Tag Archives: Mark Wahlberg


DIRECTED BY: David O. Russell

FEATURING: , Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, , , ,

PLOT: Albert (Schwartzman) is an activist fighting the gigantic Huckabees corporation, which is building a Target-style store in the nearby woods. Enlisting the help of a pair of “existential detectives” (Tomlin and Hoffman), Albert soon encounters two Huckabees operatives—the beautiful blonde couple Brad (Law) and Dawn (Watts)—as well as a disillusioned fireman (Wahlberg). Eventually, everyone’s lives are changed.

Still from I [Heart] Huckabees (2004)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Because it is so willfully, obstinately pretentious, unfunny and heavy-handed as to be all but impenetrable. Still, fans of the bizarre will likely get something out of it, as it definitely goes all-out in its manic insanity and breaks a ton of storytelling rules.

COMMENTS: Director David O. Russell once said that I [Heart] Huckabees was his least favorite of his own films. It may not have been fun to make (find the YouTube videos that show Russell throwing a tantrum—among other things—at Tomlin), because it certainly isn’t fun to watch.  A labyrinthine mess, Huckabees makes no sense and doesn’t seem to want to. Despite fine performances (particularly Wahlberg’s) from its all-star cast, the movie is (apparently intentionally) unappealing from beginning to end. Granted, this is a polarizing picture (no one is likely to have a “meh” reaction to it), but yours truly could barely sit through the film.

After this debacle, Russell made Nailed, which was left unfinished and shelved for years, but followed it up with three artistic and commercial triumphs in a row: The Fighter (also with Wahlberg), Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle. I [Heart] Huckabees, by contrast, is like a transmission beamed in from an alternate, unpleasant universe in which nothing means anything. (Perhaps that was the point of the “existential detectives”). The film reaches one its many nadirs when Albert has a -like vision of Brad as a lactating Virgin Mary, or something.  Meanwhile Dustin Hoffman sports a hairstyle reminiscent of the Beatles circa 1964, Tippi Hedren drops an F-bomb, Schwartzman’s real-life mother (Talia Shire) shows up to play Albert’s mother, and Shania Twain pops up as herself (I can’t see her fan base enjoying this picture). None of this is amusing or at all entertaining. It is, however, genuinely bonkers. What the point of this silliness is  remains a mystery, but one that most people didn’t care to find out when the film opened in 2004. That was the same year that the equally challenging , but far superior, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was released. That film had a heart as well as a brain. Huckabees, on the other hand, is like an endless series of interlocking puzzle pieces that can never be put together correctly. It’s not a good movie, but it’s definitely a weird one, and it just might make it onto the List.


“Weird does not necessarily equal funny.”–Linda Cook, Quad City Times (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by “sam.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)


Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) is one for the shower. It is an endless two hours and forty minutes, made strictly for an illiterate, masochistic audience who seek out movies that will bang them over the head and deafen them. The rest of us may feel so wiped out that we will need to run home, take two Bayer aspirin, and wash off the residue of director Michael Bay’s masturbatory excesses. Bay has made enough money pleasuring himself to toys that he could put a serious dent in the national deficit. That says a lot about contemporary movie executives and perhaps even more about the typical moviegoer.

That aptly named Age of Extinction could very well be a prophetic symbol for movies as a meaningful form of entertainment. To say Transformers is soulless is too much of a given. I cannot imagine anyone even talking about the movie afterwards, except perhaps out of sheer embarrassment for having dragged oneself to see it. I am unsure how many of these movies have been made, and have no desire to find out after having seen this one; but the fact that a series of Transformers movies have been produced already almost guarantees it making a gazillion dollars off numbed contemporary audiences forever looking for sensation devoid of feeling.

Still from Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) Based on the Hasbro robot toy line, Transformers is too pornographic in its violence to be seen by children, and any parent taking their kids to see it should have their head examined. The actors, who include , Kelsey Grammer, and , are in the nadir of their careers. They are lost among scraping metal, explosions, and the countless product placements that at least provides minuscule relief from all the “noise, noise, noise.” Unfortunately, like ‘s Grinch, we are powerless to shut it all up, because the noise is the only thing that prevents us from succumbing to complete boredom. Death from boredom would be far preferable, however, and leave less wear on the posterior. Robots are supposed to be cool, and despite having robots who can turn into cars, Transformers still can’t inspire any emotion besides lethargy. I kept asking myself how Bay could manage to make robots dull, until I remembered that Clint Eastwood worked hard, and successfully, at sucking all the fun and poetry out of the Western and transforming it into a hopelessly vacuous genre.

Not helping the robots is shockingly asinine dialogue delivered by Goodman (in voice over), Wahlberg as a mad scientist type, and Grammer as the stock CIA exec. Incredibly, the girls in the movie are even more witless, reduced to cardboard whores for Bay’s fetishistic lens.

Transformers is not so much a movie as a heavily advertised media event. Doubtlessly, the besotted businessmen funding this clanging, metallic peepshow fancy their product as imaginative enough to rake in plenty of dyed green paper from its zombified audience. To be certain, the producers will be quite busy tallying their profits, but all that green is rendered an illusionless illusion because, although good movies are still being made, American Cinema is broke, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be able to put it together again.


DIRECTED BY: Peter Jackson

FEATURING: Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci, , Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon

PLOT: A murdered 14-year old girl watches her family search for her killer from the afterlife.

Still from The Lovely Bones (2009)


WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  There are a few weird visual elements in Susie’s pleasant and candy-colored Purgatory, but The Lovely Bones tells a conventional, if unusual, story at heart.

COMMENTS:  With its mix of fantasy, drama, teen girls and murder, Peter Jackson’s latest superficially hearkens back to his wonderful Heavenly Creatures (1994); but the originality and intensity of that early vision is gone now, replaced by Hollywood sentimentality.  The Lovely Bones is ambitious in its attempt to juggle many mixed tones, but it can’t quite navigate the tricky terrain from tragedy to mystery to reconciliation while shoehorning in comedy (a nicely campy but unnecessary turn by Susan Sarandon as a hard-drinking granny) and Hollywood spectacle.  There some memorable fantasy images, such as a fleet of bottled ships crashing onto rocks, but for the most part the heavenly landscapes Jackson imagines are appealing and picture-postcard pretty, but uninvolving; Susie’s heaven seems like it’s been designed by Terry Gilliam reincarnated as a tween girl.  As a thriller, the movie fails.  We know from the beginning who the killer is, so our only interest is in seeing how he will slip up and be discovered.  No clues are provided that would allow the Susie’s surviving family to out him, however; the revelation comes through supernatural nudging from beyond the grave that feels a lot like cheating.  At a key moment, the movie abruptly stops being a thriller—just as excitement should be peaking—to return to exploring family dynamics.  It’s a misstep that’s revealing of the difficulty the movie has shifting gears.  The ending is cloying; the murder victims gather on the Elysian fields to sing a contemporary pop-music version of “Kumbaya,” followed by Susie’s unlikely return to earth to take care of unfinished business solely of interest to teen girls.  The ending is also a cheat, preaching reconciliation and forgiveness while giving the audience a vicarious form of justice that falls flat.  The Lovely Bones is not all bad: the performances are excellent, particularly Tucci’s subtle turn as the monster next door who appears to be just slightly odd, and young Saoirse Ronan, who generates tremendous empathy as the victim.  There are some heart-tugging scenes, some suspenseful scenes, and some heavenesque eye candy to stare at.  Jackson shows tact in not dwelling on the crude facts of the rape-murder, revealing the horror instead with an impressionistic and disquieting, unreal sequence set in a bare bathroom (a minimalist scene that’s a lot more effective than the garish paradises on which he lavishes his CGI budget).  But, overall the movie reinforces Jackson’s inconsistency rather than his genius—he has yet to sniff a return to the grandiose triumph of his Lord of the Rings trilogy, while simultaneously he’s lost the punkish grit of his pre-fame films like Dead-Alive.

The Lovely Bones was based on a much-beloved novel by Alice Sebold, and, as is usually the case, fans of the book (including most critics who also read the original) aren’t thrilled with the film adaptation, saying that a subtle reflection on grief and living has been reduced to little more than a supernatural potboiler.


“Other elements, including ‘The Lovely Bones’ imaginative notion of what Susie’s afterlife looks like, are strong, but everything that’s good is undermined by an overemphasis on one part of the story that is essential but has been allowed to overflow its boundaries.  That would be the film’s decision to foreground its weirdest, creepiest, most shocking elements, starting with the decision to give a much more prominent role to murderer George Harvey.”–Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times