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Johnny Depp gets evil in Black Mass, climbers perish on Everest and A Hard Day is great fun

An Asian man from Reno, another dystopian future for teens and a couple of faith-based films fill out the schedule

 The overall quality is quite high this week, in the new films I’ve seen. One of the films, especially, was superb. Check out A Hard Day in the list below:

Black Mass:  3 stars

Everest:  3 ½

 A Hard Day: 4

Man from Reno: 3

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials: --

The War Room: --

 90 Minutes in Heaven: --

 

BLACK MASS: Johnny Depp gives an intriguing performance as a Boston gangster of the 1980s and is the chief reason to see this film. He hardly ever sounds or looks like himself (more like Richard E. Grant or Hunter S. Thompson much of the time) and he’s mesmerizingly vicious when he kicks guys when they’re down or shoots them in the head. He’s also a concerned family man eager to mentor his son and a man with loyalties to old pals from the neighborhood. Don’t expect another Godfather though.  The characters are vivid; the story, much of which was told better in a documentary earlier this year, drifts away.

Depp is Whitey Bulger, a small-time hood who grew big because the FBI let him. He was recruited as an informant by an old friend and by-then special agent (Joel Edgerton) and together they took down the Italian Mafia. Nobody stopped him as he filled the void, terrorized South Boston and expanded his own operation as far as Miami. The film is sketchy on how that happened or why it went on as long as it did. It’s unclear why his brother, a state senator played by Benedict Cumberbatch, didn’t seem to know.  It talks a great deal about loyalty and gives graphic scenes of retribution for any failures but skips over Whitey’s biggest issue. Being exposed as an informant (as a newspaper did) would have been a giant affront in his world. It’s understated here. The era is visualized perfectly and the acting by a big cast is uniformly fine, but the central drama of how your past can trap you is weak. (Park, Dunbar, Scotiabank and suburban theaters) 3 out of 5

EVEREST:  Don’t be embarrassed if you find yourself gasping at some of the scenes here. A skinny rope bridge, for instance, shown from above. Look at that deep void down below. Or later when the camera pans around Jason Clarke, our tour leader, revealing a wall of storm clouds coming in. Imagine it all in 3-D and on the giant IMAX screen and you’d better not suffer from a fear of heights. On the other hand, if you’re a climber (lots of those around here) you’ll get a thrill out of these pictures. Never mind that only some of them were actually filmed on the iconic mountain. They look great.

The story, though, is somewhat less so. It’s supposed to show people revealing their core character as they face nature’s extremes. For 20 minutes or so, yes; for 100 minutes before that, this film is all preparation. Two commercial outfits arrive to take tourists up Everest. We see them gather, train, explain why they want to go and try to acclimatize. It’s good stuff, done with documentary-like detail. Clarke leads Adventure Consultants, from New Zealand. He phones from the mountain to his wife (Keira Knightley) who is back home in bed. Jake Gyllenhaal leads a company from Seattle called Mountain Madness. Two names; two different slants on a major theme: why are tourists being taken up the world’s largest peak? Jon Krakauer, who was also on the trip, asked it forcefully in the book he wrote. The film doesn’t. It just shows and leaves it to us to ask.

More in New Movies

Melissa’s forgeries, Rami’s dead-on Freddie Mercury and a cult classic re-imagined

Also: a bit of opera (real with Maria Callas and fictional in Bel Canto) and an ode to BC’s chief geographical feature in This Mountain Life

A touching drama about dementia, a daredevil rock climb and another 007 spoof

Also a teen’s life lessons from skateboarders and a cold war anachronism with submarines
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