Monthly Archives: July 2016

Black Mass

BlackMassTitleJohnny Depp as Whitey Bulger
Joel Edgerton as John Connelly
Benedict Cumberbatch as Billy Bulger
Rory Cochran as Stephen Flemmi
Kevin Bacon as Charles McGuire

In 1995, then-Saturday Night Live star David Spade, caricaturing the hosts of entertainment analysis shows, said of Casino, “I liked it better when it was called Goodfellas’.” In that particular case, this was an obvious cheap shot. But even with the much, much greater time since the 1990 mafia classic, this label might be more appropriate for Black Mass.

Any gangster in any movie without "godfather" in the title better pray hard.

Any gangster in any movie without “godfather” in the title better pray hard.

Johnny Depp plays James “Whitey” Bulger, the boss of the Winter Hill Gang. The FBI tries to get him to become an informant. But when things get rough, Whitey, despite his contempt for ratting, agrees to help the FBI bust a rival gang. It’s not long before this creates a snowball effect.

"Lissen! I got somefin' fo' yoo ta dough!"

“Lissen! I got somefin’ fo’ yoo ta dough!”

The one name in the listed cast that you’re most likely to have noticed is Johnny Depp. A number of years ago, he was the lone bright spot in those awful Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. Although maybe one good movie based on a Disneyland ride was one good movie too many. He once again demonstrates what a fantastic actor he is! He plays a gangster who cares more about himself than his organization every bit as well as he does a pirate with a heart. Alas, the rest of the cast is pretty much just there. Not bad, but no one really stands out, either.

Let’s get back to the Goodfellas comparison. I mentioned that there’s personally tormenting ratting out others on the part of the main character. Not unlike the way Goodfellas ended. Many characters, including Whitey himself, exhibit mannerisms similar to characters from that movie.

BlackMass3

I guess we need the scene with a gangster in a normal room with normal friends and/or family members, don’t we?

That wouldn’t be so bad if only there were some emotionally gripping scenes. There aren’t. Black Mass is largely forgettable in its plainness.

In conclusion, Black Mass is for crime drama fanatics only. Others will find it to be dull.

Overall: 5 out of 10

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham

LEGO® Batman™ 3: Beyond Gotham_20160604190338It can be difficult to keep a series fresh over a long period of time. Has the Lego Batman series been kept fresh? I’m afraid not. While the technical aspects are there, the level design isn’t very good. What’s worse is some questionable decisions in which mission objectives to put in the game. All this makes LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham not the great experience that part 2 was.

Plot: 4 out of 10

The first mistake is the “beyond Gotham” part of the title. Why is this a Batman game? Given that the story is about the Justice League teaming up with some villains led by Lex Luthor against a greater evil, perhaps a more appropriate title would be Justice League: Beyond Good and Evil. A lack of good interactions between characters make this the beginning of a disappointment.

LEGO® Batman™ 3: Beyond Gotham_20160604200247

Most parents try to keep their children FROM taking bad falls.

Graphics: 8 out of 10

You can give credit to the look of this game. The LEGO and Batman feels are captured and everything is well-detailed. But as too few development teams have learned, graphics don’t make the game. How it plays makes it.

Sound: 6 out of 10

One major advantage DC games have over Marvel games is the fact that DC’s parent company, Warner Bros., owns the rights to the vast majority of these adaptations of the comic books. So like in the prequels, Lego Batman 3 makes good use of Danny Elfman’s score in the first two Batman movies. But this game’s original tunes are… meh. Bland, tame, and unremarkable are good descriptions as well.

You mean Batman's actually real?

You mean Batman’s actually real?

Back to the easy access to Bat-stuff For just a moment. How about downloadable adaptations of past movies and shows in the next Arkham Whatever game? This would be stuff I’d really like to buy. Just think about, WB, kay? We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Gameplay: 5 out of 10

Once again, you have control of Batman and Robin. Once again, both have a wide variety of suits with different abilities to use. What’s different this time is that this time the controls feel kind of clunky. Batman and Robin seem harder to control. This is an inconvenience that makes the game much harder to enjoy.

Green Lantern kicks ass!

Green Lantern kicks ass!

Challenge: 1 out of 10

All these LEGO games have the following problem: you can’t die for good. Appropriately enough, you get blown apart but come back together. The only challenge comes in collecting Coins and hidden objects to improve your completion stats. Adding to the issue this time is that level designs have gotten repetitive and boring. Some have very little action, just trying to find the exit. This becomes very tedious as the game drags on.

A city-based hero has a space suit? If you say so.

A city-based hero has a space suit? If you say so.

Overall: 4 out of 10

This is not a good game. At all. Not much work was put into it this time. Additional downloadable characters and levels (for more money, I might add) do not make up for a sub-par game.

Deadpool

DeadpoolTitleRyan Reynolds as Deadpool/Wade Wilson
Morena Baccarin as Vanessa
Ed Skrein as Francis Freeman/Ajax
Leslie Uggams as Blind Al
Stefan Kapicic as Colossus
Brianna Hildabrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead
Gina Carano as Angel Dust

Before this film, I had virtually no exposure to the Deadpool character. It’s not that I never read comic books, just none about this endeared yet more obscure character. Do I really have to read about every character? If his first movie is any indication, I can see why he has such a loyal cult following.

Deadpool1

Someone must have quite a sense of humor to allow this to survive the editing process.

Wade Wilson is no hero. He’s a flawed person whose interests include beautiful women and gambling. Also, unlike nearly every superhero, he will make the occasional kill. Unfortunately, he gets terminal cancer. However, he is approached by Ajax, who is running an operation that can give people extra fast healing, fast enough to cure any disease. With nothing to lose, Wade agrees. But the plan is for him to become a mindless slave to Ajax’s organization. Wade manages to escape but a side effect of the treatment leaves him with a disfigured face. Believing his girlfriend, Vanessa, won’t want to be with him now, he sets out to pay Ajax back with a mask and dual identity: Deadpool.

While this seems like a pretty generic plot, the humor adds to it immensely! Jokes like crediting an “overpaid director” in the intro and Deadpool interrogating someone with a Zamboni but becoming frustrated with how long that kind of vehicle takes to get to someone are really funny and greatly improve the viewing experience.

Deadpool2

Yes, Deadpool doodles. But not very well.

Performances are strong. Ryan Reynolds turns in an excellent performance as Deadpool! Everything he does is just right. Other actors are similarly good. We have Morena Baccarin as a less than perfect girlfriend to match our less than perfect protagonist, Ed Skrein as a decent villain, Stefan Kapicic as a legit hero trying to pull Deadpool from the… grey area, and Brianna Hildabrand being convincingly carefree/world-weary as the teenager of the film.

That reminds me. Even though I know next to nothing about Deadpool, I believe he has some contact with the X-Men. Two of them, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, are trying to bring him to Professor X’s school for reeducation. In the end, though, circumstances have Deadpool and his heroic pursuers on the same side. All this helps differentiate who Deadpool is as a character from the majority of characters in these comic book movies.

Deadpool3

The filmakers couldn’t afford any of the really popular X-Men. It’s even admitted in the film.

All said, I view Deadpool as a true action comedy classic. One can only hope it creates a subgenre. Just one disclaimer: don’t let the kids watch with you. The language and violence are quite graphic.

Overall: 9 out of 10