Black Mass (2015) AKA Can Johnny Win Back My Love?


Back in April I gave my initial thoughts on Black Mass and Johnny Depp after seeing the first trailer for the film. Well, the time has finally come to pass down my judgement on Johnny. Does Johnny electrify the screen as real life gangster Whitey Bulger? Will he restore his reputation as one of the all-time greats?

The answer is… Johnny and his film fall somewhere in the middle: neither amazing nor bad. Overall I really enjoyed Black Mass and Johnny Depp, but neither wowed me. Johnny gives a very good performance; menacing, charming, funny. The makeup and costuming seem to enhance his performance instead of distracting from it. It’s the closest Johnny has come to playing a genuine human being in a long time.
The fault with the film, which also hurts Depp, is that it is told neither from Whitey’s POV nor from John Connolly’s (played by the delicious Joel Edgerton). Whitey, of course, did not participate in the making of the film and has basically shit all over it and Depp (without having seen it). And since Connolly wouldn’t even testify against Whitey in real life, I highly doubt he contributed anything. This has a great effect on the film as neither Whitey nor Connolly is the main character, instead switching between the two constantly and relying constantly on the accounts of other characters. Because of this the film seems to have nothing to say. It is a great collection of some neat scenes and performances, but there is no direction to it. Is Whitey good, bad, a bit of both? Is Connolly? Yes, Connolly has a strong attachment to Whitey because of their childhood, but there must be a little more to it than that. The film does not explore any of this, instead just skimming the surface of the two men’s lives.

This lack of depth is what keeps the film from becoming anything other than pretty good. Joel Edgerton was the highlight for me as at least his character evolves and changes, unlike Whitey who remains static. Although the film acts as though he changes after two significant deaths in his life, but that change never comes across very well. The cast is all stellar except for Benedict Cumberbatch (he’s okay, but pretty much just a glorified cameo). I liked Black Mass, but it is just a Scorsese wannabe. 7 Joel Edgerton pouts out of 10.

And yes, Johnny did kind of win my love back. Just a little. (It’s so hard not to like the guy and he still has those killer cheekbones).

Trailer Review/Actor Analysis: Johnny Depp and Black Mass


Actor Analysis
I used to be a huge Johnny Depp fan. For me he reached his peak around the time of Sweeney Todd. After Sweeney he has been on a downward slide, especially critically. Johnny has become a caricature of himself as seen in his last film, Mortdecai.
In the 90s Johnny had a string of indie hits and he could do no wrong. He did some great work in Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Johnny’s films weren’t always successful, but he seemed to take a lot of risks and to do very different roles.
Of course, Pirates of the Caribbean changed everything for Johnny. At first it seemed he was able to maintain his artistic integrity while making huge bucks fronting a blockbuster franchise. But an island and four (I think) pirate movies later and Johnny has become kind of pathetic. He is always donning a silly costume and his acting has become more exaggerated. Long gone is the subtlety of Donnie Brasco. Now it’s all about weird wigs and dramatic flourishes. So can Johnny, an actor once praised for his quiet, quirky talent make a comeback?

Trailer Review
Black Mass is Johnny’s last chance at reclaiming his past glory. If Johnny can show off his acting chops again then his recent lackluster past will be easily forgotten. But if not, it will just reaffirm the fact that he is now a has-been.
This first trailer for Black Mass is very strong, incredibly promising. It’s one of the best cut trailers I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a great technique to take one small, dramatic scene from the movie and accentuate it with great music and brief flashes of the rest of the film. But maybe this is one of the only strong moments in the film, trailers often show off the best stuff first.
There’s also Johnny’s costume, which is both good and bad. I like the whitish grey contacts, they are really eerie and entrancing. But that forehead, my God they could have named this the forehead movie. And I don’t find the old age makeup all that convincing, but then again I don’t know how old the character should be.
As for the actors Johnny is surrounded by a great cast that we just get a glimpse of, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, etc. Johnny’s acting here though is hard to judge. I think he is pretty good, but I also think the music adds a lot to the tension and helps him quite a bit. I also don’t find his accent to be very convincing. I think Johnny is acting more than actually inhabiting the character, but he definitely has me intrigued and hopeful.
It would be great for Johnny to succeed, but he’s become such a disappointment that I am doubtful. The studio has some faith in Black Mass as it is scheduled for release September 18, early in the awards season. Give your thoughts on Johnny and the trailer below. What are your favorite Johnny Depp films?

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)


So everybody is shitting all over this movie. Literally everyone. I haven’t seen even one mildly positive review for Ridley Scott’s latest epic, Exodus: Gods and Kings. Personally, I don’t understand all the hate. I don’t think Exodus is a very good movie, but I also don’t think it’s very bad either. There were a few moments when I zoned out. But there were also a couple exciting moments that I was glad to witness.

Christian Bale (Moses) and Joel Edgerton (Ramses) with John Turturro in the background.
Christian Bale (Moses) and Joel Edgerton (Ramses) with John Turturro in the background.

Exodus has a few good things going for it. It is a relatively entertaining film, but the story was not modernized enough to make it really interesting and exciting. I don’t mean that it needed the Michael Bay treatment with more action, etc. I think the writers of Exodus failed to reinvigorate the story and add anything new to it. Other than the ‘God as a child’ thing (which was interesting, but never expanded on). There are a few things I wish the film had done and I’ll list them below. Let me know if you agree because I don’t honestly know if they would be good ideas or if my interests are very different from the mainstream:
1. I wish there was more of a focus on the relationship between Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton). I find it very intriguing that the two grow up together and appear to be quite close. And are quite suddenly torn apart by their different religious backgrounds and political perspectives. But the film doesn’t focus on this conflict, except for briefly at the beginning.

Christian Bale gives a rare, dull performance. But his eyeliner is entertaining.
Christian Bale gives a rare, dull performance. But his eyeliner is entertaining.

2. I also wish there had simply been more Joel Edgerton. He is an actor that only very recently I have noticed. While watching The Great Gatsby I was kind of bored until Joel popped onto the screen as Tom. Suddenly everything felt energized and interesting and I ended up liking the film, mostly because of Joel. The same thing occurred while watching Exodus. I feel like Christian Bale just phoned it in as Moses, he did not do anything particularly compelling. Joel on the other hand embraced his role as Ramses and made him into more than just a one dimensional villain. I would have loved to have a bit more background on Ramses.
3. For a religious movie I feel that Exodus hardly delves into any religious matters and largely ignores them. It briefly toys with the idea of ‘if God is cruel why would you follow him’ kind of thing. But that’s about it. I also don’t like the idea that Christianity (or should I say Judaism? I’m not a religious person) is shown to be the superior religion. The Egyptian Gods don’t really exist, I guess? And what the heck religion is Moses’s wife? (And why would she be so accepting of a couple hundred thousand Hebrews moving in?) In our modern world I think it would have been immensely more interesting to show the other religions more, like that of the Egyptians and Moses’s wife. An interplay of neither of them being necessarily ‘better’ and why everyone should be allowed to have their own beliefs.
4. Visually I find Exodus is stunning. The plagues in particular look great (and scary). The parting of the Red Sea also looks great and was exciting. Although I’ll be honest, I wanted Moses and Ramses to have an epic sword fight in a tunnel of water or something. Kind of lame, I know, but without a clash like that the ending felt anti-climactic.
5. For a film about Moses, I feel like I don’t know very much about him after watching Exodus. Why does he embrace his Hebrew heritage and ‘his people’? Why does he adamantly follow God? Exodus glosses over these kinds of issues and it is frustrating. Maybe the director’s cut would be more satisfying. There had to be a lot stuffed into just 2 and ½ hours (although it didn’t feel that long to me.

I haven’t mentioned the white washing issues with Exodus because honestly, while watching the film it didn’t bother me. The only person who annoyed me was Sigourney Weaver because she was blindingly white. She looked more like a vampire than an Egyptian.

Joel Edgerton as Ramses outshines the rest of the cast.
Joel Edgerton as Ramses outshines the rest of the cast.

I would give Exodus two Joel Edgerton eyeliner smeared eyes out of five (the eyeliner game in this movie is a 10/10). Or maybe six Aaron Pauls creeping around rocks out of ten (seriously, he is ridiculous). I feel that I didn’t waste my time or money watching it, but I won’t be watching it again. Well, maybe I would give a director’s cut a try. One very positive thing I can take from this film is the great talent of Joel Edgerton. I’ll be keeping an eye on him from now on.

Trailer Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings


Ridley Scott’s biblical epic, Exodus: Gods and Kings, looks every bit impressive and grandiose. This film is about when Moses (Christian Bale) revolts against Egypt’s Pharaoh, Ramses (Joel Edgerton). It also stars Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver, and Aaron Paul. Ridley’s last two films, The Counselor and Prometheus, were largely underwhelming, so he’s hoping that Exodus is not another flop.

Christian Bale is an amazing actor and if I choose to see this film it will largely be because of him. His acting is great and his eyeliner game here is excellent. Although the way he screams “Yes!” half way through rang a little false to me, but it’s probably out of context. I think Joel Edgerton’s makeup looks a little funny, a lot of times it looks like he’s dressed up for Halloween. But that might just be me, I think his costume is relatively historically accurate. Joel and Sigourney Weaver are the two actors in this that kind of have me squinting my eyes with trepidation. Neither of them looks all that Egyptian to me. There has been some controversy over possible whitewashing in this film. The only non-Caucasian people I see in this trailer are the woman playing Moses’s wife (or whoever she is, I’m not familiar with this story) and of course Ben Kingsley. It would’ve been nice to see a little more diversity. But my problem with Joel and Sigourney isn’t so much their ethnicity as they just don’t look like they fit the roles to me. But it’s hard to judge that just from the trailer.
This trailer is epic in every sense of the word. I love the sweeping shots that showcase Egypt. The sets look expansive and everything is very detailed. The special effects look very well done with the swarm of locusts (I think) and the parting of the Red Sea. And the idea of men ruling as Gods and Ben Kingsley’s voice just makes everything seem so grand. This film is very much in line with Gladiator. But Moses isn’t just one man fighting for revenge, he is fighting to “change the world.” It doesn’t get more epic than that.
I’m itching to see the showdown between Moses and Ramses. “I am a God!” that line and delivery from Joel sounded so dramatic. Although this trailer gives away just a little bit more than I would have liked. I feel like I’ve seen everything except for maybe the last quarter of the film already. It’s a shame, but otherwise the trailer really has swept me away. The score sounds wonderful and epic, the sets, effects, and costumes are great, and Christian Bale looks like he does his typical good job. Exodus: Gods and Kings hits theaters in December.