January Movie Releases

Happy New Year!!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a new year in front of us which means one thing: new movies! Now, January is usually referred to as Hollywood’s “Dump” Month. Meaning they will release movies that they don’t think will perform well or are not confident in. Sometimes that is the case, but sometimes a movie will shine through. January is also filled with expanded releases of movies that came out in December so there is also that to look forward to.

 

You’ll notice that I will put the companies attached and responsible for releasing the film as well. Just trying something new to expand the page a bit and instead of posters, now you’ll be seeing trailers. I’ll try to update whenever new trailers come out.

 

 

5th

Insidious: The Last Key (Universal Pictures & Blumhouse Productions)

In the fourth installment in the Insidious franchise, Parapsychologist Dr. Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) faces her most fearsome and personal haunting yet – in her own family home. The Insidious movies have always been pretty creepy in terms of visuals and the spirits the characters have to face. Shaye’s Elise is undoubtedly the best character in the franchise, so it makes sense that they would bring her back to be the face of the franchise. However, it kind of feels like – at least in the trailers – that they are trying to pass on the franchise to a new character in presumably Spencer Locke’s character.  Of course, we could be wrong, but The Last Key looks like another creepy installment to the franchise that I can’t wait to watch. Insidious: The Last Key also stars Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Caitlin Gerard, Tessa Ferrer, Josh Stewart and Kirk Acevedo.

 

12th

Expanded Release: The Post & Hostiles & Phantom Thread

 

Proud Mary (Sony Pictures & Screen Gems)

Taraji P. Henson plays Mary, a hitwoman working for an organized crime family in Boston. Her life is completely turned around when she meets a young boy whose path she crosses when a professional hit goes awry. I didn’t know anything about this until I saw the trailer, and I was indifferent about it. While I’m always for actors getting out of their comfort zone – Henson isn’t really known action roles – I’m not completely sold on the movie yet. That’s not to say I don’t think it won’t be any good, or I’m not going to watch it, but it’s something I’m not rushing out to watch. Proud Mary also stars Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Billy Brown, Neal McDonough, Xander Berkeley and Danny Glover.

 

The Commuter (Lionsgate, StudioCanal & Ombra Films)

Reuniting director Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson – having done Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night together – The Commuter follows a businessman is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute. The movie does have another added layer in that this could be Neeson’s final action movie – he did back peddle on that a bit, but still. The movie does look pretty good, despite the very spotty CGI of Neeson jumping from one train cart to another in the trailers. Either way, it’s Neeson doing what he does best, so I’m going to be sitting in the theater watching it. The Commuter also stars Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson and Sam Neill.

 

Paddington 2 (Warner Bros., StudioCanal, Heyday Films & Canal+)

Paddington was a surprise and smash hit back in 2014, so a sequel was going to happen. Now, the sequel follows Paddington (voiced once again by Ben Whishaw), who is happily settled with the Brown family and a popular member of the local community. Paddington picks up a series of odd jobs to by the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, only for the gift to be stolen, and the blame put on him. I haven’t seen the first Paddington even though I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. However, just watching the trailers, it seems like a good time. Paddington 2 stars Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Brendon Gleeson and Hugh Grant.

 

19th

Forever My Girl (Roadside Attractions & LD Entertainment)

Based on the novel by Heidi McLaughlin, after being gone for a decade a country star returns home to the love he left behind. Forever My Girl stars Alex Roe and Jessica Rothe.

 

Den of Thieves (STX Films, Diamond Film Productions & G-Base)

Den of Thieves follows an elite unit of the LA County Sheriff’s Department hunting down the state’s most successful bank robbery crew as the crew plan a seemingly impossible heist on the Federal Reserve Bank. I didn’t really think anything about the movie until I saw the trailer, and I have to admit, this jumped to my watch list. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the gritty feel of it, but seeing Gerard Butler chew it up as a questionable lawman is probably worthwhile. Den of Thieves co-stars Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Evan Jones and 50 Cent.

 

12 Strong (Warner Bros., Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Alcon Entertainment, & Black Label Media)

Based on the true story and novel by Doug Stanton, the story of the first Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11; under the leadership of a new captain, the team must work with an Afghan warlord to take down the Taliban. The juxtaposition of the soldiers on horses going up against tanks is something that weirdly drew me in right away. The cast is also pretty damn great too. 12 Strong stars Chris Hemsworth, Michael Pena, Michael Shannon, Elsa Pataky, Trevante Rhodes, Navid Negahban, Rob Riggle and William Fichtner.

 

26th

Maze Runner: The Death Cure (Twentieth Century Fox, Temple Hill Entertainment & Gotham Group)

The final installment of the Maze Runner adaptation, The Death Cure follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) as he embarks on a mission to finally take down WCKD. I was surprised by the first Maze Runner but the sequel left me a bit disappointed. This looks like the big explosive finale that was built up in the last movie, so my only hope would be that they make it pay off. Maze Runner: The Death Cure co-stars Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Ki Hong Lee, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Barry Pepper, Nathalie Emmanuel, Katherine McNamara, Walton Goggins and Patricia Clarkson.

 

What are you looking forward to?

‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails’ Review

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Director: Wes Ball

Writer(s): T.S. Nowlin

Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Alexander Flores, Jacob Lofland, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Barry Pepper, Alan Tudyk, Katherine McNamara, Nathalie Emmanuel, Lili Taylor, and Patricia Clarkson

Synopsis: After having escaped the Maze, the Gladers now face a new set of challenges on the open roads of a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I have to admit, when I went to go watch The Maze Runner, I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it was and how much I liked it. So when the sequel was coming out, I was looking forward to watching it. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails keeps up the action set-pieces, but takes a tumble that it takes a while to come back from. Besides that, it should go without saying, but Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails doesn’t play pick-up, so you should brush up on your history or remind yourself what happened in the last one before watching this.

 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails starts off pretty much where The Maze Runner left off. The Gladers, Thomas (O’Brien), Minho (Hong Lee), Newt (Brodie-Sangster), Frypan (Darden), Winston (Flores), and Teresa (Scodelario) are bought to a new facility by an unnamed group that is lead by Janson (Gillen). Janson promises them they are safe from W.C.K.D – the company that put them in the Maze – and tells them he can get them to a safe place, along with other survivors. However, Thomas doesn’t fully trust Janson and his suspicion is heighten even more by Aris (Lofland), who has had his own suspicion since he arrived at the facility too. Thomas eventually uncovers the truth and leads his friends and Aris out of the facility and into barren landscape that Janson and others call “The Scorch.”

 

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Once out, Thomas, Aris and the Gladers run into different obstacles along the way to their destination, meeting a resistance group. They run into “Cranks,” people that have been infected by a virus that turns them into mindless killing monsters, they run into Jorge (Esposito) and Brenda (Salazar) who have their own group and share a common interest with Thomas and the Gladers in finding the resistance, but for a different reason, and finally the group is being chased by Janson and W.C.K.D.

 

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One of the big things with the sequel is that it takes us out of the Maze, so now director Wes Ball has time to build up the world that we are now a part of and that was written by author the novel’s being adapted, James Dashner. The world outside the Maze is pretty big. There isn’t much signs of life and everything has been taken over by sand. There are zones that seem to have people there to try to live some sort of their old life. Thomas and Brenda eventually end up at one that is run by Alan Tudyk’s character. That particular scene is one of the biggest missteps of the movie though, and actually crashes the film to a stand-still. It took me a while to get back into the movie after the scene because it felt a bit out of place and, dare I say, unnecessary.

 

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The cast is hit-and-miss. Dylan O’Brien’s Thomas takes on more a leader role here and you can clearly see he’s struggling with that, but embraces it because we find out a little more about Thomas’ past. Kaya Scodelario’s Teresa, who was the only female character in the last film, has a big plot point, but it takes a while for it to really flourish. Ki Hong Lee’s Minho has a bigger supporting role here, but gets lost in the shuffle along with returning characters Newt and Frypan – although they have their moments too – because of the new characters. Jacob Lofland’s Aris starts off as a strong character, but once the movie starts moving forward, he gets pushed to the wayside. However, his character could have a bigger role in the final installment along with other characters that I’ll get to in a second.

 

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Leading the charge for new characters is definitely Giancarlo Esposito’s Jorge and Rosa Salazar’s Brenda. They bring some freshness into the film and they will do whatever they have to survive, and are a welcomed addition to the series. Aidan Gillen’s Janson does a serviceable job of playing a deceitful character as only he can. Lili Taylor and Barry Pepper pop in as Mary and Vince, leaders of the resistance group, but their character aren’t introduced until the last act of the film, so their characters don’t feel as big as they should be or intended to be. Nathalie Emmanuel and Katherine McNamara also appear as resistance fighters Harriet and Sonya, but like Aris, their characters could have bigger roles in the sequel. Finally Patricia Clarkson has a “bigger” role here than she did in the first film.

 

Another problem that I had with The Scorch Trails is like the first film, it suffers a bit from leaving things a bit too open for a sequel. It’s not as bad as the first film, but it is clearly there and bothered me just a tad. Thankfully, The Scorch Trails is a bigger and ambitious film that has great moments of action and drama scattered throughout and avoids most clichés and tropes of the genre (well, for the most part).

 

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All in all, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails is more ambitious, fun, and slightly better than the first film, but still suffers from being the middle film in a trilogy (they thankfully won’t be splitting the third book into two movies) and leaves more things open than it should.

 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails

3.5 out of 5

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‘The Maze Runner’ Review

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Dir: Wes Ball

Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario and Patricia Clarkson

Synopsis: Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

 

 

Based on the popular Young Adult novel of the same name by James Dashner, The Maze Runner is another entry into the YA dystopian novel adaptation movies. I haven’t read the book, although I did start with the intention of finishing before the movie came out but that didn’t happen. So this review will be based on the movie alone, which I thought wasn’t going to be good. To my surprise, The Maze Runner was rather enjoyable despite falling – or following depending on how you view it – into some of the same tropes as other YA adaptations.

 

Thomas (O’Brien) wakes up in an elevator with no memory of how he got there, his life, or even his name. The elevator stops and soon he’s surrounded by other young men who are all looking at him. He finds out that the place he’s in is called “The Glade,” a large environment filled with trees, forest, a lake, and other small things that allows everyone to live off the land. What Thomas soon realizes is that the Glade is surrounded by a gigantic concrete maze that is filled with secrets, one that could lead to a way out, and the dangerous Grievers.

 

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When Thomas enters the Glade, he learns that everyone has been there for three years. He immediately gets close to the chosen leader of the “Gladers” in Alby (Ameen), Newt (Brodie-Sangster), and the youngest member of the group Chuck (Cooper). Thomas is curious about everything, which makes some of the Gladers, more specifically Gally (Poulter), a little bit antagonistic toward Thomas because Gally wants to stick to the rules that have kept them alive for so long.

 

One of the things the movie suffers from is “information dumping.” Since Thomas acts as our surrogate, he’s told a lot of information by the characters about his new surroundings. Mostly by starting with “We call them…” it’s not really annoying, and it stops once movie gets to the midway point, but it does give us some vital information. One example is “Runners” which Minho (Lee) is the leader of. Runners – obviously – run the maze and try to figure out a way out.

 

Things go out of whack when the first girl, Teresa (Scodelario), comes to the Glade and automatically points out Thomas. This makes everyone, especially Gally, start to second guess why Thomas and even Teresa are there. It also doesn’t help that once Teresa shows up and Thomas goes into the maze with Minho and finally discovers something that could lead them out, Grievers start to attack.

 

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The cast here is highlighted by Ameen, Brodie-Sangster, Lee and Poulter. Their supporting roles really give you a sense of brotherhood and make you believe they really have been there for three years trying to get out of their prison. O’Brien does okay as Thomas. For being the lead he doesn’t really bring a lot of charisma or leadership to the role. I understand that Thomas is still trying to figure out who he is and what’s happening but maybe O’Brien wasn’t the best choice for the role (of course says the guy who is not an actor), luckily he has a standout scene near the end. The other odd end is Kaya Scodelario, who beside Patricia Clarkson in a cameo appearance, is the only female in the cast. Scodelario, who puts on a questionable accent, doesn’t really do much besides question why she’s in Glade and what her connection to Thomas is (which even in the end is a bit iffy).

 

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One of the best things is how director Wes Ball builds the world. Which really that much of a surprise considering his amazing looking and well done short film called Ruin (which I highly recommend watching http://youtu.be/doteMqP6eSc). The design of the maze looks somewhat low-tech and but also has a futuristic look and feel to it, but then again, all the Gladers have to fight and defend themselves with is knifes and wooden spears.

 

The best part is the maze. Unfortunately for a movie called The Maze Runner there sure isn’t a lot of maze running. However, when they are in the maze it’s highly engaging and actually thrilling. Ball does have a great sense of knowing what to show and how fast everything should move and more importantly when to stop or slow down.

 

All in all, The Maze Runner isn’t perfect but it is highly enjoyable and arguably the better of the dystopian YA movies out there so far. It does have a “Lord of the Flies” feel to it but Wes Ball manages to bring some cool aspects and great action sequences with a young cast that is still growing. The ending feels a bit wonky and serves as a set up for future sequels (which has already been announced) and really takes the steam out of everything that they put together.

 

The Maze Runner

4 out of 5