Review: Black Mass


DIR: Scott Cooper  WRI: Mark Mallouk, Jez Butterworth • PRO: John Lesher, Scott Cooper, Patrick McCormick, Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson • DOP: Masanobu Takayanagi • ED: David Rosenbloom • MUS: Junkie XL • CAST: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Jesse Plemons, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Rory Cochrane


Black Mass tells the story of real-life Irish-American gangster and FBI informant James ‘Whitey’ Bulger. This has been one of the most anticipated films of the year and while it has its good moments it also turns out to be one of the year’s biggest let downs.

The film’s heavily inspired by Martin Scorsese. From the way it’s shot, to the material covered you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching one of his films. But unfortunately it doesn’t come close to touching Goodfellas or Casino.

Johnny Depp takes the lead as Bulger, who with the help of an old friend in the FBI went on to rule the Boston underworld avoiding investigation and prosecution even in the wake of the vicious crimes he committed.

And Depp plays a psychopath very well which this film, to its detriment, never misses an opportunity to show. Instead of really delving into Bulger’s character and showing his rise and fall, Black Mass features scene after scene of him doing crazy things without any real need to.

It’s a gangster film about a man who committed many, many murders. Yes, you have to show that he’s a psychopath but his entire storyline seems to be sacrificed for shots of him doing crazy things. And because of this the film never really gets going and we miss out on other things that could have been explored.

Probably the more interesting character in the film is the FBI agent who helped Bulger avoid investigation and prosecution for many years. John Connolly, played by Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Exodus), grew up on the same streets as Bulger and wasn’t really corrupted by money but instead by a little brother like affection and admiration that he held for the gangster. It’s a unique take on how a law enforcement agent ends up corrupted and Edgerton’s portrayal of Connolly as a sycophantic, suck-up to Bulger is compelling.

He is obsessed with protecting him even when his marriage falls apart and it’s clear other law enforcement agencies are onto him. Both he and Bulger are from South Boston, a place that values loyalty above all else, and even as an FBI agent Connolly somehow can’t stop being loyal to the big guy from the old neighbourhood.

The performances are all pretty solid. Depp underwent a significant transformation and his haunting, cold blue eyes in the film make him look subhuman. Another strong performance is from Jesse Plemons (TV’s Fargo) who plays an associate of Bulger, Kevin Weeks.

The film seems to cover a hundred things but can’t choose a centre to focus on. It begins storylines and asks questions that it neither really finishes nor answers. A prime example of this is Whitey’s relationship with his brother.

While Whitey was strangling and shooting his way to the top of Boston’s underworld, his brother Billy rose to become the most powerful politician in the city. Played by another star actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, the film doesn’t delve deep into the brothers’ relationship. When the biggest gangster and the biggest politician in a city are brothers, it’s bound to cause tension, right? But the two have only a handful of scenes together which aren’t very meaningful.

Instead of telling the story of Whitey Bulger Black Mass feels more like a greatest ‘hits’ compilation of the gangster. It goes through scene after scene of what he did, who he shot and what he stole. And because of this the plot never gets time to develop properly and at the end of the film you can’t help but feel unsatisfied.

Colm Quinn

122 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Black Mass is released 27th November 2015

Black Mass – Official Website




Cinema Review: Dark Shadows


DIR: Tim Burton  WRI: Seth Grahame-Smith  PRO: Tim Burton, Johnny Depp•  DOP: Bruno Delbonnel • ED: Chris Lebenzon  • DES: Rick Heinrichs  Cast: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter

After his version of Alice In Wonderland netted more than $1 billion in the worldwide box office, Tim Burton was pretty much given carte blanche to do whatever he liked next. And in typically atypical Burton fashion, he decided to adapt a little-known and, truth be told, god-awful cult ’70s tv show.

When Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) breaks a witch (Eva Green)’s heart, her reaction could be considered over-the-top; she kills his parents, makes his new girlfriend commit suicide, turns him into a vampire and then has him buried alive for 200 years. He is dug up in 1972 to find his family name and business has been tarnished, so Collins takes it upon himself to bring together his distant relations and rebuild his fish-cannery business, which has suffered greatly due to the establishing of a rival cannery, owned and run by that still-smarting witch.

Burton has amassed an impressive supporting cast as the Collins clan; from the still-stunningly beautiful Michelle Pfeffier, to the slimy Jonny Lee Miller, as well as the embodiment of the ’70s Chloe Moretz, and the instantly lovable Gulliver McGrath. That’s not to mention sterling turns from Jackie Earle Haley as the Collins’ housekeeper and Bella Heathcote as the object of Barnabus’ affections. And that’s not to mention Depp, while adding yet another be-make-up’d freak to his CV, manages to turn this serial killer (Barnabus murders around twenty innocent people over the course of the movie) into someone quite relatable. What isn’t as relatable is the fact that the main problem of the movie is that Johnny Depp doesn’t want to have sex with Eva Green, who almost swipes the movie out from under Depp’s nose with her Grade-A bitch villain.

The 70s setting is properly realised and all the usual jokes are present and correct, with Depp’s fish out of water reacting to everything from electricity to lava lamps with an arched eyebrow of mistrust. Which, unfortunately, seems to be the point of the movie; Johnny Depp reacting to the ’70s. While there is some semblance of a plot, the movie itself doesn’t really seem to be about anything, with twenty minutes of set-up, over an hour of what felt like Johnny Depp-reacts-to-the-70’s montages, and then twenty minutes of climax. There are also some weird plot devices that never get fully explained, like if Barnabus was an only child, how is he related to these people? And what’s the story with Barnabus’ 1770s girlfriend and 1970s girlfriend being played by the same actress? And that’s not even getting to the biggest question of all, which is how did a film which is primarily four people talking to each other in an old house cost over $100 million to make??

Somebody needs to take Tim Burton’s budgets away from him. And while you’re at it, take away Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, too. Maybe if we take away all of Burton’s toys his imagination will return.

Rory Cashin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website) for details)
Dark Shadows is released on 11th May 2012

Dark Shadows  – Official Website


Cinema Review: 21 Jump Street

DIR: Phil Lord, Chris Miller • WRI: Michael Bacall • PRO: Stephen J. Cannell, Neal H. Moritz • DOP: Barry Peterson • ED: Mark Livolsi • DES: Peter Wenham • Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Johnny Depp

21 Jump Street falls neatly into the category of ‘why?’ remakes – an iconic ’80s TV series turned into movie franchise brings to mind a disaster like Miami Vice. However, unlike other attempts to repackage the ’80s as relevant to modern times, 21 Jump Street uses the old series as a jumping-off point to create an original angle on an unoriginal idea. Two policemen going undercover as high-school kids is as hackneyed as they come, but by dint of some genuinely hilarious writing and top-class casting choices, 21 raises its head well above the parapet.

The two leading men, Channing Tatum as Greg and Jonah Hill as Morton, are misfit ex-enemies from high school – one thick but kind, and the other smart but socially inept – who end up best friends whilst training in the police force. Their early policing attempts play for laughs, one hilarious scene boasts them chasing a hardcore biker gang on push-bikes, and they find themselves pegged as immature and childish. Happily, these are the exact attributes required by the covert operations at 21, Jump Street, where Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson rules with foul-mouthed glee. They are assigned high-school detail to search for a new drug, and the sheer idiocy of this is never ignored, as students continuously comment on their obvious age – a comic tactic employed by this tongue-in-cheek movie as it takes itself not one-ounce seriously. Here they meet the super-popular gang – Greg, as ex- high-school jock and all-round cool kid, takes control of the situation, showing Morton the keys to maintaining status. However, in yet another hilarious scene, they are confronted by the fact that the ‘geeks’ now rule the school – led by Dave Franco’s Eric, an environmental champion who heads up the school paper and gets excellent grades.

Jokes abound in the comical mix-up of their identities, with Greg getting sent to the ‘smart’ classes, while Morton is expected to play for the football team, but there are some great action sequences too – culminating in a long-overdue epic explosion. Much has been made of the cameo appearance of the original TV series’ actors, but it is to the credit of those holding down the story up until that point that the appearance of Johnny Depp merely adds another comedic layer to a well-built structure, instead of upstaging them.

Despite the relative inexperience in the directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the actors involved, (all of whom could at any moment steal the show), are kept in check, providing a seamless impression of teamwork and camaraderie that makes this buddy film. While by no means exceptional, the movie is lifted above the mediocre by its snappy writing, excellent set-ups and by the shockingly brilliant comedic talents of Channing Tatum – who manages to make Jonah Hill seem like the amateur. An escape to teenagehood, this stands as a solid comedic reimagining of a TV series that takes loving jibes at the original, makes fun of itself at all times, and overall delivers laughs a-plenty. An inoffensive undercover romp that guarantees a hefty giggle – just what this awards-heavy season needed!

Sarah Griffin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
21, Jump Street is released on 16th March 2012


Cinema Review: The Rum Diary

the morning after

DIR/WRI: Bruce Robinson • PRO: Christi Dembrowski, Johnny Depp, Tim Headington, Graham King, Robert Kravis, Anthony Rhulen • DOP: Dariusz Wolski • ED: Carol Littleton • DES: Chris Seagers • CAST: Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi, Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard

The Rum Diary has all the ingredients of a potent cocktail but instead packs all the punch of a Virgin Mary. Based on the debut novel by Hunter S. Thompson, the gonzo mind behind the comisterpiece Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; directed by Bruce Robinson, the legendary director of the student drinksterpiece Withnail & I; and starring Johnny Depp, the actor everyone adores. (has he really done anything of substance since Donnie Brasco, 14 years ago?).

The film is based on an unpublished novel Thompson wrote in the ‘60s. According to Depp, he found it in Thompson’s basement in the ‘90s and proceeded to get it published in 1998. The autobiographical story tells of Thompson (under the name Paul Kemp in the novel) in his 20s with failing ambitions of being a novelist, who finds himself working for a paper in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1960.

During his time there he drinks, takes drugs, falls in love, gets arrested and becomes embroiled in corrupt land deals that threaten to wreak havoc on the natural beauty of the island transforming it into a capitalist paradise. In this way writer-director Bruce Robinson uses the film as a means to dramatize Thompson’s gonzo origins as he becomes a part of the stories he reports on.

The film does nothing to contradict the reason the novel lay about for so long and remain unpublished – it’s a bit of a shambles. The story is all over the place, the script is uneven, and the performances often stray into caricature.

There’s one or two decent lines thrown into the mix (‘Human beings are the only creatures on earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn’t got one’) but overall it’s a surprisingly tiring, listless affair. The disappointing fact of the matter is that The Rum Diary has all the charm of a drunken bore.

Steven Galvin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Rum Diary is released on 11th November 2011

The Rum Diary – Official Website


Midday Movies

The little festival that can

Now in its sixth year, Guth Gafa documentary film festival, in Co Donegal, is making an international name for itself. As an antidote to loneliness, the annual gathering of international documentary filmmakers in the tiny Gaeltacht village of Gortahork beats most. In any given year, a clutch of the latest and best film-makers bounce from festival to festival around the world. Mostly, they wash up in teeming cities, surrounded by thousands but meeting none. Then they arrive at Guth Gafa, and within the tiny pubs and temporary cinemas they come face to face not only with each other but also with their audience….



Is the stage now set for theatre to offer solace?

Fintan O’Toole has gathered an impressive team to explore the role art can play in Irish life, writes Darragh McManus. ‘The whole question of art and society, it seems, gets pushed to one side during times of economic crisis. We can’t afford culture, the argument goes, when that money needs to be spent on jobs and hospitals and education. The counter-argument, though, insists that art is even more important when times are tough: it offers solace, helps us make sense of what’s happening, and lets us see a higher, more rarefied plane of human existence, something soaring above the worries of economics and politics…’



One cool pirate

When Johnny Depp thinks about what it is he does for a living and how well he’s paid for it, he has to laugh. Currently starring in the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which will ironically be screened at Cannes this year, Depp was paid somewhere between $32m and $35m (€22.2m-€24.3m) for this film alone. ‘To an outsider standing around watching this going on, it’s ludicrous. I mean it’s really an insane thing,’ he says, laughing…



Scorsese ‘to direct Taylor and Burton biopic’

Director Martin Scorsese is set to direct a film based on the tempestuous relationship between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, reports say. The couple married and divorced twice over a 13-year period, after meeting on the set of Cleopatra in 1963. Paramount Pictures are said to be in negotiation with Scorsese, after buying the rights to the book Furious Love. Released in 2010, the book received little interest from studios until Taylor’s death earlier this year. The Hollywood couple, both British, appeared in 11 films together, including the 1966 film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, for which Taylor won the second of two best actress Oscars…



Girl with Dragon Tattoo trailer released

The first trailer for the eagerly-awaited US adaptation of the Stieg Larsson bestseller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been released. Directed by The Social Network and Se7en’director David Fincher. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo stars Daniel Craig as investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara as his troubled partner, hacker Lisbeth Salander…




Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

DIR: Rob Marshall • WRI: Ted Elliott Terry Rossio• PRO: Jerry Bruckheimer • DOP: Dariusz Wolski • ED: David Brenner Michael Kahn Wyatt Smith • DES: John Myhre • Cast: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush

Synonymous with the Pirates of the Caribbean series, the witty dynamic and outrageous Pirate extraordinare, Captain Jack Sparrow returns and sets sail sans Elizabeth and Will (about time I say!) in this apprehensively anticipated fourth movie of the series directed by Rob Marshall. Due to the somewhat customary disappointing second and third films that followed the major hit of the first Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, it could be argued why did they even bother trying again plus significant time has passed since the last attempt; surely interest in the franchise (especially given the choice of blockbuster on offer at the moment) has died. However, if any character or actor in their most infamous role can resurrect a dieing franchise it is Jack Sparrow/Johnny Depp. Depp succeeds in making Sparrow more charming and magnetic then ever.

Audiences fell in love with Jack Sparrow and Pirates in the first one and this film is them coming back and saying I disappointed you twice but this time round I am going to sweep you off your feet on a wild adventure and remind you why you fell for me in the first place! Director Rob Marshall breeds new life into Pirates of the Caribbean taking Gore Verbinskis place, reminding us why we find Pirates so exciting and alluring.

It has just the right blend of action, drama, romance and stunning visuals. Bubbling with larger then life characters, this is pure swashbuckling escapism, sure to satisfy both children and adult alike!
Cruz’s Angelica is intoxicating climbing on board as the one that got away to Depp’s Sparrow with whom she has fiery chemistry. In a milieu, brimming with all shades of manhood (besides the odd mermaid) Angelica provides a female match for Sparrow, showcasing the ferocity of a woman’s sexuality and heart.

The centre piece of the film, is the mysterious fountain of youth that both the now one-legged Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and the menacing Blackbeard (Ian McShane), along with Sparrow, Angelica and co. embark upon a quest to find. This fountain if drunk from is said to grant eternal youth which is something we would all yearn for and seek if thought tangible. Geoffrey Rush is totally on form reprising his role as Barbossa now an officer to the King, totally commanding and charismatic and is granted numerous witty dialogue which he delivers with the class you expect of Rush. Ian McShane is a pleasant ice cool addition to the cast as the notorious ‘I’m a bad man’, Captain Blackbeard, and has great chemistry with Depp and Rush. There is something so endearing about the way McShane plays him. Newcomer Sam Claflin is engaging as the young handsome clergyman, Philip – quite distinct surrounded by tarnished Pirates, who makes falling for a mermaid plausible. Kevin McNally returns as the loveable aged rogue Gibbs, feeding some of Sparrows and Barbossa’s best lines. There are a few other familiar faces thrown into the mix…

The film is visually beautiful and exhilarating without going over the top with special effects (a mistake the second and third films made) and the back and forth between characters is so witty and high-quality yet feels spontaneous. It is overall a tremendous effort and comeback and previous Pirates fans should be extremely satisfied. A synthesis of gripping action aboard ship and on land, dreamy and sensual sequences, laugh-out-loud funny encounters and finally an ending that could leave one a bit emotional at the prospect of saying ‘adieu’ to an iconic character and to such a feast for the imagination that the Pirates of the Caribbean series has been. This is seriously not to be missed and especially in the cinema to truly delight in this epic adventure tale … Savvy?

Órla Walshe

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is released on 20th May 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Official Website





DIR: Gore Verbinski WRI: John Logan, Gore Verbininski, James Ward Byrkit • PRO: John B. Carls, Graham King, Gore Verbinski • ED: Craig Wood • DES: Mark ‘Crash’ McCreery • Cast: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Timothy Olyphant

There seems to be a trend of late among Hollywood directors to have a go at animation. Last year we had Zac Snyder, the director of adult fare such as 300 and Watchmen, give us Legends Of The Guardians. David Fincher is currently producing The Goon. Spielberg and Jackson are combining their talents for the mo-capped Tintin. And here was have Rango, from the director of The Ring and Pirates Of The Caribbean. However, despite this trend-following, it may be the only animation feature released in 2011 not to be released in 3D, which is real shame, as the film would’ve looked even more fantastic with that extra dimension.

It’s probably not unfair to call this one of the most beautiful animations ever to be released. At times so photo realistic you’ll be convinced it’s not a cartoon, while at others so off-kilter and borderline hallucinogenic, you’ll swear it was directed by Salvador Dali on acid, there is no other film, animated or not, that can be easily compared to its hypnotic beauty.

However, story wise, it does trip up slightly. Rango (voiced by Johnny Depp), gets accidentally lost in the Mojave Desert. He happens upon the town of Dirt, who confuse him for a famous gun slinger. The town promptly make him their Sheriff, and he is charged with discovering the cause of their water-shortage. As plots go, it’s very slight, but it rattles along at such a pace that you don’t have time to realise it doesn’t matter.

When the film isn’t busy trying to tell the story, or selling it’s slightly muddy deeper meaning (which may or may not be about selflessness, or possibly self-belief, it wasn’t clear), its busy trying to be funny. And for the most part, it succeeds. Johnny Depp voices Rango to perfection, and the character is quite a unique combination of conflicting characteristics, most enjoyable of which is his confusion of witty comebacks with mind-boggling non-sequiturs: when asked if he misses his Mommy, Rango angrily replies with ‘Not as much as your daddy’s cooking!’

Which leads to the main fault with the film; non-sequiturs are all well and good for anyone who knows what a non-sequitur is, but this a cartoon. Ideally aimed at young kids, Rango is incredibly dark. There are jokes about murder, Deliverance, suicide, sex stuff, a fantastic one about Clint Eastwood, and that most depressingly adult of subjects, a recession, so much of the humour will fly right over the heads of the younger kids. While at the same time, some of the villain’s will be scary enough to leave a bedwetting impression.

But chances are even they will forget all that while watching one of the movie’s many, genuinely impressive action sequences. So it’s got jokes for the adults, sugar rush fun for the kids, and artistic merit for those who don’t like to admit they go to see cartoons now that they’re all grown up. Something for everyone.

Rory Cashin

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
is released on 4th March 2011

Rango- Official Website



The Tourist

The Tourist

DIR: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck • WRI: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie, Julian Fellowes • PRO: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman, Ron Halpern, Tim Headington, Graham King • DOP: John Seale • ED: Joe Hutshing, Patricia Rommel • DES: Jon Hutman • CAST: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany

The Tourist has one of the most promising line-ups ever: featuring the talented Johnny Depp and the gorgeous Angelina Jolie, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others), and written by both Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and the author of one of the greatest films of all time, Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects). However, even with all those gourmet Hollywood ingredients, this film is little more than greasy fast-food cinema.

An incredibly pretty film, The Tourist must have been funded almost entirely by Venice’s Tourism Board, as the sweeping shots of the city often take precedence over other silly little things – like character development or plot. The camera takes its time panning around posh hotel rooms and around lavish locations, instead of getting to the point and telling an actual story.

In an ‘homage’ to films from the ’50s and ’60s, the epic orchestral soundtrack plays constantly, trying in vain to add some lift to the flattest possible scenes, and instead gives a surreal and comical feeling to the film. It really is quite cringeworthy to listen to that OTT soundtrack climaxing away in the background as the two people on screen just sit down, eat some dinner and shoot the breeze.

The plot is just awful: like something that was written by a computer programme named ‘Screenwriting 101’. The completely unoriginal, boring characters plod along through a number of uninspired misadventures damaging a great deal of Venice’s infrastructure along the way.

The two leads might as well have been cousins, for all the chemistry that was between them. However, I did enjoy it when Angelina threw some pretty hilarious ‘shapes’ with her determined strutting. And the bad guy… what a character. He constantly tries to out-evil himself with some diabolically dastardly, diabolical dialogue: ‘I once murdered a pregnant waitress for putting too much pepper on my food.’ Good for you Reginald Shaw!

It’s not that The Tourist is the worst movie ever, it generally covers its bases: it’s vaguely entertaining, pretty to look at and is star-studded; it just so happens that its got all the emotional depth and intricacies of a slice of toast.

Gemma Creagh

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
The Tourist is released on 10th December 2010