Tag Archives: Benedict Cumberbatch

Black Mass (2015)

30 Sep

Once the target of every teen girl’s dream in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Johnny Depp has seemingly fallen off the radar lately. One too many childish blockbuster roles with the likes of Tim Burton and Disney have suggested Depp’s artistic prime and affinity for serious adult fare might have faded.

That was, until director Scott Cooper (Into The Furnace, Crazy Heart) decided to make a feature film off legendary Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, and cast Depp as the lead.

Black Mass tells the real life story of Bulger during the later years of his criminal career. Known for his ruthless ferocity and known ties to FBI informants, Bulger was, historically, one of the most infamous leaders of organized crime in Boston.  With a phenomenal supporting cast (one of the year’s best, no doubt) including Jesse Plemons, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, David Harbour, Adam Scott, Juno Temple, Julianne Nicholson, Bill Camp, Rory Cochrane, and Corey Stoll, Black Mass builds an effective narrative with a wide array of housewifes, criminals, prostitutes, FBI officers, junkies, CEOs, and everyone inbetween. The story weaves in and out of these various characters, but mostly focuses on how Bulger is staying off law enforcement’s radar by forging a tight-knit friendship with a certain Officer John Connolly (Joel Edgerton).

It’s a compelling watch as we see how exactly these characters are interacting (often in the form of lying, threatening, or murdering) with each other. Editing is fast and speedy, giving just enough time to let the audience digest each new piece of information before moving on to the next. The screenplay, adapted from the true crime novel by Dick Lehr and Gerard K. O’Neill, sizzles with gangster noir tendencies.

Somehow though, once you see past the starry ensemble of characters, Black Mass feels like it can’t escape the shadow of previous and far more prestigious crime flicks like The Departed, (Jack Nicholson allegedly based his character off of Whitey) The Godfather, and Goodfellas.  Though it does offer some interesting ideas within the genre, you can’t help but wonder if this film could have existed without road being paved already by Martin Scorsese.  Black Mass is all stuff we have seen before, but it’s still engaging thanks to some skillful direction and stellar chemistry between a vast array of actors.

Bottom Line: While not quite as innovative or thematically rich as it’s predecessors, Black Mass is a satisfying addition to the gangster film genre and boasts an overdue (and for once, serious) performance from actor Johnny Depp. 


Rating: 7/10 

Film Recipe: The Departed – cell phones + Johnny Depp in prosthetic makeup 


2 Jan

Goodbye 2014 and hello to 2015.


Another great cinematic year has come and gone, and 2014 was one for the record books (you can check out my top 25 films of the year here). While we wait to see what film gets the Best Picture Oscar and who gets snubbed come February 22, lets take a look at some upcoming projects for 2015.


10 – Z For Zachariah 

Who’s in it – Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Directed By Craig Zobel.

Why? Zobel’s Compliance was one of the best micro-budget thrillers I had seen in a long time.  It looks like he is upping the ante here with some major A-list talent.

Release Date – Unknown for now, but I’ll be catching this at Sundance in late Jan


Who’s in it – All the original stars (Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill) along with an exciting batch of rising talent (Lupita Nyong’o, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, and John Boyega). Directed and written by JJ. Abrams.

Why? After the disappointing trilogy made up Episodes 1, 2 and 3, the pressure is on Abrams to revitalize the classic franchise and restore balance to the force (and our faith in big-budget franchises).  Besides, Hamill needs something to do with his career other than voice video games.

Release Date –  Dec 18 


8 – Black Mass 

Who’s in it – An ensemble cast of Johnny Depp, Juno Temple, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Sarsgaard, Sienna Miller, and Kevin Bacon. Directed by Scott Cooper.

Why? After Cooper’s terrific but terribly underrated Out Of The Furnace, I’m extremely curious to see how he handles this FBI crime novel adaptation with such a talented cast.

Release Date – an Oscar friendly Sept 18 

7 – While We Are Young / Mistress America 

Who’s in it – Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver / Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirk. Both films written and directed by Noah Baumbach.

Why? – Baumbach has two films in the pipeline for 2015, and they both look fantastic. While We Are Young received lots of praise after it’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last September, and Mistress America is slated for a Sundance Film Festival premiere.

Release Date – March 27 / no word yet on a theatrical release for Mistress America, but I’ll catch it at Sundance in late Jan.


6- Everest 

Who’s in it – Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Josh Brolin, Robin Wright. Directed by Baltisar Kormakur.

Why? – The story about a group of mountain climbers becoming trapped on the world’s tallest peak during a snowstorm has me all sorts of excited. Plus, Jake Gyllenhaal.

Release Date – Sept 18 


5 – The Martian 

Who’s in it – Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara. Directed by Ridley Scott.

Why? – Besides the big-name cast and director, this adaptation about the colonization of mars could continue on the trail of smart Oscar-friendly sci-fi films like Gravity and Interstellar. Or it could be a total flop like The Counselor or Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Release Date – Nov 25

4 – The Revenant

Who’s in it – Leo Dicaprio, Tom Hardy. Directed by Alejandro Inarritu.

Why? Birdman showed that Inarritu could directed something in another genre besides the super-serious drama, and this western thriller will surely showcase the talent of two of today’s biggest actors.

Release Date –  Dec 25 

3 – The Hateful 8 

Who’s in it – Samuel Jackson (of course), Channing Tatum, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Zoe Bell, Bruce Dern. Directed by Quientin Tarintino.

Why? –  Besides being one of the most recognizable auteurs among non-cinephiles, Tarantino is one of those directors that just seems to get better with age. I’m curious to see how he tackles a more traditional western post-Django Unchained.

Release Date – Nov 13 

2  – Knight of Cups 

Who’s in it – Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Antonio Banderas, Cate Blanchett. Directed by Terrence Malick.

Why? Terrence Malick’s epic made my list last year only to be shelved for a Berlin Film Festival premiere in 2015. A teaser trailer shows Malick’s typical visual style paired with an eccentric cast and wild party tone reminiscent of Spring Breakers. Hopefully, it will be worth the extra wait.

Release Date  – Unknown for now but likely to have an awards run Late October or November


1 – Silence 

Who’s in it – Adam Driver (again!!), Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson. Directed by Martin Scorsese.

Why? – Scorsese’s adaptation of a Japanese novel about Christian priests enduring persecution overseas is sure to be one of his most personal and controversial films. And this is from the guy who directed Willem Dafoe as Jesus.

Release Date – Unknown, but likely sometime in November 


So there ya go. Good stuff on the horizon. What upcoming films are YOU most excited to see?