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Johnny Depp Tag

Warner Brothers, which has given us gangland classics like Little Caesar (1931), White Heat (1949), and Goodfellas (1990), adds to its arsenal another engrossing entry, Black Mass, from the twisted saga of James “Whitey” Bulger. But gangsters weren’t uppermost on my mind as I watched. To me it’s almost like a Frankenstein story, with an ambitious FBI agent, toying with dark forces, creating an uncontrollable, havoc-wreaking monster.

The parallels aren’t exact. Bulger, who had done time at Alcatraz before returing to his roots in Boston’s tough “Southie” neighborhood, was already damaged beyond repair by the mid-70s, a sociopath who lavished attention upon cats, old ladies, and his mom when he wasn’t

I saw London’s biggest stage sensation a couple of days ago, and not because Popdose sent me (like that would ever happen). I just walked across Flatbush Avenue and took my seat at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where Frankenstein was beamed across the pond courtesy of National Theatre Live. Like The Metropolitan Opera the National Theatre has been simulcasting some of its productions via satellite for a couple of years now, but I was reluctant to attend. I’ve always found the idea of experiencing otherwise inaccessible live entertainment via TV or a film screen more enchanting than the reality, where too often the camera freezes in its tracks and the performance is rendered inert, the immediacy and excitement gone. “Why did people pay good money for that?” you end up thinking as you rouse your dozing, frustrated self from your seat.

Still, $21 seemed a small price to pay given the hubbub and generally excellent reviews the show has received. The director is the Oscar-winning Danny Boyle, returning to the stage for the first time since his film success, and the two reputable stars, Benedict Cumberbatch (the BBC’s new Sherlock Holmes) and Jonny Lee Miller (most recently on Dexter), alternate in the roles of Doctor Frankenstein and the Creature. And it’s a big production, with a steam engine that rumbles through one raucous scene, a flight of paper birds, and an overhanging assemblage of 18,000 lights that zap the show with electricity.

The size worried me–how would it translate to film? Mostly Frankenstein worried me–Mary Shelley’s captivating creation (that a young woman writing early in the 19th century got so far in her thinking boggles the mind) is an evergreen at the movies but a stiff on the stage. I saw the flop Young Frankenstein musical on Broadway in 2007 and a smaller, serious-minded Off Broadway musicalization of Shelley’s novel that year, loud and clangy and equally unsuccessful. And I’ve dined out for decades on having seen a super-production

It’s no secret how much I love ’80s breakdance movies. I mean, how can you not love them — there are so many and they are all SO FUCKING AMAZING.

Well, I now think I’ve found a new obsession: ’80s skateboarding movies. This is a genre I’ve never really explored, outside of Gleaming the Cube (1989), starring one Christian Slater. But I think I’m ready for more after viewing this week’s Soundtrack Saturday film, Thrashin (1986), aka Skate Gang.

How I didn’t know about this movie when I was growing up is beyond me. I’m guessing that it probably played on cable a million times, but never bothered to stop and watch it because skaters didn’t really interest me. Well, actually, they did — I had a huge crush on a few skaters in junior high school. But, I mean, this movie features a young, hunky Josh Brolin in his first starring role (this was also his first film after The Goonies (1985). How the hell could I pass that up? Dumb.

Thrashin’ also stars a few actors who appear in other ’80s movies I love, such as Pamela Gidley (Cherry 2000, Permanent Record); Robert Rusler (Weird Science, Shag: The Movie) and Sherilyn Fenn (Just One of the Guys, The Wraith). Plus, it features a boatload of actual, for real skateboarders, like Tony Hawk Tony Alva, Christian Hosoi and Steve Caballero, just like how the breakdance movies had REAL breakdancers. You can’t go wrong, right?

It’s Labor Day Weekend, and if you’re like me, you’re off to the movies. What to see: The unstoppable Sandra Bullock in another romantic comedy? Gamer? Hmmm…maybe a double feature, the unstoppable Sandra Bullock in another romantic comedy and Gamer? (What the heck is Gamer? Doesn’t a sequel to The Crow usually fly into this spot?)

No, you’re not like me. But I’ve got news for you: I’m not like me, either. Drag me to hell: I’m not gonna sit on my ass in some multiplex when the best weather of the season has arrived at the 11.5th hour. I’m going to sit outside and taunt the kids who have to go back to school on Tuesday—man, I hated Labor Day Weekend when I was a kid, knowing that the school bus was going to pull up like Charon the ferryman to escort me back to Hades.

Summer. It was good, now it’s dead. And it’s time to reflect on the corpse.

Boxoffice-wise, the top five films of the season were the Transformers and Harry Potter sequels, Up, The Hangover, and Star Trek. I saw the last three. (In a simpler time in my life, say any day before Aug. 25, 2008, I would have seen them all. The franchises got the boot.) And they were good. Well, The Hangover and Star Trek were good; I can’t say I got down with Up, which struck me as minor Pixar, not out-of-gas Pixar like Cars but a little thin. Still, I’ll buy the DVD—except for Cars, I have them all, even Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo—and give it another spin.


The summer movie season finally begins to wind down this weekend with the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. So what’s next in Hollywood’s blockbuster pipeline? Would you believe a song-and-dance remake of The Bodyguard starring Hugh Jackman and Miley Cyrus? As of July that was the case, but earlier this month a spokesperson for the Wolverine star denied he was involved in the project.

It’s just as well since “Personal Security” sounded like an April Fool’s Day joke in the first place, but these days it can be difficult to tell when Hollywood’s being serious about its various remakes (The Last Dragon, The Secret of NIMH, and even 1985’s Clue, among many others, are currently in development), sequels (a second Bull Durham, a fourth Beverly Hills Cop, a fifth Indiana Jones adventure), and adaptations of everything under the sun. (By the way, I loved that comment you left on the site that one time. In fact, that comment would make a great movie!)

Can you believe everything you read? Well, of course you can, but that doesn’t mean you should. Without consulting any sources, including all your friends who work at Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, take the quiz below and submit your answers to me via e-mail. A winner will be chosen at random and will receive a prize package that includes Hannah Montana: The Movie on Blu-ray, the first season of Peyton Place on DVD, and a free copy of Jack Wagner’s Don’t Give Up Your Day Job, recently reissued on CD by Friday Music. Hey, remember when the General Hospital star made the jump to the big screen in 1984’s Hard to Hold? Or maybe that was somebody else. Oh well, on with the quiz!

I’ve been a fan of director Michael Mann (Ali, The Last of the Mohicans) for some years now. One thing I’ve always been able to count on is that no matter what project he’s filming, it will be a worthy consideration, a high-class work of art.

That is, until now.

Public Enemies, the latest Mann film, about the FBI hunt for legendary criminal John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) is a lengthy potboiler of a thriller, as most of Mann’s films tend to be. The problem here however, is that the pot boils overly long, the thrills are virtually nonexistent, and the story is sadly pedestrian, being one that we’ve seen many times before — including from Mann himself.

Set during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the film tracks the brilliant yet often brutal career of John Dillinger, a man who loves robbing banks as much for the public acclaim as for the money. Dillinger is known for his eccentric style, smooth appearance, being not unkind to his hostages (at one point even giving his own coat to a female captive to protect her from Chicago’s windy breezes), never taking money from customers of the banks he robs–only from the banks themselves–and his clean getaways. He doesn’t even shoot cops unless backed into a corner with no other option. He’s a true gentlemen’s criminal.

Assigned to capture Dillinger is one Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), a dedicated agent placed in charge of the FBI’s Chicago bureau by none other than J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) himself. Unfortunately, after a botched attempt to capture Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham), in which one of his own agents is killed, Purvis realizes his slick looking but inexperienced field agents aren’t quite up to the task, and he’s forced to recruit outside help to nab Nelson, some other gangsters, and of course public enemy #1, Dillinger.

Normally Bob Cashill does a top-ten list of films he’s looking forward to each summer and fall. As he’s “out of town” this week (which, in the writing industry, is code for “on a bender and can’t be found”), I’ve been asked to step up to the plate and cover for him while he’s “away.”

I’ve chosen ten summer films — well, nine as far as Hollywood’s definition of summer goes (the beginning of May all the way to Labor Day weekend), so forgive me for cheating with my first choice.  I will now give my reasons as to why I’m either looking forward to these films or hope they die miserable, lonely deaths at the box office. Please be aware that while the majority of release dates have been locked down, film studios are sometimes fickle, and some later dates may be subject to change.

1. The Soloist (April 24), starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr., directed by Joe Wright.

I’ve been looking forward to this film, based on the true story of celloist-violinist Nathaniel Ayers, an extremely talented musician who suffers from schizophrenia, for quite some time in spite of the semi-mediocrity of its trailer. While I’m certain the film will deliver the expected highs and lows of the friendship between Foxx’s Ayers and Downey Jr. as the reporter who befriends him, all replete with the expected script beats (pg. 50: “Have characters realize they’re more alike than different in spite of their dissimilar backgrounds”), the real reason to see this movie is for the act-off between two great thesps, and to begin the debate about which one will deserve to walk home with a statue come next year’s Oscars.

2. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May 1), starring Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber, directed by Gavin Hood.

Yes, this film’s already hit the Internet, so most of you have probably already seen it. I’m waiting till it actually hits theaters, though, because I’d prefer to see the completed effects, thank you very much. Although I don’t understand the fascination with Schreiber (overrated in my book), the real reason for me to see Wolverine is that it’ll be cool to see Jackman as the title character once again. Fanboys and fangirls who vowed to boycott this Fox film due to the studio’s lawsuit brought against Warner Bros. for partial rights to Watchmen profits will more than likely shut the hell up and see it regardless; it could very well be one of the biggest actioners at the box office this year despite its illegal release on the Web. I’m borderline on the story and characters, but I’m looking forward to Jackman’s Wolvie taking a long list of names while he kicks ass.

noconcessionsTrue-life gangland sagas look to be the mob hits of the year. The Fourth of July weekend brings Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, a vintage slice of 20th century Americana, with Johnny Depp on the lam as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as FBI bureau chief Melvin Purvis. And I spent the better part of a recent Friday at a screening of the two-part, four-hour Mesrine, the Che of French gangster epics, which opens in August. The bloody biopic stars the excitable Vincent Cassel (Eastern Promises) as a trigger-happy thief, kidnapper, and all-around wise apple who, in an outrageous sequence that caps the first chapter, busts out of a high-security Quebec prison, then returns with maximum firepower to free some comrades and avenge himself on the institution.

I trust Mann to do a good job with the rich, myth-busting material provided him by author Bryan Burrough; his book is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in J. Edgar Hoover’s “war on terror” in the Depression era, though I’m sorry HBO didn’t pursue a miniseries as had once been planned. (I suspect that only that portion of the book recounting the oft-told story of Dillinger, played by Lawrence Tierney, Warren Oates, and Robert Conrad in past movies, will make it to the big screen.) Through meticulous research, Burrough succeeded in making Dillinger, the Barker gang, Bonnie and Clyde and the whole den of thieves that erupted in the early Thirties smaller than life, shrinking them down to wormy, human size while simultaneously deflating Hoover’s vastly inflated PR about the trackdowns.

The problem is that when you cast stars in the parts, the hot air inevitably rushes back into the balloon. The larger-than-life glamour returns. The French picture doesn’t try to sell Jacques Mesrine as some kind of anti-hero; we get a taste of his boring bourgeois upbringing, a look at his Algerian war service torturing prisoners, and we’re off on his crime spree for a the next few hours. But it doesn’t have to make us like him. With a live wire like Cassel in the picture, we’re already complicit, by his side, if not on it.

The Italian contribution to the genre, Gomorrah, strips everything away. Martin Scorsese is presenting it in this country, but anyone looking for Mean Streets, Goodfellas, or Casino is likely to come away disappointed. It begins with a bang—a rather absurd one, as warring mobsters open fire on each other at a tanning salon (under the bluish lights, they look like Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen). But the rest of the “action,” when it comes (and it sometimes comes at the edges of the widescreen) is fleeting, and no laughing matter. Some of the actors have vaguely recognizable faces; many are non-professionals, drawn from the forlorn housing projects and cheerless Neapolitan suburbs depicted in the film. (When a star does turn up, and one does, unexpectedly, the appearance is wistful.) The shambling, shameless gangsters wear the cheapest tracksuits. The effect is like an early episode of The Sopranos, before the cast became established in the public eye. Gomorrah, however, is much grubbier, and bleaker, “told from the point of view of the slaves, not the masters,” says writer-director Matteo Garrone in an informative interview in the current issue of Cineaste magazine.