Black Mass Feature

Some Movies to See This Weekend, September 18, 2015

Friday, September 18, 2015 Rob Samuelson

This weekend we get the first gasp of autumn Oscar contention. September is not usually a time when the tippy top of awards hopefuls get released, but there are two that have “prestige” written all over them. Whether that translates to “good” is up in the air. There are also two solid-looking counter-programming options. Let's see what's on the agenda for this weekend at the movies.

Black Mass
Director: Scott Cooper
Writers: Mark Mallouk, Jez Butterworth
Starring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson

The first of the Oscar-y movies this weekend, Black Mass is a crime epic about the life of Whitey Bulger, an infamous Boston gangster. Johnny Depp gets back to more “serious” acting here, eschewing the silly costumes and hats for, well, a “realistic” costume and a bald cap. His Bulger has spooky blue eyes, the result of some wacky contact lenses on Depp. He does a heavy South Boston accent and gets into what hopes to be a meaty role about power and cowardice (Bulger became an FBI informant).

Director Scott Cooper did 2009's Crazy Heart, which won Jeff Bridges an Oscar. It's possible – especially given Depp's long-dormant talent and undoubted screen presence – he could get the cinematic pirate back on track after 15 years of bad rock star impressions and “kookiness.”

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Director: Wes Ball
Writer: T.S. Nowlin
Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster

The first Maze Runner movie got some praise as an out-of-left-field young-adult novel adaptation. It had a neat look to it from what I saw of the trailers – I didn't get a chance to catch it. Star Dylan O'Brien is becoming a young leading man by the looks of things, as he was considered for a time as the newest iteration of Spider-Man. This middle piece of a planned trilogy appears to expand the scope from the outdoor jail of the first film, with a grander adventure taking place.

Pawn Sacrifice
Director: Edward Zwick
Writers: Steven Knight, Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Lily Rabe, Peter Sarsgaard, Robin Weigert

Speaking of Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire returns to the big screen for the first time in a couple years as the mentally unstable chess master Bobby Fischer. This biopic looks like it might do the thing too few biopics do, which is to focus on a particularly interesting segment of the subject's life. In this case, it is during the lead-up to Fischer's highly publicized chess match with the USSR's champion. The stress on all sides – family, the United States government, the public, Fischer's own ego and possible voices in his own head – look thrilling. This one could be an actual contender.

Sleeping with Other People
Director: Leslye Headland
Writer: Leslye Headland
Starring: Alison Brie, Jason Sudeikis, Jordan Carlos, Margarita Levieva

Writer-director Leslye Headland did a movie called Bachelorette a few years back, and it was filled to the brim with foul-mouthed promise. It was acerbic and a little mean, but in a good way. Seeing that she was also a staff writer on the criminally under seen FX series Terriers from 2010 is enough to indicate she is a filmmaker on the rise.

That was all before the trailers for Sleeping with Other People hit. Now Headland looks like she could head into the stratosphere of comedic directors. She has stocked the romantic comedy with ringers, including Community and Saturday Night Live MVPs Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis as a pair of sex addicts trying to avoid their addiction while obviously falling in love. This one has been on my radar for a bit and I am pretty thrilled about being able to see it finally.

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