Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Maze Runner

Summer is over and so are most of the big blockbuster films of the summer. Hoping to repeat the success of The Hunger Games and Divergent comes The Maze Runner, adapted from the novel by James Dashner. With an intriguing premise and positive early buzz, can The Maze Runner be the next franchise to watch out for?

Teenager Thomas (Dylan O’ Brien) wakes up in an abandoned place called The Glades, he has no memory of anything apart from his name. His only companions are a group of teenage boys who have been sent there years before Thomas arrived. Every day they try to find a way out of the Glades through the maze that surrounds them. But the maze changes everyday and if they don’t return before night they risk getting stuck with the creatures that hide within the maze. Can Thomas find a way out, discover who he is and why he has been put there?

Yes this may be another adaptation of another popular young adult book series but The Maze Runner doesn’t feel like a poor imitation of The Hunger Games or Divergent. It refreshing to have a male teenage lead for once, especially as O’Brien seems to be a young talent to watch out for. We are thrown straight into the action seeing Thomas waking up in his new surroundings and feel Thomas’ confusion and desire to know more about who placed them in the Glades. He makes for a sympathetic lead among a cast of strong supporting actors most of who are British (always glad to see Brits doing well). Former child actors Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Love Actually and Game of Thrones) and Will Poulter (Son of Rambow and We’re The Millers) are great as two of the Gladers Newt and Gally. Poulter in particular is good. Although Gally is technically the antagonist to Thomas, his actions are understandable considering the hostile environment and years of torment he’s had to experience. Aml Almeen is also memorable as Alby the leader of the Gladers.

As with all the best teen adaptations there is a nice dark tone to the film, with hints of Lord of The Flies with the whole young boys left alone idea (not that it goes as dark as that). It also has a good mix of adventure with creepy monsters hunting in the maze as well as the great concept of the Maze itself. Seeing the movie in Imax also made the depth of the maze seem more impressive and completely daunting. There is also a welcome bit of humour to lighten up the film so it does not go too dark.

It disappointing though that the main female, Kaya Scodelario’s Teresa, is underdeveloped and mainly seems there to push the plot forward. And although I liked how the ending teased the next installment some may feel it lacked a definitive ending. But for me this is a franchise that is entertaining and stands out from the other YA pack of the moment. While it’s not quite up to the standard of  The Hunger Games, at least Katniss finally has some worthy competition.

Rating 4/5 – exciting and thrilling, I can’t wait for the sequel already!



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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I liked the animated tv series as a kid but the signs for this live action film adaptation were not good. Michael Bay was producing, the pictures of the Turtles looked all wrong and there were reports that the turtles would be aliens. But could TMNT rise above the hate?

April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is a reporter for Channel 6 in New York who wants to handle serious news rather than the fluff pieces she’s stuck with. When she witnesses a criminal gang called the Foot Clan involved in illegal activities she see a shadowy figure arrive to take them out. Wanting to find the vigilantes involved she ends up discovering more than she bargained for when the figure she’s hunting for turns out to be…Well I think you can guess the rest.

Despite the negative buzz before its release, I actually found TMNT to be a fun movie. Is it a classic, no. Is it faithful, no. But it was definitely a lot better than what I thought it would be. Thankfully the turtles are not aliens as was feared. The action scenes are fun and even exciting in IMAX 3D. Megan Fox is ok as April O Neil and works well with Will Arnett who plays her camera man Vern. Arnett continues to be the best thing in most of the movies he appears in (as fans of his Batman from The Lego Movie will tell you). He has a lot of the best lines and is, unsurprisingly is very funny.

It won’t be a huge surprise however to hear that this movie is far from perfect. To me the turtles still look wrong, and our four heroes in a half shell vary constantly between amusing and annoying. The turltes rat mentor Splinter is disappointingly underused while the villianous Shredder is given a weird body armour to wear that makes him look like a lame Transformer rip-off except without being able to actually transform. The script often makes April do stupid things for the sake of the plot which makes her come across less like an investigative reporter and more like she has a death wish. Attempts to link April and the turtles backstories is also unsuccessful.

However while its silly I have to admit I did have fun watching it. Even though at times it felt like I wondered into an extended Pizza Hut advert. While I wouldn’t recommend you rush out and see it, if you do find yourself wondering into the cinema it may not be as bad as you feared. Although I’m sure plenty will disagree with me.

Rating 3/5 – silly and ridiculous but also at times, rather fun with it


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Sorry I’ve been away…

As some of you may or may not have noticed I have been absent from this blog for the past week. But I do have a good excuse. I was on holiday. In HOLLYWOOD!!!

Me and my friend Wendy spent five nights in LA enjoying the sights and even getting to see celebrities attending a premiere (and I know what you’re going to ask but sadly no, I was not asked to walk the red carpet). We also did the obligatory Movie Homes Tours, took pictures on the Walk of Fame, visited Universal Studios Hollywood and even watched a film at the famous TLC Chinese Theatre. This amazing IMAX theatre seats 932 people and is open for tours all years round.

So what does one watch at the theatre that holds A-List Movie Premieres, has previously held the Oscars and is one of the largest IMAX theatres in the world? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of course! (The only options were that or Transformers: Age of Extinction and I couldn’t put myself through three hours of Michael Bay explosions I just couldn’t). Later I also got to see the latest Young Adult adaptation, The Maze Runner. Once I have gotten over my jet lag and no longer feel ten hours behind I will put up my reviews of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Maze Runner, as well as some pictures of my adventures in Hollywood. Including some photos I took of celebs walking the red carpet at the premiere for This Is Where I leave You starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda.

Right now I shall try to get some sleep and hopefully start to feel like I’m in the right time zone.


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I just reviewed The Mortal Instruments the other day and now I’ve watched another movie aimed at the lucrative young adult market. But will Divergent -also based on a popular book series-be any better?

In a future dystopian Chicago 16-year-old Tris (Shailene Woodley) is preparing to choice one of five fraction of society to join, Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). When she takes the test to determine her fraction, Tris discovers that she is Divergent-meaning she has qualities belonging to more than one fraction. Being Divergent means her life is in danger and she must protect her secret at all cost.

So it’s no Hunger Games but compared to The Mortal Instruments, Divergent is a masterpiece. Woodley is the main reason why this movie works. She is likeable, sympathetic and interesting to watch. With this and The Fault In Our Stars Woodley is surely becoming a name to watch. She has great chemistry with co-star Theo James, as Dauntless instructor Four (stupid name though). The only thing is that Woodley looks about 12 while James looks like he’s pushing 30 which makes some of their scenes a bit uncomfortable. The supporting characters are mostly forgettable or interchangeable, the only stand outs are Zoe Kravitz as Tris’ brutally honest friend Christina and in particular Miles Teller as Peter, a fellow dauntless transfer determined to make Tris’ life hell.

Most of the problems I had with the film is the same as I had with the book. The Dauntless, the fraction Tris chooses (not a spoiler) their definitive quality is meant to be brave but it comes across more as stupid. They throw themselves off of trains, the transfers are made to beat each other up to, all to prove how tough they are. I wouldn’t trust them to be bouncers of a club never mind protect a whole city. The whole notion of fractions and Divergent is a bit silly as well. After all how many people are determined by one quality, people are a mixture of many different strengths and weaknesses.

Although it’s understandable for the age rating, but I was disappointed that some of the violence from the book is missing, particularly Peter’s violent attack on a rival transfer. I was also a bit distracted by the fact that Tris’ brother Caleb was played by Ansel Elgort, Woodley’s co-star and love interest in The Fault In Our Stars. It could have done with being a bit shorter with the running time. But all in all it’s an entertaining movie that will leave you wanting to know what happens next.

Rating 3/5 – a star turn from Woodley makes this new teen franchise worth watching



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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Movie studios have been desperately trying to find a franchise to be the new Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games to fill up our cinemas. Movie bosses were so convinced The Mortal Instruments book series could be a hit that a sequel was announced even before the first movie had been released. But was this a wise move?

Teenager Clary (Lily Collins) thought she was just an average girl until she witnesses a fight that no one else can see. As she discovers a secret world with demons, vampires and werewolves, her mother (Lena Headey) goes missing. With help from the mysterious shadowhunter Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), Clary must find her mother and the truth about her past that’s been hidden from her for so long.

While I enjoyed the book series, this adaptation is a bit of a mess. It tries too hard to be like every other fantasy franchise that it loses a lot of its own identity in the process. I’m not saying Cassandra Clare’s books were the most original novels ever but they did have memorable characters, a fun, sarcastic sense of humour and a deep and detailed mythology. Unfortunately a lot of this is absent from the finished movie. So much has been cut from the books that a lot of the plot and character motivation doesn’t make sense. The film is also almost completely derived of the humour featured in the books and ultimately it makes for dull viewing. There is also no chemistry between Clary and Jace, which is odd considering the actors were dating each other for a while off-screen. Also all the Shadowhunters look way to old to be teenagers, and are also frightfully boring.

However the acting is passable, Lily Collins makes for a likeable enough Clary and Jonathan Rhys Meyers is at least amusing as he hams it up as the villainous Valentine. Also if they do continue to make a sequel, Clary’s friend Simon (Robert Sheehan) has a bigger role to play which should hopefully allow Sheehan to show more of his comedic talents and charisma as he displayed in tv’s Misfits.

Rating 1.5/5 – a disappointing and boring attempt to cash in on the young adult market


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After The Dark

Formerly known as The Philosophers, this psychological thriller asks you to question who would you sacrifice in the event of an apocylpse. But is this movie as exciting as it sounds?

At an international school in Jakarta, 20 senior are preparing to relax on for their last day of school, but their philosophy teacher Mr Zimit (James D’Arcy) has other plans. He challenges his class in a thought exercise where they are facing an atomic apocalypse. With only 10 spaces in a safe bunker they must decide based on their allocated at random jobs who should get the spaces in the bunker and who should be left to die.

After The Dark is a likeable but extremely frustrating movie. It starts off well as we are introduced to the students and they are thrown into this exercise by their teacher. The film imagines what the impending apocalypse would look like and visually the movie is quite striking. As the students debate over who should be allowed in the bunker we then get to see the consequences of their choices as the action plays out. It does make you wonder who would you save in an extreme situation if you only knew their occupation and how valuable they would be in rebuilding society.

The problem is that there is little real life consequences to the action. Or at least not anything interesting like an actual apocalypse. So there is never that much threat because you know  in the end no one’s life is in danger. Still for two-thirds of the film it is still intriguing to see what choices the students will make. But the final third of the movie falls rather flat, when events take such a cheesy and irritating turn that you wish the nuclear apocalypse had wiped out all the characters, especially the central protagonist Petra- whose been given the role of Structual Engineer (Sophie Lowe) and her dull boyfriend  James organic farmer (Rhys Wakefield-much better as the villain in The Purge). Petra is such a boring and annoying character that I wished one of the other supporting characters like Bonnie – the Soldier (Katie Findlay), Georgina-the surgeon (Bonnie Wright), or Jack -PHD in Chemistry (Freddie Stroma) would have been better more likeable central protagonists. It would also have a more depth if Mr Zimit was actually trying to teach them an important lesson. Instead when his true inentions are revealed he just comes across as petty and lame.

Still it if you get bored you can play your own game of which characters you leave behind in the event of an apocalypse.

Rating 2.5/5 – ambitious but a cheesy third act and an irritating protagonist undermines its potential

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Absentia (2011)

Horror film Oculus was a hit for director Mike Flanagan earlier this year, so now I’m looking at one of his first movies, Absentia. But will it give me the chills?

Tricia (Courtney Bell) is finally accepting that her husband, who has been missing for seven years, is dead. Heavily pregnant and looking to move on with her life Courtney is preparing to declare him dead in absentia. However she is seeing strange hallucination of her husband Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown), while her sister Callie (Katie Parker) has seen some strange occurences in a tunnel entrance near their house. Can all these incidents be connected?

In some ways there is a lot to admire with Absentia. The acting, especially of the two sisters is strong, there is an underlying creepiness that is there throughout the movie and for the most part you are generally interested in finding out what happened to Tricia’s husband. But by the end it was all a bit too confusing for me and left me with too many questions. I’m not sure if some parts were meant to be open-ended and ambiguous or whether something was just badly explained. Unfortunately it meant I was left scratching my head trying to work out why certain things happen.

One of the biggest problems with this movie was the background music, if you can call it that. All the way through this movie the music kept popping up. At first the booming sound was creepy and gave tension but the more it was played the more irritating it became and didn’t half leave you with a headache.

Still there was at least one twist which I don’t think many viewers would see coming, unless you’re playing real close attention to things earlier in the film. Flanagan, who also wrote the movie, has shown that he is interested in making movies that are a bit different, and Oculus has proved that he is definitely going  in the right direction.

Rating 2.5/5 – an interesting but not essential horror movie from a director that shows promise


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