Tag Archives: Dakota Johnson

Black Mass – Movie Review

Inspired by the true story of James “Whitey” Bulger, Black Mass is a modern day mob story proving that real life is not always as exciting as fiction.

Release Date: September 18, 2015
Writer: Jez Butterworth, Mark Mallouk
Director: Scott Cooper
Cast: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Joel Edgerton

Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) is one of many mob bosses in 1970’s Boston. When a childhood friend, FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) returns to his hometown of Boston, he brokers an alliance with Whitey and the FBI. Whitey would give up intelligence on the Italian mob in Boston, and the FBI would turn a blind eye to Whitey’s activities as long as it didn’t include drugs and murder.

Black Mass follows two paths: Bulger’s and Agent Connolly. With a deal in place, Bulger gains a higher level of confidence and power. This power turns for the worse, when his son becomes brain dead from meningitis, and his girlfriend, Lindsey (Dakota Johnson) wants to pull the plug. Bulger becomes more power hungry and more merciless.

The real story of Black Mass is that of Agent John Connolly. Assigned to his hometown of Boston, Connolly is interested in justice. But justice soon conflicts with loyalty because, as kids, Bulger protected Connolly. The FBI deal was brokered out of Connolly’s loyalty to Bulger. Connolly’s loyalty to Bulger soon becomes more important than even his job.

The main problem with Black Mass is that it is just not that interesting. Sometimes real life is not as exciting on screen as an over-the-top fictional story. There is a line that filmmakers walk between telling a true story using the actual facts and stretching the truth to make the story engaging. Black Mass serves only to document the events surround Bulger and the FBI.

We see themes that are not new to the mob genre. The most obvious is Bulger’s personal corruption from the vast amounts of power he’s given. Bulger also becomes paranoid and kills anyone who can possibly end his comfortable life of crime.

Johnny Depp is a good actor, but as Whitey Bulger it is more about the make-up and character affectation than about creating a unique character. The supporting actors also do an excellent job portraying their real life characters. One riveting moment is Bulger confronting John Connolly’s wife, Marianne (Julianne Nicholson), who chooses not to join the corrupt Bulger at a Bar-B-Que at her home. It is the tension of this moment when Bulger accuses Marianne of being rude to not only her guest but to the mobster Bulger.

At best, Black Mass is a fine docu-drama of Whitey Bulger and how he manipulated the FBI. Void of anything original or big moments, Black Mass will be just another mob movie.

Fifty Shades of Grey – Movie Review

Full disclosure: I have not read the book, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I can only judge the movie by what’s on the screen. Fifty Shades of Grey is the dysfunctional love story between Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). As mentioned before, it’s based on the book of the same name by E.L. James.

Release Date: February 13, 2015
Rated R
Writer: Kelly Marcel
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Marcia Gay Harden

The movie is controversial, to say the least. It’s the Beauty and the Beast story with themes of sexual bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and Sadism/Masochism. Anastasia Steele is a quiet young woman, who is helping her roommate with an assignment by interviewing a young corporate CEO, Christian Grey.

Almost immediately, the two become infatuated with one another, and a relationship is formed. But this relationship is complicated. Born the son of a prostitute, Christian can only feel, when engaged in acts of sexual dominance. Before any courting begins with Anastasia, Christian presents her with a contract–a standard dominant submissive contract. Christian asks Anastasia to read, ask questions and sign the contract, so their relationship can move forward. If Anastasia chooses to sign the contract, she will be given a new life thanks to Grey’s riches. Maybe she can change him too.

It’s clear that Anastasia has questions, and the movie is about whether she will sign the contract or not. Anastasia clearly loves Christian, but would she be willing to submit herself to this relationship. Christian, on the other hand, has convinced himself that he can never truly love another person and the only way to have an ongoing relationship is through this contract. This is the similarities with Beauty and the Beast.

Then there is our introduction to the world of the dominant and the submissive. Right away, we learn the emotional state of people who submit themselves to this sexual lifestyle. For Christian, though, Jamie Dornan plays him as conflicted. Christian can only experience feelings and emotions through a dominant/submissive relationship. He’s like Dexter, but instead of murdering the target, Christian must use sexual torture instead. Like Dexter, there are rules to his violence, such as safe words and he believe that his partner is in it for the pain and not for love.

The movie follows Anastasia as she’s slowly introduced to this lifestyle in Christian’s playroom. It is here that the movie becomes the sexual thriller than men have been waiting for. There is a lot of nudity of Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey. In case you were wondering, a very hard R rating. Nothing about it comes close to an NC-17.

The drama is played out in a very harlequin romance way. Lots of talking about love and how each other expresses it. Like a good beast, Christian is shown at times melting and being a good boyfriend. Anastasia revels in her first sexual experience and at moments thinks that what is between Christian and herself is real love.

Fifty Shades of Grey is what I imagine is a tame version of what happens in the original E.L. James novel. Women may be disappointed by this. For men, Fifty Shades is like porn; you’ll tolerate sitting through the plot just to get to the good stuff.