Posts Tagged ‘Benedict Cumberbatch’

The Suicide Widow and her Son

The Power of the Dog

Director: Jane Campion

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jesse Plemons, Keith Carradine, Frances Conroy, Alistair Sewell, George Mason, Thomasin McKenzie, Alice Englert

Film Rating: 9 out of 10

Running Time: 2 hours and 6 minutes

This film is only available to watch on the Netflix streaming service

After a hiatus from filmmaking for over a decade, acclaimed New Zealand film maker and director Jane Campion returns with a tightly wrought Western style family drama The Power of the Dog which recently had its glamourous world premiere at the 2021 Venice International Film Festival.

Set in Montana in 1925, The Power of the Dog is a superbly directed cinematic adaptation of a novel by Thomas Savage about Rose Gordon and her son Peter Gordon played respectfully by Kirsten Dunst (Interview with a Vampire, Marie Antoinette, The Beguiled) who gives an Oscar worthy performance and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Romeo and Juliet, The Road) who deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the 2022 Academy Awards.

Smit-McPhee’s performance is truly phenomenal matched only by the film’s other brilliant performance given by Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) as the hyper-masculine and brutish Phil Burbank, a charismatic Montana rancher. British star Benedict Cumberbatch also deserves another Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance in The Power of the Dog.

When Phil’s younger brother George Burbank, played by Kirsten Dunst’s real life husband Jesse Plemons marries the fragile Rose Gordon, he attempts to introduce Rose and her son Peter into the life of the wealthy Burbank family, Montana ranchers complete with land, arrogance and an absolute disdain for the native Americans.

Rose has to contend with sharing the sprawling mansion in Montana with her vile and threatening brother-in-law Phil Burbank, who feels nothing at gelding cattle barehanded or swimming naked in a local river covered in mud. Phil is ruthless, nasty and filled with pent-up-rage. Cumberbatch’s performance is absolute startling as he plays against type and every scene with him and Kirsten Dunst crackles with tension and that underlying threat of violence.

Into this electrifying atmosphere, quietly appears Rose’s son Peter Gordon who is studying to be a surgeon, a shy and awkward young man with a sinister habit of vivisection and harbouring a covert sexual desire.

Peter Gordon is mocked openly by Phil Burbank and his gang of macho ranchers for being a nancy boy or a faggot. He wears strange shoes and displays no interest in anything physical especially tennis.

When Phil Burbank and Peter Gordon strike up an unlikely bond, Rose cannot cope with her fragile son being bullied by her brutish brother-in-law and takes to the bottle.

Despite the fact that The Power of the Dog should have been shown at cinemas and is only available on Netflix, one cannot help but imagine watching director Jane Campion’s film on a big screen for as a masterful director she paints beautiful and complex cinematic strokes, touching on such issues as sexuality, addiction, power dynamics and more significantly the devious mind of the male psyche.

Every shot of The Power of the Dog is beautifully crafted and the entire narrative which is psychological in nature is expertly acted by Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

The Power of the Dog is not going to appeal to everyone, but that wasn’t director Jane Campion’s intentions. Her Oscar winning film The Piano didn’t either.

If viewers loved The Piano then they will enjoy The Power of the Dog, a masterful tale of sinister family dynamics, of voyeurism and forbidden sexual desire, of lust and carnage with an ending that is both disturbing and brilliant.

Surrounded by Wolves

The Mauritanian

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Cast: Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley, Denis Menochet, Benedict Cumberbatch, Clayton Boyd, Langley Kirkwood

The Last King of Scotland director Kevin Macdonald tackles a divisive subject in his latest film, The Mauritanian, which focuses on the mistreatment of inmates at the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba run by the Americans post 9/11 for the rendition, capture and torture of suspected terrorists linked to the Twin Towers attack in New York in September 2001. 

The Mauritanian was shot in the Western Cape, South Africa in 2019 and features an international cast including French actor Tahar Rahim as the unfortunate prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Rahim’s performance is superb, displaying a levity which conceals the horrific torture that Slahi endured included waterboarding and psychological torture.

To add some significance to the cast, is another brilliant performance by two time Oscar winner Jodie Foster (The Accused, The Silence of the Lambs) as the hard-edged defence attorney Nancy Hollander who is joined by her young assistant Teri Duncan played by Shailene Woodley (The Descendants, The Fault in my Stars) to build a case for Slahi’s release.

Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) plays American military prosecutor Stuart Couch who is meant to convict Mohemedou Ould Slahi of colluding with the 9/11 terrorists in Germany back when he was living there. Couch’s prosecution rests on the assumption that Slahi is definitely guilty until all the redacted files on his capture and initial confession are released as privileged information for both sides of the law.

Told in a series of flashbacks to Slahi’s childhood in Mauritania which is a North West African country located at the edge of the Sahara Desert, The Mauritanian is a fascinating true story of one man’s wrongful detention and the years it took through justifiable legal processes to release him from Guantanamo Bay.

As a film based on a real life event, director Kevin Macdonald tends to over-emphasize the torture scenes, which are numerous and disturbing and under-emphasizes the American political climate in which the legal case was being conducted in.

Audiences must remember that The Mauritanian is a British film, which justifies the inexplicable casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as a quintessential American complete with a Southern accent. What holds this film together are the two diametrically opposed performances of Jodie Foster as defence lawyer Nancy Hollander and the outstanding Tahar Rahim as the client, Mohemedou Ould Slahi, a foreigner trapped in a strange prison which is above the law, basically a victim surrounded by wolves.

The script for The Mauritanian was not brilliant and the film could have been edited extensively, which explains the reason this BBC film missed the cut at the 2021 Oscar nominations.

The Mauritanian gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is worth watching but comes with a warning of some disturbing torture scenes.

The Intimacy of War

1917

Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, George McKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Claire Duburcq, Richard Madden

After being entangled with the Bond franchise and directing two films specifically Skyfall and Spectre, director Sam Mendes returns to a more intimate yet visually astounding portrait of war in the spectacular film 1917.

1917 is a major cinematic achievement as the entire film is done in one shot echoing Joe Wright’s astounding directing achievement in his World War Two drama Atonement. Mendes does something better. He directs 1917 from the point of view of two soldiers Lance Corporal Blake played by Dean-Charles Chapman (Blinded by the Light) and Lance Corporal Schofield played by George Mackay (Captain Fantastic, Pride).

Set in less than a twenty-four hour period on the 6th April 1917, this incredible film follows the terrorizing journey of two young British soldiers who are tasked with delivering a message deep in enemy territory that will prevent 1,600 men from walking into a deadly trapped set by the Germans in Northern France.

What makes 1917 so utterly riveting is not so much the acting as the visual interpretation of this harrowing journey beautifully photographed by Oscar winning cinematographer Roger Deakins (Blade Runner: 2049) with a haunting original score by Thomas Newman.

1917 is the reason to still watch films in the cinema – it is absolutely perfect and as war films go, this is one of the finest multi-layered interpretation of trench warfare ever conceived on film. Sam Mendes does a sterling job in memory of his Grandfather who fought in World War One.

1917 is a masterpiece of film making, poignant, riveting and epic, a massive landscape punctuated by the most intimate and heart wrenching scenes especially the night sequence in a burnt out French Village which has a fiery backdrop or the spectacular river sequence which eventually leads to the final scene which is equally explosive, while portraying all the intimacies and horrors of War.

With brief scenes by supporting actors including Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) and Oscar Nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), 1917 belongs to the two relatively unknown young actors Dean-Charles Chapman and George Mackay, who betray all the horror, devastation and exhaustion of trench warfare combined with the nonchalance of killing.

1917 is an incisive portrait of courage and bravery and of men finding their compassion while being tested under the most brutal circumstances. Everyone should watch this film. Sam Mendes has achieved his cinematic masterpiece.

Cinematically and historically, 1917 is highly recommended viewing and gets a film rating of 9.5 out of 10. Experience this film in a cinema. It’s breath taking.

The Ethics of Electricity

The Current War

Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Tom Holland, Katherine Waterston, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew Macfadyen, Damien Molony, John Schwab, Conor MacNeill

Film Rating: 8 out of 10 – Highly Recommended Viewing

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon served as second unit director to Martin Scorsese, Nora Ephron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and follows his second feature film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl with The Current War featuring a host of British and American stars including Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) as electricity inventor Thomas Edison opposite Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) as George Westinghouse.

Set in America in the 1880’s and the events leading up to the Chicago World Fair in 1893, Westinghouse develops alternative current electricity while Edison creates direct current electricity. As both Westinghouse and Edison woo the financial support of investment banker J. P. Morgan wonderfully played by Matthew Macfadyen (Pride and Prejudice, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms) they develop electricity and its current at an alarming pace lighting up first the American eastern seaboard and then stretching West to the Mid-West and beyond.

Soon the ethics of producing powerful electric currents are called into question when a New York government official Rudolf Young played by John Schwab is planning the first execution via the electric chair of convicted wife killer William Kemmler played by Irish actor Conor MacNeill.

The conflict within The Current War is between Westinghouse and Edison while the eccentric and penniless immigrant Nikola Tesla wonderfully played by Nicholas Hoult (The Favourite, A Single Man) invents the capacity for electricity to be automated and used in machines. Tesla was also credited with harnessing the power of the Niagara Falls for hydroelectricity which produces limitless amounts of current.

It’s no coincidence that Elon Musk’s electric car company Tesla is named after this enigmatic inventor who never received the credit due to him while alive as he got caught between the rivalry of Westinghouse, Edison and the manipulative banker J. P. Morgan who produced the capital to start one of the most famous electricity companies in the world: General Electric.

The Current War is a fast paced story of how 19th century America was electrified by Edison and Westinghouse and the rivalry which consumed them yet changed society forever.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon smartly employs fast paced editing and some stylistic flourishes to keep The Current War engaging, light and historically fascinating. Audiences should look out for Tom Holland (Spiderman, Far from Home, The Lost City of Z) as Edison’s loyal assistant Samuel Insull and Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Fantastic Beasts) as Marguerite Westinghouse and Tuppence Middleton (The Imitation Game, Jupiter Ascending) as the long suffering Mary Edison.

For history buffs, catch The Current War which gets a film rating of 8 out 10 and is especially relevant today considering that now the human population depend upon electricity.

The Ultimate Time Heist

Avengers: Endgame

Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Robert Redford, Michael Douglas, Josh Brolin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Brie Larson, Tom Holland, Karen Gillen, Zoe Saldana, Evangeline Lilly, Tessa Thompson, Rene Russo, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Danai Gurira, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Letitia Wright, John Slattery, Jon Favreau, Hayley Atwell, Natalie Portman, Marisa Tomei, Angela Bassett, Michelle Pfeiffer, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Linda Cardellini, Frank Grillo, Hiroyuki Sanada, James D’Arcy, Bradley Cooper, Samuel L. Jackson, Ty Simpkins    

Ironman

Marvel Cinematic Universe continues with the highly anticipated sequel to Avengers: Infinity War with Avengers: Endgame featuring all the famous superheroes that fans have grown to love including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Antman, Hawkeye and Captain Marvel as they band together to go back in time to retrieve the infinity stones to reverse the evil Thanos’s ultimate revenge at the end of Infinity War where he made half the population vanish including such beloved heroes as Spiderman, Black Panther and Doctor Strange.

Thor

As Endgame starts, Ironman is stuck in space, Thor takes to drink in the New Asgard and Captain America is despondent that the Avengers are at their lowest point ever.

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel played by Brie Larson rallies the troops along with Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson. Jeremy Renner returns sporting a fantastic haircut as Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye to assist the remaining Avengers as they devise a time travel device to allow them to go back in time to three separate intergalactic locations to retrieve the highly precious and powerful Infinity Stones. It’s the ultimate Time Heist as Antman points out.

Hawkeye

What follows is a fantastic feast of Superheroes which directors Anthony and Joe Russo will have hard core Marvel fans both laughing and crying at the deluge of their cinematic idols as they all band together to destroy the evil Thanos.

Black Widow

While some of the plot points in this three hour long superhero extravaganza don’t all get resolved, it certainly opens up a whole lot of new possibilities such a possible separate Hawkeye film? Sequels to the hugely successful Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy are both on the cards as well as another Spiderman film. So there is no shortage of geek fan crushing that will occur in Avengers: Endgame and the subsequent films to follow. Once again Marvel knocks it out of the park judging by the lucrative response at the international box office.

The Hulk

Avengers: Endgame is a culmination of all the Marvel films of the last decade and hints at a new start for some of the lesser known superheroes to flesh out their story lines. Let’s face it with an overcrowded universe, audiences will battle to identify with any one superhero but rather applaud and cheer at the massive team of Avengers and all their trusted sidekicks. Audiences should look out for cameos by Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier and of course Thor’s malevolent brother Loki played by Tom Hiddleston.

Antman

Avengers: Endgame is definitely for Marvel fans and trust me everyone from the previous films are in it. It’s definitely worth seeing and gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

Thanos’s Deadly Compromise

Avengers: Infinity War

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Letitia Wright, Pom Klementieff, Carrie Coon, Winston Duke

Following the phenomenal success of Thor: Ragnorak and Black Panther, Marvel has capitalized on its extended cinematic universe with the new Avengers: Infinity War featuring a plethora of superheroes from Spiderman to Ironman, from Captain America to The Hulk not to mention bringing in the Guardians of the Galaxy gang for additional support.

If Avengers: Infinity War feels a bit excessive, that’s because it probably is combining the Avengers franchise with that of the more quirky Guardians of the Galaxy. Some fantastic moments occur when Spiderman played by Tom Holland meets Peter Quill aka StarLord played by Chris Pratt or when Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr disagrees with the wizard Doctor Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The snappy dialogue is sometimes lost amidst the greater quest to fight the evil universe destroyer Thanos played by Josh Brolin.

Thanos is equally conflicted about having to gather all the infinity stones including the one for Souls in which he has to make a choice between himself and his adopted daughter Gamora played by Zoe Saldana. In the meantime, his evil minions are wreaking havoc on earth in New York and in the magical technologically advanced African kingdom of Wakanda where Vision played by Paul Bettany along with Captain America  and Scarlett Witch played by Elizabeth Olsen seek the assistance of Black Panther played by Chadwick Boseman.

Audiences have to suspend their disbelief but judging by how packed the cinemas are for Avengers Infinity War, they are quite happy to do so. This film is pure sci-fi fantasy with little of the action taking place on earth. Most of the fight sequences occur on outer galactic planets like Titan.

Thor needs his hammer back and seeks the help of Eitri played by Peter Dinklage who forges a brilliant new weapon out of a powerful star, the celestial capability of which was last seen on the forgotten kingdom of Asgard.

Whilst directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo compile an absolute Geekfest with Avengers: Infinity War with enough alien creatures and superheroes to stockpile Comicon for the next decade, it’s a clear sign that the Marvel Universe has ambitious plans to expand even further.

That said Avengers: Infinity War has a convoluted story line weighed down by too many subplots but if viewers see it as a precursor to a second film then they will not find the surprise ending so disruptive….

Avengers: Infinity War gets a film rating 7.5 out of 10 and is strictly for Marvel comic book fans who have followed all the films from the original Iron Man 10 years ago.

The visual effects are fantastic as will be the box office receipts. See it to believe it.

 

 

Neon Inspired Family Feud

Thor: Ragnarok

Director: Taika Waititi

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Anthony Hopkins, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Ray Stevenson, Scarlett Johansson, Luke Hemsworth, Sam Neill, Taika Waititi

New Zealand director Taika Waititi was Oscar nominated back in 2005 for his Live Action Short film Two Cars, One Night.

Marvel Studios recruited him to inject new life into the Thor films and that he certainly does with Thor: Ragnarok, a neon inspired family feud of mythical proportions featuring Thor played again by hunky Australian actor Chris Hemsworth along with his pesky brother Loki played by Tom Hiddleston and new addition to the family Hela played with vampish delight by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (The Aviator, Blue Jasmine).

Thor returns to Asgard only to discover that Loki has banished Odin, their father to a virtual retirement home. Upon a brief visit, the brothers discover that Odin, wonderfully played with a sombre delight by Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) has got an elder daughter Hela who was banished from Asgard for being the Goddess of Death and wreaking havoc on the nine realms.

Cate Blanchett relishes her role as Hela, the Goddess of Death, inspired by Maleficent and certainly quite intent on destroying her defiant younger brothers.

Thor and Loki land up on a weird dystopian outer planet overseen by the demonic Grand Master, a superbly camp performance by Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Independence Day), who immediately instructs Thor to fight in a massive arena against a formidable beast: The Hulk. Enter Bruce Banner aka The Hulk, played with bewildering amusement by Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Foxcatcher, Spotlight).

Eventually Thor gets Loki, The Hulk and a hard-drinking Valkyrie played by Tessa Thompson last seen in the HBO series Westworld, to return to Asgard to defeat the demonic Hela who is assisted by a reluctant henchman Skurge played by Karl Urban (Dredd, Star Trek and The Loft).

The only criticism is that the middle section of Thor: Ragnarok detracts from the film’s central narrative, which is essentially a legendary family conflict.

Thor: Ragnarok is a fun-filled comic book film which thankfully does not take itself or the characters too seriously and is a clear indication that Marvel films are definitely trying to create memorable characters for the lucrative toy manufacturing market just before Christmas.

As with all the latest Marvel films, franchise opportunities abound. Thor: Ragnarok is light-hearted and hellishly entertaining. Audiences should look out for a great cameo by Benedict Cumberbatch reprising his role as the illusive Doctor Strange.

If audiences enjoyed The Avengers and the first two Thor films, then they will definitely savour Thor: Ragnarok which is comically inspired from another Marvel hit franchise, The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Thor: Ragnarok gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

Mastering your Demons

Doctor Strange

doctor_strange_ver11

Director: Scott Derrickson

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stulbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Chris Hemsworth

Marvel is certainly expanding their cinematic universe at a rapid rate. First it was The Avengers and then The Guardians of the Galaxy and now they have turned their attention to the mystical antihero Doctor Strange, transforming the comic book character into a visually dazzling film version by director Scott Derrickson.

doctor_strange_ver7

Heavily influenced by Christopher Nolan’s surreal city scape bending visuals in his 2010 blockbuster Inception, Doctor Strange is a spectacular anti-hero film centred on an arrogant neurosurgeon wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game).

doctor_strange_ver2

As the film begins, audiences catch a glimpse of Doctor Strange medical expertise as well as his supreme arrogance and wealth. However all that suave egotistical bravado comes crashing down when he plunges his sports car off a cliff outside New York City and soon loses all nerve sensations in his hand.

At first he is naturally devastated and despite being comforted by sometime lover and co-worker Dr Christine Palmer, played by Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Doctor Strange sets off for an alternative cure prompted by a meeting with a miracle paraplegic Jonathan Pangborn played by Benjamin Bratt (Love in the Time of Cholera, Traffic).

doctor_strange_ver3

Naturally the action shifts to Kathmandu, Nepal, where Doctor Strange is introduced to the mystical arts by the shaven head guru The Ancient One, superbly played by Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton). The best dialogue in the film are reserved for Cumberbatch and Swinton as The Ancient One strips Doctor Strange of his arrogance and he discovers a mystical world of parallel universes and scriptures written in ancient languages.

Soon Doctor Strange takes a liking to a flying crimson cape and has sideburns to match Frankenstein. With a new mystical persona, Doctor Strange delves into pure fantasy with brilliant mind bending visual effects to match.

The Visual Effects are so inspiring that they should get an Oscar on their own. In this case Doctor Strange has come up trumps with a perfect cast, most of them Oscar nominees and winners and a strong narrative which establishes more films in the Defenders Universe.

As the action shifts to Hong Kong, Doctor Strange with the help of Mordo played by Oscar Nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Wong played by Benedict Wong, this diverse mystical trio must battle the evil and embittered Kaecilius played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) who is intent on unleashing dark forces on planet earth in a bid to achieve immortality.

Doctor Strange is visually brilliant and superbly acted by the cast, due to some clever casting choices by Marvel Studios. The fact that Tilda Swinton, initially known for her art house films like Sally Potter’s Orlando and Benedict Cumberbatch seen in British period films like Atonement and Creation are both in a Marvel’s Anti-Hero movie is testament to how seriously the film studio takes their brand as they continuously expand all the various superhero franchises and even delve into quirky Sci-Fi.

Audiences must stay seated after the credits as Doctor Strange has an unexpected meeting with Asgard’s protector…

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoy all of Marvel’s films or would love to visit Comicon.

 

 

The Winter Hill Reign

Black Mass

black_mass_ver3

Director: Scott Cooper

Cast: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, David Harbour, Peter Sarsgaard, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson, Juno Temple.

black_mass_ver4

Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper brings to life a gripping and violent cinematic adaptation of the 2001 non-fiction book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill based upon the exploits of Irish-American crime lord and fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger played with a menace not seen on screen since Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, by Oscar nominee Johnny Depp.

black_mass_ver6

Cooper assembles an all-star cast including Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate) as Whitey Bulger’s brother and senator William Bulger, Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, Warrior) in a career defining performance as conflicted FBI agent John Connolly, Dakota Johnson as James Bulger’s wife Lindsey and David Harbour (Quantum of Solace) as Connolly’s co-worker John Morris.

black_mass_ver9

Audiences should look out for Kevin Bacon as FBI boss Charles McGuire and a stunning cameo by Peter Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine) as coked up Florida businessman Brian Halloran and Corey Stoll as the non-nonsense prosecutor Fred Whysak.

black_mass_ver10

James “Whitey” Bulger superbly played by Depp in his most menacing performance yet, is a pure psychopath whose relentless ambition is to rid his own South Boston gang, known as the Winter Hill gang not only of informants, who he casually kills at the drop of a hat but of their main opposition the Italian mafia in the form of the Angiulo Brothers which control North Boston.

Bulger and his band of thugs control South Boston and he soon becomes a so-called informant at the request of oily FBI agent Connolly whose childhood loyalty to Bulger is blinded by the real monster that Bulger has become. This is a man who strangles a prostitute with his bare hands, who casually shoots his friend in the head after a bar room altercation, yet will simultaneously sit down and play cards with his elderly mother. Insight in to the source of Bulger’s psychopathic behaviour comes from a line in Black Mass, when he admits to doing trials for LSD during an eight year prison stint in Alcatraz and Levenworth.

black_mass_ver5

The tipping point in Bulger’s blood thirst occurs when his young son unexpectedly dies from Reyes syndrome after an allergic reaction to aspirin. Bulger’s manipulation of his alliance with Connolly is brilliantly portrayed in Black Mass with Australian actor Joel Edgerton giving a remarkable performance akin to that of Matt Damon in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed.

Connolly is heavily beholden to Bulger and his professional and personal judgement suffers after his close association with such a violent mobster, highlighting the extent of corruption endemic in American cities in the 1980’s. Even Connolly’s wife Marianne played by Julianne Nicholson last seen in August: Osage County remarks on her husband’s new clothes and his flashy almost cocky swagger.

Joel Edgerton deserves an Oscar nomination for his role in Black Mass as does Johnny Depp, although at times the menace portrayed by Depp obliterates any audience empathy for his character. For James “Whitey” Bulger is a true psychopath, blood thirsty, unpredictable, paranoid and completely ruthless. Audiences should be warned of some exceptionally violent scenes in Black Mass, akin to Scorsese’s Goodfellas or Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

black_mass_ver8

Scott Cooper skilfully directs Black Mass and uses the multi-talented cast to bring to cinema the true story of American gangsters in South Boston in the 1970’s and 1980’s while remaining faithful to the source material, based on a meticulously researched screenplay by Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk.

Whether Black Mass will garner nominations in the upcoming awards season remains to be seen, but as a film it is worth watching and brilliantly acted. Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Kill the Messenger and The Departed.

 

29 Million Variations

The Imitation Game

imitation_game

Director: Morten Tyldum

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, Alan Leech, Tom Goodman-Hill, Matthew Beard, James Northcote, Steven Waddington

Based upon the 1983 book by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma and brilliantly adapted into an insightful screenplay by Graham Moore, The Imitation Game is a superb and evocative historical drama about the breaking of the enigma code at Bletchley Park during World War II.

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum elegantly weaves a very touching and tragic story of espionage, cryptography and sexuality extracting nuanced performances out of Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, an odd couple who make up the mysterious collective which work on and break the seemingly impossible Nazi enigma code at the height of World War II. Using real war footage and blending in a fascinating portrayal of the mathematician Alan Turing whose genius has only recently been acknowledged.

imitation_game_ver2

Set between the years of 1928 and 1951, The Imitation Game paints a moving portrait of a very complicated man, whose brilliance was only threatened by the inherent violence of war which engulfed England during the 1940’s as well as the prejudice which followed regarding his latent homosexuality in the early 1950’s.

Cambridge mathematician graduate whose thesis was entitled the Imitation Game, Alan Turing was socially awkward, shy, bullied at an English prep school but the perfect sort of individual who had the foresight and intelligence to develop a machine which cracked the seemingly unbreakable enigma code, a daily Nazi signal which gave countless GPS co-ordinates of where they would be bombing next during World War II with a minimum of 29 million variations.

Naturally groomed by the newly formed MI6 by Stewart Menzies wonderfully played by Mark Strong, Turing is recognized for his potential and yet later vilified for his own sexuality in a moving portrait of one the 20th century’s biggest injustices, his charge and subsequent punishment of chemical castration for being homosexual in 1952, when it was still criminalized in Great Britain.

This was despite the fact that Turing’s mathematical brilliance was the reason that the complicated machine which he called Christopher named after a schoolboy crush, manages to decipher this seemingly unbreakable code able to break the Nazi code and prevent World War II from continuing beyond 1945.

Historically there were lots of other reasons the War ended when it did, but The Imitation Game focuses on the people behind the scenes, the cryptanalysts and code-breaking who elusively assisted those fighting on the front line.

Widely regarded as the founding father of theoretical computer science Alan Turing’s life story http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing has only recently gained prominence following a Royal pardon and a highly publicized internet campaign to clear Turing’s name and bestow upon him the recognition he never received in his own lifetime.

imitation_game_ver3

With a suitably moving musical score by Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game is a poignant and superb historical drama of Turing and his band of men and one woman, Joan Clarke, featuring one of the best performances by Knightley (Atonement, Anna Karenina) in a race against time to save the world from tyranny. Turing’s genius as a mathematician came at a price, his apparent lack of emotional empathy yet despite the enormity of his task, he remained ironically detached from the brutal war which engulfed Europe and the world around him.

The Imitation Game is an intelligent historical drama, with universal themes of injustice and perseverance despite the prejudice and the odds against infuriating bureaucracy and time itself. Highly recommended for those viewers that enjoyed Atonement and Another Country.

 

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
December 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  
  • By Playing With Visual Styles, ‘Landscapers,’ Starring Olivia Colman, Peels Back Layers of Truth About Love and Murder
    In the early aughts, an English couple, Christopher and Susan Edwards, were found guilty of the 1998 double homicide of Susan Edwards’ parents. However, for years after, the Edwards’ pretended the older couple was still alive, forging correspondence from them and drawing from their bank accounts. What would make people commit such acts and what […]
    Danielle Turchiano
  • VidCon 2022 Featured Creators Announced, TikTok Takes Title Sponsor Spot
    After a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus, VidCon’s flagship convention for internet video creators and fans — for now — is set to return IRL to Anaheim in June 2022, with TikTok on board as title sponsor. Cranking up the hype machine early, ViacomCBS-owned VidCon announced the initial group of featured creators who are scheduled to appear […]
    Todd Spangler
  • ‘Yellowstone’ Prequel ‘1883’ at Paramount Plus Casts Graham Greene (EXCLUSIVE)
    The “Yellowstone” prequel series “1883” at Paramount Plus has added Graham Greene to its cast, Variety has learned exclusively. The prequel series follows the Dutton family as they embark on a journey west through the Great Plains. Greene will play Spotted Eagle, a Crow elder who spots the wagon train and tells James Dutton about the […]
    Joseph Otterson
  • ‘Succession,’ ‘Mare of Easttown,’ ‘Evil’ Lead 27th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards TV Nominations
    Critics Choice Association members can’t get enough of the dysfunctional Roy family. Two years after it won the Critics Choice Award for best drama series, HBO’s “Succession” is back, and its third season leads this year’s Critics Choice TV contenders with eight nominations. The Critics Choice Awards nominations for TV were announced on Monday morning, […]
    varietyschneider
  • ‘FX on Hulu’ Brand Is Getting Scrapped
    Disney has decided kill off the “FX on Hulu” name less than two years after it launched — a piece of brand-management microsurgery many people probably won’t even notice. At the same time, the FX mark will move above the titles on all of its shows across Disney’s streaming services worldwide. The “FX on Hulu” […]
    Todd Spangler
  • Read More
    Different providers offer different cell phones, so take a look at the options from each provider to choose the right one for you. You may also want to look into any promotions that the providers have to offer, such as free cell phones in exchange for signing a contract. Tags: 2gmhass90