This weekend at the theaters, the catch phrase will be: “Finally, finally!” As in, at long last there are a couple of substantial releases on the docket.
This follows the August to September drought, when it is too late for summer blockbusters and too early for Oscar-contending releases. As such, we’ve had to put up with No Escape, Sinister 2, The Gift, Ricki and the Flash, War Room, Minions, Transporter Refueled and a few other features that come across as a special on yesterday’s crullers at the local diner.
My views on each of those movies are, respectively, a yawn, ugh, huh?, why?, drivel, no thanks and well-at-least-the-theater-has-air-conditioning, because for some reason I tolerated Transporter Refueled, despite its flaws.
But, it’s game on this weekend with the release of Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp as a ruthless gangster and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, which should amuse anyone between puberty and college and help drive numbers up at domestic theaters.
In addition, taking an alternate route to the cinemaplex is Everest, a drama-adventure with and all star cast that is opening only in Imax theaters, which limits the film’s expected first weekend take, but should serve as a massively useful publicity stunt before it is released to neighborhood theaters the following weekend.
At this point, I have to ask, do you want the good news or the bad news first?
Bad news: OK, here we go again with Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. This sequel has a close connection to the Hunger Games films in which the initial idea for the film makes very little sense. Then, to make matters worse, the second film is just a repeat of the first, only with a different setting.
The Maze Runner’s plot would work for a video game, but makes no sense, otherwise. Boys wake up in a strange place with no memory and are forced to survive in a maze when they are banished from the “glade” at the center of the maze. Huh?
Similarly, the plot for Hunger Games makes no sense. Leaders of an authoritarian regime use a survival game among children as a way to keep their rule intact? What? Despite the costly productions, the terrific cast and the glorious invention of Katniss Everdeen, the Hunger Games and, in turn, the Maze Runner films, although popular, are adolescent daydreams – modern fairy tales in which children are left to fend for themselves, like Hansel and Gretel or Cinderella.
The good news: Johnny Depp as a very, very bad dude. A remorseless, angry, bald, disturbed, ruthless gangster. This has to be good.
In my head, I’m counting the various top shelf actors who eventually take on the role of Public Enemy No. 1 or some facsimile thereof. There’s Al Pacino as Scarface (1983), Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow (Bonnie and Clyde, 1967), John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer and Ving Rhames in Pulp Fiction (1994), the entire cast of Sinister Dogs (1992), Robert de Niro in The Untouchables (1987) and a dozen other roles, and the King of Ruthless, James Cagney as Tom Powers in Public Enemy (1931). And let’s not forget the Godfather films which have ruthless down to a smooth operation.
The other good news: The cast of Everest. The film features Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson and Jake Gyllenhaal. In a word: Wow. Look out, Imax, here I come.