Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

Black Mass
If gangster movies are your thing, then you’ll find a lot to like about Black Mass, for the film offers up a whole heap of gangster film trappings. A true crime tale rife with sinister characters and violent deaths, the real standout of Black Mass is Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the notorious Whitey Bulger. It’s been some time since we last saw Depp disappear into a dramatic role, and after several movies where he seems to let his makeup and costume do the acting, this was a breath of fresh air that reaffirmed to me that Depp is a good actor. However, I feel as though I’ve seen too many gangster movies at this point to really appreciate Black Mass, because while it ticks off the right boxes for a good gangster movie, I felt like I might as well have watched Goodfellas instead. Beyond Johnny Depp’s performance, Black Mass doesn’t bring much new to the table, but it’s still a solid film that will no doubt bolster your confidence in Depp’s abilities.
3.25 out of 5

The Martian
In my opinion, Ridley Scott hasn’t made a great film in at least a decade, but thankfully The Martian seems to have broken that streak. This is the movie that Gravity and Interstellar wanted to be, presenting a realistic space adventure in an entertaining way, with a great performance from its lead actor. The Martian‘s plot amounts to little more than Castaway on Mars, but watching Matt Damon’s character Mark Watney science his way out of problem after problem is immensely satisying, as is watching the NASA team (consisting primarily of Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor) figure out how to communicate with him and get him home safely. And on top of those two factions, there’s also a ship of Watney’s crew mates (among them Kate Mara and Jessica Chastain), doing their jobs perfectly. One of the most refreshing things about The Martian is that there is no antagonist beyond the situation the characters are in. No scientists suddenly reveal themselves to be assholes, no rival nations try to sabotage the mission, there’s no cliched love triangle. This is a movie about intelligent people solving problems in the face of insurmountable odds, and it’s extremely satisfying in that regard. I wouldn’t call The Martian a masterpiece, but it’s a great piece of blockbuster science, and I would gladly go on this adventure again.
3.75 out of 5

Knock Knock
When family man Keanu Reeves is left alone for the weekend, two young women unexpectedly turn up on his doorstep looking for help. They force themselves upon him, and when he tries to make them leave, their motives turn evil as they tie him up and begin to torture him in physical and psychological ways. It’s basically Funny Games, but with the captors as women, and with a little less creativity. However, Knock Knock is the perfect movie for Eli Roth to make, for he’s built his career on channeling exploitation films and video nasties of old. If you’re not a fan of Roth’s work, this won’t change your opinion. If you are, you’ll probably enjoy it on some level. There’s the odd bit of dark Eli Roth humour, and whenever it popped up, I found myself wishing there was more in the movie. But overall, it’s a passable thriller, and it’s fun to see Keanu Reeves in this role.
3 out of 5

See you next Sunday for more thrilling short reviews!

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