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Weary Pilgrim – At the Movies, Pt. 2

The ballots for nominations to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, AKA ‘The Academy’, are due January 8th, so all the members have been bingeing on the so- called ‘screeners’, the DVD’s that have been pouring in over the last few weeks. Being a dutiful member of the Academy, I’ve been popping them in the DVD player like slides in a

carousel, along with the odd trip to the theater – so here goes part 2:

­Sicario – this is a truly suspenseful movie about a DEA agent on the Tex­Mex border – stars Amy Ryan, who does more than mail it in. Johann Johannson ( of Iceland!), who won the Oscar last year for best score in The Theory of Everything, does an amazing

score, which is only one reason to see this terrific film – Benecio Del Toro is another – a nail-biter.

­Trumbo – the true story of Dalton Trumbo, a black­listed screenwriter in the 50’s, who continued to write a zillion screenplays under a host of other names, when producers wanted his work without the embarrassment of giving him credit. Helen Mirren, the greatest free ride in Hollywood, chips in as Hedda Hopper, a gossip columnist on his case – worth watching only if you know nothing about the McCarthy hearings and America’s descent into Commie Hell during the post­war years.

­Star Wars, Episode 7­ if you are one of three people reading this who haven’t seen the movie, go ahead and take the plunge – otherwise your neighbors will talk. I gotta say, Harrison Ford is cool once again, and John Williams reminds us that music is a big part of big movies. I, for one, missed the Wookies, so Chewbacca was a welcome sight.

­In the Heart of the Sea – every now and then you get a great story rendered in a great book (same title) that becomes a movie by a great director ( Ron Howard ) with a decent leading man ( Chris Hemsworth ),......and the movie sucks. Why? Well, that’s the downside of movie magic: sometimes the magician pulls a hamster out of the hat instead of a rabbit, and the trick just doesn’t work. This one doesn’t, more’s the pity. Read the book, and then stop there.

­Joy – Big Hype on this one. A so­called True Story about a valiant single Mom who invents a Better Mop.....Jennifer Lawrence plays the Plucky Mom, with De Niro as the Crusty Dad. If you’re in a good mood, and want to feel even better, go see it. If your view of the world is at all cynical, you ain’t gonna like it. Directed by David Russell, it starts out a little quirky, then shifts gears into full Hollywood mode.

­Spotlight – This is the year of History Lessons – it seems every other movie is based on a true story or character – this one is based on both. The story of how the Boston Globe tracked and broke the revelation about the Catholic Church’s refusal to deal with chronic, long­term, and heart­breaking sexual assault of minors is meticulous and not so much thrilling as spine­tingling. Wear a comfortable shirt, because you will be shaking your head a lot.

­Room – There’s a lot of talk about Brie Larson’s performance of a mother who tried to make a life for young son in a one­room prison where she is being held by a monster. That’s all I’m going to tell you, except for this: see this film. It is not without flaws, but it is gripping, suspenseful, and shows that the smaller films often have the greater impact.

Spy – if you want to see a silly movie this season, go see Spy. Melissa McCarthy is one of the best comediennes working today, and a lot of supporting talents ( Jude Law, Jason Staitham, Rose Byrne ) pitch in here to give her straight faces to bounce her one­liners off.


Spectre – franchises like the 007 Bond films occasionally need a reboot, which means a new star. This would be one of those times. I loved Daniel Craig in his first Bond film, Casino Royale, but each of the next three films got a little weaker – the opening songs sounds manipulative and contrived – consider it a warning.

­Hateful 8 – spoiler alert: it’s gross, violent, vulgar, without redeeming social merit....I could go on, but why? You already knew that. This is Tarantino directing a bunch of character actors, e.g., Sam Jackson, Walt Goggins, Kurt Russell, playing the characters that made them famous. In its favor, there is actually a story that transpires about outlaws, bounty hunters, and the like, so it develops – between gunshots, that is. Long, and kind of like watching a slow airplane crash – hard to take your eyes off of it, but you really wish it hadn’t happened.

­Revenant – Here’s a statement of fact – the director, a Mexican chap named Alejandro González Iñárritu, is one of the best directors working today ( Children of Men, Birdman, etc. ). Which means every movie he does is totally different – in this case, we have a tale set in1823 of wilderness survival by a hunting guide left for dead by his companions. If you watch this at home, tell your neighbors not to dial 911 if they hear screaming from your living room – that’s just you watching one of the most amazing movies you have ever seen – and that’s all I’m telling you.

There are a few left to screen – Carol, The Danish Girl, Creed, for starters – if they get nominated, I’ll tell you about them. All in all, it’s been a decent year for the movies, and there are a few real corkers to see – so HAVE AT IT!

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