Opening in Las Vegas, September 18, 2015

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After the dog days of summer and all those superhero films, it’s finally Oscar season, and the prestige films have begun rolling out. There are two prime candidates for Oscar statuettes in this week’s openings.

First there’s Black Mass (68), starring Johnny Depp as Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. The film is not getting the kind of reviews that could propel it to a Best Picture nod, but right now Depp is the frontrunner for Best Actor. The script has kicked around Hollywood for several years, and finally landed with Scott Cooper, who I wouldn’t exactly call A-list. Jessica Kiang: “There is nothing underneath the glossy surface and no real insight into what made this man tick — and despite how creepy he looks here, Bulger was a man, not a devil.”

A possible favorite for Best Actress is Lily Tomlin in Grandma (78), where she plays a woman helping her granddaughter get an abortion. The film is very low profile but this could be a career-type honor for Tomlin. Ty Burr: “It’s predictable in many places and acerbic in others, sentimental when you expect it and poignant when you don’t. But it stars Lily Tomlin, and that’s all you really need to know.”

Everest (63) seems like it could be a decent film, especially on the big screen, as it details a disaster on the tallest mountain in the world. It’s kind of a four-quadrant film, appealing to men and women and young and old; we’ll see how it does. Kenneth Turan: “Though there is heroism as well as love here, because it involves the deaths of people we have come to care about, Everest is finally a sad story, though not always a dramatically involving one.”

There is also multiplex fodder this week, such as Captive (40), a thriller that has a built-in advertisement for a book by Rick Warren. I pass. Barbara VanDenburgh: “Oyelowo and Mara try to bring humanity and tension to the testimonial thriller of two lost souls finding their way together, but they only succeed in bursts, hampered by marketing copy masquerading as dialogue.”

FInally, there’s another of a series of YA dystopian novels, with one of those complicated titles: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (43). I didn’t see the first one, so I can comfortably pass on this one. Frankly, I don’t remember the first one doing so great that a sequel was bankable. John Willams: “The Scorch Trials adds nothing new to the unkillable dystopian genre, but it’s at least less ponderous than its predecessor. The many chases and ludicrous narrow escapes offer respectable doses of adrenaline.”

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

One response »

  1. As I generally enjoyed The Maze Runner (my review here), I went to see The Scorch Trials and it was at least as good as its predecessor.

    In a way this film is the opposite in narrative – whereas the original was about one central problem of how to escape a maze, the main characters seem to go through dozens of challenges and threats and backdrops during the course of this film.

    Like the first film, it is very well directed in terms of action and tension with lots of riveting sequences – director Wes Ball may be one to keep an eye out for in the future as he clearly has talent. Also, this film is often visually stunning, especially in its sequence in the desolated wreck of a city.

    Alas, like the first film, it loses its way a bit towards the end. When the film is located at ‘The Right Arm’ for the final 30 minutes or so, the film bogs down in clunky dialogue trying to explain all that has gone before and too many attempts to have ‘significant’ conversation scenes. Even the action that occurs isn’t as interesting.

    One odd thing about these films is that as good an actress as Patricia Clarkson is, the film is at its weakest whenever she appears (which is fairly limited).

    Still, for the most part it’s an entertaining film and I’ll look forward to catching up with the final film in the trilogy.

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