Greetings from the apocalypse! This was a scary-ass week for my homies in Boston. Why we gotta blow each other up, people? If we keep exploding ourselves all we'll wind up with is Charlton Heston screaming at the Statue of Liberty. Truth. Love, peace and chicken grease, y'all. Now, movies …
Friday, April 26
POW! IN THEATERS
When Scarface said, "The World is Yours," there should have been an asterisk that read "*As long as you're not a complete knucklehead." That's the heavy-duty lesson Mark Wahlberg, The Rock and Anthony Mackie learn as a trio of gym rats-cum-criminals in "Pain & Gain," the latest filmsplosion from the Michael Bay ejaculatory system. The guy who brought us three "Transformers," two "Bad Boys" and one "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" by Meat Loaf tries his hand at a low-budget, relatively contained crime dramedy, resulting in a bubbling concoction that's The Three Stooges meets "Fargo" if it were a two-hour music video … and that's a compliment. This is Bay's best movie by several yard sticks, providing a (true) story of roids, coke, Lambos, strippers, mansions and murder so outrageously tailor-made for his amped-up sensibilities you'd think God handed it to him in a crack-size Ziplock. Ed Harris, playing a Florida gumshoe straight out of an Elmore Leonard novel, is basically the only sympathetic character in a whirlwind of douchbaggery where even tortured victim Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) is a Scrooge who sorta deserves the punishment he's dealt. It's that kinda movie.
NETFLIX RECOMMENDS WITH A VENGEANCE
"Pain & Gain" may seem pretty revelatory coming from Michael Bay, but it's also very much the snake eating its own tail if you look at his previous day trips to Miami in "Bad Boys" and "Bad Boys II," both currently streaming on Netflix Instant. In the first one Will Smith and Martin Lawrence bring their A-game to what is essentially a B-action movie elevated by Bay's confident aping of Tony Scott's hazy commercial slickness. Part II evolves into an entirely different beast, perhaps the most grandiose action film of the modern era. Somewhere between a freeway chase where Smith and Lawrence have cars tossed at them to plowing a Humvee through a Cuban shantytown lies a story of two hot dog police officers still trying to go from boys II men.
BASIC CABLE BLUES
We're going 25 miles west of Boston to Lowell, Massachusetts with Beantown's own Mark Wahlberg as a hardscrabble pugilist enduring real pain and sweeter gain in "The Fighter" at 10:30 p.m. on FX. Wahlberg gives his all as real-life boxing champ Irish Micky Ward as the film focuses on his years on hiatus from the sport when he dealt with all sorts of family psychodrama involving his crackhead half-brother/trainer Dicky (Christian Bale) and domineering (s)mother Alice (Melissa Leo) before climbing his way back to the top. Bale and Leo both won Oscars, and "How You Like Me Now?" by The Heavy became the most overused song in movie history — it's also featured in, yes, "Pain & Gain."
Speaking of "The Fighter," Beantown is coming out swinging this weekend as the 11th Annual Independent Film Festival Boston unrolls as planned from April 24-30, with all 80 filmmakers originally scheduled to attend still on deck. New England premieres of David Gordon Green's "Prince Avalanche," Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing," Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha," horror anthology "V/H/S 2" and Bobcat Goldthwait's sasquatch comedy "Willow Creek" should all say hi to your mother for me.
Meanwhile, way the hell on the opposite coast the TCM Classic Film Festival is taking over Hollywood's storied Chinese and Egyptian theaters all weekend long. Cable's primary destination for classic movie lovers will run prints of some all-time greats paired with sweet guests, including these Friday delights: Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious" with Rose McGowan, "On the Town" with modern musical maestro Rob Marshall, Mel Brooks presents his overlooked second feature "The Twelve Chairs" and comedian Dana Gould hosts what's sure to be an awesome midnight showing of Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space." Check out the schedule for Saturday and Sunday!
Saturday, April 27
POW! IN THEATERS
It's a week with three, count 'em, three outstanding new theatrical releases well worth your time, but this week's most recommended "Survivor of Thunderdome" is the vaunted Best Foreign Language Oscar-nominee "Kon-Tiki." Luckily for my blind/illiterate American readers (there's a braille edition of NextMovie, right?) the filmmakers shot two different versions of "Kon-Tiki," one in Norwegian and the other in English, so you can thrill to every gorgeous minute of this true-life post-World War II adventure in which ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen) sets out on a 100-day, 5,000-mile journey from Peru to Polynesia on a balsa raft. It's not a spoiler to know Thor survived, but it is gripping to experience the conditions he and his crew had to survive (sharks, storms, crumbling wood, more sharks, etc.) in order to prove that ancient peoples … ahh, who cares, it's just BADASS. Filmmakers Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg made the ballsy choice to shoot on the actual ocean, and that lends it a realism and beauty that would make Tom Hanks and his volleyball piss themselves in jealousy. Another reason to see the film? Jakob Oftebro, a.k.a. the Norwegian Joseph Gordon Levitt.
The reason it's not really a spoiler to know how Thor Heyerdahl's journey turned out is he made a pretty damn famous, Oscar-winning 1950 documentary about the journey also called "Kon-Tiki," available fo free yo on Hulu. This black and white document of his journey is a real-deal adventure that has inspired other explorers for generations, including Olav Heyerdahl, Thor's grandson, who took another Norwegian team along the same route in 2006. This modern-day voyage formed the basis of the more Discovery Channel-friendly doc "The Tangaroa Expedition," currently available in its entirety on YouTube. There's your homework, now hop to it, slackers!
BASIC CABLE BLUES
Since "Kon-Tiki" is downright riddled with shark attacks, it seems only appropriate that today is some kind of crazy-ass shark day on SyFy from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. That's right, 12-f**kin' hours chock-o-block with badly CGI'd sharks trying to eat Z-list celebs like Debbie Gibson and Lorenzo Lamas in the following flicks: "Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus," "Shark Zone," "Malibu Shark Attack," "Super Shark," "2-Headed Shark Attack" and concluding with some fun on the bayou with Kristy "Buffy" Swanson and handsome Robert Davi in "Swamp Shark."
Sunday, April 28
POW! IN THEATERS
She may have been in the drunk tank, but career-wise Reese's not in pieces since Reese Witherspoon turns in a terrific against-type performance as Matthew McConaughey's damaged goods girlfriend in "Mud." This touching southern drama involves tough Arkansas kid Ellis (the remarkable Tye Sheridan) who bonds with a fugitive named Mud (McConaughey), one seriously superstitious dude who lives in an abandoned boat stuck in a tree. It sounds cornball but it ain't, and even though the narrative makes wild turns into quirky character comedy, romantic whimsy, tragedy and full-on action, director Jeff Nichols ("Take Shelter") somehow keeps everything cohesive with his Terrence Malick-like command of camera and naturalistic performances.
Bill Murray has made more classic comedies than we can count, but did you know that in 1984 his ghostbustin' ass appeared in a movie with Dan Aykroyd that did not involve Gozer the Gozerian? It's the great lost masterpiece "Nothing Lasts Forever," a mostly black and white art comedy that plays far better at MOMA than the multiplex, and is available in its entirety on YouTube despite various legal constraints that have kept it from getting a proper DVD/Blu-ray release in the States. It stars Zach Galligan as a concert pianist who takes a trip to the moon on a bus to find his soul mate, played by a young Lauren Tom (Amy Wong on "Futurama") in a hula skirt. Directed by Tom Schiller, who made many classic shorts for "Saturday Night Live," it was painstakingly given the look and feel of a movie from the '40s, and despite the cast and guiding hand of producer Lorne Michaels this Murray vehicle got lost in translation. Check out this rare gem below:
BASIC CABLE BLUES
Fast-forward to ten years later and you get another SNL offshoot produced by Michaels and starring Aykroyd in perhaps his most iconic role from the sketch show: "Coneheads" on Comedy Central at 12:15 p.m. While virtually burned at the stake by critics during its 1993 release, it's actually a fairly good translation from sketch-to-screen, as aliens Beldar (Aykroyd), Prymatt (Jane Curtin) and their daughter Connie (Michelle Burke) try to acclimate themselves to the American suburbs. Features mountains of cameos, including Adam Sandler, Phil Hartman, David Spade, Chris Farley and the great Garrett Morris.
I wanted to extend my best wishes to good buddy Ed Douglas, who begins chemotherapy this week in Ohio for acute leukemia. You may know Ed as ComingSoon's Weekend Warrior, and he's basically one of the main reasons this weekend columnist has anything resembling a career. Ed recently got socked with the bad news but has been incredibly positive during treatment despite having no insurance. If you want to read more about it and possibly contribute to his recovery, check out the GiveForward fundraising page, won't ya? Thanks!
As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …