Tag Archives: Mark Wahlberg

“Daddy’s Home 2”

MATT:     1.5 STARS


Christmas is the time of year when craptacular yuletide entertainment like “Daddy’s Home 2” is forced upon the moviegoing public, slung like a bucket of slop into your local cineplex by money-hungry studio suits. Think of it as the cinematic version of a lump of coal in your stocking.

This unnecessary, formulaic sack of disappointment has few laughs, is excessively mean-spirited, and has repeated disturbing, tone-deaf attempts to make comedy out of generally unpleasant situations like teaching a young boy how to grope women, joking about dead hookers, laughing at 10 year olds getting drunk off spiked eggnog, and giving a little girl a hunting rifle on a dare.

The film is barely 90 minutes long yet when it’s over, you’ll feel as though you just spent three weeks in a secluded cabin with your red state cousin who wears a ‘Country Thunder’ t-shirt and rants about his ideas to make ‘Murica great again.

Formerly dueling co-dads Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) are back, and this time they join forces so their kids can have — wait for it — the perfect Christmas! As is the norm with most Hollywood sequels, the film tries to make things interesting by parading out — wait for it again — the men’s own daddies! Dusty’s dad Kurt (Mel Gibson) is a macho misogynist while Brad’s dad Don (John Lithgow) is overly emotional and slightly goofy. Can you believe the night and day difference in the two dads? I know I can’t!

Of course the dream of snowflakes and candy canes is swiftly ruined by the complete and utter idiocy of slapstick antics like characters falling down, getting hit in the face, getting hit in the groin, falling down, getting hit in the face, falling down, getting electrocuted, getting hit in the ear, falling down, getting hit in the head, falling down, falling down again, and getting punched in the stomach. We don’t need no stinking script, it’s like the movie writes itself!

There are a couple of decent jokes sprinkled around that miraculously don’t land with a thud (including a pretty fantastic one-liner about divorce and improv), but it’s mostly dumb and nonsensical pratfalls of the most inane variety that are played for laughs — and the laughs never come. The film is devoid of all merriment and holiday fun, and the cast (and audience) deserves far better than this overstuffed turkey of a movie.


“Daddy’s Home 2” is a movie designed for idiots. Specifically. As in laboratory-tested, focus-grouped, workshopped and engineered to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

In the very best comedies, jokes are either constructed (with the film carefully laying the foundation that leads to the payoff) or they’re experiential (relying on the audience’s outside knowledge about the world). In movies like “Daddy’s Home 2,” you get neither. Instead, a joke is someone getting hit in the face with a dodgeball. Or a snowball. Or a tree. Or a kid on a swing. Or Christmas decorations. For movies like this one, the film treats it as the absolute height of hilarity for a person to get hit with something or fall down. “OH!” or “OUCH!,” the audience exclaims. And sitting among them, I feel my hope for the future of humanity quickly draining away. This is “Ow My Balls!” as blockbuster entertainment.

All of that being said, the movie’s not unwatchable. Maybe it’s because I found myself being so amused at how effectively this laugh-cue extravaganza appeared to work on my fellow audience members. Maybe it’s because Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, and Mel Gibson are still eminently watchable, even in a poor excuse for a comedy like this one. Or maybe it’S because the movie tries so shamelessly to ingratiate itself to the public as a classic Christmas movie like  “Christmas Vacation,” “Elf,” or “Surviving Christmas” (Louisa and I continue our quest to single-handedly make “Surviving Christmas” a beloved holiday movie). It’s probably all of these things.

“Transformers: The Last Knight”



“Transformers: The Last Knight” reminded me of something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on and it wasn’t until I left the theater that the perfect analogy popped into my head. This fifth installment in the Hasbro toy brand franchise is sort of like when you have a really bad case of food poisoning. You start vomiting uncontrollably and think you’re finally done when — surprise — you find yourself running to puke yet again. It’s a never ending stream of upchuck until you’ve expelled the last bits of unpleasantness from your system and it’s finally over, leaving you feeling as good as new.

That pretty much sums up this stupid, flashy, regurgitated summer blockbuster.

If you are already a big fan of this loud, dumb film franchise then you’re going to see this one too and you’re probably going to love it. It’s not quite as bad as some of the other “Transformers” sequels, so that’s at least one positive thing I have to say.

I’m not one of those “high art” snobby film critics either. I actually like Michael Bay and think he’s talented when it comes to great looking visuals (see “Bad Boys II” if you ever doubt the man is a good director), and the earlier parts of this film are quite enjoyable. It’s when the thing deteriorates into a lazy mess of a robot cartoon that it becomes a rambling, puzzling lesson in total and complete incoherence.

It’s sad because the spectacular opening sequence, featuring a battle complete with King Arthur, the wizard Merlin (Stanley Tucci), and a giant dragon, is a considerable hook that’s extremely well done. It actually made me raise the bar a little bit solely based on its enjoyable extravagance. The film doesn’t really veer off into la la land until about halfway through its grueling two and a half hour run time, when it starts to fester and drags on and on and on. If you’re among the strongest willed moviegoers who are voluntarily able to stick with it until the very end, you’ll need to get some fresh air after sitting for what feels like much, much longer.

The movie works when it ties in a good, old fashioned adventure quest plot (a’la “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “National Treasure”) involving a loony member of a secret society (Anthony Hopkins) and an heir of Merlin (Laura Haddock) instead of the modern day jumble of angry army men (led by Josh Duhamel), our strapping hero mechanic Cade (Mark Wahlberg), and tough alien-fighting teen orphan Izabella (Isabela Moner). I wish Bay had stuck to this adventure theme direction for the story because it is fun and somehow oddly worked within the alien transforming vehicle world and most of all, it actually made sense. Human interaction is far better than phony looking animated robot fights, fiery explosions, nonstop yelling, and shooting.

Dialogue isn’t one of the film’s strengths either, with seven (yes, SEVEN!!) credited “screenwriters” choosing to dumb down the most simplistic of phrases into awkwardly contrived platitudes or laughably wooden statements of the obvious. How these projects manage to attract talent with true acting cred like Wahlberg, Hopkins, and John Turturro is beyond me. Oh, wait a second: it’s all about the Benjamins.

The special effects are first class (too bad the editing and direction of the CGI bits are so chaotic that they blur together and become much more tedious than exhilarating) and deserve a better showcase than this mayhem allows. And I have great news for those of you who love explosions: as is Bay’s trademark, this movie is loaded with so many detonations that if I had to venture a guess, I’d say there are at least two big fireballs for every minute of film.

I’ll leave you with some words of cinematic wisdom: see “Transformers: The Last Knight” if you must, but remember that your ticket purchase will encourage Hollywood to churn out more rubbish exactly like it.

“Patriots Day”



Movies like “Patriots Day” aren’t easy to review because giving a movie about a true, tragic event a low star rating makes one feel like a really, really crappy person. There’s a strong need to separate the actual event, the resilience of the victims, and the bravery of the police force and FBI from the mess that is onscreen. This review is in no way a knock against any of these people, but this movie (which is an account of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing), is just not very good.

This movie is obviously a passion project for Mark Wahlberg, who plays fictional police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (probably a compilation of a bunch of random, or even imagined, police officers). I know that Wahlberg loves his city, and I get it: the people of Boston are strong. But there needs to be more than hometown pride to justify something like this.

The film starts out like a typical disaster movie, slowly and briefly introducing a menagerie of characters going about their everyday lives. Instead of showing any insight whatsoever into the lives of these people, the movie gives us superficial ‘sound bites’ of their existence. This setup is tinged with a sense of dread because we all know the story and we all know what’s coming. Most of these scenes are filmed with a shaky handheld camera in what amounts to nothing more than a pathetic attempt to add some ‘realism’ to the story. The sad thing is that these people come across as just another checklist of anonymous faces, with nothing more to their story except that they were injured and persevere in spite of injury. They are forgotten for a big chunk of the movie, but finally turn back up towards the end. The victims and their families deserve far better than this movie.

I was uncomfortable during most of “Patriots Day” because the whole thing felt rushed and self-important instead of a sincerely heartfelt, meaningful tribute to the city of Boston. The action-packed shootout scenes made me feel gross and came across as an exploitative, sordid way to make a terrorist event thrilling and even exciting for the audience.

The close-ups of injuries and the after effects of the bombing made me feel embarrassed to even be watching the movie, so much so that I contemplated walking out. This whole moviegoing experience made me feel super crummy, like a sleazy onlooker taking sick pleasure in someone’s tragedy and misfortune. Even worse is director Peter Berg‘s unnecessary, distasteful decision to intercut lots of actual news footage of the terrorists into the movie.

There’s a moving documentary style piece at the end of the film that features real-life interviews with the police officers and some of the wounded, and of course a memorial piece showing photos of the three people who died. It’s a nice enough tribute, but everything about it still feels tacky. I would’ve preferred to see a documentary movie, period, instead of this dramatic recreation.

“Deepwater Horizon”



One of the world’s largest man-made disasters was the explosion of an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. This true incident is dramatized in the loud and garden-variety “Deepwater Horizon,” a movie that seems determined to simply show us the ‘how’ of the tragedy instead of exploring the ‘why.’ Shouldn’t we all be outraged that something like this happened in the first place?

Mark Wahlberg plays our roughneck hero Mike, a man portrayed as a hunky savior who literally throws coworkers off a flaming rig. Wahlberg is believable in roles like this because he has an everyman quality that most can relate to. The casting is absolutely perfect and the supporting actors are all quite effective. There’s Kurt Russell as gruff senior supervisor Mr. Jimmy, Gina Rodriguez as rig operator Andrea, John Malkovich as a clueless BP well site leader (with an over-the-top and mildly amusing Cajun accent), and Kate Hudson (who, sadly, is given little to do as Mike’s worried wife Felicia).

The filmmakers try to give a bit of background on these characters and show us their personalities, but they all still come across as paper thin. Even when the movie ended and after sharing two hours with them, I didn’t feel much emotional connection. Not to sound heartless to those who suffered due to this tragedy, but these folks deserved more onscreen detail.

The film both explains too much yet doesn’t explain enough of the engineering background of how an oil rig works and why drilling is so dangerous. Early on, there are multiple attempts to clearly illustrate the engineering (even using props like a Coke can). Eventually that devolves into a poor man’s ‘let’s blame the Big Oil suits‘ mantra and does nothing but simplify the blame. It feels like director Peter Berg and screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand simply threw up their hands halfway through their science lesson.

The realistic action sequences aren’t very effective because it’s unclear what is happening in relation to the rig’s floorplan, and the special effects are nothing more than acceptable. The overuse of shaky cam, which quickly made me regret sitting on the third row in the theater, was obnoxious in every way imaginable. There are plenty of eye-rolling moments like the Michael Bay-esque shots of tattered American flags flying high while huge, fiery explosions set the backdrop (groan). Oh, and since these are just blue collar good ol’ boys, there’s also the annoying obligatory group prayer scene that is always front and center in movies like this (see “The Finest Hours“).

This movie had a huge $150 million plus budget, but it looks like a commonplace rip-off of other disaster movies like “The Towering Inferno.” I wanted to know more about the environmental impact of the incident, the implications of offshore drilling, the dangers of the lack of safety regulations, and the human costs of corporate greed. Unfortunately, the film misses many opportunities to address these topics, probably due to studio fears of “let’s not make this too smart.” It’s more of a straight up action movie, showing us dramatic explosions, furiously spewing oil geysers, gruesome broken bones, feet and heads bloodied with massive shards of glass, and plenty of gigantic fireballs.


“Deepwater Horizon” is an excellent example of how a film with a decent script and good actors can be completely ruined by terrible direction.

Director Peter Berg (“Battleship,” “The Kingdom”) apparently LOVES shaky cam (that affectation where the camera shakes incessantly throughout action-packed sequences to convey a sense of urgency and disorientation). Once the well backs up and explodes on the rig, the camera never stops moving violently back and forth. It’s as though the camera was placed on top of a giant spring, which is itself on rollers, mounted on top of a seesaw that is riding out an earthquake in the middle of a hurricane. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but not very much. Berg’s direction is so frenetic that he makes Paul Greengrass (he of the “Bourne” travesties, who practically wrote the book on shaky-cam work) look like Martin Scorsese.

In the disaster film like this one, it’s important for the audience to understand to have a good sense of spatial relationships so that they can appreciate what is actually happening to the characters. In “The Poseidon Adventure”, for example, you are always able to tell where the actors are on the overturned cruise ship and where they must go next to escape to safety. In “San Andreas”, I knew where the giant fault lines and waves were, and could tell where Dwayne Johnson needed to go to get his family to safety. This sense of space is completely lost in “Deepwater Horizon” once disaster strikes; once the action starts it becomes almost impossible to tell what is happening where.

To illustrate this point: there is one scene that occurs about 10 or 15 minutes after the well backs up that there is apparently a crane somewhere that is threatening to topple over. When it does, it could kill a number of crew members directly in its path. We know this not because we can see it on the screen; we know this because the dialogue tells us that’s what’s happening. Some guy has to go and try to prevent the crane from falling, and when he does so, you have no idea where it is he’s going and what it is he’s doing to try to stop the crash. This sort of thing happens over and over, to where it becomes completely frustrating to even try to watch.

To me that’s the greatest measure of what constitutes terrible direction: if it becomes so difficult for the audience to follow the action that they give up even trying to do so, you have utterly failed as a director.

What is so surprising and disappointing about this disaster of a disaster film is that the story is pretty darned good. Things moved along quickly, and the cast (Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, and John Malkovich among others) did good work creating sympathetic characters that put a human face on the tragedy. In the hands of a more capable director, this movie could have been good.

If there’s any justice in the world, “Deepwater Horizon” should sound the death knell of shaky cam and convince Hollywood filmmakers once and for all that the technique should be used (if at all) only sparingly. It’s not exciting. It’s not compelling. And it’s not good craft.