Black Mass – LFF Review

Black Mass

Black Mass tells of the career in crime of Boston’s James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Johnny Depp), FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) whom he corrupts, and various other individuals who help him out or get in his way. The cast is filled with names and those names are all fully bewigged and giving their best Boston accent. Performances are generally good, the period detail is on point, and events unfold as the events unfolded.

I did not enjoy it.

Watching Black Mass was a relatively empty experience. Over the course of two hours so much happened and yet so little seemed to matter. Numerous characters were introduced only to be killed after a scene or simply forgotten about. The criminal elements were constantly discussing details of crimes or people that needing killing in a way that had no impact on the plot and so were not remotely interesting. In fact I don’t think there really was a plot. Whitey was a bad man and that’s about it.

Black Mass 2

The good guys are mostly in the background despite being portrayed by the likes of Kevin Bacon and Adam Scott. Black Mass took no great interest in the mechanics of their investigation preferring to simply get across the fact that they were vaguely interested in arresting Whitey and leaving it at that. Without anyone to root for I was just left resenting most of the people onscreen and eventually the screen itself.

And the women? What women? I counted at best three female actors in what could be considered major parts; Juno Temple, Dakota Johnson, and Julianne Nicholson. Of these three, two are forgotten about and never given an actual ending while the third is added to the body count after just two scenes.

Black Mass is a continuous cycle of murder, money, talking, murder, money, and talking with a sprinkling of Benedict Cumberbatch as Whitey’s brother sticking out like a sore thumb. The events of the film may well be true but they are not presented in a remotely interesting way. Violence and crime without context are can be incredibly dull.

Expect some buzz around the performances but don’t believe the hype. There is nothing new to see here and your time could be better spent elsewhere.

Black Mass screens at the festival on the 11th, 12th and 16th October and a few tickets can still be found online.

Maybe Saying Sorry Can Save Your Franchise After All

Back in July we looked at the Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers franchises as examples of when the filmmakers have apologised for the quality of previous instalments before the release of the latest film in the series. We wanted to see if the apologies affected the reception of the new films, both in critical acclaim and at the box office.

Because Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was still in cinemas at the time we could only look at opening weekend gross to gauge the success of the films (taken from Box Office Mojo). This figure was plotted alongside the “freshness” (aggregated critic score) for each film from Rotten Tomatoes to see whether the quality of the film had improved as promised by the film-maker. The original conclusion was that opening weekend box-office continues to decline after the apology with the critics score either continuing to decline or increasing, but not to the heights of the original series.

It looked like saying sorry and admitting your film was bad didn’t work, but things have changed…

Pirates of the Caribbean
The second and third films in the Pirates series were dubbed as confusing by viewers and cast alike, Johnny Depp then promised the fourth film would be more fun and much less confusing. Did they follow through and make a better film, and did this make for a better box office? This time we’ve included Worldwide Lifetime Gross and the Audience Freshness from Rotten Tomatoes, determined by user (rather than critic) ratings.

The first thing to notice is that the general public are a lot more friendly when it comes to rating the films, with none of the original trilogy slipping below 70% fresh. More importantly, despite the quality of the films continuing to decline (as agreed by critics and fans) the total box office went back up after Depp had promised them a better film. We can’t prove causality, but we can wildly speculate!

Transformers
After the second Transformers film came out the critics were falling over each other to pan the sequel and were soon followed by both its lead actor Shia LaBeouf and director Michael Bay. Megan Fox also had plenty to say but was then swiftly removed from the franchise. LaBeouf and Bay did not leave the series, instead they both promised that the third film would be better than its two predecessors and that they had learnt from their mistakes.

While the general audience may have felt that the quality of the films fell after the apologies, the critics were much more forgiving. If critics are to be believed the third Transformers film was much better than the second; not only had Bay and LaBeouf promised a better film, they had delivered. The promise of a better film combined with a film that was indeed an improvement led to a huge increase in total box office gross.

In Conclusion
Using that ability to wildly speculate, we can say that confessing to a lacklustre film and pledging to make a superior follow-up feature will give audiences confidence in your franchise and help you out at the box office. What really seems to help however, is following through on your promise. Both franchises suffered a drop in their opening weekend takings but by actually making a better Transformers film, Michael Bay was able to give the total box office a big increase.

The moral of the story kids; say sorry and keep your promises.

Can Saying Sorry Save Your Franchise?

I’ve hit Excel again, this time to look at the effect that apologising for the terrible quality of a film can have. Apologising for films is all the rage these days, especially if you want to make another sequel. Major recent examples are the Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers franchises.

Pirates of the Caribbean
After the third Pirates film fans were left a little underwhelmed and completely confused. All I can remember about the plot was a whirlpool, a kraken and a big wide white space. Also Geoffrey Rush came back to life… somehow. Even Johnny Depp was confused, called the films, “plot driven and complicated” and said of the fourth film, “we owed the audience a fresh start… I felt like it was important to eliminate as many complications as possible.” So did Depp keep his promise and did it do any good?

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Rango – Review

Rango

If there is one problem with Rango, it is that it is a little bit too long. If there are two problems with Rango… nope, there’s nothing else.

Rango is clever, funny and sentimental, all in the right degree. This is one animated film that isn’t trying to make you cry before the end credits roll, or more accurately explode onscreen in a beautifully animated closing credits sequence. A sequence that revealed a lot of actors I had not recognised the voices of during the film.

Bill Nighy! Abigail Breslin! Alfred Molina! Johnny Depp is far from being the only big name on board, yet Rango hardly needs to rely on it’s big names to prove itself. What it already has is a true western told using lizards, rodents and birds that refuses to compromise despite being an animated feature. The film is all the better for actors playing real characters rather than just making sure their voices are recognisable.

With Industrial Light and Magic on board, normally found provided special effects blending in with live action, this is by far the most visually exciting animated film so far. Rango himself looks as photo-real as an animated chameleon can and everything has so much texture it is astonishing.

Rango is a joy and a real education in how to make a great animated feature, and one that is probably more enjoyable to watch as an adult than as a child.

Alice in Wonderland – Review

Yes this is a little late but Mild Concern doesn’t have the benefit of press screenings and as Alice is still top of the UK box office this is still relevant, totally. I’m afraid what follows is another positive review, damn my good viewing judgement!

I chose to see the film in 2D so I could focus on the film without weird, slightly off images and tired eyes and I’m glad I did. Tim Burton is well known for his stunning and unique visuals and Alice does not disappoint, the beautiful imagery did not need 3D to make it sumptuous and entrancing. Such a good looking film requires big words.

Admittedly I was worried at the start as the “real world” was suitably dull and shot in standard fashion, all the better for highlight the wonders of so called Underland. It turns out Alice was mistaken about the name in her previous visit and this is her second time down under. Alice does feature quite a few familiar events but the story quickly veers off from the classic Disney plot to have Alice destined to destroy the Jabberwock giving a more satisfying conclusion to her time in Underland.

Mia Wasikowska does an admirable job carrying this film from start to finish though in her scenes at the very start and finish she seems to put all her effort into the accent rather than the acting. Johnny Depp is as good as expected portraying a truly disturbed hatter, though it was odd to hear him share scenes with Barbara Windsor’s Dormouse.

Other performance highlights included Matt Lucas’ charming Tweedledee and Tweedledum and Stephen Fry’s purring Cheshire Cat. Anne Hathaway continues her journey towards being an actress I actually like, though black lipstick on her huge lips is a bit horrifying. It’s a real shame that amongst all these great character performances Helena Bonham Carter has chosen to completely steal Miranda Richardson’s performance from Blackadder. it works well but is a little lazy.

Alice is a good looking and enjoyable journey and it was a relief to see a fantasy film made by a company that can afford to do it properly after so many Sci-Fi Channel original movies. Real actors were distorted in all sorts of ways and blended seamlessly with the computer generated scenery and charaters. Sadly the film’s destination was a little bit of a let down as after the final showdown it ended with a bit of a whimper.

It is a children’s film after all so not particularly challenging but enjoyable and nice to look at all the same.

Could Pirates 4 be the Best in the Series?

There has been a lot of chatter about Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides lately and it all makes me feel like this could be the best of the lot. Admittedly it’s hard to tell as filming hasn’t even begun yet but those involved seem to know what they’re doing this time.

Johnny Depp has said, “”I’d like to give them a Pirates 4 that is very funny and entertaining and not convoluted or riddled with sub-plots and characters.” My major concern with the other sequels was that I had no idea what was going on most of the time, that and I hated Orlando Bloom in the same way heterosexual women hate Keira Knightley. With no Bloom, or Knightley, and a simpler plot Tides will just be a fun romp with plenty of Captain Jack.

The other news that has me excited is that Ian McShane is in talks to play Blackbeard in the upcoming movie. While I may have missed his earlier work in Lovejoy I have come to know McShane as a powerful actor through Deadwood and the shortly lived Kings. The thought of Depp and McShane adventuring on the high seas is enough to get me excited.

Well, as excited as you can reasonably get about Pirates of the Caribbean that is.