All right, now things are starting to get interesting again. Not that the films released in the last few weeks weren’t important to somebody out there, but it’s not like they were carrying the hopes and dreams of their studios either. There’s a reason they were released when they were. But now we’re beginning the slow ascent to awards season, and we’re going to start seeing the push begin in earnest. We’re not into the heavy hitters just yet, but should at least get some solid doubles for a while.
The quest for the Franchise That Would Be Hunger Games goes on as The Maze Runner gets its second installment, The Scorch Trials. Actually, this sequel was put into pre-production nearly a year before the first film was released, so somebody had a good feeling about the series. And while the first film barely squeaked past $100 million domestic, it added another $230 million worldwide, and all on a modest $34 million budget. So pre-production became actual production and the franchise was underway, with nearly double the budget and much more scorch, apparently. I really need to get started on writing some kind of dystopian young adult series, because that seems to be the gravy train right now, having replaced the magical kid genre that tried — and mostly failed — to catch some of that Harry Potter money for so long. How this opens will depend a lot on how much good will the first film has, but at that budget, even a fairly modest run is likely to keep these teens running through their mazes for at least one more film.
Universal suddenly pumped the brakes on what was to be Everest‘s wide release this week, pulling back to an IMAX-only release with a wider release next week. Having seen a preview of this last night, I can’t say it’s not a bad idea; although it wasn’t an IMAX showing, I can definitely see how it would benefit from the format, and word of mouth from those screenings could help the wider bow pick up some steam. Not that sweeping snowy vistas is all the film has going for it. It’s a pretty harrowing account of the real-life disaster that took place in 1996 when a severe storm trapped some climbers near the summit of Mt. Everest. Maybe not the happiest of times at the movies, but I can’t say it wasn’t a riveting experience.
Everest‘s pullback makes big gun this week Johnny Depp not being weird for once in Black Mass. Depp plays notorious Irish gangster Whitey Bulger, the inspiration for Jack NIcholson’s character in The Departed, and therein lies the real challenge for this film: how to both live up to and avoid looking like a pale imitation of Scorsese’s Oscar winner. It’s got the real story on its side at least, and even when Depp is starring in a bad movie he’s at the very least doing something interesting in it. This looks like him being in at minimum a decent movie. although I’ve seen both a solid B and a scathing negative review, so the jury is still out on this one. You could argue this film exists pretty much as an Oscar nomination vehicle for Depp, so that may be all the success it needs.
And since it doesn’t feel right not at least mentioning it: Mad Max: Fury Road.