Weekend Movies: Welcome to the Scorch

The first weeks of September were rather dull, but this weekend is jam-packed with buzzed-about new releases. It appears that Oscar season just might be unraveling before us earlier than usual.

Six notable titles hit the big screen today and it’s only the widest of those that’s a completely fluffy mainstream one. Over the past several years, there have been many attempts to bring Young Adult (YA) books to the big screen. Several have seen huge success. Most have been marginal. Many have failed. Last year’s introduction to the ‘Maze Runner‘ series saw enough success for Fox to turn over a sequel in one year. ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials‘ hits more than 3,700 screens today. In many ways, the first entry echoed elements from the ‘Resident Evil’ franchise. The sequel appears to do so even more. Now free from the Umbrella-like corporation, the surviving teenagers from the first movie must make their way through the deserted and dried-out world in search of civilization. Based on the movie’s subtitle, I’m guessing that what they encounter in the sandy ruins is just another test by the evil corporation. The ‘Maze Runner’ author is a local in my region. He has a decent fan base in the Salt Lake City area. Considering that there was only one solitary last-minute press screening here and no public promo screenings, I’m worried that Fox has a rotten egg on its hands.

After two weeks of trying to stir some festival buzz, Johnny Depp’s gangster drama ‘Black Mass‘ debuts on nearly 3,200 screens in North America. From the director of ‘Crazy Heart‘ and ‘Out of the Furnace‘ comes the mafia flick about real-life gangster Whitey Bulger, the violent Boston crime boss who also turned out to be an FBI informant. Depp’s performances have recently resulted in box office bombs, but ‘Black Mass’ is said to be a terrifying return to form for the actor. Reviews are mild to positive for the movie itself, but don’t seem to indicate that it’s the award contender many expected it to be.

Opening on 806 screens, Paramount’s ‘Captive‘ is the third and final wide release of the weekend. The based-on-a-true story drama stars Kate Mara as a down-and-out single mother who gets taken hostage in her apartment by a wanted fugitive (David Oleyowo). To raise awareness about the film and to promote the morals from the movie, special screenings and streaming Q&A sessions have been held across the country.

The based-on-a-true story trend continues with the week-long IMAX-only kickoff for ‘Everest‘ (which will expand to all other types of theaters next weekend). The intense, grand-scale ensemble drama tells the story of the mountaineers who attempted to summit the highest peak on Earth back in May 1996, only to find themselves in the middle of a horrible storm without sufficient oxygen for the trek back below the vertical limit. The large but not cluttered cast includes Jason Clarke, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Debicki, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Kelly and Robin Wright.

The hotly-buzzed international drug-bust action drama ‘Sicario‘ is now showing on six screens leading up to its October 2nd nationwide expansion. Emily Blunt leads the cast as an FBI agent who gets assigned to fight the war on drugs at the Mexican border. With Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro and Jon Berenthal by her side, they get into a nasty scuffle with a terrible group of heavily armed cartel men. Featuring the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of this week’s releases, the Lionsgate picture appears to be the most promising.

With a 33-screen Wednesday release, the final notable release is Edward Zwick’s ‘Pawn Sacrifice‘. The bio-pic stars Tobey Maguire as the world-famous chess player Bobby Fischer. He placed himself in a difficult situation when his genius got the best of him and, during the Cold War, he challenged Russia to a chess match. The drama co-stars Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg.

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