Category Archives: Fall movies

Black Mass

Hey hey!

It’s here. Fall movie season is here.

Dramas. Mystery. Matt Damon. Horror. Biopics. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

I started things off with my first Benedict Cumberbatch movie ever, “Black Mass.”

While Cumberbatch does pull off a Boston accent in the film, I know it’s really all about Johnny Depp and his portrayal of James “Whitey” Bulger.

black massThe role is being labeled as a comeback for Depp and of course there is some buzz about an Oscar nomination, but his physical transformation into Bulger was a distraction from his overall portrayal of the Boston crime boss/FBI informant. In fact, the makeup, dyed hair, discolored teeth and definitely the icy blue contact lenses were probably unnecessary for moviegoers to understand the true Bulger through Depp’s performance.

That’s especially the case because this rendition of his story, based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neiil, focuses as much on aspects of Bulger’s personal life as it does on his criminal activity on the streets of South Boston and secret business with the FBI.

That aspect of the story is introduced not long into the film when Bulger’s childhood “friend” John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) approaches him to be an informant about another mafia family in Boston in exchange for some immunity – of course as long as he doesn’t kill anybody.

It starts in 1975 and spans all the way until 2011 when Bulger was ultimately arrested after a long long time in hiding.

There are flash forwards of police interviews with members of the Winter Hill Gang who were arrested before Bulger and dished about his crimes and control over them in exchange for possible lesser prison sentences.

You’ll see a lot of familiar faces in the gang – like Jesse Plemons (also with a physical transformation for the role) and Rory Cochrane as Bulger’s right-hand man Steve Flemmi.

Lucaslucas2I kept thinking about other films I’ve seen Cochrane in while watching “Black Mass” and realized by the time I got home he was my favorite character Lucas in “Empire Records.” I also remember now thinking the same thing when I watched “Argo” and “Public Enemies,” also starring Johnny Depp.

Back to “Black Mass,” the dynamic between Flemmi and Bulger was perhaps the most interesting — and hard to watch — during the film.

There was a sense of trust and loyalty between Bulger and Flemmi, but not enough to would prevent Bulger from betraying his friend and confidant.

As Flemmi said in one of his later FBI interviews, Bulger is truly criminal.

The film also explores the dynamic between Connolly and Bulger and delves somewhat into the relationship between James and his brother Billy, a prominent state senator.

That story alone could be the focus of a movie, which leads me to the real flaw of “Black Mass.”

Bulger’s life and crime career are so complex and span so much time, it’s too much to fit into one movie. The film has a strong cast, for the most part, writing and acting, but the choice to try to fit the bulk of Bulger’s story into two hours was just too much.

Focusing on 35 years of Bulger’s story, ending with his arrest, actually left me wanting to know more about all aspects of what I saw on screen. It just wasn’t possible for director Scott Cooper and the film’s writers to show enough about who Bulger is when they chose to cover that much of his life.

Luckily, as is the case with a lot of movies out this time of year, there is the book to fill in the blanks.

“Black Mass” certainly wasn’t a bad way to start fall movie season and, as I probably say about too many movies, it’s worth seeing. My personal expectations for the film were probably just a little too high.

In other news, “The Martian” starts on Thursday! No complaints, but I thought it was coming out on Nov. 25.
I guess I better start reading that book.


People Places Things

ryanadamsThis week in entertainment news has been a dream. Ryan Adams is releasing his own version of Taylor Swift’s “1989”; there is a “Flight of the Conchords” movie in the works; Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are going on tour later this year; and the Sklar Brothers and Daniel Van Kirk will be in Minneapolis in October.

That news is based on an exclusive report directly from the Sklar Brothers to me. I was the first to know on Twitter, or I’ll just keep telling myself that.


It’s all too good to be true, BUT IT IS!

chris hardwickDaniel Van Kirk is one of my comedy and personal idols and the thought of meeting him is already causing me to have a pre-Chris Hardwick meet-and-greet (circa 2013) meltdown. I don’t know if I’ll be able to work up the courage to talk to “Mark Wahlberg” himself. At least I have some time to prepare.

This is where Jemaine Clement comes back into the picture. Last week, I saw Clement in one of my favorite movies of this year “People Places Things.”

peopleClement’s character in the film Will Henry, a newly-single father of two, finds himself trying to navigate work, taking care of his daughters and eventually breaking out into the world of dating again.

Henry is a graphic novelist and college professor. His drawings play their own role in the film as scenes the characters are experiencing are modified in Henry’s imagination and shown to the viewer as he draws them out on paper.

Not too far into the film, as one of Henry’s students sets him up on a date with her mother Diane (Regina Hall), Henry presents the question: Is happiness in life is really a sustainable concept?

There is a connection between Diane and Will based on this concept and the idea they are both on board for a “no bullshit” courtship.

It’s all easier said than done and of course things do get complicated as a result of Will and Diane’s past relationships, and their kids.

Overall it’s a simple premise for a film — in some ways one that’s been done before — but writer and director James C. Strouse effectively takes the “romantic comedy” to a new place and completes the story with its share of unpredictable plot points.

In the end you may not be surprised by what happens to Will and the decisions he makes, but you will be happy.

The film has a subtle humor, a lot of heart and continues Clement on the path to my kind of leading man following his role in “What We Do in the Shadows” and what I am sure will be a delight if the big-screen version of “Flight of the Conchords” is made.

Plus, his character’s courage in “People Places Things” is inspirational. I’ll have to remember that when I’m in the vicinity of Mr. Van Kirk in a couple of months and say hello.

Unfortunately I didn’t finish this while “People Places Things” was showing at the theater (at least in Minneapolis) but it will be on DVD Oct. 6.

In other news, fall movie season will be upon us soon and Indiewire released its (one of many, I’m sure) lists of must-sees so far. I’ve already added “Sleeping With Other People,” to my favorites for the year.

Instead of John Hodgman, I will sign off this time by quoting my favorite Taylor Swift cover Ryan Adams has released a sample of so far.

Shake it Off.

P.S. Follow Adams on Twitter for his “1989” updates. It’s a delight.

Tracks, Gone Girl Driving Tours… and snakes

Oh, hi. Don’t mind me, I’m just the lady in the back of the movie theater audibly gasping when a giant snake slithers across Mia Wasikowska’s body in her new movie “Tracks.”

It’s unfortunate that “Tracks” isn’t in the theaters anymore, at least in the Twin Cities, but don’t let the aforementioned snake nightmare (for me) deter you from seeing it when it’s released on DVD (or laser disc or whatever format you choose.)

BUT, if you do have a fear of snakes, I warn you that there is no build up to the scene to allow for time to cover your eyes and therefore not say “Oh Jeez” in the theater loud enough so the people a few rows away turn around and look at you. The scene is actually in the trailer so I thought for sure there would be time to prepare and know that a giant snake is about to appear, but no such luck.

As far as I can tell, the scene was in the movie strictly for visual effect and beauty, which makes sense with “Tracks” because the backdrop of the Australian desert it takes place in is just stunning. (Minus the snake.)

I just have to let that go because “Tracks” really is my favorite movie of those I’ve seen of late.

Wasikowska stars in the film as Robyn Davidson, who in real life walked 1,700 miles across the Australian desert with camels that she trained and her dog, Diggity.

She is joined, at times, along the way by a National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) to document her journey. Davidson set out to do it completely alone, but the magazine sponsored her trip and required coverage of it in return.

I enjoyed the interactions Davidson had with Smolan and even more so the indigenous people in the desert who served as guides and hosts during her trip. While there are many other characters in the film aside from Davidson, there is just enough time spent on why she sought out to complete the journey on her own and the background of her life.

Davidson wrote a book about her journey as well, which I want to read, but I recommend the film for its visual depiction of the story alone.

Moving on, it’s hard to rank the rest of the films I’ve seen lately, but “Gone Girl” has to be my second favorite. I went to it on opening night, along with a lot of other people, and was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t a huge fan of the book and, with author Gillian Flynn serving as a screenwriter, I was worried some of the negatives from the novel would translate to the movie version of the story. I mainly didn’t like Flynn’s writing style in the novel but it somehow was transformed into a solid script and film with just the right amount of camp and dark humor.

I heard a rumor that the movie ending to the story was different from the book, but Flynn and director David Fincher stayed true to the original plot. There are subtle hints of Fincher’s directing style from some of his darker films but “Gone Girl” is really a mix of suspense, mystery and humor. She doesn’t have a big role, but Casey Wilson’s appearance as the nosy neighbor to Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike (Nick and Amy) made my day and Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry work well in their supporting roles. It took a while to get on board with Affleck’s performance, but once the dark comedy theme of the film sets in he plays a perfect as a dumb husband who really isn’t that dumb.

I’ve been following the production of this film for quite a while since it takes place, and was filmed in, the town where my aunt lives — Cape Girardeau, Mo. She sent me local news articles during the filming (did you know Ben Affleck shopped at a thrift store there? OMG) and I admit I’ve done some research of my own about it. The latest news, which my aunt did send me, is that the visitor’s bureau in Cape Girardeau is now hosting Gone Girl driving tours.

I also have to credit my aunt with working in a Seinfeld reference when she sent me the news. I hope they really do have muffin stumps on this tour.

If I don’t get to it before I leave for Missouri to geek out on Gone Girl even more, here is a quick ranking of the other movies I’ve seen lately “The Two Faces of January,”  “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” “Kill the Messenger,” and “This is Where I Leave You.”

“Time is of the essence.” Newman.


“Frank” and Such

Hello Folks.

I had to pull myself away from binge watching “The Good Wife” and listening to the new Ryan Adams album to finally update my blog. (Guess what? David Letterman really likes Ryan Adams, too.)

I will say that hearing critics like Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald gush about Adams’ new songs and how awesome he is just makes my day, almost as much as the time my sister and I saw him at Gluek’s bar after a concert many years ago.

Ryan and Greenwald also happen to be fans of “The Good Wife” and give regular shout-outs to homegirl Christine Baranski for some reason. I like it. Unfortunately before I realized what an addicting gem the show is I listened to a spoiler episode of their Hollywood Prospectus podcast that revealed a huge plot point from the finale of last season. Maybe it will make it a little bit easier now that I am prepared for the devastating news that caused fans to flood (Spoiler Alert!) Twitter with their 140-character reactions.

For those of you who are current on “The Good Wife” (anyone, anyone?) the season premiere is Sept. 21.

That’s right, it’s fall TV and movie season!

I may or may not have a Google doc saved to keep track of all the premiere dates of my favorite shows and a few new ones I want to watch (if you need a copy, let me know.) There are a lot of great shows airing soon, but I am really here to dish about what I did see during the past few months, fall movies I am so so so excited about and my recent viewing of “Frank.”

This summer was reportedly the worst at the box office since 1997 and not even “Guardians of Galaxy” (which is amazing) could save the day.

I guess I’m not helping because I work at a movie theater and therefore didn’t pay for any of the movies I saw this summer, except “22 Jump Street” (worth it.)

Most recently I saw “Frank,” starring Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson and my boy Scoot McNairy.

I was hooked on what I thought was a completely fictional movie just from the trailer, only to find out at the end that it’s based on a true story documented in a newspaper article by Jon Ronson.

Ronson is the inspiration for one of the main characters, Jon Burroughs, an aspiring musician who stumbles upon an opportunity to play a gig with a mysterious band, the Soronprfbs.

The band leader is Frank Sidebottom, who always wears a paper mache head with a face painted on it.

The role of Frank Sidebottom is a departure for Fassbender, I think, but he masters the performance and the musical talent of the main character. Fassbender’s voice is key in the film as he performed many of the songs by the Soronprfbs and had to act, for the most part, without using any facial expressions.

After Burroughs lands a gig with the band Don (McNairy), the manager, invites him to record an album at a remote cabin in the woods. He immediately agrees and after a lengthy stay there sets his sights for the band on performing at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. The rest of the band isn’t aware of Burroughs’ goals for some time, much less the fact he is promoting the band on Twitter and YouTube.

In their time together the Soronprfbs experience conflict, tragedy and happiness, which are themes displayed throughout the film. On the surface the theatrical telling of this true story is portrayed with quirk and humor, but the filmmakers reveal the true persona of Frank, and all the characters for that matter, by the end.

Frank is still in theaters, including the Lagoon in Minneapolis and is coming soon to St. Anthony Main. It will be on DVD on Dec. 8, 2014.

Wow this is getting long, I guess that’s what happens when I don’t work on my blog for a really long time.

I have plans to go to brunch and play Bingo, yes at the same time, soon so I better wrap this up.

Looking back on what else I saw this summer, “Obvious Child” starring Jenny Slate was by far my favorite film. I chose wisely with the aforementioned blockbusters “22 Jump Street” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”and I enjoyed “Happy Christmas” and “Boyhood” as well.

As for what’s to come I’m pretty excited about “Nightcrawler,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a freelance crime journalist in Los Angeles.

Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” starring Channing Tatum and Steve Carrell is top on my list as well and David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” is looking better and better. The first trailers make the film look pretty cheesy, for lack of a better word, but I actually think the on-screen version of the story will be better than the book. Author Gillian Flynn is also the screenwriter, so it will be interesting to see how she turns around her own novel.

if you didn’t know the film is especially creating excitement in Cape Girardeau, Mo., where the story takes place and the cast and crew spent time filming during the last year. My aunt lives there and said the local movie theater will show the film on every screen during its opening weekend and a lot of other events are planned around the premiere. Maybe Ben Affleck will be there, in which case I will be too.

Gosh, I haven’t even covered all the movies I wanted to (including “St. Vincent,” and “Birdman,”) but if I do I will be late for Bingo.

As John Hodgman says, “That is all.”