Monday, July 25, 2016

Couch Potato: Black Mass, The Intern

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I watched two very different movies on impulse the previous weekend.

Black Mass

Black Mass (2015) is based on the the true crime biography by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill.

Whitey Bulger, was a crime boss in South Boston in the '70s. He might have remained fairly small-time, except that his childhood friend John Connolly had joined the FBI and got assigned to Boston. Connolly wanted to be a star in the FBI and he saw a way to do it - get a high value criminal informant. So he approached his old friend Bulger who just so happens to be in the middle of an ugly turf war. Bulger agrees - he will start ratting out the other gangs to the FBI, which leaves him with a clear field for his activities. In return his buddy basically shields him from the FBI and he grows his empire.

Black Mass is a gritty, violent movie which does a good job recreating Boston in the 1970s. Johnny Depp is brilliant as Whitey Bulger, and I am frankly surprised he did not get an Oscar nomination for it. There was good chemistry with Joel Edgerton, who plays FBI agent John Connelly. Jesse Plemons also shines as Kevin Weeks, one of Whitey's right-hand men. If you are in the mood for gritty true crime drama you will like this movie.

The Intern

If, on the other hand, you are in the mood for light, feel-good fluff, you could try The Intern (2015) instead. Robert De Niro plays Ben Wittaker, a 70 year old widower and retiree who applies to be a "senior intern" at a new online retailer. Anne Hathaway plays Jules Ostin, the founder and workaholic CEO of this start-up. Ben gets assigned to be Jules' intern, a position she has no use for. Gradually they connect and Ben is able to gently and unassumingly mentor her through a difficult time.

The story itself is kind of a big nothing. The humor is gentle and not the cringe-inducing kind, so I enjoyed that. The whole movie is very wholesome which is all too rare these days. The best part of the movie is watching De Niro and Hathaway - they are both good actors, and the film itself sort of feels like a throwback to office comedies from the 1950s, with modern twists.

On the negative side, I did not like how the movie blatantly flatters both the boomers and the millennials, and I did not much care for the characters' parroting feminist mantras. But that was not a big enough part of the movie to destroy my enjoyment of it. If you want a pleasant escape and just want to see some good looking people valiantly battle upper-class first world problems, it's a fun movie to watch.

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