A Subtle reminder that Johnny Depp Can Act
Black Mass (2015): The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.
Oh ya that's right. Johnny Depp can act. That's pretty much the only reason this movie exists, which is a shame because it's an absolutely crazy story. But this film is a surface level film at best. I didn't really learn about what drives these people, specifically Whitey Bulger. I just learned that Johnny Depp can actually act. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. But it definitely prevents this film from being everything it could have been. So let's get into it yes?
Let's talk about everything except the acting. Because that's the only reason to see this film. First off, the makeup. That is far and away the biggest fault of this film. Unfortunately, the makeup crew did not do a good job here. Rather, the makeup crew decided to make the noses of many of the characters in this film be as distracting as possible. Johnny Depp's makeup was especially distracting, and most certainly detracted from the film overall. Several times I was taken completely out of a gripping scene when the camera would decide to do a closeup of Johnny Depp's face. However, everything else was pretty much....fine. Nothing really stood out except for the editing, which I have to give a shoutout to. Whenever anyone inserts an old school jump-cut into their film, it's gonna get a shoutout. Because jump-cuts are awesome. (If you don't know what I mean check this out.) Unfortunately the editing department was the only place this film took any risks at all with, as it looked pretty bland and honestly the cinematography made Boston look pretty bland too.
But at least Johnny Depp is here to make everything better. So for those that have been following me for a while, you know that I have been harping on Johnny Depp a lot in recent years for "going through the motions" with his roles. Almost every film he's done since 2009's Public Enemies can be basically summed up as, "Oh look at me look at how odd I am." There's been no effort in his performances, and the films he's been in have been, well, terrible. Fortunately here he finally reminds us once more that he can act. He is mortifying as Bulger, delivering one of the best performances of the year thus far. He is unpredictable, terrifying, and captivating. And he can actually act the sh*t out of a role. While I hope this trend continues, Depp's IMDB page would suggest that that's not the case, as he has sequels to Pirates and that not-so-good Alice in Wonderland film coming up. Great. That said, we also have to talk about Joel Edgerton. The man is having a hell of a month, first starring and stealing the show in The Gift and now delivering another fantastic performance here. The man has really turned it around since his pathetic performance in last year's Exodus: Gods and Kings. But then there's everyone else. You know, there comes a point when having so many recognizable actors in your film becomes a legitimate gripe against it. Well, it happens here, because theres about 503234 recognizable actors in this film. Dakota Johnson has one scene. Peter Sarsgaard and Corey Stoll have 3 lines. Adam Scott does literally nothing except stand there and watch everything. Kevin Bacon is criminally underused I mean what the hell are you doing in this film, guys? There's no reason to have this many recognizable stars in a movie. It becomes distracting as you recognize one person after another. These 3-line roles could've been saved for some up-and-comers to try and build their resume, not for Julianne Nicholson to stand there and be recognizable. Even though she and Depp do share FAR AND AWAY the best scene of the entire 122 minute film together. I don't know I feel like it's an odd complaint but it's definitely a valid one. There are too many stars in this film, and if Hollywood continues this trend it will make it very difficult for some new actors to step onto the playing field. Adam Scott does not need to stand off to the side with his awful 70's porn stache, guys. He just doesn't. Oh how can I forget my favorite person in the business, Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch? As per usual with this film, he's not given much to do, but you could tell he took the role just so he could rock a Boston accent. That was definitely one of the highlights of the film.
I guess I haven't really touched much on this story. The story is crazy, and most of it is unbelievably true. However unfortunately, this film doesn't really bring much to the table other than retelling us this story. Motivations are criminally under-explained and there are huge time jumps right when you least expect it, making you just have to infer that the problems brought up in the previous section of the film were solved. A common problem among biopics, this film simply just bit off more than it could chew to begin with, then tried squeezing it into 2 hours. Cause, you know, attention spans. This film could've been 3 hours and I still would've likely had the same complaint, but at least at 3 hours I wouldn't not have complained as much. Because of these faults, this film is.....ultimately fine. It is above average, but it is so simply because its source material is nothing short of amazing and Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton are awesome. Definitely check this out sometime, but there's no reason to waste $10 on a movie ticket for it.
The Critique: While Johnny Depp (finally) shines, Black Mass is a surface level film at best, as it's simply too short to be everything it could have been. Yet another missed opportunity.
The Recommendation: Netflix it. Absolutely check it out, but Netflix it.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
A potentially good film washed away in clichés
Zipper (2015): A family man has it all until he risks losing everything due to his inability to fight off his obsessive temptation for other women.
Ok so for anyone who knows me, you know I love Patrick Wilson. I freaking love Patrick Wilson. The man is as charming and charismatic as a man can possibly. Oh and he has an incredible singing voice. There's a presence he has in all his films, for better or for worse. But his luck in picking a competent director to deliver a coherent film has been....well.....awful. He has a few good films under his belt, (think The Conjouring, Watchmen, Phantom of the Opera, and Insidious) but almost everything else has been a disaster. As in he's usually not just the best part of the films he's been in, he's been the only good part. Think The Switch, Home Sweet Hell, Young Adult, and Space Station 76. Ya. All those films are must-sees believe me. Unfortunately, Zipper will be falling into that later category. So let's talk about the film, shall we?
I have a thing for political dramas, too. I will defend the latest season of House of Cards until the end of time. It's a guilty pleasure I know, but I will go out of my way to watch the latest film about politics. So I was definitely excited to watch this film. After all, how could something that combines Patrick Wilson and political dramas be bad, right? Well.....exactly like this. Zipper fails on almost every level of filmmaking. Why? It's trying to be so much more than it actually is. It's trying so hard to deliver a sermon on corruption in politics. But, instead of being the mindful and wise preacher delivering a thought-provoking sermon, Zipper is just the little kid in the corner complaining about everything. Why? Because it brings absolutely nothing new to the table. The message Zipper ultimately delivers can be summed up as "Hey! Politicians are corrupt. Aren't we thought-provoking?" That, combined with the fact that the film is so heavy-handed at every turn, featuring the most overly-dramatic music of all time and every shot of the film in extreme closeup, makes this film waaaaaaay too full of itself for having a message that is the EXACT same as every other standard political drama. I mean c'mon guys! Where is the creativity? It's nowhere to be found.
But it's not all bad! The film is wonderfully acted by Patrick Wilson and Lena Headey. Oh ya, did I mention that Lena Headey is in this film? The actress of great Game of Thrones fame more than holds her own opposite Wilson, and actually delivers the best monologue of the entire film. But, that's right before her character goes and does something that makes ABSOLUTELY NO F*CKING SENSE WHATSOEVER. Nope. Deep breath, self. We aren't focusing on the fact that apparently NO. WE ARE ADDRESSING THIS. ANGRY RANT TIME. Ok so I don't really have a problem with the fact that this film has the same message for politics as every other narrow-minded political drama out there. It still can be fun. But journalists too? Seriously? Ok. Let me break this down for you. It's a spoiler for this film, but you're never going to watch this movie so who cares right? So Patrick Wilson sleeps with prostitutes. Eventually the escort service he uses gets busted. Wilson gets investigated by the FBI, but they can't find anything so they give up. Then a prominent and critically-acclaimed (in the film) journalist somehow gets hundreds of pictures of Wilson, now gearing up to run for an open Senate seat, having sex with all these prostitutes. (The film never explains how the journalist found all these incredibly detailed photographs and the FBI couldn't but who cares right?) So Wilson is getting ready for this journalist to drop the story that Wilson has a zipper problem. (Hey, I used the title of the movie in my review! TEN POINTS TO GRYFFINDOR) He tells his wife, played by Lena Headey, that he's been sleeping around. She, naturally, becomes upset. After what is far and away the best scene of the movie, featuring a tense exchange between Wilson and Headey, what does she do? No. I'll let you guess. What do you think a film that's trying to be more than it actually is, wants to make a statement about everything but do so in the most pathetic way possible would do in this situation? Have Headey confront the journalist and offer sex in return for him killing the story? Ya. Sounds about right. This is comparable to any scene in a film that has a girl about to get raped then proceed to immediately have sex with the person who saved her from the man who was about to rape her. Yes. It's f*cked up. When the exchange between Headey and the journalist went down this route, I wanted to throw something at the TV. I absolutely hate it, HATE IT, when a film or any form of media today has no respect for the female characters in their media. It's despicable. And for this film to have its female lead, grief-stricken after just discovering that her husband has been sleeping around for the past few months with a significant amount of prostitutes, immediately throw herself at the journalist responsible for breaking this story in order to kill it is moronic and childish. Shame on you, Zipper. Shame on you.
Actually, the films treatment of women as a whole is insulting, as of course on multiple occasions Patrick Wilson's character is the "better man" and tries to save the prostitute from the life their living. Oh and the film hides behind the silly excuse of, "Oh, they're prostitutes so they'll have sex anytime, anywhere." Naturally. That said, sorry for the outburst there. I just hate it when films are so proud to wear their blatant disrespect of women on their sleeves. Now I'm so upset I can't even think about anything else this film does that's in the "good" category. Oh! It's a political drama. Did I mention that? I like political dramas. Patrick Wilson is still fun to watch. I wonder if he could play a Kevin Spacey-esque politician in a future film? That's about the most thought-provoking question this film left me with. Don't bother, guys. Zipper is not worth 103 minutes of your life.
The Critique: Zipper is the perfect example of a film that tries to be so much more than it actually is. An incredibly standard plot, combined with its horrible treatment of women, make this film a complete waste of time.
The Recommendation: As much as I love Patrick Wilson and Lena Headey, AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE.
The Verdict: 3/10 Bad
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