“Deepwater Horizon” (R) Kurt Russell, Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich an
d Kate Hudson excel in the compelling true-life tale “Deepwater Horizon,” which recounts the harrowing Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig disaster in April 2010. Most news accounts focused on the fixed camera on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico as BP’s crippled oil well spewed millions of gallons of oil into the gulf. Not chronicled so much was the oil rig disaster itself, which claimed 11 of the 120 crew members on board as the rig caught on fire, exploded and crumbled.
Directed by Peter Berg, “Deepwater Horizon ” is a must-see in IMAX, as the immersive sound and big, big picture literally takes you inside the disaster. As the rivets pop on the oil rig and shrapnel flies, the sound design of the film of the flying debris will have you ducking for cover. It’s an incredible cinematic achievement.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (PG-13) Tim Burton is back with a fantastical look at the oddities of life with “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” a highly entertaining family adventure that works on all levels. Chronicling the plight of a group of children with “Peculiar” abilities and the creatures who want to eliminate them, the movie is not only full of heart, it manages the tricky balance of being funny, quirky, creepy and thrilling all at the same time.
Some fans of Ransom Riggs’ 2011 best-selling novel of the same name may bristle at some of the changes Burton makes with some characters, but as a cinematic experience, “Miss Peregrine” soars. Eva Green is engaging as always as the titular Miss Peregrine, while Asa Butterfield and Ella Purnell are terrific leading the ensemble cast of “Peculiar Children.” Samuel L. Jackson is wonderfully creepy as Mr. Barron, a shape-shifting creature who needs to nourish himself on the eyeballs of Peculiars to regain his original human form. All told, “Miss Peregrine” is Burton at this very best.
There’s no such thing as a sure thing in the movie business. But there’s no question that acclaimed actress Linda Cardellini took a certain amount of comfort from joining the cast of “Daddy’s Home,” given her co-stars, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, had clearly established some comedic chemistry on their hit comedy “The Other Guys.”
“The chemistry worked so well,” Cardellini told me in a recent phone conversation from Los Angeles. “Even hearing the pitch of what the movie was about, I immediately imagined how funny it would be and how perfect the both of them would be for their roles. I knew being in the middle of that would be so much fun.”
New on Blu-ray and DVD (Paramount Home Media Distribution) on Tuesday, “Daddy’s Home” tells the story of Brad Whitaker (Ferrell), a well-intentioned stepfather who goes to extreme lengths to become a father figure to his wife Sara’s (Cardellini) two young children. And while Brad has made minor strides, all his efforts to go hell in a handbasket fast when the kids’ super-cool biological father, Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg), comes back into their lives — creating an intense game of one-upmanship between the two to vie for the children’s love and respect.
Cardellini said she loved how the script and director Sean Anders took her character seriously and made her the voice of reason in the story, instead of giving her a stereotypical role to work with.
“I got to be the sane one, instead of a woman who was an hysterical, airheaded person,” Cardellini said. “Sara is the one holding the family together. She’s at the center of it, trying to keep everybody grounded while all this craziness is going on around her.”
Cardellini said giving her character that sense of realism was important because, while “Daddy’s Home” is a comedy, it’s still a story that families everywhere live for real every day. There’s no question that the film was a hit in theaters because it’s a tale that’s relatable to its audiences, because if you’re not like Brad, Sara and Dusty already, you know people like them.
“The movie has a lot of heart,” Cardellini said. “What happens in the movie happens for real, with families changing and love changing. For my character, she wants to love somebody and have children with him, and as it turns out, he’s not the right person for her and she finds somebody else who’s better for her. She loves him as well, but then the question is, ‘How do you put all those pieces together and make them work best for the children?'”
Cardellini, 40, said it’s just happenstance that she’s been in the middle of so many family-oriented projects lately. She supplied the voice of Wendy Corduroy in the hit Disney XD animated series “Gravity Falls,” which recently wrapped up, and also made a surprise appearance as Laura Barton, the wife of Marvel superhero Hawkeye, (Jeremy Renner) in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Even her acclaimed Netflix series, “Bloodline,” which enters its second season at the end of May, has a family angle to it, albeit far from the comedic tone of “Daddy’s Home.”
Cardellini said no matter the subject matter, she’s happy to continue to have the opportunities to work with talented people.
“What I love about being an actress is that you can move from project to project and do different things, and that’s always what’s appealed to me about the work,” Cardellini said. “It’s fun to work on a drama like ‘Bloodline,’ and then on my hiatus I get to work on a broad comedy like ‘Daddy’s Home.’ As an actress, that’s one of my goals. Plus, I get to work with incredibly talented people. That’s what I look for, the chance to surround myself with people that can inspire me. For the finite number of my days here, I want to do what I love and be around people I enjoy and admire, and I’ve been fortunate to do that.”
Although the film’s a comedy, getting a chance to write about his experiences as a step-father for “Daddy’s Home” was in an odd sort of way cathartic for filmmaker Brian Burns. After all, it was a rare opportunity to confront through laughs the sort of position he and countless other stepfathers have been in, dealing with their wives’ exes when children are involved.
“It’s funny, it was not only therapeutic, it provided a good goal for me to set as I was writing it. I knew that once I had the idea of writing it, the best version of the story is the two dads figure out a way to come together in the end and work together. The feel-good family lesson of it would be, ‘Two dads are better than one.’ I put that out there in the universe as a goal for all of us in real life.”
Of course, Burns also knows that real life is a bit more complicated than that, and in “Daddy’s Home” we get to see the extremes to which Will Ferrell’s and Mark Wahlberg’s characters go to win the approval of young children in a blended family.
Fortunately, that wasn’t entirely the case in Burns’ experience as a stepdad.
“My stepkids’ father and I never went to the lengths Will and Mark go to in the picture, but we were complete, total opposites,” Burns said. “The idea came from that, and thanks to my incessant curiosity with my wife, I asked myself, ‘I do not understand how you were married to him and then married to me?’ We have nothing in common other than we are two humans.”
Opening in theaters Christmas Day, Ferrell stars as Brad Whitaker, a successful radio executive who, despite good intentions, tries too hard to be a good father to his two young stepchildren. Thanks to the encouragement and support of his wife, Sara (Linda Cardellini), Brad seems to be making slow but sure progress, until Sara’s ex-husband, the children’s biological father, Dusty Mayron, shows up on their doorstep.
With his sparkling charisma and effortless ability to wow his kids, Dusty’s bad boy presence (and refusal to leave) kicks off a twisted rivalry between him and the man trying to raise the youngsters, and it appears that nothing is off-limits in their bids to win the kids’ approval.
Burns certainly is no stranger to the entertainment business, having served as a writer and executive producer on such smash TV hits as “Blue Bloods,” and writer and producer on HBO’s “Entourage.” And despite the comedy edge he brought to the table with the latter show, Burns admitted he felt a bit intimidated pitching the idea of “Daddy’s Home” to Ferrell and one of his production partners, Adam McKay.
“That was an incredible experience — the most fun and the most terrifying,” recalled Burns, the brother of filmmaker Edward Burns. “I went into a room and pitched Adam and Will, and tried to make these two comedy giants laugh. It was really terrifying, but they were great. A few minutes into my pitch, and Will and Adam were up on their feet and improvising scenes. It was one of the greatest experiences of my career.”
Burns said his ultimate wish-fulfillment came, though, when Ferrell agreed to star in the film.
“On one of the first dates my wife and I went on, we went to see ‘Elf.’ I told her, ‘My dream is to one day write a Will Ferrell movie.’ But I was no place near to doing that at that point in my career as a young writer,” Burns said. “So, Will was always my first choice for this movie.”
Original Interviews, Reviews & More By Tim Lammers