For a biopic of a real-life person, this feels like an oddly standard mob thriller. It's the true story of Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, and it's told with gritty filmmaking and robust performances. But there's very little about the movie that sets it apart, leaving it as yet another depiction of violent criminal ambition and betrayal. And by the end, it's difficult to escape the feeling that we've seen it all before.
It opens in 1975 South Boston, where Jimmy Bulger (Johnny Depp) runs the Irish mafia, while his brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a senator. Their childhood friend John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) is an FBI agent who has asked for their help in taking down the rival Angiulo family, which Jimmy sees as a win-win situation: he'll get rid of the competition while avoiding jail himself. Over the next 10 years, Jimmy expands his operation dramatically, and he's not afraid to get his own hands dirty as he sorts out problems that are created by his sidekicks (including Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons and W. Earl Brown), all of whom are increasingly annoyed at his control-freak ways. But as Jimmy becomes even more notorious, the FBI boss (Kevin Bacon) pressures John to take him down.
The actors dive into their roles. Depp transforms himself physically into a prowling thug with terrifyingly piercing eyes. He may be a heartless killer, but he's also a caring family man. Opposite him, Edgerton has a trickier role as a federal agent who operates more like the gangster he'd rather be, casually ignoring the law to push his own agenda. In the sprawling supporting cast, only a few characters emerge memorably: Cumberbatch has a sparky presence, Cochrane offers some thoughtfulness, and Bacon gets to chomp on the scenery. Other roles are much briefer, especially the sidelined female characters.
Continue reading: Black Mass Review
Alton is a very special young boy who has been given a unique gift. When his father, Roy, finds out that Alton is in trouble with his freedom - and life - in jeopardy, Roy takes matters in his own hands and kidnaps his son. On the run and being hunted by religious extremists and special agents, Roy takes to the road with his close friend in order to protect his son.
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Whitey Bulger has had the FBI under his thumb for too long, and now people are starting to notice. How can a criminal mastermind responsible for every major offence in the city pass by seemingly unnoticed for an entire lifetime? It's true he landed in Alcatrez at a young age, but the older the more dangerous he becomes; a kingpin of the South Boston criminal underworld who escaped justice by informing authorities of all movements of the rival gang, the Italian Mafia, as suggested by his most useful contact and friend John Connolly. But the Irish Winter Hill Gang is growing ever more powerful, and Bulger's feelings of invincibility lead to more and more murders and destruction. It's time he was stopped, but finding him is not going to be easy.
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Irish-American criminal mastermind Whitey Bulger was arguably one of the most dangerous men in America before his arrest in 2011 at the age of 81. He'd already spent time in Alcatrez as a much younger man, having spent a lot of time on the streets of South Boston. However, by the 70s he proved to be the FBI's best tool in controlling organised crime within the country, and he was eventually persuaded by his friend John Connolly to be their informant in all workings of the rival Italian Mafia. However, it's not safe business being both a highly respected gangster and a police informant, and while much of his activity is being largely ignored as he rises to become top of the Irish Winter Hill Gang, it seems he is gaining too many killings and dodgy dealings under his belt to go unnoticed.
Continue: Black Mass - Teaser Trailer
An unusually inventive approach brings this story to life, as the filmmakers get into the mind of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson to reveal how he created those unforgettable songs. Even more impressive is the depiction of Wilson's troubled personal life, which plays out with an unnerving resonance rarely matched by rock-star biopics. This is due to artful direction and writing plus committed performances from Paul Dano and John Cusack, who play Wilson at two key points in his life.
As a young man in the 1960s, Brian Wilson (Dano) is a prodigious genius, preferring to stay in the studio while his brothers Dennis and Carl (Kenny Wormald and Brett Davern) and their bandmate Mike Love (Jake Abel) head out to meet girls on tour. They don't understand Brian's obsession with oddball sounds, but let him do his thing until it becomes clear that he's mentally unstable. Years later, in the late 1980s, Brian (now Cusack) falls for Cadillac saleswoman Melinda (Elizabeth Banks), who realises that he is being over-medicated and possibly abused by his controlling psychiatrist guardian Eugene (Paul Giamatti). And instead of leaving, as Eugene orders her to do, she fights for Brian.
These two time periods are interwoven together in a strikingly seamless way, shifting back and forth to build a potent dramatic and emotional momentum. By seeing everything from Wilson's perspective, the filmmakers are able to take the audience on a remarkable journey through his life, avoiding the usual predictable formula. Wilson's life may follow the usual trajectory of success followed by drug abuse, but his mental illness adds an involving angle that's depicted with sensitivity by Dano and Cusack, as well as director Bill Pohlad and writers Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner. Even more impressive is Banks' performance, which is the key that takes us right into the story. It's a beautifully textured turn that reminds us that she can do a lot more than steal movies in comical roles (see Pitch Perfect, Magic Mike and The Hunger Games).
Continue reading: Love & Mercy Review
Sometimes, the greatest hiding place is in plain sight. For twelve years from the mid-1990s, he was the FBI's second most wanted fugitive, behind Osama Bin Laden. Throughout the 1970s, he was an FBI informant, revealing information to bring down an Italian American crime family, and he was the brother of a US senator. But really, his informant years were to stop another family from invading his own turf. Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) was one of the most brutal and violent criminals in Boston, being the secret puppet master behind one of the most dangerous crime families in history.
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In the mid-1960s, The Beach Boys were at the top of their game. Having released ten classic albums, a young songwriter and leader of the band, Brian Wilson (Paul Dano), was preparing to create the greatest album in history. His aggressive pursuit of the perfect sound for the band's eleventh studio album, 'Pet Sounds', had a negative effect on his psychological well-being. Almost two decades later in the 1980s, Wilson (John Cusack) is trapped in his own mind, sedated by medication and a troubled psychiatrist. But a young woman, Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), believes that she can restore him to the great man he once was, through a mixture of Love and Mercy.
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Things have been tough for Brian (Bradley Cooper). Having been fired from the US Air Force for his cockiness, he lost his girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams) by a chain of events he doesn't fully understand himself. But when he is recalled back into service by a boss that has a soft spot for him, Brian discovers that his life has to get an awful lot more complicated before it can get simpler. Tasked with overseeing the launch of a weapons satellite from Hawaii, Brian is put in charge of training Allison (Emma Stone) to be both a good pilot, and a valuable member of the air force. But as he begins to reconnect with Tracy, Allison begins to fall for him, leading to Brian having to truly figure out once and for all, just what it is that he wants.
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If a movie's success is measured by its ability to get under our skin and provoke a reaction, then this might be the film of the year. Designed to make us furious, this drama pushes us to the brink as we shout at the characters for being so naive. But the events depicted are based on actual experiences, and the more we think about this, the more unnerving it becomes. It might be impossible to believe that anyone could be this stupid, but can we really be sure we'd make better decisions?
Award-winning actress Ann Dowd (who also played Channing Tatum's mum in Side Effects) stars as Sandra, manager of a ChickWich fast-food outlet in Ohio. She has the usual issues with her young employees, who think she's out of touch, but is happy because she expects her boyfriend Van (Camp) to propose tonight. Then she gets a phone call from Officer Daniels (Healy) telling her that her young employee Becky (Walker) has stolen cash from a customer. He asks Sandra to detain Becky in the office and search her belongings. Sandra makes sure the assistant manager (Atkinson) is present, but she becomes more hesitant about Daniels' more extreme demands. And over the next few hours, he pushes things much further, getting Becky's young colleague Kevin (Ettinger) involved, as well as Van.
Writer-director Zobel structures the film perfectly to strike a nerve. As outsiders we are naturally more suspicious, wondering how Sandra knows that the man on the phone is actually a cop, especially when be begins to bully her with threats. She just wants to do the right thing, and questions all of Daniels' requests, but for us looking in we can't help but think that what he's saying is so preposterous that she needs to just put a stop to it. Cleverly, each character has a very distinct reaction when they get on the phone with Daniels. But as the situation escalates into something unthinkable, we can't understand why no one becomes a voice of reason.
Continue reading: Compliance Review
The Bondurant Brothers, Forrest, Howard and Jack, take up lawless methods of achieving the American Dream during the Depression in Franklin County, Virginia. Soon their illegal money-making schemes, including selling their home brewed moonshine in their saloon, attract the attention of the local law enforcement who recruit a corrupt inner-city cop, Charlie Rakes, to break the brothers and force them to give him shares in their profits. In an attempt to gain his brothers' respect and win the heart of the pure and well brought up Bertha who seeks danger and excitement, the suggestible and smart Jack partners with the brutal and, quite frankly, untrustworthy city gangster Floyd Banner - things start to become strained for the Bondurants when the 'indestructible' Forrest is seriously injured and loyalty among the brothers is questioned.
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Bestselling author Nicholas (Allam) and his efficient wife Beth (Greig) use their Dorset farm as a writer's retreat, while the goings on in the nearby village provide plenty of inspiration. Especially when notorious journalist Tamara (Arterton) returns to town. Her childhood boyfriend (Evans) is stunned when she falls for posing rocker Ben (Cooper), who's the object of obsession for two local 15-year-old girls (Barden and Christie). Meanwhile, Beth's patience with Nicholas' straying eye is being sorely tested just as a visiting writer (Camp) starts paying her some attention.
Continue reading: Tamara Drewe Review
Jeffrey (Campbell Scott) is a bottom line-driven producer interested in Robert's (Peter Sarsgaard) script "The Dying Gaul," a semi-autobiographical tale about AIDS based on his relationship with his now-dead agent and partner Malcolm (Bill Camp). However, to make the project commercially viable, Jeffrey demands that Robert change the central couple from a homosexual to heterosexual duo. Jettisoning his integrity, Robert sells out and does as Jeffrey asks, in the process pocketing $1 million and establishing a close-knit friendship with Jeffrey and his failed screenwriter wife Elaine (Patricia Clarkson), whose life is so purposeless that learning how to control her multi-million dollar house's blinds constitutes an exciting afternoon. Yet the happy threesome's relationship is soon torn asunder when, after learning that Robert frequents chat rooms, Elaine strikes up an in-disguise online conversation with her new friend and learns that he's having an affair with Jeffrey. This devastating discovery frighteningly undercuts Elaine's sense of security and stability while also igniting a desire for retribution, leading to a dangerous game of cyberspace cat-and-mouse in which Elaine poses as the back-from-the-dead spirit of Malcolm and, ultimately, each character's true, less-than-savory personalities are drawn out into the blinding L.A. light of day.
Continue reading: The Dying Gaul Review
In 1947, Dalton (Bryan Cranston) is the film industry's top-paid screenwriter, so of course the House Un-American Activities Commission goes after...
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This lively romp is entertaining enough to amuse the audience even when it veers off the rails.