Tag Archives: Mark Wahlberg

Lone Survivor (2013)



There are some movies that should be required viewing for everyone. Not because they are necessarily good, mind you, but because that the information or message that they are trying to pass on is worthwhile. Recently, 12 Years a Slave was one of these films, in my opinion, and I think that Lone Survivor just might be one as well.

This film tells the true story of Marcus Luttrell and three other US Navy SEALs and the failed Operation Red Wings, in which they were tasked to track Taliban leader Ahmad Shah but were discovered and subsequently attacked, resulting in the death of all but Luttrell.

Disclaimer: I have nothing but respect for the members of our armed forces and am incredibly thankful for the sacrifices that they and their families have made. Any criticisms expressed here are of the film, not of the SEALs themselves or the system in general.

The opening credits of the film seemed to be confused on the message it was trying to send. A montage of various training sessions with these Navy SEALs and the trials they go through is shown to us, but I don’t know what the takeaway is supposed to be: the soldiers work hard? The soldiers are mistreated? The training process is cruel and rigorous? These men are super tough? They have a strong brotherhood among them? Or is it all of the above? The scene that this montage transitions into – the four men that we spend the rest of the film with waking up in their living quarters and going about their daily routines – would have been a much more powerful opening scene than the confusing montage itself.

Opening aside, all four men are fantastic. Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster, to be more specific. They all convinced me that their relationship as close friends, nearly brothers, in this situation was completely real, and I hurt for them when I saw them suffer together and lose one another one by one.

However, I thought that the first half of the film in general was too uneven. There was a lot of jumping around from place to place, military talk that I didn’t necessarily understand, and it was just not very well put together. I didn’t start to truly appreciate the film until the action kicked up, and not necessarily because of the action, but because it didn’t shy away from the realities of war. We see these men responding to situations in real time and working off of each others’ strengths to increase their chances of survival…whether they were successful or not. The fighting and violence is brutal, but it never seemed overly gratuitous or unnecessary to me, and it certainly didn’t revel in the gore either.

The final ten minutes are the most potent of the film, with Wahlberg’s “thank you” to the men who saved his life serving as an incredibly emotional moment. I was hurt because of the sacrifices made by all parties involved – both the SEALs and the local villagers – but I was also thankful.

Lone Survivor is not a fun watch, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think that it is an important one. Granted, I’m not well-versed in the specifics of war and cannot speak on the accuracy of the events depicted in the film, but it made me thankful for the life I live thanks to the men like this who give their lives for me daily, and, for that reason, I have to recommend it – if you can stomach it.


Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language


Pain & Gain (2013)

We’ve all heard the criticisms of Michael Bay’s films, from Armageddon to Pearl Harbor to Transformers, but Pain & Gain looked like it just might break the typical Bay mold. Based on a true story of three men who kidnapped, tortured, and murdered several people in Florida in the 1990s, it seemed that this film might focus more on characters and story than on giant things that explode, and, for the most part, it does. Unfortunately, I would have preferred mindless explosions in another Transformers sequel to this incredibly vulgar film.

Here’s the gist of it: Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a bodybuilder working at the Sun Gym in Miami, Florida who wants more out of his life than his dull, lower standard of living. He wants success and money, and, after attending a motivational session by Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong), he decides to become a “do-er” in order to get what he wants. With the help of body-building friends Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), he sets out to scheme one of Sun Gym’s members, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), out of all of his money, a plan that sends these three men on a crash course that leads to more kidnapping, torture, and murder, ultimately ending with their arrest.

It had a lot of potential. For the most part, I think that the story aspect of this film is quite interesting; true story films always are. However, Bay has made almost a farce out of what is a tragic true story, making light of the actions of these criminals and the consequences of those actions. People died and lives were ruined, yet Bay tries to make it a comedy. While I don’t think that the whole thing should have necessarily been played with a straight face and that humor always has its place, I think that there should have been a cap on the humor presented in the film so that the whole thing is not played off as a joke. Aside from that, the jokes that were in the film never struck me as all that funny, though I must admit that I did laugh a few times.

I also must admit that the performance of the lead characters (the trio and Shalhoub) were admirable; they each played their characters quite well, though Johnson’s portrayal of a born-again Christian who thinks of himself as a gift from God is a bit bothersome to me. Wahlberg’s conviction in the role and occasionally (appropriately) over-the-top character is different from anything I have ever seen him do before, and Mackie’s character was also appropriately hyperactive.

Now I mustn’t get ahead of myself. My overall opinion of this film is negative, no matter what I thought of how interesting the plot could have been or how well the lead actors performed, and it’s all because of one thing: vulgarity. LOTS OF VULGARITY. Everything vulgar you could think of is present in this film: excessive bad language, gore, unnecessary sexual content (no sex, just nudity and toys), etc. All of this combined almost made the film completely unwatchable; the two people I watched it with absolutely hated the film, and, though I enjoyed bits of it, I will never again watch it willingly – that’s how bad it was.

You be the judge. If you can handle all of this vulgarity and don’t mind that Bay has made a joke of a serious series of events, you may enjoy this film, but I wouldn’t recommend it. As stated above, had this movie been a bit more on the PG-13 side of things, I might have walked out of the theater feeling a bit differently, but, Pain & Gain is a film that is definitely worth missing out on, especially if you can’t look past the overwhelmingly obscene aspects of the movie as a whole. Michael Bay started to take a step in the right direction, but I’ll take Transformers over this trash any day.


Rating: 1 (out of 5)

MPAA: R –  for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use

Ted (2012)

I had debated for a long time whether or not to see the feature-length directorial debut of Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy. I worried that Ted would take things too far now that MacFarlane didn’t have TV censorship rules governing what he could and couldn’t include, but, after hearing how hilarious it was and reading several glowing reviews (including a 3.5/4 star review from my favorite film critic, Roger Ebert), I decided to give it a chance.

Ted had me laughing from the moment narrator Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next GenerationX-Men) first introduced us to the characters. Despite his vulgarity, Ted, the title character (voiced by MacFarlane himself), manages to make you love him, and Mark Wahlberg (The DepartedThe Fighter) brings laughs as John Bennett, who, as an 8-year-old boy wishes his new teddy bear was alive so that they could be friends forever. Mila Kunis (Family GuyBlack Swan) plays Lori Collins, John’s girlfriend of four years, who just wants John to finally grow up and marry her, which he can’t do with Ted still around.

The film really does feel like a live-action Family Guy film, complete with flashback cut scenes, cameos from most of the main cast (only Seth Green is absent), jokes about Jews and homosexuals, references to classic films (including an Indiana Jones reference that had me laughing hysterically, though it was widely missed by most audience members in my theater), and an instrumental accompaniment by Walter Murphy, who composes the music for every episode of the animated TV show.

Much of the film relies on the anticipation of seeing what crazy thing Ted does next. In most cases, his antics are hilarious, but there are a couple of instances when the jokes really do go too far.

The musical score by Walter Murphy was actually really enjoyable. It definitely sounded Family Guy-esque, but that is not a bad thing at all. I don’t actually own the soundtrack at the moment, but it fit in well with the film.

Overall, Seth MacFarlane’s Ted made me laugh throughout. Even the scenes that were meant to be more emotional and serious made people laugh because, hey, it’s a movie about a teddy bear who drinks and gets high on a constant basis. However, the curse words are rampant, the drugs and alcohol are found throughout, and there is even brief (and for me, unexpected) nudity/sexual content, so don’t go see this if any of that offends you. Though I knew that all this would be present, it brought down the quality of the film for me. Oh, and two more quick things: 1) Parents, please don’t bring your kids to this movie like the people in my theater did. Not even remotely kid-friendly. 2) It would greatly improve your enjoyment of the film if you were to see Flash Gordon (1980; starring Sam J. Jones) first. Just saying.


Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use