Movie Review: Black Mass

James "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp) terrorizes Boston as the most infamous criminal in the U.S. in "Black Mass"

James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) terrorizes Boston as the most infamous criminal in the U.S. in “Black Mass”

Johnny Depp’s career has been quite iffy the past several years. Starring in two of the worst performances of his career (The Lone Ranger, Mortdecai), everyone was worried whether he would redeem himself. Until now.

Leading an extraordinary cast including Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, and Dakota Johnson, Black Mass features one of Depp’s absolute best performances of his career as James “Whitey” Bulger, the most violent criminal of South Boston who works as an informant for the FBI in the 1970s. With barely any hair, a sinister smile, and one vicious attitude, it leads to many unsettling scenes involving his work as a gangster. There are times, however, in which I lost interest and couldn’t care less about what is going on. Not to mention Benedict Cumberbatch’s godawful Boston accent. With that aside, Black Mass is a brutal and semi-engaging character study on one violent criminal.

3/4

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Movie Review: The Visit

Becca Jameson (Olivia DeJonge) visits her grandparents. What could possibly go wrong?

Becca Jameson (Olivia DeJonge) visits her grandparents. What could possibly go wrong?

In 1999, there was a movie called The Sixth Sense. It was directed by an unknown filmmaker, M. Night Shyamalan. It became the most discussed movie of that year, especially the twist ending. The following year he directed Unbreakable (my favorite of his films). A superhero movie set in real time. It didn’t get as much praise as The Sixth Sense; not to mention everyone comparing the twist to his previous film (which I completely disagree). After making Signs, Shyamalan was called “The Next Steven Spielberg”.

However, since The Village, his directing career begins to go downhill. Even though some people enjoyed some of his later films (I really liked The Village, and Lady in the Water is a guilty pleasure of mine), the rest started to hate him. After everyone panned his three previous shtick – The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth (which I regret seeing when it came out) – Shyamalan decided to return to his regular roots with his new film The Visit, a well-crafted, low-budget thriller with a perfect blend of [intentional] laughs and thrills.

Shyamalan returns to rural Pennsylvania where a divorced mother (Kathryn Hahn) sends her two children to visit their grandparents for the first time. Becca Jameson (Olivia DeJonge) is an aspiring filmmaker, who decides to document their visit. Her younger brother Tyler (a scene-stealing Ed Oxenbould, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) is an aspiring rapper. They are warmly welcomed by Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie). However, after 9:30 p.m., they realize some bizarre behavior from them. Day by day, they witness some behavior. Will the kids ever make it home in time?

The Visit proves the found-footage subgenre still works. With minimal music used, there are some tonal issues. One scene, in particular, reminded me of one of the cat videos where the camera person pans the camera back on the cat, the cat would come closer. Are we supposed to laugh or be scared? Other than that, I appreciated the brother-sister dynamic. They are dealing with their parents’ divorce. Becca’s documents on her grandparents and her mother make some emotional stuff. On the other hand, Tyler’s rapping and wisecracks had the audience in stitches. I have a feeling he would make an appearance on “Epic Rap Battles of History” someday. They are excited to meet their seemingly kind grandparents. And all the build-up leads to one hell of a climax. With a satisfying twist, all I can say is:

M. Night Shyamalan is back!

3.5/4

Movie Review: Mistress America

Tracy and Brooke spend time together in "Mistress America"

Tracy and Brooke spend time together in “Mistress America”

Over the years, there have been a few mainstream comedies that were good (21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street are among the best). Most of them have stale jokes, acting, and don’t live up to their full potential. That’s why off-beat comedies will live on. Mistress America is no exception. For Tracy Fishko (Lola Kirke), she wants to have the college experience she had hoped for. In New York City, it could be tough. She gets news from her mother that she’s marrying the father of Brooke Cardinas (Greta Gerwig). One night, Tracy calls her. And they spend time in Times Square. Brooke has an idea of opening a restaurant, which leads them to travel to Connecticut. Director Noah Baumbach, a friend and collaborator of Wes Anderson’s, creates a moving homage to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s that is funny and heartfelt. With great chemistry between Gerwig and Kirke, funny, quotable lines, and amusing situations, Mistress America is movie about chasing your dreams.

3/4

Top 20 Most Anticipated Movies of the Fall of 2015

2015 has been a pretty damn good year for film. There were as much surprises and disappointments as last year. This fall seems to have a lot of supposedly great films that have yet to come out. There’s a highly anticipated sequel that might top Avatar and Jurassic World as the highest-grossing film of all-time, another film from the brilliant minds of PIXAR, plenty of historical pieces, a biopic about one of the most influential people who changed technology for the better, and a handful of riveting dramas. I made a top twenty list of my most anticipated movies of this Oscar movie season.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order): About Ray (September 18), Burnt (October 23), Concussion (December 25), Everest (September 18) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (November 20), In the Heart of the Sea (December 11), Pan (October 9), The Peanuts Movie (November 6), Sicario (September 18), Snowden (December 25)

20. The Visit20. The Visit (in theaters September 11; directed by M. Night Shyamalan; starring Ed Oxenbould, Olivia DeJonge, Kathryn Hahn, and Peter McRobbie) – Ever since getting unanimous success with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, it looked like M. Night Shyamalan had a long career ahead of him. Not to mention being known as “The Next Steven Spielberg”. After the critical failure – but financial success – of The Village, his career slowly went downhill. His last five films have made him one of the most hated people in Hollywood (Lady in the Water will always be a guilty pleasure of mine). Why am I looking forward to his latest film, The Visit? I want to see him redeem himself after his previous disasters (After Earth, in particular). The film is marketed as a low-budget comedic horror film. There is a sense it might be awful, but I have faith it might turn out to be an eerie midnight movie. Fingers crossed.

19. Sisters19. Sisters (in theaters December 18; directed by Jason Moore; starring Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Brolin, and John Cena) – Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are two of the funniest actresses working today. This movie seems to be no exception. Their chemistry together is the main focus. Being from the director of Pitch Perfect, this might be the funniest film of the year. The trailer had me laughing out loud quite a bit.

18. Suffragette18. Suffragette (in theaters October 23; directed by Sarah Gavron; starring Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, and Brendan Gleeson) – 2015 has been a year featuring strong, independent female protagonists. From Cinderella to Mad Max: Fury Road to Far from the Madding Crowd. Suffragette looks like the most feminist movie of all. It takes place during the British suffrage movement of the 20th century where women are forced to work underground. We follow three women fighting for women’s rights. It’s no surprise that the Academy loves Meryl Streep. This seems to be her most challenging role to date. Starring alongside Carey Mulligan (fabulous in Far from the Madding Crowd) and Helena Bonham Carter, this movie screams “Oscar bait!”

17. Creed17. Creed (in theaters November 25; directed by Ryan Coogler; starring Michael B. Jordan, Graham McTavish, Phylicia Rashad, Mark Rhino Smith, and Sylvester Stallone) – Rocky is one of the best movies of all-time. It’s a film about rivalry, fighting for one’s life, and going the distance. Creed, the spin-off from the director of Fruitvale Station, brings us back to the streets of Philadelphia. Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis Johnson Creed, who wants to follow his father’s (Apollo Creed) footsteps to become a boxer. When Sylvester Stallone returns to reprise his role of Rocky Balboa, it’s hard not to get pumped up.

16. The Martian16. The Martian (in theaters October 2; directed by Ridley Scott; starring Matt Damon, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, and Jessica Chastain) – Ridley Scott’s career has been in the gutter ever since Robin Hood. Despite his controversial Alien prequel Prometheus, he hasn’t been making a fantastic movie in years. The Martian has a possibility to redeem him from blandness. With Matt Damon leading an all-star cast, this looks like one hell of a funny and suspenseful film about one man’s struggle to survive.

15. Carol15. Carol (in theaters November 20; directed by Todd Haynes; starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sara Paulson, Jake Lacy, and Kyle Chandler) – A lesbian love story that looks engaging. Cate Blanchett plays the title character where she meets a department store clerk who is attracted to her. Everything about this movie looks perfect. From the casting to the story. Todd Haynes brings the 1950s to life. I’m glad to see Kyle Chandler taking a break from playing a government official.

14. Steve Jobs14. Steve Jobs (in theaters October 9; directed by Danny Boyle; starring Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, John Ortiz, and Jeff Daniels) – Another biopic of the CEO of Apple. This follows Steve Jobs and the events surrounding his launches of products including the iMac. However, his involvement with Apple begins to affect his family life. I have not seen the film with Ashton Kutcher. But I can say that this version looks a million times better. With Danny Boyle behind the camera and Aaron Sorkin writing the screenplay, I sense that this is going to be one emotionally tense flick. Michael Fassbender looks like he’s going to hit it out of the park as Jobs.

13. Brooklyn13. Brooklyn (in theaters November 6; directed by John Crowley; starring Saoirse Ronan, Domnhall Gleeson, Michael Zegen, Emily Bett Rickards, and Julie Walters) – Another movie that brings the 1950s to life. Brooklyn is the love story following a young Irish immigrant woman moving to Brooklyn. She falls in love with a young Italian man, but she quickly starts getting homesick. She must choose between the U.S. and Ireland. Unlike most romances nowadays, this looks charming without being too sappy. The cinematography looks gorgeous. Saoirse Ronan is a delight!

12. Legend12. Legend (in theaters October 2; directed Brian Helegland; starring Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Paul Bettany, and Chazz Palminteri) – Tom Hardy has had one hell of a decade. He was a member of a heist team where they can infiltrate people’s dream, a MMA fighter, Bane, an outlaw during the Prohibition era, and Mad Max. Now, in Legend, he plays twins Ron and Reggie Kray, who were part of the mafia in London during the 1960s where it’s becoming “Las Vegas of Europe”. From the director of A Knight’s Tale and 42, this does look like your typical Hollywood picture. But this looks like a lot of fun.

11. The Walk11. The Walk (in theaters September 30; directed by Robert Zemeckis; starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Ben Schwartz, James Badge Dale, and Charlotte Le Bon) – I’m glad Robert Zemeckis went back to live-action following the box-office bomb of the animated film Mars Needs Moms. Flight is one of the best movies so far this decade featuring one of Denzel Washington’s best performance of his career. The Walk follows the unbelievable story of Phillippe Petit’s involvement of doing the impossible: walking on high wire between the Twin Towers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is becoming one of the greatest actors working today. I do have a feeling his French accent is a little bit cartoonish. But I think he would pull it off well.

10. The Good Dinosaur10. The Good Dinosaur (in theaters November 25; directed by Peter Sohn; starring Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Anna Paquin, Steve Zahn, and Sam Elliott) – 2015 is the first year in which PIXAR releases two movies in the same year. Inside Out is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. The Good Dinosaur might continue its streak becoming one of PIXAR’s best. The animation is some of the most breathtaking that PIXAR has done. Following the footsteps of the first half of Wall-E, this movie seems to feature minimal dialogue.

9. Crimson Peak9. Crimson Peak (in theaters October 16; directed by Guillermo del Toro; starring Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Doug Jones, and Charlie Hunnam) – Today, it’s rare that a horror film focuses more on the atmosphere instead of cheap jump scares. In Guillermo del Toro’s vision, it’s more than that. It’s a Gothic love story. Stephen King called it “Gorgeous and just fucking terrifying”. I cannot agree with him more on what the movie is going to look like.

8. Black Mass8. Black Mass (in theaters September 18; directed by Scott Cooper; starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, and Kevin Bacon) – Johnny Depp’s career isn’t holding up over the years. His last two movies – The Lone Ranger and Mortdecai – featured some of his worst performances. With a new Pirates of the Caribbean coming out in two years, I wouldn’t know if Depp would take on a different role. As a matter of fact, he did. In Black Mass, he plays Whitey Bulger, the most violent criminal in South Boston, who is on the FBI’s most wanted list. I have a feeling this would be Johnny Depp’s best roles in years. With a wonderful cast, very dark humor, and an engaging story, Black Mass looks like one hell of a movie.

7. Joy7. Joy (in theaters Christmas Day; directed by David O. Russell; starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen, Dascha Polanco, and Bradley Cooper) – David O. Russell reunites with the trio – Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro – from Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle to star in Joy. Starring Lawrence as the title character who creates a business with the Miracle Mop. What more is need to be said other than “This looks brilliant”?

6. Bridge of Spies6. Bridge of Spies (in theaters October 16; directed by Steven Spielberg; starring Tom Hanks, Amy Ryan, Austin Stowell, Billy Magnussen, and Alan Alda) – Tom Hanks is my favorite actor, and Steven Spielberg is my favorite director. They are back to collaborate for the sixth time (if you could count Band of Brothers and The Pacific) in this Cold War thriller about an American lawyer negotiating the release of a Soviet Union pilot whose plane has been shot down. With the Joel and Ethan Coen writing the screenplay, I smell Oscar!

5. Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens5. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (in theaters December 18; directed by J.J. Abrams; starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford) – Seriously; who isn’t looking forward to seeing this? I’m ready to sit with a packed theater and have the experience of a lifetime!

4. The Hateful Eight4. The Hateful Eight (in theaters Christmas Day; directed by Quentin Tarantino; starring Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, and Channing Tatum) – Quentin Tarantino is one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time. His extended dialogue scenes, wonderful cast, wit, drama, and trademark graphic violence make him such a master. Even though if his movies are long, they fly by like a breeze. His ninth feature The Hateful Eight, and his first shot in Ultra Panavision 70 mm film, looks breathtaking and tense in every way.

3. The Danish Girl3. The Danish Girl (in theaters November 27; directed by Tom Hooper; starring Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw, and Matthias Schoenaerts) – Following the news of Caitlyn Jenner, the world is not going to shy away from the LGBT community. We’re going back to see how it all began in The Danish Girl, the true story of Einar Wegener living as the first person to ever undergo a male to female sex reassignment surgery to become Lili Elbe. With Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables) behind the camera and Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as its star, I sense this is going to be one devastatingly beautiful character study. There is a chance that Redmayne might win his second consecutive Oscar.

2. Spectre2. Spectre (in theaters November 6; directed by Sam Mendes; starring Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Léa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, and Christoph Waltz) – James Bond has been around since 1962. With him being in 24 films, played by five different actors, that’s saying a lot. Spectre is Daniel Craig’s fourth time playing agent 007, and Sam Mendes’ second film as the director. Skyfall is the most breathtaking 007 film of all, thanks to Mendes’ directing. Looks like Spectre is going to be one of the best. The movie is going to feature James Bond’s origin story, which is going to be interesting.

1. The Revenant1. The Revenant (in theaters Christmas Day; directed Alejandro González Iñárritu; starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Paul Andersen, and Domnhall Gleeson) – It’s about time Leonardo DiCaprio wins his first ever Oscar. After winning an Oscar for Birdman, The Revenant seems to be Iñárritu’s most ambitious film ever. Being in these cold conditions seems to make the movie all the more intense. This movie has had some production delays because of the conditions. The crew has been searching for snow in South America. Not only is the schedule delayed, the budget has increased from $90 million to $135 million. Let’s hope Iñárritu finishes the movie in time to come out on Christmas.

Thanks for reading what my most anticipated movies of the fall are. Please feel free to leave a comment on what you are looking forward to. Take care.