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
Despite a superior cast and terrific-looking production values, this mystery romp is a misfire on every level. The only vaguely entertaining moments come in some snappy wordplay that's presumably all that remains of Kyril Bonfiglioli's beloved novel Don't Point That Thing at Me. Otherwise, the film feels clumsy and outdated, and even Johnny Depp's quirky schtick seems halfhearted. So even though it looks great and elicits a few giggles, it's such a mess that it's hard to imagine why anyone got involved.
Depp plays Lord Charlie Mortdecai, an art expert whose immaculately kept manor house is at risk of foreclosure due to unpaid taxes. So he leaps at the finder's fee when his old pal MI5 Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor) asks him to investigate a murder linked to a missing Goya painting. The problem is that Martland still holds a torch for Charlie's wife Joanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), a brainy bombshell who launches her own investigation into the case. With his trusty manservant Jock (Paul Bettany) by his side, Charlie is taken to Moscow and Los Angeles in search of the Goya. And it all boils over in a chaotic encounter with a smirking art collector (Jeff Goldblum), his man-crazy daughter (Olivia Munn) and a sneaky killer (Jonny Pasvolsky).
Despite quite a lot of adult-aimed innuendo and violence, director David Koepp (Premium Rush) shoots the movie as if it's a hyperactive kiddie flick, all bright colours and shameless over-acting, with whooshing digitally animated transitions and a series of awkwardly staged car chases. None of this is remotely amusing. Even the constant double entendres are painfully overplayed, while the cartoonish Received Pronunciation accents put on by Depp, Paltrow and McGregor are more distracting than humorous. All of this leaves the characters impossible to engage with on any level; they aren't funny, endearing or even interesting.
Continue reading: Mortdecai Review
We may sigh heavily at the thought of yet another fairy tale blockbuster, but the filmmakers and cast here demand a bit more attention. And sure enough, it's refreshingly smarter and funnier than we expect. There are still the problems of unnecessary 3D and far too many digital characters, but the restless pace and the witty performances make it a lot of fun to watch.
It's Jack and the Beanstalk with added action mayhem, as orphaned farmboy Jack (Hoult) sells his horse for a bag of supposedly magic beans. When one inadvertently gets wet, a massive beanstalk manages to propel Princess Isabelle (Tomlinson) into the realm of the giants, reawakening a legend that had died off centuries ago. So the King (McShane) enlists Jack to join a rescue team of guards (including McGregor, Marsan and Bremner) and Isabelle's intended, the shifty Roderick (Tucci). Up above the clouds, they encounter two-headed giant Fallon (Nighy) and his nasty horde. But rescuing Isabelle is only the first problem they face.
The freewheeling plot zips along without pausing for breath, encompassing massive set pieces and more gritty battles as well as small moments of drama and romance. Meanwhile, Jack and Isabelle cast lusty glances at each other, even when they're in physical peril. Director Singer brings out the energy of the characters to keep us involved, playing on the vertiginous angles of the settings while playfully deploying fairy tale imagery in the sets, costumes and landscapes. it's understandably why he decided to digitally create the giants rather than have actors play them, but this leaves a hole where the monsters should be. Aside from Nighy's more obviously performance-captured face, all of them look like dead-eyed cartoons, which essentially turns the film into a medieval Transformers movie.
Continue reading: Jack The Giant Slayer Review
Where other studios might have demanded proven singers for the parts, Paramount (bravely?) permits Burton to practice extreme nepotism. The director recruits his better half, Johnny Depp, for the title role of a wrongfully jailed barber who seeks vengeance against a covetous judge (Alan Rickman) and his troll-like lackey (Timothy Spall). As for the role of Mrs. Lovett, it goes to Burton's wife, Helena Bonham Carter. A meat-pie maker, Lovett helps dispose of Sweeney's human victims by turning them into delectable delicacies.
Continue reading: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street Review
Though it goes against everything he stands for, this rejuvenated Pan actually shows signs of growth and maturity. Special effects advancements help Peter and his cohorts pop off the screen. Cinematographer Donald McAlpine expands the rich color palette he utilized in such vivid films as Moulin Rogue and Romeo + Juliet. And director P.J. Hogan slips in subplots of unrequited love, develops pangs of loneliness, and mixes fleeting flights of happiness with his heroism.
Continue reading: Peter Pan (2003) Review
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