Tag Archives: Steve Carell

The incredible Burt Wonderstone

I remember having the chance to go see The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013) in the theater, but I never made it.  Not sure what was going on, probably I had a busy period of work to get through.  I remember seeing the trailer, and getting the sense that there were some popular actors playing magicians and there was some competition involved, so I really wanted to see it.

I did appreciate the costumes and many of the magic acts.  They played through more magic acts than I’d dared to hope for, so I enjoyed that.  Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi play a pair of magicians (Burt and Anton) that have been working together since they were kids.  Over time, they came to be the headlining act at one of the Vegas hotels.  Generally speaking, such a thing in real life is a big deal, for people in the entertainment industry, playing a Vegas hotel becomes a cash cow of sorts.  It generates consistent revenues year-round, and is highly preferable to the physical and mental stresses of constant nationwide touring.

In that type of role, however, they become a complacent act.  Burt’s ego has been growing as much as his various appetites.  Eventually, people tire of the old-fashioned act they have to offer…and the people are drawn to the new edgy, more “physical magic” act of street magician Steve Grey (played by Jim Carrey).  Burt and Anton end up breaking up their relationship and go their separate ways.  The plot quickly moves to Burt trying to remember and relearn what drew him to magic in the first place.  To this end, Alan Arkin does a good job as Rance Holloway, the magician that inspired Burt to take up magic in the first place.

Overall, not a great movie, probably not even a good movie.  There are a few funny parts, and it’s definitely a chance to see some of your favorite comedians doing their thing.  I did like the magic acts.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone poster Rating: 5.9/10 (54,343 votes)
Director: Don Scardino
Writer: Jonathan M. Goldstein (screenplay), John Francis Daley (screenplay), Chad Kultgen (story), Tyler Mitchell (story), Jonathan M. Goldstein (story), John Francis Daley (story)
Stars: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey
Runtime: 100 min
Rated: N/A
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Released: 2013-03-15
Plot: A veteran Vegas magician tries to revive his career after his longtime partner quits, he gets fired from his casino act, and an edgy new "street magician" steals his thunder.

Foxcatcher

Steve Carell’s role as John E. du Pont in Foxcatcher (2014) is one that is going to live in my imagination for a long time.  I think that’s a haunting.  du Pont is a freak…for me, I put Carell’s du Pont in the same class as Nick Chinlund’s Donnie Pfaster in The X-Files.  A very creepy, not-sure-what-he’s-thinking, complete freak.  And the story is a true one, so you can’t help but to wonder how close was the real life du Pont compared to his portrayal in the film.

Steve Carell’s nomination for Best Actor in a leading role this year is justified.  Right now I’d pick him as the favorite – I’m thinking Carell at one, Eddie Redmayne at two for his Stephen Hawking, and Bradley Cooper at three for his Chris Kyle.  Interesting, all those roles are based on real people.

Foxcatcher is the story of two Olympic champion wrestlers who are brothers.  Dave Schultz (played by Mark Ruffalo) is the older brother, and has a wife and two children.  He seems more successful than his younger brother Mark (played by Channing Tatum), who doesn’t appear to have much going for him in life…sure, he’s won Olympic gold, but he lives alone in an unremarkable home and does not eat well.  Certainly not like a champion in training for another Olympics should be training.  It seems that Dave gets a speaking engagement at the elementary school, and gives it to Mark, so Mark can get the $20 check and buy fast food with it.  Not good.

John du Pont is a wealthy man who wants to turn his family’s Foxcatcher facility into a training center for American wrestlers.  His first dialogue, his speech to Mark, is a bit creepy between his manner of speaking, the look in his eyes, and what might be his careful selection of words.  The overall idea is a great one, one that you’d want to see…essentially he’s a man with means who wants to do what America as a nation should be doing.  We should be supporting our Olympic athletes with whatever means are required.  He’s just a private citizen wanting to do that.

Early on, Mark has success at Foxcatcher.  He begins training wrestlers.  He wants Dave to join him there, but Dave prefers to stay with his family and continue his work as a trainer at a school.  We see the friendship between Mark and du Pont grow.  After Mark wins the world championship, things to begin to change.  The relationship seems to get a bit more weird.  Mark is certainly under the influence of du Pont’s cocaine.  His hair changes to a spiky frosted-tips…it’s almost like we’re expected to think he’s become some kind of boy toy to du Pont.  In criticism of the film, I think I recall some anger that there are certain thing that pointed to sexual activity between Mark and du Pont, and the upset party wanted to make it clear that no such thing was going on.

It’s clear that du Pont had mother issues.  His mother doesn’t respect wrestling.  Maybe she never respected anything he did.  It’s got to be tough if you’re an ordinary person in a family with extraordinary ancestors.  Maybe he felt he never had any true accomplishments, and he thought Foxcatcher wrestling could be his legacy.  He tells Mark he never had any friends when he was growing up.  Except for one, the limo driver’s boy…but du Pont found out his mother was paying them in order to be his friend.  Truly pathetic.

When du Pont finds that Mark is slacking on his training, he slaps him in front of the other wrestlers, and says he must bring Dave in, at whatever the cost.  That’s when Mark’s attitude snaps…I think he never forgives du Pont for this.  I am interested in how du Pont convinces Dave to come to Foxcatcher, but we’re never told this.

Dave becomes a buffer between Mark and du Pont.  du Pont is still interested in keeping Mark on track, but Mark doesn’t want to have anything to do with him.  Dave is trying to figure out what’s going on, but Mark won’t tell him.

The timeline of true events is more clear looking at them outside of the film.  Mark goes on to place only 6th in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.  It must be have been devastating for du Pont.  I think we see Mark going into retirement from wrestling after that, and Dave stays on to coach at Foxcatcher.  At the time, as part of his deal to stay on, Dave forces du Pont to continue paying Mark a salary, so that he knows his brother is taken care of.  We see that du Pont doesn’t like it, but does so anyway.

In real time it happens much later, in 1996…but we do see the scene in the film.  The audience wasn’t prepared for it, and I heard a lot of gasps and one of two incredulous WTFs out there in the theater.  I was prepared for it, because I’d read on the story beforehand.  One day du Pont has one of his servants warm up the car, and he drives them out to Dave’s house on the property.  And then he shoots Dave in cold blood and kills him.  I’m surprised to see du Pont got only 3rd-degree murder, I really don’t understand how that’s not 1st-degree murder.  And in the notes at the end of the film, we see that du Pont dies in prison in 2010.  Surely that was in the news, but I don’t remember it.

Foxcatcher (2014)
Foxcatcher poster Rating: 7.5/10 (15,405 votes)
Director: Bennett Miller
Writer: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman
Stars: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller
Runtime: 129 min
Rated: R
Genre: Biography, Drama, Sport
Released: 14 Nov 2014
Plot: The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul - a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.