From Hell (11/11/12)

From HellMovie Two Hundred Fifty Nine

The hunt is on for an investigator to find the identity of Jack the Ripper in From Hell.

After the kidnapping of a prostitute in London, followed by the murder of another nearby, Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) and her peers find themselves part of a large conspiracy and manhunt for the killer. Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp) becomes involved and through his opium binges, gets visions of the case. Several more prostitutes are brutally murdered and Abberline suspects the killer is medically trained, and involves a royal family physician, William Gull (Ian Holm). Soon, Abberline finds the hunt for Jack the Ripper is more intricate than he imagined.

While I’ve never read the graphic novel that From Hell is based on, I honestly can’t say that I would look forward to it. I was always put off by its length (nearly 575 pages), despite my interest in the Whitechapel murders and Jack the Ripper. From Hell is a serviceable movie, though it plods along for far too long in the middle and by the end, the pacing was ruined and I didn’t care so much about the outcome. Even though I had seen this film before, I had forgotten the finer details of the plot, including most of the ending.

One thing that really stood out in From Hell is the widely varying accents of the actors. While some of the actors are, in fact, British, Depp and Graham are obviously not and they both choose very awkward manners of speaking. While this isn’t the type of detail that would normally ruin a movie for me, I found myself disinterested in the plot and focusing on their forced accents. At least it made From Hell go by quicker.

Still, as far as Jack the Ripper movies go, From Hell is one of the better ones I’ve seen. While the Whitechapel murder cases are famously unsolved, From Hell does have a sound theory on who the killer was. It’s a theory that makes a lot of sense, but is brought down a bit by the rest of the movie. From Hell is definitely recommended for Jack the Ripper fans, but looking at just the movie, without the lore, it’s bland and uninteresting.

I give it 3 substituting absinthe for opium out of 5.

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The Rum Diary (7/6/12)

Rum DiaryMovie One Hundred Fifty Nine

Based on the Hunter S. Thompson novel, The Rum Diary is about writer Paul Kemp’s employment for a Puerto Rican newspaper.

Taking place in the 1960s, Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) arrives in Puerto Rico as an American wrtier that has been unsuccessful and gets a job at a newspaper in San Juan. Kemp stays at a hotel where he meets Sala (Michael Rispoli) and also runs into beautiful Chenault (Amber Heard). Later, Kemp meets with Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), a realtor trying to convert Puerto Rico for his own benefit. Kemp moves in with Sala and Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi) and then has to decide whether or not to help Sanderson or side with the locals.

In reflecting on The Rum Diary it’s actually quite difficult to detail the plot for a few reasons; it’s confusing for no reason and it’s also fairly uninteresting. Now, I love Hunter S. Thompson and his work but this movie is disappointing. While Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, also starring Depp as Thompson, was hilarious and perfectly captures Thompson’s gonzo style, The Rum Diary seemingly tries to remove itself from this and focuses on the beauty of Puerto Rico.

I will admit that I haven’t read The Rum Diary, but if it’s anything like the film, I have no interest in it anymore. Perhaps the faults of the film are due to the novel’s, Thompson was young when he wrote it and maybe he had not quite honed his craft. Or perhaps the film is lazy and doesn’t care about telling the story, I’m not sure. The sad thing, is that the film starts off strong and then my attention started waning near the midpoint and then two of the longest hours of my life later, The Rum Diary was over and I wanted to watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Of course, The Rum Diary is not a total failure, just a misfire. The acting is all well done, and Depp plays a cool mixture of a suave young guy and threw in a few of Thompson’s traits. The scenery of the island is stunning and is offset by the seedier parts of town which is so contrasting that it’s almost a distraction. If I had the chance to read The Rum Diary, I would certainly take that over watching The Rum Diary again. At times the film had my laughing but for the most part I was staring waiting for the end. Possibly my biggest disappointment of the year.

I give it 3 “try and look normal”s out of 5.

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