1. Everest - This is such a perfectly epic story to be put into a visual format, but this movie definitely fails it. I'm not really sure what went wrong because the cast is excellent and it is absolutely gorgeous to look at, but it's oddly dull overall. I think it was just too conventional, and it lacked emotion. The characters weren't really developed enough to actually care about the outcome (I mean obviously we care, but not enough to feel anything other than "well, that sucks"). I don't really connect with stories like this - where someone sets out to dangerously face the elements just "for fun". I would never ever, ever be inspired to climb Mount Everest unless someone paid me a shitload of money (that could be transferred to my family in case I die. And to be clear...I would die) or if there was like a cure for Cancer at the top. Otherwise, I don't get it. The only reason that I invested in the story at all is because of the cast. Josh Brolin is definitely becoming one of my all-time favorite actors. He's definitely the star, along with Jason Clarke (who sports a sexy Australian accent - I had no idea that was his natural accent. Yummy.). While Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright and many others are sufficient in supporting roles. Oh and Sam Worthington is in the movie! I didn't even realize he was in it until about an hour in, which is weird. He just fades into the background, I guess.
2. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trial - I really liked the first one. It stuck with me for months after, which is rare for a movie like this. I liked that they had to "solve" a puzzle in order to survive. This one wasn't as original or interesting. In all honesty, I felt like I was watching an episode of The 100. Especially the parts where they are in the weird sterile building being told that they are "safe", along with the references to "the mountain people". But The 100 is one of the best shows on television right now, and it is hard to compete with. It's interesting that their escape from The Glade wasn't a happy ending. They spent the entire first movie escaping from an actual "safe" place, only to now have to deal with an apocalyptic Earth filled with evil humans, a deadly virus, and some crazy-ass lightening storms. I just feel like the whole "apocalyptic Earth" part has been done to death, and this movie didn't offer anything new. The cast still sells the film, and I like the character twists. I also like Lili Taylor. She is killing it on this season's American Crime. I'm happy to see a resurgence in her career.
3. Our Brand is Crisis - I actually really liked this movie. I know that I am a bit biased because I am a HUGE Sandra Bullock fan (I mean, I'll even stick up for All About Steve. Yes, I'm *that* big of a fan). I think this movie is obviously very relevant to what's happening with the presidential nominees this year, so that helps it significantly. However, it's still a fascinating (and partially true) story. The cast is great; the cat-and-mouse type relationship between Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton is really well done. It's hard to believe that this is their first time working together, because they seemed to naturally exude a sense of camaraderie. I laughed a lot during their first exchange of witty, passive-aggressive banter. The supporting cast is excellent as well, AND Zoe Kazan ISN'T playing a "manic pixie dream girl" character!!! WHOA. I like that the movie blurs the lines between our supposed "hero" and "villain"; we never really know who started the infamous rumor, or who the "better" candidate really is (and if it's the guy who won, then that is freakin' scary). I laughed a lot, which wasn't expected. I laughed every time Sandy credits a famous quote to Warren Beatty (I don't know why, but it's just funny), plus, who doesn't love Sandy screaming for a bus to go faster?! I could watch that all day. There are also some really depressing moments (especially the constant reminder that if "voting changed anything, they would make it illegal") that really highlight the disgusting nature of politics. Overall, I think it's a pretty solid and balanced political movie.
4. Black Mass - Extremely generic mob movie. I don't know if my expectations were just too high or if the movie was just too mediocre, but I was so bored through most of it. I will always root for Johnny Depp, and he is excellent as Whitey Bulger. I do think the prosthetics and blue contacts were distracting, and the performance was a bit over-the-top; especially compared to the rest of the cast, all of whom played it pretty low-key. In fact, I was way more impressed with the supporting cast than I was with Depp. I adore Julianne Nicholson. Her scene with Depp is heart-poundingly intense. I was really happy to see Jesse Plemons, because he is so great. He deserves all of the roles he's been getting lately. I know the comparisons to Matt Damon have been circling for years, but it was really noticeable with the Boston accent. Benedict Cumberbatch with a Boston accent, though, is just plain odd. It doesn't work at all. The story is interesting. Surprisingly, I wasn't very familiar with it. I had no idea that he worked with the FBI to turn in his enemies (and kept committing horrific crimes in the process). Doesn't look too good that the FBI participated in such activities, but I'm sure stuff like this still happens.
5. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - I'm not the biggest Mission: Impossible fan. In fact, I really don't like any of them except the last one. And I don't really remember anything about it, except the Burj Khalifa scene, so I can't really say I'm a "fan" of that one either. I heard a ton of great things about this one, so I thought there would be another magnificent scene, at the very least. But there isn't. The plane scene is cool, but not nearly as exciting. I'm glad that this heavily advertised scene was the first scene, because it gave me hope that there would be much more to the movie. There were a few other really great, intense scenes, but I don't know....I just didn't see anything to rave about. I heard really great things about Rebecca Ferguson, too, and I assumed from the very beginning that she would be a "bad" character. I was right (and wrong), but I didn't see anything special about her performance, either. I think the best part was Jeremy Renner (always). He's just the best, and that scene where they spot each other during the car chase and then he has to do the 3-point turn in the truck made me laugh so hard. That's probably the only scene I will remember a year from now.