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.
Crazy, Stupid, Love.: ensemble rom-com loosely following a couple’s divorce and the subsequent mid-life crises. This is a film of two halves: the front end is brilliant, Ryan Gosling in particular is on top form as the no-nonsense, face-slapping, tough-love female guru – and his relationship with Carell is very watchable. For me, the second half was much quieter and a bit more predictable, falling back on a bog-standard personal journey and ‘gratifying’ wrap-up – although the climactic scene at the house is wildly entertaining, and quite clever. The film also shoots itself in the foot by having about 4 endings, it seems to just go on and on. The humour catches you off-guard, usually big budget/big cast comedies are given terrible, watered-down scripts, but there’s more than enough laughs on the table here. Carell has a strangely Jim-Carey-lite-like watchable presence, however he can’t really hold his own when it comes to the more emosh scenes. Crazy Stupid Love exceeds expectations as far as a comedy goes, however the second half of the movie lets it down and drags it out.
Super: A socially inept weirdo with ‘visions and voices’ creates the alter ego superhero, ‘The Crimson Bolt – armed with a monkey wrench, pipe bombs and the catch phrase “Shut up, crime”. It’s the total opposite of everything you’d expect from a superhero movie – the characters are all deeply flawed, the humour is super black and is contrasted with some full-on bone-crunching, brain splattering violence. Technically, it’s also very different, with a lo-fi handheld style and toe-tapping indie/pop soundtrack that give it a unique, botique, wholesome style – I was sold from the TSAR opening credits. The biggest hit is Rainn Wilson, he’s utterly fantastic, pitches the character perfectly, and genuinely makes the movie. Kev Bacon is great as a scumbag, and Page does a decent job as a foul-mouthed youth. The humour is twisted and black with a deep, dark streak running through the movie – very awkward, offbeat, black, but really really funny (“The Finger of God had touched me”, “Don’t steal, don’t molest kids, don’t butt in line”, tentacles, the sex scene… it’s all absolutely mental). On paper Super looks like another Kick-Ass, but everything about it is different and unique, which makes this a little indie belter that stands out from the copy/paste films in the superhero genre.
Sleepers: after a prank goes wrong 4 childhood friends are sent to a correctional center, where their lives are changed forever. Most obviously, this features a powerhouse of actors doing great acting, like nothing I’ve watched in a loooong time. The kids, all great; the adults, just as good. De Niro, brilliant (why can’t he do this more often); Hoffman, top form; Bacon, creep-tastic; The King, not overdone… It’s like watching a masterclass. The story’s not the most upbeat, but is told expertly and handled tastefully. It’s well-directed and topped off with a solid, populist soundtrack. I genuinely have no idea where this film’s been hiding all my life. Despite the risqué material, this is a Grade A tour de force in story telling.
The Air I Breathe: Four separate stories of characters based on the emotions Happiness, Pleasure, Sorrow and Love are linked by a ruthless gangster. A somewhat tired idea these days that lands in the Crash / Amores Perros / Babel genre. For the most part the casting is unadventurous, Garcia, Bacon, Whitaker all play bread and butter roles. Hirsch is chronic. Michelle Gellar is really good but the real standout was Brendan Fraser; especially given how unconventional his character is. He pulls off an awesome performance; gruff, grim and interesting. FAO his agent, sack shit like Furry Vengeance and get him more roles like this, pronto! The cheesy voiceovers give the film a bizarre aftershave commercial feel and ‘Fingers’ is such a terrible name for a baddie. The big problem was that the four individual segments were too short and broad to build on the characters effectively. Towards the end the story comes together nicely (albeit quite cheesily) but just doesn’t quite have the full effect. Overall this has good intentions but just fails to rock you. A decent effort by any standards but could have been a real tour de force.
The Woodsman: The story of a (potentially) reformed child molester being re-located beside a school is never going to win over the mainstream. Not being content with that this further shuns audiences with its very slow pace and low-rent, no-frills style. The main characters are all are completely damaged, making them difficult to connect with, but adding shocking realism. On the happy side, the actors in this tear the house down with their performances – not lest Kevin Bacon, who gives us an unquestionable career highlight. His missus, Kyra Sedgwick, keeps the ball up in the air and Even Mos Def refuses to drop it, pulling out some top drawer action. The paedophilia theme means that this throws up some of the hardest scenes you’ll ever watch, especially the one on the park bench – if you don’t see that through your fingers you have no soul! Difficult one to watch, but it’s always good seeing a big hitter take on, and nail, such an ill-advised role.