Da 5 Bloods
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I May Destroy You
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Grim and absorbing investigation into Jack the Ripper!
The Hughes Brothers' murder mystery From Hell (2001) is a fantastic picture adapting Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's legendary graphic novel From Hell that accuses Sir William Gull of being infamous English serial killer Jack the Ripper. It is a brilliant, researched script that drips with intelligent design of upper class calculation and vengeance. From Hell has aged well with its graceful filmmaking and reserved performances that feel more powerful with every watch.
Jack the Ripper's Whitechapel murders are the most heinous crimes ever committed by a serial killer and have gone unsolved for over a century now. Alan Moore's mind is so vast, he actually came up with a realistic and plausible culprit in Queen Victoria's royal doctor Sir William Gull. From Hell will take you on a fascinating investigation that delves in England's darkest historical dealings from Freemasons to political cover-ups and back down to London's filthy streets and miserable alleyways.
Johnny Depp's subtle leading man performance as Inspector Frederick Abberline is astonishing in his sympathetic portrayal of the man chasing down Jack the Ripper. Depp is a world class actor at his best and From Hell is one of his finest roles with a refined British accent too. His strange methods and perceptive findings are fully comprehensive to the viewer thanks to Depp's astute character acting as the good Inspector Abberline.
Heather Graham is captivating as the Irish lady of the night Mary Kelly, Jack the Ripper's most infamous victim. Her haunting blue eyes draw your attention and her hurt and scared words are deeply moving. I liked her bubbly Irish accent. She has great chemistry with Johnny Depp. Her sincere expressiveness is what I adored about her character. I found myself touched by Robbie Coltrane's supporting acting as Sergeant Peter Godley. His rapport with Depp is very funny and endearing to see in From Hell.
I must mention Ian Holm's supporting role as Sir William Gull. He is warm and friendly as the experienced doctor, then shocking and horrifying as Jack the Ripper himself. He changes his voice, body language, and manner with crazy blackened eye contacts and Holm's engulfing stare. His character choices make Ian Holm one of cinema's greatest villains Sir William Gull. His mad doctor is simply chilling.
Ian Richardson is excellent as the intrusive Sir Charles Warren. Jason Flemyng gives some of his best acting as Netley, the Coachman of Jack the Ripper. His conflicted feelings and increasing madness is interesting to watch on Flemyng's horrified face. Katrin Cartlidge is endearing and fun as Dark Annie Chapman. She's quite sympathetic like Mary Kelly.
Terence Harvey is imposing as Ben Kidney, a government goon sent after witnesses. Susan Lynch is wonderful as Liz Stride in a nicely done lesbian representation on screen. She's even more endearing in her rejected scenes that makes her a truly saddening victim. David Schofield is scary as the pimp McQueen. Even Ralph Ineson cameos as the thug Gordie in From Hell!
The Hughes Brothers' direction is dark and brimming with malice. They creatively use a bleak London backdrop, thanks to Martin Childs' period accurate production design. Jill Quertier and David Baxa's set decorations are so strikingly detailed and grungy. Everything in London looks repulsive. Albert and Allen Hughes are intriguing directors with a stylish flair with laudanum hazes and murderous blackouts cut into the story to help depict both the investigation and killings with dual perspectives. From Hell is chilling with heavy atmosphere, oppressive shadows, foggy streets, dim lighting, and grisly murder practical effects. The Hughes Brothers went all out for From Hell.
George Bowers and Dan Lebental's editing keeps From Hell to a palatable 122 minutes for this massive story. Their slick cuts make the dialogue scenes gripping and the foul deeds tasteful, yet terrifying all the same. Peter Deming's cinematography is masterful with long twisting panning shots all over London and Whitechapel. His close-ups feel straight out of Moore's graphic novel with depictions of madness and fury for Jack the Ripper, while showing empathy and curiosity from the Inspector.
Trevor Jones' score is horrifying and creepy, lending an eerie accompaniment to From Hell that delivers a truly haunting soundscape for the film. Kym Barrett's costumes are lavish and stylish for Johnny Depp's inspector suits and jackets, while remaining dirty and genuine for the commoners. Patty York's make-up is ghostly and ethereal.
For all entertainment purposes, From Hell is engaging and cool. It may not be a perfect adaptation of an iconic graphic novel from the genius minds of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, but as a fan of their comic book, I can easily say it does the story's point justice.
Lavish to look at, but little to ruminate about afterwards.
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's romantic thriller The Tourist (2010) is a lovely picture with a very bare bones plot. I still think The Tourist is a fine movie to watch one afternoon for a quick laugh and some sweet romance, but the crime thriller aspects are extraordinarily weak. Dommersmarck's direction is pretty with John Seale's gorgeous cinematography. Seale's wide shots of Paris and Venice are quite breathtaking. Colleen Atwood's costumes are lavish and sleek with a graceful elegance that fits right in with The Tourist's rich aesthetic.
Donnersmarck could have been more daring with more intimate romantic conversations for the flirting scenes, which I still enjoyed. He definitely should have tried something new for all the chases and thriller aspects as The Tourist feels lifeless during these parts. Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie, and Julian Fellowes' script is very hit or miss with a cute and intriguing premise of a random tourist being marked as an international criminal, only for him to fall in love with the ravishing lady friend to the criminal mastermind himself. The little interactions and flirting between the leads is the best part.
Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie look great like the movie stars they are and have a natural chemistry that feels fairly down to Earth, but I think there were only a few scenes for them to get to know one another. The last half of the movie is all generic thriller material that feels uninspired. They both seem like they signed up for a romance drama and look out of place doing action thriller scenes for The Tourist.
Joe Hutshing and Patricia Rommel's editing is very classy with few cuts except for changes in perspective, but The Tourist is so slow for a 103 minute long movie. James Newton Howard's score is quite beautiful with memorable melodies that bestow a romantic aura upon The Tourist to help the atmosphere. Paul Bettany is fun as the persistent inspector with Timothy Dalton having a fun supporting role as his impatient boss. Steven Berkoff is menacing as the villain, but not enough to make him truly scary. Rufus Sewell gets a funny cameo with a great final line.
Overall, The Tourist is not perfect or remarkable, but the Venician backdrop and James Newton Howard's score set up John Seale's lovely shots so well. You cannot help but have fun with this silly story. Johnny Depp is just endearing as a math teacher on holiday, so you can easily imagine yourself in his favorable position as Angelina Jolie sits down across from him on a train. All the euphemisms and playful banter from these mega stars are worth the price of admission.
An unfortunately forgotten animated classic!
Gore Verbinski's animated Western comedy Rango (2011) is a brilliant spoof of Westerns like Once Upon a Time in the West and A Fistful of Dollars as well as crime mystery dramas like Chinatown. Rango stars Johnny Depp as the chameleon with no name, an homage to Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's Westerns, who chooses the moniker Rango after an identity crisis. He simply wants a real life, so he decides to act like he has one as a tough guy gunslinger. Rango's existential woes are relatable and clever as he simply wants to belong somewhere, make friends, and have a girlfriend. What is wrong with that?
Rango is underrated, underseen, and underappreciated for the arthouse animated picture with true heart and plenty to say about self confidence, choice, and destiny. Johnny Depp is funny and endearing as the chameleon of mischief Rango. Isla Fisher gives an adorable voice for the desert iguana Beans, who is Rango's cute love interest with her own agency.
Ned Beatty is excellent as the shady mayor of Dirt: Tortoise John. Bill Nighy brings an ungodly presence to his vicious gatling gun clad Rattlesnake Jake. Ray Winston is fearsome as Bad Bill. Harry Dean Stanton has an intimidating redneck voice for the mole leader Balthazar.
Alfred Molina has a funny cameo as Roadkill the armadillo. Abigail Breslin sounds cute as the little cactus mouse. Claudia Black sounds sultry and alluring as the French fox Angelique. I must mention Timothy Olyphant voices The Spirit of the West with an incredible Clint Eastwood impression that genuinely sounds like Eastwood.
Verbinski's direction is enthralling as he creates a genuine Western feel of the dry desert, isolated spaces, unfriendly introductions, gun duels, chase sequences, and that slow burn pacing that makes Westerns feel so authentic in tone. Verbinski parodies Westerns like A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Hang Em High, High Noon, and Tombstone. His entertaining direction gives Rango a profoundly disquieting soundscape with Verbinski's distinct directorial style.
Alongside John Logan and James Ward Byrkit's story that straight up repurposes Chinatown's narrative and sets it in a little desert town named Dirt. Verbinski's sense of humor is so focused and precise as every joke is thought out visually and creatively. Rango's animation is second to none and remains the best looking CGI animated feature I've ever seen. Each character and environment looks so realistic that they could be real.
Craig Wood's relaxed editing leaves each brilliant scene to play out naturally with few jump cuts except to display a striking close-up or sudden panning shots. Wood's editing ensures Rango's 107 minutes never overstay their welcome with a steady pacing and well planned cuts for emphasis rather than distraction.
Roger Deakins' cinematography is as gorgeous as ever with breathtaking and delightful shots of Rango around Dirt as he is also centered on screen for a focusing effect. Deakins finds new ways to shoot iconic desert Western imagery with a little lizard as the subject of his shots.
Hans Zimmer's score is haunting and playful with affectionate odes to Ennio Morricone's legendary Western scores throughout Rango.
In all, Rango is as real and creative as animated studio pictures get with Gore Verbinski's style everywhere. Johnny Depp is such a cute chameleon that you'll never want Rango to end.
A fine adventure, but an average pirate film.
Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg's pirate adventure comedy Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) holds up nicely upon revisiting it as just as good and entertaining as At World's End. Ronning and Sandberg's direction is fairly basic and unimaginative with the exceptions of the ghost ship's barrage, ghost sharks, parting of the sea, and the flashback sequences. Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg are no Gore Verbinski or Rob Marshall. Dead Men Tell No Tales leans into the absurdist comedy and childish humor instead of the daring adventure and gripping piracy.
Thus, Dead Men Tell No Tales is about as entertaining and flawed as At World's End. If you enjoyed that movie, then perhaps you'd still like Dead Men Tell No Tales. I wish The Trident of Poseidon left a bigger impact. Skip the dumb end credits scene as I doubt they will make more Pirates of the Caribbean films after Dead Men Tell No Tales was not well received.
Johnny Depp is both hilarious and asleep at the wheel as Captain Jack Sparrow. Geoffrey Rush plays Captain Hector Barbossa with more heart than nearly any other character. Dead Men Tell No Tales is a nice sendoff for Rush at the very least.
I loved the stunning and charming Kaya Scodelario's performance as Carina Barbossa. She's smart and endearing, but they wrote her character as too abrasive and annoying to be truly likable. Javier Bardem is cool as the ethereal and wicked Captain Armando Salazar on his quest for revenge against Jack the Sparrow.
Brenton Thwaites is obnoxious and generic as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann's son Henry Turner. He's so dull and obviously putting on an Orlando Bloom voice. Thwaites also had no chemistry with Scodelario at all. I really appreciated that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley reprised their famous roles once more for a sincerely sweet closure to their beloved romance arc.
For every cool scene like the ghost sharks or the ship combat, there is a silly bank robbery sequence and a dull romantic affair to counter it. Dead Men Tell No Tales is not as memorable as the earlier Pirates of the Caribbean features, but it's still entertaining to watch.
Terry Rossio and Jeff Nathanson's writing is far removed from the brilliant wit of The Curse of the Black Pearl. Everything is borrowed or changed from the previous installments in a shallow shade of this beloved franchise's former glory. They retcon the compass' origins just to give this movie a plot. The ghost villain is still too similar to the cursed undead, fishmen, and zombie enemies from the last movies. The jokes can be funny, except when they shoehorn in awkward fake feminist dialogue and forced romantic comedy when it's not necessary.
Roger Barton and Leigh Folsom Boyd's editing is cut slowly and steady compared to the first 4 films' fast pace. For 129 minutes, Paul Cameron's cinematography is very flat with a few exceptional close-ups. The CGI and visual effects are impressive for the hollow ghost look and particle effects. Nigel Phelps has a nice old period look to his production design matching Penny Rose's charming pirate era costumes. Geoff Zanelli's score pales in comparison to the exciting grandeur of Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer's scores.
A return to form for this piracy centered franchise.
Rob Marshall breathes life into a dead series with his swashbuckling adventure picture Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011). Borrowing heavily from the previous installments and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Marshall takes us on a curious sea voyage seeking The Fountain of Youth and eternal life. Gore Verbinski's original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy was much darker and more distinct, but Rob Marshall makes pretty well made films with a sleekness that's comforting.
Johnny Depp is hilarious as the bumbling Captain Jack Sparrow, who improvises his way to victory with some clever wordplay and devious cunning. Geoffrey Rush's Captain Hector Barbossa is still fiercely entertaining with a raging vengeance sailing him towards Blackbeard. The gorgeous Penélope Cruz is cool as a sword fighting love interest for Sparrow as the voluptuous and vexing Angelica Teach. She's a wonderful addition to On Stranger Tides and adds a formidable foil element to bounce comedy, romance, and swashbuckling off of Sparrow.
Ian McShane has a gravitas as Blackbeard, but I wish he got more screen time. If his crew were not focused on so much, he could have fought and killed more as Blackbeard to make him more intimidating and scary into the dread pirate Blackbeard. Kevin McNally is still steadfast and funny as first mate Joshamee Gibbs. Sam Claflin is nice and charming as priest Philip Swift. His romantic affair with the enchanting French mermaid, played by the hauntingly lovely Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, is a nice side plot for On Stranger Tides.
Richard Griffiths has a hilarious cameo as King George II. Keith Richards kills it again as Jack's father Captain Teague Sparrow. He's mysterious and entertaining, while providing a serious presence in his scenes. Dame Judi Dench gets a funny quick cameo as High Society Lady.
Marshall knows how to direct interesting action sequences like the double duel or the mermaid encounter with intricate timing. Marshall is also competent at directing sincere drama, but he leans too heavily here into the hectic near improvised humor. I wanted more romance drama between Captain Jack Sparrow and Angelica as well as more character development for Blackbeard. Marshall's direction is engaging and slick enough to keep me easily entertained by On Stranger Tides' 136 minutes. It's more compact than previous movies with David Brenner and Wyatt Smith's editing is more forward thinking and efficient than the bloated jump cut riddled At World's End.
Hans Zimmer returns to cascade us with epic classical music for his Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides score. Heavy strings and intense percussion mark his sonic style with beautiful compositions throughout On Stranger Tides. Penny Rose's period costumes continue to amaze me with realistic pirate outfits down to the floppy hats and boots. Ve Neill's make-up is still excellent as I still like his use of black eye liner and dirty looks for all the pirates.
It's not perfect with Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio rely too much on past in jokes instead of new bits, plus Blackbeard's crew being zombies is dumb and has essentially already been done in The Curse of the Black Pearl. Elliott and Rossio create a mysterious atmosphere with their intriguing writing with plenty of fun humor and lighthearted action. Dariusz Wolski's cinematography features heavenly fountain wide shots to intense mermaids attacking from dark waters with striking shots. Wolski is a creative cinematography with a stalwart style for Pirates of the Caribbean.
In conclusion, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a refreshing splash of cold water to the face after the wayward and bloated At World's End.