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Review: Don’t Judge Johnny Depp And ‘Black Mass’ Too Harshly

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Black-Mass-Poster Movie Spoon

Black-Mass-Poster Movie Spoon

Depp is almost too good and the movie too sophisticated for the general audience. This is an art film, not grabbing for cheap drama, but putting some complicated characters in front of the audience for their perusal.

The reviews for Black Mass, featuring Johnny Depp as the Irish gangster from Boston James “Whitey” Bulger are puzzling to say the least. A few complain about the point that “we’ve seen all this before,” calling the film a string of cliches, what with all the whispering, the plotting and the murders and such. Others call the film incorrect. Kevin Weeks, a former member of Bulger’s Winter has been called upon to testify in an interview with the Daily Beast. “He says Johnny Depp’s film is bogus,” the Daily Beast concludes.

Week’s, who has written three books since his release from prison, including: Hunted Down: The FBI’s Pursuit and Capture of Whitey Bulger. So, he should know. After all, “he served as one of Whitey’s devoted henchmen,” we are told. And he must have been a good employee. For one, he survived working with a man who’s murder spree was custom fit to eliminate those not loyal to him. For another, he worked for Whitey for 18 years. Now, that’s gotta look good on a resume.

Mihir Fadnavis of F.Salon says we’ve seen all this before: “The crazed protagonist aided by makeup. Check. The Boston accent. Yup. The Irish connection. Present. A few misogynist lines and scenes. Done. Loyal henchman. Of course.”

We’ve also read those pat check list paragraphs before. Yawn. But let’s take it under advisement. The next mobster from Boston who wears makeup should be spared Hollywood’s mastication.

One way to cut to the chase here is to review Black Mass on its own merits. Forget whether or not we’ve seen all this before – because maybe “we” does not include everyone in the audience. Forget the inaccuracies. There are bound to be some, after all.

Truth is not about accuracy. Maybe he killed 12 instead of 11 people. Facts are facts. But the truth is about the impression the audience takes away with them as they leave the theater.

I, for one, left Black Mass thinking, “I can’t believe I would like Whitey Bulger very much.” But FBI mole John Connolly made my blood boil. He was Bulger’s childhood friend who rigged the FBI pursuit of Bulger to make the murderer sound like a valuable informant to the rest of Boston’s underworld. This caused the FBI to give Bulger way too long a leash. This is the movie’s most critical score.

In fact, Black Mass is not Hollywood enough. It is told in a journalistic style in which the director, Scott Cooper, tries not to call attention to himself. Depp’s performance, similarly, is too good — too underplayed and too subtle. Depp’s Bulger is a go-to-work, clock in, clock out, workaday Irish mob gangster whose anger is explained by the death of his young son and his mother. We could have used a flashback to Bulger’s childhood instead to find more credible motivation. Bulger was always a shit. Yeah — we get that.

Black Mass is ruthless, but complex. It is not gory, glamorized or self-aggrandizing. The pivotal player is not Bulger, anyway; it’s John Connolly, played by Joel Edgerton.

My review in 100 words or less: Depp is almost too good and the movie too sophisticated for the general audience. This is an art film, not grabbing for cheap drama, but putting some complicated characters in front of the audience for their perusal. This film could use a little more umph – but it’s hard to say just where that should be. It lacks, I think, a defining flashback or two. But I still give a solid 3.75 stars to Black Mass, which is bombing, unfortunately, at the box office. But it’s going to be one hell of a seller when it comes out in DVD.

Anthony Hall

Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Robert DeNiro de-agedHave you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. ????

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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