“Black Mass” is the story of real-life mobster, Jame Whitey Bulger — who looks surprisingly like Johnny Depp with Grandpa makeup caked on. The film recounts many of the horrific crimes that Bulger committed, along with the corrupt dealings he had with the FBI. We follow the notorious criminal until his unceremonious arrest, at his Santa Monica condo, a decade and half after going into hiding, once his enterprise had collapsed.
The film is technically sound. It is solid piece of cinema that barely passes the litmus test in all areas. However, it is wholly uninspired… creakily dragging itself through tired retreads of scenes we have seen in far better gangster films. “Black Mass” feels like a paint-by-numbers effort, checking off the obligatory boxes on the way to an unsatisfactory whole.
Once again, Johnny Depp feels the need to hide behind an over-the-top disguise. Almost all of his most famous roles seems to require this crutch. Taking into account the amount of times he does this… and his extraordinarily shy persona in interviews and public appearances, it really shows a massive insecurity. The makeup must allow him to let go and feel comfortable in the role. Unfortunately, as Whitey Bulger, the effect is distracting. The suspension of disbelief is too easily broken here.
There is nothing terribly bad about the movie. It is just a disappointing effort that pales in comparison to its genre counterparts. “Black Mass” will come and go without much of a bluster. Don’t waste your money in theaters — it will make it to TV soon enough.
I went into this screening expecting a quaint, innocent period piece that would go in one eye and out the other. I presumed it would be pretty to look at. I assumed the acting would all be satisfactory. I thought “Brooklyn” would nestle snugly into the forgotten cinematic landscape of “it’s fine”. Instead, I found myself really engrossed in a gorgeous adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel of the same name. I was fixated on a superb central performance by Saoirse Ronan. I was rendered weepy by a lovely movie that has Oscar written all over it.
Ronan plays Eilis, a young Irish girl who is “away to America” to find a better life for herself. She arrives with nary a clue — wide-eyed and naive to the world around her. She settles into a boarding house with some other girls and finds a job at a local department store. The Irish community in Brooklyn sticks together and she gets extra-special looking after by Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), who helps her through the homesickness.
Eilis meets a young Italian lad named Tony (Emory Cohen) at one of the neighborhood Friday night dances. The spark soon blossoms into love and her life starts to become immeasurably more enjoyable and happy. However, it all comes to a grinding halt when Eilis is informed of her sister’s tragic death back home in Ireland. She heads home to be with her mother and leaves Tony behind to worry if she will ever return.
The cast is terrific. The score is haunting. The production design and costumes are all immaculate. Everything about this film exudes quality. Ronan is the standout performer. What she can do with a simple longing stare is reminiscent of Streep in her heyday. Not many actors or actresses her age understand the power of simplicity like Ronan does. She thinks it — We feel it. She is the queen of understated power.
“Brooklyn” will surprise even the most cynical or jaded moviegoer. It is sweet and lovely… but not saccharine or cheesy. It is one of the finer films of 2015 and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Saoirse Ronan gets nominated on everyone’s ballots at the end of the year.
There are Four-Star movies… and then there All-Time movies. I usually hand out a half-dozen or so Four-Star ratings each year, but I hadn’t seen an All-Timer since “Perfect Sense” in 2012. However, “Ex Machina” ends the long dry spell with a melancholy and elegant meditation on the definition of life, the meaning of love, and the necessity of freedom.
Caleb is a brilliant young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson), who seemingly wins a company-wide lottery that sends him to meet the notoriously reclusive genius CEO called Nathan (Oscar Isaac) — a Steve Jobs meets Howard Hughes type figure. When flying to the secret remote location, Caleb asks when they will get to the CEO’s property — to which the pilot responds, “You’ve been flying over it for the past few hours”.
Upon arrival, Nathan awkwardly tries to relax Caleb and instructs him to just have fun with his prize… two guys just drinking and hanging out. Soon though, Caleb finds out that he is to be the subject in Nathan’s version of a Turing Test — “a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.” The machine in question is named Ava (Alicia Vikander).
The film plays out in various “sessions” — each one a new encounter between Caleb and Ava, whose body appears plastic and metal, but whose face, hands and feet are all humanoid. The interludes between each session focus on Nathan’s questions to Caleb, some binge-drinking, and a delightful dance number which may be one of my favorite cinematic scenes of all time.
The performances, in what is essentially a three-person play, are across-the-board magnificent. Each of the leads is cast impeccably and deliver award-worthy work. The cinematography is of particular note. The use of color, glass, reflections, warmth, cold, hard and soft — it is a mood-enhancing set that adds a sense of claustrophobia and foreboding. The music, especially during the final act crescendo, is mesmerizing — along the lines of the now ubiquitous “Requiem for a Dream” score. It had a physical effect on me.
There are so many layers to peel away… so many nooks and crannies to probe… “Ex Machina” is going to be an endless trove of cinematic treasure for years to come. I have already seen it three times and found new things to ponder each time. It is a 100% lock to be high on my year-end Top 10 List — and, to be honest, I think it is odds-on to be the Best Film of 2015.
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TELL US NOW!!! Who would you like to see make the list in 2015???
The Lists are released on December 27th!!!Continue Reading... Post a comment (147)
Leonardo DiCaprio is lining himself up for another run at the elusive Oscar with this tale of survival and revenge. Tom Hardy co-stars. The film is released everywhere in December.Continue Reading... Post a comment (3)
The next epic from master filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino hit theaters this Christmas. The cast looks amazing. The plot looks like it has elements of “Kill Bill” & “Django Unchained”. Can’t wait!Continue Reading... Post a comment (0)
I thought the original film, “Olympus Has Fallen” was a fantastic action thriller… a million times better than its counterpart, “White House Down” — which was a horrific mess. The sequel, once again, stars Gerard Butler. Here is the trailer…
Seth Rogan stars in this raucous pot-fueled comedy. Here is the Red-Band Trailer…Continue Reading... Post a comment (0)
Eddie Redmayne looks to bag his second consecutive Best Actor Oscar for his role in this true story. Alicia Vikander co-stars.Continue Reading... Post a comment (0)
Saoirse Ronan is fast becoming one of the great actresses of this new generation. “Brooklyn” is one of the best films of 2015 and I urge you to seek it out. Here is the beautiful trailer for a most gorgeous film.Continue Reading... Post a comment (0)