A&E » Film

Johnny Unreliable



Yes, I realize The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens today, but I am on a tropical beach with no cinema so instead let's talk about Johnny Depp.

Transcendence is still playing (maybe, it's been getting terrible reviews so it could have been cut already) and although the execution is a bit shoddy, the idea and set up is decent — what will our first real human-like artificial intelligence look like? And what does that say about the rest of us?

Last year, Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are) tackled that concept with Joaquin Phoenix's subdued poise and Scarlett Johansson's creamy voice in Her. The result was a charming-yet-chilling look at what our digital future could become and one of best flicks of 2013. In Transcendence, first-time director Wally Pfister (go-to cinematographer for Christopher Nolan) and Johnny Depp give it a go, with very different results.

After a brilliant scientist, (Depp) is shot with a cancer bullet and killed, his grieving widow and best buddy (also brilliant scientists) upload his brain into a computer. Bad idea, and as it all goes to hell we viewers get to debate things like the scope of humanity and the existence of a moral, mortal soul.

And you may as well debate these things because although there are some slick moments and sweet visuals, the story arc of Transcendence doesn't deliver and as the clichés pile up it starts to feel more like somebody hacked Max Headroom than a dystrophic future of doom (and the revolutionaries aren't even half as cool as in 12 Monkeys).

Transcendence's suckery is symbolic of a recurring problem with Johnny Depp flicks. On the one hand he's a great actor with some of the most memorable roles of the last three decades under his belt, but on the other... he also makes a lot of crap.

For every Ed Wood there is The Libertine and for the gonzo radness of Edward Scissorhands or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas we also have to sit through The Astronaut's Wife or Nick of Time or Secret Window or perhaps worst of all, Dark Shadows.

The hard facts are this: Johnny Depp has been in 48 films since 1984 (when he debuted as one of Freddy's messiest kills in A Nightmare on Elm Street!) and 21 of those 48 have been pretty damn decent. I'm thinking of stuff like Platoon, Arizona Dream, Blow, Donnie Brasco, Gilbert Grape, Dead Man, Chocolat, Cry-Baby, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Benny and Joon, Finding Neverland, From Hell, Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Rango, Corpse Bride and even the first Pirates of the Caribbean flick. With that kind of playlist we gotta give the guy a pass every once in a while, like this time.

Couple of side notes: I see strong undercurrents of Hunter S. Thompson's legendary persona in most roles Johnny's done since Fear and Loathing (especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland) almost as if the good Doctor has taken over.

Also, you gotta wonder how an A-lister like Depp ends up starring opposite Angelina Jolie and the end result is as underwhelming as The Tourist? Weird... and kinda sad.

In any case, Depp's next role is supposed to be in the Kevin Smith (Jay and Silent Bob) directed horror flick Tusk. So that will be worth checking out.

And the download of the week is Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary because I am on the beach and Amber Heard is just too damn hot.


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