Monday, July 15, 2013

Boston is Strong on the Big Screen

This weekend there seemed to be a critical mass of movies filmed in or around Boston.  While the quality of the movie varied, it’s always fun to see our city and surrounding locales on the big screen.  Here are four films—one old, two new and one that hasn’t opened yet—that feature Boston:

The Way, Way Back, Steve Carell, Toni Collette
The Way, Way Back:  This engrossing coming of age movie stars Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Liam James.  It was filmed in Marshfield and Duxbury, which is logical given that Mr. Carell is from Concord and has a house in Marshfield.   The movie focuses on the plight of Duncan (Liam James) who is forced to spend the summer with his mom, Pam, and her new boyfriend, Trent.  As played by Mr. Carell, Trent is a bully and a philanderer who messes with Duncan’s head and makes sure that Pam has no time to spend with the boy.  This is playing against type for Mr. Carell but he does an excellent job with the role.  Duncan, who doesn’t fit in with the teen summer crowd, takes a job at Water Wizz, a real water park in Wareham, MA.  There he makes friends, learns to solve problems and deal with challenges, and gain the confidence he needs to stand up for himself.
The movie has an excellent script by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash who, along with Alexander Payne, wrote the screenplay for The Descendants, which won the 2012 Oscar for best adapted screenplay.  I highly recommend The Way, Way Back for anyone who enjoys a small but well-made and thoughtful movie that tells a good story  focused on character development.

The Heat, Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy
The Heat:  I went with a friend to see The Heat as my husband declined to see a female buddy movie that has lots of bad language with some explicit anatomical terms thrown in.  My opinion is that you can hear this kind of talk just by going to the mall these days.  Besides, I like Sandra Bullock and enjoyed Bridesmaids.  So Alane and I laughed our way through The Heat.  It takes the uptight and socially awkward FBI agent Ms. Bullock (here called Ashburn) has patented into Boston, where she must partner with local detective Mullins, played by Melissa McCarthy.   The uptight Fed and the loosey goosey local make a funny but effective team as they solve the mystery and find the elusive, mysterious drug dealer who is their goal. 

The Heat is both a buddy cop movie and a very funny send-up of male buddy copy movies.  The screenplay is by Katie Dippold, who has also written for Parks and Recreation on TV and she has created at least two scenes that make women want to stand up and cheer.  We here in the Bay State could all laugh when Det. Mullins’s family asks Ashburn if she is a “naahk.”

The Heat was critically panned as being overly vulgar but that hasn’t kept people from going to see it.  It got a 64% Fresh score on the Tomatometer and 78% of audiences liked it.  To date, it has grossed $112,363,000 on an estimated production budget of $43 million.  That makes it a success in the only language Hollywood understands.  Given that Ms. Bullock’s Special Agent Ashburn was settling into her new Boston office at the end of them movie, we can also hope to see the team back in action here in town.

Ted, Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane
Ted:  I watched this on HBO this weekend.  It outdoes anything in The Heat when it comes to foul language and vulgarity but that is Seth MacFarlane’s dubious trademark.  My husband left the room after twenty minutes.  While the critics deplored its vulgarity and undeniable bad taste, people flocked to the theatres.  While I might not have enjoyed paying for it, Ted was OK at home.  The scenario is that John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) can’t grow up because he still has his teddy bear, which came alive one magical Christmas night.  Ted now lives with John and his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis).   There is humor in the concept of a foul-mouthed, cigar-smoking, coke-sniffing plush toy (say that out loud without laughing) who holds down a job as a supermarket check-out clerk but Mr. MacFarlane’s humor goes consistently off the deep end for my taste.   

Still, it’s filmed on location in Mr. Wahlberg’s home town of Boston, as well as in Swampscott and Norwood, and the city shows up well.  From a seedy Chelsea market to the apartment on Chandler Street to a concert on the Esplanade, Boston shines in this production.  There is one problem, though.  In a scene set at the Midtown Motor Inn in the Back Bay, it’s pouring and Ted leaves wet footprints on the rug when he comes in.  This is the same night Lori has a date at the Hatch Shell, which is an open-air venue.  Sure enough, when the camera moves to the Esplanade it’s a beautiful dry night.

R.I.P.D., Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges
R.I.P.D.:  This movie, which could be described as Men in Black meets Ghostbusters, will be released on Friday.  It was filmed in Boston and Raynham, MA, as well as in Providence, RI.  I hope it reviews well and is worth going to see.  
One additional pleasure I get from watching movies that were filmed locally is that I keep my eye on the background characters to find someone I know.  When I was planning trade shows and sales meetings for a variety of technology companies, I hired actors for presentations on the show floor and to emcee big meetings.  While they don’t always get credit on IMDB, it’s a pleasure to see their faces on screen.  In particular, I look for:
  • Patrick Shea III:  Pat played a restaurant patron in Ted who is offended by Mark Wahlberg’s flatulence.  He was also in Gone Baby Gone, The Invention of Lying, Mystic River and Cheers.
  • David Catanzaro:  David had a starring role as very scary D.A. Ellis Franklin on the TV series Brotherhood, which was filmed in Providence and based on the lives of the Bulger brothers.  He was also in The Town and The Company Men.
  • Jeremiah Kissel:  A very funny man, Jerry is also a very serious actor.  He has been in The Fighter and The Town as well as Body of Proof on TV.
Kudos to the Massachusetts Film Office for drawing these and other movies to Boston.  Shooting a film brings money into the city for hotel rooms, restaurants, cabbies, catering services, local actors, extras, equipment rentals, location fees and taxes.  This helps the economy and also shows people all over the world how beautiful it is here.  They are even teaching people to understand our famous Boston accents.

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