Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Intern

For 35 years, with films like Private Benjamin, Father of the Bride, The Parent Trap, The Holiday and many others, Writer/Producer/Director Nancy Meyers has been the reigning queen of the feel-good movie.  And, with her new film The Intern, she retains her crown.

This is a delightfully sweet story that has appeal for both young and old and from which viewers of every age can walk away from having learned something from the multiple issues it covers, all related to the overall theme of believing in one’s self. 

Robert De Niro is a joy to watch as the fairy godfather of Anne Hathaway’s character.   To see the guy, who was one of the scariest Mafioso-types imaginable  in American Hustle be the pussy cat in The Intern is a testament to his acting prowess.
Anne Hathaway surrenders herself to be the perfect foil for a woman who has created something grand and becomes immersed in a world that only cares about profits over quality.

I was horrified to hear Ms. Meyers dissed by a really heinous and ineptly written new TV show on Fox about vacuous teens (Scream Queens), but was heartened to hear the audience applaud at the end of The Intern.

I give The Intern a 4.2 out of 5.

Monday, September 21, 2015


Based on a true story, Director Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario is a grim (with a capital G) crime thriller that has the tone, if not also, the look of the TV series The Bridge.
It is a struggle between a “letter of the law” FBI agent (Emily Blunt) and “spirit of the law” CIA agent (Josh Brolin) in trying to bring to justice those responsible for using the walls of an Arizona house as burial sites for 42 victims. 
For a good while Writer Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay leaves us wondering what is happening.  But, this works very well,  since Blunt’s character is just as clueless as we are and we learn along with her that the reason she’s been assigned to Brolin’s team has to do with the fact the CIA can’t act within the U.S. borders unless it is in liaison with the FBI.  She, therefore, is a foil. 

The one on the team, who doesn’t care anything about the law, is Benicio Del Toro’s character, who is only bent on revenge for the gruesome killings of his wife and child.

Sicario is an extremely exciting and well-done film, but I warn you that it is not for the faint of heart.

My only problem with it was my expectation, after seeing her kick ass in Edge of Tomorrow, that Emily would be kicking ass in this film, instead of being the straight arrow.  In this kind of war, ”letters,” sometimes are best held up in the post office.  

I give Sicario a 4.4 out of 5.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Director Wes Bal’s Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials suffers some of the sophomore blues of many trilogies, although it does deliver on action.
The problem with Writer T.S. Nowlin’s screenplay is that the film starts out erratically, leaving viewers thinking they may have missed a sequel in between.  It takes several minutes before we are connected to where the initial film left off and can start to relax and enjoy it.   However, viewers, who haven’t seen the initial film will be totally lost.

For the most part, the film is a pleasant respite from the batch of “Based on a true story” films that have been coming out.  It’s a fantasy adventure and takes us to a different, albeit not very pleasant, world.

Not being a reader of James Dasher’s books, it was not until the last 15 minutes, that I realized this was not the end of the story and there would be a Part 3. 

The downside of that is the unconvincing performance of the lead character (Thomas) by Dylan O’Brien.   He makes Thomas seem so clueless that, instead of making me anticipate the next film, I’m disappointed there was no resolution in this one.

I can only give Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials an overall 3 out of 5, when it was headed for higher a higher rating.

Black Mass

 Like Pawn Sacrifice, Director Scott Cooper’s Black Mass is, also, a docu-drama, but with more emphasis on the drama.  However, also, like Pawn Sacrifice, the main character is not at all sympathetic and, since the authorities are just as bad as he is, there is really no one to root for.

The script by Mark Mallouk and James Butterworth, for the most part, keeps the years-skipping story moving, but allows some characters like Bulger’s wife to simply disappear  without sufficient resolution.
The best thing about the film is some of the performances.  First of all Johnny Depp redeems himself with some of his recent bad choices… Mordecai, The Lone Ranger…and gives an award-worthy portrayal of the notorious James “Whitey” Bulger.  
Joel Edgerton also gives a fine performance as John Connolly, the FBI agent, who allows Bulger to build his empire. 

But, in some respects, the most interesting performance is by Benedict Cumberbach as Whitey’s brother Billy, who was a power in the Massachusetts State Senate.  Seeing how the man who plays the arrogant Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series holds his chest in and creates an air of meekness, not to mention his handling of the Boston accent, is a testament to the art that, occasionally, rises above the craft of acting.

I give Black Mass a 4 out of 5.

Pawn Sacrifice

Director Edward Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice is a worthy attempt to depict the Cold War period of the mid-‘60s, when Chess Master Bobby Fischer’s defeat of Russian players meant as much to the U.S. Government as it did to him.

The film is told in a docu-drama style from a script by Steven Knight based on a story by Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson.

While they succeed in giving a depiction of the times, they falter at depicting the drama of the game and its history.  For instance, the flow of pieces in the reputed best single game in history between Fischer and Boris Spassky is not even dramatized.

The biggest problem with this story, however, is that, beset with undiagnosed personal demons, Bobby Fischer was not a very likeable guy and there are times when the viewer loses sympathy with him and doesn’t care if he wins or loses.

Toby Maguire tries hard to bring humanity to Fischer’s character, but the better performances are by Live Schreiber as Spassky and Peter Sarsgaard as Father Bill Lombardy, Fischer’s friend.

The sad part of this story is that, like Alan Turing (The Imitation Game), once Fischer  gave the Government  “its” victory, he became a castaway and had to live out his life in Iceland.

I give Pawn Sacrifice a 3.7 out of 5.