Tag Archive: Johnny Depp

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was a perfect film for Disney. Not in terms of quality – it was actually very forgettable – but in terms of money. Not only did it make over a billion dollars worldwide, but it also set the trend for creating live action versions of classic Disney tales. But that film premiered right after Avatar blew everyone away with its 3D and the marketing for Alice in Wonderland capitalized on the popularity of this viewing experience. Now arriving a long six years after its predecessor, Alice Through the Looking Glass can’t rely on its 3D gimmick to succeed. But instead of trying to recapture the magic of Wonderland that was missing the first time around, the creative minds behind this film have produced something even more bland and uninteresting. It’s completely mediocre in almost every regard and it’s guaranteed to be forgotten not long after leaving the theater.

It’s been years since Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has visited her friends in Wonderland. Out in the real world, she’s become the captain of a ship and has just returned home from a voyage around the world. Upon her arrival she discovers that her former fiancé Hamish (Leo Bill) now runs her father’s company and is forcing Alice to sell her ship in order to save her mother’s (Lindsay Duncan) house. But soon Alice is once again transported to the world of Wonderland, where she is reunited with many of her fantastic friends. The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is the only friend who isn’t happy to see her. Having previously thought that his family was killed by the Jabberwocky, the Hatter now has reason to believe that they are actually alive. As the Hatter’s health deteriorates, Alice decides that she must go back in time to find out what happened to his family. But to do so, she must confront the sinister being of Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen).

Director James Bobin has proven that he can be both clever and creative with the two latest Muppet movies, but here his creativity is completely stifled. There’s hardly anything to praise in the film, but there’s also not a lot to be critical of. It’s as if this was made by a machine that knows how to competently piece together a CGI-heavy movie, but has no rational thought into what would actually make a good film. The unique possibilities of Wonderland are endless, but Bobin doesn’t provide us with any interesting new set pieces or characters. Sure it’s fun to see Depp, Wasikowska and Helena Bonham Carter in these roles again, but that’s just not enough. Perhaps the screenplay by Linda Woolverton should have tried to be weird and different, instead of being predictably heartwarming. But ultimately, it’s the lack of imagination from everyone involved that makes the film so dull.

Alice Through the Looking Glass receives 2/4


Black Mass – Movie Review

Johnny Depp is a fantastic actor, but he’s been in a bit of a rut lately. Ever since the original Pirates of the Caribbean film, he’s mostly been playing the same goofy, bumbling character who wears a lot of makeup. Whether it be The Lone Ranger, Alice in Wonderland or any of the Pirates sequels, he’s given some great comedic performances, but the roles simply don’t flex his acting chops. Black Mass is a return to more serious fare for Depp and he’s really quite good in the film. Unfortunately, aside from Depp’s performance, there isn’t much here that hasn’t been done before in countless other gangster movies. Scott Cooper’s direction is serviceable, albeit uninspired, and the true story that the film is based off of doesn’t offer enough interesting developments to generate much excitement.

In 1975, South Boston is controlled by the Winter Hill Gang, an organized crime syndicate led by James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp). Bulger is approached by John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), an FBI agent who asks Bulger for help in taking down a rival crime organization. At first Bulger scoffs at the idea, but he eventually realizes that this might be the only way for him to gain as much control over his territory as he desires. Connolly tells Bulger that the FBI will choose to ignore Bluger’s crimes if he helps them out and doesn’t kill anybody in the process. But as the Winter Hill Gang grows more and more powerful, Bulger’s sadistic desires become more and more prominent.

Pretty much the only aspect of Black Mass that’s actually worth discussing is Johnny Depp’s performance. While I may be exaggerating a bit with that statement (Joel Edgerton’s performance is actually really good as well), Depp is essentially the only one that is able to inject life into this otherwise by-the-numbers tale. Wearing a ton of makeup, he’s almost unrecognizable as the balding gangster. His blue eyes seem to pierce right through everybody that he looks at and it’s clear that Bulger is never messing around. This is no more apparent than in a scene where a close confidant of Bulger’s discusses a secret family recipe. At first the man refuses to tell Bulger how he marinates his steaks, but after a few prods from Bulger, the man gives up the details. This causes Bulger to question that man’s loyalty; if he’ll give up a family secret in just a few seconds, how quick will he be to turn on Bulger?

But other than a few brief moments of intensity, the rest of the film plays fairly straight and doesn’t really do anything good or bad. It’s a film where you’ll find your attention waning because it hits every single beat that’s become so familiar with this genre. Bulger’s involvement with the FBI and Connolly’s descent into the criminal underworld are two of the most interesting aspects of the film, but I would have liked the filmmakers to explore these aspects of the film more. Instead, we get a first hour that sets everything up in typical gangster fashion, only to offer a few sequences that are actually interesting. But even when Black Mass is wading through mediocrity, it’s Johnny Depp that makes everything worthwhile. You can’t take your eyes off of his sadistic performance and you won’t want to.

Black Mass receives 2.5/4

We’ve heard all of the classic tales before: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and even Jack and the Bean Stalk. These tales have been passed down for generations and they’re still enjoyed by both children and adults alike. In director Rob Marshall’s latest film, Into the Woods, these tales are presented in clever new ways that simultaneously pay homage and poke fun at some of their more absurd aspects. Based on Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical of the same name, it’s actually quite funny and the fantastic cast makes most of the situations a lot of fun to watch. Unfortunately, the film’s final 30 minutes threaten to ruin the entire project. Despite barely reaching a two hour runtime, the film feels far too long, mostly because a brand new final conflict is thrown into the mix after the main storyline has already concluded. But this major problem doesn’t totally ruin the film, mostly because everything that came before it was such glorious fun.

In a fairy tale world, a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) live alone together, unable to bear children. One day, they are visited by a witch (Meryl Streep), who informs them that she has placed a curse on the baker’s family, after she was betrayed by the baker’s father. The witch says that she would be willing to reverse the curse, but the baker and his wife must retrieve four items: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold. To retrieve these items, the couple venture into the mysterious woods where they encounter Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), a boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) and a charming prince (Chris Pine).

Marshall is perhaps best known for his adaptations of popular musicals and while this is a fine production, it’s also not his best work. The script by James Lapine leaves plenty of room for humorous situations and dialogue, particularly from Corden, Blunt, Streep and Pine. Every actor seems to be having a great time playing with their respective characters and the clichés that come with it. Perhaps the strangest piece of the ensemble is Johnny Depp as The Big Bad Wolf, who basically acts as a child predator in his quest to eat Little Red Riding Hood. But the dialogue is sharp and snappy from all and cleverly skewers fairy tale tropes.

A big part of any musical is the actual music on display, but the tunes that comprise Into the Woods feel like a bit of a letdown. Sure, there are some solid songs, with the opening number being a particular show-stopper. It’s a 14 minute prologue that features singing from every major character in the film and the final seconds have interjections from every one of them, which are gloriously edited together. But the majority of the songs in the film lack distinction from each other and often feel like the characters are simply singing their lines, rather than singing a well composed melody. Luckily, there are a few songs with lyrics so clever and fun that they’re able to make up for the bland melodies: “Agony” humorously has two princes singing about their difficult lives and “Your Fault” is a fast-paced song that has several characters passing the blame from one person to another.

By the time the final 30 minutes roll around, the film begins to feel like it’s overstayed its welcome. The finale is also disappointing, mostly because the brand new threat feels very uninteresting and the death of several major characters are completely glossed over, resulting in little to no emotional impact. But even when the story begins to fall apart, it’s the performances and humor that make everything worthwhile. With solid production design by Dennis Gassner that prevents the wooded scenes from ever looking dull or repetitive, Into the Woods is a solid musical, one that should work for anyone who doesn’t feel inclined to spend the extra money to see it on stage.

Into the Woods receives 2.5/4

Tusk – Movie Review

Kevin Smith is not a great director. His early, low budget comedies have developed somewhat of a cult following, but I’ve failed to see the appeal. Even when I do enjoy one of his films, it tends to be because of the dialogue and the characters and not the overall make of the film itself. But I have to admit, the premise for his newest film, Tusk, had me really intrigued. The tale of a podcaster who is kidnapped by a Walrus obsessed Canadian native is so deliciously insane that I figured it would either be quite good or entertainingly terrible. But somehow Smith misses the mark completely and makes a film that’s just plain bad. It’s not as scary as it wants to be, it’s definitely not as funny as it wants to be and it’s mostly just an overlong bore.

Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) hosts a podcast where he and his friend Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) find strange people and proceed to ridicule them. Wallace leaves his girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) to travel to Canada and interview a teenager who chopped his leg off in a popular viral video. When Wallace arrives at the boy’s house, he discovers that the boy killed himself. Looking for someone new to talk to for his podcast, Wallace spots a handwritten note posted in a public restroom, one in which the author claims to have many interesting nautical tales. Wallace drives two hours out of his way to meet Howard Howe (Michael Parks) an old, disabled man living alone in a large mansion. After talking for a bit, Wallace is knocked unconscious and awakens to discover that Howard is holding him prisoner. If Wallace is unable to escape the confines of this psychotic man, Howard will turn him into his favorite animal: a walrus.

I really wanted to like Tusk. Its premise is completely outlandish, but it’s also a unique idea and it sounded like it could make an interesting film. Boy, was I wrong. Smith manages to take this intriguing premise (partly inspired by an episode of his SModcast) and turn it into a colossal waste of time. If you want to view this film from a comedic perspective, it’s simply not very funny. There were plenty of opportunities for some dark humor, but none of the jokes land successfully. Long and Parks do their best to generate some laughs out of the ridiculous material, but even their committed performances don’t elicit more than a slight chuckle. Even before Wallace meets Howard, Smith forces in so many obvious jokes, most of them at the expense of the entire country of Canada, that viewers will be immediately turned off.

You could also try to view this film through the lens of a disturbing horror film, but even then it’s unsuccessful because it’s neither disturbing nor scary. For a story that features a slow surgical transformation into a creature, there’s simply not enough disturbing imagery or suggestion of violence to make the experience frightening. Even worse, once Wallace is kidnapped by Howard, hardly anything exciting happens to move the plot forward. He doesn’t attempt to escape nor does he try to fight back. While scenes like these may be expected in a body horror film, they’re expected because they actually keep things interesting. Instead, Smith spends way too much time with Ally and Teddy as they search for the location of their friend and not enough time building suspense or tension within the movie’s central scenes. Although it may have received a lot of unwarranted negativity upon its initial release, 2009’s The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is a similar film that tackles this mutilation/creature horror genre far better than Smith’s effort.

In the past, Smith has had a knack for writing dialogue; but here, too many scenes are dialogue driven and most of these scenes fall completely flat. There’s nothing wrong with a dialogue heavy film, but a horror film about a man being transformed into a walrus probably isn’t suited for it. The characters are all unlikable or uninteresting, so their long and tedious conversations with one another do nothing but slow the movie’s pacing to a screeching halt. Despite having a run-time that’s less than two hours, the film feels way too long and it’s a result of an overabundance of talking, a lack of exciting suspenseful scenes and a number of scenes that could be edited down or cut from the film entirely. There are a number of flashbacks to previous events in the film and when they don’t feel totally superfluous, they feel way too heavy handed.

And then there’s the reveal of the creature itself. Had enough effort been put into the film, the walrus could have been a frighteningly disturbing image, one that would be seared into viewers’ brains for quite a while. Sadly, the creature looks horribly assembled, failing to generate either a scare or a laugh. James Laxton’s cinematography and Johnny Depp’s over-the-top performance are highlights of the film, but they don’t even come close to saving it. If Smith was attempting to make a comedy, he failed. If he was attempting to make a horror, he failed. If he was simply trying to make a so-bad-it’s-good film, he failed. Tusk has a truly great premise, but that’s pretty much all it has going for it.

Tusk receives 1/4

After grossing over $200 million in its opening weekend, it was pretty clear that The Avengers was going to emerge in first place in its second weekend, but I wouldn’t have predicted such a small decline. The Avengers declined 50% to an estimated $103.2 million this weekend. This is the best second weekend ever for a film and it is also the only film to gross over $100 million in its second weekend. This brings its ten day total to $373.2 million.

Dark Shadows faced the consequences of opening in the wake of The Avengers and grossed an estimated $28.8 million. This is down from Burton’s previous two films Alice in Wonderland ($116.1 million) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ($56.2 million). While nobody expected Dark Shadows to outgross these two family friendly flicks, opening below $30 million for a Johnny Depp/Tim Burton collaboration is a minor disappointment.

  1. The Avengers – $103.2 million
  2. Dark Shadows – $28.8 million
  3. Think Like a Man – $6.3 million
  4. The Hunger Games – $4.4 million
  5. The Lucky One – $4.06 million
  6. The Pirates! Band of Misfits – $3.2 million
  7. The Five Year Engagement – $3.1 million
  8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – $2.65 million
  9. Chimpanzee – $1.62 million
  10. Girl In Progress – $1.35 million

The trailers for Dark Shadows are a perfect example of false advertising. Based on the trailers, Dark Shadows would appear to be a goofy fish out of water story. In reality, the film is more of a Gothic fantasy, with a splash of humor mixed in for good measure. A film of this nature would have been a tough sell, so it comes as no surprise that the ads have decided to focus on the comedic aspect of the film. Unfortunately, this will leave audiences feeling underwhelmed. Dark Shadows is not a bad film, but it’s tonally challenged and its reputation will suffer due to bad advertising.

Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is a wealthy 18th century playboy. When he ends a love affair with a woman named Anqelique Bouchard (Eva Green), she proceeds to place a curse on him, turning him into an immortal vampire. He is locked in a coffin for nearly 200 years until he is released in the year of 1972. Barnabas decides to reunite with his living relatives, hoping that he can restore the family to its once great glory.

Dark Shadows is written by the comedic horror author Seth Grahame-Smith. This is his first screenplay, and his lack of experience shows. One of the biggest problems is that the film is not very funny. There are not as many jokes as one would expect, which could lead someone to argue that the film was never meant to be comedic. Still, the film contains a moderate amount of jokes, and most of them fall flat. Many of the jokes do contain a good deal of wit, but Grahame-Smith writes them with such poor delivery. Johnny Depp is a hilarious individual; if he can’t make your screenplay funny, then your screenplay isn’t funny.

The script also suffers due to a lack of character development. Almost all of the characters are one dimensional, with some of them being so bland that most viewers will forget that they were even in the movie at all. This family cannot connect with each other, causing each character to feel cold and distant. A romance develops between Barnabas and the family’s governess Victoria (Bella Heathcote), but their relationship is developed so poorly that it seems to be based on infatuation instead of love.

After having made Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows appears to be a return to form for director Tim Burton. His visual style is perfect for the Gothic atmosphere of this film. There is a sharp contrast between the dark colors of the mansion and the bright colors of the 1970’s that creates beautiful visuals that carry throughout the film. The film may be slightly forgettable, but the set pieces and art direction are sure to stay in the mind’s eye for quite some time.

Johnny Depp has become a wonderful character actor, so it comes as no surprise that his portrayal of Barnabas Collins is absolutely fantastic. Eva Green also stands out as the film’s primary antagonist, and a late visual effect involving her skin is one of the coolest aspects of the film. The only other memorable performance comes from Chloe Grace Moretz, who is given the role of a moody teenager named Carolyn. Any other actress would have caused Carolyn to become tiresome and annoying, but Moretz adds a sweetness to her character that keeps her interesting.

Dark Shadows will be viewed as one of Tim Burton’s weakest films, but it has enough redeeming moments to warrant a recommendation. The soundtrack is catchy and perfectly fits the feel of the 1970’s. The opening credits playing to the song “Nights in White Satin” by The Moody Blues, is both haunting and beautiful. I have no idea if the film will please fans of the old TV series that it is based on, but I can attest to the fact that Dark Shadows is an entertaining mess.

Dark Shadows receives 2.5/4