Tag Archive: Johnny Depp


The summer blockbuster season is officially in full swing, and here are two more of the movies that are making moviegoing a blast this summer.

Yeah, I know, I jumped from early June to early July. What in the world happened to late June?  Well, let’s see … I was out of town for a few days, then dog-sitting for neighbors, and it just kind of whizzed by in a blur, with no theatergoing at all!  But I plan to make up for that now.

The Heat

melissa-mccarthy-photoshop-uk-poster-the-heat__oPtSophomoric comedies are usually the territory of the boys. But once in a while, a terrific female-cast funny movie shows that anything the boys can do, the girls can do too.  And I have to admit that I love many female comedies, like the classic 9 to 5 (1980), the goofy Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997), the silly The House Bunny (2008), and the hysterical Bridesmaids (2011). Female comedies still are few and far between, unlike the constant barrage of male-centric absurd comedies. That’s probably as it should be—let boys be boys.  Only sometimes, when talented female comic actors team up, the result can be inspired fun.

The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock as an FBI agent disliked for her condescending efficiency and Melissa McCarthy as an abrasive but effective Boston cop, is hilarious. There’s the obvious clash of the two “types” the main stars portray, the odd-couple effect, which is so often the basis of such comedies.  Sure, it’s formulaic, and that’s OK for a movie that doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Sometimes laughter is just good medicine. The plot is not bad in setting up why these contrasting characters must work together, and then Bullock and McCarthy are unleashed to make us giggle. There are some hysterical scenes in this film, but it also has a subtlety and pacing that I find lacking in many over-the-top male comedies.

The Heat - 5Perhaps what I appreciate most about female silly comedies is that women do bring a certain softness and empathy to even the stupidest situations and densest characters. And then there is the emotional payoff; there’s a big difference between “I love you, man” moments and the kind of “Now we are sisters” sentiments snuck in between the slapstick in this movie.  One of those actually made me tear up for a moment. That doesn’t typically happen when I watch, say, a Will Ferrell movie.

There are some issues, of course. The one that most sticks with me is the absolute waste of talent in putting Jane Curtain in an all-but-silent role with not much comic involvement.  Other than that, for what it is—a light, humorous summer flick—The Heat mostly hits the mark.

A-

The Lone Ranger

lone_ranger_ver12_xlgThis movie kind of relates the Lone Ranger story we all remember, but on acid. Think Hell on Wheels meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  The Lone Ranger is a comedy, an FX-ridden adventure, a supernatural tale, and a peek at the carnage that helped build this country, all rolled into one and filled with anachronisms and wildly implausible moments. Thanks to the talent involved, it all works together as pure entertainment.

I can’t believe how many nasty reviews I’ve read about this film, most seeming to dwell on the fact that The Lone Ranger seems to be modeled on Pirates of the Caribbean, spewing vitriol at Disney for banking on a winning formula, and criticizing the lack of faith to the original materiel (Really? Like that was high art?). Lighten up, people!  It’s summer entertainment.  I truly enjoyed this fun film, and so did the rest of the audience laughing itself silly all around me in the theater. My only points of dissatisfaction (and hence the minus after the A grade) were at the sometimes uneven pace and the lack of solid female characters.

The-Lone-Ranger-Movie-PosterYes, it’s true that the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise team is back, including director Gore Verbinski (The Mexican, Rango) and writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (Shrek franchise, Zorro films), with the addition of writer Justin Haythe (The Clearing, Revolutionary Road). And of course, the film stars Captain Jack Sparrow himself, the inimitable Johnny Depp. As I mentioned, some of the reviews jump on this reunion as a negative, but I judged the movie on its own merits. If you didn’t care for the Pirates movies or are weary of Depp’s characters in general, don’t go see The Lone Ranger. Some of us aren’t yet tired of this team’s creative contributions.

Johnny Depp is mesmerizing as a demented, tragicomic Tonto who spends most of the film feeding the stuffed crow that rides atop his head and deriding our hero, John Reid, who is portrayed by Armie Hammer as an uptight attorney slowly tuning in to the realities of the lawless West. Though the film focuses on telling the tale from Tonto’s point of view, Hammer does a great job of rendering the changes that take place in Reid because of all he witnesses, to the point of knowing he must give up his dreams to pursue justice.

1372956869000-LONE-RANGER-MOV-jy-0550-1307041258_4_3_rx404_c534x401The rest of the cast is equally memorable.  William Fichtner is frightening in an uncharacteristic villain role as Butch Cavendish.  Tom Wilkinson handily plays an unscrupulous railroad tycoon.  Other striking characters include Helena Bonham Carter as a deadly-legged madam, Barry Pepper as a avaricious cavalry commander, Leon Rippy as a pivotal posse member, and Mason Elston Cook as the boy listening to Tonto tell the whole story through a frame narrative.

Best of all, this movie is hysterically funny, in spite of (or thanks to) how dark its underlying story is—I won’t give away details, but it includes slaughter, kidnapping, and even a little cannibalism. Hmm, funny stuff. Maybe precisely because these topics make us feel uneasy, and some scenes are pretty harsh, we laugh all the harder at the juxtaposed clowning and marvel all the more at the fabulous stunts, explosions, and chases.  Some of the one-liners and jokes are priceless, and of course Depp’s facial expressions add a level of hilarity all by themselves.

The story is light years from what aficionados of the radio and TV series ever appreciated about the masked man who pursued justice in the Wild West. It’s a reinterpretation, a wild and crazy one at that, but it is faithful in a few ways: it preserves the innocence of the righteous approaching malevolent circumstances, the futile fumbling of disparate cultures trying to interact, and of course the satisfaction of a legendary story entertainingly related.

A-

Report Card: June 2012

All right, it is now July (where does the time GO?), but I watched all these movies in June.  Honest.

Up until the recent heat wave, this summer was perfectly agreeable for spending time outdoors, so my movie-watching has been sparse. Then came the triple-digit temperatures and oppressive humidity that makes it feel like you’re swimming through a steaming tub of dirty sweat socks, and I retreated to air-conditioned comfort. The downside of that is a bit of cabin fever; the upside is MOVIES! Here’s the latest trio of cinematic samplings.

Goons Are People Too

Based on real-life enforcer Doug Smith’s book, Goon (2011), screenplay by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg and directed by Michael Dowse, is an absolute HOOT! Seann William Scott shines as the sweet bouncer-turned-hockey player who is good at one thing: protecting his teammates.

A must-see for anyone who likes a heartwarming underdog story but especially fitting for hockey fans and anyone who likes Slap Shot(1977).

One word of caution—if you can’t stand the real violence that often comes with hockey, you might not like it here. But if you can, just remember it’s a movie, all the blood is fake, and the story is so worth it.

A

A Journey of Mythic Proportions

The Fall (2006) is an opulent cinematic journey through a twisted fairytale told by a convalescing stuntman (Lee Pace) to an adorable little girl (Catinca Untaru) who helps him to realize that stories can be changed, and so can real life.

What I love about this film, directed by Tarsem Singh, is not only the visually stunning scenes of the imaginary world (filmed in about 20 countries), but also the genius use of its amazing stars, who are filmed at times in moments of seemingly effortless spontaneous dialogue. I give a truckload of credit to a director who can set up his starts and then set them free in a scene. It works especially well when they are as talented at Pace (Pushing Daisies, A Single Man) and as beguilingly precocious as Untaru.

Like a cross between The Princess Bride and the coming-of-age films of Guillermo del Toro, this is a lovely film for a dreamy, rainy afternoon.

A-

Another Hangover

I know, I know.  I kind of hated The Hangover (2009), deeming it a wildly inappropriate, puerile attempt to be funny.  I could not believe so many people loved it!  I agreed to watch its sequel, The Hangover Part II (2011) because it was one of those lazy days when only a stupid comedy will do.  And it was free on HBO.  Know what?  I kind of liked it. My conclusion?

(A)   I am losing brain cells at an alarming rate.

(B)   I’ve lowered my expectations to meet the new level of entertainment being doled out to the masses.

(C)   I might have to give The Hangover (Part I) another sporting try.

Boys and girls, we know the answer for the majority of multiple-choice test questions is C.  Here’s to keeping an open mind.

The usual suspects are back, including stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Justin Bartha. The premise is even less plausible and stretched even thinner than in the first film, and yet, it somehow works. And it all takes place in an exotic locale.  The gags actually flow smoothly from the plot (though there are gaping holes, like Phil’s wife never even asking where he was). And when Stu solves the mystery, I actually thrilled at his ingenious discovery! (Never mind that Teddy, Mason Lee, is not more upset about missing something … just another of those annoying little plot holes.)

Lesson? Maybe it’s just that sometimes a completely goofy movie is the ticket.  I keep hearing the word “Relax.” Or, in the words of Nick in The Big Chill, “You’re so analytical! Sometimes you just have to let art flow over you.”

C+

A Little Down on Jump Street

I was a fan of the original series, and of course own it since I have “everything  Johnny Depp ever did.” And Johnny, along with Peter DeLuise and Holly Robinson Peete (original 21 Jump Street colleagues) appear in this supposed modern-day rehas, cleverly titled 21 Jump Street (2012).  Ahem.

If it aims to pay homage to its roots, it does so crudely.  Jonah Hill carries the comedic aspects of the movie, Channing Tatum struts around supposedly being the “good looking one,” and the rest of the cast is just kind of along for the ride. Though there are a few clever bits (like things NOT blowing up that should), this sophomoric flick ultimately tries too hard and falls short.

C-

Have you seen any of these films?  Chime in about what you thought!  Or, add something about a worthwhile flick you’ve seen lately.

Summer Movie Fun

It’s been a quite a pleasant summer so far. We’ve had some of the typical heat and humidity for which Georgia is known – even before the official first day of summer – but we’ve also had some downright pleasant days (lord knows, I like having a fire in the fireplace, and I’m grateful for some cool evenings in May that provided the opportunity to use some well-seasoned firewood).

Another aspect that has made this summer most pleasant is the fun movies coming out. Everyone already knows I loved The Avengers.  Well, a few days ago, I loved it a second time.  This coming weekend, I’ll love it a third time when I go with my roommate who has not seen it yet.

Tim Burton Almost Redeems Himself

Tim Burton has been one of my favorite creative minds in filmmaking for many years. But some of his recent projects struck me as self-indulgent and just plain trying too hard, like they were caricatures of what used to make Burton films so eerie and magical. I truly disliked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and wondered why in the world an iconic film like Willie Wonka and Chocolate Factory would ever need to be remade. I also wasn’t blown away by Alice in Wonderland, which was more sterile and staged than enchantingly nightmarish, as the book really is. It should have been a perfect fit for Burton; alas, it was not.  Of course, both of these films are in my “everything-he-ever-made Johnny Depp library.” Obviously, I don’t stand on principal enough to prevent THAT.

But Dark Shadows marks a step back in the right direction Burton-esque direction (at least, I am hoping with all my will and might), though he’s not quite there yet. It has more of a Big Fish tale-like feel to it, and less of the bizarreness for the sake of being strange that mark what I consider to be Burton’s failed features. It manages in part to return to the whimsy and era-specific jibes that Burton worked so well into films like Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. It’s great to see that step back, with no small thanks to a terrific cast led by Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer, but it still lacked that earlier Burton spark. The worst part of the movie is the character of Carolyn Stoddard, played by the talented (but wasted here) Chloe Grace Moretz. Most of the way through, she is a sullen, tripped-out, unintelligible creature for whom there seems to be no purpose. At the end, when she turned into a werewolf, I actually groaned. Dark Shadows is worth seeing, but it’s not yet the awesomeness-of-old that Tim Burton films used to be. And – big caution sign here –  it is NOT like the original series that some of us may recall. If you were a fan of the show, put those memories on the shelf as you go to see this interpretation of the Barnabas Collins story.

B-

Men in Black Wear It So Well … Again!

Men in Black is officially one of my favorite franchises of all time.  I adored the first movie, really liked the second, and am crazy about the third. These movies are hilarious, well-acted and pun-filled, with plenty of special effects eye candy. The team of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith its one of the trilogy’s strongest aspects, naturally, along with the tongue-in-cheek portrayal of aliens assimilating on earth (watch for some new “which celeb’s an alien” reveals).  In MIB III, the crowning achievement belongs Josh Brolin and his portrayal of young Agent K, and he does an absolutely unbelievable job of inhabiting the skin of a younger Tommy Lee Jones!  At times, I forgot who I was watching on the screen.

In addition to the usual save-the-world-from-hostile-aliens scenario, this installment of the MIB adventure wonderfully brings the story full circle and provides a brief tearful moment as we find out how our two favorite black-suited agents are really connected. If you want a summer movie that’s satisfying, exhilarating, and truly entertaining, go see Men in Black III.

A

 

It’s the end of July (holy chronometer, Batman, where does the time fly?), so it’s time for another movie report card.  It’s also an opportunity to wax eloquent about movie-watching in general.

There’s shifting in the Movieverse of Zu.  I finally got me a wi-fi enabled blu-ray player, which I adore. It streams Netflix, Amazon, CinemaNow, and more. And now come the decisions.

The first is the pending decision about whether to continue subscribing to Netflix. As many will have heard, Netflix, the haven of watchers of unusual, classic, cult, foreign, and documentary films, has announced a change on September 1 that basically raises prices and changes services in a way that makes it tough for some of us to decide what to do. For example, I currently subscribe to getting two DVDs at home at a time plus unlimited streaming, which runs $14.99 plus assorted taxes. The new price for this plan is $19.98.  That’s an increase of over 30 percent!  So, now I have to decide whether to go with JUST streaming for $7.99 (seriously cutting down on the selection available to me and thereby negating one of the main resons I signed on with Netflix in the first place) or streaming plus one DVD at home for $15.98 – still an increase in price over my current plan and a decrease in DVDs.  A third alternative, of course, is to scrap Netflix altogether for this bungling of plans and rely on the new options available to me.

Decisions, decisions.

And now, back to movies. I’ve been working like a madwoman the past few weeks – er, months, actually – so I needed something to give myself as a reward and help me relax with at least a couple of hours of leisure each weekend.  So, what better reward for the Movie Freak than to go see a movie at the theater?  So far, so good.  I love it when a plan comes together.

Here are the recent highlights. These are, by necessity of limited time, very brief reviews, but I had to take these first three out of the report card table, if only so I could include the gratuitous eye candy.

Captain America: The First Avenger

A

First Avenger, hellz yeah! (Yes, it’s true … I am a comic-adapted-to-film nerd.)

Drumroll please, my latest heartthrob is Chris Evans (always liked him — in Fantastic Four, The Losers, Push, Cellular, and Scott Pilgrim — like him even more now). Among the excellent cast, Tommy Lee Jones steals every scene he’s in, IMO. And Hugo Weaving is appropriately menacing as Red Skull.

The story provides well-paced background about the first Avenger, and the final post-credits scene makes Marvel geeks everywhere salivate for May 2012.

The film does an excellent job of immersing viewers in the WWII era and introducing the Captain from his humble beginnings. Though I’m not super-excited about CGI in live-action films, the talent behind the film did an amazing body-shrinking job to make pre-serum Steve Rogers appear short and scrawny.  Of course, post-serum Steve (the real buff physique of Chris Evans) needed no special effects enhancements.

 

Limitless

A

This splendid mind-bender with super cinematography and terrific talent opened to less-than-stellar reception.  It’s hard to say why, though it may have something to do with the fact that the story itself is somewhat bendy. Our good guy is quite the antihero. Conclusions about ethics and the means to reach an end are open to viewer interpretation. It’s not all wrapped up in a neat and shiny bow at the end, and that tends to rattle audiences used to having everything, inclusive of character motivations, ironed and folded.

The film features some amazing cinematography, with sequences that zoom viewers through the streets, alleys, and dwellings of New York in seemingly uninterrupted shots. Made me dizzy … seriously.

And then there are Bradley Cooper’s amazing eyes.  0_0  Um, sorry … what was I saying?

 

Cowboys and Aliens

B+

Well, I may be guilty of being too hyped up on the marketing to give this one a fair shake, but it seemed like a hot mess to me. Oh, it has its moments, and it boasts a terrific cast, bad-ass aliens that are unequivocally baddies, and some awesome Wild West scenery. I really wanted to love this movie. I was waiting to get blown away by it. The storyline is excellent — a real throwback to the feel of old comics that threw together completely implausible combinations in amazingly workable mixtures. But as much as director Jon Favreau talked about it being both about the characters and their relationships and about breathtaking FX and shootouts, it seems somewhere in between to me.  The scenes that are supposed to be heartfelt come off as a bit contrived to me; the action, on the other hand, is stymied in deference to that supposed character development. Something intangible is missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.  What I can put my finger on, however, is that some of the reactions of the supposed frontiersmen to being attacked by aliens is less than realistic, and that’s one way in which credibility could certainly have been built.

It’s definitely worth seeing, and I am certain to add it to my collection. Perhaps repeat viewings will change my tune about some of the details. Nonetheless, this is my first reaction … I wished I’d gone to see Captain America again.

Here are some other flicks I watched over the past couple of weeks.  Looking forward to hearing about your movie-watching adventures!

Film Grade Comment
Deep Red (1975)

A-

Dario Argento classic horror film, often considered his best. David Hemmings (Blow-Up) is an expat musician in Italy pulled into a mysterious series of murders. Though some of the acting is melodramatic and the random dubbing/subtitles can distract, it’s an engaging psycho-drama and mystery with plenty of creative kills to satisfy horror fans.
Rango (2011)

A+

Brilliant satire!  There’s enough “animated movie” here to please the kids, but this most definitely a film with plenty of material for adult sensibilities. Ostensibly an underdog-hero tale, Rango rattles the cage of everything from Old West heroes to water conservation issues. Awesome cast and amazing graphics; the uncut version is a must-see!
The Iron Giant (1999)

A

What can I say? Even with today’s mind-boggling advances in animation, this movie remains a gem.
Dark Harbor (1998)

C

Um, I had seen this before and “forgot” – as one forgets things one would like to unsee.  Naw, it’s not THAT bad … it’s just slow as molasses for a while, with a surprising yet oddly creepy crescendo. But like I’ve said many times, I will watch anything with Alan Rickman in it.
Deadtime Stories: Volume 1 (2009)

D

What saves these crappy short flicks from being a complete F is that the stories are actually interesting in an old-fashioned comic-book horror kind of way. But the truly horrific production values make this compilation painful to watch.  Perhaps narrator/producer George Romero didn’t suspect the end result; then again, maybe he didn’t care.
Barney’s Version (2010)

B-

Meh. I kind of didn’t get it as a story, except as a John Irving-esque “here’s a life” portrait (but without Irving’s marvelous life lessons, except maybe the lesson “try not to be an asshole”), but the performances are fabulous. Paul Giamatti is awesome as usual, but I wish he’d quit playing only such sad-sacks and get back to his comedic roots.

At the 2010 People’s Choice Awards, Johnny Depp was up for Favorite Actor of the Year. After receiving more votes than anyone in the history of People’s Choice, he ended up being named Favorite Actor of the Decade. Depp, who often has been absent from awards shows where honors are bestowed upon him, actually showed up and gratefully acknowledged that the only reason any entertainer is up on that stage (or any stage) is because of the people — the fans.  Click here to see Depp’s cool yet humble acceptable speech.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s introduction of Depp was both funny and accurate, especially in this respect: Depp hasn’t followed trends; he has set them. Over the past three decades, Depp’s shrewd choice of material, in all but a couple of unfortunate instances, has been impeccable and his performance always on the money. Speaking of money, the films he’s been in have grossed more than $2 billion (that billion with a B).

One thing that’s fascinating about Depp is that he’s taken his own road and engendered nothing but respect. Even when people are not huge fans, like yours truly, no one seems to despise him; that’s a tough claim for actors of his generation to make (the only other I can think of who doesn’t seem to have any real haters is John Cusack).

I’ve been a Depp fan from the get-go. Yup, I giggled over his bare midriff  under a cut-off football jersey in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and religiously watched 21 Jump Street (1987-1990). His films are among the few that I always go see first-run in the theater. My Depp collection contains everything he’s ever done, including films that aren’t distributed in the States (exceptions are a couple of voice-overs and early one-off appearances on series like Arthur Hailey’s Hotel and Lady Blue … bet you don’t even remember those).

On the heels of Depp’s latest award, I thought I’d take a stab at creating my own ranking of “The Johnny Depp Library.”  Here goes! Continue reading

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