Pain & Gain (2013)

Pain & Gain

Pain & Gain

Release Date: April 26, 2013

Director: Michael Bay

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie

Runtime: 130 min

Tagline: Their American Dream is Bigger Than Yours

Michael Bay doesn’t have a good reputation. He’s that one director that is best fit to movies that have gigantic budgets and simple plots. Some may call him a director of stupid blockbuster movies, but he’s hardly the worst director in the business. That’s McG. A guy whose movies are stupider than his name. Anyway, back to Bay. While he is best known for huge, popcorn movies (Transformers, Pearl Harbor) he surprises with Pain & Gain, a movie made for $26 million.

Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is the charismatic manager of Sun Gym, a fitness centre where muscled guys lift weights and fatties might as well be the plague. Lugo has a very specific philosophy (taught by motivational speaker, Johnny Wu, a tiny role for Ken Jeong). He’s a do-er, and if he believes he deserves it, the universe will serve it. He just so happens to believe he deserves everything local rich guy, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), possesses. He enlists the help of Sun Gym buddies Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and Paul Doyle (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to do so. Together, these juice monkeys envelop themselves in a extortion ring and kidnapping scheme that goes terribly awry.

These guys are truly willing to go the extra mile to achieve the so-called American dream. The movie shows how far people might actually go to achieve what they desire, and these extreme lengths can be shocking. It’s also shocking to learn this film follows the true story upon which it is based (a three-part series entitled ‘Pain & Gain’ by Pete Collins) very closely. If you think you had a hard time believing Bernie (where Jack Black plays the titular Bernie who strikes up a relationship with a wealthy widow and when he kills her, he has to go to great lengths to creat the illusion she’s still alive) was based on a true story, you haven’t seen anything yet. This is so strange and bizarre that, during the movie, we’re reminded that “this is still a true story”.

A violent true story is written into a hilarious action comedy, so the audience could easily admire that, or be easily offended. The case is, Hollywood is once again exploiting something awful and making it into something entertaining that will make money. Though, this story about the Sun Gym Gang (that takes place between the latter end of 1994 through June 1995) really should be known. Still, the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely pen a great black comedy, even if it is lengthy. Everyone should see this just to see where they stand on the film, much like the other 2013 movie set in Miami, Spring Breakers. This is truly one of the most bizarre and strangest movies of all-time, but it’s also one of the most memorable and entertaining of 2013 thus far.

Michael Bay’s movie has some great production design and writing, and it’s nice to see that he’s directing a passion project; and it also helps that the closest thing to Optimus Prime are fancy cars and riding lawn mowers. Some of the characters, though, are only a little more emotional than robots, mostly because the three main protagonists are money-hungry sociopaths. The characters’ actions are so moronic that it’s hard to care what might happen to them. We don’t really feel compassion for charismatic sociopaths, like they wouldn’t for us. The sociopath that shows the most human emotions is Paul Doyle (mostly for Jesus or Kershaw) and Doorbal. The dark comedy really produces laughs, and the offbeat humour is right on the money. Wahlberg and Mackie are great in their roles and everyone has great comedic timing, but the real star here is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson has played badasses in the past (like Mathayus in The Scorpion King, Chris Vaugh in Walking Tall, Luke Hobbs in Fast Five), but this is one of his strongest performances as an egotistic moron who happens to think he’s a badass. He’s hilarious and very charming as the criminal who hits rock bottom, finds Jesus, and then becomes hooked on cocaine once again when they find wealth. He steals every scene, and right now, I can’t think of a time where Johnson delivers a more entertaining performance.

Ed Harris is great as the main investigator working for Tony Shalhoub’s Kershaw, even if he might not be extremely memorable. Rebel Wilson also shows some sultry emotions, mostly during her sex scene with Anthony Mackie, where she brings her own nun-chucks to spice things up. The versatile Shalhoub performs well, and he gets more than a few laughs as the victim. Everyone’s chemistry is ideal. It’s hilarious when his character is trying to manipulate the weak link, Paul Doyle. Their relationship is very funny, mostly because Doyle calls Kershaw, “Pepe”, and he nicknames himself “El Dad”.

This is sure to be one of the most outlandish and entertaining movies of 2013, and it’s an incredibly pleasant surprise. It is also hilariously twisted and its originality is deadly. The movie is stylish and colourful, but the movie is rather unbelievable and it is about ten minutes too long. Still, it’s bound to become a cult classic. The ensemble cast is great (Rob Corddry is also in the movie, among everyone else aforementioned). The majority of men will surely be entertained and laugh at this great black comedy of violence, inarguably moronic choices and chasing the American dream. If you’re a female, or a male who is really in touch with their feminine side, you might not enjoy it as much. Yes, that may sound sexist (forgive me), but it’s kind-of the truth with such a violent tale. One thing’s for sure, Popeye would approve of this movie.

83/100

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Bernie (2012)

Bernie

Release Date: May 4, 2012

Director: Richard Linklater

Stars: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey

Runtime: 104 min

Tagline: A story so unbelievable it must be true.

  Oscar nominated writer (Before Sunset) and director Richard Linklater, known for directing such comedies as Dazed and Confused and School of Rock; and such dramas as Before Sunset and Me and Orson Welles. Now, he’s back in the directing chair after a three-year hiatus and back in the writing chair after five years, with this clever dark comedy.

 Meet Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) the nicest [closet] killer you’ll ever know. Bernie’s the local funeral director in a small town in Texas, called Carthage. He’s the nicest guy around town, as he has a great ability to make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world. He’s the best at what he does, he has a magnificent singing voice, and is just about the biggest legend around town. After Bernie strikes up an unusual relationship with the town female Scrooge and recent widow, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), and changes her for the better, for a short time. When she turns even bitter to even Bernie; he reaches a breaking point and must put on a whole charade, hilariously, to hide his dark secret from the whole town.

It’s a well-made little comedic docudrama that had me laughing at all the comments of Bernie from the townspeople. I liked the way it was made, it’s a little low-key and the documentary-style of it made it a fairly unique viewing experience.

Before this, Jack Black’s best work was in School of Rock (a project also with Linklater), for his great comedic timing – but Black has proved himself as a great drama actor too; even though this film combines all elements of comedy, drama and crime. The great acting he brings to this film though, is even better than his work in King Kong.

Jack Black is equal parts funny and dramatic. Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine also bring solid acting jobs here. MacLaine’s character isn’t overly hysterical, she does a great job at playing this overly cold woman. McConaughey does get a few laughs here as the District Attorney Danny Buck. The people who get the most laughs are the locals offering some insight and commentary to the situations in the film.

The whole true story of it all is the most interesting aspect of the flick, but it really all is pretty bizarre (making the tagline [A story so unbelievable it must be true] a very accurate statement). It’s funny in the worst of situations, and that is one thing that is admirable about it. Some of it feels quite dragged out, and the morals of it are all a little twisted. You definitely don’t want Bernie going to jail, because he’s just so likeable. It’s one of those films where the main protagonist is a criminal, and then MacLaine’s character and McConaughey’s are the antagonists.

Bernie is a film that may not be for everyone, but is definitely an interesting experience. It’s a pretty controversial (because you may relate to the criminal) witty dark comedy that offers low-key crime entertainment and pretty solid performances by the three main stars.

80/100

August 28 Birthdays

There’s a few celebrity birthdays today: Jack Black (43), David Fincher (50), Sarah Roemer (28), Jennifer Coolidge (51) and Daniel Stern (55).

Jack Black

This comedy actor just turned 43 today. He’s been in School of RockTenacious D in the Pick of DestinyTropic ThunderNacho Libre, and he’s been the voice talents for Shark TaleKung Fu Panda, and in Ice Age; he’s also a pretty good dramatic actor, showing those abilities especially in King Kong. I haven’t seen Bernie just yet, but I heard he was pretty good in that. I like this guy’s funny antics and his ability to be a pretty good drama actor as well as a silly one.

David Fincher

This guy right here’s one of my favourite directors. A lot of his films are just so pleasantly dark and I like the atmosphere of them. When I collected films and didn’t really pay attention to directors, I found out that I really liked this guy’s movies as I had most of them. The only flick of his I don’t have is Alien 3. And the only films of his I haven’t seen is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Alien 3.  A good director to me is when they really bring a signature atmosphere and also when I have a really difficult time picking my favourite by them. His other films include Seven (a.k.a. Se7en)The GameFight ClubPanic Room, ZodiacThe Social Network and the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

 Well, there isn’t a lot to say about this one. She’s a pretty face, who’s a pretty good actress, who just turned 28. I’ve only seen her on a few things, being the TV show The Event, and the films Disturbia and Fired Up!

           Jennifer Coolidge

This picture doesn’t do her a lot of justice, but I didn’t feel like finding another. She’s best known as Stifler’s Mom in the American Pie (original cast) films; and she’s also known as the wicked step mother in that Hilary Duff flick, A Cinderella Story.

Daniel Stern

 This guy’s best known as the idiotic burglar, Marv, in the first two Home Alone films. That’s really all I want to say about him.