diggler showed he could act and he has parlayed it well into countless acting roles with considerable range (A Perfect Storm, I Heart Huckabees) and producing hit TV show “Entourage” to boot.
The slim one who calls himself “King of the South” on the mic showed up in ATL and American Gangster to mixed results. He has charisma but not sure he has any real range as an actor. His recent gun charges will stem the tide from him showing up in anything in the near future with Takers being his next acting project due in 2010.
The former gangster rap star and would be greatest MC ever (that’s a different discussion, but accurate) is one of the bigger successes as far as this list goes. He went from Boyz ‘N the Hood to Friday to xXx 2 and now routinely shows up in his own produced projects (family fare, no less). He was once more promising as an actor than it has turned out in my eyes, but it is interesting that he somewhat has played against type. As a financial and box office success, he can’t be denied.
The “pitbull in a skirt” was in two Barbershop films, xXx, and The Woodsman with Kevin Bacon but seems like she might have run her course on the big screen for the time being. She is still getting TV roles though as she battles some legal issues (hip-hop streed cred—cool!). A multi-hyphenate interested in fashion as well, she may never just been seen as an actress.
A backpack rapper known for thinking-man rhymes, he was really an actor before he became an MC, so he seemed a natural fit for the big screen, that is until…you hear him talk. Too often he uses a particularly annoying voice when trying to create characters for film. Still, he has a varied string of film credits from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 16 Blocks with Bruce Willis, Be Kind Rewind, and he earned raves for HBO’s Something The Lord Made (a pretty solid film too). In the end, might have more respect as an actor than rapper (debatable) as he has Next Day Air hitting soon.
The notorious, fallen icon might have been the biggest star out of any one on here (and may still be), but died young. An artist who showcased his acting in Juice, Gridlock’d, and Poetic Justice, which all showed off his undeniable charisma but we’ll never know how far he might have gone. See Film-U-Missed, Tupac: Resurrection for a look at his life from his perspective.
The “slim with the tilted brim” star was surprisingly good in Training Day but it’s tough to see him as anything other than Snoop. Need I mention Bones? I thought not. His former partner and sometimes collaborator Dr. Dre is less convincing, something he himself acknowledges and it will keep him out of the mix as an actor.
The producer/rapper is trying to be taken seriously as an actor. Though he hasn’t had a real big studio film, he did get respect for 2001’s Monster’s Ball and last years “Raisin In The Sun” TV work was lauded. First acting role was in the Jon Favreau/Vince Vaughn teaming part-deux, Made. He claims he will win an Oscar someday, and surprisingly, he is tough to doubt.
From her CD “All Hail The Queen” as one of the original female rap stars to acting in Chicago and earning a Golden Globe in the process, Latifah is now a full-fledged acting star. She participated in the huge hit Bringing Down The House and the Barbershop spin-off Beauty Shop. She has been removed from the rap scene a long time now and is only seen as an actress these days, though she recently put out a Jazz album lest we forget she has other interests.
The Chi-town MC had put out several albums before getting a big hit and venturing into acting. He is an another guy that seems to be a natural for this and I think he has a chance to be one of the more successful on the list. He’s been in a lot of actioners to some surprise with Wanted, American Gangster and Smokin’ Aces and he will be in Terminator: Salvation with Christian Bale this summer.
Jeffrey Atkins was a big rap star at one point with commercial and hardcore hits which he used to get into other avenues like acting. He had his chance in both film and music but is next to off the map in both these days. Did 50 Cent kill his career? As an actor he had Scary Movie 3 as well as Half Past Dead with Steven Segal and that title was apropos for his career as it turned out. DMX aka Earl Simmons, the gravelly voiced, barking rapper on the other hand, was in independent ‘hood film Belly, Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds (another Segal film) but has the range of a cardboard box and simply can’t be taken seriously. Hence, I lumped these two together.
The West Coast underground rap legend who rose to fame on MTV’s “Pimp My Ride,” has had a pretty good go of things as an actor. He got Derailed with Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen and did xXx 2, X-Files 2, 8 Mile and Gridiron Gang which all showed off the X to the Z. He may not be a great actor (yet?), but he is likable and charismatic. Known for a muscular build, he has had to be stronger inside than out as Xzibit recently lost his infant son to a rare lung disorder. He still has projects acting coming through 2011.
The former radio DJ (Chris Lover Lover) turned punch-line rapper, has had some higher profile films as an actor including Oscar-winner Crash and last year’s Max Payne. He initially stretched himself for Hustle & Flow (I kid). Was in Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla in a small role, where he was at the very least, efficient. Chris some talent here and it will be interesting to see how things turn out for him as I suspect he is going to try to be in it for the long haul.
The former fun and charming rapper is now the most successful box office star on the planet. Need I say more? He was once accepted to M.I.T. and was the first rapper to win a Grammy for “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” He once exquisitely portrayed Ali, has been nominated for many awards, regularly stretches himself, and is among the most personable stars you can imagine. Will is the undisputed box office champ who may never be topped. His string of $100m hits just was broken with Seven Pounds last year and he is currently on a bit of a hiatus. We eagerly anticipate seeing how he will react.
Posted on 21 April 2009.
One of THE most anticipated films of the year is the Viggo Mortensen post-apocalyptic film, The Road. Of course it was one of the most anticipated last year, too, until it was delayed for further awards consideration. Only a few stills have been released so far. No poster and no trailer yet. [Boing Boing] linked to some style frames done for the film. They’re kind of like rough concept art. If this is what we need to get some Road action, so be it. It’s slated for released in October, according to IMDb.
David O. Russell’s name has been mentioned a lot lately, attached to various projects, but his latest is The Fighter, about Irish boxer Mickey Ward. It’s taken forever to get this project off the ground, so we’ll see if this version will happen. Mark Walhberg is set to play Ward, and guess who’s set to play Ward’s trainer? That would be Christian Bale. I look forward to the inevitable Russell/Bale stand-off on-set. Here’s what they did as individuals. Should be epic. [Film Drunk]
Zack Snyder has continued to suffer fallout from Watchmen‘s box office underperformance. His next film, Sucker Punch, has lost three key women all due to scheduling conflicts. Out are Amanda Seyfried, Evan Rachel Wood and Emma Stone. In are Emily Browning, Jamie Chung and Jena Malone. [Obsessed With Film]
Jason Statham is set to fill the shoes of Charles Bronson for director Simon West in the remake of The Mechanic. I’d imagine more than cars get fixed. [We Are Film Geeks]
Wanted creator Mark Millar decided to pipe up against the uproar of Evan Spiliotopoulos (writer of The Lion King 1 1/2) being tapped to write Wanted 2. He says Spiliotpoulos wrote an unproduced action-oriented spec script and that’s what won him the job. Take that. [Fused Film]
[Cinema Blend] tells us Marlon Wayans is set to star in The Year of Living Biblically about a man who attempts to live his life with a strict adherence to the “Bible” for a year. As Ned Flanders would say, “Even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff.” Sounds like a high concept project hopefully better than any Wayans brother comedy.
Finally, today we leave you with [Cinematical]‘s speculation of the chance of Harley Quinn appearing in the next Batman film. It’s not much evidence at all, but the speculation is there. Why not fuel the fire that’s died down a lot since last summer?