It’s fall, which means when it comes to the movies, it’s going to be feast or famine. This week is a bit of both—Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Whitey Bulger in Black Mass is opening to good reviews, but the other two movies don’t have quite the same appeal.
Throughout his career Johnny Depp has made it a point to not rely on his pretty boy looks, favoring instead meaty, character-driven roles that he can disappear behind. In Black Mass, Depp portrays Whitey Bulger, the Boston gangster, one of the most notorious that ever lived, who became an informant for the FBI. The true story also stars a plethora of A-list actors, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Jesse Plemons, and Dakota Johnson.
Perfect For: You’ve overplayed your Godfather and Goodfellas copies and need more gangsters to watch.
What the Critics Say: Mixed on the movie; thumbs up on Depp. New York Times: “I'm as susceptible as any other deskbound, conflict-averse fantasist to the visceral appeal of a good gangster movie. But ‘Black Mass’ isn't one.” Entertainment Weekly: “It's a very good film about a very bad man. But as well-crafted and well-acted as it is, it never rises to greatness because we've been watching this story in one way or another going back to the time of Jimmy Cagney and Edward G. Robinson.” The Wrap: “This is Depp bringing his skills to the table as a man with a propensity for being both terrifying and charming, often switching between the two on a dime.”
Our Take: We’re always in the mood for a good gangster movie.And we like Depp.
The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
The second installment of the series based on the Young Adult hit novels, The Scorch Trials finds its gang of teenagers in more dystopian, deserted city, faced with the mere task of saving the world. It’s Hunger Games crossed with The Matrix—where the kids are the pawns of adults in a massive “game,” but also realize that people are being bred and used as energy and must rebel to save the world.
Perfect For: You were a fan of the novels. You can’t wait for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 to come out in a few weeks.
What the Critics Say: Hard to follow if you’ve not seen the first movie or read the books. There’s a lot of running. Seattle Times: “They run from masked soldiers. They run from ravening zombies. They run through desolate desert landscapes. They run through the rubble of ruined cityscapes. (Dystopia: It’s a mess.) They run through endless corridors. So many different corridors in so many different scenes, which somehow all ultimately look the same.” The Arizona Republic: “Director Wes Ball's film is a mad dash from one place to the next, with little time in between for rest, recuperation or plot development.”
Our Take: Only if you’re a fan of the first movie or the books.
Two very good actors, Kate Mara and David Oyelowo (Selma), are slumming it in this Christian-focused film based on a true story. Mara is a recovering addict who is kidnapped by an escaped convict but plies him with an inspirational book, The Purpose Driven Life, and they become besties (or something like that) during captivity.
Perfect For: You don’t have cable and don’t want to miss your TV movie of the week?
What the Critics Say: They are totally mum. No reviews, which is never a good sign.
Our Take: Only for those overlook a low-quality movie for religious inspiration.