Movie and Actor Reviews

Friday, December 09, 2005

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Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp is the most talented actor in Hollywood. From his first film, Nightmare on Elm Street to Ed Wood to Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp gives us something we don’t see very often, a versatile actor. He’s not like Adam Sandler, who can only play dumb roles that come off as funny occasionally. He’s not like Matt Damon, who is gifted but doesn’t naturally fit in comedy.

Indeed, Depp seems to walk into any role and walks away from the Hollywood scandals, which may be more impressive than his 40 movies.

My two favorite Depp films are Ed Wood (1994) and Blow (2001), both based on real events and people.

In Ed Wood, a very young Depp plays Ed, a horror director in the mid 1900s deemed the worst-ever director. With a pencil-thin mustache and slick black hair, Depp shows the exact same exuberance and never give up attitude as Ed Wood. In the film, Ed is laughed at by the big boys for his ideas, but doesn’t quit. He seeks funding from the likes of churches and butchers. Ed’s main attraction to nearly every film is featuring the original vampire, Bela Lugosi. When Ed enters Bela’s life, Lugosi was a drug addict. In the movie, Bela tells Ed that his friendship made his final days worthwhile. The way Depp portrays Ed toward Bela makes your neck hairs stand up. Never once, do you feel that Wood is just trying to use Bela to attract movie goers. Instead, when the media swarms Bela at a rehab facility, Ed shoes them away, telling Lugosi, “Those people are parasites. They don’t care about you.”

Ed Wood also liked to wear women’s clothing and to me, this must be one of the hardest roles for an actor… to actually dress like a woman when it wasn’t even remotely popular. When Depp wore his girlfriend’s Angora sweater, you could see the burden lifted from his face. As odd as it was perceived in that day, it was his escape. And it was also the primary reason his girlfriend left him. But Ed was OK. In a sense, Depp gave us a glimpse of the freedom Wood must have felt… he was no longer obligated to hide who he really was.

Ed Wood is ranked in the top 200 films at 179 by IMDb and it’s available on DVD. This would make a great Christmas present for Depp fans or horror film lovers. And if you’re interested in seeing the real Ed Wood’s work, I recommend Plan 9 from Outer Space. It received 3 stars out of 10, but you should see it just to hear the first line, “Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.”

Depp plays George Jung in Blow, a drama that doesn't exploit the world of drugs, nor condemn it. After seeing George's tragic outcomes as a world-class coke dealer, the profession doesn’t seem appealing. However, that really isn’t the main message of the movie and Depp’s acting actually makes you feel pity for George.

At first, Jung was a hardcore dealer, making deals left and right in California. Like all dealers, he started with pot and moved up to coke. A few connections later, he’s the go-to guy in the United States. Then comes his daughter, his shining light.

Like the habit itself, George tries to walk away from the business after nearly getting killed and busted, but he just can’t. He finally makes the decision to be a responsible dad and his caught making his final deal. Jung then spends his days rotting in jail always thinking of his baby girl, who never comes to see him.

In this movie, contrary to what you’d expect from a drug dealer, Depp does not act tough. Rather, he is all about business and making friends and making money, lots of it. I’m sure he spent a lot of time with the real George, as he displays several odd mannerisms throughout.

This film is not rated in the top 200, but would be a great complement to a DVD collector of movies like the Godfather. I would not recommend this film for a former drug user. Seriously.

Depp is currently working on six other films: Shantaram (2007), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2006), The Rum Diary (2006), Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (2007), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) and Kingdom Hearts II (2005).


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