I haven’t been writing much about the movies because I’ve been involved in a lot of other things. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been to the cineplex. On the contrary, we found a few good gems in September before the big releases came out and now have a glut of options with more releases every week..
Still, there are some things we haven’t seen, like Pawn Sacrifice, Everest, and Mr. Holmes, but I’m only willing to spend so much time in the theater. For simplicity’s sake, here’s a movie scoreboard of the films we’ve seen recently by category with our recommendations:
Drama for Grownups
- The Intern: 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and he needs something interesting to do with the rest of his life. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin. She’s the improbably beautiful but realistically conflicted founder of the company and a working mother with a stay-at-home husband.
It’s a pleasure to see a grounded and experienced professional like Ben Whittaker show the kids how it used to be done — and could still be done — even if that’s a Boomer fantasy. Would real Millennials learn to dress professionally? Who knows?
But we loved TheInternMovie, Recommended for everyone.
Gross: $49.59 M after 3 weeks
- Learning to Drive: As her marriage dissolves, a Manhattan writer who has depended on her husband for mobility takes driving lessons from a Sikh instructor with his own marriage challenges. Working together they find the courage to get back on the road, the strength to take the wheel, and the determination to grow stronger.
@LTDFilm is a marvelous story of personal growth, new challenges, overcoming fear, and determination to succeed. There’s nothing smarmy or contrived about the relationship between the woman and the instructor. The laughs are subtle and not manufactured. The performances are excellent: Recommended for people who like a good story but don’t need an exploding helicopter to enjoy a movie.
Gross: $3,285 after 8 weeks
- Grandma: A teenager facing an unplanned pregnancy seeks help from her acerbic grandmother, a woman who is long estranged from her daughter. Lily Tomlin’s kick-ass grandma is both a pleasure to watch and a demonstration of what it took to become a strong woman back in the days before equal rights and Title Nine. If she goes over the top—and she does—it’s because that was the only way to get heard and to gain any power back then. In the present, nothing is going to stop her from helping her granddaughter—not even her former lover. It’s worth watching just for Grandma’s interaction with the selfish boy who got her granddaughter pregnant. Recommended for people who don’t need firefights and car chases to enjoy a movie.
Gross: $2,684 after 8 weeks
Action / Adventure
- The Martian: During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut and botanist Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With insufficient supplies, he must draw upon his scientific training, ingenuity, wit, knowledge, determination and spirit to subsist. He also has to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.
@MartianMovie would technically be called science fiction, as was Gravity, but it’s really an adventure story that involves no aliens and little fiction but a whole lot of science. As I wrote about the book, a savvy science teacher could base an entire course on how Mark Watney—along with brilliant scientists on Earth—MacGyver him into surviving the Red Planet. I was really looking forward to this movie and was excited to hear that Ridley Scott was directing with Matt Damon in the role of Mark Watney. I was not disappointed. Recommended for everyone –especially people who enjoy science.
Gross: $108.72 M after two weeks
- Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials: After having escaped the Maze, the Gladers now face a new set of challenges on the open roads of a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles. If you didn’t see the first movie, you shouldn’t run out to watch this one because it won’t make a lot of sense—unless you read the books. You won’t even know what Gladers are. We enjoyed @MazeRunnerMovie and we liked this sequel as well. The reviews did not do it justice. But then I enjoy post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction and The Scorch is a pretty good example of the genre Recommended for lovers of the James Dashner series and of science fiction.
Gross: $70.77 M after 4 weeks
- The Visit: A single mother finds that things in her family’s life go very wrong when she sends her two young children to visit their grandparents so she can go on a cruise with her new boyfriend. I saw this moving by myself and had mixed feelings—probably because there are some complex motives at work here. Watching the kids figure out that something is very wrong with their grandparental units is kind of fun and the usual Shyamalan twist adds a nice kick.
But there are too many breaks with reality for me to recommend it wholeheartedly. Unfortunately I can’t really discuss any of them without spoiling the plot so I’ll just say that it’s an interesting movie but not a compelling one. You can wait for @TheVisitMovie to hit TV or DVD before you see it. Recommended with reservations.
Gross: $61.16 after 5 weeks
What’s up next? I don’t know yet. Crimson Peak is too creepy and you couldn’t pay me enough to see Straight Outta Compton. Sicario is too violent. Perhaps Bridge of Spies will do it, depending on the reviews. The Spielberg-Hanks connection has worked in the past and the trailer looks pretty good. I’ll keep you posted.