Monday, September 21, 2015

Black Mass / *** (R)

James ‘Whitey’ Bulger: Johnny Depp
John Connolly: Joel Edgerton
Billy Bulger: Benedict Cumberbatch
Steve Flemmi: Rory Cochrane
Kevin Weeks: Jesse Plemons
Marianne Connolly: Julianne Nicholson
John Morris: David Harbour
Lindsey Cyr: Dakota Johnson
John Martorano: W. Earl Brown
Charles McGuire: Kevin Bacon
Brian Halloran: Peter Sarsgaard
Robert Fitzpatrick: Adam Scott
Fred Wyshak: Corey Stoll

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Scott Cooper. Written by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth. Based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. Running time: 122 min. Rated R (for brutal violence, language throughout, some sexual references and brief drug use).

Johnny Depp delivers a speech about keeping secrets as notorious Boston gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger to an FBI agent with whom he’s in collusion in the new movie “Black Mass” during which he announces his performance as one of the great monsters of the screen. Immediately following that scene he has a conversation with another FBI agent’s wife that plays like a predator who captures his prey and instead of killing it, shows it just how much he can play with it instead. Scott Cooper’s crime film is an interesting study in this real life figure who surely couldn’t have achieved what he did without the help of the FBI, using their desire to control the Italian mafia in Boston to his advantage in becoming the biggest crime kingpin in South Boston.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Visit / ** (PG-13)

Becca: Olivia DeJong
Tyler: Ed Oxenbould
Nana: Deanna Dunagan
Pop Pop: Peter McRobbie
Mom: Kathryn Hahn

Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Running time: 94 min. Rated PG-13 (for disturbing thematic material including terror, violence and some nudity, and for brief language).

Let me start by pointing out that Kathryn Hahn is an excellent actress. She’s one of those actresses that you’ve seen in a bunch of films and television shows but have never quite caught her name. She often plays the girlfriend or sister who makes quips about the main characters. She’s played a few moms, like she does here. She seems like she must’ve come from someplace like Saturday Night Live, but she didn’t. She played Lily on six seasons of “Crossing Jordan”, a role that was created specifically for her. Mostly known for comedic roles, she has never been boxed in by them and finds her way into drama quite frequently. Although, her role here is small, it’s the emotional center of the story. Watch her work in the first scene, when she’s holding all her tension in her hands while trying to brush off her emotions with her words. It’s too bad she wasn’t used as effectively throughout.

I’d also like to add—before I get to the review proper—that I am pretty much done with the “found footage” format, especially for horror movies. Found Footage refers to the notion that a fictional movie was filmed as if it were a documentary that is capturing real events. Made popular by such movies as “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity”, it was an interesting gimmick for a while. It has unfortunately been done to death by new filmmakers trying to make names for themselves in the horror genre. It’s nice when it’s done well, but more often than not it isn’t. Even worse, it’s lazy. It creates an easy way for writers to inject exposition into their films and allows excuses for poorly shot sequences and ineloquent dialogue. M. Night Shyamalan—who was nominated for writing and directing Oscars for his brilliant “The Sixth Sense”—should be ashamed of himself for submitting to such a tired, overused and lazy filmmaking style. Of course, it allowed him to make the movie for $5 million, which might’ve saved his floundering career with its nearly guaranteed financial success.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Criterion Thoughts—12 Angry Men (1957) ****

Juror #1: Martin Balsam
Juror #2: John Fielder
Juror #3: Lee J. Cobb
Juror #4: E.G. Marshall
Juror #5: Jack Klugman
Juror #6: Edward Binns
Juror #7: Jack Warden
Juror #8: Henry Fonda
Juror #9: Joseph Sweeney
Juror #10: Ed Begley
Juror #11: George Voskovec
Juror #12: Robert Webber

United Artists presents a film directed by Sidney Lumet. Written by Reginald Rose. Running time: 96 min. Not Rated.

I was lucky enough to have performed in a stage production of Reginald Rose’s “12 Angry Men”. It’s hard to find a play that offers such a diverse set of characters that each inhabit the stage for a play’s entirety. It’s kind of an actor’s dream play. Even if you’re playing one of the smaller roles in terms of number of lines, you still get to flex your acting muscles throughout.

Not that line count was a problem for me, I was also lucky enough to land one of the primary roles of the production, that of Juror #3, the antagonist to Juror #8. I hadn’t seen the movie at that time, and as a purist, I didn’t seek it out in order to preserve my original interpretation of the character. I wish I had, though. For one, I’m not much like Lee J. Cobb, who played #3 in Sidney Lumet’s 1957 big screen adaptation. I couldn’t have stolen his mannerisms or instincts. The main reason I wish I’d seen the film, though, is because of a key mistake my young acting mind made in my interpretation. I judged him.