Black Mass: follows the criminal activities of the notorious James “Whitey” Bulger and his closest conspirators. First off; why the fuck would anyone want to make such a pointless film? One that tells the story of an evil murderer, pointing out that he’s an evil murderer by showing him commit and sanction said evil murders. We get it; but y tho? There’s no arc, no development, no story… it’s just a series of decreasingly effective cold-blooded killings. The pacing is dead slow, full of unlikable characters and shows zero motivation for anyone’s actions; especially the vampiric and despicable lead. If anything, it felt farcical that a FBI would allow such openly compromised detective to continue working on cases they were obviously invested in! Being set in Boston we’re treated to everyone trying (but failing) to nail BAWSTAN accent: Cumberbatch lands poll position with a change in both pitch and hammy accent, that feels like a straight-up comedy voice. The ensemble cast are phenomenal, but nobody is given a credible character to work with, and although he’s as good as he’s been in the last 10 years or so Johnny Depp continues his obsession with distracting dressing up / make up to get in to character. Black mass is well shot, boasts a couple of good scenes, and a decent central performance but it is the opposite of an enjoyable or interesting film. It’s the film that nobody was crying out for; and a great companion piece for Killing Them Softly.
21 Jump street: two useless police officers are assigned to a revived ‘undercover‘ branch of the department. The film’s lucky in that it has two genres to mashup and play with – buddy cop and high school – which it does effectively, although the school element is far, far funnier. The first hour is fantastic, catches you off guard, full of well-observed school humour, and ‘random’ comedy (Korean Jesus, trippy drug scenes etc) – I almost choked at one point. It does however deflate and lose its magic in the second half as it frantically ticks all of the boxes you’d see in a bog-standard cop-buddy story arc. Jonah Hill is funny, but well within his comfort zone; Channing “is there anything he can’t do” Tatum is comedy gold – he hinted at this by being the only good thing about last year’s Dilemma, but this is a whole other level – show stealingly good. For additional smartness there’s a nice run of meta jokes about recycling ideas & humour, and loads of movie tropes – these can be found in the car chase and party scenes. With an emphasis on off-the-wall humour, and a genuinely funny script paired with some great improvisation, 21 Jump Street is a solid contender for comedy of the year.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (3D) – Jack Sparrow and Barbossa set sail for the Fountain of youth, but have to outrun Blackbeard and the Spanish. The story gets from A-Z coherently enough, but clunks from segment to segment, with very little flow. Being the 4th film in the series, the old-fashioned adventure feel of the original is all but gone – drowned out by big/loud CGI. The one thing that does remain impressive is the original score, which is about the only fully effective aspect of the film’s components. Cast-wise, the mammoth franchise reels in some equally big names, and while they all earn their money you get the feeling that they’re nobody’s really trying any more – there’s also the most gratuitous Cruz cleavage since Volver. The 3D’s pretty sharp & impressive, and more subtle than other recent flicks. In the end, Pirates 4 is passable, but not much more than a quite boring, overlong money spinning, summer blockbuster.
The Tourist: an American tourist has a bad case of mistaken identity when the police and Russian gangsters believe he’s a wanted criminal. Step back for a second and consider the following: biggest actress in Hollywood; biggest actor in Hollywood; Oscar-winning director; writer of Usual Suspects; re-make of an interesting French film; and Timothy Dalton! On paper this is cinematic gold, however, on celluloid, it’s so far off the mark. To call the casting of the mains ‘stale’ would be an insult to the word – Jolie plays a seductive siren (good English accent though!) and Depp is an eyebrow-wagging bumbling idiot. Both appear to turn up, force themselves through the motions, then laugh to the bank. What’s worse is that the stronger supporting cast all share a handful of short scenes. The slow-paced story uncomfortably meanders towards an unsurprising finale – that doesn’t make any sense in hindsight. Not unlike The American, this is more of a throwback to the classic thriller films (than their trailers would suggest), but where Clooney actually acts the part, a vacant Jolie just stares on as the lens slowly zooms in on high-fashion clad arse, legs and neck – a big indicator of how weak everything else about the film is. On the plus side it’s efficiently shot, classically lit and what you see of Venice looks nice. The final product is OK, and just watchable but if you want to see Jolie frolic with some Russians and a few plot twists, Salt was far better.