Mortdecai Shows That Action Flicks Can Still Be Fun Without Being Dark, Gritty, Moody, Or Violent

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Twelve years ago, veteran actor Johnny Depp single-handedly resurrected his career and became one of the movie industry’s hottest commodities when he starred in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Sadly though, his career has been in something of a free fall since then. Few if any of the movies in which he has starred since have gone on to the same level of success as that surprise sleeper hit. That includes the now trio of sequels that followed it and his latest movie Mortdecai, which debuted in theaters earlier this year. As with those previously noted movies, Mortdecai was released to a rather tepid response by critics and fans alike. So why exactly did Depp’s latest effort fall so flat? It’s just this critic’s own take but more than likely the reason that it failed is simple. It failed in theaters for exact same reason that it has proven so enjoyable for this critic–its stylistic approach. More simply put, it’s an action comedy in a world overly populated with dark, gritty action flicks. While that doesn’t seem like very much it is an important element to note. It’s just one of the factors that makes the movie work, too. The work of writer Eric Aronson in his adaptation of author Kyril Bonfiglioli’s original book is just as important to the presentation in whole. Last but hardly least important of all to mention is the work of the movie’s cast. This includes not only lead star Johnny Depp but his co-stars, too. Depp’s own acting throws back (intentionally or not) to the work of Peter Sellers and even at one point to Dudley Moore. The work of his cast mates is entertaining in its own right, too. The cast’s acting coupled with Eric Aronson’s adaptation of author Kyril Bonfiglioli and the very concept of the movie being a shining beacon among a sea of overly dark, gritty, violent action flicks, all three elements prove without a doubt that all of this movie’s naysayers are completely wrong in their reviews. As a matter of fact, it proves in the end to be one of this year’s most unsuspecting hits.

Despite what so many audiences and critics had to say about it, Lionsgate’s new action comedy Mortdecai is one of the most unsuspecting hits of 2015. This surprisingly entertaining release is a shining beacon in a sea polluted with overly dark, violent, action flicks. That is the main reason that this movie is such an unsuspecting hit. It may not seem like much. But it is in fact an important factor to consider. In an age when Marvel, DC and others are competing to make the darkest, grittiest, moodiest, and most violent action flick possible without garnering an “R” rating, Lionsgate has taken the road less traveled with this movie. It has opted to take the elements that have made Marvel and DC’s movies so popular and traded them in for a much more lighthearted yet equally action-filled story that will also leave open-minded audiences laughing nonstop from beginning to end. Taking that into account Aronson and Director David Koepp showed through their combined work on this movie that an action movie doesn’t necessarily have to be the next Dark Kight Returns, X-Men, or even James Bond to be entertaining. They showed with this rather rarely used approach that a movie can be action packed and entertaining without being dark, violent, and brooding. Keeping that in mind, the approach used for Mortdecai proves in the long run Mortdecai gives hope that maybe one day audiences and studios alike will finally lean back to those stand-alone movies rather than rely on the ever decreasingly original and creative franchise flicks that are out there. Both of those aspects of the movie’s stylistic approach are equally important to the whole of that element. Together, they show why Mortdecai simply not following other studios’ action flick formula makes this movie well worth the watch.

The fact that Mortdecai doesn’t follow the standard formula used by other major action flicks past and present is within itself more than enough reason for those tired of all the dark, gritty, violent action flicks to watch it. Eric Aronson’s adaptation of author Kyril Bonfiglioli’s book Don’t Point That Thing At Me is another reason for audiences to check out this movie. Aronson’s script offers up just enough plot twists and comedic moments from beginning to end to keep audiences completely engaged and entertained. The twists coupled with the story’s pacing and its transitions are handled so expertly that at no point will audiences ever feel like they need a program to know what’s going on. What’s more, there is at no point any brooding or other material that would make it comparable to all the other action flicks out there. And the jokes that Aronson throws in are obviously not for younger viewers. But in comparison to some of the material churned out by writers of bigger-named movies, they are actually far less crass than the jokes churned out by so many writers out there today. To that extent, Aronson is to be highly commended. All of this considered, the writing behind Mortdecai proves once to even more length why it is such an unsuspecting hit. It still is not the last reason that it proves itself worth the chance. The work of the cast rounds out the reasons for audiences to give Mortdecai a second chance now that it is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Being that Mortdecai is not just another unnecessarily dark, gritty, brainless, explosion-filled action flick is in itself plenty of reason for those looking for something different to give it a chance. Writer Eric Aronson’s adaptation of Kyril Bonafiglioli’s original book Don’t Point That Thing At Me makes it even more worth the watch as it is loaded with laughs’ laughs that in their own way throw back to the days of the Pink Panther franchise. Speaking of that franchise, the work of Johnny Depp and his cast mates throws back to those movies just as much ironically enough. Intentional or not, Depp’s work as the movie’s title character instantly conjures thoughts of Peter Sellers what with Mortdecai’s overall personality and his bumbling ways. One could even argue that Mortdecai’s drunken presentation in his return from Moscow is a throwback to Dudley Moore. Again this is the case even if it wasn’t intentional. Given neither Depp’s portrayals aren’t precisely the same as those of Moore or Sellers. But the similarities are there. On the other side of the coin, Ewan McGregor does an excellent job of making Inspector Martland a completely despicable character. This is the case even though Martland is one of the good guys, interestingly enough. The thing is that he doesn’t necessarily make audiences hate Martland per se. Rather he makes Martland a great foil to Mortdecai at which audiences enjoy laughing in his failures. Moving on, Paul Bettany is just as entertaining as Mortdecai’s servant Jock. Considering the way that Mortdecai treats Jock, one can’t help but laugh at the pair’s relationship. At the same time, one can’t help but feel at least a little sorry for Jock considering that relationship. It makes for quite the surprise that Jock was in fact not the suspect in the end, not to reveal too much about the movie. Female audiences will be just as enamoured with Gwyneth Paltrow’s portrayal of Johanna. Johanna is the total antithesis of the stereotypical action flick female lead. She is a strong, confident figure. Yet she doesn’t come out and scream it. Rather she shows it in more of a reserved, demure fashion that will have audiences laughing just as riotously as the work of her cast mates. Audiences will love watching her handle Charlie without even lifting a finger. That subtle yet strong portrayal is one of the best of the cast. When partnered with the work of said cast mates, the collective body of work from Paltrow and her cast mates proves once more why Mortdecai is worth far more credit than it received in its run in theaters earlier this year. When set along with the previously noted factors, it serves to help prove once and for all why Mortdecai is not only deserving of far more credit than it received but why it is in fact one of the best new theatrical releases of 2015.

Mortedcai was panned by critics and audiences alike when it was released in theaters earlier this year. The only reason that this critic can come up with for its lack of success is that audiences have been so conditioned by the endless mass of unnecessarily dark, gritty, violent action flicks churned out in recent years that they have lost sight of what’s really important and enjoyable in an action movie. Not to mention the fact that Mortdecai was far less familiar with audiences than anything offered up by DC and Marvel in recent years. These factors taken into consideration audiences and critics that panned Mortdecai were sadly missing the enjoyment that it really offers. The fact that Mortdecai stands wholly apart from that noted mass of movies actually makes it far more entertaining than said features in this critic’s own view. Eric Aronson’s work in adapting Kyril Bonafiglioli’s original book couple with the work of the movie’s lead cast show even more why it is so surprisingly entertaining. It’s just too bad others didn’t see that. But hopefully now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray those same audiences that panned it, and those that have yet to see it, will give it a chance and see everything that this critic has seen. If not, it is their own loss as they are missing out, again, on what is one of this year’s best new theatrical releases.

Mortdecai is available now in stores and online on DVD and Blu-ray. It can be ordered direct from Lionsgate’s online store at More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:



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Lionsgate Announces Home Release Date For Mortdecai

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

The annual summer movie season is almost upon us. And everyone knows what that means. It means another summer full of prequels, sequels, and remakes. Thankfully for those looking for an alternative to that mass of movies, Lionsgate has just the thing.

Lionsgate announced Monday that its new action/comedy Mortdecai, released in theaters earlier this year, will make its way onto store shelves right at the start of the summer movie season. The movie, which stars Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean 1 – 4, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Alice in Wonderland) Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man 1 – 3, The Avengers, Shakespeare in Love), Ewan McGregor (Star Wars Episode I – III, Trainspotting, Big Fish), Olivia Munn (Miles From Tomorrowland, The Newsroom, Attack of the Show!), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, Independence Day) and Paul Bettany (Iron Man 1 – 3, The Avengers, A Beautiful Mind). The story follows Depp’s Mortdecai after he is enlisted to track down a priceless, painting that has been stolen. It just so happens that Mortdecai is enlisted by his former rival Inspector Martland (McGregor) for the investigation. While Mortdecai isn’t entirely trusting of the Inspector’s intentions, he needs to the money both for himself and to keep his wife Johanna (Paltrow) happy. With the help of his servant Jock (Bettany), Mortdecai travels the globe, facing terrorists, angry Russians and much more as he hunts down the stolen painting.

David Koepp directs the film, which is based on the novel Don’t Point That Thing at Me from The Mortdecai Trilogy. It will be released via Digital HD and On Demand on Tuesday, May 5th, and Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack on May 12 alongside a DVD + Digital combo pack. The Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack and DVD + Digital combo pack will include a pair of bonuses. The included bonuses are:

  • Stolen Moments: On The Set Of Mortdecai


  • The Art of Noise: Making Music for Mortdecai

Audiences can check out a trailer for Mortdecai online now via YouTube at and via the movie’s official website at Both the Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack and DVD + Digital combo pack can be purchased via the movie’s official website, too. Audiences can also get more information on the movie’s upcoming home release via its Facebook page at To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Top 10 Major Motion Pictures Of 2012

Top 10 Movies of 2012


Courtesy:  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

1.  The Artist:  While it originally made its debut overseas in 2011, it wasn’t until January 20th of this year that The Artist actually made its nationwide debut in theaters across the U.S.  Before then, only the lucky few at the big festivals got to see it.  That being the case, it should be considered a 2012 release.  So what makes it 2012’s best?  So much could be said.  At a time when so much of what Hollywood churns out is prequels, sequels, and remakes, this story—distributed by Sony Pictures—went the total opposite.  How simple and ingenious is it to make a silent film in a movie of major flash-bang-boom films?  Because the movie’s only sound is its music, viewers are forced to watch.  And the cast was force to really put on its best possible performance, rather than rely on everything else that most movies use to distract audiences from poor performances.  The music is quite enjoyable, too.  And of course, the general cinematography is just as impressive.  It all combines to make for a movie that any movie lover should see at least once.

Mirror Mirror BD2.  Mirror, Mirror:  Some of you might shake your heads at this pick.  But the reality is that this is really a fun and family friendly movie.  Both boys and girls will enjoy it as will parents.  While young Lily Collins (the daughter of superstar Phil Collins) is billed as the lead star here, it’s the dwarves who are really the story’s stars.  Their antics make for more than their share of laughs.  Though watching Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer—The Lone Ranger) put under the evil queen’s puppy love spell is pretty funny, too.  It’s obvious that this spoof of the classic fairy tale was aimed both at boys and girls.  With its mix of wit and charm, it will always be one of the best takes on the old Snow White story.

Courtesy:  Disney Studios

Courtesy: Disney Studios

3.  The Odd Life of Timothy Green:  This is another truly enjoyable family movie.  The general story is one to which any parent can relate and will enjoy because of that.  Though the concept of what happens with Timothy might be a little bit tough to discuss with younger viewers.  The beautiful backdrop adds even more warmth to the story.  And the cast’s acting makes suspension of disbelief so easy.  Sure it’s sappy, emotional, and all that jazz.  But that can be forgiven as it’s such an original and heartwarming story.       

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

4.  Skyfall:  This is where things begin to get a little bit touchy.  Skyfall is by far the best Bond flick to come along in a very long time.  That’s not to say that the previous two were bad.  But this one brought back memories of the old school James Bond that everybody knows.  It’s got the gadgets and the humor and none of the melodrama that weighed down the previous two Bond flicks.  The only downside to the movie is that it tends to drag in the final act.  Other than that, it is a nice return to form for the Bond franchise and gives hope for any future Bond films….that is at least if Christopher Nolan doesn’t get his hands on the franchise.

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Video

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Video

5.  The Avengers:  The Avengers was a very nice way to cap off the build-up created by Marvel Studios with the recent bevy of comic book based movies.  It had great special effects.  Its story was simple and solid.  And the shooting was equally impressive.  Considering all the action going on, audiences weren’t left feeling dizzy to the point of wanting to walk out (or in the case of home release, just turn it off).  But like so many ensemble cast movies, it suffered from a common problem.  That problem was the movie’s run time.  Most of the characters in The Avengers had already been introduced through their own separate movies.  So there was no reason to re-introduce them all over again this time.  A lot of that extra time could have been spared.  Hopefully those involved have learned from that and will present viewers with a shorter movie in the second of the Avengers movies.

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

6.  The Dark Knight Rises:  I am just as much a comic book fan as anyone else out there.  So it goes without saying that I was excited to see this movie.  It did a good job of wrapping up the trilogy.  The problem is that it did too much of a good job, as David Goyer and the Nolans tried too hard to cram everything into one movie.  Word is that this latest installment of the Batman franchise left many people checking their watches when it was in theaters.  It might have been better served to have been split up into at least one more movie because of everything added into the mix.  And having what seems to be a lack of commentary on the new home release, fans can only guess what the logic was in cramming so much into one story.  Much like The Avengers, the shooting and the special effects were great.  So it has that going for it.  But the writing was the story’s big problem.  Here’s to hoping that whoever takes over the Batman franchise next (whenever it’s re-launched) won’t make the same mistake as Christopher Nolan and company.

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

7.  Prometheus:  This semi-prequel to Ridley Scott’s hit Alien franchise was met with mixed reviews.  There seemed to be no gray area here.  Audiences either loved it or hated it.  Truth be told, it worked quite well as both a prequel and as its very own stand-alone movie.  Sure the special effects are different from those used in the original movies.  But times are different.  So viewers should take that into account.  And the shooting was just as impressive.  While it may not be as memorable as Scott’s previous works, at least audiences can agree that it’s better than the movies in the AvP franchise.

Courtesy:  Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

8.  Les Miserables:  This latest reboot of Victor Hugo’s classic story of love and redemption in one of history’s darkest eras is not bad.  But it’s not great, either.  Audiences who know the stage play will thrill at how director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and his staff of writers paid tribute to the stage play both in its writing and its shooting.  At the same time, Hooper tried so hard to pay tribute with his shooting style and the transitions that the whole movie felt dizzying to say the least.  The shooting and transitions felt like nothing more than a bunch of cuts from one shot to the next.  There was never a total sense of fluidity anywhere in the story.  It was almost as if despite staying true to the stage play, the script for this latest big screen adaptation was written by someone with ADHD.  Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway did a superior job with their performances.  But despite that, odds are that the movie will sadly be remembered more for its flawed shooting and transitions than for its award-worthy performances.  Nonetheless, it’s still a good movie for any fan of Les Miserables or for fans of musicals in general to see at least once.

Courtesy:  CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

9.  Salmon Fishing in the YemenSalmon Fishing in the Yemen is without a doubt an original story.  It’s next to impossible to find anything like it out there or present.  But it suffers greatly from an identity crisis.  It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a drama, a romance, or a little bit of both.  It’s nice to see the simple message of something as simple as fishing being able to bring the world’s people together peacefully.  But it really seemed to let the romance factor get too much involved.  As a result, it got bogged down in itself.  Had it not had the romance subplot, it might have been better.

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

10. Arbitrage:  It was once noted that three factors more than any other are the causes of crime.  Those factors are:  money, power, and sex.  Arbitrage has all three of these.  It’s an interesting movie.  And it definitely wastes no time noting the latter of the trio of factors, as it lets audiences know that Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is having an affair with another woman.  And also, Miller’s boss has a very firm talk with him early on letting him know that he knows about the financial inaccuracies that he’s causing.  It doesn’t take long to know where this story goes.  It’s something of a tried and true story.  Add in this critic’s pet peeve of movies, the “whisper scenes” and it makes for a movie that as good as it is it could have been better.  For those wondering, the “whisper scene” is exactly as it sounds (bad pun there).  The “whisper scene” is one in which actors essentially whisper throughout the scene against overpowering music to make the scene more emotional and powerful.  But put against the sudden transition to normal volume scenes (and above normal volume scenes), it becomes rather annoying as one has to constantly change the volume on one’s TV as a result of that.  It’ll be interesting to see if it gets the Golden Globe for which it was nominated.

There you have it folks.  That is my personalist of the year’s ten best major motion pictures.  You are more than welcome to share whether you agree or disagree and what your top 10 list would look like.  2013’s already shaping up to be an interesting year.  As the movies start to come out, I’ll have reviews of them, too.  To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it or its companion page,  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at