2 Guns

Posted on August 1, 2013 at 6:00 pm

A+
Lowest Recommended Age: Preschool
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, drug dealers
Violence/ Scariness: Constant intense and graphic peril and violence, some very disturbing images, torture, guns, chases, explosions, many characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: August 2, 2013
Date Released to DVD: November 19, 2013
Amazon.com ASIN: B00BEIYN9Q

 

Copyright Universal 2013


The couple with the most electrifying chemistry on screen so far this year is Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in “2 Guns.” As the title of the the graphic novel by Steven Grant and Mateus Santolouco suggests, it is a double-barreled shoot-em-up. It is very violent, and it seems that the two stars think they are making a more light-hearted, escapist bang bang frolic than the movie can deliver.  The other characters in the often-sour story seem to be in a different movie.  But as long as the two stars are trading quips in syncopation with the rounds of firepower, it is very entertaining.

Washington plays Bobby, a DEA agent who has been undercover for a couple of years infiltrating a Mexico-based drug ring.  Wahlberg is Stig, working undercover for the Navy for the same reason.  We’re told they are the best at what they do, but somehow when they are trading banter about the best doughnuts in three counties and the drug dealer henchman who has been separated from his head they never figure out that they are both working for law enforcement.  Me, I think I might suspect that Bobby was not the usual bad guy when he stops in the middle of a robbery to pick up and soothe a crying baby.  But Stig is too busy being cool to notice.  Other than that, and repeatedly trusting the wrong people, and not making much progress in getting anyone arrested or confiscating any drugs or weapons, they are both crackerjack detectives.

Bobby has some issues.  He is a loner.  He does not “have people.”   He has a sometime girlfriend, a Justice Department attorney named Deb (Paula Patton).  “Did you ever love me?” she asks him when they are in bed together.  “I meant to love you,” he says.  Stig is more easy-going, but he may be too far in the other direction when it comes to trust, not able to see when his “people” are less loyal to him than he is to them.  That may be part of the explanation for their mutual blind spot in not figuring out that they were both doing the same thing.  Neither they nor we have much time to think about that as very quickly it turns out that they have been set up and betrayed, and they will need to find a way to work together in the midst of being hunted down by three separate groups who want to kill them.

After that, it’s just banter, chase, banter, shoot-out, banter, a couple of torture scenes, banter, betrayal, more quippy banter, and then ludicrous even in the context of this movie side-story about the perils of illegal immigration, then pay-off (literally).  It is an uneasy mix, but the stars own the fizzy dialogue with such brio, electricity and pure charisma that they provide the real explosive power.

Parents should know that this film includes constant comic book-style violence, some graphic and disturbing images, torture, guns, explosions, chases, fights, many characters injured and killed, non-explicit sexual situation, female nudity, some strong language, and pervasive corruption.

Family discussion: The issue of loyalty occurs several different times in this movie.  How do Bobby and Stig show their views about loyalty?  How does Deb?  How do their views change over the course of the story?

If you like this, try: “Lethal Weapon,” “Shoot ’em Up,” and “The Other Guys”

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Action/Adventure Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Crime DVD/Blu-Ray

Blue Jasmine

Posted on August 1, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Two sisters. One imagines herself living a life of ease, comfort, graciousness, and elegance that does not really exist. The other is more accepting of her lower middle class life, her carnality, her limited expectations. The first sister loses everything and comes to live with the second. Woody Allen may have been inspired by Tennessee Williams’ “Streetcar Named Desire” in this modern San Francisco story of two sisters, one desperately trying to hold herself together for one more shot at a wealthy husband and the other more realistic but still holding on to some notion of romance. BlueJasmine_0

Cate Blanchett plays the self-named Jasmine, who lived in blissful — if willful — ignorance as a one-percenter, married to Hal, a wealthy businessman (Alec Baldwin). She floated from Pilates to shopping to gala to spa as he shifted funds from one shady offshore corporation to another. She would shake her impeccably coiffed head and murmur that she had no head for business and he would chuckle indulgently and pull another diamond bracelet out of his pocket.  She and her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) were both adopted and were never close.  But family is family, and when Hal goes to jail for Bernie Madoff-style fraud, Jasmine has no money and nowhere else to go.  We first see her on the plane from New York to San Francisco, telling the woman sitting next to her what is clearly a story she has told many times before, about her first meeting with Hal, when “Blue Moon” was playing, and about their fairy tale ending of luxury and parties.  She ignores the ugly “ever after” the way she glosses over the evident boredom of her listener, turning from annoyance to pity and then discomfort.

Blanchett, who has played Williams’ fragile Blanche on stage, is magnificent as Jasmine, a narcissistic woman who has been coddled and in denial for so long that she does not have the strength of mind or spirit to engage in an honest appraisal of her situation.  Ginger is only slightly better.  She can ask Jasmine how (and, by implication, why) someone without any money would travel first class and seems to have few illusions about the economic or emotional prospects with her rough-hewn fiancé, Chili (Bobby Cannavale).  She does not hold a grudge over the money she lost by investing with Hal or the destructive impact it had on her first marriage to Augie (Andrew Dice Clay in a nicely textured performance).  But she, too, has some illusions, and is easily taken in when she meets Al (Louis C.K.) a man who seems to have the stability and finesse that Chili does not.

Longtime Allen collaborator Santo Loquasto evokes the contrasting worlds of the two sisters with impeccably evocative production design and Sonia Grandes costumes are quite literally right on the money, with Jasmine’s gorgeous Chanels and Hermes and Ginger’s shapeless, cheap glamor.  Even the expensive bag she selects as a gift from Jasmine is superficially glittery.  The cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe is so gorgeous it might even make Alvy Singer leave his heart in San Francisco.

But this movie is easier to admire than to like.  It has some points to make about superficiality and corruption, but there is no one to root for or care about.  The last act twist is telegraphed a third of the way in and the issues it raises are quickly abandoned.  Allen as a director is still getting better, but as a screenwriter he needs to do a few more drafts.

Parents should know that this film includes sexual references and non-explicit situations, adultery, fraud, drinking, drug use, smoking, and strong language.

Family discussion: Why is it important that the sisters were adopted? Which one made poorer choices about men? What will happen to them next?

If you like this, try: “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” another Woody Allen film about contrasting siblings confronting life choices

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Drama Family Issues

August 2013: Movie Release Highlights

Posted on August 1, 2013 at 8:00 am

Studios often wait for August to release the films they think won’t get much of an audience, but this year August has some releases that could end up on the end of the year top ten lists.  I’m especially looking forward to:

August 9

“The Spectacular Now” Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley star in this teenage romance, one of the most acclaimed independent films of the year.

“Elysium” this dystopic sci-fi film from director Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”) stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster in a story that addresses contemporary issues like globalization, immigration, and income inequality.

August 16

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker star in the story of an African-American butler in the White House who sees history as he works for eight Presidential terms, from Eisenhower to Reagan.

“Jobs” Ashton Kutcher stars in this biopic about the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs.

Jobs-Kutcher-poster

 

August 23

“Austenland” Keri Russell visits a Jane Austen theme park.  I want to go to there.

“The World’s End” The “Shawn of the Dead”/”Hot Fuzz” crowd present a pub crawl to the end of the world.

 

And there are some that just look like a lot of fun like “2 Guns” with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, “Paranoia,” based on the Joseph Finder novel, and the new Percy Jackson film.

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Interview: Bishop T.D. Jakes Talks About the New Faith and Family Film Festival

Posted on August 1, 2013 at 8:00 am

Bishop T.D Jakes, who serves on the board of Beliefnet, has added a Faith and Family Film Festival to his inspirational MegaFest gathering, this year taking place in Dallas on August 29-31.  Bishop Jakes spoke to me about why film is so important in providing spiritual enlightenment and what his plans are for this inaugural event.winnie-mandela-1

What made you decide to bring movies to MegaFest?

The International Faith and Family Film Festival is one component of MegaFest, a huge event we have every year for families to come and to worship and have an opportunity to go to enrichment classes and more.  This year it extends from comedy shows to Oprah’s Life Class on families and fatherhood and how we can strengthen fathers and what women can do when there is no father in the home.  We’re covering a wide range of things and in the midst of that is the Faith and Family Film Festival.  I’m interested in that because I have a for-profit business that produces faith and family entertainment.  Some of the discussions will be about marketing within the faith-based community, the now and future of faith-based films and TV, getting your film and TV production launched, digital filmmaking distribution and marketing.   And we’re going to have actors there like Anthony Mackie, Regina King, and a host of others.  William Morris, the agency will be there, and Sony Pictures.

What is is about film that connects so powerfully with people?

Christ conveyed truth through the telling of stories.  Today we use film to convey stories.  We can do it in an entertaining way, a comedic way, a dramatic way and still be able to interject truth and faith so that people are stirred in their thinking and moved to worship and perceive God differently.  I realize there are more people in the theater on Friday night than there are in the pews on Sunday morning.  If you are going to reach the world, we have to go where the world is.

What films will you be showcasing?

One I am really excited about is “Black Nativity.”  I’m serving as a producer on that one. It’s a star-studded cast — Jennifer Hudson, Tyrese, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett.  Jennifer Hudson will be at the MegaFest event.  We’re so excited about that film, which will be out for the holiday season.  We have a film about Winnie Mandela, the love story of Winnie and Nelson with the background of apartheid.  Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard star in that one and it will debut at the festival.  My company with Sony is working on “Heaven is for Real,” shooting now in Canada, based on the book about the child who came out of an operation and said he had been to heaven and had all of this information he would have no way of knowing.  That will be out at Easter time, but there will be a sneak peek of it at the festival.

Why is it so hard for Hollywood to get the message that there is an audience for uplifting films?

I think they are starting to get it.  But it is true that there are people in some of those top offices there who are out of touch with mainstream America.  It’s an education process.  But when you see the success of “The Bible,” quadrupling the ratings at the History Channel — Hollywood is starting to get the message.  That begins to tug on their hearts.  When people like Tyler Perry and I interweave faith into our movies, it has been very, very well-received.  This is an opportunity for us to let Hollywood know that we are here.  And we will develop entertainment that is suitable for the audiences who will support that entertainment.

What kind of turnout are you expecting?

This is our first event in Dallas, so we do not know, but in Atlanta we had over 290,000 people and broke all records over the two years we were there.  Thousands of people from all over the world have already registered.  Where else can you go in the world and see that many people with their families sharing their faith?  And faith is infectious.  When you see others, it stirs your faith as well.

What movie spoke to you when you were growing up?

This really dates me.  “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston, sitting in front of the TV set, going “ooo” and “ahh.”  I remember “Imitation of Life.”  We watched it every year and my father would get teary-eyed.  That was a rare thing!  I would love to get the rights to do a remake.  It tears your heart.  It shows the importance of family.  I think you learn as much from people’s struggles, maybe more, than you do from their successes.  The real strength of the power of God is the struggles that we have in life and how we overcome them.

 

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