From January 2016

Cotillard & Fassbender in a Properly Haunting Macbeth

Macbeth. 2015. Directed by Justin Kurzel. Screenplay by Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie & Todd Louiso; based on the original play by William Shakespeare.
Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Lochlann Harris, Lynn Kennedy, Seylan Baxter, Brian Nickels, Hilton McRae, James Harkness, Ross Anderson, David Thewlis, Sean Harris and Elizabeth Debicki.
See-Saw Films/DMC Film/ACE/Film 4/Creative Scotland/Studio Canal.
Rated 14A. 113 minutes.
Drama/War

★★★★★
POSTER You either love Shakespeare, or you haven’t got any time for him. That’s just the way it goes. I’ve never met anyone who says “Oh yeah I read a bit now and then”. You read Shakespeare plenty or don’t give a shit. Honestly. He’s one of those acquired tastes. I’ve always enjoyed his work because of the death, the mystery, intrigue, all the murder and deceit and disguises. Shakespeare wrote such wild and exotic stuff, it’s just hard to crack through some of his dialogue if you don’t study it. And that’s why I think you either love him or hate him. Bottom line.
Justin Kurzel came on with an amazing debut, Snowtown, which is based on the real serial killings of Australian murderer John Bunting. That was one macabre yet compelling films. It almost dulled the violence and atrocity to a point where, by the end, you’ve nearly become bored by it. Yet somehow the story, the people involved and those caught up in Bunting’s whirlwind of murderous impulse, it all keeps you interested. So here in Macbeth, there’s a certain aspect of the titular character which parallels that whirlwind feeling. Not in the same way. But the play is of course called Macbeth. We can’t forget about Lady Macbeth, whose power is almost without rival, as well. It’s the attention paid to the characters themselves, which Kurzel did so well in Snowtown, that makes this Shakespearean adaptation thrilling and worthy of respect. The look and feel of the entire film is amazing, the acting even better. But best of all is the resonance Shakespeare’s words still have today, on film, and how Kurzel manages to give us a wonderful take on the source material with a simultaneously beautiful and grimly captured vision of that fearsome Scottish play, so they say in the theatre.
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Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches, which tells him one day he will become the King of Scotland. Succumbing to his deadly ambition, his own manifest destiny, and driven to action by his equally power hungry wife Lady MacBeth (Marion Cotillard), he murders the current King, Duncan (David Thewlis).
However, after the deed is done Macbeth becomes wracked with paranoia, guilt, fear. He slowly starts to unravel, right from the beginning. Likewise, Lady Macbeth finds herself similarly plagued as her husband. Their murderous, power mad impulses don’t stop there. Later on, she takes to sleepwalking, a living effect of her and her husband’s crimes. Their lives become that of a King and Queen, but their climb to the throne is marred with blood and stained with betrayal.
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The atmosphere of the film all around is incredibly well crafted. Immediately the battle scenes take you into a world torn by war. Those sequences are wrapped in fog, slow motion moments which wrap you up inside them before moving to a different, exciting shot. Another aspect of this film I loved: the editing. Specifically I thought the way they did the coronation scene was perfect. Macbeth switches back and forth between observing the people chanting for him and the night where he stabbed King Duncan to a bloody death in his bed; on top of that, Fassbender looks almost sickly already with paranoid guilt, which makes things all the more powerful. There are a ton of instances where editing provides us with that kind of impact. Editor Chris Dickens has done a few solid movies like Slumdog MillionaireHot FuzzShaun of the Dead, but I would say this is absolutely his best work to date.
Then there’s the combination of an epic score from composer Jed Kurzel, whose best work is found in Snowtown and Dead Europe, along with gorgeously captured cinematography by Adam Arkapaw who has done impressive things on True DetectiveTop of the LakeLoreSnowtown and Animal Kingdom. I love how the cinematography captures both the exteriors so vividly and in a sort of morbid light, then all the interiors are in the depths of the darkness, only lit up rarely. Films always impress me when they seek a shadowy look and tone while also keeping that quality throughout, not just in the literally shadowy scenes. It isn’t easy, but Arkapaw has a talent for that quality.
These two elements together, beautifully composed shots with a grim tone and a score that goes from an ominous lull to a crashing roar, fuse into what becomes a shadowy nightmare of paranoia, guilty thoughts, and plenty of brutality. These are masters at work. Jed Kurzel’s music haunts us in certain scenes; always lurking, sometimes crashing down on our heads and ripping us from our moorings. The visuals Arkapaw help Justin Kurzel direct us through a heavy, brooding adaptation of Shakespeare.
Macbeth: “I am in blood, stepped in so far.”
I read a review recently that said Michael Fassbender was boring as Macbeth. Serious? The frailty, the fragile nature of the character which he brought forward is stunning. In similar fashion, Marion Cotillard also conveys the madness of Lady Macbeth so well. They’re each fitted for the role. I don’t see how Fassbender was boring, nor can I see anybody complaining about Cotillard. For his part, Macbeth comes across as violent, ruthless and full of mixed emotions, but he is essentially a puppet. Not saying Lady Macbeth is the root of all the problems, she didn’t literally make him kill Duncan. But Macbeth is not the strongest one. Lady Macbeth is. She has all the ambition, it simply has to flow through Macbeth himself. They’re both fragile, but Fassbender brings out the weakness of Macbeth strong and evident, which allows us to see the power of Lady Macbeth, relegated to the title of his wife. She is the one in charge, because she has to be. Macbeth is almost a statement on these war weary souls who live only to fight, to become King, to rule with power; they’re all fuelled by their ambition, but through a stronger outlet. Often, it is their significant other. For Macbeth, it is the Lady Macbeth who fuels his quest to power. They both do themselves in, she only started things out with their private talks. She feels the guilt just as much. If not more. Fassbender and Cotillard bring to live to well-worn stage characters, transforming them into dreadful, amazing film characters.Macbeth
For me, a flawless adaptation of Shakespeare. It doesn’t have to have everything the original had because this is version of that Scottish play. But this 5-star film has Justin Kurzel directing the hell out every last frame, giving us a view into the paranoia and guilt of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth with intensity, savagery at times. The entire film is a haunted portrait of madness. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are both engaging, as well as powerful in their own respect. And there’s also Paddy Considine of whom I’m a big fan, he brought his talent to the table here in an unsettling way.
Old scenes are given brand new life in this retelling of William Shakespeare’s (arguably) most famous work. The atmosphere and mood of the entire piece is so thick, so rich you could cut it through with a knife. Absolutely a Shakespearean adaptation worth seeing. Can’t wait to snatch this up on Blu ray.

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Villeneuve Crosses the Border of Criminality with Sicario

Sicario. 2015. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Screenplay by Taylor Sheridan.
Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Max Trujillo, Julio Cedillo, Hank Rogerson, Bernardo P. Saracino, and Kevin Wiggins. Black Label Media/Lions Gate Films/Thunder Road Pictures.
Rated 14A. 121 minutes.
Action/Crime/Drama

★★★★★
POSTERThe opening of Sicario provides us a definition of the term. The first involves Romans, the Jews killing people who invaded their homelands. The second offers up the term as Mexican for ‘hitman’. Immediately, along with the pulsing pound of the score by Jóhann Jóhannsson (who worked with director Denis Villeneuve previously on Prisoners), the film sets us up for a grim story. In fact, the initial 3 or 4 minutes are dark – unbelievably so – and the tone is set.
One of the things I admire about Villeneuve, from his early feature Maelström to the most recent Prisoners, even Incendies, is the fact as a director he sets the atmosphere, mood and tone of his work so smoothly and so quickly that it’s almost ridiculous. Not in a bad way. He immerses us in the bleak lives of the characters sitting in the middle of his stories. We’re right alongside them. In Prisoners, before the main action of the plot even takes place you get this frightening sense of an ominous story to come. Similarly, Villeneuve draws us into Sicario‘s web with a dark and brooding landscape, plus a heavy dose of nihilistic action set within the morbidly electrifying world of the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Mexican cartels. Never once does this film let go. Always tense, never ceasing with its suspenseful atmosphere, filled by doubt and an almost raw animal quality. The agents who inhabit this story, everyone involved, they are each predators; all fighting to rule the jungle.
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During an FBI raid of possible kidnappers, Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and the rest of the team find corpses stashed in the walls of the house. Kate and others take a breather, as the investigation team starts a crime scene. Then an IED explodes in the back of the house, which kills two officers on the scene. Dave Jennings (Victor Garber) later recommends Agent Macer to a CIA Special Activities Division, and undercover officer/DOD adviser Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). He and a group of operatives are tracking down those responsible, including a hitman for a Juárez cartel named Manuel Diaz. Willingly volunteering her time, and possibly life, Kate takes part in the team.
Once Kate meets a partner of Graver, Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro), she’s told they are headed to Juárez. This changes everything. Suddenly her journey with the team becomes more likely to be deadly. After they finally land in Juárez, we follow Agent Macer and the others closely, right alongside the action. The drug wars are running high, hot, heavy. The blood is not done flowing, on the streets of America nor certainly is it anywhere near finished in Juárez. Kate has to transform into a different, tougher, more brutal agent if she is to survive the job with which she’s been tasked.

Kate: “The fuck are we doing?”
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One reason I walked away from this film thoroughly satisfied is because, while certain elements are things we’ve all seen before, the screenplay from Taylor Sheridan contains a lot of good stuff. It isn’t a ton of cliched CIA/FBI nonsense jammed together with the tired view of cartels with which we’ve been inundated in the movies. Sheridan provides solid dialogue, as well as paces the film pretty well. For an action film that contains a nice helping of dialogue, there doesn’t feel like any points where the pacing lags. That’s always a downer for a movie relying on action to drive the audience’s attention span. But it isn’t predominantly action. This film has so much intrigue and mystery, specifically pertaining to Benicio del Toro’s character, his backstory and origins. Not to mention the already infamous scene where Alejandro in the interrogation room most likely rapes a man; that’s debatable but I believe a running theme in this film, pertaining to the cartel and also the methods of CIA/FBI Agents, is that the horrors we do see are nothing compared to the ones we don’t see. It’s all about the surface, appearances, and the hidden underbelly. So Alejandro as a character embodies much of that theme himself. Overall, the writing is very subtle in places where it could easily have gone over-the-top, typical, or just full-on cliche.
Next is the fact I thought a female protagonist in Sicario works perfectly. We need more strong but also flawed female characters in cinema. Not to say Agent Kate Macer is flawed in a negative sense. Although, in terms of having to become part of this dangerous drug war world Kate has flaws – she is too human. Throughout the film we watch her struggle with the weight of moral ambiguity in the face of trying to attain the greater good. A man is usually who we see in this situations, whether on television or in the movies. Nice to watch Emily Blunt play an interesting character, especially thrown into this typically male-dominated environment, and we follow along to see how she either fits in, or falls out. And she is not perfect, again, I repeat, not perfect. Just like male characters we see who are allowed to be tough and also ridiculously flawed, Blunt plays Agent Macer as someone not perfect, even if she is tougher than nails. It’s the duality that needs to be allowed to female characters, much as it is for the men. Because they are just as interesting, if not more so depending on the situation. Personally, I dig how she navigates the patriarchal world of law enforcement and particularly the one concerning cartels, eventually proving her worth in the part she plays.SICARIO Day 16 S_D16_04262.NEFPic3
There are a wealth of great characters in this film. Aside from that, again I have to say, Villeneuve does a fantastic job making everything look so dark and murky, even in broad daylight. There are a few elements to all that. First, the cinematography courtesy of Roger Deakins is slick, rich, it has a vibrant quality in every kind of light, whether among the shadows or in the dusty sunlit streets of Mexico. Deakins is a master behind the lens and his work with Villeneuve only continues to affirm that, every damn time. They are a perfect pairing, almost with the same sensibilities in terms of how subject matter ought to be captured through the cinematographer’s eyes. Regardless, they work so well as a team. Secondly, as I mentioned at the start Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score provides the appropriate music at every last turn. At the start the opening sequence is driven by his foreboding music, throbbing in our ears and right through the chest. Later, the intensity amps up when the action gets frenetic, or generally swells, gets deeper and more gloomy when the story turns darker, darker still. Jóhannsson compliments the story in the best way, which only helps the work of Deakins and Villeneuve look/feel better along the way.
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If I said Sicario were anything less than a 5-star film, I’d be lying. I’m not saying it has to be perfect. I’m saying it does an amazingly impressive job with every aspect of the film, from music to production design to the writing, the direction and the cinematography. Every bit of this movie is enjoyable. It enthralled me from beginning to end. Seeing it in theatre is worth it, as the visuals look even more gorgeous on a big screen. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing it on Blu ray, which will absolutely be a whole new experience. This is written well, captured well. Denis Villeneuve is a fantastic and fascinating director who is worthy of watching, film after film. I hope he keeps making things with an edge, a darkness in them. He manages to bring across those tough stories so well, with a shadowy yet human quality. This one is a furious, enjoyable romp through drug war territory with a deep and fractured look into the people who fight it, how they do, as well as the lengths to which they’ll go under the guise of a ‘greater good’. At times nihilistic, Sicario is always a treat for the eyes, the ears, and that dark spot in your soul where only little tiny bits of hope cling.

Martyrs 2.0 – The Little Remake That Shouldn’t

Martyrs. 2016. Directed by Kevin & Michael Goetz. Screenplay by Mark L. Smith; based on the original characters from Pascal Laugier’s film.
Starring Troian Bellisario, Caitlin Carmichael, Kate Burton, Bailey Noble, Toby Huss, Diana Hopper, Lexi DiBenedetto, Taylor John Smith, Peter Michael Goetz, and DaJuan Johnson. Blumhouse Productions/The Safran Company/Temple Hill Entertainment.
Unrated. 81 minutes.
Drama/Horror/Thriller

★1/2
COVERI always try to give remakes a fair shake. Slightly different story when you have to push through a favourite film being remade, especially if it comes out poorly. Though I love Spike Lee, as a filmmaker, his remake of Oldboy is one of the worst in recent memory. And that’s been a favourite of mine for years. When I heard Pascal Laugier’s frantic, bloody, wild movie Martyrs was being remade, it didn’t exactly excite me. Sure, I love when a fresh take or update can be done on a film, such as Alexandre Aja and his efforts on The Hills Have Eyes. But more often than not, an excellent foreign language film gets turned into nonsense by way of North American directors and writers.
Sadly, this new version of Martyrs is not up to the task of making things fresh, exciting, or even much different. It is definitely not a shot-for-shot remake, but it also doesn’t have a lot of what made the original French film so impressively visceral and continually interesting. This re-imagining, remake, or whatever word you choose to employ, didn’t have to go for big gore and get as graphic as Laugier. What it did need, though, is the emotional resonance, the quality techniques of Laugier and the original team, and generally a better screenplay if it were meant for glory. Not near being one of my favourite remakes. Another great film gets an unjust treatment for North American audiences, many of whom are probably too lazy to read subtitles and watch the original, evident by how many foreign films get remade here in the West. If that weren’t the case, if the demand weren’t so high, I’d assume people were seeking out the original pieces of work. In this case, I certainly suggest you watch Laugier’s movie. It’s leaps and bounds better than this mediocre, run of the mill dishwater.
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Two young girls come together as orphans at a young age, Lucie (Troian Bellisario) and Anna (Bailey Noble). Lucie escaped from a terrifying, abusive situation of captivity, which Anna helped her get past.
Cut to years later. They’re grown young women. Lucie finds the family who supposedly held her captive, then shotguns them all, including the kids, to death. She calls Anna frantically, telling her what happened. Her friend arrives to try and help things go smoother, as far as is possible. But Lucie spirals out of control. Soon, Anna is in the house, bodies everywhere, and a group of armed people take over.
Brought to room and tortured, Anna discovers what Lucie went through. The two girls are pitted against their captors. Although, the past comes back to bear on their present situation. As things are revealed the capture of Lucie as a young girl becomes more clear, the movie behind it all unearthed. Can they survive this? Will Lucie be able to make it out of the horror a second time?
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*SPOILER ALERT: TURN BACK OR THOU SHALT FOREVER BE SPOILED!*
One thing I quickly disliked about this version is that the screenplay from Mark L. Smith (The RevenantVacancy) decides to keep both of the main women alive. Whereas in the Laugier original, the Lucie character dies. What I love about that original screenplay is that the Anna character is then forced to deal with the aftermath of the situation, as well as the group who come to find her, forcing her to also suffer the torture her friend once did years ago. In this film there’s this sense of a bunch of subjects captured at once, while Anna and Lucie then also find themselves captives. Part of why I enjoyed the original French film is that Laugier went for a definitively tragic and truly epic plot. Smith, though he did amazing stuff with The Revenant, makes the mistake of going for something more hopeful. Realistically you have to look at the group doing these experiments; they are obviously massive, a solid organization, so to just do another escape thriller with this setup is wasting a lot of potential. The original capitalized on all its brutality, as well as emotions, and went for a dark ending. Without spoiling anything, this remake cops out. Some say the original was all nihilistic. Except for the fact the people torturing the hopeful martyrs, for all their faults and bloody terror, are seeking a way to discover what makes someone into such a portal to view what’s in their eyes, seeing beyond life and into the chasm of death. So, it’s not really nihilistic, not in true terms. But any of the impact of the film is taken away in this screenplay. Not at all impressed with Smith’s choices.
The execution isn’t a whole lot helpful either. Tons of exposition that the original never needed, as well as so much sanitized horror. It all combines into a real mess. There are, yes, several moments of decent blood, and also several intense sequences. Yet none of this adds up to even half the impact Laugier came off with, which does nothing to make me enjoy this needless remake. There was a grim, moody atmosphere and a gritty tone to the original. Here, most of the movie feels glossy, bright even in the darkness, and overall there is nothing technique-wise that ever grabs me. Kevin and Michael Goetz did 2013’s Scenic Route and I actually enjoyed that a good deal. It was entertaining, gritty at times, funny even. Lots of good stuff. Their follow-up film is nowhere near as good. Hopefully next they’ll go with an original film with a better story because they’ve proved themselves on the previous movie. Martyrs is a step backward.
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I’ll give the film a 1&1/2 star rating, solely because I did enjoy aspects of Bailey Noble’s performance, even if I wasn’t a fan of the plot. Likewise, Troian Bellisario is decent enough to keep your attention particularly later when the torture commences once more. But this is an unnecessary remake. Honestly, I try to give these remade films a chance, however, they more often than not let me down big time. This one is no different. Over the past few years this is one of the worst. Again, I hope the Goetz brothers go forward and make something better. As I hope Mark Smith pushes on and finds better success with another movie. These are better artists than the movie suggests. Martyrs, the original, is worth your time. Despite what others say about a totally boring, gory film, Laugier made an impact with that one, which I will never forget. Skip this, see his original. You’ll thank me.

The Knick – Season 1, Episode 7: “Get the Rope”

Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 7: “Get the Rope”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler

* For a review of the previous episode, “Start Calling Me Dad” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Working Late a Lot” – click here
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The Knick‘s seventh episode keeps on pumping, as the opening scene brings us back in time with Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) and Dr. Christiansen (Matt Frewer) meeting Dr. William Halsted (Michael Cerveris). This is a time before all of the madness which took Thack along his path. Christiansen calls John a “comet in the sky“. We see how uneasy Thackery is before heading into the operating theatre. Then Christiansen shoots up his cocaine, implying Halsted is where he first learned to take the drug in order to keep his energy up. In fact, William Halsted is who Dr. Thackery is modeled after, so watching this scene is very intriguing. The meeting of two men: one fictional, the other his real life counterpart. The surgery goes on in the theatre, as Drs. Christiansen and Thackery attempt to make progress heading towards the 20th century.


Cut back to 1900’s present moments. Thack is woken up from his drugged sleep to find that Ping Wu (Perry Yung) is having medical troubles. In an instant, John has a tracheotomy performed and Wu can breathe once again. He saves the day then has a fresh bowl of opium loaded. Y’know – for victory.
In other news, a young black woman is accosted on the street by a man belonging to Bunk Collier (Danny Hoch). He assumes she is a prostitute, but it appears she is higher class. Out comes her man and things get wild. A fight in the street begins. As you can imagine, people aren’t too pleased about “the nigger“, and not long after a stabbing victim – Phinny Sears – arrives at The Knick – Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) says a “dirty coon” got him. Then there are crowds of people at the hospital doors, pressing inward. With Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) arriving to work, everything is almost riotous.
Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland), Dr. Bertie Chickering Jr (Michael Angarano) and Dr. Thackery are all working on the man, along with the help of Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson). The medical table is crowded after Everett arrives; he isn’t happy about Edwards being there, nor is he thrilled to see the pump Edwards invented working so incredibly well in the hands of John. Outside of the hospital, the stabbing victim’s wife is calling for something to be done. She wants the man who stabbed him strung up. I wouldn’t doubt they’d all take the first African-American who came by to be hung. When Dr. Edwards arrives to check the patient, he is treated just like any other black man at the time. Sad and hideous behaviour.


Sears is in a bad way, and the situation around him, as well as outside, is not improving. He perishes from the wounds with his family and fellow officers at his side. The grieving wife and mother wants all the “fucking darkies” brutalized. A mob is out looking for blood now, attacking people on the streets. Witnessing this, Thackery rushes to the road. He may not have been totally into Edwards being at the hospital first, but now he is seeing the ugly side of racism rear its head. The consequences of allowing lax, subtle racism go without punitive measures. New York City comes alive with people beating black men and women alike. The streets burn with the hate of racist mobs. African-Americans limp down the street and make their way through the back doors of The Knick. All of a sudden inside Everett inadvertently causes some fighting, a man insisting there are “no niggers allowed“. A boy sees where the black patients are heading then goes to alert the crowds and the police outside: “Get the rope,” an officer says which prompts the door at the hospital’s front to be ripped off.
Chaos reigns after the doors are open. White men everywhere with clubs, knives, bottles, looking for the nearest, blackest individual. Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is running around trying to get everyone safe, he even discovers Algernon’s makeshift clinic downstairs. Thack starts to get everyone on the move, intending to take the African-American patients elsewhere for treatment. He didn’t want to lead the charge on equality at his hospital. Although, now it’s out of his hands and he takes the lead running.


Transporting patients literally undercover, Thack and the others start to bring patients to a safer destination. Even Cleary, without horses to haul his ambulance, pulls the thing himself. Algernon hides under a stretcher, as patients are wheeled along under sheets like dead bodies. It is a tense, suspenseful moment. Especially once they’re stopped briefly by a very thick Irish-voiced individual. Nurse Lucy makes a sly remark about leprosy and a man’s testicles falling off, which helps them keep heading down the road. There’s also Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) who commands the crowds away, damning them all to Hell if they touch any of the African-Americans. What a wild and frenetic few scenes together. Funny when Barrow hears about all the prostitutes out on the street uptown, no police around to do anything; he’s worried about his little mistress, that maybe she might be in trouble or simply that someone else is fucking her. Who knows. Either way, there’s too much going on to be worried about Herman.
Arriving at a negro infirmary, Thack, Cornelia and the rest bring their patients to a Dr. Williams (Stephen Tyrone Williams) – an old friend of Dr. Edwards from Harvard. Great little moment, as we get peeks of more racism, and a Dr. Thackery willing to work with anyone now. He is changing, slightly. Maybe this event is something that will spur on his working better with Edwards, seeing exactly what he and his people have to go through every single day of their lives. Over at The Knick, young Bertie is left to do his own surgery from pictures alone, but looks to be doing fine.
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With everything clearing out, Cornelia heads back to the hospital, as do Algernon and Cleary with the ambulance. Thack offers to see Nurse Lucy home safely.
But when Cornelia and Algernon arrive at the basement clinic, their relationship heats up intensely. She is highly impressed by Edwards, his setting up of the makeshift clinic, his resolve in the face of crisis during the riot, everything after. They are a long, emotionally charged kiss in the fading light. They hold one another close and, no doubt, will soon take one another right there.
Thack and Lucy experience their own romance. She invites him into her boarding house, then further into her room. They’re alone. Dark and shadowy. All the tension between them before now comes to a head, culminating between the sheets of Lucy’s bed. Where will this take them? Does Dr. Thackery have a new confidante? Or is this only going to become a source of betrayal re: Bertie?
Will it hurt?” asks Lucy before Thack undresses her. “I can make it painless and perfect,” he replies. In the morning, a crushed vial of cocaine is on the floor, the room a mess. And John nowhere to be found, only a disheveled, tired Lucy. She remembers their previous night’s tryst in bits, pieces, little edits, as we come back to her getting ready in the morning. I suppose it turns out cocaine isn’t only good for taking the edge off surgery. Thack finds a use for it just about anywhere.


The next episode, “Working Late A Lot”, brings us closer and closer to the end of Season 1. Only a couple more left. It’ll be interesting to watch where things progress from here, heading into the second season. Stay with me, fellow fans.

The Knick – Season 1, Episode 6: “Start Calling Me Dad”

Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 6: “Start Calling Me Dad”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler

* For a review of the previous episode, “They Capture the Heat” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Get the Rope” – click here
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This episode begins, again, with a ringing phone. Now, it is at the Chickering household and the call comes for Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano). At a very early hour. Just so happens it’s Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen). But then Dr. Bertram Chickering Sr (Reg Rogers) isn’t too pleased with the early calls. Even less impressed with Thackery and his early morning experiments.
When Bertie gets to the lab, there are naked Asian women sitting with Thack. They’ve been there a couple days straight: “We took a few small breaks,” John says with a saucy, sly grin. He has lots to show Bertie, hoping to improve on the placental problems they’d encountered when Dr. Christiansen was still around. The plan, says Thack, is to put pressure on the wound while performing a Cesarean inside the wound, rather than outside. Watching these innovations on the part of Thackery is amazing, almost like witnessing a piece of history. The excited way in which Clive Owen delivers these lines shows us both Thack’s own happiness to push forward into the future of medicine, as well as his raging cocaine addiction. Furthermore, the way he employs the prostitutes to help with his new experiments is sort of hilarious, especially the way he reels Bertie in to the entire thing. Well written opener to the sixth episode of The Knick‘s Season 1.


In less exciting and sadder news, Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) and his wife Eleanor (Maya Kazan) are all but watching their child perish from meningitis. She is upset that Everett “brought this into our house” while he is devastated. Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) tries to tell Eleanor there isn’t much to be done, at all. Though, Everett mentions a slim chance bloodletting procedure, and the mother wants anything, everything to be done in order to try saving their child.
Inspector Speight (David Fierro) and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) are still trying to figure out the typhoid outbreak. He has a fairly well connected map of the disease spreading around New York City, so they’re merely trying to discover the link: ice cream. Or “whats in the ice cream“. Turns out a woman named Mary Mallon (Melissa McMeekin) made all the ice cream which got everyone sick; Typhoid Mary.
Meanwhile, Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is trying to acquire an x-ray machine that doesn’t cost $3,000. The salesman of a second hand unit introduces Herman to the machine and takes an x-ray for him. “This should take about an hour,” the man tells him. Incredible how advanced we’ve become since.


Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) and Cornelia sit together for a talk. He seems pensive, perhaps depressed. His life at The Knickerbocker Hospital isn’t what it promised to be at the start. Here, we get insight into the young life of Algie, as an almost additional member of the Robertson clan, having played with Cornelia and her brother Henry as children. We can tell there is more to the relationship between Algernon and Cornelia, so it’ll be interesting to watch more of that come out as the season progresses.
Abby (Jennifer Ferrin) and her syphilis treatment is coming along. The poor thing is strapped constantly into a contraption which keeps her arm over her head, the skin from her inner bicep stitched to her nose. “Its always looks like rain,” Abby tells John, “if you only look at the clouds.” Her spirits are high, though, it’s probably only because of having to deal with her illness so long. She has become accustomed to it, sadly.
Then there’s Thackery dealing with the greasy salesman, Luff (Tom Papa) who hawked a second hand x-ray machine off on Barrow. He comes in with a liniment oil already emblazoned with Dr. Thackery’s face, ready to sell. Essentially, Luff is only concerned with his share of the “booming market” in medicine. He even talks about Dr. Pepper, whose “brain tonic is doing so well they’re serving it at fountains all around the city; as much a beverage as it is a remedy.” John doesn’t have much time for it, shooing Luff out and calling him a “moldy rogue”. Already in 1900, the vultures of capitalism are peeking their heads out and trying to make money from whatever they can in the burgeoning field.


Bertie is taking Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) out on a date. They have a pretzel and walk together, enjoying one another’s company. Smiling, talking. A new relationship is beginning here, but will the small looks between Lucy and Thackery become anything? Will that further cause tension between John and Bertie? Either way, for now Bertie clearly likes being with Lucy, and she seems to, as well.
In an African-American bar, Algernon is having a drink. His eyes are dangerous and his face looks almost vacant. The bartender talks about “the Big Nig“, someone to whom Algernon should not go looking for a fight. He does, though. And afterwards we watch him ice down his side, clearly after having gone for a fight with the man. Glad we didn’t get another scene of Edwards fighting, but that it’s merely alluded to heavily. Nice editing in this particular scene.
More sadness now, as the Gallingers finally lose their child to meningitis. Eleanor is apparently lost in her own mind, not thinking straight. She can’t accept the death of their daughter. Sister Harriet and Everett are both equally concerned. Of course, “the powerful wave of melancholia” is coming, and Harriet suggest perhaps they ought to adopt a baby that was left on the church steps recently. A way to get through things. Everett’s left to consider whether or not they ought to take the child in.
Such a juxtaposition to see Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) waiting outside for Harriet: “Weve got work to do,” he says. She goes from caring for children to abortion so quickly. Not that I have any issue with it, just an interesting parallel.
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Inspector Speight and Cornelia finally track down Typhoid Mary. She is at a new home serving ice cream again. Once the news of her typhoid is let out, everybody at the table eating drops their spoons, afraid they might contract her nastiness. Awesome little scene where Mary tries to run away and then Cornelia tackles her – “Definitely a new century,” Speight laughs remarking he’d “never seen a society girl join a fracas that quick.” This part had me laughing, in the best sort of way. Cornelia is a tough cookie.
At The Knick, another pregnant patient comes in and Thack gets himself ready by shooting up a good dose of cocaine. Bertie is along for the ride, once more. “Are you sure we’re ready?” he asks Thack. But John is all ready, he wants to go and figure things out. He wants to move forward and try getting the procedure right, on the table, in the operating theatre. No more experiments. So they used their new contraption to enter the vaginal canal and attempt to succeed where they’ve only managed to fail until now. Thack cuts into the stomach and forges on. Their new technique helps to slow the bleeding, allowing the successful delivery of the baby. The placental repair is named after all three men who influenced its development: Christiansen-Thackery-Chickering. A new step into the modern world of medicine and childbirth.
Late at night, Thack is working. He hears something downstairs and eventually comes upon the makeshift black emergency room which Algernon has been running. John wants them all out, so the gig is up. So it seems. This could be bad for Edwards, as well as the patients he will no longer get to service. He shows Thackery the extent of the little clinic, what he’s been doing down there with limited resources and under the virtual cover of darkness: “Are you out of your fucking mind?” John asks sternly. Things change slightly when Thack sees the blood pump Edwards made out of a vacuum cleaner: “Thats not the only thing Ive come up with down here,” Algie assures before introducing his solution for the inguinal hernia. John agrees not to say anything for now, as long as the door stays locked and nobody else wanders in. Even better, Algernon’s hernia treatment is heading for the big time and tenuous agreement is struck between the two doctors: “Dr. Edwards,” begins Thackery, “may I officially welcome you to The Knick?”


Cornelia is being readied to marry Phillip Showalter (Tom Lipinski). He believes she’ll be a perfect little housewife instead of continuing on with any business after their marriage. A tense, sort of creepy scene sees Phillip’s father Hobart Showalter (Gary Simpson) confront Cornelia in her room, as she happens to be undressing for the day. The name of the episode comes from these moments. He’s got lots of ideas about what needs to happen after Cornelia is hitched to Phillip. It is an unsettling and nervous scene, but sets the tone for Cornelia’s further relationship with Hobart and the Showalter clan. You could feel something more almost breaking through, and yet the episode finishes her on a strange, awkward note. Very interested to see where it all goes from here.


The next episode is titled “Get the Rope”. Stay tuned with me for another go round.

Black Mass: Welcome Back, Mr. Depp!

Black Mass. 2015. Directed by Scott Cooper. Screenplay by Jez Butterworth & Mark Mallouk; based on the novel by Dick Lehr & Gerard O’Neill.
Starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, David Harbour, and Adam Scott. Cross Creek Pictures/Grisbi Productions/Infinitum Nihil/Free State Pictures.
Rated 14A. 123 minutes.
Biography/Crime/Drama

★★★★
black-mass-posterThe story of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger is a wild one. I remember when the excellent drama Brotherhood came on, with Jason Clarke and Jason Isaacs; that had roots in Bulger’s story, the parallel between him and his political brother. It’s a story that, if you know anything about it, is intense and has many layers. Almost as if it were written and made up. Yet the details most certainly are not made up. After things eventually went further south for Whitey, he went on the run as a Most Wanted face on the FBI’s list. Only a few years ago, at age 81 ripe and tender, he was apprehended and in 2013 his trial started.
So naturally, after seeing Scott Cooper was taking on an adaptation of this man’s boisterous, wild life, it had every bit of interest I needed. Black Mass gives us big heaping slices of the life of Bulger, from a time when he was already known to later on when he became one of the most well known names of the underworld. A ton of what makes the movie interesting are the central performances, particularly Johnny Depp in one of his strongest roles – ever – and then there is great writing on top of great directing from Cooper. This intense and at times fairly grim tale is weaved out of real life, pumped full of bravado, but best of all it breathes air into a true villain out of the history books.
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James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Johnny Depp) is a tough customer. One of the worst. He’s a notorious criminal from South Boston whose reputation precedes him. Better yet, he’s the brother of prominent politician Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch). While Billy is busy climbing the political ladder, Jimmy is on the streets busting heads, killing, doing the most illegal of business.
But a terrifying deal is struck behind the scenes between Jimmy and the FBI, led by John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who just so happens to have grown up on the same street as the Bulger boys. Using the FBI to essentially take out competition and aid his nefarious dealings, from guns to drugs, Whitey spins the entire deal into a downward spiral. Soon enough, the FBI informant in Jimmy is lost and he is officially on the Ten Most Wanted List. His story is one of family, corruption, ego and above all else – crime.
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Immediately we’re introduced to Whitey Bulger as someone who does not mince words, nor does he put up with anything he sees as bullshit. No nonsense. The opening scene with Depp his eyes are piercing through the darkness, Bulger is sitting in silence and watching Johnny Martorano (W. Earl Brown) – an extremely dangerous and feared man in his own right – sloppily eat peanuts on the table, which he does not like. And makes it known. But this semi-funny scene brings a little more to the front. If you understand who Martorano is, then it’s even further evident that Whitey does not care who is in front of him. He says it like it is and couldn’t care less what anyone feels about it. The menace is present enough in the shots where Depp is barely visible through the darkness, almost like a predator laying, waiting in the black. More of that comes out later, though, it is heavily featured in this first moment. As time goes by, it isn’t only the contacts Depp wears that makes the eyes of Bulger burn into your soul. It is the absolute dead eye stare Depp seeps through the frame, it won’t let you go. With only a few looks Depp conveys the nastiness in Whitey.
Everyone is really solid here. One of those ensemble casts you dream of, as there’s a number of performances to enjoy. Of course you can’t not talk about Cumberbatch, whose American Boston accent is pretty great, and natural. Not just that I found he was well contrasted with Depp; they truly felt like brothers, two guys at the opposite end of one spectrum. Their chemistry was good when they shared the screen. Then there are smaller roles that worked well, such as Peter Sarsgaard (always a fan), Rory Cochrane, and more. But I also have to mention Joel Edgerton. He is a talent, one who can play interesting roles with lots of weight. He is compelling from scene to scene, especially considering what his character is involved in, and Edgerton definitely sells the performance. He and Depp do nice work together, too. Having all the actors in this film together is a definite plus. Without them these real life characters would’ve felt like caricatures and bad impressions. With them, Whitey Bulger, John Connolly, Billy Bulger and the rest of them all appear to us vividly and full of passion.


There are certainly similarities at times to the classic Martin Scorsese mob picture Goodfellas. Cooper does an excellent job mirroring some of the music montage moments in that film, excellent homage. Although, it isn’t borrowing too heavily. This is its own story, its own film all the way. But apart from some of the techniques Cooper uses to move the plot along, particularly the first montage with “Slave” by The Rolling Stones, there are plenty differences. The writing doesn’t fall back on homage. We get lots of exciting dialogue, which in turn obviously brings us fun, intense, and likewise exciting relationships between characters, scenes that come to life. It’s not just some period piece jumping from one decade to the next with a couple decent characters. The screenplay is solid. I love the pace of the movie, from start to finish. Never once during the 123 minute runtime did I find myself hoping for more excitement. There are bits of extensive expository dialogue, but only in the sense that we need it re: FBI actions, and so on. Then, we also get our fill of the character development, the violent scenes, the mob talk. There could’ve easily been too much, or not enough, of all these aspects. Instead, Cooper & Co. offer us up a good variation most of the time.
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Easily a 4 star film. There could’ve been a few things edited better, to ramp up the intensity and suspense, but overall the pacing of the film especially keeps things proper. Boasting a massively impressive performance from Johnny Depp, as well as a handful of great supporting roles, Black Mass packs a heavy, bloody punch. Maybe people see too many parallels with other films and that Scott Cooper drew off classics too much. Not I. This is a truly compelling story that deserved to be told and this was told in fine fashion. There are moments you’ll laugh, moments you will root for a good outcome. But this is a dark, twisting story. There are no happy endings. Regardless, the film is very well made. It has a wonderful atmosphere and a constant tone that brings out the best in every aspect of the production. This is top notch and one of the best crime biographies of the past decade. Some bits and pieces need tuning, though, if any Depp shows us he’s not done yet. Not by a long shot.