Ensemble Avalanche! Black Mass vs. Everest
Over the weekend I saw six movies' worth of acting talent crammed into two movies, as the casting directors for Black Mass and Everest went a little nuts. I think the industry term is castlust. "Just one more guy, man, just let me cram one more B-list actor into this scene! I know a guy who can get you Adam Scott real cheap, man! Just let me stick him in the shot, man!"
Anyway, I'll help you make the decision on which of these movies you should see, or if you should just go see the new Maze Runner movie, which I've been quoting from the commercials more than any movie I've actually seen in theaters lately. "YOU'LL NEVER SURVIVE ONE DAY IN THE SCORCH!" is a sentence my fiance is certainly sick of hearing me yell out of nowhere by now.
So what are these things? Romantic comedies?
No, I don't think they're either of those things. Black Mass is the (probably inaccurate) story of notorious Boston crime lord Whitey Bulger, and how his partnership with the FBI led him to become one of the most powerful jerks in the city.
And Everest is about a group of adventurous people in the 1990s, who despite having children, jobs, and seemingly good lives, decide they want to climb a giant mountain where 1 in 4 travelers tend to die. Sounds smart. But think about the cocktail party stories you'll be able to tell! "My psychologist says that my night terrors probably started because of that staircase of frozen corpses I had to climb to get to summit four. Oooo, are those tiny beef Wellingtons? How cute! Wow, they look so warm... [cries uncontrollably into four winter coats you wore to the party] But yeah, it was a great vacation."
So what about these casts? I mean, how many people can you really put into one movie, jeez?
Well, just off the top of my head, let me try to recall who was in these films...
In Black Mass: Johnny Depp, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Todd from Breaking Bad, Rory Cochrane, Dakota Johnson, Joel Edgerton, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple, Benedict Cumberbatch, Corey Stoll, over-exaggerated Boston accents, distracting contact lenses.
And in Everest: Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Jason Clarke, Keira Knightly, Robin Wright, the guy from The Ring, Emily Watson, Sam Worthington (remember him?), Stormur Jón Kormákur Baltasarsson (that's just a great name), snow, a bunch of Sherpas, a giant mountain.
What did you think of the titles of these movies?
I didn't really like Black Mass as a title. I mean, what does it really mean? I get the Mass part, that's Massachusetts; but why the black? It's about a bunch of Irish mobsters, there's nothing black about that. If anything, Easily Sunburnt Mass would make more sense.
Everest is a title that makes sense from a marketing perspective. It gives a pretty clear indication of what the movie is about. But, c'mon, what a boring title. They should have gotten more poetic with it, called it something like DEATH MOUNTAIN. But that might be disrespectful to the dead... Or, I mean it *is* a giant clump of rocks covered in tons of snow... ... ... ...so... ... ... ...White Mass...?
How weird does Johnny Depp look?
Yeah, I don't fully understand the makeup job they did on Depp. Especially when I see pictures of the real Whitey Bulger. Depp just looks strange. And inappropriately scary. It almost doesn't make sense for this monster to exist in all these scenes with normal people. He looks like a demon. I'm not sure if that was intentional, or if it was just overdone makeup? He also never ages in the movie. He looks like a 60-year-old freak of nature for the entire duration of the film. So... I didn't like it. It's almost like even in movies when Johnny Depp is trying not to be Tim Burton-y, he still asks to have a thick coating of goofy prosthetics added to him in order to pull off the role.
These look kind of boring, were they boring? How boring were they?
I wouldn't go as far as to call them borrrrrring. Though, there were several times in the second half of Black Mass where I thought "OK, the movie can end right now, and I'd be fine with leaving." But then it went on for another 40 minutes. It was definitely too long, and certainly kind of repetitive. It's kind of a build up to a conclusion they pretty much lay out for you from the start. It might be an alright throwaway Redbox movie one night.
Everest, however, was pretty entertaining to the end. It had exciting action, and high tension. And I think I almost had a panic attack watching a few parts of it (I'm scared of heights). Also, I didn't really know who was going to die, or how. So it kept it very heartbreaking because these are real people, and it's probably much more historically accurate than Black Mass was. It got me a little teary eyed by the end. Despite my opinions on how dumb of an idea it is to climb Mount Everest, I don't really support the idea of people dying on their quest for their dumb dreams. It bummed me out. But in an entertaining Hollywood schmaltzy kind of way.
How do they compare to other movies of their kind?
Yeah, ya know, Everest really isn't anything groundbreaking in the disaster genre. It's a true story that looked like it was treated with care (thus, not really cartoony), but you just know it got some of that Hollywood drama treatment in the script. I guess if I were to compare it to another natural disaster type movie from this year, San Andreas, I'd say Everest wasn't as fun, but it was way more tense and probably more well-made overall.
Black Mass was kind of a mediocre entry into the crime genre. It's certainly watchable, much in the same way that other Johnny Depp crime biopic Public Enemies was, but it's also kind of forgettable. I think there was a good story about Whitey Bulger in there somewhere, but it didn't ever get fully realized. I think if someone like Scorsese tackled this project, it would have been an awesome movie. Or you could just watch The Departed, in which Jack Nicholson's and Matt Damon's characters were also inspired by Whitey Bulger and FBI agent John Connolly, the two main characters in Black Mass. I guess there's kind of a big difference between a Martin Scorsese picture and a movie made by some guy named Scott Cooper.
[Looks up Cooper] Oh, he's the guy who made Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace. Those were two kind of bland movies overall, with flashes of decent moments scattered throughout. This makes sense now.
What would you rather not do, spend a week climbing a freezing mountain that's so high that you require oxygen masks just to breathe safely and you will almost certainly die... ...or visit south Boston?
Man, that is a tough question... Hmmm... ...I think just based on the high probability of encountering insufferable Patriots fans, I'll take my chances on the death mountain.
So what are you recommending here, GIVE ME A STRAIGHT ANSWER?!
I wouldn't say that you *need* to see either of these movies. You certainly could watch both of them and then move on with your life as if you didn't see either of them. That's a strong possibility. Probably more so with Black Mass than with Everest. I actually kind of liked Everest, and appreciate that it made me feel things. I felt feelings, you guys! Black Mass is a little bit too muddled and unfocused for me to recommend it for anything more than a $1 rental. But you might not feel like you wasted your money on Everest.
What were the scariest afterthoughts as you left the movies?
For Black Mass, it's that Bulger didn't even get arrested until like four years ago...! I guess in his case, crime did sort of pay, as he got to do live a reasonably full life until he was in his 80's.
As for Everest, it's crazy to realize that when people die on Everest, they just leave the dead bodies up there, and have been doing that for a really long time. I guess it costs like $30,000 to pay people to carry a dead body off the mountain, so they usually just stay up there, as monuments for future climbers. That's kinda messed up, just sayin'.
SCORES? WHAT ABOUT THE SCORES?
I'd give Black Mass maybe around a 6.5 out of 10, and Everest the low side of an 8 out of 10.
In case you were not joking about the title, Black Mass is a word play. A Black Mass is a satanic prayer ritual, a sort of polar opposite to a regular Catholic Mass, and I think what they're going for here is describing the relationship of the criminal informant Bolger to the lawful FBI becomes twisted and corrupted, the opposite of what it was supposed to be, because Bolger was so capital "E" Evil, and so slick at insinuating himself into the machinery in a way that made all the decisions the FBI made seem logical and/or inevitable. To a point. I thought this was an idea very well-explored in The Departed. The devil has no power over you until he talks you into inviting him in. Then he makes every bad choice seem to be your own idea.