Tag Archives: Benedict Cumberbatch

Movie Review: Black Mass

A while ago, there was a handsome actor named Johnny Depp. Known for his unusual quips and odd role selections, no one knew what to think of Depp until a legendary pirate named Captain Jack Sparrow made his first appearance in 2003. A part that should have garnered Depp far more critical applause than it received, it may have derailed Depp’s career. While Depp has found some appreciation with films like Public Enemies, numerous animated endeavors and further Pirates of the Caribbean installments, there’s also no denying the flops that he’s left behind such as The Tourist and the three continuous deadpans that Depp has held a title role in, including The Lone Ranger, Transcendence and Mortdecai, which barely grossed half of its $60 million budget.

Depp has a mind like few in Hollywood, a creative enterprise very much like Tim Burton, one that is not easily discernible and may perhaps never be completely understood. However, with his latest exploits considered, I have wondered if Depp has been typecast as Captain Jack Sparrow for the remainder of his career. Every acting pursuit Depp has accepted since Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides has ended in indifference if not hatred towards Depp and his contribution to yet another film travesty.

And so Black Mass, directed by Out of the Furnace’s Scott Cooper, was shouldered with proving Depp’s relevance in film.

A gangster biopic surrounding Irish-American mobster Whitey Bulger, the head of an underworld syndicate known as the Winter Hill gang, was just what Depp needed.

One of the film’s brightest sunspots is Depp’s commanding screen presence. Depp’s intensity and pristine features produce a dynamic contrast to any previous Depp undertaking, many of which heralded stale comedy as their centerpiece. At no point are we subjected to Depp’s comedic timing. Instead, we fear him. Depp’s Bulger is unpredictable, a controlled fiend waiting for the right tick to let him loose like a dog chasing a wounded bird.

Black Mass offers Depp a pedestal, allowing him to express the width of his talents and to many critics and to myself, impressively so. With a dictator’s hand and no remorse or compromise, Bulger’s sane form of insanity is eye-catching and disturbing all rolled together. A man obsessed with his personal appearance knows how each one of the cogs of the crime machine works and while the inner character of the murdering loon is never dissected, there’s never any doubt that something is going on in his head.

Cooper’s atmospheric tinge, which was paraded in the Pittsburgh-filmed Out of the Furnace, is furthered here. While Cooper’s ability to scar and mutilate is nowhere near the legendary status created by Martin Scorsese, it is still one to garner acceptance. The standard for grit is set and raised on a steady slope during the film’s progression. It is blunt and straightforward both in character and plot, making the characters distinguishable but the plot simple.

The dialogue has its moments of impact but are not as hard-wired as gangster film loyalists will expect. Organized crime is built on delivering a message, whether through one’s words or one’s actions. This is the most basic component of any crime novel, but Cooper’s writers invoke only so much of the theme and harshness film critics expect. The brotherhood, belonging and unquestioning loyalty that one would expect is coaxed to the surface but any further travel into the muck of the unknown is left for another film, something I shouldn’t have to wait for.

This is where I feel like Black Mass lost some of its identity. I longed for the unfiltered brutality and to feel the hairs on the back of my neck creep up, but I cannot help but point out that Black Mass feels contrived. Depp as Bulger is an intimidating face to put on Black Mass and yet for a R-rating, Black Mass’ chaos is caged for most of the run time. Dare I say, Depp’s star may have been dimmed by the writers’ inability to manifest the detestable. The quick turnarounds in tonal shifts that many infamous gangster films utilize are not a central revolution of Cooper’s work. Depp’s character is unpredictable, but the screenplay dismisses some of Bulger’s character by its staunch disagreement to let the story flow naturally. Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch feel like wasted entities, leaving Depp to shoulder a film yet again and we as the audience are left with our fingers crossed hoping the result is different. What did Einstein say again?

Thankfully, and contrary to past experience, Depp manages the task but I can’t stop believing Black Mass was meant to be a mound of cancerous carnage that horrified rather than a film that made us smile and confirm that Depp is alive and possibly over his ailment of Can’t-make-a-film-itis. I would have smiled had the film been grotesque, as it should have been, rather than the polished and clearly altered story we’re given here. Instead, I was left shrugging. Cooper’s artwork does not feature crisp dialogue nor does it do justice to its supporting cast but Depp’s main role grants the film some forgiveness.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Enemy at the GatesAnchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The ProfessionalEnemySleeping with the Enemy)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Terminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the Street)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (HerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitzThe Punisher)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (CyborgOutcastSabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. Evil)

My score for Black Mass: 70.

Black Mass is not Depp’s greatest exploit nor is it a star in the hall of film noir, but it does serve as a defibrillator to an actor who desperately needed one.

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Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

A quick sidenote: I have been thinking about some of my previous reviews and have realized that I’ve been a little too lenient on the grading, so expect some more “reasonable” reviews. I changed three scores: The Hobbit to a 75, and the two Hunger Games reviews got bumped down a point. Just thought I’d let you guys know.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was a movie I was not looking forward to. The first one was such a disappointment and such a waste of time that I was ready to give up on the Hobbit trilogy then and there. However, the trailers for this one looked a lot better. I also figured I might as well finish what I started and just write reviews on the whole trilogy so you’re all welcome.

Martin Freeman returns as Bilbo Baggins and this one was centralized on him like the first one should have been. If you recall, I thought one of the major flaws of the first one was that Thorin played more of a lead role than our main character did, stealing the spotlight away from the story we were supposed to be hearing. It wasn’t a slight to Thorin’s character or actor Richard Armitage. He did a good job and I acknowledge that. I feel the blame fell more on the writers’ shoulders because they failed to make any real character connection with Bilbo nor did they really give Martin Freeman the opportunity to prove himself as an actor.

This one does not make the same mistake a second time, broadening Bilbo’s character and making us appreciate him as a person as well as getting to know who he is. He’s timid and yet has a courageous side that the audience can rally behind.

Despite the improvements on Bilbo’s character, I still find it lacking in some areas. I know him better than I did in the first one but I still have unanswered questions regarding his character. One of the big ones: what is causing him to continue to go forward on this journey? I know at the beginning he talks about wanting to go on an adventure and I get that. A lot of people today want to go on an adventure and have a day like no other. A day where they can do something heroic and do it for the right reasons, or a day where they can step up to something they know is wrong and do something about it. However, despite an everyday person’s want to do something like this, most people have these opportunities pass them by, because things hold them back, whether it’s fear, judgment or something else entirely. The person who has a chance to make a difference meets obstacles and rarely are they willing to make the leap of faith to get over them in order to get a chance to make that difference. They would rather that chance just jump in their lap and make it an easy ordeal, but that’s not how life works. That’s why whenever someone does a selfless act they are so highly praised for it because not only did they talk the talk, but they walked the walk.

I want to feel the same way for Bilbo, except that I’m not convinced of his motive. He’s had many chances to turn back. Why hasn’t he? I feel like that question hasn’t been answered yet. Perhaps the writers are saving that answer for the big finale but I feel it causes the current product to falter.

Thorin plays a good secondary role once again and while I still don’t know most of the dwarfs’ names, I feel like I know the niche they are supposed to fill.

The action series reached a new intensity and dynamic in this one, another element that was lacking in the first. Of course, when you have Legolas and the Wood Elves showing off incredible archery skills, it’s hard to not be entertained.

Among some of the mishaps in this film, Gandalf leaves the fellowship within the first half hour in order to perform an individual endeavor that also seems to lack any logical output, something I’ll discuss in the spoiler’s edition. The conclusion is acceptable if not predetermined. I feel everyone saw the ending coming from leagues away.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog,  I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.

 90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Iron Man 3World War Z42Just Go With ItReal Steel)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Truman ShowThe Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games: Catching FireGangster Squad, Elf)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Usual Suspects21 Jump StreetEscape PlanCaptain America: The First AvengerDawn of the Dead)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Pacific RimThe Long Kiss GoodnightDisaster Movie)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Along Came PollyAliensAlien ResurrectionFull Metal JacketThor)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Patriot GamesThe Great GatsbyPitch BlackAlien)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30’s ironically define the 1930’s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (The ContractPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Sum of All FearsThor: The Dark World)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (Midnight CowboyDark FuryAlien 3)

My score for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: 84.

A large improvement from where it started, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug makes appropriate strides of improvement for a sequel, but it still lacks some and leaves the audience wanting more.

*SPOILER ALERT* IF YOU DON’T WANT THE MOVIE SPOILED, STOP READING!!!

*SPOILER’S EDITION*

There are still portions of this movie that could have been cut and at times, it’s still obvious that Jackson is drawing this story out a lot more than it needs to be. Why there was an insistence to make a 300-page book into a trio of three-hour movies when the Lord of the Rings made a trio based on three 400-page books, I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense, especially when I could probably read through a 300-page book in half the time it takes to watch nine hours of film, if not less.

Among the things that could have been eliminated to shorten this:

1. The film starts with Thorin going to the Prancing Pony in Bree a year before the journey ever started. Gandalf meets him there, tells him someone’s trying to have him killed and oh, by the way, it’s time to obtain the Arkenstone.

2. It then shoots to present time showing Gandalf and the dwarves evading Azog and the Orc party, eventually coming to the house of Beorn for shelter, staying one night and taking his horses in the morning, meaning the only need-to-know point of that whole encounter was to get horses so they can run across a valley and get to a dark forest and Gandalf can skip out on them. Why couldn’t we just start at the forest shortly before Gandalf leaves them and just narrate “shortly after borrowing horses from a friend”?

3. Why is Gandalf abandoning the group? So he can obey a telepathic message from Lady Galadriel and investigate the tombs of the Nazgul. That makes sense but what if they all just broke out and then Gandalf arrives? Gandalf can’t fight all nine at once. Why couldn’t they send someone less important, like the Brown wizard or a talking bird or something? After finding all the Nazgul are gone, Gandalf goes to Dol Guldur and before entering says he “knows it’s a trap”. If you know it’s a trap then why are you going in? I know you’re really powerful and all, but once again, is there someone less important we can send instead or better yet, more people we can send to back you up, like a nine-man team or something, so the mission has at least a small chance of success? It doesn’t help that you know the size of the Orc army when you’re locked in a cage, forced to watch as they go to kill all your friends. Questionable decisions there, Gandalf.

How does Smaug fail to kill any of the dwarves in their whole skirmish in the mountain? He’s huge and can breathe fire and the dwarves are fat and slow. He also seems to be dumb because he manages to light the forges for the dwarves, the forges being the only formidable weapon that the dwarves had against Smaug and then he stupidly walks up to a statue of molten lava. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but I’m pretty sure at least one party member would have died in all that mess.

Finally, Thorin and the dwarves look for the keyhole to the door to the mountain for all of five minutes before giving up. Really? You’ve traveled all this way to give up in five minutes? Why were Bilbo and I the only two people smart enough to wait and see if anything happened when the moon came out, since it’s called moonlight and would technically be the last light of the day? Then Bilbo calls for the dwarves to come back, no one responds, he looks for the key, kicks it and Thorin pops out of mid-air to pin the key to the edge of the cliff with his clan right behind him. What? No. That does not happen.

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Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Zachary Quinto as Spock in the 2009 Star Trek film

Zachary Quinto as Spock in the 2009 Star Trek film (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Chris Pine poses for a photograph at ...

English: Chris Pine poses for a photograph at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait following a screening of Star Trek. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sequel to the the first Star Trek movie came out on Thursday and since I saw the first one, I felt obligated to go see the second one. Just like every time I go to see a sequel, I was praying that it wasn’t going to be a bust. Let me assure you that Star Trek: Into Darkness was certainly not a bust. Once again, my overview of the movie now and the spoiler’s edition later on.

For starters, something I liked straight off about this movie was that once again J.J. Abrams was directing. Pretty much everything I have seen that Abrams has directed I have enjoyed, from his work with TV shows like Alias and Lost (up to like the end of the fourth season because let’s be honest, after that, it stunk), to his work with movies like Mission Impossible III and Ghost Protocol, as well as the first Star Trek. Abrams knows how to produce success.

The original cast all came back for the sequel, something I appreciated because for the most part, I hate recasts. (for example, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachael in The Dark Knight instead of Katie Holmes?!) The plot line was great for this movie and in my opinion much better then in the first one. I’m sorry, but if you come from the future with a massive ship accompanied with advanced, revolutionized technology that the world has never seen and you still can’t win a battle with the tiny Enterprise, you’re a pretty crappy villain.

Anyway, as I was saying, the plot was much better than in the first one. The infamous Khan, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, was a much better villain and he did an incredible job making his character come to life, so props to him. I’d never heard of him before, but I think I’ll be remembering the name for a while. The love interest between Spock and Uhura continues, even though in the original series there never was such a thing. I originally was against this being included in the original plot, but I don’t mind it so much now, partly because it helps add to character chemistry and development and partly because we only get short glimpses of it so that it doesn’t interfere with the main plot and action of the movie. The action scenes in this movie by the way were epic, so epic that I bet Michael Bay is asking for a paternity test to make sure that Abrams isn’t his long-lost brother or something. Regardless of whether you’re a die-hard fan of the original series or not, I think the cast that Abrams has brought in has done a fantastic job. Chris Pine has brought a new flare to Kirk’s character and Zachary Quinto has portrayed Spock to near perfection. Both actors really impressed me in this movie and I’m looking forward to a third one.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog,  I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.

 90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Iron Man 3)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile.

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Oblivion)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one.

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this.

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this.

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30’s ironically define the 1930’s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb.

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow.

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE”.

My score for Star Trek: Into Darkness: 89

This movie’s action scenes and special effects were just as good as in any other action thriller I’ve seen. The cast really made the characters come alive for me. Only one thing bothered me about the movie, which I’ll discuss in the spoiler’s edition, but aside from that, great movie. When I was younger, I watched the Star Trek movies with my dad and overall, I found them really boring. Abrams recognized this is how many young people today would view the original Star Trek series and modernized it, using more action scenes and special effects to wow young audiences. A truly great job. Not sure if I’d buy it, but it’s something I’m considering, that’s for sure.

*SPOILER ALERT* IF YOU DON’T WANT THE MOVIE SPOILED, STOP READING!!!!!!!!!

*SPOILER’S EDITION*

There were very few things that I didn’t like in this movie. I would’ve liked to have learned a little more about Khan’s character since I don’t remember everything from the original series, but they gave me enough that I was able to follow, so not a big deal there. My one major complaint is following the attack on the research lab, Kirk, Spock and all the other higher-ups in Starfleet Command all get together in the same place for an emergency meeting, the purpose being to discuss the attack on the lab. Starfleet protocol says that after an attack like this, Starfleet Command must all get together in the same place for an emergency meeting. I don’t know about you, but that sounds sketchy to me. Some of you will say, well the president, the cabinet, and all the higher-ups get together after a terrorist attack. This is true, but do they all get together in a room with no walls, full glass windows, and no nearby security planes or anything to stop a terrorist attack? I’m sorry but as soon as Khan started shooting the place up I was like, “wow, really?”. Whoever decided that having a meeting with all the leaders of Starfleet Command in the same place, that place being not an underground bunker or a fortified installation defended by armored vehicles, tanks, anti-air, and/or air support like common sense would suggest, but a high level of a building with non-bullet proof glass windows with two security guards and no other form of security, was incredibly stupid. I just thought that was really lame. Aside from that though, great movie.

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