REVIEW ~ “THE GAMBLER” (2014)

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Note: This films release date is Dec. 19th, 2014; this review contains no spoilers

Matk Wahlberg as Jim Bennett

Matk Wahlberg as Jim Bennett

In case you didn’t garner this from the title of the film, “Jim Bennett” (Mark Wahlberg aka always Marky Mark to me) is a consummate, addicted high-stakes gambler..he is also a college literature professor with a tad bit of a problem. He has played a little too hard and fast with what I like to call OPM ~ Other People’s Money. Now he is in a pool of quicksand seemingly without a ladder. gambler 4

First there “Neville” (Michael Kenneth Williams) with whom Bennett borrows from using himself & his own life as collateral as he pits creditor against creditor a few times over. The operator of the gambling ring is “Mister Lee” (Alvin Ing), to whom Bennett’s money is supposed to go to first and gives him 7 days to pay back 260K debt he has incurred with loss after loss at the blackjack & roulette tables. gambler 3But as he layers his debts one on top of another, he starts to owe more than just one person who threatens to kill him if he doesn’t pay. He even borrows from his well-to-do mother, “Roberta” (Jessica Lange) though as he’s done this before more than once, it’s seemingly his last card to play until it’s not and despite all of this he just can’t stop. Even when his college-student girlfriend “Amy” (Brie Larson) walks out on him as he gambles his last chance away. gambler 2

His last shot at redemption is to finally get to the lowest point in his life, as all addicts must, but being that Bennett is actually smarter than most, he develops a plan to get himself out of all of it, but to succeed he must first hit up the last person on earth with whom he can actually borrow from, “Frank” (John Goodman). What happens with all his plays to get out of his mess of a life is the jist of this whole story and what I forsaw as a predictable ending.. or was it?? I will leave that up to you to see as it can go many different ways.

The acting here is done well enough, though no real standouts except maybe Goodman who always does quite wonderfully making things a bit darkly funny while keeping true to the ‘bad guy’ portrait and a quick bit from Richard Shiff as the “Jeweler” which is also a bit comedic. (The great George Kennedy does a quick cameo if you can spot it!) Wahlberg dropped 60lbs in just a few months for this role and it’s very apparent how quickly he did this as not only is he the thinnest I’ve ever seen him, but even his lips have a sickly blue-ish, white pallor to them. His hair however..is great! 🙂 Gambler 1

While this film isn’t great, it is entertaining enough. One of the things I simply loved about it is the filming of it in and all over Los Angeles..not just one simple area..but all over from K-town(Koreatown) to the beaches of the Palisades, USC to Casino Morongo and back on over to the legendary Playboy Mansion, which serves as home to Roberta. As I was honored to be sitting in a Q & A afterwards with the legendary producer, Irwin Winkler ~ think everything from’They Shoot Horses Don’t They’, to the ‘Rocky’ franchise (spoiler Mr. Winkler confirmed there will be a Rocky 6 upcoming), ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Raging Bull’, and the ‘The Mechanic’ to name just a few on his high-profile list of films, but who noted he has lived in Los Angeles for 50 years and there were neighborhoods he still hadn’t known about that they used. Mark Wahlberg insisted they keep the movie here though as Los Angeles really serves as it’s own character fabric of this film so much so. Also speaking was his son, David Winkler, no slouch in his credits either. I also didn’t know this is a remake of the 1974 version of the same name starring James Caan. The Winkler’s noted they had never liked the ending of that film and decided to remake it with a few changes to the storyline and ending.

So there you have it. It’s an entertaining enough of a watch but come contender time, I don’t see it being up there.

Grade: C

#peggyatthemovies

(See grading scale)

+++REVIEW OF THE HEAD-POUNDING – “TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION”

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If you are like me, you probably have seen a Transformers movie..maybe even 2, and then promptly forgot about them once the ringing in your ears went away. I saw the first one, just called “Transformers” ~ don’t really remember much of it..I can’t even remember if I saw the 2nd one, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and I DEFINITELY know I did not see the 3rd one, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” so just in case you missed some of them also..here is a handy dandy little 3min recap courtesy of Vulture.com  http://www.vulture.com/2014/06/transformers-recap-three-minutes-explanation-video.html

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That will catch you right up.  Unless of course you’re looking for Shia LeBouf’s character “Sam Witwicky” or Megan Fox’s character “Mikaela Banes” though i think she was gone after #2 ..or well basically if you’re looking for any other character other than the Transformers themselves..because they aren’t here.. nor are they even MENTIONED ..or do we even know they once existed.  This to me is more of a re-boot than anything else with new characters “Cade Yeager” (Mark Walhberg) (aka Marky Mark always and forever!), his perpetually tan daughter, “Tessa Yeager” (Nicole Peltz), his surfer bestie, “Lucas Flannery” (T.J. Miller), the oh so adorable Irish boyfriend in the middle of nowhere Texas, “Shane Dyson” (Jack Reynor)…and of course the villains, “Harold Attinger” (Kelsey Grammer), “James Savoy” (Titus Welliver), and of course the bad man who turns ‘good’ (ZZZZzzzzzz) “Joshua Joyce” (Stanley Tucci).

I’m not even sure there is really a plot to this movie.. or maybe there is too much of one trying to be an actual plot as the majority of it makes no sense…because this is a LOOONGG, LOOUUDD..movie.. Went to the restroom for a few moments and absolute heaven,..as in quietness. To be truthful, the first 30min of this movie were not awful.. Basically, Cade buys an old truck, which as he is repairing it, turns out to be the long missing Optimus and once it’s figured out by Harold Attinger, they end up being hunted by a top-secret team of Transformer Destroyers. We are supposed to be on the side of the Transformers but Attinger, who is with a special secret CIA group & his hitman, Savoy have a huge money deal with Joyce to get all the metal the Transformers are made of to then make their own and do what else..control the world..Lo and behold, they also have a piece of alien technology called ‘the Seed,’ which, it turns out, is what REALLY wiped out the dinosaurs.Yep..there was no ice age people.. this is the truth!!! 😀

What all this is really leading up to is SEQUEL!!! It’s CLEARLY noted in so many different ways in so many different sentences you can’t stop laughing..and that is what I did through most of the movie.. LAUGH!! I can’t help myself during bad movies.. at least it makes them fun.  It jumps from one bad CGI action sequence to another.. I mean you see them crash into a bridge and it blows up..yet 2 scenes later you see said bridge perfectly fine in the background. Come on Michael Bay.. check your CGI dude. While most of it is that bad, some of the chase scenes were decent including one at the end where they have a fun one scrambling down the sides & ledges of those cramped Hong Kong apartment buildings. I also kept laughing as they try to have silly, dumb, trying to hard to be witty, banter between characters at times that makes you just want to pound your head and scream WHYYYY!! WHYYYY!!!  it doesn’t work nor fit.  And the end we get a what is supposed to be a heartfelt speech from Optimus.. which is basically telling you what the next movie is going to be all about. Oh and there is dino bots..which are okay..

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The best part of this whole experience for me..These pic below..#bumblebeebot #Paramountscreeningwithfriends Jason, Cody, Jon

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Grade:D

#peggyatthemovies

GRADING SCALE: A = OSCARWORTHY; B = ABOVE AVERAGE~MUST SEE; C= AVERAGE~SHOULD SEE; D = DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY; F = YEAH..NO DON’T SEE THE MOVIE.. ( + OR – ) GIVES IT A BIT UP OR DOWN