The most authentic thing in The Perfect Storm is the fishing. The movie’s strong on process: the fixing of bait, the hauling up of lines, the stowing of gutted swordfish in ice. The detail in these sequences is briny and gunky, like the matted beards of the fishermen; it has a natural cinematic appeal, because movies excel at showing how things work.
The miracle of Sensurround was uncorked in 1974 as part of the gimmicky release of Earthquake. Universal Pictures wanted to add something extra to the glut of disaster pictures in the marketplace (this was the epoch of The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno), so Sensurround was born. Theaters added huge speakers, booming bass notes were embedded in the soundtrack, and the ads warned that the effect would be akin to an actual earthquake: “The management assumes no responsibility for the physical or emotional reactions of the individual viewer.” That sold a lot of tickets, and the walls really did shake. But Sensurround was used on only a handful of films before more sophisticated audio systems came into use.
Today, technical advancements make it possible for theaters to rumble and quake with deafening authority—many movie experiences are the equivalent of getting stuck in traffic in front of a car with its thumping subwoofers tuned to the “bleed” setting. Such a film is Deepwater Horizon, a throwback to the ’70s-era disaster flick. The cheesy come-on of Sensurround is nowhere to be seen here; the filmmakers have said the movie is meant as a sober tribute to the 11 workers killed in the oil-rig disaster in 2010. But Deepwater Horizon follows the Earthquake formula, and its sound effects spare nothing in pursuit of tooth-rattling.
Will Ferrell hasn’t exhausted the comedy of emasculation just yet—his argyle-sweater-vest-clad persona still has some comic juice. Still, it was probably wise to reteam him with his The Other Guys co-star Mark Wahlberg, as the latter’s alpha-male swagger seems to bring out the best in Ferrell’s passive-aggressive boob. In Daddy’s Home the comedy is strictly PG-13, and even that seems overly protective. Brad (Ferrell) works at a smooth-jazz radio station—the movie gets points just for that glorious touch—and is determined to be the world’s best stepdad to the two dismissive kids of new wife Sara (Linda Cardellini). The little tykes can’t stand his chipper enthusiasm for family bonding. Enter Dusty (Wahlberg), Sara’s tattooed, chopper-ridin’ ex, who blows in from parts unknown and might want to re-enter the family portrait.
There are lots of different ways to make war movies: see the conflict from the top down, or make either a patriotic or anti-war statement, or just blow up lots of stuff so it looks cool. Writer-director Peter Berg opts for the “band of brothers” mode in Lone Survivor. He wants to stay at ground level, in the emotional bond that unites a tough group of Navy SEALs during a mission in Afghanistan.
The film is based on a memoir by Marcus Luttrell, whose 2005 assignment targeting a high-ranking Taliban member went disastrously awry. Luttrell is played by Mark Wahlberg, who brings his usual regular-guy grit to the role — in fact, the movie takes pains to make his character not a superman, just exactly at the level of the other guys in his group.
I never saw 2 Guns (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand) in theaters. I kind of wish I did, now, having caught up with it on disc with a friend of mine.
The screenplay (based on graphic novel) is silly, mind you, but no more so than most action films today and less so than many, and it’s packed with enough twists and turns and car chases and shoot-outs and explosions to keep the film careening in overdrive. But who knew that Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg would make such a fun buddy team without losing the essence of their screen charms? Denzel is wary and cagey, with an easy confidence and a quiet strength that suggests he’s always calculating his options and his odds, while Wahlberg is the earnest, boyish junior partner who throws himself into every situation with unflagging optimism and partner loyalty. They’re freelance crooks who hire out to drug kingpin Edward James Olmos, mind you, but in the company of such a corrupt collection of characters they look pretty good. That’s not the whole story, of course, and I won’t spoil it for you (it’s not all that surprising but it’s more fun to stumble across yourself), just let you know that the bank job they pull to double cross their own boss unleashes a lot of complications very quickly.
We’re not talking about Tarantino cleverness here, mind you, despite the flashback opening and the wise-guy banter, and director Baltasar Kormákur, an Icelandic import who previously directed Wahlberg in Contraband, doesn’t sweat the silliness, or the fact that there aren’t really any good guys to be had here. He just moves it along so fast that you don’t have time to ponder them. It has as runaway energy befitting a plot that seems to be spinning of control of our heroes (if we can call them that) and the energetic charge of seventies drive-in picture with better production values from a director who has a way with staging a set piece for maximum spectacle in minimalist environments.
The World’s End (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, VOD, On Demand), the third film in the “Cornetto” trilogy by friends and collaborators Edgar Wright (director and co-writer) and Simon Pegg (star and co-writer), is cheeky fun, another offbeat collision of genres, but this one leans heavier on the satire of Pegg’s disappointed loser than on genre satire. Pegg plays the classic BMOC, the popular kid with a gang of followers who peaked in college and never went anywhere once school ended and real life began. Now he wants to simply relive his glory days with his old buddies (Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan), the former followers who have moved on with their lives and left Pegg behind.
The film lives up to its title, which ostensibly refers to the final drinking establishment in “the golden mile,” a succession of twelve pubs in their old college town. But not too long into their pub crawl the film shifts into something else, a mix of body-snatcher invasion movie and last stand against an insidious invasion (between pints, of course). This is more ambitious than Wright and Pegg’s previous pairings, daring to go a little darker and take on the arrested adolescence and the frustrations of adult accommodation, and it’s far smarter than most of what passes for comedy in theaters today. I still prefer their first two films, with their manic energy and wicked satire, but there’s something surprisingly grounding in this film’s defiant cry of individualism in the face of conformity.