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Movie Reviews: Johnny Depp gives a chilling performance in ‘Black Mass’

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By Jay Bobbin

Starting this week

Black Mass

To his roster of memorable performances, Johnny Depp adds Boston-mob figure James “Whitey” Bulger in a drama that boasts a superlative cast and taut direction by Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”), even if the script doesn’t support them consistently. An FBI agent (Joel Edgerton) who grew up with Bulger makes a deal with the devil by looking the other way on the gangster’s activities while taking whatever underworld information he can get from him. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Bulger’s political-minded brother, with Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard and Jesse Plemons (“Fargo”) also featured. *** (R: AS, P, GV) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)


The saga of “Peter Pan” has had many screen retellings, but few if any have been as offbeat – and, it might be argued, misguided – as director Joe Wright’s (“Affliction”) take on the tale. The parentless Peter (Levi Miller) is taken from the London orphanage where he resides to Neverland, where he makes a friend in the Captain Hook-to-be (Garrett Hedlund) and a notable enemy in the pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman, giving the role his typical gusto). As a measure of how different this version is, consider that the buccaneers break into crooning punk-rock songs … and no, we are not kidding. Rooney Mara plays Tiger Lily in a cast that also include Nonso Anozie (“Zoo”), Amanda Seyfried and Cara Delevingne (“Paper Towns”). DVD extra: “making-of” documentary. ** (PG: P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

War Room

A martially challenged couple (Priscilla C. Shirer, T.C. Stallings) is affected by a woman (Karen Abercrombie) who inspires them to fight for their family in this faith-based drama, which surprised many industry observers with its strong box-office take on its opening weekend. The man of the household, who has all the external signs of being a success but battles inner demons, has to decide whether he has – and can do with it – what it will take to repair the problems and keep his clan intact. DVD extras: “making-of” documentaries; audio commentary by director Alex Kendrick and producer Stephen Kendrick; deleted scenes. *** (PG: AS) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

Pawn Sacrifice

One of the most legendary chess showdowns in history is re-created in this fine drama directed by Edward Zwick (“Glory,””Legends of the Fall”), as Tobey Maguire and Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”) respectively play Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. Their 1972 faceoff was more than a game, since it also represented a contest between their nations – with political pressures coming to bear on both of them. Peter Sarsgaard, Lily Rabe and Michael Stuhlbarg also are in the noteworthy cast, which also includes younger actors playing Fischer in earlier years. *** (PG-13: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand) This being the week of Christmas, here’s a look at a couple of seasonal favorites that have become home-video staples:

It’s A Wonderful Life

Upon its release, this Frank Capra-directed 1946 classic had a lukewarm box-office performance upon its release that gave no indication it would become as popular as it long as it has been … its plentiful television exposure being a huge factor. James Stewart makes the perfect George Bailey, the hapless Bedford Falls citizen whose experience of seeing how life would be without him has been echoed by countless TV-series episodes. Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and – as wing-earning angel Clarence – Henry Travers lend great support. DVD extras: theatrical trailer; “making-of” documentary. **** (Not rated) (Also on Blu-ray)

White Christmas

As comfortable as an active fireplace on a cold winter’s night, this tuneful 1954 retooling of the 12-years-earlier “Holiday Inn” makes great use of its Irving Berlin score. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye make an ideal team as military veterans who become successful entertainment partners, then use their talents to help their former commander (Dean Jagger) re-energize his failing resort. Rosemary Clooney – aunt of George – and Vera-Ellen are charmers as the siblings who distract the guys. DVD extras (“Anniversary Edition”): two theatrical trailers; audio commentary by Clooney; seven “making-of” documentaries; Christmas television-show appearances by Crosby and Kaye; photo galleries. **** (Not rated) (Also on Blu-ray)

Coming Soon

Hitman: Agent 47 (Dec. 29)

An assassin (Rupert Friend) turns on the agency that wants to utilize his very special DNA to create a brigade of similar killers; Zachary Quinto also stars. (R: AS, P, V)

The Perfect Guy (Dec. 29)

A woman (Sanaa Lathan) comes to regret getting involved with a stranger (Michael Ealy) who begins stalking her; Morris Chestnut also stars. (PG-13: AS, P, V)

A Walk in the Woods (Dec. 29)

A travel writer (Robert Redford) tackles the Appalachian Trail with a very dissimilar friend (Nick Nolte). (R: AS, P)

Sicario (Jan. 5)

Emily Blunt plays an FBI agent trying to dismantle a drug cartel along the U.S.-Mexico border; Benicio Del Toro also stars. (R: AS, P, GV)

Everest (Jan. 19)

Climbers on the legendary and potentially lethal mountain end up in the midst of a storm; Jason Clarke stars. (PG-13: P, V)

Straight Outta Compton (Jan. 19)

The formation and survival of the controversial hip-hop group N.W.A. is dramatized; stars include Aldis Hodge and Paul Giamatti. (R and unrated versions: AS, N, P, V)

FAMILY-VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence.