April 26, 2013, - 2:27 pm

Wknd Box Office (& DVD Review): Mud, Pain & Gain, Pawn, The Big Wedding

By Debbie Schlussel

I only liked one of the new movies debuting in theaters today. And I liked another movie which is out on DVD this week and for which I attended a special Detroit screening, last week. But, oh the crap I sit through so you don’t have to.



* “Mud“: This is the best new movie in theaters, this weekend. But in this case, it’s not “relative.” This is a great movie in its own right, and very cute, too (though I wouldn’t take kids to see it because of language issues). I found this adventure/thriller/coming of age movie (it’s all three in one) to be charming, entertaining, relaxing, enjoyable, and a nice slice of small rivertown Southern life in America.

The movie focuses on two young boys from working class families in a small Arkansas town on the Mississippi River. Their families make a living from fishing in the river. The main character is Ellis (played by terrific 16-year-old newcomer Tye Sheridan), who lives on a houseboat with his parents (the father is played by Sam Shepard), who are in a troubled marriage. The government threatens to take their houseboat away in an attempt to “clear” the river. Ellis’ best friend is a constantly-swearing kid, nicknamed “Neckbone,” or “Neck” for short (Jacob Lofland). He lives with his uncle (Michael Shannon), who also fishes for a living, going underwater to capture shellfish.

The two boys like to take a small motorboat to a small, abandoned, forested island nearby. There they discover Mud (Matthew McConaughey), who appears to be a homeless man. He tells them that he is on the island to meet up with the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), who is in town. Mud promises the kids his boat, if they will get him food and supplies and other items he needs while he is on the island, but soon they learn that Mud isn’t exactly who he says he is. Ellis also learns about finding love and losing it (his parents’ rocky marriage), and he and Neck’s friendship grows stronger through their adventures in helping Mud.

I don’t want to say more, or it will give away this terrific movie. If you are scared of snakes, there is a brief, scary scene with them. But if you saw “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” this is nothing.

The movie’s pace is a little slow, but it’s enjoyable and entertaining anyway. This is what fun, escapist movies are all about. And the kids are so cute and such great actors. They steal the movie from the bigger names involved. (The trailer, below, makes the movie seem a lot darker and more melodramatic than it is, so take it with a grain of salt.)


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Pain & Gain“: They should have stuck with just the first word of this title for accuracy’s sake, because this movie is all pain–and painful to watch. It’s a miserable, disgusting two hours and ten minutes of torture and killing porn. Just horrible. The movie shows people being tortured, murdered, dismembered, and their limbs literally being barbecued on a grill. And if that’s not bad enough, it also presents grotesque visions, including a very hairy girl getting a bikini wax, front and center. Um, no thanks. Oh, and it’s anti-Christian.

“Based” on a true story, real-life attempted murderer Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a Miami physical trainer who is jealous of his wealthy clients at the gym where he works. He attends the seminar of a Tony Robbins-esque motivational speaker and decides to make money by kidnapping his clients and torturing and/or killing them to get their assets. He recruits fellow steroid-using meatheads, including Anthony Mackie and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who help him kidnap Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub–who is an anti-Israel Lebanese Arab in real life, so it’s interesting he’s playing a negative, anti-Semitic stereotype of a Jew), one of the wealthy customers at the gym.

They repeatedly torture Kershaw whom they’ve kidnapped and are holding hostage at a sex toys warehouse. But he refuses to sign over his assets to them until he’s near death. Then, they cause a car he is in to crash, douse it with gasoline and set it on fire, and after that, repeatedly run him over. But he gets away, and police don’t believe his story. So Kershaw has to hire a private detective to build a case to take to police. Meanwhile, Lugo and the gang take over Kershaw’s home and businesses and plot to get money from another wealthy person. They murder the new mark and his girlfriend, and dismember them.

The character played by “The Rock”–who is a made-up composite character–is very Christian (he wears hats and t-shirts that say things like, “Team Jesus” and goes to church) and very stupid, no coincidence. It’s yet another gratuitous Hollywood attack on Christianity. Unnecessary and extremely defamatory of the Christian faith.

Family members of the real-life murder victims of Daniel Lugo and his gang are outraged by this movie because they say it portrays them as likeable-but-dumb crooks in a comedy movie, when they are really cold-blooded killers in a very serious and dastardly set of crimes. I don’t agree that anyone in this movie is portrayed as likeable. They’re all unlikable, and the movie is pointless and disturbing. And, frankly, I don’t think this “comedy” was very funny. Just awful. Still, I understand the outrage over this movie, and I feel the same way. It’s just despicable and depraved.

Mark Wahlberg is promoting his new line of protein and energy bars in connection with this piece of trash movie. Don’t buy them. And if you waste ten bucks and 130 minutes of your life on this pointless exercise in graphic violence, you’re a sucker. And part of the problem with America, not the solution. Skip it.

I used to walk out on movies like this, and I’m mad at myself that I didn’t this time. If you like this movie, there’s something seriously wrong with you.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Pawn“: This came out on DVD on Tuesday, and I was invited to a special Detroit screening with the screenwriter, Jay Anthony White who is a native Detroiter. It features an ensemble case, including Ray Liotta (in a novel role for him: mobster), Michael Chiklis, and Forest Whitaker. It’s a caper/thriller movie about a restaurant and its customers taken hostage by a group of British robbers. While the movie is a little bloody and violent, I enjoyed it because the bad guys get theirs in the end and the good guys win (for the most part).

A man (Sean Faris) is returning from a brief stint in jail for car theft. He and his pregnant wife want to start over, and he goes to a diner to discuss some business with someone there. But once he’s there, a group of thugs invade the place and start killing hostages. The plan was to rob the place, but they are really after much more than the restaurant’s cash. And on the outside there is intrigue involving cops, mobsters, and relatives of hostages, as well as confusion regarding the identities of the robbers.

Entertaining and good for some escapist adventure. Not completely bloodless, but I’ve seen far worse in the violence department. A good Netflix rental or DVD purchase for a weekend thriller.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “The Big Wedding“: This movie was on the shelf for a long time, and that’s where it should have stayed. It’s unwatchable. Unbearable. And just plain stupid and annoying. Someone who saw it with me said they thought it was a “TV movie.” But that’s an insult to TV movies, most of which are far superior to this crappy, groan-inducing waste of time. Filled with inane, silly, sex-laced dumb jokes and the dumbest story ever, it’s yet another wedding movie starring Katherine Heigl (this time as a minor co-star). Plus it mocks religious Catholics–and as reader Sean M correctly points out, it also mocks Hispanics. Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, and Diane Keaton must’ve received a big paycheck for this absolute waste of time.

The story (if you can call it that): a divorced couple (De Niro, Keaton) are about to host the wedding of their adopted son. He is from Colombia, and his birth mother and sister and coming to the wedding. But the birth mother, a devout Catholic, feels it’s Satanic (or something) for the parents of the groom to be divorced, so the divorced parents pretend they are married. The divorced dad’s girlfriend (Sarandon) is mad about this. Meanwhile, everyone in the movie is sex-obsessed and let’s us all know with dumb, groanworthy sex-laden dialogue that isn’t funny. Oh, and there are lots of orgasm noises.

A complete disaster and waste of time. Skip at all cost.


Watch the trailer . . .

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18 Responses

I’m sorry you had to watch the Big Wedding. If you need to make it worse, it was filmed in Greenwich, CT, right next door to my home town. The place is chock full of moneyed liberals, and is one of the wealthiest cities in America. So I guess you can mock Hispanic people as long as you’re mocking their Catholicism, right? Man, I love that tolerant Hollywood!

Sean M on April 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Between killing porn and laughing at porn – Hollywood can’t decide which is more hilarious – there are few worthy intelligent and entertaining movies these days.

NormanF on April 26, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I knew I’d skip “The Big Wedding” when I saw the first trailer. Keaton, Sarandon and that annoying excuse for an actress, Amanda Seyfried. Even the trailer is stupid, and the trailer is supposed to be a marketing tool to get people to watch the movie. And isn’t the plot line of divorced people pretending they are still married w-a-a-a-a-y overdone in this day and age? I mean, other than Hollywood, where on earth would that ever happen?

DG in GA on April 26, 2013 at 4:05 pm

If exes are such good friends, why get divorced in the first place? And people who really can’t stand each other shouldn’t be attending their child’s wedding.

It looks forced and is insincere.

NormanF on April 26, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I wouldn’t even sit thru’ a piece of pap like “The Big Wedding” when I was 12. I am amazed at what Americans will put up with and enjoy in their movies. What they like is torture for me.

DS, I wonder if you’ll be reviewing the “art-house” Moooooslim film “My Brother The Devil”. I read a review of it today and it made me sick. Now I am wondering how I can expect you to sit thru’ it (and you would know every nuance of it as an expert on Jihad and other related things) and I know I wouldn’t do it myself? At any rate once I finished the review I thought it was cute (sarc) how Mooooslims can lie and present a fantasy film as the REAL Islam.

“Mud” sounds great. I have been anti-McConaughey since “Killer Joe” so I wonder if I’ll give it a go? The Marky-Mark movie…oy vey. I have no clue how they can get a comedy out of how you described that. And that’s too bad about Tony Shalhoub because I always loved his comic timing. The movie sounds horrible but why am I surprised with the rise of sociopathic scum bags in society today? Your rating tells me that it was arduous for you to sit thru’. I know what that is like.

As I always say, my dream job is a movie reviewer…forgetting how picky I am with films and seeing I may not like what I wish for if it ever came to a fruition. Be careful, indeed!

(It’s a shame about Ray Liotta. I loved “Something Wild” and of course “Good Fellas” but his movie after that classic was “Operation Dumbo Drop” and we all know what happened after that. He’s so good it’s a shame he couldn’t have built up more of a resume that would duly match his talent.)

Skunky on April 26, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Pain & Gain… two words that would have told you were going to watch garbage : MICHAEL BAY . Anything attached to him should be avoided at all costs. As I’ve said before, he should have stayed with directing soft porn. How he got to direct big budget movies is still a complete mystery to me.

Pats on April 26, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    Pats, thanks for sayin’ that. I thought of almost the same thing after my post. Couldn’t agree more.

    Skunky on April 26, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Pats – actually his end of the world thriller “Armageddon” is very entertaining. One of his better movies.

NormanF on April 26, 2013 at 8:45 pm

“Tony Shalhoub–who is an anti-Israel Lebanese Arab in real life, so it’s interesting he’s playing a negative, anti-Semitic stereotype of a Jew”

Not interesting, just predictable. Especially in a movie that features a beautiful Israeli model (Bar Paly) playing some non-Jew.

dee on April 26, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Boycott all of these trashy movies. Why do to movies and pay good money only to be brainwashed by the pc crap from Hollywood? And why go to movies only to be offended by something. Believe me if you have any good values you will be offended.

Fred on April 27, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    I totally agree, Fred.

    Italkit on April 28, 2013 at 10:15 am

One more spot-on review, this time of “Pain and Gain,” Debbie. I saw this Michael Bay movie yesterday and didn’t like it either. This was one of those “true-life-murders-gone-wrong” stories. Other examples of this type are “Fargo,” “To Die For,” and “Bernie.”

For this picture, Bay and the screenwriters stepped up the their snark and turned the story into a heavy-handed, liberal slam of “stupid” America. There are potshots taken at horny, hypocritical ministers, breast implants, suburban boosterism, self-help hype, the power of positive thinking, vacuous Christians, offshore accounts, greedy businessmen, homophobia, flags, patriotism, and police who profile by nationality-—everything that liberal Hollywood finds grotesque. Most of all, the concept of the American Dream is ridiculed repeatedly and explicitly from beginning to end. Thanks to a voiceover at the end of the film, we eventually find out what the screenwriters have in mind: it’s okay to want to be as good as others, but it’s a grievous sin to want to be better. Apparently, if you aspire to anything more than a union job with good dental, you’re either a moron or criminal. All the story’s macabre absurdities couldn’t hide this film’s smug, repellant inner core.

Burke on April 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Well, I was hoping that Pain and Gain would be good being that Ed Harris’ character (the investigator) is a friend of mine, but, oh well, I guessed it would suck all along. It is truly a grotesque story and Hollywood can f’up a bowling ball, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected much. OK, back to shredding Muslims and dhimmis on MSN and Yahoo! Thanks for the warning, Debbie!

Pray Hard on April 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm

I would definitely recommend people seek out the Miami New Times series of articles called Pain and Gain. Took me about an hour or so to go through. Horrifying story. There was nothing funny about it in my opinion. To take this story and make it a Bay Film is beyond comprehension in my book. Were these criminals stone cold idiots? Yes! But they hurt and killed real people. Unfortunately one of the killers was indeed a Christian so regrettably it looks like the character in this film is not made up. But I gathered also from these articles that the suspects were “occupy wall street” types who were jealous of other people’s successes and wanted to take their money from them. Complete and utter scum. I surely hope that Florida gets to follow through and execute them.

This shouldn’t be a Michael Bay film but rather a documentary.

Observer on April 27, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Thank you again for the movie reviews, Debbie (and Burke). I have a better truthful title for the movie “Pain & Gain”–“Pain & Loss”. Because–based on Debbie’s and Burke’s reviews and also even the trailer–anyone who sees the movie would have suffered the pain of watching such a crappy movie and in the process lost both $10.00 and 130 minutes of time. And if the person that watched the movie enjoyed it, well then, what Debbie said.

JeffE on April 28, 2013 at 12:30 am

PAIN&GAIN: I am sorry that Tony Shalhoub is in this ****. Anit-Israel or not, he is one of my favorite actors.

Miranda Rose Smith on April 28, 2013 at 4:52 am

    Anti-Israel or not, he is one of my favorite actors.

    Miranda Rose Smith on April 28, 2013 at 4:54 am

Thanks for your comment, JeffE. I want to mention also about Pain & Gain that I found almost as disgusting as the movie itself was the critics’ reaction (except for Debbie who detested the film and wrote this clearly). 95% (at least) of the critics are liberal and they’ve hated Michael Bay for a long time because he’s made a lot of what they’ve considered loud, dumb movies showing hot bodies in bikinis and featuring numerous car chases and explosions and in general pandering to what might be termed Middle America. Now he suddenly makes a partisan liberal film and the clueless critics are all dumbfounded because they don’t know what to think of Bay anymore. To give an example, several critics note that the Wahlberg character makes a number of homophobic remarks (while teaching basketball to the kids in the neighborhood) in the film, and they interpret this as “Bay not being able to resist his bigoted tendencies even while making a half-decent movie.” Yet the Wahlberg character is a moronic, ignorant sociopath, utterly without value. It’s obvious the screenwriters are using him as a prop to slam “stupid” America and what they consider its homophobia. But, no, according to these critics, this is the real Michael Bay peeking through. ….which is why I always go to Debbie first, of course, since she has real brains.

Burke on April 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm

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