The Intern (PG-13) *****
The magic of star power is felt full force in this delightful modern comedy starring Anne Hathaway as web exec Jules and Robert De Niro as Ben, a 70-year-old widower with time on his hands. He applies for a new senior intern program with Hathaway’s company and is assigned to her. The clash of generations is always congenial, played gently and effectively by young and old cast members alike.
Ben, after 40 years in the workforce in the very building that Hathaway has adapted for her online clothing outlet, knows a lot about business. He doles out his pearls slowly and effectively to his younger colleagues.
Adam Devine is perfect as Jules’ chief operating officer and advisor, and Zack Pearlman shines as the hapless Davis. Along with Ben, the young interns have a classic scene as misbegotten burglars, trying to steal a computer. The ever-youthful Rene Russo has a star turn as a massage therapist destined to massage a lot of Ben and look great doing it.
But this film is all Hathaway and De Niro, and they make the most of it. Hathaway remains one of film’s most striking beauties and De Niro is so under control that it almost makes you cry. The pacing of the film seems slow at first, but there is so much character development that rushing the pace would have destroyed the movie. Classic, sensitive, smart comedy with two top stars in full flight—not to be missed.
Everest (PG-13) ****
This is a gut-stirring version of a trip up and down Everest in 1996 that ended up leaving eight members of the teams on the mountain. With very little preparation for what is to come, the story starts at base camp, run by Helen (Emily Watson) and her medical associate Caroline (Elizabeth Debicki). Two teams of climbers are combined to make the climb: One, the more adventurous, is led by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal).
One of the contentious aspects of climbing Everest is the increasing commercialization of the climb and people who are not in shape for it buying their way into expeditions. That certainly happens here as several climbers turn back early and several others clearly have their survival chances negatively affected by a lack of knowledge and physical conditioning.
One of the most remarkable stories to come off the mountain is the story of Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin). A practicing pathologist, Weathers lost his right arm, nose and fingers on his left hand on the trip. Brolin’s performance is remarkable, as are all the performances in this trial by ice.
The only drawbacks to the film are necessary technical ones: The high winds and bulky gear and masks they wore to survive muddle dialogue throughout. You can usually figure out what is happening, but following specific characters is not easy. Brilliance in the female supporting roles by Watson, Keira Knightley and Robin Wright is the rule. Altogether a frightening, chilling experience in film.
Black Mass (R) ****
Johnny Depp is a great actor. In this film he portrays Boston mobster Whitey Bulger to a fare-thee-well with all the chills and inhumanity the character deserves. Nobody, including Bulger, knows how many people he killed. He was eventually convicted of killing 11, but Bulger was a man of the shadows and it is suspected the count is far too low.
We see Bulger from 1975 and his emergence as a hoodlum in South Boston to his eventual arrest in 2011. Depp portrays Bulger as the sociopath he was, but the rest of the film indicates how depraved his associates were as well. The film stresses the same apparent theme that Bulger used throughout his criminal career: loyalty and honor, of which he had neither.
The film almost becomes an ironic paean to FBI agent John Connolly, who was Bulger’s partner in both crime and punishment. Connolly started Bulger on his second career as an informant but, as Bulger explains, “I do not see this as ratting.” Ratting it was, the most serious charge that could be brought against a fellow mobster.
Depp is forever threatening, forever evil and forever slippery in his role as Bulger even with his mistress, Lindsey Cyr (Dakota Johnson). She bore a son with Bulger; the son died at a young age and, some say, this sent Bulger off the rails. Something certainly did. The film offers a chilling portrayal of the results.
Leave the young kids at home. They can learn this history later, when it may make more sense to them.
The Maze Runner (PG-13) ***
This is the inaugural entry into a new franchise built from a novel by James Dashner. Dashner, finding himself with a successful floor plan, devised two prequels and two sequels, all of which seem destined for the screen. It’s a pity because even by “The Scorch Trials,” the first sequel, the action has become pretty predictable.
Here at the Paragon Theaters, “Maze Runner” and “Scorch” are being run as a double-feature. In terms of plot, of which there is little, it is kicked off by the arrival somewhere of Thomas, a peculiarly insightful entry into the all-male society of The Glade. The Glade is surrounded by The Maze, a monumental rock structure that opens every morning and closes at night, changing its paths with each closure. No jealousy really, at least at first. That element of tension is altered by the arrival of a girl carrying the cryptic note: “She’s the last one ever.”
Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) seems to have special talents as well, and she teams up with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) to mastermind the assault on The Maze. Their attempts are fought by Gally (Will Poulter) who, from the outset, looks like a villain and acts it. Then there are the Grievers, huge monsters that are part plastic and metal and part bug, looking a bit like a distorted and deadly scorpion, the chief defenders of The Maze.
There are dastardly villains in the background, manipulating all of these elements. They are headed by Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson). She has a large and largely incompetent staff to help her in her machinations, but she also has that team of Grievers. With occasional other roles, the Good Guys begin running from and attempting to kill the Bad Guys, and all of us have been there before. The stars have minimal appeal except as vehicles for the action sequences, and Smart Money would go with the Grievers, but young adults, the target audience, will probably enjoy seeing what they once read. At four hours for the double feature, you might want to ask for a deal on the price of popcorn.
The Scorch Trials (PG-13) ***
Ditto “The Maze Runner” with the addition of Rose Salazar as Brenda and three different sets of zombies (!!), one of which eats live rats before your very eyes, Jacob Lofland as Aris Jones and Lily Taylor as a heroic nurse, plus other small characters. The plot continues from “The Maze Runner” with even more chases, escapes, spectacular stunts, unlikely near-misses and a clot of coincidences near the end of the film that are downright laughable. Escape is the primary motivation in both films—usually escape from various forms of those pesky zombies.
This script at least acknowledges a central truth in both films in the franchise, as one character finally admits: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this place.” Thomas is back, along with Teresa and the boys from “The Maze,” but not all of them will make it into the third episode, already in production. There are two triumphs of computer technology in this movie: a spectacular and deadly thunderstorm and a chase through an abandoned factory that make it interesting occasionally and we get some clarification, though murky, of the virus situation that caused all the turmoil in the first place. There is also a revelatory scene in which we are allowed to see the serum that will Save the World (a Nobel Committee Dream), and one of the main characters turns out to be a traitor, but that might be too subtle to deal with here.
With “The Maze Runner” it makes for a very long (four-plus hours) session in the theatre, but for fans of the novel, it will provide plenty of fodder for arguments about which is better: the book or the film. Go to it!