It’s worth remembering it wasn’t always like this. Depp began his career like any DiCaprio or Pitt - on the covers of teen magazines and starring in ‘21 Jump Street’. With windswept hair, olive skin and fabulously defined cheekbones, he was a portrait stashed in an attic of such unearthly beauty that he almost looked unreal and ethereal. I recently watched the excellent documentary ‘The Most Beautiful Boy in the World’ and compared Bjorn Andreson’s ethereal beauty to Depp’s unblemished perfection at the age of 21.
Maybe he was too beautiful and that’s why he’s spent his life trying to cover up such beauty beneath itchy stubble. He’s certainly a man almost cursed by his perfection and desperate to masquerade behind a mask. One wonders, given his Aspergersy traits and offbeat choice of roles, where he’d be if he didn’t have his looks.
Of course, Depp started off like any other movie star; donning leather jackets and sending teenage girls wild like he did in ‘Cry Baby’ (1990) which was the height of his tanned skinned perfection. He was a pretty boy gone bad, but even that couldn’t predict his turn of roles when Tim Burton cast him as ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990) with cuts on his face and matted mop hair.
I’ve always thought this was Depp and Burton’s most personal film of their 7 collaborations. It was a ‘Beauty and the Beast’-inflected fairytale about a monster who falls in love with a pretty girl. Something Depp could relate to being an awkward outsider who never quite fitted in. In essence, he was essentially playing himself behind monster make-up.
In ‘Ed Wood’, he was playing “the worst filmmaker ever”. It’s hardly an easy task considering Depp is arguably our greatest working actor - a man who commits himself and disappears into roles like no other. But Depp got us to see the genius behind the idiot everybody else saw in Ed Wood - the little boy ego fighting away for recognition in a movie world that didn’t quite accept him. He was also the only person who could get us to love Sarah Jessica Parker!
‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ was less a movie than an acid trip - an LSD-charged fantasy with giant reptiles and dinosaurs in nightclubs. Depp based his bodily contortions entirely on the cartoons of Ralph Steadman which involved disproportionate body parts and mouth movements inspired by a cigarette. In this movie, he showed his physical acting genius of telling the story through his body rather than his mouth and revelled in his passion for impersonating others.
It’s no secret Depp likes to impersonate others. His Willy Wonka was based on Michael Jackson, his Sweeney Todd on David Bowie and Edward Scissorhands on Burton himself. Don’t get me even started on ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ where Jack Sparrow was a walking incarnate of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Richards even had a cameo in the third film! Perhaps Depp doesn’t like being himself and so has to escape into the bodies of others. It’s an enigma incarnate.
12A, 98 Mins
The plot is about a 45 year old Brazilian security guard in Manaus called Justino. He's trying to support his poor family especially his daughter who is about to study at uni. Then Justino comes down with a mysterious fever and everything goes haywire. We're never told what this illness is or what causes it. Like the best movies about diseases like 'Leaving Las Vegas', the genius of the writing is that it doesn't rely on the audience knowing the specifics. What's far more interesting and exciting is knowing about the human toll the condition takes on its victims and their families and communities.
The Amazon scenery here is fabulous. It's lush and rich and vibrant in nature and so sorely under threat from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. The director Maya Da-Rin makes a note to comment on the dangers faced by rural Brazilians who are having their entire ways of life uprooted by advancing businesses and technology in the region. It will put a tear in the eyes of the toughest soul. And that moral message rings loud and clear through Justino's soulful eyes.
Again, it's pretty timely that I watched this after walking through an Extinction Rebellion protest in London. There there were naked women showing off their bodies to try and raise awareness of the climate change emergency that faces our planet. I've never been a denier, but have always been pretty ignorant and a bit scoffy in the face of massive tree huggers. I've generally found them very annoying. But ironically gardening and volunteering has made me open my eyes to the crimes done to nature and this city boy begins to question his life-long prejudices.
The illness at the heart of this drama is not realy the heart of the story. That's really about indigenous Brazilians and their struggles to make ends meet and fit in with people of white Portuguese heritage. There's a culture clash of hot n' cold, ying n' yang that makes for fascinatingly topical viewing. I enjoyed seeing the contrasts and the cultures meet face-to-face. It's timely, its provocative and makes damn good commentary for 2021.
But mostly this movie has a dreamy quality associated only with the works of Alejandro Jodorovsky. It belongs in the realm of midnight cinema where surrealism trumps narrative and standard storytelling beats and relies on imagery to tell the story. And, boy, there are some beautiful images. Like when Justino goes for a walk in the rainforest and the tracking shot lingers for about five minutes on the surrounding environment and its lushness and fragility against climate change.
There's some great music too. Like when Justino's wife ends the film singing a local song in Brazilian Portuguese. You live, breathe and feel like the people of the forest. And that's damn good to do...
15, 115 Mins
Depp here is the inquisitive photographer Eugene W. Smith who uncovered the government cover-up of the fact they were legally poisoning 2,265 victims. I’ve always thought Depp was a true chameleon in every sense of the word. He has the ability to shapeshift into any part and change his appearance depending on the role. He did that in ‘Edward Scissorhands’, he did that in ‘Sweeney Todd', he did that in ‘Ed Wood’. Burton knows how to channel his chameleon charm and shape-shifting disappearances.
I’m going to go out on the limb here and forgive me if I’m supposedly praising a wife-beater, but I think ‘Minamata’ is his best performance and I’m going to campaign for him to get an Oscar. Even by Depp standards, he is unrecognisable with his grey beard and hair covering up his movie star perfection and instantly recognisable tan. It’s a very minimalist performance that doesn’t require a lot of dialogue in his trademark sexy Kentucky accent. Through his awkward gait an debilitating stutter, he lives, breathes and talks like Eugene Smith. It's as if the man was in the room with us.
He gets to mouth bile like “I’m the single greatest photographer Life Magazine has ever had” only for Bill Nighy to say “you’re the most impossible photographer Life has ever had”. That line I felt was more a line expressing Depp’s impossible status as one of the most fascinating, eccentric and complex men to ever appear on the big screen. He really is a thinking man’s movie star.
“The cover-up is going to be more expensive than the story itself” he says and he’s right. This movie will have you frothing in anger that the government could allow and fund the legal poisoning of a few 2 thousand Japanese civilians given ataxia, paralysis and certain death thanks to the release of ‘Minamata’ chemicals. The figures are shocking and will get the liberally inflamed riled up and ready for action. You'll cry for the deceased, you'll pray for the living and froth at the mouth for the government and Chisso corporation.
This is a movie about a photographer and does feature some breathtakingly beautiful photos. He takes photos in black and white, with a tinge of infrared and a touch of colour. The photo sequences have an art to them that’s a lot like watching Andy Warhol; a sense that this could almost be a really expensive music video.
You’ll love the soundtrack too which opens with ‘I’d Love to Change the World’ which is very apt because, in this movie, Johnny Depp really does change the world. Eugene Smith’s work was integral in raising awareness of Minamata Disease and the government cover-up and it’s essential this film was made and that people watch it so more awareness is raised of this little-known condition.
Then there’s the scenery which is 1950s Japan. And, boy, does it look beautiful. I loved the paddy fields and the oriental-style houses and the Kanji scripts on the walls. You really get the sense you’re living in a foreign country and this film will crave you visiting Japan with a beat in your heart and a passion for the environment.
But mainly this is Depp’s poster child and I hope this resurrects his career after that horrible and frankly false libel case. He’s better here than he has been in years - it’s a real skin-changing performance even by Depp’s standards where he just disappears into the part and you forget you’re watching the actor and just see the person. In this movie, you’ll just see Eugene Smith and not see the sexiest man alive. That’s the mark of a great actor.
I’m wondering whether we should separate art from the person here. Johnny Depp may have domestic abuse allegations against him, but this is undoubtedly the best performance of the year. I’ll be flying the flag for him come Oscar time.
Scarlett’s suing Disney (while giving birth)
The argument over whether movies should be simultaneously released on streaming services as well as in the cinemas has been up for debate for a long time. Christopher Nolan left Warner Bros, for example, because they’re releasing their entire 2021 slate onto HBO Max. I just think now cinemas are open, there’s no reason to release movies on streaming services. ‘Black Widow’ certainly flopped because it was available at home and people thought it would be cheaper and safer to watch it there. It’s not cos it was a bad film - I really enjoyed it, although ScarJo was not the star. That was Florence Pugh.
The funny thing about this whole streaming debacle was a story I read recently. Scarlett filed the lawsuit on July 31st and apparently did so while she was giving birth in the hospital. Talk about terrible timing. I bet she was thinking and screaming “FUCK YOU DISNEY!” while pushing and the midwives were screaming PUSH!
Stillwater’s causing a stir
She claims Director Tom McCarthy didn’t consult her before making the movie and, in an essay for Medium, claims her “fictionalized” character was made to look like a participant in a crime. It involved having a sexual relationship with a victim and asking the killer to “get rid” of the lover.
Frankly I think this is pretty insensitive of McCarthy not to consult Knox before making the film. It’s perfectly ok to make a movie about real-life events, but the victim needs to know it’s happening. You can’t go around falsifying facts and history and potentially discrediting an innocent woman.
I didn’t like ‘Stillwater’, but not cos of the Knox case. I just found it very boring and detested the liberal politics which were so one-the-nose.
Jodie’s leaving Dr. Who
I’m sure many people will be rejoicing when Jodie leaves as ‘Dr. Who’ has apparently become woke, PC crap. I can’t comment as I’ve only seen Jodie’s first episode where I thought she was pretty good and Tennant-like and the darkest Doctor since Patrick Troughton.
All eyes will be on who they cast next. Surely they can’t go back to making it a white man? Not after all this. It should be someone of an ethnic minority imo. Daniel Kaluuya, anyone?
I wonder where they’ll go with this sequel. Director Craig Gillespie is expected to return as is Screenwriter Tony McNamara. They were a great pairing for this punk rock origins story which has a touch of Scorsese about it and a great soundtrack.
I loved ‘Cruella’ and can’t wait to see Emma Stone in the role again. What can she do next? Skin a dog live on screen? Either way, Emma had great fun in the role and was certainly fun to watch. I’ll be campaigning for her to get an Oscar. It’s her best performance to date.
The fact she’s returning came as a surprise after people predicted she might follow Scarlett and sue Disney for releasing it on Disney Plus. I guess Cruella did better at the Box Office and Emma wasn’t having labour pains despite having just had a baby. You’ve got it, girl.
Greta’s doing Barbie (with Margot)
Guess who’s playing ‘Barbie’? None other than the blondest, sexiest woman alive Margot Robbie. She’s officially been cast and the film will begin production in 2022. It’s going to be scripted by Greta’s husband Noah Baumbach and produced by Margot’s LuckyChap production company which nearly won an Oscar for ‘Promising Young Woman’. Thank f**k it didn’t!
I can’t stand Barbie or the Aqua song, but can’t wait to see what Greta does with this movie. Is it going to be a woman’s liberation spin-off with #MeToo musings about female oppression? That worked wonders in ‘Little Women’.
I’ve often said Emma Stone’s Cruella’ was a lot like Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. They are very similar - same kind of trash-talking vibe. I can’t wait to see Margot in the role. I hope it will be a skin-changing performance with blonde hair and bangs which Margot always does best. I hope we get a ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ nude scene. Man, Margot Robbie naked? Sign me up!
I suppose that’s the beauty of it. It’s Bollywood which is escapism for a lot of people there where lots of people live in poverty. The cinema is a chance for them to let loose and enjoy the pleasures of life.
Anyway, these two Indian girls were dancing like hell when the song n’ dance numbers came up. They were laughing and singing and speaking loudly in Hindi. I should hate it. I hate it when people don’t behave themselves in the cinema. But I actually really liked ‘Puaada’ and liked the songs and wanted to sing and dance too.
That cinema experience really craved me going to the cinema in India where people dance and sing and cheer. It’s so much more fun than sitting in a dark room silently with a bunch of strangers. Unless you’re watching ‘A Quiet Place’ that is...
Indian girls dancing in the cinema
I often hate it when audiences don’t behave themselves in the cinema. I remember going to see ‘A Quiet Place: Part II’ recently and someone telling people to stop talking. That’s the worst movie where you can be talking - the silence is everything.
The other day, I went to see the Punjabi movie ‘Puaada’ at Cineworld. There were two Indian girls in the audience speaking in fluent Hindi. Having been to India, I’ve noticed people there don’t behave themselves in the cinema. I thought us Brits were bad at breaking the code of conduct, but, over there, people chant and jeer and break into song n’ dance in the middle of the movie.
PG, 98 Mins
The setting is contemporary Japan in a mix of cities and countryside. The filmmakers beautifully paint the Japanese lansdscape in blue and yellow hues of the rarest form. I appreciate I saw this dubbed in English which is not the ideal way to watch an anime. I love hearing the Japanese dialogue which is so harsh and gutteral and sounds damn good when shouting orders.
Like I said, it's not for kids. A guy gets run over by a bus, a disabled girl falls down a rollercoaster road and the guy ends up in ITU with his heart barely beating. We see a red dot on the screen to symbolize the heart. I ask parents to hesitate before showing this to the youngest children. It's got a great moral message about accepting people of all demographics regardless of their background that I'm sure will do well to inspire old kiddies, but they need to be aware that there are some challenging scenes that even put me in shock and awe and I'm 24.
I enjoyed the scenery, though, which is lush and tropical and heaven on Earth personified. I loved the scene where they go diving in the reefs, for example. I cried at the end when both admitted they loved each other and the girl's blushing looked so cute. It made me crave teen love and crushes from when I was at school. I wanted to be a child with a childhood sweetheart reunited after 100 years.
Please watch it. It's really worth seeing. It's got heart, humour and some great Japanese locations. Try to see it in the Japanese form if you can. Dubbing always looks so weird with the mouth movements and lack of synchronicity. At least the songs were in the original language which added a touch of authenticity and a sense that I wasn't seeing an American product placement. Be warned. It's tough and scary and not for the faint-hearted. I wonder if kids will cope with the amount of crying. I'm 24 and still cried like a baby. But it's one beautiful movie with hand-made pictures that come to life when painted. That's the beauty of this kind of animation. Patchwork, jerky and brimming with life in its rawest form. And yet people still call this a kids medium...
12A, 130 Mins
I've always liked Akshay Kumar. Sure, he's not the best actor, but he does look damn hot and loves to shout every word at 300 decibals. A lot like Nic Cage who he does look like. In fact, he could be seen as India's Nic Cage. In this movie, he wears a suit nicely, dons shades in style and is the only man who can make an 80s moustache look good. He also gets to be a crooner during a song n' dance number where he seranades Vaani Kapoor's beautiful Radhika in Hindi lyrics. There's guitars and a microphone and a wedding in beautiful Bollywood style with saris and salwas and turtle neck outfits.
I crushed over Vaani Kapoor who is as beautiful as Vivien Leigh. I was disappointed her and Akshay didn't get a rumpy pumpy sex scene. That'd be the hottest thing to watch. Akshay kicks butt like a pro - on the runway, up in the air and on the ground. He even gets to evict someone from the bathroom when they're having a shit and muses over how stinky is tis. Yuck!
This movie is Bollywood so its relation to real-life facts and figures isn't so accurate despite the title cards that appear at the end. It takes a lot of liberties with the real-life story and trades bureaucratic babbudum nightmares with high-octane chase sequences and garam masala songs. Theres never a sense that any of this could really happen, but thats the beauty of Bollywood. Its pure escapism which a country like India needs with thousands and millions living below the poverty line.
The plane sequences are frenetic too. I love airborne action and this feaures plenty of shots of Akshay clinging onto the wing, punching things up in the cockpit and flirting with the passengers. He does this all and makes it back home in time for a kiss with Vaani. You can't fault that.
15, 91 Mins
I've always had a soft spot for Nic Cage even in the worst movie. Even in shit like 'Ghost Rider' or its sequel. The guy is the master of overracting and has a big head and voice that looks and sounds like a constipated horse neighing over its latest blae of muck. Some movies prove the guy can actually act like 'Leaving Las Vegas' where he was officially the best screen drunk ever. Other times, he just shouts every word at 300 decibals ike in 'Matchstick Men' when he pissed out blood. It's quite funny and amusing and quietly brilliant or its bloody annoying and awful depending on who you are. You either love or you loathe the guy...there's no middle ground.
In this movie, Cage does minimal shouting, He has the worst beard ever - all big, straggly strands and a worse tache than Tcheky Karyo in 'Baptiste' or the Go Compare guy. He sits and wallows in misery; taking swigs of scotch and crying over the fact he can't find piggie. It's clingy and desperate and not that funny. WHERE'S MY FUCKING PIG? I didn't like seeing old Nic upset and found it rather boring that he wasn't screaming. This movie just drags on and on with Nic just wallowing in misery and looking like he ate a house.
It's weird that this movie comes a week after 'The Truffle Hunters'. That also had pigs in it searching for truffles and doddering bearded men musing about life lost. The difference was that was in Italian which is a much more melodic language and that didn't have Nic Cage being a miser when he's really not good at playing it. This is the bad 'Truffle Hunters' - Truffle Hunter's sad, pathetic cousin with a big, soppy, sweaty face of stupidity and misery pudding at its core. It's got nice scenery too that I'd love to build an allotment on, but Nic Cage sucks the life out of every scene with his horrible face and beard.
I wanted to like this because I like pigs and animals and movies about the human-animal bond. But the pig is barely in this movie and, when he is, he's sucked out like a vacuum from Nic's pent house. And guess what? It ends with Nic not finding the pig and a really fucking miserable song playing over the credits dampening the mood as if it was not dampened enough. This isn't the worst movie of the year - it's certainly not as evil as 'Zola' or as pure shit as 'Space Jam'. But it is the most depressing and actual WTF movie of the year. I have no idea what this film stands for. Is it just a vanity child for Nic's depressive state now that he's blacklisted in Hollywood? He got blacklisted cos he made too many shit movies. But this movie doesn't even have Nic Cage doing what he does best which is shouting. It's just pure, animal shit and it stinks really bad too.
15, 84 Mins
Prano Bailey-Bond's electrifying and gory feature debut 'Cesnor' will be a walk in the park of back in time for horror fans of the 80s. It's the tale of a female film censor who ties the release of a gory new horror film with the disappearance of her half-sister. There's lots of scenes of her watching horror and breaking down in tears and vomiting. Clearly the job takes its toll in the same way as it does for murder detectives because when you stare into an abyss, the abyss stares back at you.
The feel and aura of the 70s and 80s video nasty era is captured and capivated with perms, cigarettes indoors and video tapes rater than DVDs or screeners. There's a scene in a video store with Niamh Algar's lead asks for the lastest Frederik North film and the guy at the counter looks like Ben Wheatley shuffling through his macare collection. You really get the sense you are living the lives of civil servants serving up terrible and morally disgraceful government bureucracy. There's even a scene where a civil servant claims the government are a bureucratic nighmare. In the words of Jeremy Clarkson, "the government should build park bences and that's it".
Then there's the gore and there's a lot of it. A head explodes from a pick axe, a heart is plunged by a hammer and Niamh Algar gets to kill her director with a swing of her sword. She's the perfect horror damsel queen draped in a white nighting gown splattered with blood - looking just like Jamie Lee Curtis in 'Halloween'.
I loved Niamh's performance. It's a very submissive role where she has to be a victim of male brutality, but that doesn't stop the movie from putting on it's own female empowerment twist. Shes the one wielding the axe and beating her oppressors and she's the one to rescue her poor sister from the hands of Frederik North. I also enjoyed an excellent turn from the always reliably brilliant and creepy Michael Smiley as North's PR executive who chomps up the scenery with an Irish accent and lots of top of the mornin' charm.
There's lots of casual sexism which was a huge thing in the 70s and 80s where it was perfectly acceptable to describe a woman in a sexualised way. The amount of times in the movie where Niamh is called "fucking gorgeous" and a man's "toy" will get the feminists and #MeToo activists riled up and ready for action. But that was just the time and this film does an excellent job of recapturing a bygone era where the rules were too much to bear.
It all builds to a blood-splatterd finale and an almost heavenly ending with Niamh and her sister in their white nighties reuniting as a family. The setting here changes from the woods that looked like the opening of 'The Killing' to a front lawn that looks very much like the setting of that interesting Jesse Eisenberg thriller 'Valirium'. There's a sense that out of horror there is beauty. I could almost picture Christoph Waltz from 'Spectre' mouthing that line.
This is excellent, gory, electrifying stuff that marks Prano Bailey-Bond as the horror filmmaker to watch. Watching 'Censor', you'll hate the government and state intervention. You'll hate bureauracy and want to see films uncut. This is uncut cinema at its most visual and visceral. It's the way films are meant to be seen.
Freelance film critic, journalist and writer based in Nottingham, UK. Specialises in cinema.
Roshan's Top 5 Films of the Week
2. Everybody's Talking About Jamie (on Amazon Prime)
3. Help (on All4)
4. The Green Knight (on Amazon Prime)
5. The Alpinist
Follow Me on Twitter
*****Butter and Jam Toast
**** Jam Toast
*** Buttered Toast
** Bread and Butter
* Eggy Bread