Autumn is when some great films roll out, so it is a wonderful time to head to the theater. Great actors prove that, quite frankly, they are better than others, and superb directors earn their accolades.
I rate films on a scale of zero to five fingers, with the high-fives going only to the very best. I skip the use of one finger, dropping down to zero — the dreaded Fist of Badness — for pathetic efforts no one needs to see.
This time of year the worst are in hibernation and the stars come out to shine. Here are eleven reviews, including one –a surprise little sleeper film — that I thought was absolutely outstanding.
It’s always fun to share opinions, so let me know if I got them right or wrong.
Black Mass – 4 fingers. Johnny Depp’s best performance in years highlights this excellent film about the life and violence of Boston mobster Whitey Bulger.
The Walk – 4 fingers. A great third act lifts this biopic about Frenchman Phillipe Petit’s obsession with walking a high wire between the two World Trade Center towers, a film that is worth a few extra bucks to watch in 3-D.
Sicario – 3 fingers. This grisly Mexican drug cartel revenge story gets off to a fast start but disappointingly keeps slowing down.
The Visit – 4 fingers. When a pair of siblings spends a week visiting their grandparents, bad things—really bad things—happen.
99 Homes – 5 fingers. This taut drama about a greedy Orlando real estate agent who preys on ordinary folks dealing with hard times during the 2008 recession proves you don’t need a lot of money to make an outstanding, gripping film.
Bridge of Spies – 3 fingers. A lack of suspense means this film translates to Spielberg + Hanks = Just A Movie in this spy-for-spy exchange story, which is based upon negotiations that took place after American CIA U-2 spy plane captain Frances Gary Powers was shot down and captured in the 1960 Soviet Union.
Victoria – 3 fingers. A young woman visiting Berlin meets four scruffians, who show her street life and a whole lot more in this unique “one take” German suspense drama that starts slowly but builds adeptly and, thanks for fine performances by the male and female lead, ascends to deliver the goods.
The Martian – 4 fingers. Matt Damon showcases why he is a major box office superstar in this entertaining film that deftly dances around logic and an annoyingly silly performance by miscast supporting actress Jessica Chastain.
Peace Officer – 3 fingers. This respectful documentary about growing militaristic attitudes and actions of overzealous SWAT police – and many of the senseless killings their rabid dog tactics have produced – is told in meticulous fact-based detail by a former police chief from Utah who – years after bringing a SWAT team to his state – watched as they senselessly shot and killed his emotionally troubled son-in-law in a fusillade of unnecessary weaponry.
The Intern – 3 fingers. This is a typical Nancy Meyers movie—gentle and safe—but Robert DeNiro does well dealing out sage advice as a 70-year-old widower interning at Anne Hathaway’s Internet fashion store in story that suffers a bit from a mediocre script and weak supporting cast.
Burnt – 3 fingers. Bradley Cooper plays an angry, eccentric master chef trying to piece his life back together through sobriety and the determined pursuit of a 3-star Michelin rating for his start-up comeback restaurant in London.
If you like to watch great actors sharing their talents to the joy of audiences everywhere, make sure to catch Depp, Damon, and Hanks — all of whom might be Oscar-worthy. Cinephiles will also enjoy Victoria, as it was shot in a single take, a noteworthy and commendable achievement.
November will be a busy month. I look forward to the new releases and hope to see you at the cinema.
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