Tampa Movie Weekend: Backlash for “Pain & Gain”; “The Big Wedding,” “Mud,” “The Company You Keep,” “Arthur Newman,” “The Numbers Station”

“Pain & Gain,” Michael Bay’s “little” $26 million comedy-laced crime movie, has been generating a bit of anger along with the bad reviews. Real-life victims of South Florida’s musclehead Sun Gym Gang killers, portrayed in the film by Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie, are complaining that Bay has used grisly murders merely as grist for comic relief.

Marc Schiller, a wealthy businessman who survived a month of torture at the hands of the thugs, has loudly protested about being characterized as an unscrupulous scammer, somehow deserving of his fate. “I don’t understand why they want to make me look like a bad guy,” he told the Miami New Times, the newspaper that drew attention for its coverage of the mid-’90s crimes. The sister of Frank Griga, who was beaten to death by gang members, has expressed her disgust with the Hollywood-style trivialization of the events. “To show these killers as a couple of funny, nice guys who made a couple of blunders is indecent.”

Meanwhile, Wahlberg and Johnson are defending their involvement. “We made the movie … for selfish reasons, to play characters that are so outrageous that you really get to go crazy with your performance and push the envelope a lot,” Wahlberg told the Tampa Bay Times. Said Johnson: “Keep in mind, too, that at the end of the day the individuals who committed these crimes paid for what they did, and they’re paying now. They got what they deserved.”

Also opening:

  • “The Big Wedding” — Nuptials-themed romantic comedy with a cast of stars (including some big ones); a “surprisingly hard” R, some have said; rotten, according to Rotten Tomatoes
  • “Mud” — Southern-fried indie drama starring Matthew McConaughey as a mysterious, maybe dangerous character befriended by two young boys; getting good buzzmud
  • “The Company You Keep” — Robert Redford-directed thriller that may or may not glamorize an aging domestic terrorist (Redford) — you know, like Weather Underground anarchist Bill Ayers, long-ago associate of Obama. Crackerjack cast: Nick Nolte, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins, Sam Elliott, Julie Christie)
  • “Arthur Newman” — Oddly shaped, largely underwhelming drama with Colin Firth as the title character, a sad guy who shucks his old life for a new identity, along the way finding something like love with a damaged woman played by Emily Blunt; partly set in Florida, with some sequences apparently shot there
  • “The Numbers Station” — Thriller starring the usually reliable John Cusack as a federal government killer tasked with the safety of a sexy cryptologist (Malin Akerman)

Oscar Talk: The Underdogs – Melissa Leo, Richard Jenkins, Trouble the Water

oscarsBack in the day — you know, before the Oscar nominations were announced — I was rooting for acting honors for Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) and Melissa Leo (Frozen River), and a little Academy Awards love for Katrina documentary Trouble the Water.

That particular dream came true, as all received nominations.

New York Times writer David Carr, in a piece published today, pays tribute to those Oscar underdogs, as well as Michael Shannon, nominated for best supporting actor in Revolutionary Road, and nominated docs Waltz With Bashir and The Class.

“Don’t think of the people who aren’t favorites to win as also-rans; these lesser-known nominees are still among the exalted few, given the hundreds of movies made and the tens of thousands of people who make them,” Carr writes.

“And even if they don’t get a shot at thanking their agents and their moms, we can all be grateful that the spectacle-rich Oscars actually have the collateral effect of elevating impressive work that was conceived and somehow made far from the studio lot.”

Click here to read the rest of the piece.