Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Bacon’

Anatomy of a Bombing

Patriots Day

Director: Peter Berg

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Michelle Monaghan, J. K. Simmons, Themo Melikidze, Alex Wolff, Jake Picking, Jimmy O. Yang

Lone Survivor director Peter Berg likes to stick to actual events when directing films. He is an astute presenter of the horrific tragic events which have occurred recently, deeply embedded in the American psyche.

Whether it’s the explosion of a Gulf of Mexico oil rig as documented in Deepwater Horizon or the chaotic 2013 bombing of the Boston marathon, his films are rather factual, bordering on the docudrama and definitely riveting.

His latest film Patriots Day once again features Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg (The Departed) as the everyday hero, a hero that the average American cinema goer can relate to, and a working class hero who manages to survive under extraordinary circumstances.

Wahlberg knows the drill and in Patriots Day he plays Boston police sergeant Tommy Saunders who is given crowd control duty at the finish line of the epic Boston Marathon. The year is 2013.  An American city is once again under attack by radicalized terrorists.

This time those terrorists are of the non-descript home grown variety, the sociopathic Tsarnaev brothers played with desperation and cool nonchalance by Georgian actor Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff (My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2).

As the events of April 15th 2013 unfold, from the horrific bombing at the finish line of the infamous Boston Marathon using pressure cooker bombs filled with nails and all sorts of nasty devices aimed at causing maximum damage and pain, director Berg keeps the pace tense and thoroughly absorbing as the FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers superbly played by a terse and efficient Kevin Bacon (Black Mass, Frost/Nixon) takes control of the city-wide investigation.

Oscar winner J. K. Simmons (Whiplash) plays Watertown police sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese who would ultimately be the person along with the PD that would apprehend the perpetrators as they make a desperate attempt to flee the greater Boston Metropolitan area. Audiences should look out for a brilliant scene involving the Tsarnaev brothers’ carjacking a Chinese exchange student wonderfully played by Jimmy O. Yang.

Patriots Day is an edge of the seat action thriller, meticulously recreating the week of the Boston marathon bombing from the time of the incident to the dramatic capture in the neighbouring suburb of Watertown featuring some superb sound effects and a suitably tense original score by Oscar winning film composer duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross who did the haunting music for The Social Network and Gone Girl.

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Deepwater Horizon and 13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Patriots Day will surely hold audience’s attention while they inadvertently lap up all the Patriotic images of America as Peter Berg drives home his point about the continued threat of urban terrorism as the film ends with the real life survivors accounts of their horrific experience of the Boston marathon bombing of April 2013.

In Patriots Day, director Peter Berg presents the facts in all their visceral details and lets the audience judge for themselves.

The Winter Hill Reign

Black Mass

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

A Familial Take on Loves Labours Lost

Crazy Stupid Love

Reclaiming his Manhood

The lack of a single director for this convoluted and at times funny romantic comedy owes very much to the obvious plot contrivances of Steve Carell’s latest film Crazy Stupid Love. Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa who excelled in the more flamboyant film I Love You Philip Morris, and written by Dan Fogelman Crazy Stupid Love is a familial take on Loves Labours Lost but does not match up to the brilliant script of Friends with Benefit, despite having an enormously talented all star cast including Ryan Gosling as the playboy Jacob Palmer, the new hip girl Emma Stone as the quirky law graduate Hannah and Julianne Moore as Carell’s weak and superficial wife Emily Palmer.

Where this oddly titled romantic comedy does excel is in showing that love across the generational divide is unpredictable, quirky and sometimes comical. The best scenes in the film are when Cal Weaver, a frumpy mid-forties office worker played with the usual lack of appeal by Steve Carell is challenged by Gosling’s character, the smooth talking womanizer Palmer to rediscover Cal’s manhood and assert his sexual dominance in the dating arena. It is Gosling who shines in this role, along with Emma Stone as the cautious Hannah who eventually couple up much to the horror of Hannah’s parents. The ensemble cast of Crazy Stupid Love resemble a more cinematic version of a Shakespearian comedy and while like any ensemble cast, supporting characters often outshine the leading players.

Watch out for Josh Groban as Hannah’s boring lawyer boyfriend, Marisa Tomei as a depraved school teacher and Kevin Bacon as a thoroughly unattractive accountant. While the talents of Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei not to mention Julianne Moore are largely wasted on a script with shallow character development, Crazy Stupid Love is another version of Steve Carroll’s breakthrough comedy The 40 year Old Version. Steve Carell should perhaps play a villain in his next film role, while Ryan Gosling should really stick to more profound cinematic roles as in Half Nelson and Blue Valentine, although his brilliant role in Crazy Stupid Love is one of the films’ redeeming features.

Sixties take on Superheros

X-Men: First Class

Mutants Rule in the Sexy Sixties

James Mc Avoy (Wanted) and Michael Fassbender (Centurion) star as the young Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr known as Magneto respectively in the prequel X-Men: First Class , director Matthew Vaughn’s stylish version of the origins of the mutants set in the early sixties and placed within the dramatic historical context of the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis, a homage to the earlier Bond films like Goldfinger and Dr No.

Complete with fabulous costumes and flitting between exotic locations from Vegas to Moscow to Argentina, X-Men: First Class is a superb reinvention of the X-Men franchise which was growing slightly weary after the 2009 film Wolverine. Featuring a varied and talented cast from Jennifer Lawrence, hot young star of Winters Bone, January Jones of the Mad Men series, Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man) and Kevin Bacon as the irrepressibly stylish villain Sebastian Shaw who pits the Americans and Russians against each other in a bid to start another nuclear war.

The alliance and subsequent friendship of Charles and Erik is the basis for this X-Men story before they became arch enemies. Charles Xavier has had a privileged upbringing in England and studied genetic mutations at Oxford University while the down-trodden Lenshir was subjected to Nazi horrors in a Polish prisoner of War camp, where his powers over metallic objects catches the eye of the immortal mutant Shaw, who realizes that the are many more mutants on the planet, owing at least in this film to the vast amount of radiation used during World War II culminating in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Xavier has the power to read minds and soon with the assistance of a covert CIA unit is able to form a band of young and untrained mutants as they are employed along with Lensherr to stop Shaw from extracting more nuclear energy by starting another world war. January Jones recreating her Mad Men look plays a diamond mutant, Frost with elegance and grace a lethal sidekick to the evil Shaw, played with relish by Kevin Bacon who seems to be getting younger in every film.

X-Men: First Class is a designer sequel with a positively retro feel, made all the more spectacular by fast-paced action and breathtaking CGI. McAvoy and Fassbender compliment each other as Xavier and Magneto a younger version of the rivalry so beautifully created in the X-Men trilogy by veteran actors Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan, capturing a slight homoerotic love for each other which in a superhero universe can naturally never be fulfilled.

Watch out for a cameo by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Rebecca Romjin as the older version of Raven, known in the earlier films as Mystique. There is no Cyclops or Storm, but younger and sexier mutants Angel played by Zoe Kravitz and Havok played by Lucas Till more than make up for their absence. If viewers enjoyed the X-Men trilogy then this will surely go down well as an original, stylish and very retro prequel explaining a lot about the origins of mutants and the passionate rivalry between Xavier and Magneto which is the crux of the earlier blockbusters.

 

 

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