Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

Black Mass

Jay here. I’ve been MIA for a while and most likely will be for a bit more. Back surgery and its sidekick  morphine have indisposed me for writing movie reviews.

Anyway, Black Mass has been kicking around for a while now, generally disappointing folks despite its all-star cast and generous dash of promise. It basically tells the incredible story of Johnny-Depp-in-Black-MassJames ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Johnny Depp), and how he ran Boston from the underground for years, in part because of a brilliant “alliance” with the FBI. An old childhood friend (Joel Edgerton) has conveniently made a name for himself at the FBI and he convinces his boss (Kevin Bacon) that Bulger will be a useful informant. The information flows both ways though, with Bulger constantly evading investigation, and Bulger divulging details already known to the FBI by other means.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Bulger’s brother, Billy, a successful state politician. Suspicious? Well nobody at the FBI seems to think so, until there’s a new kid in town, Corey Stoll, who starts asking some incredulous questions, like how on earth has a notorious psychopath and criminal with ties to the IRA never ever been investigated? Why indeed.

So things fall apart for Bulger, although never as spectacularly as they do for everyone around 48091645.cachedhim (including Jesse Plemons, and can we just call him what he is: low-rent Matt Damon), and Rory Cochrane (bloated for this role, it’ll kill your Empire Records fantasies right quick), and Peter Sarsgaard (who once did an SNL skit where he was attending a pirate convention, and all the attendees really relished overpronouncing his name – PetARRRRGGGHHHH SAAAARRRRRRsgAAAAARRRRRRD, and now I am forever doomed to do it myself).

Maybe the biggest problem with this movie is that it crammed too many names under too small 62951a marquee. There just isn’t enough to keep everyone busy, and at the end of the day, this feels like a pretty standard mob movie, with Scorsese wannabe undertones. It fails to distinguish itself. The relief, though, is that Johnny Depp remembers how not to be a cartoon. It’s not any great relief though, since this is Depp’s fourth, FOURTH, time portraying a real-life gangster. Even my dogs have learned the trick by the fourth repetition.

You will not find a bad movie here, just a very tired one, but I guess it allowed a lot of Hollywood types to tick off MOB MOVIE on their SAG Bingo card, and if that’s not a good reason to make a movie, then I don’t know what is.


Frightfest 2015

We all watch movies with our earphones on in our office but you can always tell when someone is watching a scary movie. We yelp, we jump, we scream, we swear. Sometimes the “scary movie” is one of the trailers before the movie starts or even just an episode of Homeland. Yes, Jay and I work in an office of scaredy cats, ourselves included. I once startled the room by crying out in terror during an episode of Twin Peaks.

So, welcome to our horror fest, one designed specifically for the squeamish. I can’t guarantee that our selections won’t startle you, revolt you, or terrify you. But that’s what Halloween is about, isn’t it? Venturing into the unknown and confronting the spooky, the twisted, and the horrifying in a fun and safe place. And if you’re working in our office, remember that there’ll always be one or two other trained counsellors standing by if it gets to be too much for you. Oh, and also help yourself to some spooky cereal as you watch.

The Frightfest 2015 selections are as follows…

The Babadook– The more you deny him, the stronger he gets.

Beetlejuice– Beware Jeffrey Jones, the creepiest character featured at the Festival.

The Blair Witch Project– Everyone knows by now that it’s not real, right?

The Corpse Bride– I give them an eternity.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead–  The anti-Semitic Zombie Movie!!

Double Feature: The Shining with Room 237– If Jack Nicholson isn’t crazy enough for you, check out the fans of the Shining.

Frankenweenie– Not as pornographic as it sounds.

Halloween– How does Jamie Lee Curtis still have a voice?

Housebound– The only thing worse than being stuck in a haunted house is being there with your mother.

A Nightmare on Elm Street– See Johnny Depp before Tim Burton turned him into a cartoon character.

ParaNorman– How parents just don’t understand.

Scream– The movie that convinced us all that we need Caller ID.

What We Do in the Shadows– Vampires are people too.

Zombeavers– Exactly what it sounds like.


Filed Under M

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – Guy Ritchie wanted to make a spy movie that was “sexy, fun, and the-man-from-uncle-alicia-vikander-armie-hammer-henry-cavillfrivolous”, harkening back to the Roger Moore era of James Bond. He got the frivolous part right. This movie doesn’t mean much. It’s got some very charismatic stars, none of whom are served well by the material, and none of whom can pull off an accent as well as they think they can (Alicia Vikander sounds Irish more than German). It tends toward flippant rather than funny. It is very stylish (and stylized), I’ll give it that, but that’s a lot of money to put on a retro fashion show. However, if you’re one of those people who love a vacuous spy movie with no action or suspense, then boy has your time come.

Max – We never would have seen this movie on purpose but it was the second movie in a double-bill at the drive-in, so that explains why we were there, though not why we stayed. We stayed mostly for the people-watching, as it turned out, since the couple in the car beside us were topless, the better for him to expunge the blackheads from her back, while their interior lights are on, for all the world to see. It really made me reflect on how I might multi-task while at the drive-in. Suggestions? My only suggestion to you is to skip this movie. Lauren Graham and Thomas max-coverHaden Church play a good old flag-waving, down home American couple who make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Their eldest son dies in Iraq, and his service dog gets decommissioned from the army (sorry, marines) and comes to stay with them, to be loved and trained (and healed!) by the angry younger son. The army honours its strong tradition of turning its back on veterans with PTSD, even when that vet is a dog who just wants to serve his country and retire in peace and kibble. Convoluted plot devices ensue to really bring this family together in their grief, with heavy doses of patriotic piety that I found hard to swallow. Makes you proud to be Murican I guess. A country song plays over a memorial to dead wartime dogs at the end.

mortdecai_612x380_0Mortdecai – I think this movie was a bet. I think someone just decided to see how much weird they could cram into a movie, as long as that weird was uninteresting and unremarkable. I was embarrassed for the simpering Johnny Depp, and for his mustache.

Into the Woods

woodsBased on the Stephen Sondheim musical, Into the Woods tells the story of a childless baker and his wife, cursed by a wicked witch to be barren forever but granted the chance to reverse the spell, if only they go into the woods to retrieve some special items for her. Their story intersects with the familiar Grimm Brothers’  tales of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel.

Meryl Streep plays the witch and plays her beautifully. Director Rob Marshall knows she’s the linchpin and grants her the most spectacular entrances and exits. But it’s Emily Blunt in the role of the baker’s wife who feels like the heart bakerof the movie and Blunt really shines. She can make any line sound so natural, and her voice can only surprise you in the best way possible. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and deserves to be, possibly even more so that Streep (!). Anna Kendrick as Cinderella is comparatively disappointing. It’s always difficult for this reviewer to see past her donkey dentures, but her voice is up to the challenge, even I can admit that. But Cinderella just isn’t that exciting to watch (this problem was likely compounded by the inclusion of a preview for the new live-action Cinderella movie to be released in 2015 – my sister and I wrongly imagined some of those scenes as scenes from Into the Woods).


“I was raised to be charming, not sincere.”

There is a lot to recommend in this movie. The ensemble cast is spectacular. After their opening number, “Into the Woods” I felt like I should applaud.  And if you had doubts that Chris Pine could sing, let me assure you that he’s learned more than just a thing or two from Shatner along the way. Actually, our group quite enjoyed the scene between Pine’s Prince Charming (recycling his smug asshole look from Horrible Bosses 2) and Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen, leatherclad) – the two men are singing about their respective woman-induced “Agony”, splashing about homoerotically in a waterfall, trying to out-macho each other, crotch-thursting, popping buttons to reveal increasingly deep vees of smooth, tanned chests, reminding us more of a duet between George Michael and Freddie Mercury than your typical fairy-tale princes. Delightfully tongue-in-cheek, you almost wished more of the movie could feel this way.


“Scrumptious carnality”

The sets are gorgeous, and no matter how many times our characters go into the woods, it never feels like they’re passing the same 5 trees, it’s a truly enchanted forest that creates a storybook look that’s fun to get lost in. And the fabulous Colleen Atwood heightens the visual gorging with a stunning array of costumes, including a suit that transforms a man into a mister wolf. Johnny Depp, playing the wolf, is lurking inside those woods, looking lupine and oily, putting out vibes that should warn us away. Although top-billed, Depp’s in the movie for maybe 5 minutes, but that’s more than enough to turn things pretty sour. How do I say this…I felt like I picked up on certain nuances in his song that I was uncomfortable with. As in: sexual innuendo. As in: the wolf would like to “eat” Little Red Riding Hood in more than one way. He’s an absolute creepster with a real pedophile’s mustache and his singing “Hello, Little Girl” will send shivers up your spine. He tells us there’s a “scrumptious carnality” about to be had, and maybe that works in the Broadway production, but it feels grossly inappropriate in this toned-down Disney version where the actress playing Red is indeed a little girl, much too young to be on the receiving end of this lascivious song. And when she starts responding that what they’re doing is new and scary but also kind of exciting, well…I wanted to slam on the brakes.

The characters wrap up their traditional story lines around the 80 minute mark – but wait! These poor schmucks don’t get their happily-ever-afters. The story continues. And I’m glad that the movie doesn’t end on Cinderella’s wedding day because I would have felt cheated. But 80 minutes of singing and skipping through the woods was about as much as I wanted. So the remaining third of the movie, which gets a hell of a lot darker, felt entirely too much. Streep delivers another great song but I was fed up with the inundation of special effects, my patience was waning, and it just felt like filler. My sister felt that since all the characters start (or continue) making selfish, morally ambiguous choices, she didn’t have anyone to pull for. She’s not wrong. My husband felt that the songs were not particularly catchy or memorable, and he’s not wrong either. I enjoyed the movie, enjoyed it quite a bit, it would be impossible not to given the sheer amount of talent (although I am wondering why all of that talent had to be white), but I’m not feeling it for Best Picture this year. Of course, I’m sure I said the same about Rob Marshall’s Chicago and we all know how that went.

Frightfest 2015: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

What if your nightmares weren’t “only a dream”?


The late Wes Craven touched on something primal here with his horror classic that spawned way too many shitty sequels. Three high school students on Elm Street discover that they have been dreaming about the same nightmarish figure with severe burns on his face and knives for fingers. And that laugh. Oh my God, that laugh.

a nightmare on elm street

It seems that the now infamous Freddy Krueger was once just a regular child murderer. Now that he’s dead, he can only get to you in the world of your dreams. I’ve had nightmares before that would make me fight sleep just to avoid getting back to that place. Here, to fight for sleep is to fight for your life. Craven’s mythology surrounding the world of the dream isn’t nearly as elaborate as, say, Inception’s but he’s come up with an interesting idea here that he has a lot of fun with.

nightmare on elm steet 3

For a modern audience, the most fun part is watching Johnny Depp’s first movie looking as baby-faced as you’ve ever seen him at 20 years-old. He plays the typical teen boyfriend in a high school movie, apparently not yet having decided that he would play every part as a weirdo. Having never acted before, Depp was so nervous about every scene that he would bring an actor friend of his (who I think may have been Jackie Earle Haley, who would later play Freddy in the 2010 remake) to run lines with because he was so afraid of getting it wrong.

As humble beginnings go, Depp’s wasn’t so bad. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a Halloween guilty pleasure of the best kind.

Corpse Bride

Victor (Johnny Depp) is the son of nouveau-riche fish merchants and Victoria (Emily Watson) is the daughter of aristocrats who are down corpseto their last dollar. Their upcoming marriage will give legitimacy to Victor’s parents while savings Victoria’s from the indignity of poverty. But Victor and Victoria have yet to meet – and neither are keen on marrying a stranger. All that changes when they finally do clap eyes on each other, instantly falling head over heels.

True love doesn’t make Victor any more facile with words, so when he fumbles his way through the rehearsal, he’s admonished to the woods to practise until perfect. Unfortuimagesnately, he unknowingly recites his vows to the corpse of a woman murdered on the night she was to elope, and Emily (Helena Bonham Carter) rises from the dead to claim him as her husband, and drag him down to the Land of the Dead.

Victor is mortified, as he should be – will he ever make it back up to the Land of the Living to reclaim the woman who holds his heart?

Tim Burton breathed his magic into this 19th century Russian folk tale, co-directing on the tails of Big Fish, and simultaneously with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He held the vision, and co-director Mike Johnson followed up with the crew, making sure the tone and emotion were realized.

A beautiful example of stop-motion, the puppets themselves, built by Mackinnon and Saunders, were about 17 inches tall and 46532-stop-motion-ch5-1-fig0503animated on sets built three to four feet off the ground with trap doors allowing animators access to the sets’ surfaces to manipulate the puppets. Victor, Victoria and Emily were outfitted with heads the size of golf balls that contained special gearing to allow the animators to manipulate individual parts of the puppets’ faces.

Burton, on casting Johnny Depp in both movies he was working on at once: “It was weird because we were doing both at the same time. He was Willy Wonka by day and Victor by night so it might have been a little schizophrenic for him. But he’s great. It’s the first animated movie he’s done and he’s always into a challenge. We just treat it like fun and a creative proceEmily_upset_with_Victorss. Again, that’s the joy of working with him. He’s kind of up for anything. He just always adds something to it. The amazing thing is all the actors never worked [together]. They were never in a room together, so they were all doing their voices, except for Albert [Finney] and Joanna [Lumley] did a few scenes together, everybody else was separate. They were all kind of working in a vacuum, which was interesting. That’s the thing that I felt ended up so beautifully, that their performances really meshed together. So he was very canny, as they all were, about trying to find the right tone and making it work while not being in the same room with each other.”

Like the best of Burton, this is macabre yet whimsical, and the visuals here are still arresting today. It’s definitely worth digging out for Halloween, and for whenever.