Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (Full Review)

I am a huge fan of James Dashner’s young adult Maze Runner book series about a post apocalyptic world ruled by WCKD, an organization using teens to find a cure for a disease that turns people into zombie-like creatures called Cranks. So, before you go any further, you should know that a large part of this review will be from the perspective of someone who will be making comparisons to the source material. But I’ll do my very best to explain why Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials isn’t quite satisfying for fans of the books or casual moviegoers.

Maze-Runner-The-Scorch-Trials-PosterPart two in this series picks up where last September’s Maze Runner left off. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and the rest of the teenage survivors from the maze (Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelari, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, and Alexander Flores) have been rescued from WCKD and whisked away to a remote facility headed by a man named Janson (Aidan Gillen). There they meet survivors from other mazes, including a mysterious boy named Aris (Jacob Lofland). It doesn’t take long for Thomas to realize that things still aren’t what they seem, and soon he and his friends find themselves escaping through the harsh Crank infested world known as the scorch, in search of a resistance force that may or may not exist.

If you’ve read the books, then you’ll find that synopsis a bit unfamiliar. That’s because this movie is about as similar to the book as 1993’s Super Mario Bros. was to the video games. Nearly everything about the plot has been reconfigured, which is strange considering the first film stuck relatively close to the source material. This would be okay, if the end result was something better. But it isn’t. Instead of an intriguing Mad Max meets Resident Evil storyline where it feels as if Thomas and his friends are simply stuck in a more complex maze, we get a lengthy, generic film about kids running from zombies to join up with a desert army.

Completely gone, is the sense of intrigue and mystery created from the first book/movie. And there seems to be no real reason for the changes. This film version, which drags on seemingly twenty minutes too long, seems less concise and more confusing than its source material. And despite its length, it still fails to flesh out the majority of its characters.

There are still some positives. Many of the set pieces, especially those set in the scorch, are visually stunning and when the action hits, it is certainly entertaining. There are also a few heartfelt moments, specifically one involving a characters’ death. But the unnecessary revamping of the storyline completely ruins the unique feel of it all. The Maze Runner wasn’t just some teen monster movie, it was a distinctive, mysterious, suspenseful narrative, but its sequel is just one big hollywood cliché. For those casual movie-goers, feel free to watch Scorch Trials or just rent World War Z or 28 Days Later, because those are much more memorable.

FINAL GRADE: C-

Fatal Attractio… Obsesse… Temptatio… Addicte… Boy Next Do… I mean, The Perfect Guy Review

Seriously…. how many movies are they going to make where a passionate lover turns out to be a murderous psychopath? They’re not even spacing them out well enough to make audiences forget they’re recycling the same concept. And, apparently, based on this newest incarnation they’re only getting worse. Let’s try to keep this short and sweet.

The Perfect Guy stars Sanaa Lathan as a ThePerfectGuyPostermiddle-aged, pristine political lobbyist who grows tired of her relationship with Morris Chestnut due to his unwillingness to commit to a future. Before they can establish even an ounce of onscreen chemistry, they split and within a few weeks, she is swept off of her feet by quiet romantic Carter Duncan (Michael Ealy). She then spends the following days moving insanely quickly and making poor decisions like introducing this man to her parents before even seeing the inside of his apartment. And as you can expect, she dumps him after his dormant psychopathic tendencies begin to surface and he begins stalking her.

Most of the problems with this movie are the same issues that plague every other film in this genre right down to the predictable violent showdown at the end. In fact, the movie seems to notice its own formulaic nature, because it rushes through the early, conventional exposition so fast that Chestnut and Ealy are both dumped before you can even remember what their characters’ names are. The entire sequence of predictable events might be somewhat entertaining if the characters have some weight, but they’re just as generic and uninteresting as something you’d find in a Lifetime movie. And it’s a shame, because I know from their previous works that most of the cast are good at what they do.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with recycling a used concept. Superhero movies and horror films do it all the time. But if you’re going to make a cliché film, at least give it something more than just an attractive set of lead actors. Even the mediocre No Good Deeds had some semblance of a twist at the end. You may get a kick out of seeing Michael Ealy act creepy for an hour and a half. But I can think of several better ways to spend money and time.

FINAL GRADE: F

August 2015 Quick Reviews

It’s that time of year again. When schools are back in session and football season begins. It’s the end of summer, and with that comes the inevitable hiatus of movie going. Luckily I’m still here to provide you with a few reviews for those films you’ll more than likely only be interested in while visiting your nearest Redbox.

No_Escape_(2015_film)_posterNO ESCAPE Owen Wilson stars as a husband and father of two young girls who relocate to a 3rd World Asian country (never named in the film) for his new job only to be swept up in a political war zone. Lake Bell costars as his wife while former James Bond, Pierce Brosnan does his best to show that he can still play an action hero.

If you think it will feel weird to see Owen Wilson deviate from his usual comedic antics, you’re right. But Wilson’s often plucky demeanor actually manages to bring some welcomed heart to this intense thriller. If you are looking for heart pounding suspense, there will be no new film more entertaining for you than No Escape. But do yourself a favor and check your notion of common sense at the opening titles. This is a film where mild mannered house fathers can fight off men with machetes and guns and where a U.S. Embassy can be ransacked by a tiny militia with no immediate consequences. There is just enough ridiculousness to make it not worthy of the full price of admission, but just enough exhilarating moments to at least make it worth a watch. FINAL GRADE: C+

 

We_Are_Your_FriendsWE ARE YOUR FRIENDS Zac Efron stars as Cole, a 23-year old wannabe DJ living in southern California with his best friend Dustin (Jonny Weston). Together with their friends Squirrel (Alex Shaffer) and Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) they waste their lives away doing drugs and promoting parties. That is, until accomplished DJ, James Reed (Wes Bentley) takes Cole under his wing and shows him the path to musical recognition. All Cole has to do is not let his friends hold him back, and keep away from his mentor’s young girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski).

Ignore the title of this movie and it instantly becomes better. None of the friends are really interesting, and only one of them outside of Zac Efron is remotely likable. Their ups and downs and dramatic moments could’ve been sifted out completely and the movie would’ve been equally as interesting. The movie keeps its beat when focusing on the love triangle and complex relationship between Efron, Bentley, and Ratajkowski’s characters even if the end result is a tad predictable. Come for their interaction or come for the music, just don’t come for the actual friends in We Are Your Friends. FINAL GRADE: C+