Tag Archives: Jeremy Piven

Movie Review: Entourage (2015)

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I’m probably the last person who should be reviewing the Entourage movie. I saw a couple of episodes of the first season when it first came out at the recommendation of a friend, but never really got into it. It was “cool” following the lives of Hollywood celebrities, I suppose, but I was expecting more humour and intelligence and less yelling and embarrassing situations.

But after eight seasons, the series was successful enough for them to want to make a feature film to send Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his entourage — Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Johnny (Kevin Dillon), and of course his fiery agent, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) — into the sunset.

The premise? Vincent wants to direct his own film, and they are scared it’s going to be a disaster. Billy Bob Thornton (well, his character anyway) is financing it and his son, played by Haley Joel Osment (yes, the kid from The Sixth Sense), is sent to supervise them. Meanwhile, Eric decides to sleep with a lot of women while his ex-fiance (Emmanuelle Chriqui) is pregnant, Turtle gets skinny and rich and tries to date Ronda Rousey, Johnny is still trying to make it in Hollywood, and Ari is back in the business but struggling with the stress and its effects on his temper and sex life.

Having basically not seen the TV series, I managed to gather all of this fairly easily, so the film at least has that going for it. Apart from that, however, I don’t really know what the film was trying to achieve. There are celebrity appearances and cameos galore — if I named all of them it would be longer than this review — and lots of Hollywood excesses on display. Most scenes have scantily clad women dancing and prancing in the background. They have fast cars and big houses. They bang hot babes. So what? Why do I care?

Perhaps you need to know the characters well to better understand it. For me, none of them are charming or even remotely likable. They treat each other like brothers but treat women like garbage, and there are no consequences for their despicable behaviour. Is this supposed to be a warped male fantasy of some kind or appeal to men in general? I don’t get it.

There’s also not much in terms of witty humour or plot. It gave me a couple of chuckles but no real laughs, meaning it easily fails the six-laugh test for a good comedy. In terms of the narrative, it just feels like not much happens. There is this movie they’re making, but we don’t get to actually see them making it. Instead we just follow the characters around as they deal with their individual issues, though there’s never really any genuine tension or the feeling that anything is at stake. It comes across as a film on cruise control, an opportunity for the actors to have a good time one final time while patting each other on the backs and exchanging high fives as they ride off into the horizon. The ridiculous ending essentially confirms this.

That said, I’m surprised to admit that the film was better than I expected. Before watching I had listened to a review of the film by the BBC’s Mark Kermode, who absolute loathed it and said it was worse than Sex and the City 2, one of the benchmarks for the worst films ever made. I know this is not something I should admit, but I saw both the Sex and the City movies. They were deservedly panned but I didn’t think they were that bad. The same goes for Entourage.

People who get excited from seeing a lot of celebrities on screen and dream of their success will probably enjoy this movie. To me, a film like this with a plethora of mostly pointless celebrity cameos is at least better than those horrendous commercially-driven ensemble cast movies like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. To me, Entourage the movie felt more like an extended TV special than the big screen feature send-off it’s supposed to beI didn’t hate it — it’s more that I just didn’t understand why I should enjoy it.

2.5 stars out of 5

PS: Here is that Kermode review.

Movie Review: Manny (2014)

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Considering what great material the filmmakers had to work with, Manny, the new documentary on eight-weight-class Filipino world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, should have been a sure-fire KO. Instead of delivering the haymakers fans would have loved to see, however, the film ended up pulling its punches all the way through, resulting in a thoroughly unsatisfying experience that barely scratches the surface of both the man and the sport.

On its face, Manny ticks all the right boxes for a sports documentary. A poor Filipino kid from the gutter is forced to box from a young age to put food on the family table, and in the process develops a talent and ferocity that would take him to the very top of the sport. Amid the career highs (such as his superstar-making pummeling of Oscar de la Hoya in 2008) and lows (his KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012, for instance) there are celebrity interviews and “rare” public and behind-the-scenes footage, all with the familiar voice of Liam Neeson narrating the script.

But despite an explosive start highlighting Pacquiao’s knockout loss to Marquez, Manny soon settles into conventional documentary mode and begins to skim over the stuff that would have made the film fascinating. It touches on all the things we already know about Pacquiao’s life outside of his major fights — the humble beginnings, the rise through the weight ranks, the movies and singing that came with the stardom, the foray into politics, and the apparent “religious awakening” he would experience a few years ago — but without ever getting to the “good stuff” simmering beneath the surface.

Yes, it was cool to see highlights of his training and big fights — Barrera, Morales, De la Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Margarito, Marquez — in high definition, and it was fun to see celebrities like Mark Wahlberg, Jeremy Piven and Jimmy Kimmel talk about him, but all of these things felt superficial.

I wanted to see more footage of Manny’s daily life; I wanted to hear more about the dirty business of boxing and the disputes between his promoter Top Rank and Golden Boy; I wanted to hear about all the venomous groupies that feed of his money and all the cash he literally gives away; I wanted more depth on Manny’s dark side — the gambling and the drinking and the womanizing. It would be unfair to say the film completely ignores these issues, though it barely takes more than a jab at them. The approach by directors Leon Gast (who won the Oscar for the Ali documentary When We Were Kings) and Ryan Moore was to just touch upon all the touchy things and gloss over them quickly before moving onto the more positive aspects of Manny’s existence.

The best parts of the movie are when we see people close to Manny talk about him, from adviser Michael Koncz and ex-conditioning coach Alex Ariza to his long-time coach Freddie Roach and promoter Bob Arum. The bits with the most emotion actually all involve Pacquiao’s wife Jinkee, the only person who appears to be giving it to the viewers straight. But unfortunately, these flashes of genuine insight into Pacquiao are few and far between.

Perhaps it’s because I already know too much about Pacquiao for Manny to teach me anything new. To be honest, even the 24/7 documentaries produced by HBO before each Pacquiao fight offer more about he subject than this documentary. I just think the film would have been so much more interesting had it dared to venture deeper into things such as Alex Ariza’s unceremonious dumping from Pacquiao’s team and the subsequent feud he developed with Roach and Koncz (not discussed at all), questioning how and what really caused the negotiations with Floyd Mayweather Jr to break down multiple times (nothing apart from a couple of clips anyone could have dug up on YouTube), and some sort of definitive statement about all the allegations of performance enhancing drugs (the elephant in the room).

Even the chronological depiction of Pacquiao’s career missed important chunks. Although the footage is out there, the film ignores Pacquiao’s earlier losses before Morales and his world title fights at the lighter weight class, and completely skips his less inspiring bouts against Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley. I know it’s hard to follow every bout of Pacquiao’s long career, but pretending that some important events of his life don’t even exist makes me question the filmmakers’ objectivity and decision-making.

At the end of the day, Manny is a film that’s more hagiography than documentary. It feels like it has been made by the same people who follow Pacquiao around all day telling him how great he is (they’re what netizens described as “Pactards”). Pacquiao is an interesting, charismatic sportsman who deserves a better biography than what he got here, and this was never more apparent when listening him spew out the awkward lines they wrote for him at the end of the movie.

Having said all that, Manny remains in a position to succeed because of Pacquiao’s immense popularity and fortunate timing — as the long-awaited showdown between him and Mayweather appears to be  getting somewhere at last. Maybe after they finally do fight each other someone else can make a more compelling documentary that can do Manny Pacquaio justice.

2 stars out of 5