Entries tagged with “Johnny Depp”.

It’s not easy to adapt Agatha Christie to screen in 2017, and it is even more difficult to take upon ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ which already had a fabulous and stars-blessed version made in 1974 by . The queen of the detective novel created superb mysteries, but there are challenges in bringing them to screen, as her characters are quite theatrical, always hide and seem to be something else that they really are, and the confined enclosure where most of her stories take place does not fit the requirements of dynamics in modern action cinema. It’s a challenge to turn the bright mental exercises in her novels into screen action, especially as most of the viewers would know the ending. A challenge that can be compared with bringing to the cinema screens the text and characters of Shakespeare. So, maybe it takes a director and an actor that already brought to screen the plays of Shakespeare to assume the challenge and the risks. The name of this director is, of course, .


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3402236/mediaviewer/rm274931968

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3402236/mediaviewer/rm274931968


The approach chosen by the director for this version of Murder on the Orient Express does not try to ‘actualize’ the intrigue into the present time, but does the contrary – it is very specific about the exact year of the plot, 1934, exactly the year when Agatha Christie’s book was published. While keeping the structure of the intrigue and the format of the ‘train story’ it invests much of the writing and acting efforts into developing the characters. First of all it’s Hercule Poirot’s life itself which is enhanced with the memory of a lost love, although more details may have been left for the following episodes. himself assumes the role of Poirot, with , , , , and a wonderful supporting cast providing color and personality to each one of the characters, whatever time they catch on the screen.


(video source 20th Century Fox)


I enjoyed the experience of watching this version of the classical murder story, even if the solution of the mystery was known to me from the beginning. I believe that succeeded to find the right balance between the old good way of making films with a good story combined with nuanced acting, and the modern visual techniques that place the action in a spectacular landscape adding an aura of fairy tale. The ending alludes to the next episode in what may become a series, and I am looking forward to it.

Sometimes I am wondering what do these actors think, or maybe better said what do their agents think. and are two of the most gifted actors of their generation, blessed not only by success and awards, but also by a touch of genius that made some of their previous roles unforgettable. Yet, they seem to have taken in the last ten years or so all the possible bad decisions. They are however still young, beautiful and charismatic and here is in Mortdecai an opportunity to amplify their talent and power. An opportunity they missed.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3045616/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3045616/


Mortdecai is a crime comedy that the British film-maker should know how to make enjoyable and successful even when they make the film at Hollywood. The very idea of the aristocratic art expert and dealer traveling the world to recover a stolen painting that heeds the secrets of the Nazi gold is as good as any other incredible pretext. The problem is not in the story but in the lousy story telling style that makes heavy use of off-screen voices to fill in the many gaps, and in the fact that jokes seldom exceed the level of the national or classes stereotypes double by some ‘Laurel and Hardy’ gags. As we are in the 21st century the effect is minimal.


(video source Movieclips Trailers)


Quite a pity I would say. The two actors deserve better films, together and separate. So do we, their faithful fans.


The season for screening films with ambitions for Academy Awards must have started. Black Mass is directed by – a relative newcomer (this is only his third film) but a rising star among directors at Hollywood if we are to judge the impressing cast he succeeds to enroll – better and better and certainly more expensive from movie to movie. It seems to meet at least a few conditions to enter the competition for Academy nominations. It stars in a role we barely recognize him which may well get him into the Final 5. It tells a story that captured at some point in time the interest and imagination of big audiences, and it deals with a Big American character. The fact that this character is a despicable gangster, who was in control of one of the lead Mafia gangs (‘the Irish one’) in Boston in the 80s and early 90s and was responsible for numerous murders and organized crime felonies may eventually matter when the jury will debate. Or maybe not. Until then, let us take our places in the theaters or download from the Internet and watch the movies.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1355683/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1355683/


James ‘Whitey’ Bulger now serving a couple of life sentences is the kind of anti-hero America is fascinated with. The story starts in 1975, when Bulger is enrolled as an informant by the FBI – a status which together with the family ties (his brother played by Benedict Cumberbatch was a state senator) ensured him two decades of immunity and the almost total dominance on the crime industries in the Boston area after eliminating (with the help of the police and justice system) the Italian rival gangs. The story on screen mentions nothing about the still not elucidated episode of the murder of the ”Lady of the Dunes” that took place a year before, but does include the death of Bulger’s only child that actually took place in 1973. From this episode we may or maybe are supposed to understand the motivations of his violence and lack of respect for law or human life? Quite thin for an explanation in my opinion. Despite Depp’s fantastic acting the man behind the crimes remains an enigma.


(video source Movieclips Trailers)


The rest is a ‘true crime’ story (the film is inspired by a true crime book) with the relations between the boss and his acolytes, the treasons and executions of the traitors, the have-heard-it-already rants about the Mafia honor code, with corrupt cops and victimized girlfriends, and with a twist towards Bulger’s support for Irish nationalism and terror movements, which was part of the reasons that led to his eventual fall. It started quite confusing to my taste, it improved as the story grew and the relation between characters became more clear (and the number of characters decreased :-) ) but it did not reach any of the peaks of the genre like in Scorsese’s films or in Mystic River. Depp’s performance is hypnotic, I will try a metaphor and say that he brings death to his hero on screen. Cumberbatch on the other hand will not get another Academy nomination for his role here. I know nothing at this point about the other candidates, but in an average to weak year I would bet for a couple of awards.

When Tim Burton and Johnny Depp come together one already knows what to expect. Dark Shadows is the 8th film directed by Burton with Depp in the cast, the first one being Edward Scissorhands from 1990, maybe the most famous of all. We already know that a fantastic and strange world of weird beauty and ugliness will be created on screen. We know that it will be scary but that we need not take it more serious than necessary because we are now adults and fairy tales do not scare us any longer (do they?). We also know that Depp will again be hard to recognize, but will be himself as well, another entry in a series of fantastic characters that we – who love the actor – wish will last for as long as possible.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1077368/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1077368/


‘Dark Shadows’ is inspired by a TV show which gained cult status in the late 60s and early 70s which I have never seen or heard about before. It starts as a Gothic witches and vampires story in the 18th century to continue as a back-from-grave witches and vampire comical action in the contemporaneity of the TV show. Tim Burton and his script writers chose the path of creating from the perspective of 2012 a retro-actual comedy combined with situation gags about the culture, revolts and music of the 70s including a cameo appearance of Alice Cooper. These are actually some of the funniest moments in the film, as the rest of the story is pretty conventional and does not exceed the level of a mediocre comics-inspired intrigue.


(video source Fresh Movie Trailers)


Acting-wise we have of course Depp, as pale and as weird as ever. Besides Depp the film is blessed with exquisite cast including Michelle Pfeiffer which unfortunately seems lately to fade away from important roles, Eva Green which has a love scene like you never saw on screens before with Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter which I wish had spent more time on screen. And yet, despite moments of fun and splendid visuals that only the imagination of Burton can create, something is missing in the script. I did not see the TV show, and yet I had a very strong feeling of deja vu which could not be completely balanced by acting and spectacular visuals. A movie relying only or mostly on visual effects, as perfect as they may be, risks to feel like unfinished.

Watching Johnny Depp in action is always a holiday for movie fans. Depp is one of these actors who can hold a film by himself, and in fact he does exactly this in many cases, included here. The problem starts to show up when the principal reason for seeing the film is that Johnny Depp is in it, and not much more beyond. The Rum Diary is a film that Depp wanted very much to make, it is based on a true story – the one of journalist and writer Hunter S. Thompson – set in 1960, by the time the history of the Americas was taking a turn. However it is also mostly a film for Depp’s aficionados and another proof that true stories or biographies do not necessarily lead to good films.


source www.imdb.com/title/tt0376136/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0376136/


The dry story in The Rum Diary is very much about the profession of journalist, and about fighting personal daemons in order to be a true professional. A young journalist takes a job in Puerto Rico, a job he finds out soon nobody wanted to take. He is a drinker and befriends another journalist who is an even heavier drinker and the wrong girl owned by a local tycoon. He discovers soon that one cannot drink as much as he can or wants, befriend beautiful women, write good stories, and be honest at the same time. One may ask what is wrong with this story and why it fails to draw the attention although it has all ingredients of many other successful stories about journalists, corruption, exotic Caribbean islands and their fascinating and dangerous culture. Moreover, it is a true story! Well, this may actually exactly be the problem. We have already seen so many movies (some of them good indeed) inspired by such a true story, that when it is brought to screen closer to what it really was, it looks unsatisfying and deja-vu.


(video source VISO Trailers)


The good things – some very good cinematography and a rendition of the 1960 Puerto Rico which is both realistic and colorful. Then we have Depp – of course! The not so good thing – a story that does not really decide what it wants to be – political thriller, retro-history, comedy, with an anti-climax ending. For folks like myself unfamiliar with who Hunter S. Thompson was, this film does only tell an unconvincing story about journalism in exotic Puerto Rico. Director Bruce Robinson made a very promising debut in the 80s, another couple of movies soon after, and then stopped making films for almost two decades until this one. His fans may have expected more from his come back after such a long waiting. Good acting and sure hand in camera and cinematography cannot compensate the weakness of the story. What was supposed to be the strong point of the film eventually ends by being its weakest link. ‘The Rum Diary’ may raise in time to be better than the commercial failure it was on screens, but less than what it could have been with a better story to support the theme.

One of the best thing Hollywood makes is films about Hollywood. Some may judge these movies like kind of acts of self-adulation, but the fact is that films dedicated to films making and even homage films about past stars and directors resulted into many remarkable creations from the classical Sunset Boulevard to recent films like Hitchcock  to remember just the one recent film in the genre I happen to remember now. These films have in common a dose of nostalgia for the times past and a lot of respect for the creators who preceded them. Even when they contain a dose of critical nuances or they describe disputable characters in the history of American film making like is the case with Tim Burton‘s Ed Wood they still carry a dose of reverence and fraternity across the generation. All this is very visible in this film of Burton which is almost hard to believe that was made 20 years ago, so fresh and contemporary it looks. In Burton’s filmography it may be one of the less ‘rebelious’ movies, yet it contains its dose of inventiveness and the sure mastering the skills of film making.


source www.imdb.com/title/tt0109707/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0109707/


Ed Wood (the real character) was – arguably – the ‘worst director’ in the history of film-making. There are certainly many great contenders to Wood for this title. Most of the IMDB ratings for his movies range between 3 and 4, with a deep dive to 2.2 and a stellar 6.2 for one of his latest films. Yet Burton’s film shows him as a man of passion, and a fighter with the system and the big studios sharks (BTW – I am waiting for a great film about Hollywood producers!). One of the scenes to remember in the film is the one of the meeting of Wood with Orson Welles.  The (problematic) message of the scene is that all directors – genius or trash – had to fight the same problems and the same system. The difference between them is of course that one had a huge talent, the other had just a daring character and a charming personality that allows us to sympathize with him while he is following and partly achieving his dream of creating trash on screens.


(video source thecultbox)


It does help of course that the lead role is played by Johnny Depp, the permanent fetish leading star of Burton.  He is rendering the character of Wood in its whole complexity, oddity, tenacity and charm. It is however the splendid re-enacting of Bela Lugosi by Martin Landau that caught my full attention.  A great star of the horror-fantasy movies of the 30s, Bela Lugosi  was all but forgotten, in poverty and sunk in drug addiction when Ed Wood re-discovered him in the 50s and allowed him a few last presences in his films. Ed Wood the movie is to a large extent the story of the friendship between the two men. Filming in black and white also gives style and quality to the film, and reminds us that The Artist  may have rediscovered the silent film, but not the black and white movies. If Ed Wood did not create any quality on screen during his activity in Hollywood he has at least inspired a film which is much better than anything he made as a director.


I confess that I do not like at all Angelina Jolie. As an actress she does not seem to me to have done anything that uses more her acting talent than her looks, and her looks … well, she is not my genre and I am probably not her genre, and I cannot care less about her romance with Brad or about their adopted children. On the other hands I deeply admire Johnny Depp, he made me watch even the pirates movies, and he is one of these actors who in my view cannot do wrong. So, I took a risk and pressed the Record button on the cable channel to record The Tourist and then the Play one to see it. Why? Maybe it was the name of the director who made me decide – it’s Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and in case you believe it’s a long German name just go to IMDb to see what his full name is – and the reason is that in his not too long record there is one of the best films in the history of post-Communist era films about Eastern Europe – The Lives of Others.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1243957/


The Tourist can not only be made by another director than The Lives of Others but could actually be produced on another planet. It’s a tourist trap, and I fell into it semi-willingly. It’s yet another thriller about hidden identities, with a story which starts in Paris to be continued in Venice via a high speed train, with much too many quotes from Hitchcock and his followers and too little real thrill and emotion. The bad guys look so cartoon-like that we feel no joy or sorrow when they are taken down in a few seconds.


(video start ClevverMovies)


Would I recommend this film? Do I consider it completely wasted time? None of these actually. Angelina Jolie acts as I expected, in other words as a beautifully-shaped wooden doll. Depp is not at his best, seems slightly amused to be in the film, but at the end of the day he succeeds to save the film from total loss.  Story is not that bad and the cinematography and setting are good enough to allow for this film to be called fair entertainment. Not my first choice or recommendation, but neither a film to avoid.