It’s been more than a couple of weeks since we last talked. How the hell are you? I’ve been good, just way busy…spent a week and a half, back and forth, in Sitges at the film fest, and it’s nice to be back home at a decent hour and in my own comfy bed. Now with the new, cooler weather fully ensconcing itself in the city, here come the new premieres and awards season and lists of nominations. Being the dork I am, I’ll make sure to pop in a few of those that interest me in the months to come, but getting down to business this weekend.
The last few years have not been cinematically pleasing if you are a big Johnny Depp fan. That whole dogs-in-Australia drama whilst making yet another Pirates of the Caribbean sequel no one really asked for, let’s be real, was just plum silly. So, when you sit back and take in the old-school rhythm of his new film Black Mass, you know you’re in for something good. The film, directed by Crazy Heart auteur Scott Cooper, tells the true story of the Bulger brothers Whitey and Billy, played by Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch, who were loving brothers in completely different worlds in Seventies Boston. Depp plays his character with such smooth aplomb, it’s impossible not to think he’s got mafia blood somewhere in him. As the leader of the main Irish gang in Boston, he couldn’t be further away from his brother’s career, as Cumberbatch’s character is the state senate leader! When an old mate of theirs moves back to town and just happens to be an FBI agent, it becomes clear that protecting one’s family (in all it’s many branches of the word!) is bound to cause some major issues. Enter in the fact of it being based on true events, inter-connectedness with governmental corruption, embezzlement and the eventual finale that didn’t really occur until a few years ago, and what you have is a very decent strive to Oscar night. With the cast also boasting Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, Rory Cochrane, and somewhat lookalikes Peter Sarsgaard and baldy Corey Stoll, what we have are the trappings of autumn’s first big H’wood Oscar contender, and Depp certainly is in the running for Best Actor. ####
The new film The Face of an Angel premiered in Europe last week at the Sitges Film Festival and watching it, one knows instantly that this is a changed-name-retelling of the Amanda Knox story, the true story of a nice, WASPy girl from the States who is charged with the murder of another American girl whilst studying in Italy on an exchange program. The film is immediately engaging with its good-looking premise, setting in Sienna, and tasty actors. I swear to G-d that Kate Beckinsale is a most beautiful woman and she make Frenchman Daniel Bruhl handsome with her beaming energy. But even with those appealing features, something is lacking in its premise. The story, including its recounting of that terrible ordeal, is actually a film being written and created within this film’s plotlines, as Bruhl plays a scriptwriter who is long overdue for a hit after a one-time juggernaut a few years earlier. Beckinsale is the journalist who clues him into the details of the case as she uncovered them, even as the trial is underway. So, what makes the film seem flat? While the acting is on par with what could be expected and as mentioned, Italy is sickeningly lovely to view, the film itself seems like it was destined for an ABC or Lifetime Movie of the Week. Film Fest screening or cinema dosage, this is an easy film to take in whilst lounging at home…for free. ##-1/2
Oh the happy goings-on in the world of children’s animated movies. From claymation to stop motion to digital animation to actual illustrators and matte painters creating new worlds and beyond, there is an endless pouring out of different options and new ways to create the animated world. So when a tedious piece of shiny, non-stop barrage of animated nonsense spawns a sequel in the vein of Transylvania 2, I take issue. While the first one may have been a fun but silly affair and new way to introduce Dracula and other monsters’ stories, this one is a complete revamp of the former with a twist as it takes Dracula’s daughter Mavis and hubby Johnny to California whilst leaving their child Dennis with Grandpa Drac. The film is bound to be entertaining for the little ones and certainly some adults who are easily amused, but when you have the most inane jokes thrown like bullets for laughs by simpletons, it’s nice to remember that we have cartoons like Inside Out and Song of the Sea that are testaments to creativity and inventiveness. This one however falls very short of those heights. ##-1/2
Finally today, the dramedy for the romantics at heart. In fact, it is so that, even the characters of the film teach it at university…The Romantics…in Literature. The film How to Make Love Like an Englishman (though the majority of the film is set in California) revolves around the formulaic whilst throwing in a dash of Mexico/Chicano spiciness for good measure…the formula nonetheless tastes stale despite those endeavours, to be honest. It follows the story of Professor Richard Haig (Pierce Brosnan), another serial player even though he’s damn near 60 who falls in with a young student of his, knocks her up and then years later, she realises she’s in love with someone else and everything goes pear-shaped. Enter in bada bing bada boom Salma Hayek stage left and we have the trappings of a Chicana tale gone haywire. Instead, like a can of coagulated enchilada sauce, the film falls flat and stale, with no real panache or gusto to balance the processed cheese. Literally playing on every cliche in the Big Book of Hollywood Crap Schtick, I was embarrassed for my fellow Mejicanas taking part in this American charade. No doubt that it’s set in Hell A. Grandma Murray screams, “No More!” #-1/2
Kids, it’s been a busy and somewhat hectic couple of weeks, so it’s nice to be back in the normal driver’s seat. Have a good one and see you all in a few!