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Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

Weekly Mishmash: December 13-19

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Avatar (2009). We began our Avatar experience by walking through a long and twisty corridor, accepting pairs of funny looking glasses, finding a seat near the back of a cavernous theater, full of anticipation. I wasn’t expecting to be blown away, but I was. Though the film is not without its flaws (predictable story, dumb-dumb action climax), Avatar pretty much lives up to the hype. The rainforest-on-steroids world of Pandora is so fully realized and enveloping that I often lost sight of the fact that it was computer generated. By comparison the human world was a bit more pedestrian, but it’s a fun confection populated with an attractive cast (with Sigourney Weaver’s feisty and very Ripley-esque researcher being the highlight). James Cameron may come off like a massive blowhard in interviews, but when it comes to entertainment on a mass scale he really delivers the goods. Strangely enough, the only thing that truly distracted me was how they used the Papyrus font for the alien language subtitles. Papyrus, really? A font that comes equipped on every single Mac computer on earth? You’d think they’d use some of that $240 million budget to spring for a custom typeface.
D.O.A. (1950). I barely remember watching this noir chestnut eons ago on American Movie Classics, but I wanted to catch it again after learning parts of this movie were filmed in L.A.’s historic Bradbury Building. It’s here, all right — one of the stops that harried Edmond O’Brien makes when trying to track down the evildoer who slipped him a slow-acting, fatal dose of poison. This was a fun film, very cheesy at times (especially the scene where wolf whistles are incongruously placed on the soundtrack) but effectively tense and briskly made. I found O’Brien’s character appealing, even if he was a bit of a henpecked wuss with a shrew of a girlfriend. The Bradbury office and several other scenes make wonderful use of location shooting. I especially dug the part where O’Brien was running down a busy San Francisco street, frantically bumping into passers-by with bracing realism (apparently it was filmed with actual, unaware pedestrians and not actors). Scenes like that are a fascinating little window into the real world of 1950 that one rarely sees in classic Hollywood films.
Public Enemies (2009). Disappointing. Bryan Burrough’s book of the same name was an encyclopedic chronicle of America’s early ’30s crime wave and how the government reacted with J. Edgar Hoover and his squad of G-Men. It might have made for a terrific miniseries had it been filmed exactly as written, but Michael Mann boils it down here to an uninspiring cat-and-mouse tale with Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as Hoover’s top G-Man, Melvin Purvis. Mostly the film just seemed too poky and unnecessarily artsy. Burrough portrays Dillinger as a happy-go-lucky sort who reveled in his own celebrity, but Depp’s interpretation is so dark and morose it puts a pall on the whole thing. Despite all that, the film does have a few interesting parts. I enjoyed the scene set during Dillinger’s final night in a Chicago theater, Manhattan Melodrama projected onscreen while the camera focuses on Depp’s face mulling over how the movie he’s watching mirrors his own past. If only the rest of the film was that concise and eloquent.