Tag Archives: David Harbour

Black Mass

If there’s anything young Bostonians learn, it’s that “mates stick together, no matter what …”.  It’s no different for John Connolly (played by Joel Edgerton) and James “Whitey” Bulger (by Johnny Depp) who grow up together on the streets of South Boston. They stay in touch, but their paths go separate ways. Years later, in the late 1970s, Connolly and “Whitey” meet again as adults. Connolly’s already made a name for himself in the FBI – and Whitey’s become a notorious Irish Mobster across South Boston. When the Italian Mob start to gain power in the area, Whitey and Connolly do everything they can to fight back and retain the turf. They form a strong alliance and resist the Italian Mob. Their loyalty knows no bounds – it’s stronger than geographic and legal limits and involves them in a downward spiral of crime, murder, drugs and power. Connolly navigates the fine line between keeping his career intact and living with his long-held loyalty, while Bulger’s double-life gets complex – at home he’s a calm and caring family man while at work his activities get more and more violent, eventually landing him on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list.

This is your run-of-the-mill “notorious gangster versus FBI” movie – but with two key features … first, Whitey Bulger is played by a totally unrecognisable Johnny Depp – it’s remarkable and you’d never really know it’s Depp. There’s something weirdly artificial about his performance too – it’s not the makeup, it’s about his behaviour, he’s often like a cold, clinical robot. Second, this frightening story is true – the guy brutally and violently operated in South Boston for decades. Joel Edgerton’s performance is very strong – he really deserves the Hollywood Film Award for Breakthrough Actor and the Virtuoso Award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016. The movie also received the Hollywood Film Editor of the Year Award. Johnny Depps’ portrayal of Bulger is magnificent. He’s totally believable and thoroughly deserves the Palm Springs International Film Festival Palm Achievement Award and the People’s Choice Award for Favourite Dramatic Movie Actor – also much more. Benedict Cumberbatch’s role as Billy Bulger, Whitey’s brother, doesn’t add a whole lot to it.  As a story, it’s just average – but the performances are great.

Made in 2015. Directed by Scott Cooper.

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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in Movies


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End of Watch

Brian Taylor (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is smart. He’s always thinking …  his mind’s ticking over all the time. He’s a cop – in Los Angeles South Central, one of the toughest areas of the LAPD jurisdiction. He loves it. His partner on the beat, Mike Zavala (by Michael Peña), known as “Z”, is his brother in arms. Together they’ve forged a good working style, smooth approach to policing and a light-hearted banter that keeps the horrors of every day bearable. Their partnership extends to friendship with an unspoken but deep respect for each other. They watch each other’s back and work as one. Through the shift, they share their personal lives and their deep love for their partners – Mike’s high school sweetheart is Gabby (by Natalie Martinez) and Brian has recently hooked up with Janet (by Anna Kendrick), who keep them both grounded. One day, they attend a routine job but stumble into a deeper, more sinister situation than they ever imagined. This brings the two beat cops to the attention of seriously high ranking people in an operating Mexican drug cartel who will stop at nothing to get them out of the picture ….

This is a good movie. Jake Gyllenhaal shines here as beat cop Taylor – his performance is authentic and the way he’s so natural is remarkable and commendable. Michael Pena is great too – these two guys work well together on screen and the action is entirely believable. It took me a little while to get into this one, but I’m so glad I stuck with it. The support roles by the police officers and the two female characters, Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez, are very good too – all playing strong support but always one step “behind” the two leads, which is appropriate. The relationships are all real and believable. The direction is marvellous and the action is very well done, it’s “in your face” and totally realistic. The whole thing is well done and could easily actually be a documentary rather than a thriller movie. For some reason this movie had a very low profile at the box office in Australia, but that is our loss, it shouldn’t have – if you get the chance, see it.

Made in 2012. Directed by David Ayer.

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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Movies


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It’s New York in 1989 – auction house Sotheby’s holds a special sale of the remaining personal items of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, held in state since the death of the Duchess (formerly Wallis Simpson) a few years before. The items include clothing, furniture, art and jewellery. The auction draws a sizeable crowd, some keen to buy but most just curious to see. One such attendee is Wally Winthrop (played by Abbie Cornish), named after Wallis as a result of both her mother’s and her grandmother’s obsession with the love story that played out between Wallis and Prince Edward VIII in the 1930’s. Today, Wally’s life as become unhappy – her psychiatrist husband, William (by Richard Coyle) is abusive and she suspects him of affairs – worst of all, she gave up her job and independence to marry and have a baby, but the baby hasn’t happened, though she’s tried everything – even invitro-fertilisation. Wally avidly and regularly attends the series of auctions, which results in two things – first, she gets to know the love story, to the point of obsession – second, she becomes attracted to Evgeni (by Oscar Isaac) a Sotheby’s security guard. Wally’s world drifts between her own unhappy life and her daydreams about the love between Wallis (by Andrea Riseborough) and the Prince (by James D’Arcy), until finally she discovers joy in her own world and her future ….

I enjoyed this film. It is far more than just another retold version of the royal tragedy/love story. In fact, it is multi-dimensional. The stories are told in parallel, which has the potential to get confused, but this doesn’t. The current day story has high passion, much told though aggression – even violence – but that’s effective. Abby Cornish does very well and Andrea Riseborough excellent as Wallis Simpson. The styling and scenes are good, I like the sepia tones of the cinematography and the way real news footage is spliced into the story. Costumes are wonderful – and the movie was nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar) for its achievement in this area in 2012. Perhaps one criticism is that the director has assumed that the viewer is quite familiar with the history and events of the time, which if you are not, may lead to some confusion or misinterpretation of some scenes. Also, it may be a little too long, but only a little. It is the second feature film made by Madonna – she directed, co-produced and co-scripted with Alek Keshishian – and she has done well. On the whole it’s pretty good and I’d like to see more of what Madonna can do as a director.

Made in 2011. Directed by Madonna

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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Movies


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Revolutionary Road

Everything is in its place in 1950’s suburban Connecticut, where Frank and April Wheeler (played by Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet) live in their nice house with their two children. After seven years of marriage, theirs is a conservative and predictable life in which Frank sets off for work each day and April goes about her household tasks, with occasional social interactions with friends and neighbours. Frank and April are accepting of their regular and stable world, but somehow they also feel that although they have resigned themselves to this life, they’re really deserving of something better – so they’re scornful of their friends’ and neighbours’ “little” lives behind their backs. Frank feels his job is mundane, so he puts little effort into it – he has much bigger ideas, but he’s never actually thought about what his passion in might be. April has long given up her real dream – to become an actress. To Frank’s delight, things at the office finally start to turn around and greater prospects are in the wind for him – just as April’s frustration gets the better of her and she gets the marvellous idea to sell everything and move to Paris – after all, this a long-time dream of Frank’s. She could find a well paying secretarial job and Frank could “find himself” and his passion!  At first Frank resists, but then he seems to warm to the whole idea – so their lives blossom with promise. They employ real estate agent Mrs Givings (by Kathy Bates), who is accompanied by her emotionally tormented son, John (by Michael Shannon).  Just when everything is falling into place, things start to change in the Wheelers’ lives – what does this mean about their imminent move to Paris? …. April just can’t bear the thought that it may not happen soon, so she decides to do whatever it takes to get herself out of her unhappy life …

This movie had the potential to become a drudge. It’s very hard to describe it to someone without it sounding like “just a story about a couple ‘going through the motions’ in a deteriorating relationship” – and who wants to watch that?  But it is actually so much more – and far more than I expected. The story is mostly told through Frank and April’s dialogue and primarily set in their home (which sounds like a bore), but it is developed very well with excellent dramatic construction and cinematography – which creates a compelling story. Both lead characters (Di Caprio and Winslet) are marvellous. It was after seeing this movie that I really changed my opinion about Leonardo Di Caprio’s talent as an actor. I had previously only seen him in “Titanic” (again alongside Kate Winslet), but since this, I’ve watched several more (The Departed, Catch Me If You CanBlood Diamond, The Aviator and J. Edgar), all of which showcase his depth of talent and ability to empathise to bring characters with intensity to the screen. Kate Winslet is luminous, beautiful and wonderful here. Kathy Bates is fabulous as the eccentric real estate agent Mrs Givings – but the real accolades go to Michael Shannon who plays her unstable and “teller of home-truths” son, John. He is a catalyst in this movie and he performs that role exquisitely – with great timing. In 2010, Michael Shannon received an Academy Award (Oscar) nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of John here.

The movie is an adaptation of the excellent first novel by Richard Yates which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1962. The timing and structure of the movie is wonderful – well done Sam Mendes.

Made in 2009.  Directed by Sam Mendes.

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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Movies


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