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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Come sail away and never come back. Seriously.

All of these years of screwing people over left and right has finally caught up with Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who is now so down on his luck that he begins to feel the winds of ill-fortune blowing even more strongly than ever before. So when deadly ghost sailors led by his old nemesis, the evil Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle, Jack is left to connect back with old friends and mates who will hopefully be able to get him out of this bind. But for Jack, his only hope of survival lies in seeking out the legendary Trident of Poseidon. However, it’s so hard to track down, he’ll have to strike up with some people who may know a thing or two of where it’s at, and just how the hell to get it. Enter Carina (Kaya Scodelario), a beautiful astronomer who uses her good-looks to her benefit, and Henry (Brenton Thwaites), a young lad apart of the British Navy who knows a thing or two about the high seas and the undead that will soon be hot on their tail. But it’s still Jack himself who can’t seem to get over the fact that all of this ill-will has finally come back to bite him in the rump.

These guys both have Oscars. Why are they here?

In all honesty, the first Pirates of the Caribbean is still, despite all of the bloated sequels to follow, a solid piece of entertainment. It’s fun, exciting, pretty funny, and oh yeah, features a top-notch ensemble of people who knew exactly what kind of material they were dealing with, and didn’t try too hard to really look for any deeper-meaning under the sea. It worked, not just making the franchise one of the most popular around, but reminded us that Johnny Depp, despite being a reliable name in the biz for a very long time prior, can carry a movie on his back.

Hell, people, the dude even got nominated for an Oscar. Literally. An Oscar. For a movie about a bunch of pirates and ghosts. What the hell?

But of course, time went by and the Pirates movies became irritating. They became longer, more overblown, and yeah, just dull. They could be fun, at times, but honestly, at nearly three hours, they all but worn out their welcome, even if people continued to pay to constantly see them. It’s sort of like the Transformers franchise in that it’s still popular, despite none of the movies really being all that good – people just like big, bloated and over-produced theater-rides and can’t help themselves but to get another.

And that’s why Dead Men Tell No Tales, while not terrible, or as awful as it should have been, should still be the final nail in the coffin for this already overlong franchise. After all, the fans of the original have probably stopped following just what Captain Jack and his matees are up to, not to mention that the reason for this franchise to continue on, doesn’t just seem ridiculous, but downright annoying. It’s a cash-cow for sure, but it’s the kind that doesn’t make any sense of its reason for existing – after awhile, it just gets sad to watch and makes you wonder, “What could have happened if they had just stopped after the first?”

Even you, Orlando!?!?

Well, there would have been quite a few people who wouldn’t have gotten filthy, stinkin’ rich, but who cares about all that?

Anyway, Dead Men Tell No Tales does have the occasional burst of action and excitement, but most of that has to do with an awe-inspiring set-piece that doesn’t contain pirate ships trying to blow each other up. There’s a bit with a guillotine early on that’s somewhat inventive, and hell, even by the end, there’s a bit that clearly rips-off the Bible, but hey, it’s neat to watch and takes full advantage of the 3D IMAX. But aside from those two bits, the rest of the movie is a bit of a blur.

It’s paced well, sure, but after awhile, it’s hard to ever really care just what’s going on, what has to be accomplished, and who may, or may not, come out of this alive. The characters try to still be charming and lovely, but even they feel like they’re just replacements, like Scodelario and Thwaites’ characters who, unfortunately, have to be related to other characters already apart of the franchise. While everyone in the cast is still fine and doing what they’re doing, it’s still hard not to feel like maybe, just perhaps, their efforts would be better suited elsewhere.

You know, like something that isn’t a freakin’ Pirates movie for gosh sakes.

Consensus: Even at two-hours-and-nine-minutes, Dead Men Tell No Tales still feels a bit long, with only bits and pieces of inspiration and excitement to be found, amongst another entry into an already overplayed franchise.

5 / 10

Okay, I can see why Johnny’s here. Which, by now, is just sad to admit.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Before Night Falls (2000)

Us writers, and the wild lives we live.

Reinaldo Arenas (Javier Bardem) had a hell of a life that never ceased to be filled with energy, excitement, and altogether, tragedy. It started when he was born fatherless in 1943, and ended with him dying of AIDS in his NYC apartment in 1990. Everything else that happened in between, such as the love affairs, the constant novels being written, and the plenty of arrests in his life, are all apart of his unique story that, once again, was all a tragedy.

It’s hard for a movie to make us feel any type of sympathy for a character, especially when we know what we see is a biopic and it’s supposed to span a long amount of time. Sometimes the directors/writers have to get down and dirty and give us something that’s unique about this person, or the least bit sympathetic for that matter, in order for us to even give a flying fuck about the subject, or the movie itself. It’s very hard to pull off, and pull off well, but sometimes you don’t even need that aspect of your script to make the subject, or the movie work. Sometimes, all you need is a great actor playing the subject to take things over.

And that’s exactly what we have here with Javier Bardem as Reinaldo Arenas.

Honestly, if it weren’t for Bardem’s amazing performance here as Arenas, I don’t think I would have cared for this person, or this movie at all. We all know that Bardem can act his ass off by now, but back in the early days of post-Y2K: People had no freakin’ clue who this guy was and what all of the fuss was all about with him. He had a lot of buzz going on over in his native-land where he was constantly getting nominated and winning awards, but he never quite broke out into the states. That is, until this movie came around and as they say, “The rest is history”.

Yup, totally gay.

Talk about style.

Bardem is given the simple task here of having to look as if he’s feeling pain and on the verge of absolute-depression, every second, of every scene. For some, it may repetitive, but for me, I noticed something really remarkable here. It isn’t that he’s just using the same look and expression on his face the whole time, it’s more that he’s adapting to the story, the same way the real Arenas would have. There’s always a sad, dark grin on his face the whole movie, even when he’s happy and having a good time, but there’s something more underneath it all that you’re able to latch onto right away, not just because you’re able to tell that is a peaceful soul that shouldn’t be hurt because he’s gay, but because Bardem gives him that soul.

As time goes on for Arenas and the story begins to go through its many dramatic shifts, the performance only begins to pick up more and more heart and emotion, and that’s when Bardem really lights the screen on fire with every ounce of gasoline and brimstone he’s got. The guy’s a class-act of an actor because he’s able to take any type of role somebody has to throw at him, and find a way to make it his own, while also giving something resembling a heart and soul. A soul that we may have to search hard to actually spot, but one that you’ll be able to chalk-up to his ability as an actor and always being able to make his presence more than enough. The dude’s been great for awhile and it’s great to see where it all started.

God, I wonder what we’d do without this guy.

However, I did have a reasoning for talking about Bardem so early on and it wasn’t because he was the main attraction of the whole flick, it’s because he’s probably the best thing going for it since the rest of the flick is a bit of a mess in terms of editing and cohesion. For instance, we jump-forward in time on more than a few occasions where it isn’t that we know what Arenas has been up to in the years prior that we probably missed, but more that we are sort of just plopped-down and left to make up the conclusions ourselves. In some films, this can work, but with a biopic that’s asking us to pay attention to this human-being at the center of the story, it just feels distracting. It’s almost as if we’re paying too much close attention to putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and not the subject himself.

One second, he’s in prison, and then the next second, he’s out and has already written ten books. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even know when he was writing a book, or just writing poetry for the hell of it. The movie never makes that clear enough and it seems because it’s more focused and interested on Arenas’ sexual escapades and the constant trysts he had with other dudes. It’s not wrong to be interested, but it takes away from what was already a brutally honest about depression and grief, especially in this one man’s life. Bardem makes him unique, but he does it so effortlessly.

This movie, on the other hand, doesn’t and even worse, fails at doing so.

No, he did not die from hypothermia.

No, he did not die from hypothermia. Although that would have been tragic as hell.

Like I said before, without Bardem, who knows what the hell would have happened with this flick. He holds it altogether like Gorilla Glue and never lets loose of it, even when the fragmented story-structure tries to pull his weight down. And that’s not to discredit the rest of the cast either, because everybody else does fine – it’s just that the movie isn’t all that concerned with them, and only uses them as window-dressing. Like, you know, for show.

Olivier Martinez probably gives his best performance as Arenas’ most beloved lover, Lazaro Gomez Carriles, and shows that he has a soft side to his act that we may not see in the muddled-crap that he does nowadays; Sean Penn shows up in what is basically an unrecognizable performance that didn’t even seem like him when he was on the screen, but had me do a check-up and I realized it totally was him; Michael Wincott was a fresh face to see on the screen as the main artist who stands-up to the government, and roots for his writing buddies; and last, but sure as hell not least is Johnny Depp, playing dual roles, both of which are surprisingly good. The first one is a transvestite who Arenas takes a liking to in the prison and has one of the more bizarre scenes of the whole flick, and the second one is him playing a Cuban officer that’s a bit strange as well, but a tad bit more vicious than what we’re used to seeing from Depp. There’s plenty more names where those came from, but they all are fine for what they have to do, but it’s Bardem who really keeps the show on the road, even when the direction from Julian Schnabel gets in the way.

Consensus: If it weren’t for Javier Bardem’s amazing performance as Reinaldo Arenas, who knows what the hell would have happened to Before Night Falls, but with him in the lead role, the movie is surprisingly engrossing, heartfelt, and all the more tragic because of the life the real-life figure lived and even died from.

7.5 / 10

Don't lie, you'd hit it. Especially if you were stuck in a Cuban prison.

Don’t lie, you’d hit it. Especially if you were stuck in a Cuban prison.

Photos Courtesy of: Grandview Pictures

Yoga Hosers (2016)

Canada’s cool and all, but man, those accents.

Colleen and Colleen (Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith) have been best friends ever since they were little kids. Nowadays, they spend most of their days going to yoga, talking about boys, and most importantly, working their dead-end jobs at a local convenience store that they so desperately hate, yet, have to do because the one Colleen’s dad (Tony Hale) owns it and always needs the store in tip-top shape, even if neither of them are hardly ever around to make sure that it’s actually getting the business it needs to thrive. However, their job has gotten a lot harder, when it turns out that people have been mysteriously and randomly being murdered all across the area of Montreal. Why? Or better yet, who? Well, neither of them really know, but you know who does? Legendary detective and crime-solver Guy LaPointe (Johnny Depp) does and he decides to join forces with the two gals, to not just figure out what is killing all of these people, but also to make himself feel better. Meanwhile, the two Colleens also are trying to start a band and keep on getting sidetracked by all of this murder business that they want no part of.

"Ooooh, baby I love your way. Or something like that."

“Ooooh, baby I love your way. Or something like that.”

Kevin Smith, what the hell bro? Someone who started out as one of my favorite writers and directors, someone who I literally asked a question in real life, someone who’s movies, no matter how awful they could get, I stuck up, what has happened here? After Tusk and now Yoga Hosers, it seems as if Smith has lost himself a whole lot; while he’s making admirable attempts to get away from his slacker past and try towards something more ambitious and fun, does it really have to be this?

Seriously?

Because after watching Yoga Hosers, I am pretty damn sure that the Kevin Smith that I once knew, laughed at and loved, is all but dead and gone. Sure, Red State was meh and Tusk was bad, but now, I don’t even know what to make sense of. It’s almost as if Smith himself wasn’t quite sure of what he was making, but knew that he wanted to make something weird, had a whole lot of money in his pockets, had a cast who was willing to work, and didn’t care of anything else that matters, so put together this slap-dash movie that plays out like a bad joke. You know, the kind where someone has to be “in” on it?

But it doesn’t seem like anyone is, except for Smith himself.

To be honest though, there are small, if incredibly brief moments of pure hilarity from Smith and his screenplay; no matter how twisted or warped he gets into his own head and believing in his own crap, he still can’t help himself but to be funny. Some small snippets of dialogue connect and for some odd reason, it transports you to a time where Smith not just gave a crap, but did actually want to appeal to others outside of his weird head. Nowadays, though, it’s weird – Smith doesn’t seem to care, or if he does, he doesn’t actually show it to anyone.

Because once all of the funny bits and pieces of dialogue are dead and gone with, he then tries whatever he can to make a plot, which consists of, bear with me, faux rock-bands, a French detective who wasn’t at all funny in the so-called “predecessor”, yoga, drinking, partying, sex, friendship, hockey, Canadians, Americans, maple syrup, accents, hot dogs, Nazis, Al Pacino impersonations, and uh yeah, whatever the hell Yoga Hosers actually are.

So yeah, you get the idea.

Yoga Hosers, as a movie, is a complete mess, but it’s not even an interesting one, to say the very least. So much stuff happens, yet, none of it ever registers as having any sort of reasoning; it seems as if Smith is just throwing everything at the wall, because he wanted to, had the opportunity to, or just didn’t simply give a hoot. Sometimes, that can be fine, when you have an auteur known for making the inexplicably weird and unintelligible, interesting (David Lynch, The Coen’s), but no offense, Smith is nowhere near that caliber.

Guess who the hell that is!

Oh, great! This freakin’ guy!

But it’s not like that’s even a bad thing, either. In fact, one of the things that drew me to Smith, the person, as well as the artist, was the fact that he was this normal, everyday dude who loved movies, who loved TV, who loved pop-culture, and who especially loved comic books, and also had this talent to make these small, low-budget movies that were nasty and dirty, but also incredibly funny and, at times, heartwarming. He was this small director who didn’t set-out to really change the world in which we live in, but instead, offer-up some brief, fleeting moments of entertainment and fun for us all to laugh and enjoy.

Nowadays though, that Smith is gone.

It’s not a bad thing that he’s decided to change things up with his career, and get weirder, and far more serious, but it’s a bad thing when it just doesn’t work and make it seem like he’s abandoning everything he’s once known, loved and stood by. Nowadays, rather than making a good, funny and heartfelt movie about real, everyday, normal people, he’s making movies that seem to revolve solely around his friends and family. Once again, nothing entirely wrong with that, however, it has to all come together and work – something that Yoga Hosers never does.

It’s not funny, it’s not insightful, it’s not exciting, it’s not compelling, it’s not dramatic, and it sure as hell isn’t even well-acted. If anything, Yoga Hosers is just another sure sign that people should stop giving money to Smith, so that he’ll realize that, okay, yeah, maybe he does need to chill out and get back down to ground level, where all of us fellow human beings are sitting firmly at. And then, maybe then, I’ll accept him back into my good graces and forgive him, once and for all.

But until then, I’m done. Sorry, Kev. We had a good run together, but sometimes, all good runs must come to an end.

Consensus: Weird, unfunny, dumb and just downright hard-to-watch, Yoga Hosers is the clearest example of Kevin Smith’s tragic fall from grace and artistry, further proving how his best days are long, long behind him.

1 / 10

Millennials text a lot! #Relevance

Millennials text a lot! #Relevance

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Everyone needs a little cut, no?

Evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) lusts for the beautiful wife of a London barber named Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) and rather than having any competition with this man, Turpin decides to transport him to Australia for a crime he did not commit. Now, Sweeney Todd has returned after 15 years and is ready to extract some revenge, however, he knows that he has to be smart and sly about it. So he decides to open up his barber-shop with the dedicated Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) and together, they decide to not only give fellow citizens some nice trims and cuts and whatnot, but also give them a little thing called “death”. That’s right, Sweeney Todd takes all of his anger out on his customers who have no clue that instead of getting a buzz, they’re going to get a slice of their throats from Sweeney and then thrown in the boiler for meat-pies. While it’s sickening, it’s a hit among the people and eventually, it makes Sweeney more and more inspired on getting Turpin in is chair once and for all.

Who hasn't gotten a toy and admired it like this?

Who hasn’t gotten a toy and admired it like this?

Once again, there’s something so damn pleasant about watching Tim Burton have a good time with himself, and while Sleepy Hollow is definitely a solid showing of that fact come to life, Sweeney Todd is perhaps a better example. Here, not only does Burton get to roll around with musical-numbers, but he still gets the opportunity to play around with his dark, brooding and Gothic horror-style that he loves so much and can’t seem to get tired of. And of course, he gets to do it all with the people he loves and adores so much, like Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and so on and so forth.

And because of this, Sweeney Todd feels like a celebration of sorts.

Not just for Burton, but musicals as a whole. Sweeney Todd is the kind of darkly humorous and sadistic tale that’s definitely not everybody’s plate of pie, nor is it going to win over any naysayers of the musical-genre as a whole, but for Burton, none of that matters – he’s having a great time allowing for these songs to play out in a traditional format, with the voices and music blaring over the speakers and never quieting down. The downside to all of the musical numbers is that Burton himself doesn’t quite know how to film these scenes and make them look interesting; sure, the songs are entertaining and interesting enough, but they’re filmed in such a one-on-one bland way that it makes the movie feel like you’re actually watching a stage-play filmed on the screen.

Sure, that’s fine and all, but sometimes, it’s always best to have a little more imagination with these numbers, especially when you’re making a full-length, feature-flick, with a big-budget and all. Cause honestly, sky’s the limit and if there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about going big and over-the-top, it’s Burton. And he does go for that quite often here, and you know what?

It actually works.

Oh man. RIP.

Oh man. RIP.

Because the tone and material is so subversive and mean, the humor and gags and whatnot, while silly, still work. Burton’s sense of humor in most of his movies have borderlined on cheesy, but because that’s his crazy style, it’s been accepted; here in Sweeney Todd, it feels right with the material. There’s nothing sillier than watching and listening to a barber singing about his one true love as he’s slicing and dicing the throats of his customers and Burton milks it all for it’s worth. He doesn’t let-up and because of that, it’s hard not to be entertained and excited by Sweeney Todd, even if the material and look of the film can be grim.

But of course, it mostly all comes together so well because Burton has his usual band of misfits to join in on the fun and without them, who knows how his film may have turned out to be. Depp’s Sweeney is a perfect fit because he’s not just charismatic, but a little dangerous, too. Depp has always had a good time in Burton’s movies, but here, it seems like he’s enjoying himself the most, playing the straight man to the, mostly, crazy proceedings. Characters around him like Timothy Spall’s, or Sacha Baron Cohen’s are all campy and wild, whereas Depp, always remains stoic and smart, which helps his character seem all the more sympathetic and, well, “cool”.

Maybe that’s not what he was going for, but hey, it’s what happened.

Honestly though, it’s Helena Bonham Carter who steals the show as Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney Todd’s lovely sidekick who will and has followed him through the thick and thin of life. Though her character sings about unrequited love and grinding up human-meat to make pies, there’s a sincerity to her character that keeps her watchable and downright sad. Carter’s comedic-timing is perfect, as well as her chemistry with Depp, but no matter what, when she’s given the spotlight to sing about her feelings of love and remorse, you feel them and it’s probably the only time that Sweeney Todd, the movie, actually seems like it’s taking itself more seriously.

Sure, fun and games are fine and all, but every once and awhile, it’s always nice to have a little cry just to remind yourself that you’re human.

Consensus: Burton’s dark sense of style and Sweeney Todd go so perfectly together, that it’s hard not to enjoy the movie, especially with the vocal and acting talents constantly on-display.

8.5 / 10

Love at first slash.

Love at first slash.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aceshowbiz

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Find the head and you may get the killer.

Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is a New York City detective whose unorthodox techniques and penchant for gadgets make him unpopular with is colleagues. That’s why, after much time spent on science and all of the ground-breaking inventions being made within that world, he is sent to the remote town of Sleepy Hollow, where they hope he’ll be able to solve a whole slew of murders that have been occurring – as local townspeople have all been disappearing in the woods and dead, only to have their bodies found with their heads cut off. Who is doing this and why, Ichabod hopes to find out and it’s why, despite not having a great idea of the land that he’s about to settle into, he is, at the very least, inspired. Once he gets to this town, Ichabod realizes that there’s a lot more going on between these townsfolk that may or may not solve his crime, but also continue to make the folk tale of the Headless Horsemen all the more grandiose and magical, if also kind of dangerous.

From Hell?

From Hell?

It’s great to watch Tim Burton having fun, because unfortunately, he so rarely does nowadays. While he could have made a drab, dreary and downright depressing version of Sleepy Hollow, Burton instead goes for a fun, high-wire, quick, and exciting version that is also drab, dreary and, yes, depressing. Sounds crazy and almost impossible to imagine or even picture seeing, but somehow, Burton pulls it all off so well, adding a great sense of slick and brooding style to go along with the fast velocity in which the plot is being told to us.

Does it all work?

Sadly, no, not really. However, there’s something to be said for a messy Tim Burton movie that is, in ways, a very fun one. By the year 1999, Burton wasn’t quite as well-known as the imaginative and ambitious creative-mind that seemed to have lost his way, like he is now – back then, he was still seen as the imaginative and ambitious creative-mind that may have had a few missteps along the way (Mars Attacks! and Beetlejuice, depending on who you talk to), but recovered from them quite greatly because he still had a style to work with and wasn’t afraid to get as weird as one can possibly get. That’s why, for the longest while, Sleepy Hollow is quite the thrill-ride; it’s probably not as scary as Burton wants it to be, but with an R-rating, it’s allowed to do a whole lot of things, like stab, slice and splatter all sorts of blood.

It’s as if Burton was given free reign to run wild with whatever he budget he had in mind, with whoever was around, and at the same time, still put something of his stamp on an age old classic. It’s basically the dream that every director/writer dreams of one day actually having, which is what makes it all the more joyful to see Burton getting a chance to live out that dream, once and for all. Sure, he may have already had his dreams lived out before with the Batman flicks, but personally, as dark and as sinister as this can sometimes get, it seems like Burton is really in his zone. He doesn’t have to answer to too many people, nor does he have anyone set in his mind about pleasing.

Except, well, himself, of course.

Who needs lines when you're Christopher Walken?

Who needs lines when you’re Christopher Walken?

That said, Burton does slip up somewhere by the end, once the film relies that it has to actually tell its age old plot and give something resembling a reason for all of the crazy murders and whatnot. It’s not that we needed it, because we sort of do, it’s just that it feels like such a hack-job that Burton himself didn’t even seem to care about, is that it comes out of nowhere and doesn’t hold much meaning. We get an idea of who the villain in the story may be, but the movie isn’t solely depending on the big, final twist of who was really chopping all of the people’s heads off; it’s all about the ride and joy of getting there, which is where Burton works best. Grounding himself in rhyme, or reason, is not Burton’s forte and while he can definitely do it, he doesn’t really need to with a movie as silly and, sometimes, as insane as Sleepy Hollow.

It’s also why the final-product, while still enjoyable, still does feel like a bit of a mixed-bag. There’s no denying the fact that it’s a fun-filled, campy, and over-the-top wild ride that doesn’t ever seem to let up, by the end, it can get a little exhausting. All of the characters in this are, well, exactly that; every actor who shows up here is great, but they’re also working with cartoon cut-outs. Sure, some may not expect this from a Burton flick, or better yet, a Sleepy Hollow adaptation, but it would have been nice, if not, necessary to get some downtime in between all of the craziness to get to know who we’re dealing with and why. Just having talented, good-looking people like Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, and Miranda Richardson isn’t enough.

A little bit more detail and care can go a long, long way, no matter how much style you have going on.

Consensus: Wacky, wild, over-the-top and occasionally nuts, Sleepy Hollow finds Tim Burton having a great time putting his own spin on the classic tale, but also finds him never knowing when to slow down and tell us a little more about the story.

7 / 10

Yeah, time to turn around, I'd say.

Yeah, time to turn around, I’d say.

Photos Courtesy of: Overdue Review

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Never have hallucinogenics been so dull.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a girl who dreams big, beautiful and often times, crazy things. So often so, that the real world surrounding her just doesn’t do anything for her. That’s why when it turns out that she’s set to wed a British chump, she can’t help but run away to her own world of extravagant and out-of-this-world beings. However, in this world, Alice does’t know if she’s dreaming it all, or if it’s really happening. Either way, Alice is thrown into a whole new world that she’s just getting used to. In this world, Alice meets all sorts of colorful and wild characters like the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), her sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and then, there’s mystical characters like the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), and most importantly, the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry). All of whom are characters that Alice has at least one or two interactions with in this world, but mostly of all whom make her wonder if she’s in a dream that she needs to wake up out of, or a world that she needs to escape from. Either way, she needs to do something, and quick!

Tim and Johnny loved dress-up just a little too much.

Tim and Johnny loved dress-up just a little too much.

It’s an honest surprise how bad Alice in Wonderland turned out to be, because you’d think that this would be something in Tim Burton’s wheelhouse. Alice in Wonderland is the kind of oddly strange, but endearing story that benefits from an extra bit of weirdness, as well as visuals, and considering that Burton is quite solid at being both “weird”, as well as “visual”, it’s almost a no-brainer that he’d be chosen for this.

So why oh why did everything go so wrong?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that the script Burton may have been working with here was probably really, really bad. For one, it never knows if it wants to be overly-goofy, or just plain weird, but with a darkening and serious tone. Burton himself never quite figures that out, either, but it seems like the script is going to battle with itself over whether or not it wants to set out and scare people, or if it wants to just be a silly old time, where colorful things and characters do crazy, over-the-top things.

Honestly, I’m perfectly fine with the later, because Burton himself has proven, time and time again, that he’s more than able to handle all of that and make it fun, even when it can get brooding. Here though, it never fully comes together. Burton always seems as if he’s trying to settle on one style, but instead of sticking to one in particular, he goes back and forth so often, that we never know what to expect with the movie, nor do we actually care. It’s just such a mess in its own right, that the time it takes to figure its own identity and mood out, it gets to become too late and we already don’t really care.

And that’s a shame because Burton is obviously way better than this here, and it’s clear that he took the visuals very seriously. Sure, some will complain that there’s an over-reliance on CGI and special-effects here, but honestly, what did you expect? It was a live-action adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, in the year 2010 – how could it have not been mostly all CGI? The visuals themselves do look quite impressive and it’s clear that certain details from the original flick are here as well, except on a greater scale, but there gets to be a point where you wonder for how long can pretty colors and things make you forget that a story is clearly lacking?

In the case of Alice in Wonderland, not long.

Creepier than Snape? Maybe.

Creepier than Snape? Maybe.

It’s clear that a lot of this story is plodding along, introducing its zany characters one by one, but never really giving them any arch or sustainable personality that makes us want to see them, again and again. Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter may have been perfect casting, in hindsight, but in the movie, it’s a typical Johnny Depp performance: He over-acts a whole lot, switches up accents half-way through for some reason, and seems like he’s just making everything up as he goes along. Helena Bonham Carter is at least fun to watch and listen to as the Red Queen, if only because her gags are the only ones that land; Crispin Glover plays her right-hand man and is suitably creepy, although, maybe not creepy enough, given that it’s Crispin Glover we’re talking about here; Anne Hathaway is pretty as the White Queen; Mia Wasikowska seems like she’s interested in doing so much more than what she has here, but instead, has to do a lot of looking around and staring into space; and the voice talents all come in and add another level of charisma to the CGI-creations.

But really, do any of them even matter?

What ends up happening by the close of Alice in Wonderland is that the story goes from point to point, without ever really caring about anyone, or what’s happening. We’re told that the Red Queen is out to take over Wonderland and is this evil, ruthless Queen who doesn’t care about anything that exists, but are we supposed to take any of it seriously? Or, are we supposed to just laugh at her big head? The movie never knows what the answer is and that’s a huge problem.

Eventually, there’s a big battle that comes into play and seems absolutely random, even by this film’s standards. There’s no rhyme, reason, or understanding of what’s happening, for what reasons, and what is to be accomplished; all we do know is that Tim Burton wants his characters to battle it out with one another, for one reason or another. Which maybe would have been fine in any other Tim Burton movie.

Just maybe not in Alice in Wonderland. Sorry.

Consensus: As messy as you can expect a Tim Burton movie to be, but for all of the wrong reasons, Alice in Wonderland never makes sense of its tone, its character, or even its plot, but knows that it’s pretty to look at and only focuses on that.

2.5 / 10

Bobblehead! A ha!

Bobblehead! A ha!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Cry-Baby (1990)

Think of it as the true story of Elvis Presley’s high-school days. Gosh, what a prick.

Cry-Baby (Johnny Depp), is the leader of the Drapes and a bad boy juvenile delinquent with a heart of gold who’s only sin is loving the wrong girl (Amy Locane). This love, however, is what gets in the way of the Drapes and the Squares, which automatically leads into tensions arising.

Writer/director John Waters makes some pretty wild movies. With Cry-Baby, he brings his odd appeal to the art and style of a 50’s musical, where times are lighter, lovelier, and simpler, even though, essentially, the stories were about gangs, illegal drag-racing, and diners.

Lots and lots of diners, I may add.

Welp, there goes the neighborhood!

Welp, there goes the neighborhood!

What’s so funny about Waters’ direction here is that the whole film is one, big, giddy satire at those teen-idol movies of the 1950’s. You got the typical conventions you would expect from a movie of this genre: The bad-kids, leather jackets, greased-up hair, motorcycles, the stuck-up, rich kids, the good girl who wants to explore the wrong side of the tracks, a jailhouse, fancy cars, hip music (of the time), and parents that just never seem to understand and try too hard to be cool and “with it”. All of that cheesiness given a crazier edge here with Waters’ script and direction, and that’s where the whole fun of this movie comes from. There’s always a weird joke placed in this movie somewhere, and it takes a good half-hour to actually get used to what you’re watching and spot a lot of the goofs that Waters’ places in this flick.

In fact, that may have been a bit of my problem with this movie, as it’s a little too energetic and never really settles down. Maybe that’s a weak complaint to have for a musical, but it seems like a good portion of Cry-Baby may have been a bit too crazy to really enjoy and have as much of a ball with, if it had been tuned-down just a bit. Then again, it’s just another one of my weird nit-picks that I have with movies and it sort of went away as soon as those phenomenal and zany musical numbers would pop-up, and take all of my problems away.

The musical numbers here aren’t anything entirely special, other than the fact that they are a bunch of fun to watch and listen to, since they are all done with as much as hype and energy as the rest of the film is treated. Waters always finds a keen way in introducing these songs and although none of them are as terribly memorable as you may expect from a musical of this nature, you still will find yourself humming along to the tracks, long after the movies over. One of the most specific tracks I’m talking about is that“King Cry-Baby” song, that reminded me so much of Elvis Presley and the type of song he would sing to win a gal over, no matter who she was, or where she came from.

Did conjugals always exist?

Did conjugals always exist?

Yeah, Elvis was the man and to watch Waters make a character that’s just like him in every which way, was neat, if an easy target.

Other than the infectious musical numbers, the other element of this movie that’s incredibly fun as well is the strange ensemble that Waters puts together. In the lead role as everybody’s favorite bad boy, is Johnny Depp as Cry-Baby. It wasn’t just one of Depp’s first starring roles in a major motion-picture, but it’s also one of the first roles where he tried to break-away from that teen-idol sensation look he was given after his stint on 21 Jump Street. It’s great to see Depp perform as a young cat and still display that perfect type of energy and charm that we all know and love him for today, and if anything, you got to give this guy credit for going out there and taking on a weird role like this, especially when you’ve just got off of one of TV’s hottest-shows. Depp’s performance is nothing remarkable, nothing memorable, and nothing really special once you think about, but you can tell from the first shot until that last one, that this guy had something that was made for Hollywood and damn, do I wish I was alive and well in 1990 to put money down on that idea.

Then, there’s the rest of the cast that could literally just be a names-name of people you may have infamously heard of, or thought that you would never, ever see work again in a major, Hollywood-production.

Kim McGuire gives us a memorable performance as the terribly-disgusting, Hatchet-face, and you got to give the girl credit for taking a role that pretty much makes fun of the way she looks the whole time; Iggy Pop is randomly here as Belvedere Rickettes, and has a wild bathtub scene even though I was a bit disappointed to not hear him sing once throughout the whole movie; ex-porn star Traci Lords plays a young whippersnapper of a gal that hates how uncool her parents are; Patty Hearst is randomly here playing a very bright and sunny mother that always seems to be happy about something; and the strangest, most memorable performance of all from the whole cast definitely goes out to Willem Dafoe as the evil prison-guard. What’s odd about the role is that you see his name in the opening-credits, yet, have no clue or idea of when he’s going to show up. And when he does show up, well, let’s just say it’s near-perfection. It’s a wonder why this guy has never really anything that could be considered comedy. There are plenty of other names in this whole flick that you’ll probably see and recognize but seriously, I’d have to write a whole book for that.

Consensus: Cry-Baby may be a tad too manic for its own good, but will occasionally break out a lovely, zany piece of music that’s worth watching and enjoying, even if the targets are easy enough to scoff at on your own.

7.5 / 10

The perfect American couple, courtesy of John Waters.

The perfect American couple, courtesy of John Waters.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, I Love Hotdogs, Challenges

Black Mass (2015)

Tim Burton must feel pretty useless right about now.

Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) was one of the most notorious criminals in history. He ran South Boston by his rules, which, for the most part, consisted of a lot of drugs, booze, women, and murder – actually, there was lots and lots of murder involved. But the reason why Whitey was so able to get away with all of his criminal escapades was because he aligned himself with an old pal of his, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who just so happened to be part of the FBI. Because Connolly looked up to and adored Bulger, he gets the FBI to strike some sort of deal where they’ll take down all of Bulger’s enemies (the Italian mob, local kingpins, etc.), and Bulger himself will practically be able to get away with anything he wants. Nobody quite catches on to this fact just yet, but eventually, the blood-shed, the drugs, and the murders become too much and too frequent to the point of where people start to notice that something is awry with this deal between Bulger and the FBI. And it all comes down to Connolly and Bulger’s relationship; one that will ruin both of their lives forever.

"Don't you dare say your sunglasses are cooler than mine!"

“Don’t you dare say your sunglasses are cooler than mine!”

Finally, after a few months of sitting through some okay-to-good movies, it seems like the time has come for extraordinarily great movies to start hitting the cinemaplexes. While I am very tempted to say “Oscar season is upon us”, my better-half doesn’t want to because that seems to have recently given off a negative connotation. Rather than just being about good movies that deserve our attention, Oscar season is more about how studios finagle and manipulate their way into getting more votes and notice from the Academy, so that they can make more money, become more successful, and continue to do so for as long as they want to. And while Black Mass may not be a total Oscar-bait-y movie, through and through, it’s still a sign of good things to, hopefully, come in the next few or so months.

Oh yeah, and Johnny Depp’s pretty good in this too.

In fact, he’s really good. As good as he’s been since he started hanging around with Tim Burton. And while you could make the case that, yes, Depp is once again playing a notorious gangster (like he did in Public Enemies as John Dillinger not too long ago), there’s still something that feels different about this portrayal here that makes it seem like we’re not watching Johnny Depp playingJohnny Depp“. But instead, we’re watching Johnny Depp play Whitey Bulger, a ruthless, cut-throat, mean and sadistic crime-boss that intimidated practically everyone around him, that nobody ever dared to step up to him.

Sure, some of that has to do with the sometimes-distracting make-up job that’s trying so desperately hard to make Depp have some sort of similarities to the infamous Bulger, but Depp is so dedicated to making a character, that it works throughout the whole movie. He’s one-note for sure, but he’s so scary and terrifying to watch, even as he holds conversations that seem to go south as soon as somebody steps slightly out-of-line, that it’s hard to take your eyes off of him. Which is an all the more impressive feat when you consider that Black Mass isn’t exactly a Depp-centerpiece, as much as it’s an ensemble piece, where everybody gets their chance to show up, do some solid work, and give Depp a run for his money.

Depp may still own the movie at the end the day, but it’s an effort that’s compelling.

This is mostly evident with Joel Edgerton’s performance as John Connolly, a close friend and confidante of Bulger who, after awhile, you begin to feel bad for. Though Connolly is dirty, corrupt, and tries to avoid every idea that Bulger may get incriminated for all the wrongdoings he’s committed, there’s still something interesting to view and dissect. That Connolly looks up to Bulger more as a big brother, rather than a pal, makes it all the more clear that there’s something inherently wrong with Connolly’s own psyche, but he doesn’t own up to the fact and watching Edgerton play around with this character, showing-off all sorts of shadings, is enjoyable. It may not be as showy of a performance as Depp’s, but there’s something that sits with you long after that puts Black Mass over the hill of being more than just “an entertaining gangster pic”.

Come on, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon: If you're an FBI agent in the 1970's, you've got to have a sweet-ass 'stache!

Come on, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon: If you’re an FBI agent in the 1970’s, you’ve got to have a sweet-ass ‘stache!

Which is to say that, yes, Black Mass is in fact, an entertaining gangster pic. Director Scott Cooper and co-writers Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth clearly have a love for these kinds of raw, gritty, and violent gangster flicks in the same vein as Scorsese and do well in constructing a movie that’s both fun, as well as emotional. While it’s hard to really get attached to any character in particular, there’s still interesting anecdotes made about certain character’s and their lives that make it more of an interesting watch.

For instance, though she only gets a few or so scenes, Julianne Nicholson is spectacular as Connolly’s wife who, from the very beginning, doesn’t like a single thing about Whitey Bulger. While she knows he’s helping her hubby out in getting a nice promotion, she also knows that the dude’s bad news; so much so, that she won’t even bother to sit at the same dinner table as him, let alone socialize with him at a party at her own house. Though this role is clearly limited to “disapproving wife”, there’s a lot more to her in the way Nicholson portrays her that makes us want to see a whole movie dedicated to just her.

Same goes for a lot of other characters here, as well.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Bill Bulger, Whitey’s bro, is a mayor who knows that his brother is up to no good, but is so willing to push it off to the side if that means he gets to have more power, politically speaking, that it’s actually scary; Peter Sarsgaard plays a drug-dealer that gets in on Whitey’s dealings and, although a total mess, still seems like a real guy who is easy to care for; Dakota Johnson only gets a few scenes as Whitey’s wife, but sets the basis for what Whitey himself will live by until the day he died; and of course, there’s the likes of Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, W. Earl Brown, Juno Temple, and a very emotional Rory Cochrane, that all add more layers to their characters, as well as the movie itself.

Though it doesn’t make the movie great, or better yet, perfect, it still makes it a highly enjoyable, mainstream gangster pic that has more to it than meets the eyes.

Or should I say, more than just bullets that meets the eyes.

Consensus: Led by a breathtaking performance from Johnny Depp, Black Mass benefits from its stacked-ensemble, but also has plenty more to say about its characters than just guns, blood, and crime.

8 / 10

Jack Sparrow who?

Jack Sparrow who?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Donnie Brasco (1997)

Forget about it?

New York mobster Lefty (Al Pacino) walks into his usual diner, starts talking up a storm with some guy named “Don the Jeweler” (Johnny Depp), figures out that the ring he just bought his girlfriend was a Fugazi, takes him out to find the guy, gets his money back, and badda-bing, badda-boom, the deal is done. However, Lefty doesn’t want to just say “bye” to Don and be done with him forever – he wants him to be apart of his mob, walk him through the ranks so that one day, Donnie will be the new crime boss that everybody obeys and looks up to. Donnie has those aspirations too, but the problem is that his real name is Joseph Pistone and he’s not all that he seems to be. Rather, he’s an FBI informant that’s been working the streets for about two years now, and he’s getting more and more tied into this underground life, and leaving his other life, the one with his wife (Anne Heche) and kids, on the back-burner as if it almost doesn’t exist.

I honestly could not tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie. I want to say the perfect, rounded-up amount is probably ten-and-a-half times, but I can’t be too sure because it’s probably a whole lot more than what I can remember. Hell, probably a couple of drunken-views may have happened in there as well. Either way, whatever the total amount is, doesn’t matter, because each and every time I’ve watched this flick, not only have I liked it even more, but I get to see more and more about it, especially since, as a film fanatic, my eyes have been opened a bit wider to what makes a movie work, and what doesn’t.

"Ew, fugetaboutit!"

“Ew, fugetaboutit!”

However, I still have yet to call this movie a “favorite” of mine, and here’s exactly why: The problem I have with this movie is that, after all of the times I’ve seen this and plenty other movies of the same nature, I’ve come to realize that the “FBI-informant” story has all been dead by now. We get it; whenever you take a regular, FBI agent, throw him into a world where he has to have that one identity and nothing else, then most likely, that dude’s going to get thrown in there too deep. It’s what we see with every undercover-cop flick, and it doesn’t make it all the better or more original. It’s just there.

But there is that one aspect to this movie that makes that problem sort of go away: The drama involved here between the characters and the situation we have on our hands here. Everybody in this flick is essentially a cliché of what it’s like to be apart of the mob. Greased, slicked-back hair? Check. A bunch of Italian, mobster slang used that makes no sense? Double check. Paying for a coffee or a drink with a wad of cash? Way too many checks. An over-the-top scene of an act of violence to prove how much you do not want to get all tangled-up in with the mob? You got it. People getting whacked? Well now, would it be a mobster movie if it didn’t at least have one or two or more scenes that include that act?

I’ll allow for that last, hypothetical question to rest in your mind.

So, with all of that said, you see where I’m going with this? If not, follow through. The aspect behind this movie that makes it work, despite all of the obvious conventions and happenings of the usual mobster movie, is that there’s actual, real-life emotion involved with this story and the characters that inhabit it. Rather than making Joe, or “Donnie”, the type of FBI informant that’s way too in over his head, is a bit of a bastard for throwing his family to the side and focusing a little bit too much attention on the task at hand, the movie shows him off as being a troubled-soul, yet, one that knows what mission he has to complete, and to do it by any means necessary. Sure, he has to get his hands dirty a couple of times and may even have to pull off some risky moves of his own, but he knows that he has to get the job done and the movie paints him more as a regular-guy, who just so happened to stick to his guns, in more ways than one. I don’t want to call him a “hero” per se, but I do want to call him an inspiration to most people who feel like they can’t go through something because the shit’s too deep or too dangerous. And I’m not just talking about FBI informants – I’m talking about anybody, dammit!

Then, something strange with this movie begins to happen: You start to feel a bit wrapped-up in this world just as much as Joe does. Once Joe realizes that not all of these mobster-figures are as bad or as dastardly as they may seem from the outside, he begins to wonder whether or not he should fully go through with it, and if he does decide to actually say, “Yeah, arrest all their asses”, he still wonders whether or not it’s the right thing to do or if he should leave a couple people out of it. It’s a problem for us, almost as much as it is a problem for Joe, and it gets you more and more involved with the material, regardless of if you know how it all turns out. Obviously no major Hollywood production is going to fund a movie where the real-life protagonist gets killed, but you still feel like any chance the dude has to lose his cover, he will, and become a victim of it so.

Don't worry, honey. Just fugettaboutit.

Don’t worry, honey. Just fugettaboutit.

Very smart writing and directing on both sides of the camera, but in front of it all is the two stars we have on our hands here, none other than Johnny Depp and Al Pacino themselves. This was the first movie where I think Johnny Depp really broke-out of his shell, showed us that he could actually “act”, and, despite what his good looks may have you believe, make it seem like he’s a real person, with real problems, marital ones and whatnot. Depp’s character may go through the usual trip of where he gets in way too deep and can barely get out without keeping his hands clean, but it’s Depp himself who keeps his head above the water, allowing us to believe in him no matter how scary certain situations may get for him. There’s a real sense of likability and regularity to Depp here, that I wish he would just go back to, at least one more time. That is, before he gets back together with Gore Verbinski and starts acting all nutty and cuckoo again. Why Johnny?!?! Why not come back to the real world?!?!

As great as Johnny is here, though, he’s definitely not the one who walks away with the flick. Leave that recognition to Al Pacino, playing, yet again, another mob boss that has a bit of anger-issues and problems on the inside, but keeps them more bottled-in than what we’re used to seeing with this type of character, or even the way Pacino usually plays them. What’s so great about Pacino playing Lefty is that, we get that this guy is not perfect and definitely has some control issues that get in the way of his better-judgement at times, but we still feel like he’s a good guy, underneath the phis-age and all. In fact, we know it, it just rarely comes out in the most obvious, hackneyed way you’d expect from a movie such as this. Pacino yells and hollers at times, but he keeps it surprisingly subdued and quiet as well, and that’s probably some of the best parts of this movie. Actually, mainly the ones with Depp and Pacino together, because you can tell that they form a bond that’s like a father-son combo, but also one that feels like it could be best friends as well. It’s sad to see them together, but you can’t help but feel something for them both, especially Lefty, who feels like an old man who will just never, ever get it right in the world that he lives in. Poor guy.

Same can sort of be said for the rest of the rag-tag mobsters that these two hang with. Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, and James Russo all play members of their mob and all do great jobs with the roles, especially Madsen who gives us his bad-boy charm that we all know and love, but also shows a bit more sympathy underneath it all, as if he too has something to prove to the people he surrounds himself with and aspires to be in the same shoes of one day. They’re all characters you’d expect to hate right off the bat, but they surprisingly have more heart and charm to them then you’d ever want to see in a flick like this. Just like the character of Joe’s stay-at-home-wife, played to perfection by Anne Heche, who not only shows us a real hard-edged woman that isn’t taking any shit from her hubby, but is also easy to sympathize with, despite her being a bit of a nag for bothering her husband about a job that not only pays the bills and gets the kids to school, but she knew about when she married him. She should be the vain of your humanity, but she’s written very realistically and performed very well by Heche herself, an actress who doesn’t get as much credit as she should.

Consensus: Though on page, Donnie Brasco should not work and be considered as conventional and predictable as they come, it surprisingly becomes a more emotional, compelling trip about what happens when a man gets too deep, can’t quite get himself out right away, but still has the screws in tight enough to get through it all. Sounds corny, but in the hands of Depp, Pacino, and the rest of the cast and crew, it’s very far from.

8.5 / 10

"I'm serious. Just forget about it."

“I’m serious. Just forget about it.”

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Mortdecai (2015)

Funny ‘staches, get it?

Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) is an eccentric British chap who likes fine women, fine drinks, fine food, fine cars, and most importantly, fine art. So much so, that it’s actually gotten him and his luscious wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) into a bit of debt; $8 million dollars in debt, to be exact, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s most important now is that Charlie and his trustee, self-proclaimed “man servant”, Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), track down a piece of stolen art, so that they don’t get nabbed by the MI5 agent (Ewan McGregor) for any wrongdoings that they may, or may not have been up to. However, what turns out as a simple case, gets so convoluted that nearly all of the enemies in Charlie’s life, which are many, start showing up out of nowhere – not to just gather a debt from Charlie, but possibly extract some vicious revenge for any wrongdoings he may have brought their way. It may seem all bad for Charlie, but because of ever-dashing wit and charm, he seems to look on the bright side of things, or something.

The joke here is Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The joke here is Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It’s interesting to note that at one point, believe it or not, Johnny Depp was actually targeted for the role of Monsieur Gustave H. in the Grand Budapest Hotel; the same role that would eventually be taken up by Ralph Fiennes. Looking back, it’s easy to see why Depp was considered for this lead role, as Depp’s certain exuberance with most roles that he tackles, seems to fit in with Wes Anderson’s world, for better and for worse. Though it’s hard to say whether or not Depp would have actually made Hotel better, the fact remains that it still would have been an interesting choice for him to take, especially considering all of the random, and sometimes inexplicably poorly-directed, dribble he’s been appearing in as of late. Save for maybe a slight cameo here and there, overall, Depp’s film choices as of late have not been anything spectacular.

And Mortdecai, as you may have already seen, is no exception.

But it’s rather strange that most of Mortdecai feels as if it is trying oh so very hard to be such a Wes Anderson movie, that it’s easy to believe that this could possibly had been Depp’s chance to take one under his belt and give it a go; although, to be fair, this would have to be a Wes Anderson movie that Anderson himself did not want to make and more or less was asleep through half of the proceedings. Director David Koepp shoots this with as much color, whimsy and slap-dash as you’d expect Wes Anderson to have created, however, there’s something missing here that most of Anderson’s movies seems to contain: Some kind of heart. Oh, and laughs, too. That’s a very, VERY big factor.

It makes sense why Koepp is going for here with this movie – in a way, he’s trying to create a silly, screwball-ish comedy ripped-out directly from the 60’s, and into the modern day and age for a new audience that may be able to appreciate what his parents were appreciating way back when. It doesn’t work, but for the first 15 minutes or so, it’s quite effective that it only took until I saw a modern-day, pro wrestling match between WWE wrestlers Sheamus and the Big Show, that I fully realized that this was not only taking place in a certain time period, but that the time period was actually the 21st century. Hiding when exactly this story’s taking place isn’t a neat conceit, as much as it’s just a lazy way of trying to throw your audience for a loop, seemingly because it’s all you’ve got.

And in the case of Depp and Koepp, in what’s their second team-up since Secret Window, there’s really not much for the audience to get a firm grip on, so any distractions that they can throw our way necessary is all that they want to do. Maybe less so in the case of Koepp, because while his film doesn’t have its funny bone working at all, nor does it seem to realize that there’s more to life than just testicle-gags, he seems to at least dress this movie nice and handsomely enough that it’s fine to look at. It’s even enjoyable to listen to, so long as nobody’s speaking or trying to make us laugh, because it never works.

But nope, I have to say that most of the problems to be found within this movie, and the one who seems to be trying so utterly and desperately hard to distract us is Johnny Depp – an actor who, I think we can all agree on, was one of the most talented, exciting talents working in mainstream Hollywood. Nowadays, it seems as though Depp has become nothing more than just a parody of his own-self, where he produces certain films that give him the leading-role, while also allowing for him to stretch his funny-wings as far as he can, even if th

The joke here is boobs.

The joke here is boobs.

ey are beyond their initial-reach. That’s not to say that Depp isn’t funny; the man definitely has a talent for making many normal circumstances seem all the more zany because of what he brings to the table, but here, as Charlie Mortdecai, it’s so obvious that’s he really going for it here, that it makes you uncomfortable.

Sort of like that uncle you don’t see too often, who constantly tells the story about how you peed yourself when you were over his house and rather than understanding it’s a story nobody wants to hear repeated when they’re 35-years-old, married, and with kids, he still persists on going through with it because, well, what the hell, it gets a few giggles out of the surrounding crowd. The difference between the sad and lonely uncle I’ve just described and Johnny Depp, is that maybe, in the off-chance that the uncle has bribed somebody beforehand, people are actually laughing along with said uncle. As for Depp, he’s the only one laughing. And giggling. And sneezing. And cavorting. And whizzing. And, well, you get it.

Depp’s doing a lot here, and while I give him kudos for at least trying his damn-near hardest, it gets to become downright annoying after awhile. The only ones who actually make some way for comedy are the ones surrounding him, and even they have hardly anything to work with. Paul Bettany plays Mortdecai’s “man-servant” (get it, cause it’s kind of referencing gay-stuff), who has a running-gag that he can’t keep it in his pants and is constantly banging random girls, that is, whenever Mortdecai himself is not accidentally injuring him; Gwyneth Paltrow, despite being absolutely despised by practically everybody with a computer and/or Twitter, is actually quite charming in movies still and it’s nice to see her bring some life to an otherwise forgettable character; same goes for Ewan McGregor who, with his character’s gimmick that he fawns after Mortdecai’s wife’s every move, brings some much-needed wit and spark; and Jeff Goldblum, god bless his heart, shows up for maybe five minutes and does nothing. Absolutely nothing.

God, now I really want to watch a Wes Anderson movie.

Consensus: Not only is Mortdecai unfunny, but it also highlights something of a career-low in Johnny Depp’s filmography where he’s taken it upon himself to be the center of attention and never let us forget that he wants to make us laugh, or happy, by any degrading means possible.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

The joke here is mustache, because well of course.

The joke here is mustache, because well of course.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Tusk (2014)

Kevin Smith: He is the walrus. Coo coo ca choo.

Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) is a bit of a jerk, but he gets by on running a podcast with his good buddy (Haley Joel Osment) and banging his smokin’ hot girlfriend (Génesis Rodríguez), even though he’s a total dick to both of them. Lately though, Wallace has felt like his podcast needs a bit of a energizing-up, so he decides to venture out to Canada where he’ll interview a kid who became famous after a video of him accidentally slicing off his own leg with a samurai sword goes viral and entitles him as “Kill Bill Kid”. However, sadly for Wallace, he finds out that Kill Bill Kid has passed away, which leaves the poor pod-caster in the dumps. That is, until he sees a notice for a sit-down with a man who promises to tell interesting stories. Wallace sees no harm in it at first, even if the man (Michael Parks), seems a bit creepy. But eventually, the harm becomes all too real and wouldn’t you know it, the creepy old man actually has Wallace over for some unknown, nefarious purposes. Which, wouldn’t you know it, has him turning Wallace into a walrus.

I apologize if that spoiled the big twist for anybody but trust me, there’s no real twist to begin with as it’s been heavily talked-about since the movie’s idea had ever came to fruition.

It's a metaphor. or something.

It’s all a metaphor. or something.

Now, normally, I consider myself a huge, adoring fan of Kevin Smith’s work. Not only do I find him to be one of the funnier, smarter writers working in comedy today, but I also find him to be a very honest, realistic-thinking guy when it comes to his own career, Hollywood, and all of the bullshit that usually follows along with it. Sure, some of his escapades are a bit questionable and definitely make you wonder if he’s actually a nice guy underneath all those hockey jerseys, or if he’s just playing the role so well, that anybody who slightly “likes” the guy, ends up falling head-to-toes in love with him, all because he seems like them, a real person.

Except that, for the fact, that this real person writes, directs, and occasionally stars in movies for a living.

However, a part of me has been slowly, but surely dying inside ever since Kevin Smith has decided that he’s about had it up to here with being taken as a joke and only known for the potty-mouth characters he creates. While I have absolutely no problem with a film maker wanting to change their style up a bit so that they can eventually be looked at in a different light and possibly show the rest of the world what they have left to offer, other than just what they’ve been known for, I feel like what Smith has been doing ever since Red State has sort of been throwing him down a pipe-line that he can’t get out of. He wants to be taken as a serious director, yet, he also tries so hard to make this idea a reality, that he loses what made his movie so charming and enjoyable to watch, or better yet, listen to, in the first place.

And with Tusk, this is evident, except maybe even worse. Because while, yeah, Tusk is a sometimes serious, rather horrific-tale about a man being turned into a walrus, there’s still plenty of humor written into the script; none of it works, but it’s humor nonetheless. Mostly where this humor comes from is in Smith’s way of pointing to something weird, or off-kilter that Canadians do, and never letting it go. He’s sort of like the guy in your group who finds one flaw within your whole human existence and rather than confronting it one day, accepting it for what it is, and moving on so that each and every person around you two, including yourselves, can live in perfect harmony, he just constantly hammers it into the ground, not only making you feel more uncomfortable because they simply don’t get that the joke isn’t landing anywhere, anytime soon, but that they look like total dicks.

Here, in case you couldn’t, tell, Kevin Smith is the total dick and it’s just all the more disappointing for someone such as myself who has looked up to him as one of the better writers and directors in today’s day and age of comedy. And trust me, I’m not being all pissy and moany like this because Smith wasn’t giving me the return of characters like Jay, Silent Bob, or even Banky – those times are all said and done and I’m fine with that. It’s time to move on and I’m perfectly fine with that. However, if Smith can’t grow in an efficient manner, then I will continue to be unhappy. Better yet, if he can’t write funny jokes anymore that at least hold more merit than as if they were being told by a fifth-grader, then sure, I’m all for a career resurgence of sorts.

But for now, I will wait and wonder.

Mostly though, the huge problem with Tusk comes down to the fact that the story just doesn’t have enough steam to last its near two-hour run-time. It’s been made clear to anyone who pays attention to Smith’s podcast known as Smodcast that the idea for Tusk, originally came through a story he read on an episode. While it may work as a live-reading and better yet, maybe even as a short film, when given a larger-budget and more time to work with, the movie comes off incredibly meandering, ponderous, and overall, stale. You wonder if Smith had any intentions of making this story go on as long as it is, or if he just decided to say “‘eff it” with all of the money he was given and focus on parts of this story that didn’t matter.

For instance, we literally get a ten-to-fifteen-minute flashback with Wallace and his girlfriend where they’re not only sharing an intimate moment together (meaning blow-jobs), but are even revealing certain depths of their characters that we probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. It’s supposed to work, but because these characters are so one-dimensional as is, we don’t care for anything they’re saying, nor the scene altogether. It just feels thrown in there to add some sort of emotional-heft to an already overlong movie; one that could have ended in nearly twenty-minutes and nobody would have felt ripped-off. But you add another hour-and-thirty-minutes to that run-time, and you’ve got a whole lot of pissed off people. I’m one of them, if you couldn’t already tell by now.

If you're girl ends up getting comforted by that kid who saw dead people, you better make sure you're a damn walrus alright.

If you’re girl ends up getting comforted by that kid who saw dead people, you better make sure you’re a damn walrus alright.

And as for the cast, god bless all of their working hearts, but hardly anybody comes away unscathed from this. Justin Long is a funny guy and when, given the right material to work with, can do wonderful things. However, his role as Wallace is so one-note and prickish, you wonder if Smith thought that being a perverted, 30-something a-hole was funny, especially when you give him impressions and funny voices to do. Whatever he thinks is funny, doesn’t matter, because it’s hardly ever funny and only gets worse for Long as he then is soon made into a walrus, where we care so little for him or the situation he’s thrown into. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh, because it is easy to feel bad for somebody who, for no reason other than to service an already overlong script, gets transformed into a walrus, but it’s just that we don’t care for his character to begin with that really hurts him.

Then, there’s Haley Joel Osment as his best buddy who may, or may not be up-to-no-good. While it’s nice to see that Osment’s still working, and with Kevin Smith no less, this role is so dull, it makes no sense why he’s even in it to begin with. Génesis Rodríguez is here to look hot and have the camera focus in on her curvy body, and with that, she’s fine. And Michael Parks, as gifted as he may be, doesn’t have much to do as the evil scientist who turns Wallace into a walrus, as all he has to do is yell and preach a lot, about seemingly nothing really. It’s sort of like what he did in Red State, but at least that had some reasoning to be done there; here, it’s just over-bearing and random.

But the one I feel the most bad for here is Johnny Depp who, spoiler alert once again, I guess, shows up as a local Canadian detective by the name of Guy Lapointe (it’s supposed to be word play, you see). Depp literally seems like he showed up on-set one day and decided that he didn’t mind wearing a silly hat, a large nose-piece, and acting as drunk as he usually does in most of his movies. While it’s occasionally pleasing to see Depp riff into some rather strange, often interesting areas of this story that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise with a lesser-actor who was demanded to follow the script, it still doesn’t do much good for the rest of the movie as it just uses him as one punch-line and that’s it.

Nothing more, and you know what? Johnny Depp deserves more!

Consensus: While it’s nice to see Kevin Smith trying something new, Tusk is a poorly-done, overlong, and just plain stupid movie that hardly goes anywhere funny, interesting, or even entertaining. Simply put, it’s boring, but it never knows it well enough to just cease what it is doing and get to the point already.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Poor guy. Actually, no. Who gives a hoot. Eh? #CanadianJokes

Poor guy. Actually, no. Who gives a hoot. Eh? #CanadianJokes

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Also, if any of you are at all suspicious of whether I’m not an actual fan-boy of Kevin Smith to begin with, or am just posing as one to disguise my utter disappointment with this movie, check out this link, go to 1:19:48, and listen to the question asked. You might just hear yours truly talking to a personal hero of his.

Hopefully Kevin and I can make amends in the near-future.

Into the Woods (2014)

‘Cause nothing bad ever happens in the woods.

Many stories are presented here, with almost nearly every one converging in some way, shape, or form, in the deep, dark, hellish woods everybody seems to be travelling into and out of. It all starts when a Baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt) are told by a witch (Meryl Streep) that if they want to have a baby, they have to give her the exact ingredients she needs to make a potion that will have her to go back to her youth. The Baker and his wife are more than willing to face this task at-hand here and meet many other characters along the way. Like, for instance, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) who constantly seems to be leading on Prince Charming (Chris Pine), without any promises of actually getting together and/or married. Also, Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) meets up with a little boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) who both codger up something of a friendship, although the big, bad wolf (Johnny Depp) is constantly lurking somewhere in the background. Each story wants to have a good ending, but to ensure a good ending, what must have to be done?

Eat More Chikin'.

Eat Mor Chikin’.

There’s been plenty of talk surrounding Into the Woods and none of it, I feel, is really needed. Sure, if you have already seen the original Stephen Sondheim musical on Broadway or anywhere else, then yeah, you might be a little disappointed that they took some things out, or slightly alluded to others, only to make sure that they’d get a PG-rating that’s bigger and better for the family-friendly audience. Purely from a business standpoint, this is a smart move, but it also brings into question: How much can the original source material of a product be tampered with, to still allow for its original identity to stay relatively put?

Well, my friends, that’s a question I don’t feel the need to answer because, quite frankly, I have never seen the play before. Therefore, it’s a bit difficult for me to make my mind up about what the right, as well as the wrong decisions were made in making sure that Into the Woods not only stays true to its original, core audience, but also is friendly enough so that the whole family can come out to the movies to see, have fun with, and not have to worry about discussing the birds or the bees on the ride home. What I will make up my mind in is saying that Into the Woods, while not perfect, is still a fun musical that should be seen by any and all members of the family.

There, that’s it.

Well, not really. Seeing as how there’s more to this movie than just a bunch of fun song and dance numbers, I think it’s important to note that most of what this movie does is interesting. The idea of taking all of these different fairy-tale stories and throwing them into this world where both realism and fantasy mix together, definitely brings a lot of intriguing, yet compelling elements of story-telling together. For one, you have the tales as old as time that have hardly even been picked apart, but then, on the other note, you have a human heart with a cynical mind, that likes to think that these stories are made so that simply kids can either be very happy to hear, or go to bed. Either way, it’s the kids that are hearing the stories the most and taking them all in, which is why it’s so funny that most of Into the Woods seems to be channeled more towards the adults in the audience, much rather than the other way around.

That’s not to say that most of the movie can’t be enjoyed by the little tikes who decide to go out and see this; as mentioned before, the song and dance numbers are fun, light, and sometimes, incredibly catchy that it might just have them humming it on the way out of the theater, and probably for some time afterwards. But most of Into the Woods seems like, when you look beneath the surface, is a hard-hitting, sometimes dark tale about the choices we all make in our lives and how, while they may seem for the better at the present time that they are made, don’t always turn out so well when thought-about more in the future time to come. The movie also goes on to show all of these characters in both positive, as well as negative lights. Though it seems and sounds like it’s all too much for the little kiddies at home, I can assure you that director Rob Marshall does a solid enough job here that he doesn’t allow for too much of it to go over their heads.

It’s just that more of it goes right directly into the heads of their parents.

For instance, take the character of the Baker’s wife, who is played so well by the always lovely Emily Blunt. While she’s a meek and well-mannered lady, she’s still one that clearly wants to be more than just a mother. She wants to be a lover, and a person who feels needed and desired by those she doesn’t often get such affections from. Without saying too much, she gets what she wants from a certain source and it helps give her character much happiness, for the time being. Once that time is up and she’s had it with all of the cheering, she soon realizes that the choice she’s made may have not been the best for her, or for her husband in the long-run. While she may have thought of it as a smart decision on her part that would bring her much happiness and joy, she soon comes to the conclusion that it wasn’t the smartest move on her part and as a result, without giving too much away again, has to face the consequences.

Captain Kirk and Jack Ryan all rolled up into one hunk. Hold onto your panties, ladies.

Captain Kirk and Jack Ryan all rolled up into one hunk. Hold onto your panties, ladies.

Blunt’s character isn’t the only one who has to suffer the consequences of her sometimes naughty decisions. Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella character knows that she shouldn’t be playing with a person’s heart, but when the power is in her control, she can’t help but do so; Daniel Huttlestone’s Jack wants to be with his best-friend once again and is willing to do whatever he can to make sure of that, but by doing so, may also put those around him at-risk and in total danger; and Meryl Streep’s witch, while seeming like she’s doing a nice thing for a couple who clearly needs her help, is also very selfish in that what she wants to do for herself is to only make herself happy, and nobody else but. The list of good and bad decisions made by these characters go on and on, but all feel honest and well-written, without ever being hammered onto us, the audience, in any way.

Sure, the darkness of the later-part of this movie definitely comes as a bit of a shock once the gears switch themselves around and we realize that there’s going to be some hearts broken here, but it works. Whether you expect it or not, it all feels well-intentioned and as if it wants to inform each and every kid who decides to see this that there are consequences for the choices you make in life, so definitely choose wisely. And also, definitely make sure to do the right thing.

But, like I said before, the movie doesn’t shove this down our throats too much, as it is, as expected, still a fun musical with a more than capable of singing cast.

What I said about Blunt, can definitely be said about Corden who has a bit of a dilemma in his own right that he wants to be a good daddy, but because he didn’t have one, he doesn’t know how to be; Streep’s witch character, while nasty and mean, is sometimes charming in her own evil-way that it’s nice to finally see Streep having fun, without trying to be too emotional either; Chris Pine hams it up so perfectly as Prince Charming, the character every little girl loves and every little boy loved to hate, and for the exact reasons as presented here in a perfect, self-deprecating manner; Anna Kendrick is sweet and pretty as Cinderella, but still does a nice job at reminding us that her character can be a little too quick to push the button with every choice that comes her way; and Johnny Depp, for as little screen-time as he has, is strange, off-kilter, and overall, a delight to watch. He’s not in it for too long, but is at least around enough to be funny, enjoyable, and a little creepy, like we always expect from Depp.

Except that, this time, he’s not with Tim Burton! Yay! Everybody’s a winner!

Consensus: With a bunch of fun, exciting, and well-performed song and dance numbers, Into the Woods presents an actual musical that can be enjoyed by the whole family, yet, still doesn’t shy away from getting down to the nitty, gritty moral decisions of its characters and the lessons that they teach.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Hiding from big Tim, I presume.

Hiding from big Tim, I presume.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Ninth Gate (1999)

No babies and nobody named Rosemary. Just books.

A rare-book dealer named Dean Corso (Johnny Depp), is hired by bibliophile Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to validate a 17th-Century copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, by Aristide Torchia. Dean takes it because it’s a lot of money, a lot of honey, and a lot of time to go sight-seeing, however, the only sights that he actually gets to witness are murders, crime, and some sort of Satanic-worship; all of which, he has no idea about until they all start pile up.

No matter where you are or who you’re with, any time you bring up Roman Polanski in conversation it’s always the same old stuff: “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe he raped that little girl, and then fled the country. Wow.” Now, I know that last sentence may seem like a satire and in a way, it is, but the fact of the matter stands is that having sex with any girl, under the age of 18 when you are way above that, is just wrong. A lot of people will defend Polanski and say that he just had a messed-up life stemming from his early days during the Holocaust and because of what the Manson’s did to his family, but it doesn’t matter. Rape is rape, and that’s just how it is.

Yet, whatever side of the discussion you may be on, you still can’t deny that Polanksi is one hell of a director. As a fan of film, I myself usually have to be able to create a seperate wall from the artist, from the person, and sometimes, it’s a lot easier said then done. But in the case of Polanski’s, it’s a lot easier because his movies are quite good and he always finds exciting ways to show the world that he can try something new, even at his age.

And like any other of Polanski’s flicks, the Ninth Gate starts off with a load of intrigue and wonder. A simple, everyday man is assigned a task that may baffle him, but at the same time, is almost too appealing for him to deny, so he takes it, and only finds out until it’s too late that he’s in way, way in over-his-head. That’s the way most of Polanski’s flicks play out and that doesn’t make it good, bad, or anything – it’s just what we’ve all come to expect from Polanksi and the guy at least does that aspect of his story very well. He sets up the plot, the story, the characters, and the setting that we’re supposed to get used to and always allows us to fully drop our expectations of what may come next, and just expect the unexpected to happen.

However, that same idea is sort of what killed this movie.

"It says I have to act normal?"

“It says I have to act normal?!?!?”

Where I think Polanski loses himself is somewhere around the middle-act. Before all of that, he had me on-edge, wondering where this story was going to go, how it was all going to go down, and what type of twist and turns Polanski was going to pull out of his dirty bag of tricks next. That all went away once the flick gets a little too ahead of itself, and then got a bit too over-the-top. There were so many scenes in this movie that made me feel like Polanski was going for some sort of dark comedy, but then the next scene would come around and have something so serious, something so strange, and something so dramatic that it almost seemed like both scenes were done by two entirely, different directors that either weren’t on the same page, or just didn’t know where to go with the story. Either way, something was screwed up with Polanski’s direction here and no matter how much the guy gave me to feast my eyes on, I never felt as compelled as I felt like I should have. Especially, when I think about how this is the same guy has made movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant, The Ghost Writer, and a slew of other, tension-filled flicks.

Still, I don’t know whether or not I can blame Polanski’s direction, or just that the writing wasn’t there. It feels like the movie had a clear idea of what it wanted to do with itself from the first hour or so, but then had a change of heart and went with the wacky, supernatural thriller route that can either make or break movies. For Polanski, in the past at least, they have been able to make him, but for this movie right here: It just about breaks him.

Now, that’s not to say that this whole movie is terrible, because it’s actually relatively entertaining for a long while. There’s just a moment in time during this movie, where it feels like all points for originality were gone, and then Polanski put on the auto-pilot, doing weird and strange shenanigans with his story, but being able to get away with it because it’s what we expect of him. That can be all fine and dandy if it’s compelling and feels like it’s going somewhere with it, but it never does feel like that. It just goes on and on and on, and meanders until you feel like the movie is just about over. And then, it once again continues to go on and on and on until you really feel like it’s over. And then, it meanders once again.

What I’m trying to say is that this is a long movie, and it shows.

Actually, this DID creep me out. Only thing, I think.

Actually, this did creep me out. Only thing, I think.

Whenever there is a will, well, there is always a way and thank the high heavens that Johnny Depp was that way. In today’s day and age of the Sweeney Todd’s, the Jack Sparrow’s, and the Tonto’s, it’s always nice to get a slick reminder that Depp can still play low-key, and play it very-well. His performance as Dean Corso is pretty damn good, not just because it’s Depp being more subtle with his facial-expressions than he usually is, but because the character he is playing is more distasteful than likable, yet, Depp changes our perception of the dude by just being himself. I didn’t love the hell out of this guy by the end, but I do feel like his character goes through enough of a transformation that is not only somewhat believable, but pretty cool in how no matter how crazy stuff gets around him, no matter how close to death he seems, he still stays cool, calm, collective, and always like himself. It’s just another day for Johnny Depp, and we’re just there to sit back, relax, and have a good time watching him.

Frank Langella is as sinister as ever as the mysterious millionaire that hires Corso, Boris Balkan, and does what we always expect from the guy: Just be a bad-ass dude. Langella loves these types of roles and it’s pretty damn easy to see why, because he’s so good in them. You never know what this guy is up to next and for the most part, you never know if he’s being bad or not. All you do know is that he’s not the type of dude to trust and one that shouldn’t definitely be dealt with more through the phone, rather than in real-life. At least that’s how I’d handle my business meetings with the dude. Lena Olin is quite gorgeous as the wealthy widow that wants exactly what Corso has, and will stop at nothing to get it. Olin is a quality actress, I just feel like her role was a little too tame and could have went further into the depths of hell, much like I was expecting from a gal of her talents. Polanksi never seems to have a problem with his actors, it’s just more of the fact that he has a problem with keeping his story up and running for the whole time is where he hits a dead end.

Consensus: Since it is Polanksi and you know that whenever you walk into a film his, you are there to expect thrills, chills, twists, turns, and loads of craziness unlike any other director, there is some fun in watching all this craziness spill out over time, but The Ninth Gate is one that sort of goes on and on, without much reason or rhyme, just strangeness.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

No way Nixon actually reads books. And also has hair that looks THAT good.

No way Nixon actually reads books. And also has hair that looks that good.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

West of Memphis (2012)

Arkansas politicians: What a bunch of dummies.

You may have heard of it, you may have not, but regardless, here’s the general-basis for what happened on one afternoon in the small town of West Memphis, Oklahoma. Three eight-year-old boys (Steve Branch, Michael Moore, Christopher Byers) were reported missing by their parents. No less than a day later, their naked, battered, and bruised bodies were found in a creek. Some within the justice department felt that because the boys seemed like they were victims of something more than just a traditional murder, that the murder itself had to be something of a satanic cult. Therefore, the police limited their search to people who were believed to be of a satanic cult of sorts; which, as a result, lead them right to three teenagers by the names of Jessie Misskelley, Jr., Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols. Though nobody expected these three to be so willing to torture, rape and kill these young boys, the evidence was there and stacked-up all against them. And in a court-of-law, that’s all you need to get your ass sent away for life, and even in some cases, death. However, not everything feels right to those who pay close enough attention to this case and its history, which leads documentaries to be made, new evidence to show up, various celebrities to get involved, and eventually, the re-trial of this infamous case.

First things first, in order to understand, or better yet, “get” this movie, you do not had to have seen the previous three other documentaries made about the West Memphis Three, also known as the Paradise Lost documentaries. Which is rather strange considering I had heard so much about them, but for some reason, never even bothered to watch. I just read, and read, and continued to read on until I felt like I had a clear enough picture in my head as to what was going on with this case, why it was so wrong that it happened in the first place, who did what, why they did that, who is responsible, and so on, and so forth.

Eh, still kind of, a little weird, but hey, the man deserves it!

Eh, still kind of, a little weird, but hey, the man deserves it!

Basically though, everything I read, thought, believed in and felt while reading paragraph, after paragraph, after paragraph of information, was all jam-packed into this two-and-a-half-hour documentary. And yet, I was always thrilled and continuously surprised, even though I already knew most of the info this documentary was throwing at me.

Like I said, pretty weird, right?

Well, I guess when you have a good director at the helm, it isn’t so much weird as it’s just an assurance that this is what can happen when you keep a clear mind and conscience while making a documentary about a very controversial topic. Sure, the fact that these three boys were wrongfully jailed, convicted, and practically sent to live the rest of their days in jail, is an absolute outrage. I know that; you know that; Peter Jackson knows that; hell, even Johnny Depp knows that! But when you’re making a documentary, or any movie in particular, you have to keep your eyes on the prize and make sure that just about everybody involved gets their say, their take on the proceedings, and reasons as to why they did what it was that they did. You don’t have to like it, but you at least have to understand it and respect someone human enough to make that decision and at least tell others about it – let alone a mass film-crew that would more than likely show their response to more than a few million people.

But here, director Amy J. Berg allows for each and every person that was involved with this case and was willing to talk, share their side of the story. And for the most part, everybody brings a little something to the table. It would have been as easy-as-pie to give us this whole story through the West Memphis Three boys themselves, but Berg focuses her attention more on everybody else surrounding it; the lawyers, the judges, the activists, the celebrities, the financiers, the victims’ families, the detectives, the cops, the mayors, the governors, the random civilians that just want to have their face on camera, etc. You get the picture – there’s a very large canvas here that Berg has to cover, but she does so in a very steady, matter-of-fact way, without rarely missing a beat.

For somebody like me, who had already known so much about this case in the first place before watching it, it was a bit tiresome and boring to get the same bits and pieces of info thrown at me, but it was still intriguing to see it told and brought to my attention by a different perspective or two. Rather than just reading in my head whatever Wikipedia had to offer me on that day in question, I was told it by people that seemed like they were professionals at the certain things they were saying, because believe it or not: They were.

Nonetheless though, there still is some info that comes around here and there that I never knew about and actually surprised the hell out of me. I won’t spoil the new evidence that shows up and exactly how it works for the West Memphis Three boys’ case, but it may shock you by how much of it went past so many damn people in the first place. Then again though, where this documentary really dives into is how those certain people who were in power and control during this case, didn’t really give a flying dingle berry who actually did it, they just needed somebody to take the fall.

Now, here is where Berg could have easily lost her cool and let these political, high-minded a-holes have it like their champagne and mistress on a Friday night, but she doesn’t do that. Instead, she chills out and let these guys say why it is they decided to ignore certain parts of this case. Sometimes, their responses are idiotic and so vague that you know there’s an under-lining meaning to it all, but still, they’re real life human beings, voicing their positions on the case and setting the shit straight. Not all of them are likable, but there are a few who admit that they made some mistakes, or, better yet, didn’t want to get too involved with the case because election season was coming up and they wanted to look all bright, shiny, and moral for those who cast their ballots.

When life gets you down, just know that somewhere, out there in the world, Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder are jammin' for your freedom.

When life gets you down, just remember that somewhere, out there in the world, Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder are jammin’ for your freedom.

Once again, nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, regardless of if it makes you look like a jerk or not. Berg sees this and allows for the documentary to be judged on that basis: Everybody has a say, no matter what.

As for the documentary itself as a whole, I can’t really say it was anything I’ll remember for the rest of my days, but I am glad that it was made. You have to remember, I never saw any of the Paradise Lost documentaries, but I at least knew enough going in to where I didn’t have to do a quick synopsis of everything that was going on, nor did I know so much to where every piece of newfound info didn’t do a single thing for me at all. Quite the contrary, actually. Anytime something new, or shocking did plop on the table, it hit me and made me wonder just whose next? Seriously, if these three, predictably rebellious and young teenagers can get thrown in jail because of the way they may have acted or by something they may have wore differently than those around them, then what’s to say they won’t come for us next? I know I sound paranoid and a tad crazy and all, but it’s the truth. That’s why so many damn people got behind these kids’ backs in the first place, and that’s why you definitely should to.

It’s your human right, dammit!

Consensus: Most of what’s presented in West of Memphis may be a lot of previously-known info, but still, with the attention to detail, getting all of the facts right, and uncovering new evidence, it’s an effective documentary that shows us, once again, why a film can be made more than to just entertain.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Still lookin' mighty fine! Well, not really, but you get the point.

“So uh, I’ll call you guys later?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Dead Man (1995)

Less dames, more drugs. The way Westerns should be.

William Blake (Johnny Depp) is a small-time accountant who was promised a job in the town of Machine, so he decided to leave his simple life in Cleveland to go out and get it. Problem is, when he arrives, it’s too late, so he decides to spend the rest of his night with drinking, some sex and murder. Wait, what?!? Yes, believe it or not, this little, scared man William Blake actually shoots another man (Gabriel Byrne), who also happens to be the son of a very wealthy business-owner (Robert Mitchum), who then, as a result hires three hitman to find Blake and kill him. Though William Blake has no idea where he is going while on the run, he receives assistance from a local Native American by the name of Nobody (Gary Farmer), who keeps on confusing him with the poet William Blake and doesn’t ever seem to want to stop speaking in metaphors or what have you. It’s never made clear exactly where Nobody is taking William Blake, but along the way, they meet a whole bunch of crazy characters. Some are good, and some are just downright bad. So bad that William Blake may have to break-out of his shell and start shooting people up once again, like he’s being advertised as often doing.

Jim Jarmusch is clearly a guy whose style is for his certain type of audience. Doesn’t mean it can’t necessarily work for those who are considered to be “outsiders”, but that does mean it may be a bit harder for those people to actually understand his movies for what they are, be able to discuss them at hip wine-tasting parties, and, believe it or not, actually “like” them.

If anybody has ever taken public transportation anywhere, they'll know that times truly have not changed a single bit.

If anybody has ever taken public transportation anywhere in the 21st Century, they’ll know that times truly have not changed a single bit.

Yes, believe it or not, such a thing does exist where you watch a movie and come to like it, even if it some of those out there don’t necessarily feel your same feelings. Which, as much as I hate to say it, is exactly what happened with me and this movie; I know that plenty of people love, adore and hold it as a “classic”, but for me, I just couldn’t hop aboard that train. Though I admire Jarmusch for having a vision that doesn’t glamorize the western like so many movies we see do, I’m still confused to hell as to just exactly what this movie means, or even if everything I saw happen, did in fact happen.

And while that feeling usually sits well with me while watching certain movies, I felt like this one sort of skates by on that idea, rather than developing beyond it. Sure, you can throw me all sorts of narrative-curveballs to confuse the heck out of me just for the sake of doing so, but once it seems like a person is just doing so in order to jazz the whole piece up a bit more, then it doesn’t wholly work for me like it should. That’s just me though, and when it comes to the disagreement between me and this movie, I can’t help but hold a grudge against it.

But where Jarmusch’s vision does work is in, like I said before, the way he paints a pretty strange and bizarre portrait of the old-school West. Sure, there’s what we usually see in any Western – hookers, gun-slingers, booze, saloons, Native Americans, cowboys and beans, but they’re all shown in a way that’s a lot more muggy than what we usually see. That mostly has to do with the black-and-white font Jarmusch uses, but most of it also has to do with the fact that this movie dives into some pretty strange places that may definitely surprise someone seeing this for the first time.

Certain characters will be killed-off in such a care-free, nonchalant way, that it almost seems like Jarmusch is just making it up as he goes along; which is a bit jarring at first, but still totally works for the movie. It’s almost like watching a real life Western play-out in front of your own two very eyes, where people get shot, people die and they’re forgotten about just like that. Maybe it’s too realistic? I wouldn’t say that, but it’s definitely a change-of-pace for someone who was brought-up on all the great Spaghetti Westerns of the world.

Represent, yo.

But then again, like I said before, for every neat, relatively normal sequence Jarmusch introduces, there’s a strange, off-kilter one that follows it and it doesn’t always work. Instead, it feels like he got a bit bored and decided to throw some neat, little style-points in there for good measure. But rather than enhancing the story, it only makes it seem like he was high while filming.

Once again, maybe that’s just whatever my weird mind-frame makes up as it goes along, but it’s my thoughts nonetheless.

At the center of all this craziness (believe it or not), is Johnny Depp as William Blake, in what is a pretty low-key, surprisingly normal performance from a guy whose made a whole career out of doing the exact opposite. Maybe moreso now, than before, but still, watching Johnny Depp play a normal, human being is a bit refreshing, because it makes it still seem like he hasn’t totally lost his mind and is always waiting to make us see him in a new, refreshing light. That is, whenever he stays the hell away from Tim Burton.

That actress laying next to Johnny is Mili Avital; she is nine years younger than he is. As we all know, he's way past that age-difference.

That actress laying next to Johnny is Mili Avital; she is nine years younger than he is. As we all know, he’s way past that age-difference now.

Anyway, what’s so cool about the character of William Blake is that he starts-off so dorky and simple, that when he starts to turn the other cheek and take matters into his own hands, it’s pretty believable because he doesn’t do it in a jarring way. He sort of just changes one subtlety about him, and that’s about it. He just continues on being William Blake; except instead of being a scared, little accountant from Cleveland, he’s a sly, skillful gunslinger from the town of Machine (and no, I am not making that up). I guess you’d never consider Johnny Depp to be “bad-ass”, but there’s something about his performance as William Blake that makes it seem like maybe you could.

There’s plenty more in this cast where Depp comes from, and each and every face is as lovely to see as the last. Gary Farmer steals the show as Nobody, the Native American that comes to save the day for William Blake and kind of, sort of, maybe becomes his best-friend along the way, despite not really connecting with him all that much; Michael Wincott plays a hitman who doesn’t know when to shut his trap, yet, is still entertaining to listen to; Iggy Pop, Jared Harris and Billy Bob Thornton show up as a bunch of dudes that want to bang J-Depp; and Alfred Molina gets a lovable, but small bit as a salesman that isn’t all he appears to be. The familiar faces run deeper than those that I’ve just mentioned, but don’t worry, they’re all fine. Even as weird as it may be to see Gabriel Byrne for all of five seconds.

Consensus: While it’s definitely for those who adore every single, little thing about Jim Jarmusch’s directorial-style, Dead Man still works as a different kind of a Western you don’t usually see portrayed in the movies, where everybody is still getting shot and killed for money, but it’s a lot more depressing and acid-induced.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sad to say, this isn't the only time J-Depp tried to look like a Native American.

Sad to say, this isn’t the only time J-Depp tried to look like a Native American.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Transcendence (2014)

Well of course Johnny Depp thinks he’s God!

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) both believe in technology being used as a resource to help the planet, rather than continuing to destroy it. Evelyn believes in preserving the environment; whereas Will never necessarily disagrees with her, but cares more about making technology the prime, supreme force in the world. Their other science-buddy Max (Paul Bettany) doesn’t really know what to think, but then again, he doesn’t have much time to once Will is shot with a lethal injection of radiation by a bunch of rebels looking to take him down. He has only about a month to live, and that’s all Evelyn and Max need to transport all of Will’s mind into a computer hard-drive, where they could still talk to and interact with him, as if he was really there; except for, you know, the fact that he’s inside of a computer. While Max doesn’t like what he initially sees with this new programming software Will is in, Evelyn doesn’t care too much and decides to keep Will alive and happy through this computer, where he, all of a sudden, has the world, literally at his finger-tips. This is also, incidentally, around the time when Will decides that it’s time to take the world into his own hands, where he has the ability to repair and posses anyone, giving them hope and invincibility at the same time. Sound like somebody else we all know of?

Yeah, as you can tell, the religious-tones of this movie aren’t at all subtle; then again, nothing of this movie is, or what it’s trying to say is. Throughout the whole two-hours of this movie, you can almost hear director Wally Pfister yelling at the top of his lungs, “Too much technology can ruin one’s mind!!’ It’s a point that he makes abundantly clear in the first 20 minutes, and decides, “Aww, what the heck! I’m already there, so I might as well”, and hammers this point into our heads for the next hour-and-40-minutes. In all honesty, all of this preaching and ranting wouldn’t have been so bad had the movie been able to actually keep its the audience’s pulse, as well as its own, up and moving.

"He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!"

“He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!”

But nope. For some odd reason, Wally Pfister (making his directorial-debut after years and years as an amazing cinematographer) thinks that it’s best to harp on these ideas he has, and totally forgets that this isn’t a college class where kids are supposed to be falling asleep in the back of the room, or inconspicuously playing Candy Crunch on their “notebooks”; this is a movie, for Christsakes! Better yet, it’s a two-hour, sci-fi thriller blockbuster, that has huge names like “Johnny Depp”, “Morgan Freeman”, and, ehrm, “Kate Mara”. She’s a big name now, right? House of Cards anybody? Oh wait! Cillian Murphy is in this and he’s a pretty big name from wherever he’s from. So that counts, right?

Anyway, you get the point! This is a big-budget, sci-fi thriller that is supposed to deal with the big questions one must have about day-to-day society, the technology that runs so rampant around in it, and whether or not we should let that said technology get the best of ourselves and make us forget exactly who it is we are, what we were put on this world to do in the first place, and why, as a species, it is that we matter. There’s no problem with dealings with those questions and trying to find the best, most suitable-answers possible, but there’s a better, more efficient-way to do so than what is presented here.

And it’s not like I’m some sort of caffeine-junkie that can’t wait two more weeks until the summer blockbusters start coming around every damn weekend and needs his action now, now, NOW; but it’s more that I just needed an extra “oomph” to the material that was presented here. That said extra “oomph”, rarely came around. Even when it did, it was near the tail-end, which was also a bit too late and only had me assume that Pfister realized he had to add some sort of action in there, so he decided to have guns shot, people murdered, cars flipped-over and streets exploding from the ground-up. Yeah, it sort of comes out of nowhere, and while it may be damn pretty to look at, it almost amounts to nothing. Just a bunch of smart people, talking about smart things, and trying to be smart, while also a bit bad-ass as well.

Note this, Hollywood: You can’t be a total smarty-pants, and also be a bad-ass as well. Sure, it works for our beloved superheroes, but they aren’t real people. They’re just a bunch of freaks. The same could be said for our modern-day, ordinary, regular-people scientists that roam the Earth, however, THEY ARE real people, which makes it all the harder to see them pistol-whip a baddie, while simultaneously be spewing out coded, scientific-numbers and such.

I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work. Not for real-life, human beings that is. They’re just too, real. Man.

Also, something else to mention about this movie isn’t the fact that this movie doesn’t make much sense, but how it never really seems to stop at a certain-point and realize that this is in fact the point they want to leave its audience with. For instance, the character of Dr. Will Caster comes off a bit like a normal, everyday science-geek. He loves technology, he loves playing around with internet-connections and he even loves playing old-school, vinyl! Yup, so you know he’s a bit of a weirdo! Anyway, with Will, who seem to starts out unlike any other character we’ve seen Johnny Depp in the past decade or so (in other words, “normal”), once he gets shot and is transported into that trusty old computer of his, things start to get a little shaky for this character, as well as this movie. Depp is fine here, but I can’t help but feel like he couldn’t show up to all of the filming for this movie, so just got on his Webcam and decided to act from there. That’s sort of what the role calls on him to do, but it feels like a waste of someone who has finally found some time in his hectic schedule of partying with Tim Burton.

Seriously, those two need to stay apart for a long, long time.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they're delivering scientific exposition.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they’re delivering scientific exposition.

Anyway, with with Will, firstly, it seems like he becomes a total, longing-for-the-almighty-power nut-job, all because he “thinks it’s the right thing to do”. Sure, I could see why somebody would want to create a God-like figure, let alone, use themselves as the subject, but after awhile, this movie makes you think at which point did anybody decide that letting Jack Sparrow-speaking Siri start healing people with infinite powers, and taking over their souls was a smart idea? Apparently half-way through, Evelyn just stops caring and is like, “Yeah, whateva. He’s my hubby and I love him for what he is. Even if he is just a computer that can’t touch, feel or bang me. Yup, that’s him alrighty.”

I know I’m making light of this, but this movie’s plot truly is careless. Not much of it makes sense, and the movie never realizes whether or not it wants to condemn technology for being, well, technology, or wish that everybody would take a chill-pill and go back to the old days of smoking on peace pipes and playing Pong for hours-on-end. The movie is somewhere caught right up in the middle, leaving not only its audience with too much info jiggling around in our minds, but never, ever too sure whether or not the movie itself ever knew what it wanted to say. Instead, we’re just left to get in our cars, go to our homes and sit in front of our lap-tops for the rest of the night.

Ah, technology. What a beautiful thing to waste. Or not waste.

Eh, whatever.

Consensus: Filled with more ideas than it can probably handle, Transcendence may get by on its ambitions, but never seems to take-off in terms of its plot, its tone, or even its feelings regarding what it is that it’s speaking out against, or for. I’m still not sure.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

Jack Sparrow vs. Zorro? Yeah, I wish.

El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) who continued to look for work in any Mexican town he ran into is back once again, but this time, he isn’t looking for work, work finds him! Once a crazed and demented CIA agent (Johnny Depp) tracks him down, El Mariachi is called upon the task of saving Mexico’s president, while also killing the man who slayed both his daughter and gal-pal (Salma Hayek). El Mariachi has no problem with this since he’s always down for a nice plot of revenge, especially when he has his guitar and case around, but once the plot thickens and more people get involved with this crime, then it becomes abundantly clear that El Mariachi may have to bite off more than he can chew. Which, once again, he’s fine with, but isn’t that such a bitch?

I’ve basically gotten through all of Robert Rodriguez’s “Mexican trilogy”, and although I’ve been looking forward to seeing these flicks for quite some time, I have to say: I’ve been left very, very disappointed. Now, this obviously isn’t going to be a whole review on the trilogy, but please just bear with me for a second here. Though some may definitely disagree with me, I feel like Robert Rodriguez has definitely fallen-off the deep end as of late and has only shown that with time, and more money, that you can only become your own worst enemy once it all goes to your head.

Take this movie for instance: You have the simple plot of El Mariachi called on to do complete a mission that consists of him killing people with that six-stringed killer of his, which is, as we all know, nothing new or special, but why fix what wasn’t broken in the first place, eh? Well, then you get all of these bigger stars that just so happen to want to be apart of your movie, and then, all of a sudden, you have a much bigger story, with more characters, and in essence, less time spent on the man this trilogy was all about in the first place: El fuckin’ Mariachi.

"You can't be my hero.............BABY!"

“You can’t be my hero………….BABY!”

I read somewhere that Rodriguez meant for this story to be all jumbled, convoluted, and over-stuffed with more subplots and characters, but after awhile, it becomes a nuisance to have to pay attention to what every character says, why they say it, and decide in your own mind who’s a baddie, who’s a goodie, and who doesn’t really mean much to the plot, but is just there because he/she is a familiar face that Rodriguez just so happened to get his grasps on. Some of this may sound like I’m whining about how Rodriguez didn’t dumb the material down for me and tell me everything that I needed to know right off the bat, however, I feel like that same simplicity I’m thinking of worked well for the other two, so why wouldn’t it had here?

Some reason, I just couldn’t get so involved with this story to the point of where I felt like all hell was going to break loose, and I was actually going to give a care in the world about it. Instead, I just sort of sat there and watched, with interest, but yet, also a slight sense of boredom in the pit of my mind as I realized that I was just watching this movie, just to watch it. I wasn’t grasping anything about it, what Rodriguez was doing, or what any of the characters were saying. I was just watching it to watch it, and hopefully be entertained by the action scenes; which I was, but even by then it felt like an after-thought in Rodriguez’s mind. If you can give me something to work with, no matter how ridiculous the material is, then I’m all game; but if you play around too much and spin yourself in your own circle of confusion, then I just can’t give a single lick about it, and that’s what happened here.

However, to keep away from making this movie sound like it’s utter crap, I do have to say that some of it did have me intrigued, if only because I liked to see how far Rodriguez came as a filmmaker. Not only did it seem like he had a big budge that he used to its fullest extent, but it also seemed like he could have gone on longer with it and really fleshed it out more, adding more excitement to the final product, and even in a way, making the whole story more cohesive. Why Rodriguez didn’t see this big-budget as an attempt to go on out there and make a movie longer than an-hour-and-a-half, is totally beyond me. I guess he just wanted to confuse the hell out of us because simply: He’s cool like that.

But with a bigger-budget, does come more time for bigger and better names to be apart of your product and this time around, things are a lot better in terms of performances since the heavy-hitters Rodriguez got to come along for the ride, milk the material for all that they got, and then some. Antonio Banderas seems to be having fun playing, once again, El Mariachi, even if it is a shame that he doesn’t quite get as much attention as he definitely should. Also, don’t be fooled with all of the posters and advertising giving Salma Hayek top-billing, because she’s barely in this and even when she is, it’s all through flashbacks. Guess somebody didn’t have the time, or the courage to even bother with another “Mexican movie”. Oh well, her gain, I guess.

Doesn't watch his own movies anyway, so doesn't really matter.

Doesn’t watch his own movies anyway, so doesn’t really matter.

Although I have been bitching and moaning about how El Mariachi doesn’t get as much focus and attention as he should in his own damn movie, I can’t say that I was all that pissed off because the person taking his spot was none other than Johnny Depp himself who, in a very rare role, plays a weird guy, who also seems like he could be a human-being. Yup, believe it or not, Depp can actually play real characters, who have real emotions and feelings, and even though that’s somewhat weird to be talking about in a Robert Rodriguez movie, it doesn’t matter because Depp steals the show here and lets everybody know that any movie with him starring in it, is lucky to have him in the first place. He’s fun, quick, punchy, random, a bit of an a-hole, and above all else, an energetic mofo that doesn’t lose his comedic-timing no matter how deep his story-line gets, or how much focus of this movie has been thrown around all over the place. Single handedly, Depp saves this movie and makes me long for the days when he could do a role like this, and everybody would still be surprised and not know what to expect next from his eclectic-self. Nowadays, we’re getting 5 Pirates movies. 5?!?!?!

Like Johnny Depp in this movie, other famous faces show up and have some fun, more some than others. Willem Dafoe as a Mexican drug lord is a random bit of casting, but one that works well in the long run because it’s so bizarre, that you can accept it for what it is; Mickey Rourke plays his disloyal henchman who walks around with a little dog the whole movie, and seems like a real softy underneath the big-guy, macho man outer-exterior; Danny Trejo shows up again in this trilogy, but plays some different character, while also, at the same time, not playing a different character since they were both lethal and deadly sons-of-bitches; and Enrique Iglesias, as random as his casting may be, still does well as one of El Mariachi’s fellow mariahchis, which, I guess is a joke because in case you didn’t know by now, this mofo can sing!

Consensus: It’s probably the dumbest out of the whole trilogy, and yet, that still isn’t enough to make Once Upon a Time in Mexico the best, mostly due to the fact that there’s just too much going on, with too many people, in such a short time-limit, that you just stop caring and beg that Rodriguez decides that he’s bored too and wants to see people’s heads blown-off.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

It's like deja vu, all over again. Except, a bigger budget! Actually, WAY bigger budget!

It’s like deja vu, all over again. Except, a bigger budget! Actually, WAY bigger budget!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

The Lone Ranger (2013)

It’s a 2-hour version of Cowboys and Indians, with Jack Sparrow thrown into the mix somehow.

Once upper-class lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer) shows up in Texas, hell breaks loose. A known murderer and criminal, Butch Cavendish (David Finchter), escapes from custody; an Indian by the name of Tonto (Johnny Depp) is thrown into custody; and his brother (James Badge Dale) is all-of-a-sudden killed by Cavendish and his league of fellows murderers. Needless to say, Reid finds this killing as a perfect tool to not only put Cavendish away for good, but get a bit of revenge on his own time. However, Tonto somehow escapes from prison and begins to follow Reid around, calling him “the chosen one” or, for lack of a better term, “The Lone Ranger.” There’s the title. Happy!?!

Right from the get-go, it seemed so obvious that everybody involved was trying to make this like another Pirates movie, but I still didn’t want to believe it. Something, somewhere, told me that it wasn’t just made strictly for money and to make it into a big franchise, it was made out of tenderness, love, and care, as well as for the sake of entertaining the hell out of people. Surely Johnny Depp, hell, Gore Verbinski is better than that, right?!?!

Well, I sure as hell was wrong and unbeknownst to me: it’s exactly what I thought it would be, a total money-grabber.

That's so silly! Native Americans don't use umbrellas, especially NOT in the desert. Wow!

That’s so silly! Native Americans don’t use umbrellas, especially NOT in the desert. Wow, that Tonto! I’ll tell ya!

That’s a very sad reality too, because this movie seemed like it was destined for some real, honest fun from beginning to end. Not only has the Lone Ranger character been one that’s been begging for a movie-adaptation, but also seemed like it could have only been done justice, if Verbinski was in fact attached to making it. Problem is, what seemed almost irreplaceable, actually ends up killing any sort of steam or momentum for this flick, and turns into a bit of a bore. Never expected that to happen with this movie, especially since the first 10-15 minutes are fun and exciting, but once the plot kicks in and Verbinski decides to get serious on all of our simple-minded asses; things begin to get too dark, too quick.

It’s almost like Verbinski loved this material so much, that he actually some actual racial-conflict between Tonto and all of the other characters surrounding him. Little does he know that it’s just a silly movie, made for kids, as well as the adults who will most likely get roped into taking them to this. For the kids, they may have a good time, depending on how much they like Johnny Depp, being Johnny Depp, but the adults may be a little distraught with what to do here. See, this flick can be all about fun, games, and all of the goofy things that the character of Tonto can, and most likely will do, but there are times throughout the duration of this movie where it gets pretty disturbing, pretty quick, and it’s tonally messed-up. One scene will have Reid and Tonto goofing-around about why he should wear the mask, and then the next scene will have Cavendish eat out some dudes heart and wipe the blood off of his face, just 2 seconds after performing the act of cannibalism. Yep, pretty fucked-up, and not just for a kids movie: but for a fucking Disney movie!

Beware on that one, adults.

And even despite the odd-tone this movie seems to have throughout the whole, 2-and-a-half hours, the movie doesn’t even seem to be hitting the marks it aims for more than often. It rarely ever had me laugh, even as the flick strained so hard to make me; the plot is a bit too heavy and features more than enough exposition for any Western-type of thriller; and the heart of the story, gets lost under unintentional racism. If people don’t remember too fondly already, back in the day when this flick was getting ready to be made and whatnot, people were already pretty pissed-off by the fact that Depp, an American actor, would be playing Tonto, a Native American. Obviously any Native American in their right mind would be ticked about this, but knowing the type of humble dude that Depp is, he made it clear that he wouldn’t take the role unless there was respect and care for this character. Because if you think about it: Tonto is the most-definitive, Native American character in film, so if you screw him up, you screwed yourself up basically.

Problem is, the movie screws it up big-time and it’s so noticeable. Not only does Depp run around like a fool the whole time as Tonto, but they make Tonto out to be some snidely, jackass-of-a-person that fucked up everything and everyone he knew because he was a dumb-ass, Native American. The movie also presents some mean looks at the Native American tribes, more than likely, they’re just flat-out cruel, but the treatment of the character Tonto pissed me off because this dude could have been pretty fun to watch and bad-ass for that matter, but just wasn’t. He was always off-kilter, always acting strange, and never allowed to do anything else other than goofy faces. That’s it.

And yes, even for an actor like Depp; it’s a bit too much. Granted, at times, Depp does seem to be the best, freakin’ thing about this movie for awhile, but once the act runs dry and he, and Verbinski pull out whatever type of “humorous material” they can find in their artistic-asses, then we all begin to realize that this is just another Jack Sparrow performance, used in the form of a Native American, and not a savvy-pirate. Depp can play any type of bonkers characters like this in his sleep, but at times, it literally does seem like he’s sleeping or just in another form of autopilot. Tonto seems smart, like he has a way of making out any situation, just by the look and feel in the air, but here, he’s played up simply for hijinx and comedic-relief. Nothing new, or even remotely funny.

However, it’s not bad to make Tonto the lead character if you’re going to give him something interesting or cool to do, but they don’t even do that. They make the main star of the show, The Lone Ranger, more of the sidekick and that’s all because Hammer isn’t as big of a name as Depp is. It’s all true in the world of Hollywood, but that’s maybe a bit too cynical, especially because it ruins the flick of any promise it ever seemed to have. Hammer is fine as the Lone Ranger, has a bit of wit and charm to his act that goes a long way, but all gets bogged-down once Tonto takes over and it becomes “The Johnny Depp Show” after awhile. Hell, I’d probably watch that show too, if I had the chance, but not for a near, 2-and-a-half hour movie! That, to me, is just overkill! It’s even worse because Hammer seems like a nice fit for the role; he’s just never given the chance to fly with it. He’s practically the side-kick.

"Hey, Armie? Could you move a little to the left you think? You're sort of in my shot."

“Hey, Armie? Could you move a little to the left you think? You’re sort of in MY shot.”

But at least the rest of the cast is bearable to watch, right? Well, not really. If there was anybody in this cast who seemed like they really had a grip on what movie they were apart of and what was supposed to be used to make it a fun, movie-going experience for everyone, it was William Fichnter as Butch Cavendish. Fichnter is a villain in almost anything that he does, but with a role like this, you can totally see why since he’s a slimy dirtball that you never feel an ounce of sympathy for, no matter how much he may perk-up once the violence and the threat of death gets thrown onto him. Just goes to show you that Fichnter should be in more stuff, even if it is with MutantTurtles.

Aside from Fichnter’s show-stealing, scenery-chewing, everybody else is pretty dull and uneventful to watch, as if they were just ready for the healthy paycheck they were about to receive. Ruth Wilson is a bit of a bore as Reid’s sister-in-law, who just so happens to be his old-school crush, that never became a reality; Tom Wilkinson’s role is obvious from the start, even if the guy is a champ at playing it, before he starts to delve into over-the-top theatrics, made for a totally different movie with a higher-care for characters and development; and Helena Bonham Carter, despite being heavily-advertised like she’s a big part of the story, is in it for maybe 5 or 6 minutes, and that’s just a untrained guestimation of mine. It’s probably less, now that I think about it.  Oh, and Barry Pepper! What the fuck happened to your face, dude?!??!

Consensus: The Lone Ranger may feature just as much disdain from parents, as much as it may feature pleasure and happiness from the kids that are bound to see it, because while this remains a rather joyless-experience, rest assured, the movie will still make millions of dollars at the box office, and may even be granted a sequel, in hopes that Verbinski, Depp, and co., score the next franchise hit they oh so desire.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Seriously, dude! What the fuck did I just tell you?!? Back up!!"

“Seriously, dude!?!? What the fuck did I just tell you?!? Back up!!”

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End (2007)

Why couldn’t I have just boarded the ride instead?

After the last film took 2-and-a-half hours to get to no conclusion whatsoever, we once again follow-up with our heroes Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) as they venture out on a quest to free Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Sparrow, in case you may not know this, made a deal with the devil, or should I say, The Flying Dutchman and Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). However, there’s more here than just that. Apparently everybody has their own demons to fight through and once you add the loser-government into the equation (lead by Tom Hollander), then hell is going to break loose. Oh, and apparently a Chinese pirate named Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) has something to do with this story as well. Whatever that actually may be, I still do not know the answer to.

No matter how much trash this franchise gets, I’ve always been there supporting the hell out of these Pirates movies. I honestly could not give you a clear-reason as to why: maybe it’s because I saw the first one and loved it as a kid; maybe it’s because I went on the ride as a kid, only to see the movie the next year it came out; or maybe it’s because I’m a huge Keith Richards and Johnny Depp fan, and put together, then it’s just sex-at-the-cinemas for me? Whatever the cock-hold reason may be, I still find myself cheering for these movies, enjoying myself while watching them, and always going to bat for them, even as everybody tells me the same old excuses as to how they’re too long, boring, or tedious. And needless to say, after seeing this for the 3rd time; I have to say that they’re right, but also wrong as well.

Battle of the outlandish accents! GO!

Battle of the Outlandish Accents! GO!

What? You didn’t actually think I was going to give up the battle that easily, did ya? I’m still reeling for my pirates, even if they do overstay their welcome by about two-and-a-half hours.

Seriously man, this movie is way, way too fucking long and it almost never seems to end. After the movie starts off impressive with just the right air of mystery, intrigue, suspense, and action going on, the movie begins to get more and more bogged-down by unneeded subplots, love-triangles, exposition, and maps that are supposed to mean something and lead somewhere, but only serve as a plot-device to get every character in the movie to meet-up together in the end. And say what you will about the first one: at least it had a swashbuckling bit of a fun with itself, especially when it wasn’t taking-on needless myths and background stories to support all of the crazy shite these characters were getting involved in. Hell, even the second one, as long and over-stuffed as it may have been, was still fun and made you feel like all of the wait and suspense was worth it, especially once the last-act, slam-bang finale came in. Here, the movie makes you feel like you’ve been waiting forever, only to have you realize that you’re not even half-way through. You still have about an hour-and-a-half left to go, and you still have no idea what the fuck is going on.

That’s where I think Gore Verbinski really screwed the pooch with this movie: his pacing. The movie starts, and then it stops, and does the simple task of rinsing-and-repeating. It works for the first hour because you like these characters and this action enough to give it the benefit of the doubt, but once it gets past that hour-mark and you realize that you have a lot more on your hands than you actually took in, then you might start to get a little pissed, as did I, and this is coming from a person who’s seen this movie about three times by now. It never gets old to watch the movie, but next time I feel like watching this, I think I’m just going to go for the last 40 minutes, because that’s all that’s worth watching in this movie.

Man, I’d even say that the last 40 minutes of this flick is the only reason to even see this thing, especially considering how fun, epic, dark, and exciting it truly is. Verbinski takes his damn time getting to where the story needs to go and even though I’m still a bit left in the dark as to how the movie got where it did by the end and why, I still don’t care because it’s so much fun to watch, always offering something new to get a glimpse at again and again. Verbinski obviously took his budget into some serious-thought and shows us what he’s been up to, making “the most expensive movie ever made”. It’s as perfect as you were going to get back in the summer of ’07 and it’s a real shame for Disney and Verbinski that it wasn’t 3D when it first came out, or else this movie would have committed a mass-slaying at the box office. Seriously, it probably would still be making money, even to this day.

If that's jail, Orlando's screwed. Literally and figuratively speaking.

If that’s jail, Orlando’s screwed. Literally and figuratively speaking.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a ridiculous statement to make, but I think most of you out there smell what I’m trying to sell. The fact is that Verbinski knows exactly what he wants to do with all of the CGI and special-effects that he has packed into here, and it becomes less of a clutter of pretty-images, and more of a visual-feast that was deserved to be seen on the big-screen, as I did when it first came out. Twice. That said, thanks to the last 40 minutes for being so gosh darn fun, wacky, and wild (unlike the rest of the flick that’s surprisingly self-serious), the movie allows the “original” trilogy to go out with a bang. Ending with all of the subplots and myths finally put to be resolved or to rest and you feeling like you not only got through a fucking movie experience, this side of 2001, but one that was somehow boring, save for those said last 40 minutes.

But what would any Pirates movie be complete without jolly, good olde Johnny Depp in the iconic role as Jack Sparrow? Because, let’s face it, without him (both character and actor), this franchise would have all but folded by the summer of ’07. Nobody would have cared for another Pirates movie, people probably would have stopped wondering if Depp bothered to take showers anymore and there sure as hell wouldn’t have even been a strange fascination people had with pirates. The planned-franchise would have fallen flat on it’s face, died, and left in the banks of everybody’s memory; the ones who saw it, or didn’t even bother to see it. However, since Depp was in the lead role as Jack Sparrow and the character was as iconic as ever, the franchise was alive and well, and people expect this movie to be Depp’s crowning-achievement. It wasn’t, but at least the guy made the movie still all the better just by his presence being felt throughout the whole flick, regardless of if he was on-screen or not.

Actually, some may be surprised to know that with this flick, Sparrow is not on screen as much as you’d expect the franchise-character to be on. After the first 30 minutes, we finally see Sparrow and it’s Depp playing him at his nuttiest. The guy talks to himself, rambles on incoherently about lord knows what, and always seems to be back-stabbing anybody who takes his good faith into consideration. That’s just the sneaky-devil Jack Sparrow is and Depp plays him to perfection, still keeping him the most interesting and entertaining aspect of the whole movie. That’s a how a hard-feat for even the slickest-pro like Depp to pull off, but somehow he did it, made it work, and even got his own movie while he was at it. Then again, everybody practically predicted that one to happen.

Nice to see him show up, you know, when he wasn't climbing coconut trees.

Nice to see him show up, you know, when he wasn’t climbing coconut trees.

However, since Depp is the best part of this whole movie, that leaves all of his co-stars in the dust and left for scrutiny, no matter how hard each and every one of them try. The most noticeable of the co-stars left for scrutiny is definitely Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley who are both given more material here together or separate, than they should have ever been given. Don’t get me wrong, I like Bloom and Knightley and I think that they’re romance in the first two movies are what kept most of it humane and grounded in some sense of reality, but here, they’re just around and in love to serve a mechanism for the plot to make us happy, make us smile, and have us catch the ill-fated love bug. At the end, that latter aspect comes into play, oh so obviously, and is excruciating to watch, not because it isn’t romantic or anything; it’s just cheeky and trying way to hard to make us swoon for their love. It’s a lame way to end a romance that had so much promise, even from the first movie.

Geoffrey Rush is good once again as Barbossa and seems to be enjoying his stay in the role, even if he’s not as fun to watch because of the fact that he’s playing the good guy this time, and not the hammy-villain; there was also a lot of talk on this movie about Chow Yun-Fat’s role in the movie as the Chinese pirate, Sao Feng, which makes no sense because the dude’s barely in it and even when he is, gets annoying after awhile since he just goes on and on and on with the exposition nobody gives a shit about; and Bill Nighy is once again playing Davy Jones and plays him well, as you’d expect, but doesn’t really get the chance to let his character go any deeper than what was initially-promised. Same goes for the British actors who are all but wasted here in the forms of Tom Hollander, Jonathan Pryce, and especially, Jack Davenport who could have all been more interesting and compelling to watch on screen, but are never quite given that chance to shine and do their thang. Oh well. At least they collected a healthy paycheck from this, along with a new summer house.

Consensus: Rather than feeling like an epic event you have to see, whether it be on a big-screen at home or in a movie theater, POTC: AWE feels like it’s more of a chore to get through, rather than an actual fun, light, and entertaining movie, like the first two were, but without all of the heavy-baggage of useless subplots and exposition.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Bigger bad-ass? Definitely that fireball in the middle. Rawr!

Bigger bad-ass? Definitely that fireball in the middle. Rawr!

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

No midgets hung themselves during the filming of this movie.

James Franco stars as Oscar, a small-time circus magician who is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. There, he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Oscar must put his magical arts to use through illusion, through a bit of wizardry slowly transforming himself into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz he was destined to be after all.

Alright, let’s face it: we weren’t awaiting for a whole new-look at Oz, and hell, we weren’t even anticipating this movie; but dammit, it feels so good to be back. The first couple of previews for this movie made it seem as if it was just another, CGI-filled trip that was more like the recent Alice in Wonderland-debacle, than anywhere near a genuine piece of cinema, but thankfully, that’s where Sam Raimi comes in, and thank the movie heavens for him. However, anybody expecting a Drag Me to Hell or Evil Dead Raimi, are going to be surely disappointed. This is Raimi at his most kiddie-ish, and whether or not you are down for that; is most likely going to affect your whole feeling on this movie.

For me, I didn’t mind that Raimi was gunning for the kids/families, because it’s Oz, and I highly doubt people would want to go see Oz hanging out with Ash, and going around and sawwing-off zombies with a chainsaw instead of a limb. Like Bryan Singer pulled that last week, it may lose some respect from the people that love and praise you the most, but in this world and in this business: you can’t please everybody. Thankfully, the man pleased me and that was more than enough. Okay, I just realized that came out wrong but you get what I’m saying.

"Dammit. I knew I should have just kept the snake in the cage until I left this place."

“Dammit. I knew I should have just kept the snake in the cage until I left this place.”

What I liked so much about Raimi’s direction is that no matter what the problem may be with this story, with these characters, or with the ideas, the movie is always stunning to view. I got the humble chance to see this in 3-D (with some fancy schmancy glasses, thank you for that, Allied) and it was breath-taking because you can totally tell that whoever designed this movie, did it with love and with a great attention to detail. Throughout the whole 2 hours and some-odd minutes, you really do feel as if you are right there, stuck in this world of Oz there with all of these wondrous, and crazy characters, whether they be creatures, flying monkeys, witches, magicians, or people pretending to be magicians, and it was a place that I was happy to be in. Even when the start-off with the strange ratio in the old-school, black-and-white look, it was still beautiful and felt more than just a mindless gimmick.

I don’t know if that was because of the look, the feel, the characters, or what, but what I do know is that this movie is beautiful and you can totally tell that Raimi and company really put a lot of effort into the look of this film, and to make it work. It isn’t just pretty to take your eyes off of what’s supposed to be a plot, but it’s there to ease your eyes and have you go, “Woah. Ooh. Aaah.” Whether or not you’re the person who likes the shell-out a couple of extra bucks for 3-D, I’d say go for it, but don’t come complaining to me if you can handle that extra-dimension. It’s what it promises on the package, baby.

But it’s not like this movie is only good for the visuals, the story itself is pretty cool too. As a kid, I loved the hell out of the Wizard of Oz and always wondered what it was like before Dorothy and Toto came-around and shook things up a bit. I finally got that view, and Raimi provides a nice world that is easy to get used to, even if some of it does seem a bit like filler. But filler is fine with me as long as it’s fun, entertaining, and enjoyable while it lasts, and that’s something I have to give a lot of credit to Raimi for: he brought me back to this world and gave me a good time. Come to think about it, isn’t that what going to the movies are all about? Being transported into a different world where all of your wildest and craziest imaginations could, and just might come true? I think that’s what the social-act of “going to the movies” is all about, and what makes it better is that this time, the world you are transported to, just so happens to be Oz. Oh yeah.

What surprised me the most about this movie is how strong and fun it started-off. I felt as if there was a real sense of joy and display of entertainment to be entertained-by, but somehow, the film loses it’s way and found myself actually losing interest the story. Yeah, I can’t explain it and if I do, I’ll just end up running into spoiler-territory but something was just not working for me. It almost felt as if the movie had all of these intentions to get our minds, right off the bat, and then stopped caring much about the story as it continued to trug-along and that’s where I found myself forgetting what was going on, why characters were doing certain things, and just what were all of these crazy witches jabbering on about.

Maybe a film like this that takes place in Oz and is only meant for kids, isn’t really something that’s worth to be all that thought-about and studied as if it was my Junior Year research paper (still haven’t gotten my grade for that either), but to me, that shows a problem. A problem not just with the story or the screenplay, but with the direction and how Raimi begins to lose a bit of focus. Instead of making this movie just one, joyous adventure after another, the movie continues to pile on, more and more explanation and exposition to the story, when in reality, all we needed to know was: witches are evil, Oz is good, people need saving, and that’s why he is there. That’s all we needed, but the movie continues to ramble on with random shite that makes no sense and doesn’t need to when you have a movie that takes place in Oz. Just give me fun, delight, happiness, jokes, witches, magicians, flying monkeys, and dwarves. That’s it. Nothing more and sure as hell, nothing less.

"Hotness! Be summoned!

“Hotness! Be summoned!

Other than the fact that the movie adds a bit more than it should have, what has really surprised me the most about this movie is how it’s already being received. And by “being received”, I mean James Franco and his performance as Oz. Personally, I think the guy nailed what it was like to be a big, old cheap-o of a magician that doesn’t have a care in the world, is selfish, egotistical, a womanizer, and a bit of a d-bag. I thought, if anything, Franco nailed that aspect of that character down like-pat and really made me believe that such a schlub of a guy like Oz, could actually turn his life around and be the grand wizard all of these people expect him to be. Yes, the already-wanted Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp would have been a lot better for this role, but with Franco, he gives it his all and if anything, deserves some praise and kudos for going balls-deep in this role and not coming off like a member of the Dull Party, like he usually comes off as. Even though you may not hear this from many others, James, I just would like to say: good job and keep-up the good work. Don’t let them haters get yo ass down. Holla.

The supporting cast around him, also do fine jobs, even if some are better than others, which shows as well. Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams play the three witches of Oz, who all do fine, except for the gal who plays the Wicked Witch. Even though Disney themselves already shot-themselves in the foot with this one and spoiled who the actual witch was, I refuse to give it away and say who. But, the person that they do end-up with seems a bit miscast, almost as if she put way, way too much emphasis on the yelling and cackling. The story as to why that chick becomes the Wicked Witch, is pretty interesting (Oz is a pimp daddy, fo sho), but the development of that certain character and how she acts so pissed was a tad annoying and made me just want to shoe her away. Maybe that was the point after all, but I was more annoyed of the chick, than scared. Unlike when I was a kid and nearly pissed my Spider-Man pj’s every time THAT Wicked Witch came around. God, she was a scary woman.

It was also nice to see Zach Braff back in action as Finley, Oz’s trusty side-kick who also happens to be a talking-monkey, since the guy hasn’t been around much. Also, I’m a huge fan of Scrubs so whatever the guy had to say, in whatever which way, always had me howling at the moon. Oh, and yes, for all of you die-hard Raimi fans out there, Bruce Campbell does show his wonderful-self in this movie, but it’s in a role that may surprise you, but more because you did not even know it was him and was such a small-role for the guy. Granted, a Bruce Campbell cameo is better than no Bruce Campbell cameo, but at least it could have been more epic and cool, considering I was waiting for him the whole time. Disappointment, disappointment.

Consensus: Though Raimi bites-off a bit more than he could ever possibly chew with some of this classic-material, Oz the Great and Powerful is still a fun, beautiful, and enjoyable trip back to the world we all loved when were kids, and will feel even happier to pass it on down to the next-generation of go-getters who still have no idea what tapping your ruby slippers are all about. Silly Y-Generation children.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Hey, I know they're sissies and all, but would it be so wrong to just ask for a tiny peck?

Hey, I know they’re sissies and all, but would it be so wrong to just ask for a tiny peck? I’ll cover the kid’s eyes…?