Archive for July, 2016

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trial

by on Jul.24, 2016, under Movie Reviews

scorch trialsThe Scorch Trials is the second installment in The Maze Runner series. The story picks up with Thomas (played by Dylan O’Brien) and the other escapees from the Glade trying to find their way in a devastated world. They’re being chased by the organization WCKD that was behind the Maze so they’re unsure of who their allies are. On top of that, there are the infected who are keeping everyone on the run. Not knowing where to turn, the group make their way to a band of rebels they hear about who might be able to find them refuge.

The story in this one is a little more non-linear and disjointed compared to its predecessor. There’s some bait-and-switch left turns that seem pretty obvious and isn’t really anything super compelling in terms of the direction the film goes. I also thought some of the plot points were a little far-fetched such as the doctor who will sacrifice the lives of thousands of children to find a cure for the disease that is zombifying everyone. One of the stranger plot points is that a cure of sorts is found but kind of forgotten about when one of the key characters is killed. It just seemed like there were a lot of moments like that, almost shoe-horned ideas that were wedged in to move things forward.

The pacing and structure of the film seem clunky, like they were figuring out a lot as they went. Some of the performances seem stiff as a result of the construct of the film. Wes Ball directed the film, which I’m sure wasn’t easy given the scope of it, however the direction of the film is what I think one of the main problems is. Overall, this release feels stuck awkwardly in different places where the first film flowed much more smoothly.

The acting for the most part is ok but there aren’t any real standouts here. Everyone feels competent but not passionate. There are some strong actors in the lineup but noone seems to shine. The cast includes Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Patricia Clarkson, Lili Taylor, and Barry Pepper.

The Scorch Trials is an ok film but not the compelling second film you might be hoping for. Hopefully the next film will take it back up a notch…

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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The Martian

by on Jul.17, 2016, under Movie Reviews

The MartianFrom one of my favorite directors, Ridley Scott, The Martian presents the story of a stranded astronaut who gets left on Mars when his crew thinks he’s dead and has to do an emergency evacuation of the planet. Matt Damon plays Mark Watney who needs to use science to survive until a rescue mission can be executed once NASA gets wind of him still being alive. Once again Scott delivers a compelling movie that keeps you hooked from beginning to end…

While Watney is by himself he has to face the notion of starvation, running out of water, in addition to storms that prove to be fatal as well as challenging for the structures he’s living in. As simple as it sounds, Ridley Scott manages to shape a film that can be terrifying and thrilling without monsters or serial killers. Damon’s passionate delivery of the lead role makes the film work as well.

The effects and design are expertly put together. They shot this in a desert somewhere obviously but manage to make it feel like a different planet with subtle nuances to the atheistic of the film through things like color grading and backdrop inserts. The storms feel especially brutal, the kind where you just want to curl up under the covers like when you were a kid just waiting / praying for it to die down, like a scary nemesis stalking your home that won’t leave.

The lineup of the film is impressive with everyone putting in a strong performance. Jessica Chastain plays the head of the astronaut team with a strong, authoritative delivery alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor contributing as the dedicated head of the Mars program at NASA. The whole cast is strong and includes Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie, and Sebastian Stan.

If you like good, suspenseful sci-fi without aliens bursting out of anyone’s chest, definitely check out The Martian.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Vacation (2015)

by on Jul.10, 2016, under Movie Reviews

vacationThere are remakes and sequels and sometimes films that are both, this is a film that falls in the last category…

Rusty Griswold is back but this time he’s all grown up with a family of his own. Just as obsessed as his father in the original film, Rusty decides to take his wife and kids on the same trip to Wallyworld that he had to endure as a child. Hijinks ensue as said family treks across the country to fulfill their dad’s dream of vacation glory that was lost the first time ‘round with Clark at the steering wheel…

If you’re looking for something original here, you’ll want to look elsewhere; judging the premise and the poster, you’ve probably already figured that out. That’s ok though, this kind of film isn’t meant to surprise, it’s there to entertain. Unfortunately the film’s entertainment value isn’t great. This version plays out just like the original where Rusty and family drive across the country towards the promised land of Wallyworld with many obstacles thrown in their path along the way. The gags are hit and miss with some LOL moments but mostly not. The film feels and comes off much as a retread of the original rather than blazing any trail of its own.

The movie has some talented actors involved, most notably Christina Applegate and Ed Helms. Applegate is great, she’s funny, quick and enjoyable on screen. Helms comes off annoying unfortunately and kind of a dick so there isn’t much sympathy there where Chevy Chase in the original role managed to balance a smarminess with a sense of being pathetic that made him much more endearing. The real standout though is Chris Hemsworth who comes off hilariously in his bit role which you have to see for yourself as I can’t do it justice here. The lineup is rounded out by Leslie Mann, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston, Regina Hall, Ron Livingston, Keegan-Michael Key and Norman Reedus. It’s a jam-packed roster to be sure, but it doesn’t help the film enough to pull it out of the mediocre mire it lands in.

I wouldn’t go out of your way to see this one, but you might want to check it out if there’s nothing else on. Ultimately, I would suggest to just watch the original and Christmas Vacation; those two should satisfy all the vacation you’ll really need…

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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