Cameos add spice to se­rial filler

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Stephen Romei

En­tourage (MA15+) Na­tional re­lease Walk­ing the Camino (PG) Limited re­lease

What’s the briefest time an ac­tor can be on screen and still have a last­ing im­pact on a film? Beatrice Straight won a best sup­port­ing actress Os­car for her five-minute, 40-sec­ond ap­pear­ance as a wronged wife in Sid­ney Lumet’s 1976 master­piece Net­work. Al­most 20 years ear­lier Hermione Bad­de­ley was nom­i­nated in the same cat­e­gory for her sub-three-minute turn in Jack Clay­ton’s Room at the Top. The one burned in my mind, how­ever, is Mont­gomery Clift’s ex­tra­or­di­nary 12 min­utes in the wit­ness box in Stan­ley Kramer’s Judg­ment at Nurem­berg (1961), also Os­car nom­i­nated though the award went to Ge­orge Chakiris for West Side Story.

Th­ese thoughts came to mind while watch­ing En­tourage, based on the 2004-11 tele­vi­sion se­ries of the same name, be­cause the great­est plea­sure of the film lies in its nu­mer­ous cameos. There’s barely a scene where a fa­mous face doesn’t pop up, of­ten in anger: Liam Nee­son, Kelsey Gram­mer, Jes­sica Alba, Ed O’Neill, Mike Tyson, War­ren Buf­fett … the list goes on.

Best of all is Mark Wahlberg, whose early Hol­ly­wood ex­pe­ri­ences are the loose in­spi­ra­tion for En­tourage and who has been in­volved in the project from the be­gin­ning.

When the gang bumps into Wahlberg and asks what he’s do­ing, he says he’s work­ing on an­other se­quel to the not-for-kids teddy bear com­edy Ted. When some­one ex­presses sur­prise that there’s more than one Ted film, Wahlberg says, “Shit, I’ll do 20 if I can.’’

That sort of sums up En­tourage. Why make a fea­ture film of a mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful TV se­ries that ended four years ago? Be­cause some­one asked you to and handed over $US30 mil­lion to boot. (By the way, Ted 2 is due to hit the big screen on June 25.)

More­over, it’s part of a TV-to-movie trend that has ac­cel­er­ated in re­cent times. There were more than 20 years be­tween the end of the orig­i­nal Mission: Im­pos­si­ble TV se­ries and the first Tom Cruise movie; four years be­tween the TV con­clu­sion and cinema de­but of Sex and the City.

If you were a fan of En­tourage on TV then you should en­joy this film ver­sion, as it’s es­sen­tially a long bonus episode. Same cast, same lo­ca­tion, same beau­ti­ful peo­ple, same dream cars, same foul lan­guage, same crude sex­ual hu­mour, with se­ries cre­ator Doug Ellin in the driver’s seat as writer and direc­tor.

In con­trast, if you didn’t like the show — and many peo­ple find its borderline misog­yny deeply unattrac­tive — then there’s noth­ing here to change your mind.

For those who came in late, the os­ten­si­ble cen­tre of the story is hand­some young ac­tor Vin­cent Chase (Adrian Gre­nier), who by now is an A-list star. Vin­cent is sur­rounded and sup­ported by his child­hood bud­dies from Queens, New York: older, less suc­cess­ful ac­tor half­brother Johnny “Drama” Chase (Kevin Dil­lon, Matt’s younger brother), manager Eric Mur­ray (Kevin Con­nolly) and driver-dogs­body Tur­tle (Jerry Fer­rara), who is now rich­est of all be­cause of a suc­cess­ful tequila busi­ness.

Vin­cent owes much of his good for­tune to su­per agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven, the manic, com­mand­ing cen­tre of the TV se­ries and film), who quit at the end of the TV se­ries but is now not only back but run­ning a Hol­ly­wood stu­dio.

Ari has backed Vin­cent to the tune of $US100m for his next project, a mod­ern take on the Jekyll and Hyde story, which also marks the star’s di­rec­to­rial de­but. (Mel Gibson did it with Brave­heart, we are re­minded.) How­ever, Vin­cent is over bud­get and that means go­ing to the Texas bil­lion­aire who fi­nances the films (but never watches them) to ask for more dough.

The ve­nal mogul role is more or less phoned in by Billy Bob Thorn­ton, but his son Travis, who takes over the ne­go­ti­a­tions with Vin­cent and Ari, is played by for­mer child star Ha­ley Joel Os­ment, fat, bearded and beady-eyed, hand­gun at his hip, but not as stupid as he looks, and it’s the per­for­mance of the film.

Vin­cent and Ari’s tus­sles with Travis, and with an in­creas­ingly ag­i­tated stu­dio chair­man, pro­vide the main ten­sion of the film, along with un­der­stand­able con­cerns about whether Vin­cent’s Hyde will be any good. The bet­ter Gibson anal­ogy is to The Pas­sion of the Christ. In the back­ground there are lots of women who give the boys grief, but this isn’t their show. If you like a bit of yin with your yang, then

Walk­ing the Camino: Six Ways to San­ti­ago is a good fol­low-up to En­tourage. Af­ter all that cheap Hol­ly­wood glitz, here is a mod­est doc­u­men­tary about peo­ple mak­ing the an­cient pil­grim­age to San­ti­ago de Com­postela, the Catholic cathe­dral in Spain that some be­lieve holds the re­mains of the apos­tle James.

This is not a re­li­gious film, how­ever. The un­con­nected (though that changes) in­di­vid­u­als we fol­low on the 800km walk from south­west­ern France to the church town in north­west­ern Spain are there for var­i­ous rea­sons.

Ta­tiana, a young French woman, is the most overtly de­vout, but she is mak­ing the trek with her three-year-old son (who has a stroller) and athe­ist brother. Young Por­tuguese man To­mas is there on a whim. Wayne, a dig­ni­fied Canadian gent, is walk­ing in mem­ory of his wife, ac­com­pa­nied by his cere­bral friend Jack. An­nie from Los An­ge­les is there to learn about her­self, not that she knows it at first. Misa, who is Dan­ish-English, is the one most con­sciously on a Ch­eryl Strayed Wild trip: her life is a mess.

Amer­i­can film­maker Ly­dia Smith fol­lows un­ob­tru­sively (she is never on cam­era), al­low­ing her sub­jects to tell their sto­ries in their own time, just as they are en­cour­aged to walk the Camino at their own pace.

The re­sult is a bit of rep­e­ti­tion, whether it be peo­ple com­plain­ing about their blis­ters or telling us for the 10th time that what mat­ters is the jour­ney, not the des­ti­na­tion. But ul­ti­mately the gen­tle pace works for a story that un­folds across more than a month.

The “six ways” of the ti­tle refers to the sto­ry­paths of the main pil­grims, but Davis ends up ac­com­mo­dat­ing more than a half-dozen, which seems in the spirit of the ex­er­cise.

The scenery is spec­tac­u­lar — blue skies, green fields and bursts of pur­ple flow­ers, in­ter­rupted now and then by charm­ing cob­ble­stone towns. As An­nie says, it’s like walk­ing in a post­card. (Emilio Estevez used this land­scape well in his 2010 drama about the Camino, The Way, star­ring his dad Martin Sheen.) The pil­grims are en­gag­ing and ir­ri­tat­ing by turns — they’re real peo­ple — but all seem kind-hearted and in­ter­ested in oth­ers and the world around them. I like that they are not seek­ing moun­tain­top en- light­en­ment but just some peace and quiet to think, to ar­rive at small in­sights they may or may not take back to their regular lives.

“This day is what I have now, and there is no guar­an­tee about to­mor­row,” Wayne says at one point. “So I will walk this day as best I can.’’

From left, Jerry Fer­rara, Kevin Con­nolly, Jeremy Piven, Adrian Gre­nier and Kevin Dil­lon in En­tourage; a scene from Walk­ing

the Camino, above

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