24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Mark Wahlberg

Box office: 'Contraband' tops 'Beauty and the Beast 3-D' [Video]

January 16, 2012 |  2:01 pm

Contraband was the No 1 film at the box office this weekend
"Contraband" ran off with the lion's share of the profits at the box office this weekend, as the action thriller beat out a 3-D re-release of "Beauty and the Beast" to claim the No. 1 spot.

The film starring Mark Wahlberg grossed a studio-estimated $28.8 million, while the updated version of the animated fairy tale took in $23.5 million. The weekend's third new release, the faith-based drama "Joyful Noise," debuted with an underwhelming $13.8 million.

The strong opening for "Contraband" secured Wahlberg's status as an action star, as it marked one of his best debuts as a leading man in recent years. "Joyful Noise," which stars Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah, meanwhile, heralded its leading ladies' lack of clout at the box office. Parton hasn't been on the big screen in nearly two decades, and Latifah's last movie' "Just Wright'" flopped in 2010 with only $21.5 million in all.

For more on the weekend's hits and misses, check out this week's box-office video report.

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--Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Mark Wahlberg stars in "Contraband." Credit: Universal Pictures


'Contraband' deals in illicit fun, not substance, critics say

January 13, 2012 |  2:59 pm

Contraband
After the end-of-the-year wave of prestige pictures and award-seasons hopefuls, the popcorn-movie machine is ramping back up. Case in point: "Contraband," the new heist flick starring Mark Wahlberg as a reformed smuggler pulled back into the underworld to bail out his hoodlum brother-in-law. The film, a remake of the 2008 Icelandic thriller "Reykjavik-Rotterdam," is receiving mixed and mostly moderate reviews.

Times film critic Betsy Sharkey deems "Contraband" a "very gritty bit of greased action [that] does a decent job of shaking the sluggish out of January." Wahlberg succeeds in "making lethal look neighborly and necessary," Sharkey says, and he pulls off the role of both man's man and ladies' man. Director Baltasar Kormakur, composer Clinton Shorter and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd all perform adroitly; only "screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski, in his feature debut, piles on a few too many new twists." All told, " 'Contraband' is an action-junkies playground. In January, sometimes that's enough."

Continue reading »

Celebs, but no Gervais, at Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. luncheon

August 4, 2011 |  3:34 pm

HFPA Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Jessica Chastain, Lea Michele, Jim Sturgess, Elisabeth Moss and Taylor Lautner were among the actors and actresses who turned up Thursday for the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s annual luncheon, where the group that gives out the Golden Globes installs new officers and hands out grants to charity.

The HFPA awarded $1.5 million in grants to groups including the American Cinematheque, the American Film Institute, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Chapman University, UCLA, the Film Foundation and the Ghetto Film School. The funds come from the proceeds the HFPA earns from the Globes telecast.

DiCaprio said that among the projects funded by this year's grants will be the restoration of three films, including "Death of a Salesman."

Hfpa-luncheon-gallery-2011 Various celebrities came to the stage as the awards were announced. At one point, Wahlberg, 40, and  DiCaprio, 36, remarked a bit wistfully that the 19-year-old Lautner, who was seated at their table, was better looking and in better shape than they were.

Well, Wahlberg quipped, eliciting laughs from the audience: " 'Boogie Nights' and 'Titanic' were a long time ago."

The one person who wasn't invited was Ricky Gervais, who hosted the past two Golden Globe telecasts. Gervais' performance this year may have roiled the HFPA -- he made acerbic comments about the integrity of the organization, as well as Scientology and other sensitive topics -- but he was nominated for an Emmy for his performance nonetheless. Members of the HFPA are apparently still miffed at Gervais; at Thursday's lunch, several members refused to even discuss him.

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-- Susan King

Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio speaks at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's (HFPA) Annual Installation Luncheon in Beverly Hills. Credit: Fred Prouser / Reuters


Jonah Hill and Mark Wahlberg look to become a 21st century Murtaugh and Riggs (minus the racial differences)

July 7, 2011 |  5:46 pm

Hilljo
EXCLUSIVE: Film fans are starting to get glimpses of Jonah Hill as something more than a comedic actor. He will play it straight as a whippersnapper executive in the upcoming baseball drama "Moneyball," and at least has a few chases and busts on his mind in the remake of "21 Jump Street."

Now Hill looks to be further pursuing an action plan. The actor has come aboard to play one half of a bumbling pair of antiheroes in the action comedy "Good Time Gang," with Mark Wahlberg playing his partner, according to a person who was briefed on the project but who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about it publicly.

The film, which is set up as an independent project with the company RCR Pictures, follows two party-happy mercenaries who decide to take on a more serious case involving a terrorist, only to find their mission complicated when they discover one of them is related to the target. The film has been described by two people familiar with it as a new spin on "Lethal Weapon," with a bit more of an emphasis on the action than on the comedy. An assistant to RCR principal Robin Schorr said Schorr had no comment.

"Good Time Gang" is one of several films that Hollywood is developing from young screenwriter Max Landis (son of John, and writer behind a Frankenstein movie currently set up at 20th Century Fox). The producers have not yet hired a director. RCR Pictures is financed by world poker champion Chris Ferguson and run by Schorr, a veteran producer who counts the documentary "Food, Inc." among her credits.

Wahlberg, who's currently shooting Seth MacFarlane's feature debut "Ted," would be continuing a buddy action-comedy trail that he began with Will Ferrell in "The Other Guys" last year. In addition to "21 Jump Street," which hits theaters in March, Hill will offer a dose of action-flavored comedy with this fall's "The Sitter," a loose reimagining of Elisabeth Shue's '80s hit "Adventures in Babysitting."

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Jonah Hill. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times


Why couldn't David O. Russell and Sony make it work on 'Uncharted'?

May 26, 2011 |  7:45 pm

  Drake
Whenever the subject of the movie “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune” came up with David O. Russell during the last Oscar season, he had one response. He was going. Fast.

"It's a locomotive," the "Fighter" director told 24 Frames in December of his progress on the video game adaptation. "I don't know how to say this except that I feel that I see things much more clearly. I don't turn over an idea as I once would,” he added.

It wasn’t entirely easy to believe. Russell was famously deliberative about his process -- he took six years between completing “I Heart Huckabees” and “The Fighter” -- and he had flirted with “Uncharted” for months before committing, causing film reporters to write a series of hair-pulling stories that had him in one day and out the next.

But Russell was convincing enough in our December interview, especially when he said he had written half the script already and then proceeded to lay out the plot.  (It would be an art-heist movie involving a family of international thieves, using the game as a loose template.)

On Thursday it came to light that Russell wouldn’t direct the action-adventure after all. But that wasn’t, it turned out, because he couldn’t decide what to do. It was because he had steamrolled ahead, but  in a different direction than studio Sony wanted.
 
Russell had already turned in a script, but it was a script so long and so ambitious that it was at least partly responsible for the studio and him parting ways, according to two people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to talk about it publicly. (Sony declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Russell.)

Among the many flourishes Russell had added were a bevy of characters not in the video game. (The director had given hints of this in December when he said he loved the idea of a “a family that's a force to be reckoned with in the world of international art and antiquities ... [a family] that deals with heads of state and heads of museums and metes out justice.” The game centers on a lone adventurer, Nathan Drake.)

Without having read Russell's script, it’s hard to know whether this divorce is good or bad news for the film, though "Uncharted" fans skeptical of Russell and his choice of Mark Wahlberg for Nathan Drake probably have their own opinions. The studio still wants to make the movie, and will bring on a new writer and director to work off an earlier draft (written by the scribes of the upcoming "Conan the Barbarian"). It's not expected that Wahlberg, who had been Russell's choice, will star in the film (allowing fans to begin their drumbeat for Nathan Fillion again). It's also hard to imagine that the movie will come out next summer, as some fans had hoped.

Russell, meanwhile, has plenty of other options, many of them promising and most of them not in the summer-action vein. There's  a Russ Meyer biopic, a teacher drama called "The Silver Linings Playbook" with Bradley Cooper and Anne Hathaway, and a traveling salesman dramedy with Vince Vaughn and Chloe Moretz.

But more than any individual director choice, there's perhaps a bigger lesson in the Russell-"Uncharted" saga.

While studios in this post-Chris Nolan era like to make some of their biggest movies with top-flight auteurs, the marketing-driven nature of the studio system, and the fussiness of said directors, means the reality can't always match that ambition.  Darren Aronofsky and Fox couldn’t make it work on “Wolverine,” and Sony and Steven Soderbergh clashed on "Moneyball" in a way that led the studio to pull the plug on on the film just days before the cast  and crew were due to arrive on set.

All these pairings would have been interesting, and then some. But given the state of the movie business these days, inserting a rare part into the studio machine often doesn't make for a locomotive. It just causes the train to sputter.

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

 Photo: A shot from the Uncharted: Drake's Fortune video game. Credit: Sony


Mark Wahlberg tells the world that, if it's anyone, it's him [Video]

December 25, 2010 | 11:48 am

"The Fighter" is starting to cross over into cultural spoof territory. But then with Marky Mark, dramatic speeches and Boston accents, it was probably only a matter of time. Below, a riff on Micky Ward's  not-you moment of empowerment, complete with George Costanza, Emilio Estevez and Cookie Monster.

Elsewhere on the viral-video front, Fox Searchlight and James Franco continue to embrace the I'm-not-sure-I-can-watch-that reactions to "127 Hours." After the studio created a T-shirt and a website tweaking those who either didn't see or couldn't watch the movie, Franco's grandmother offers a jab at her own in this home video. Despite plaudits and awards attention, the campaign hasn't quite worked yet: Only about 1.3 million people have given the critically well-regarded Danny Boyle film a shot.

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

 


Mark Wahlberg and David O. Russell's odd coupling

December 5, 2010 | 10:40 am

Russell
Forget Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. Mark Wahlberg and David O. Russell, the actor-director pair who will soon team up on (the apparently controversial) "Drake's Fortune," may be the oddest professional couple in show business.

Wahlberg is a former street kid, underwear model and teenybopper sensation. Russell is the quirky intellectual, the fussy auteur, the master of dark comedy. (And as Lily Tomlin could tell you, not always the smoothest handler of actors.)

Yet somehow Wahlberg and Russell have found alchemy. After teaming up on "I Heart Huckabees" and "Three Kings," they join forces for the third time in the upcoming underdog-boxer story "The Fighter," a movie that takes its cues from ring films such as "The Set-Up" and "Rocky" yet is also smart and nimble enough to know when to depart from them.

In a story in today's Los Angeles Times, we sit down with Wahlberg and Russell to talk about what it is that makes the two click. Among the reasons we observed: Wahlberg likes basking in Russell's haute-cinema glow, and the director appreciates the everyman cred that a Mark Wahlberg lends you. When the two were researching a scene in a prison, Wahlberg insisted that the two walk into the state penitentiary and talk to inmates about changing their lives even as those inmates taunted the actor and director from behind bars.

There's symbiosis in other ways: The actor, for instance, says he has helped Russell get over his self-confessed commitment issues. Wahlberg recalls that before they started shooting "Huckabees," Russell would "have four or five different ideas. And he'd call me and say, 'We're going to do this. No, wait, we're going to do that.' And I'd say to him, 'Let's go, dude. At this pace you're going to make six movies in your entire career.'"

The director says he's now getting over those commitment issues. "I feel that I see things much more clearly. I don't turn over an idea as I once would," he said, adding: "Ideas are not a problem for me. But I realize now you have to pick up one to throw down with."

Photo: David Russell, left, Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale on the set of "The Fighter." Credit: Jojo Wilden

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'Drake's Fortune' director David O. Russell: Movie will be about family of thieves and global power players

December 1, 2010 |  9:12 am

Drake

Fans of the video game Uncharted: Drake's Fortune have been intrigued since the moment David O. Russell committed to direct the film -- if nothing else, it's a chance for a quirky auteur and surehanded filmmaker to shake up the beleaguered videogame-to-movie genre.

They've also been a little hesitant about how quickly this thing will move forward. Russell, after all, has recently worked at a fairly deliberate pace. (He's completed just one movie since "I Heart Huckabees" came out six years ago, the upcoming boxing dramedy "The Fighter.")

But "Drake's" is apparently rolling along. When we talked with Russell for "The Fighter," (more on that one shortly), he said he's already about halfway done with the script, which dovetails nicely with Sony's and fans' hope for a finished movie pretty quickly. "It's a locomotive," he said of the movie's progress.

While the video game centers on Nate Drake (a descendant of Sir Francis Drake) and his quest to find lost treasure on an island far from civilization, Russell plans on expanding the movie to include Drake's extended family -- and put them in fraught, globetrotting situations with some of the world's most influential people.

"This idea really turns me on that there's a family that's a force to be reckoned with in the world of international art and antiquities ... [a family] that deals with heads of state and heads of museums and metes out justice," he said.

Meanwhile, Mark Wahlberg, the "Fighter" star who will take on the Nate Drake role in this new film, told 24 Frames that he hasn't read what Russell's written yet but had been told extensively about the idea and believes it's a world away from most video-game adaptations. "To me what a lot of those other movies lack is the level of character and heart," he said. (Wahlberg is, of course, no stranger to video game-based movies, having starred in the less-than-well-received "Max Payne.")

Russell has plenty of experience in the character and dysfunctional-family department, notably chronicling the adventures of an unconventional unit in his 1996 hit "Flirting with Disaster," among other pictures. He sees movies like that influencing him on "Drake's."

"We'll have the family dynamic, which we've done in a couple of movies now," he said. "And then you take that and put it on the bigger, more muscular stage of an international action picture, but also put all the character stuff in it. That's a really cool idea to me."

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: 'Uncharted: Drake's Fortune' video game. Credit: Sony

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'The Fighter' becomes a contender

November 10, 2010 |  6:30 am

Fight

The fall movie season got a major jolt, and the awards season a bona fide new player, when David O. Russell's "The Fighter" world-premiered in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening.

The working-class, Massachusetts-set family drama -- which stars Mark Wahlberg as real-life 1990s boxing hopeful "Irish" Micky Ward and, even more eye-catchingly to many in the room, Christian Bale as his fighter-turned-crack addict half-brother -- played to rapturous crowds at its surprise AFI Fest screening. Russell's film, his most dramatic in a career filled with dark comedies, had the audience engaged in its underdog story from the start, while the crowd laughs came too, particularly in scenes showing Ward's large Catholic family and standoffs between his domineering mother (Melissa Leo) and broad-minded girlfriend (Amy Adams).

The reception marked a turnaround of heavyweight proportions. Interest in "The Fighter" was high coming into the fall, if only because the movie represented a rarity in the current climate: a high-end studio drama. (It's arguably only the second such example, after "The Social Network" earlier in the season; a third, the Coen brothers' remake of "True Grit," has yet to premiere.) But as the months wore on and no one had seen the film, it risked becoming an afterthought.

In 24 hours, however, all of that changed. The early-December release went from a question mark with no public screenings on the docket to a contender in both the commercial and awards departments.

The movie will still face some obstacles on the first count. The major studios decision to stop releasing dramas with big stars and budgets may recognize or reinforce a shrunken appetite. There's a reason this film went through so many false starts. (Taking the stage before the screening, Wahlberg said repeatedly, almost pleadingly, that this "was not an easy movie to get made.") And with the movie's auteur's framing and serious themes, the conventional wisdom could suggest that it lacks the ingredients of a mainstream hit.

At the same time, the history of boxing crowd-pleasers is longer than, well, Don King's hair, and loud applause at a climactic fight scene suggested this film could well continue that tradition. And the success of "The Town," set in a similarly working-class Massachusetts milieu, can only help "The Fighter."

On the Oscar front things should be simpler. Acclaimed movies set in the ring -- though they date all the way back to "Rocky" and "Raging Bull" (and before) -- continue to resonate with voters. This past decade alone, "Million Dollar Baby" and "The Wrestler" both became awards-season favorites. Those thinking the well had run dry were pleasantly surprised on Tuesday night, and it's likely others will find themselves thinking the same in the weeks to come.

-- Steven Zeitchik
twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Mark Wahlberg in "The Fighter." Credit: Paramount Pictures

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