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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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August: Osage County

It’s August in Osage County, Oklahoma – and it’s hot … really hot. Violet Weston (played by Meryl Streep) is doing her best to endure the heat. She’s dying of cancer and the heat makes the wig she wears unbearable. Her husband, Beverly (by Sam Shepard) has just hired a new nurse and live-in housekeeper to see to Violet’s needs and he is introducing her to the ways of the household. Violet introduces herself as only she can … she staggers into the room, drug addled, slurring her words and belligerent. The new home-help, Johnna (by Misty Upham) does her best to accept the situation and the person now in her care. Knowing she is in capable hands, Beverly takes himself out fishing – but disappears. Violet alerts her family that Beverly is missing and they gradually all arrive to search for him and make sure their mother is okay. Violet’s daughter, Ivy (by Julianne Nicholson) lives nearby so she arrives quickly, she calls her sister Barbara (by Julia Roberts) who comes with her husband Bill (by Ewan McGregor) and their teenage daughter Jean (by Abigail Breslin). Then comes Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae (by Margo Martindale) and her husband Charlie (by Chris Cooper), followed by their son Little Charles (by Benedict Cumberbatch) and the third sister, Karen (by Juliette Lewis) and her fiancé Steve (by Dermot Mulroney). Everyone is here … now to unravel the mystery of Beverly’s disappearance … and of course uncover family tensions and secrets that should have been long buried ….

This movie is dark – both in its presentation and its mood. Violet lives in a house where the shades are down all the time – she does this with parts of her life too. Her daughters don’t see eye to eye with each other, nor with their mother. Violet is unpredictable, prone to outbursts of violence and can be sharp-tongued – her daughters, particularly Barbara, have learned this too. They bring all their family troubles back to the house and churn them all up again in this drama. As you would expect from such a strong cast, the performances are all good. I’ve never seen Meryl Streep in such a confronting role – she is fabulous. Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper support her well. The tension between Barbara and Bill portrayed by Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor is clear, but a bit pedestrian. Add to this the flighty Karen, again performed well, but just going through the motions really, by Juliette Lewis but her sleaze-ball fiancé Steve, Dermot Mulroney seems to do with ease. The roles of Little Charles, Ivy and Jean all have potential, but are never really explored. It’s a good combination – but the movie is probably a bit too long for its superficiality. Okay … we get the point – these people don’t get on, don’t trust each other and don’t really like each other, the family secrets will come out – truths will hurt and nobody will be happy. It’s the dramatization of the play by Tracy Letts, the Pulitzer Prize winner in 2008. Both Meryl Street and Julia Roberts were nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar) for their performances here.

Made in 2013. Directed by John Wells

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2014 in Movies

 

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