*NEW* BLACK MASS REVIEW *NEW*

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A massive mistake for Depp? Another black mark to put against his flailing filmography? There’s only one way to find out.

The true story of Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp), the brother of a state senator (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.

A mixed bag, to say the least. A stellar cast do their best to reprieve a meandering mob flick.

Johnny Depp was superb. It’s okay looking the part. BUT you need to bring a performance to back it. One that he brings by the bucket load. As soon as he made his introduction with those icy cold blue eyes, I was sold. BUT for all the promise, I expected so much more. For those who are familiar with Whitey’s story, you may find that this latest re-telling brings nothing new to the mix.

The opening really didn’t things going as we were introduced to all of Whitey’s highly unmemorable henchmen as they provided testimony against one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. Other than wearing a really bad wig, I questioned the relevance of Jesse Plemons (Friday Night Lights). I had to laugh at the fact his testimony, in terms of narration, detailed events where his character was never present.

Depp certainly carried the piece. BUT considering he was supposed to be the main character, he wasn’t in it as much as you think. I have to say that Black Mass was a very patchy affair. We had a slow but interesting build up as we watched the small time crook expand in his neighbourhood. BUT after a dull and chunky bit of exposition with the FBI, the film suddenly flash forward. Skimming over crucial moments of Whitey’s ever-growing empire.

I was disappointed that we didn’t even get to see the low level gangster make that transition. He was a small blip on the FBI’s radar in one frame than a massive target in the next one. The passing comments from the FBI agents about his drug business and confrontations with the Mafia sounded great. BUT why couldn’t we see that? Juxtaposing sinister shots of Depp with pictures of bodies wasn’t enough.

I wasn’t completely bored. He bumped off a few people here. Delivered a creepy speech there. There was one brilliant scene in which Whitey educated his fellow handlers on the value of keeping secrets. Spine tingling. BUT where was that tension throughout the rest of the film?

I didn’t mind that they tried to bring a little humanity to Whitey’s character. His care for family and respect among the community may have been intense (A little bonkers, even) BUT you could almost feel a little empathy for the nutcase.

BUT what infuriated me was how this huge ensemble wasn’t used to their full potential. Adam Scott (Krampus) might as well have been an uncredited extra. Kevin Bacon’s character only really got going in the closing minutes. Peter Sarsgaard didn’t do a bad job as the volatile Brian Halloran BUT was shipped out too quickly.

Joel Edgerton (The Gift) was brilliant as FBI agent (and neighbourhood chum) John Connolly. It was interesting to see his transformation from a timid pencil pusher to a cocksure untouchable with shades and swagger in tow. His ruthless egotism was something else.

The lovely (if slightly stick thin) Dakota Johnson (50 Shades of Grey) was wasted in her role as Whitey’s wife. Anyone could have played her. She only really delivered in one scene (The one she featured in). Julianne Nicholson (August: Osage County) managed to make a slightly more memorable turn BUT was still underused as Connolly’s spouse.

I couldn’t compare Black Mass to any of the other gangster flicks because it tragically fell short of them. I really wanted to like this. There were some crazy statistics and moments that did surprise me about the gangster. The deals with the FBI were outrageous. BUT that was it. A movie of moments.

A great cast do their best BUT the wafer thin story was something I expected to see in a True Crime biopic NOT a theatrical release.

2.5/5 (Just)

*NEW* KRAMPUS REVIEW *NEW*

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Ho-ho-horrible. Dark, demented, different.

I normally dread the Christmas period. The inevitable corny and schmaltzy monstrosities we call Christmas movies haunting every possible TV channel (Jingle All The Way being the exception. What?). BUT this latest offering brings a different kind of dread altogether!

A boy (Emjay Anthony) who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a good horror and even more so during Christmas. The opening sold me straight away with the Black Friday carnage as the shoppers descend on the morbid mall. Fighting, scrapping, crying. The true meaning of Christmas.

It was great to see a small and underrated cast, containing some of my favourite comedy supporting actors, getting the chance to take the stage; Adam Scott (Step Brothers), David Koechner (Anchorman), Conchata Ferrell (Two and a Half Men) and Alison Tolman (Fargo).

The dysfunctional family was set up perfectly and it wasn’t long before it all kicked off and poor little Max made a wish that he would soon regret. The slow burning build up to Krampus’ inevitable appearance was a little tedious but once he made his introduction with his devilish critters in tow, I was hooked.

The CGI, make up and special effects were fantastic. The demented goat hybrid Krampus and his freakish little followers were something else. This certainly isn’t for the little ‘uns. A mangled teddy bear, a freaky angel of death, a robot with knives for hands, a grotesque jack in the box and a partridge in a . . . Okay, I’ll stop.

This felt like a “What if Gremlins went darker” scenario and boy, did it! It wasn’t afraid to bump people off. The tone was a little uneven. It was either too dark in one sequence, then too silly in another. However, there were still some creepy and hilarious moments. A particular highlight being Koechner’s confrontation with some killer gingerbread men.

The main plaudits have to go to Koechner as shotgun toting, pick up driving red neck Howard with his tomboy daughters in tow. Every one liner and reaction stole the show for me; ” I just had my ass handed to me by christmas cookies”. I just loved the fact he named his pick up truck Lucinda. “Give her a full tank of gas and we can be storming the beaches of Normandy by sunrise”.

It did feel like Krista Sadler’s Austrian grandmother was only brought into the mix to make the folklore element that bit more authentic. Most people in the audience kept wondering why she was speaking German in the first place. Especially when nobody else did.

The folklore was a fresh take and I was pleasantly surprised. Her creepy storytelling did allow for a brilliant animated sequence that teased elements of The Cabinet of Dr Kaligari as she explained the origins of St. Nicholas’ shadow.

At it’s best, it was tense, funny and oh so dark. BUT at it’s worst . . .

The pace had the tendency to dip and out which killed a good portion of the suspense. More could have been made out of the characters. Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine) and Tolman were heavily underused in their roles. There was so much potential with their fractured relationship BUT it was never going to be that sort of film. And there definitely wasn’t enough of Ferrell’s drunken aunt.

They even missed out on a trick or two with the scares. Hardly a spoiler BUT I really expected something to happen with the creepy snowmen that surrounded the house. BUT alas . .  .

The ending was rushed and tragically predictable. A shame after things finally seemed to kick off for a frantic finale as Max must help his messed up family. BUT luckily there was still enough to make this a reasonably entertaining and dark little Christmas treat.

3/5