Black Mass


Viewed – 22 March 2016  Online rental

I think I’m not alone in being a little tired of Johnny Depp’s over-the-top caricatures in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice In Wonderland, even if he is often good in those roles.  Occasionally however it’s nice to see him in a more normal acting role, and to some extent this is a perfect vehicle for him.  He plays Boston gangster Jimmy ‘whitey’ Bulger; a ruthless and manipulative thug and leader of a local gang.  One day however an old friend from the neighbourhood comes knocking to ask a favour, who also happens to be an FBI agent out to nail the local Mafia, and soon an awkward alliance is formed.

Black Mass

This gritty and occasionally very violent crime yarn based on true events is well cast and well directed and I was swept up by the realism and atmosphere.  At first it takes a bit of getting used to Depp’s make-up and he stands out a bit compared to the other cast members for this, but thankfully an assured and gradually menacing performance shines through and Depp proves himself equally adept at villainous characters as he is light hearted ones.  Also he’s not the only one who delivers a strong performance as the often underrated Joel Egerton (The Gift) is brilliantly conflicted as an FBI agent in bed with the devil.  Benedict Cumberbatch turns up as Whitey’s politician brother but only adds marginal screen presence, and Kevin Bacon appears as a  very shouty FBI chief.  Yet it’s the uneasy relationship between Depp’s mobster and Egerton’s Fed that carries the movie and proves edge of the seat and powerful with a few moments that genuinely shock (the prostitute).

It may not be as complex or as layered as some crime epics, and how things wrapped up confused me a bit … but overall, I had a very good time with this and those after a decent crime thriller need look no further.

verdict:  4 /5

Cop Car


Viewed – 27 October 2015  Online rental

Every now and then a movie comes along that really surprises.  This fairly low key and under-publicised Kevin Bacon vehicle (no pun intended) follows two run-away ten year old boys who stumble upon a seemingly abandoned police squad car.  With nobody else around, the two troublesome friends decide to take it for a joy ride, unaware that shady Sherriff Kevin Bacon is not far away and hell bent on getting his transport back.

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With the dusty baron wasteland of what looked like Arizona as it’s setting, this is a great idea for a simple, straight forward cat and mouse thriller.  Bacon as expected is on fine form; fresh from his excellent turn in now defunct TV series The Following, he’s lost none of that presence that has always made him so watchable.  Once again here he handles a creepy, dangerous character with ease.  The two young actors playing the boys (James Freedson-Jackson & Hays Wellford) were also convincing, despite moments of alarming stupidity (let’s play with a loaded rifle!).  It’s difficult to go into this without giving away several twists and surprises, so I’ll conclude by saying – director Jon Watts has filled this simple but effective movie with nail biting situations, solid performances and a swift pace, peppered with some well implemented dark humour.

A welcome breath of fresh air in an increasingly unimaginative medium.  Well worth checking out.

Verdict:  4 /5

An update and stuff


So what have I been up to lately?  Well I managed to complete Assassin’s Creed Unity on the PS4, the first AC game I have ever kept interested in until the end.  Why?  I think setting was key.  Of the previous games in the series I have played, most have been set either in medieval (AC 1 & 2) or around the time of the crusades (AC 3) and well, the pirating of AC4 never appealed so I didn’t play that one.  However this one was set in Paris, during the revolution, the time of Napoleon etc. and it was a brilliantly atmospheric setting I personally have plenty of interest in. 

Secondly I have been playing Grand Theft Auto V.  Now eagle-eyed readers of this blog may recall me posting about it a while back when I got it on the Xbox 360.  Well, for one reason or another I didn’t play it all that much of it, and since jumping to the next-generation with the PS4 and Xbox One, I thought it was high time I took a second look following it’s revamped re-release on these consoles.  I picked it up on PS4, and must say for what is technically a last-gen title, the detail (with improved textures, lighting, effects as well as an enhanced array of music on the various radio stations) it’s one of the best looking games I have played to date.  GTA V is a fantastic game following the exploits of three characters; Michael the former gangster now in witness protection, Franklin the stereotypical gang-banger hoodlum and Trevor the meth-dealing lunatic.  The missions are cinematic and the world is alive and complex and massive.  There are a ton of things to see and do and it never feels boring.  I’m loving it.  Check out a few screenshots I took with the PS4 to show off how damn gorgeous this next-gen version looks in the flesh:

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On the gaming horizon (next Tuesday to be specific) is The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt.  A heavily hyped and very well reviewed game that I have pre-ordered for my Xbox One.  From everything I have read and seen, it’s sounding like it will be a mammoth RPG adventure to rival the likes of The Elder Scrolls and Final Fantasy, with you as a bad-ass monster hunter known as Garalt, who inhabits a huge world that is one of the biggest apparently ever made and full of detail, missions, characters and true next-gen visuals.  I have watched some gameplay and read several reviews, and suffice to say I am VERY excited.  Roll on May 19th … I’ll do an early impressions some time in the week.

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In other news, I’ve sadly not managed to secure a trip to the cinema to see The Avengers: Age Of Ultron yet and can see it being a Blu-ray review later in the year.  The same might go for Mad Max Fury Road, but I’m still optimistic about getting to see that one, so watch this space (and no, going by myself doesn’t appeal all that much).  I have a few movies on the agenda however, the names of which I’ll keep to myself for now and let you be surprised when I post the reviews.  Yeah, I’m all about the tease.

On the TV watching front I have been pretty addicted to Better Call Saul, that breaking Bad spin-off starring everyone’s favourite crooked attorney Saul Goodman (or Jimmy Magill as he’s currently known).  It seems to have all the polish and great writing of Breaking Bad (well, it is by Vince Gilligan after all) and just keeps getting better and better.  I’m also watching The Following season 3 (yeah, yeah I know…we’re not getting a season 4…boo hiss) which has again been brilliant this year.  Clearly there is no accounting for taste, so another show hits the skids.  Talking of TV, I’m also looking forward to season 3 of Orange Is The New Black, a show at first I wasn’t entirely sure was me … the first series was good but a little lightweight, but with an excellent and gripping season 2, I am now officially a fan.  Damn Netflix just keeps on giving, doesn’t it?  I am also watching Brit drama Luther on it at the moment which stars popular actor Idris Elba as a tough Police detective who specialises in catching serial killers – right up my alley.

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So other than the above, and getting over some man-flu and a tickly cough that just won’t quit … it’s been all about work, which is going very well.  I am learning some new stuff to do more with secretarial tasks and finding it challenging and educational.  Love it when my job gives me those opportunities to learn new skills and I think it helps build a real profile and shape me for the future.  I’m also of course still looking forward to finally seeing my favourite band Garbage in November when they appear at Brixton Academy in London.  It’s going to be such a once in a life time experience for me, someone who doesn’t really get such opportunities.  I have my big brother to thank for making this happen and with my 40th birthday very much right after, November is looking to be a real belter.

Well, enough from me for now.  Hope you’re all having fun in whatever you’re all up to and continue to check in on me and this blog regularly for more updates, reviews and gaming impressions.

Craig.

Super


Viewed – 25 August 2011  Blu-ray

I knew this wouldn’t take long.  The blue-print set in stone by Kick-Ass now spawns a copy-cat movie with an ordinary guy trying to be a super hero.  Yet this movie seems more set in the real world than even that brilliantly realised movie.  Frank (Rainne Wilson) has lost his recovering-drug-addict wife (Liv Tyler) to a local scum-bag gangster (Kevin Bacon), and following a vision, he turns himself into masked vigilante The Crimson Bolt, and sets about fighting crime.  At first he gets his ass kicked, but soon he’s weilding a wrench and splitting heads (literally), eventually making the local news.  This attracts the attention of comic-book store employee Libby (Ellen Page) who turns to Frank to become his side kick … Bolty.

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Apollo 13


Viewed – 04 May 2010  Blu-ray

15th Anniversary Edition

During a career high for Tom Hanks in the nineties where he scored big with Forrest Gump, Philadelphia and Saving Private Ryan, this was another one of those big name movies that garnered plenty of attention.  Telling the true story of the troubled Apollo 13 moon expedition, following in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Hanks plays Jim Lovell, heading a band of three astronauts as they journey into space.  Along for the ride is Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton, and with acclaimed director Ron Howard at the helm, this was a recipe made in heaven.

Although on paper this should be boring, the movie allows what is primarily a two setting show between the space capsule & mission control in Houston, to still be utterly gripping, as the astronauts attempt to rectify an accident that threatens the whole mission, whilst the experts on earth attempt to figure out how to get their boys home.  With stunning attention to detail (the zero gravity is a joy to behold) and solid performances, especially from Hanks who carries the movie and gives a very human, likable performance, and Ed Harris as Mission Control’s chief who commands every line he’s given with convincing authority.  Paxton and Bacon fair a little worse, given little to do but point fingers at each other and squabble, and the scenes involving the families whilst believable are not that fully fleshed out – with only Hanks’ family getting much screen time. 

Ron Howard’s direction has always felt like Spielberg in my opinion, with a similar love of family values, big special effects and americana – but this remains one of his best efforts to date.  The authentic sets (and some incredible work from Digital Domain), makes this a crowd pleasing experience, even if at times it drags, and the ending is never in question, taking away some of the tension.   Yet the story is still something that needed to be told and should leave you humbled by just how much risk mankind will take to reach new horizons.

The Blu-ray is packed with features, with archive footage of the Apollo 13 mission, picture-in-picture historical and technical information, an invaluable commentary from Ron Howard aswell as another from astronaut Jim Lovell and his wife, and plenty of behind the scenes stuff.  The picture is eye-catching but suffers a little from what looks like ringing or edge enhancement, and the colours seem a little overblown.  But overall the detail is high and sound-wise this packs a punch with the launch especially shaking the room. 

Verdict:  4 /5