This Is Why You Go to the Movies

8 Oct

The MartianWe’re here: It’s the fourth quarter of 2015, the time of year we wait for because it’s when most every movie that hits theaters is awards bait (or wants to be). Will they all live up to the hype? Not a chance. But when they do … that’s why you go to the movies.

Since my last collection of reviews, some very good movies have come out. One in particular was (literally) out of this world. And there were some disappointing ones too. So let’s not waste any time. Here are my brief thoughts on nine recent releases. As always, numbers refer to the total number of movies I’ve seen so far in 2015.

51. Everest. This film tells the true story, documented already in Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air, of a disastrous climb to the top of one of the world’s highest peaks. Everest certainly gives you a sense of those heights, but the film itself never makes it that high. While it’s not melodramatic, it’s almost too matter-of-fact about the climbers, and as a result, you’re never able to truly invest in any of their fates — despite some good performances. B

52. Black Mass. Holy cow. No wonder Johnny Depp needed to do another Pirates of the Caribbean movie after making this one. As notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, he’s scary good and almost unrecognizable. The movie itself, though, is too long, too sprawling, and never quite gets the story or perspective down. Whenever Depp’s on screen, it’s electric, but he can’t carry this large ensemble film all by himself. B

Sleeping-With-Other-People53. Sleeping with Other People. A surprisingly sweet romantic not-quite-comedy about two commitment-phobes who enter into a friendship without benefits and, natch, fall for each other. Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie make a charming pair (especially during a scene at a child’s birthday party where they dance to David Bowie’s “Modern Love”), but I was expecting more, considering the movie was written and directed by Leslye Headland, whose Bachelorette was one of the funniest, most bitter movies in recent years. B

54. The Intern. Hard to say what I disliked most about this movie — the generational clichés, De Niro’s wimpy character, the unnecessary scenes and subplots, the excessive length, the soundtrack, or other things — but I really didn’t like it. C–

55. Freeheld. The gay marriage/equal rights movement deserves better than this lukewarm message movie, which tells the true story of a cancer-stricken New Jersey cop (Julianne Moore) trying to have her pension left to her partner (Ellen Page). Plays more like a TV movie than a big-screen feature. B–

The Walk56. The Walk. A beautifully made movie about a beautifully performed death-defying act of performance art, this movie dramatizes the story previously told in the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire. A perfectly cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Philippe Petit, the man who, in 1974, walked between the Twin Towers on a high wire. While the film has its corny moments, it nicely captures the belief in the impossible that Petit had, and in the 20-minute sequence where Petit is up there on the wire, director Robert Zemeckis puts us right there too, making the dizzying heights and awesome accomplishment all that much more real — especially if you see the film in 3D IMAX (which you definitely should). A–

57. The Martian. In space, no one can hear you scream. Or can they? In Ridley Scott’s smart, funny movie, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left behind on Mars and has to “science the shit” out of everything MacGyver-style in order to survive. An excellent, all-star cast (Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, etc.) tries to save him, and it all adds up to the kind of slick mainstream movie you wish Hollywood made more of. Scott and Damon show impressive comic chops — especially in the director’s choice of music for the end credits — but above all, this is a tribute to ingenuity and level-headedness in the face of impossible odds. A

58. Bridge of Spies. An awards-bait prestige pic directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks as a common-man lawyer negotiating the trade of an American spy for a Russian one in 1957. I’m sure it was a good movie, but all I can say is that it was predictably boring enough to put me to sleep for a chunk of it. So … out of fairness, I’ll withhold giving it a grade.

59. He Named Me Malala. An inspiring documentary about an inspiring young woman, this movie tells the story of the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for wanting an education, and who two years later won the Nobel Peace Prize, among other accolades, for her crusade in favor of education for all women around the world. The film portrays Malala and her father as heroes, but shows — often in amusing fashion — that despite her international acclaim, Malala is still just a regular teenager with homework, schoolgirl crushes, and brothers who tease her. Excellent. A–

What good movies have YOU seen lately? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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4 Responses to “This Is Why You Go to the Movies”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Make Room for These Movies on Your Must-See List | Martin's Musings - November 9, 2015

    […] Spotlight. Forget Black Mass; THIS is the best Boston mob movie of the year. It’s an excellent tribute to the reporters and […]

  2. What Fun It Was to Go to the Movies This Year | Martin's Musings - December 29, 2015

    […] saw a lot of excellent documentaries this year, including Sunshine Superman, The Wolfpack, He Named Me Malala, and The Hunting Ground, and I watched as one of my all-time favorite docs, Man on Wire, became a […]

  3. The Top 10 Movies I’ve Seen So Far This Year | Martin's Musings - August 3, 2016

    […] Some laughs (that I don’t feel good about), but this is a more embarrassing film for De Niro than The Intern was. […]

  4. Everybody Wanted Some Good Movies in 2016!! | Martin's Musings - December 27, 2016

    […] Grandpa. This is a more embarrassing film for Robert De Niro than The Intern […]

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