Tag Archives: Finding Neverland

Dear Johnny Depp,

Back when I was ranking the movies you’d done with Tim Burton, I spent a lot of time staring at your filmography.  In addition to your early pairings with Burton, there are some really fantastic films there:  Benny & Joon, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Donnie BrascoFear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Blow, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Finding Neverland.

Then something happened.

For the last five years, it seems you’ve been floundering, content to coast on the goodwill garnered by your penchant of playing “weirdos”. In your defense, Rango was fantastic and your cameo in 21 Jump Street was great, but the rest of your recent films? Eh … You weren’t the best part of Into the Woods, but I’d be hard-pressed to pick a best part of that overindulgent musical. Transcendence had a good idea behind it, but was poorly executed (I’ll lay part of that blame on first-time director Wally Pfister). Public Enemies couldn’t decide on which plot to give attention to. Alice in Wonderland was a bland mess. The Tourist was equally bland, but I don’t think it deserves the hate it gets. Same with The Lone Ranger; that film was just a generic action western. In fact, if any of these films had starred anyone else, they’d probably not even be worth mentioning, but when I see your name emblazoned above a title, I expect something good.

Don’t get me wrong, Johnny (can I call you Johnny?), I’m a huge fan. My go-to Halloween costume is Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing. In college, a friend had to record dialogue and sound effects over a muted movie clip for an audio class. He picked a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and asked me to provide an approximation of your voice to which I happily agreed. According to him, when he presented it, everyone in class—including the professor—was blown away by my impression. I’ve even dressed up as Captain Jack for Halloween.

Ladies loved this costume. I did very well that year.

Ladies loved this costume. I did very well that year.

So I’m not bashing you. You’ve got more talent than probably anyone reading this. Certainly more talent than me–a bowl of Alpha-Bits can create better sentences than me. It’s just that for too long you’ve been relegated to playing guys covered in weird makeup doing odd voices. You reached the apex of Deppy ridiculosity in Mordecai, hamming it up more than all the delis in New York. Jeff Goldblum couldn’t even save that movie, although now Paul Bettany is one film closer to dethroning Helena Bonham Carter as your most frequent costar. When I saw Mordecai, I couldn’t believe that you’d chosen to do it instead of allegedly doing Grand Budapest Hotel.

Then I saw the trailer for Scott Cooper’s Black Mass, opening September 18.

Faithful readers already know how much I enjoyed Cooper’s last project, Out of the Furnace, and while biopics aren’t really my thing, you look straight-up terrifying here. I realize that I just complained about your appearance in your last few films and in Black Mass you look like Powder’s creepy eczema-addled uncle doing a disturbed Christopher Walken impression, but there’s an intensity behind those blue contact lensed-eyes that I’ve not seen in over a decade.

It looks like you’re trying again.

I want to say that I think you’ve learned from your past misfires and that this film will be your comeback (a re-Depp-ployment? ReJohnnyVation? Deppvival?), but then I look at what you’ve got coming out and see a sequel to Alice in Wonderland and a fifth entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. I’m hopeful for the latter because the directors, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, also did the gorgeous Kon-Tiki and because I love the character of Captain Jack (see above). That love for a character turns into respect for you when stuff like this happens:

Seriously, that four-minute video is the most heartwarming thing I’ve seen you in since Finding Neverland. So bring on more Captain Jack!

Look, Johnny, if I’m not there on opening day for Black Mass, it’s probably just because I haven’t gotten my Whitey Bulger costume yet. Don’t take my disinterest in the material as a disinterest in you. I was with you in the theater filled with swooning pre-teens when you did Secret Window. I stayed up late one night in 2004 to catch Private Resort on Comedy Central. I repeatedly watched a lo-res trailer for The Libertine on a dial-up modem and hunted high and low for a copy of the DVD. I’ll definitely see Black Mass, but don’t hate me if it’s at a matinée.

Anyway, don’t worry about me or any of your critics—you get to go home to Amber Heard, you lucky scamp. As for me, all this talk of your past works has put me in the mood to have a marathon of your films.

Always your fan,


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Movies for Mother’s Day

I love mothers. They make the world go ‘round.

Since my contribution to Eleventh Stack will almost always be about or pertaining to movies and since Mother’s Day is this weekend, I thought it’d be fun to list a bunch of movies for Mother’s Day.

A caveat: these aren’t necessarily mother-themed movies or even typical mother/child movies; you won’t find Juno or Stepmom anywhere on this list. These are movies that I have memories of seeing, at one time or another, with my mother. Never fear, because I have thrown in a few just in case you need to browse a library-themed blog in order to find something to watch with your mother on Mother’s Day.

There are some (potential) spoilers below, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip the entries that you haven’t seen.


Psycho (1960)

Just kidding. But not really. I’m not sure when I first saw this movie, but I want to talk about one time when my best friend was spending the night and we watched it. If you’ll recall, there are a few times when Janet Leigh is topless, save for a bra. Now I’m sure this was scandalous in the 1960s, but it didn’t bother my friend or me; we were both in high school. My mother, on the other hand, kept running into the living room to hold up a towel or a sheet to cover the television screen whenever Leigh was exposed. Other than that personal memory, why is a movie about matricide on a list of movies to watch on Mother’s Day? Well, because of the line: “a boy’s best friend is his mother.” In the context of the film, it’s creepy, but my mother and I frequently and mockingly said it to each other. There is some truth it the line, though; our mothers are often our first and best friends.


What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

I’ll admit that this movie really has nothing to do with mothers and their child(ren). It’s campy and ridiculous and for some reason was always playing on Sunday afternoons on Turner Classic Movies when I was younger. I don’t know if we ever saw it from start to finish in one sitting, but my mother and I couldn’t get enough of it. We thought this scene was particularly hilarious:

Or maybe I was the only one who thought that and she was just humoring me. If you have no prior knowledge of this film, then that scene is really all you need to know.


Finding Neverland (2004)

Here’s a tip: don’t take a girl on a date to the movies if you’re going to end up bawling your eyes out by the movie’s end. I made this mistake when I took a girl to see this movie, back when Johnny Depp was still making good movies. It’s a fantastic movie, but definitely not a date movie. I saw it again with my mother and we both just held hands and cried as J.M. Barrie (Depp) consoles a grieving Peter Llewelyn Davies (Freddie Highmore) over his mother’s death. I got the DVD as soon as it came out and we sat on the couch, watching and crying again. It’s crazy that the guy who directed this also directed Quantum of Solace, World War Z and Monster’s Ball. That’s almost Richard Linklater-levels of diversity. If you haven’t seen it, why not watch it with your mother this year?  Just don’t forget the tissues.


Beauty and the Beast (1991)

This is one of the first memories of a movie that I have. It’s also the first memory I have of seeing a movie at a drive-in (remember those?). I still have a VHS tape (remember those?) of this movie. I even have an autographed picture of Angela Lansbury that I’m sure was the result of my mother encouraging me to write to her. Do I really need to explain why the first full-length animated movie in the history of cinema to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award is on this list? It’s just a movie that’s very much ingrained in my childhood.

Angela Lansbury's autograph

Angela Lansbury’s autograph. You know you’re jealous. If you had some kind of CSI-zooming technology, you would see the postmark on the envelope is from August 1992. I was 5 years old.


The Land Before Time (1988)

What is it about kids’ movies killing off the parents? I’m looking at you, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Bambi, Finding Nemo and Frozen (to name a few). Is it some kind of perverse wish-fulfillment? Or is it more about showing that a family can be a group of people who love each other and doesn’t have to necessarily fit the typical nuclear design? I’m feeling optimistic as I write this, so I’m going with the latter. This is another movie that, to this day, still makes me cry. I tear up just listening to the beginning piano notes of this:

I guess you could argue that this movie is about friendship and overcoming obstacles and all that, but the kid dinosaurs definitely look happy when they’re reunited in The Great Valley with the adult dinosaurs at the end. I’m just gonna go ahead and ignore the twelve (!) direct-to-video sequels and the television show.


An American Tail (1986) and An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)

I have very vivid memories of my mother and me watching these movies, along with the previous two entries, during the lazy, salad days of my youth. Whenever the Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram duet of “Somewhere Out There” came on the radio, we’d assume their parts and sing along at the top of our lungs. Then when the sequel came out, we’d sing along with “Dreams to Dream” on the cassette tape (remember those?).  It could be argued, again, that this movie is about friendship, but I choose to focus on the family aspect of it. I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about when Fievel finds his family at the end of the first movie.

Yes, these are mine. And yes, I willing moved them with me from my childhood home to Pittsburgh.

Yes, these are mine. And yes, I willingly moved them from my childhood home to Pittsburgh with me.


Watchmen (2009)

Here’s another tip: don’t go to see a movie with your mother and younger brother if there’s going to be a graphic sex scene right in the middle of it. I don’t remember the exact chain of events that led to us being in that theater that day, but there we were, watching Zak Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s best-selling graphic novel. As Nite-Owl II (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman) start going at it, my mother shielded my brother’s eyes. She told me to do the same and I pretended to. Awkwardness aside, my mother still says she enjoyed the movie.


50/50 (2011)

My mother and I saw this when it came out because we both like Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the movie since we saw it on that rainy day back in 2011. That’s not because it was terrible or anything like that. If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, JGL’s character is diagnosed with cancer and has a fifty-fifty shot of surviving it. There are some strong mother/son scenes that really resonated with us. We both loved it and cried (again) as we held hands (again) in the theater. I really should revisit it soon.


Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

This is another movie that I feel was always on TCM growing up. It’s also a musical and I’ve never met a mother who doesn’t like musicals, so maybe you can watch it with yours! I remember being swept up in it all, really believing that Copenhagen was wonderful and that being a shoemaker’s apprentice could be thrilling. I remember my mother telling me she wanted to marry Danny Kaye when she was a child. I’ve always thought that was incredibly endearing.


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2012)

My mother, my brother and I started a sort-of tradition of going to the movies for Christmas in 2009. We saw Sherlock Holmes. After the incident with the sex scene in Watchmen, I’m really glad we didn’t see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake in 2011. We’ll probably see Tim Burton’s Big Eyes this year; it just got a release date this week. This past Christmas, however, we saw Mitty.

Because of my mother’s aforementioned affection toward Danny Kaye, I was worried she wouldn’t like this movie, a remake of Kaye’s 1947 film, both of which are adaptations of James Thurber’s short story. I hate remakes, mostly on principle, so I wasn’t expecting much myself. I was happily proven wrong; this movie was one of my favorites of 2013.  Part of the reason is because we shared a nice moment, immensely enjoying a movie together. And why was that? Was it because of the tender moments that Walter has with his mother, played by Shirley MacLaine? Was it the breathtaking cinematography? The beautiful score and perfectly picked songs? Was it because one time, when my brother and I were at an open casting call for The Bridge to Nowhere (that’s another story entirely) we met a man who we swear was Ben Stiller’s twin? These are all possible reasons, but I really feel that it’s because we’ve all been Walter Mitty, even you, dear readers. Who amongst us can honestly say we’ve never escaped into our own imaginations and thought up the perfect scenario? The quickest quip? Daydreamed the best possible outcome of an awful situation? If you can honestly say you never have, then I’d like to meet you, because your life must be fantastically awesome!


My mother taught me the importance of imagination. In today’s world of insta-tweeting and face-chatting, it seems the art of imagining has been lost. When one of my action figures lost an arm, it wasn’t broken; it was an amputee version of that toy. She was always ready, willing and able to nurture the growing tapestry of wonder that is a child’s imagination. I’ll never be able to thank her enough for that.

I love you, mom.


What’s your favorite movie to watch with your mom on Mother’s Day? Is it a traditional classic? Or is it more off-beat? Either way, let me know in the comments below!



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