Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Disney Goes Big With Big Hero 6

Disney delights us again with another animated spectacular, this time with a little–known Marvel tale about a boy and his robot.

ON CONTINUITY 

ARTH VADER (AV): Based on the the short-run Marvel Comic of the same name, Big Hero 6 (BH6) is about a haphazard collection of reluctant, would-be heroes and their quest to do right with skills and powers they newly acquire. Once wrung through the Disney filter of family-centric storytelling, BH6 quickly detracts from it’s original source material but does in such a way as to give the film a unique charm all it’s own. Though stacked with Marvel talent on the consultant and writing side (Joe Quesada & Jeff Loeb we’re looking at you guys) the film feels uniquely Disney and truth be told, there is no Marvel co-branding in the identity and marketing of this movie. An interesting move wouldn’t you say, Pontificator? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Disney owns Marvel Vader, and they want us to know it. Big Hero 6 is a fun and arguably better departure from the source material. The film differs from both comic iterations with many character details, but the truth is that a straight comic adaption would have been just as lost and ignored as the comic itself. The biggest change, Beymax, is what actually made the film a hit from the miss it was as a comic 

CASTING, DIRECTION & ACTING

AV: With some decent voice characterization work from some A-List talent, BH6 is a seamless family-friendly story that does not insult the intellect of the adult-minded viewers. The story-centric camera-work of directors Don Hall and Chris Williams do a masterful job of pacing the audience through a new CGI-powered take on the Hero’s journey. The acting was bit campy but we gotta remember it’s a kid’s flick / family film–and ultimately I’m alright with it. V/O performances from Damon (The Other Guys) Wayans Jr., Comedian TJ Miller and Ryan (Hiro) Potter were all great but it was the flat out brilliant voice work of Scott (We’re The Millers) Adsit that was the runaway hit. Portraying the sensible, sublime and low-key robo-oaf Baymax. He was certainly my fav, P-Man. 

TP: The “acting” is really the brainchild of the animators in bringing these characters to life…but more about that in the next section. The actors voicing the characters were excellent choices, despite the biggest name in the cast being James Cromwell (Star Trek: First Contact). Other recognizable names for me were Daniel Henney (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and Jamie Chung (Sin City: A Dame to Kill for) and I had absolutely no complaints with the delivery of their talent. The pace of the film was certainly engaging and displayed everything at the right moment for a solid film. 

SPECIAL EFFECTS 

AV: The visual effects are quite familiar so I won’t spend much time commenting there. The art direction however (the visual style of the film) is refreshingly original and bundled together with the right amount of style, attention to detail, and originality. I thought the film did an expert job of depicting different ethnicities, genders and personalities. I didn’t feel the animation was particularly landmark but it was a good looking product. 

TP: After BH6 in regular format, I wish I had taken the initiative to see it in 3D.The special effects were great and exactly in line with what I was expecting from a Disney film. Animation is a serious medium and few do it as well as Disney does.


TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

AV: BH6 fires (and hits!) on all cylinders for me. It taps directly into the current insatiable hunger Hollywood and the movie-going public seem to have presently for super hero. Its fun enough for the uninitiated, dopey enough for little kids and delightful even to the hardcore Marvel/DC/Comic industry fan base. The film hit on all the right beats at all the right times; a sense of loss (first w/parents, then w/the brother), the mysterious villain, the bond that develops among warriors, the ‘rainbow coalition’ of characters who band together to overcome an adversary too intense for any one of them to overcome. Modern humor blended with an almost sickening balance ethnicity, BH6 delivers on every front. What did you think,old friend? 

TP: For a children’s film, this movie really takes a profound look at the human condition. My son (he’s 19), after seeing the film, asked me if I thought the villain was evil. It’s an interesting query as I didn’t see the villain as truly evil as I did broken by grief and anger. These emotions don’t prompt evil in a sense of aspirations of world domination, but a specific  and simplistic goal of revenge. Is revenge evil…or is it extremely human? If we label revenge evil, then how do we also label the motivations for it…namely sadness and anger? I think “evil” is Lex Luthor deriving pleasure from causing the deaths of millions of people, but losing some perspective while dealing with grief is something else entirely different. Even the hero of the film showed the same humanity as the “villain” whereas true evil to me, is a lack of humanity. I’d be very interested in how the young children in the theater with me viewed all this. 

ON SEQUELS

AV: While the Disney movie-deployment model tends not to favor direct sequels, I can see either a direct-to-DVD release or even possibly a weekly-installment cartoons series. I did leave the theater with a favorable take on wanting to see more BH6 in the future. And if the post-credit cut scene is any indication, there is loads more storytelling that can come from this world. 

TP: Of course they should go to this well again and get another bucket of success. The challenge will be to have a story as engaging and connective as the first since the very foundation of the team was the driving force behind the film’s relevance. 


RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates Big Hero 6: In case it’s not clear at this point, I really enjoyed this movie. Doing what it does best, Disney has carefully crafted another winner that is a clear modern story that is richly diverse in culture and character that makes a strong case for making more films with this kind of formula. Colorful, fun and insightfully glib, Big Hero 6 is a solid film for everyone. So with a handful of Nano-bots, I toss nine (9) Busted Blocks right through the portal and watch for more films like this in the future.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Big Hero 6: With great animation, effects, and acting, this film was a lot of fun to watch and was extremely entertaining. Our humanity was captured, not only in the animated acting, but also displayed in the motivations of both the hero and the villain.  Disney has taken an irrelevant team, and given them new life, busting eight (8) super big blocks.


Big Hero 6: 8.5 / 10 Busted Blocks



Monday, December 8, 2014

Interstellar is (somewhat) stellar

With no shortage of quirky speed bumps, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar takes mankind (and audiences) on a trip that is literally out of this world.

ON CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): The big day arrives and interstellar opens to a $50 million (domestic) weekend. Christopher (Dark Knight) Nolan delivers an original but all-too-familiar plot of an Earth dying out and withering natural planetary resources, Interstellar offers a new twist on an old science fiction story, would you agree Pontificator? 
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Interstellar is a human driven story about extraordinary circumstances Vader. It grounds us with situations we can understand and relate to…like family, but also bombards us with things we can’t quite wrap our heads around…like time paradoxes. That said, the continuity of the film is great, until you try to figure out the “how” of it all…then you’re just lost cause the film never finds this either. 


CASTING, DIRECTION AND ACTING

AV: With an oscar-worthy cast flitting across the screen like so many… (ahem) stars, I had higher hopes for this film’s story. The quality of the screenplay is middle-of-the-road, with enough holes in the plot to foment and entire year’s worth of swiss cheese. The cast is first rate (I will leave the casting call inhale very capable hands of my co-blogger) but the acting was–at best–dialed. The forced ‘your-line-is-read-here’ dialogue is mostly flat and predictable. The story pacing is good and Nolan’s now-famous cinematography does not disappoint. P-Man, tell us more about this (Inter)stellar cast. 


TP: The casting of this film was excellent as was the acting. There was a tremendous amount of talent in this film (Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, even a surprise appearance of Matt Damon) but don’t fool yourself for a moment into thinking this film wasn’t carried by Matthew McConaughey. He absolutely set the tone of the film and the directing gave it a pace that complimented his style and allowed everyone else to present their talent.

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: If you’re going to journey to the stars, your movie has got to look good. This movie, looks good. What I struggled with was the old Star Wars-esque vision of worlds defined by one geographic feature (Jungle planets, Ice planets, etc,) At first, the explores touchdown on a gravity-dense world defined by 1000-foot tides that sweep across the planet. While that science is horribly flawed, the visual effect is astounding. But all this planet stuff pales next to this film’s biggest visual effect – the robots! Hot damn, if I could have a robot like CASE or TARS I dare say my life would be pretty darn sweet! Well-written and even better imagined, Nolan’s vision of super-funny, supper-enabled ‘bots is a definite film highlight. 

TP: Visually stunning is the only way to describe the effects of this film. From the scenes on a slowly dying Earth to the awesome sequences of deep space, seeing this film in IMAX was the only way to see it. We often talk about how the best CGI is the kind you never think about while watching it. Well, this film delivers that type of quality as everything looks very real giving you a sense of being wherever the film takes you.

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

AV: There is a lot not right with Interstellar. Too many plot holes, time gaps, implausible science and downright confusing character motivations. For one, I struggle with trying to determine some hard dot ignore points. First, Why would you send so many humans out when you had such sophisticated robots to do the hard stuff better and faster? How did Cooper to stumble across a secret NASA facility just down the road? Why was he then the single most important person for the mission? Do you mean to tell me that after spending nearly 80 (Earth) years struggling to get back in touch with each other that 98-year-old Murph and 124 year-old Coop spend just 3 minutes together before he decides to shoot off into space to find a stranded Anne Hathaway? 

Too many things that don’t come together (which we can expect in Nolan films, remember: Inception, Dark Knight Rises) but there does come a point when I can no longer gorge myself on a steady diet of unexplainable plot points and non-sensical science. I did truly enjoy the film but this one goes onto the shelf for me. Ponty? 

TP: Great points Vader! This was a long film topping out at almost three hours and given that it wasn’t constant action, it’s a testament to the quality of the script an the actors that it was so engrossing that it never felt like a three hour film. The film kept the pressure on as it constantly flowed with an “all is lost” feel even though McConaughey was the constant beacon of hope. The science of the film could have been much heavier than it was and I was glad when they decided to simplify some of it for the audience by simply telling us things like “every hour there is seven years here.” This made for some hefty heart dropping moments when they showed just how the effects of time relativity really works. The only gripe I had was that I really did not need to be treated to another time paradox plot. In the end you are left to question the “how” of it all and the only answer given leads you in a never-ending loop of impossible.

ON SEQUELS

AV: Umm, no. This is a stand-alone film. One that will do particularly well at the box office but I don’t ever need to relive any part of this film or story again. Good film, one and done.


TP: A great film that could certainly stand alone…I can certainly see how a sequel could be made, given the unanswered (or should I say unsatisfactorily answer) of how it all came about and the leaving off of where it all goes from here. That said, given one of the main points of the film was to save humanity, I’d say accomplishing that closes the door on a sequel.

RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates Interstellar: Interstellar is truly an epic, big budget Hollywood juggernaut. Whats more, it will likely be on the lips of the Hollywood in-crowd when oscar season rolls around (Though I am doubtful of its chances). The film is fun, big and kinda dumb (as C Nolan films go). Still, there is solid entertainment and the very 2001: A Space Odessy-like ending is a bit tough to swallow. Still, it is a solid event (enhanced by IMAX) and one that entertains, in spite of its sited flaws. I will venture out into the stars with seven (7) Busted Blocks and move on to the next great sci-fi epic. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Interstellar: A fine film filled with heavy drama and great acting, then accented with killer special effects, there isn’t too that can be said about it that isn’t positive. It takes you on a journey not only into space, but into our own humanity as well…  and delivers eight (8) busted blocks just in time to save us all.  

Interstellar: 7.5 / 10 Busted Blocks

Friday, December 5, 2014

Birdman soars high

Arguably the first true ‘film’ of the super hero genre, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman looks at the triumph, tragedy and awkward redemption of a man who would be hero. 

ON CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): In today’s world, the term hero seems to take many meanings. Hollywood continues to look for new angles to our beloved super-hero genre. In Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtues of Ignorance) [full title], Riggan, a has-been actor who once played an iconic superhero onscreen works to overcome his own inner voices fueled by an emotionally unstable ego while side-stepping dysfunctional family turmoil as he angles to make a big theatrical comeback with a critically acclaimed Broadway play in hopes to reclaim the past fame and notoriety he sorely misses. The film boasts an original screenplay that spins a super-charged original screenplay. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Birdman is an original and offbeat story of a superhero actor trying to gain relevance by making it on Broadway. His journey to discover his place in the world of acting, after being a celebrity, is dogged by his troubled relationship with his daughter, rocky interactions with the other actors, and resistance to the ever present voice within himself screaming to be a hero once again… for real (or not).

CASTING, DIRECTING & ACTING 

AV: Pontificator, I can’t think of a better actor to portray the trails of a used-to-be super hero film great than Michael (“I’m Batman”) Keaton. The beauty of this film is the plethora of acting talent that reads like a who’s who of superhero film acting talent. Talent like, Naomi (King Kong) Watts, Emma (Mary Jane) Watson, and of course Ed (Hulk) Norton. Damian (Unbreakable) young with Zack (Hangover) Galafinakis. The director’s vision was potent, so unique so incredible, it is I would argue, the most important storytelling component of Birdman, wouldn’t you say Pontificator? 



TP: The tone of this film being one long gigantic take was refreshing and kept the story rolling along at a steady pace Vader. The acting was tremendous with stellar performances by the lead Michael Keaton, and supporting cast, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis and Emma Stone. Actors playing actors is always fun (especially when it’s Ed Norton playing the kind of actor he is known for being like in real life), but the delusion of Keaton (or not) is superb… as is the dysfunction of Stone (while recovering from, but getting, stoned).

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: The real ‘hero’ of Birdman is no actor though, Ponty. It is–by far–the visual direction and cinematography of the film. As the entire film presents itself as one continuous moving shot, I can honestly say I have not seen a movie like this before. The camera work is so flawless, there were times I actually caught myself looking for scene transitions where the editor’s could make cuts form one shot to the next. This is some the most inspired filmmaking I’ve ever witnessed. While this movie came in–reportedly–at a modest $22 million budget, it feels like it cost so much more. The end sequence features some stunning CGI and flying effects that are so seamlessly integrated, the viewer is immersed without knowing it. A real triumph of modern moviemaking, would you agree P-Man? 

TP: I’ll tell you Vader, this wasn’t a big budget special effects summer blockbuster film…but the little bit of effects it did have were absolutely awesome! The brief scene of Birdman and the giant bird destroying the city easily stands with other summer film effects and although the story was great with superb acting, I could’t help wishing there were more Birdman scenes in the film…purely from an effects point of view.


TAKING A DEEPER LOOK

AV: It was a stroke of genius to have Michael Keaton in the starring role of Birdman. For the obvious reasons of his status in Batman and Beetlejuice, but also because he is an amazing actor. His comedy typecasting and family-movie roles from the 1990’s may have shrouded his real acting chops from the majority of movie-goers but Keaton’s portrayal of the lost Riggan cuts to the core of Keaton’s iconic standing. In truth, this movie–if we’re lucky–is the beginning of a whole new take on where movies take audiences in the super-hero arena. 

***SPOILER ALERT***

TP: From the very beginning this film has you questioning what is real and what is not. Riggan (Keaton) starts the film off levitating in is dressing room and continues with small and private displays of telekinetic power. This was fantastic.… except if you really pay attention, there are a plethora of clues to suggest he really doesn’t have any power at all, except the power to see and experience things and events that are not there or going on. This makes the story that much more interesting as Riggan’s struggle for relevance and self actuation through the desire to put on a broadway play, is really a struggle with his ego and coming to terms with how he has been defined by Birdman. The demise of Riggan has led to many theories, specifically at what point did he actually pass (assuming you are of the opinion that he did, and really didn’t suddenly gain real powers) and I have yet to settle on what exactly I believe… giving this film even more value as it continues to tantalize long after the screen goes dark.

ON SEQUELS

AV: To put it bluntly, this movie would be destroyed by a sequel though I for one do hope it is the beginning of a deeper exploration of the super-hero genre as a serious, viable realm of more serious super storytelling. Kick Ass, Watchmen and Sin City have all been (solidly successful) franchises that go there–with an honorable mention to Chronicle. We can have stories of super powered people that aren’t simply re-visited comic book content but tales that offer fresh new perspective on the modern vision of the hero’s journey. 

TP: I can’t see a sequel to this film… simply because the film doesn’t really leave any room to continue the story, just loads of room to ponder what was already given.

RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates Birdman: A surprisingly charming film with a spot-on cast that would make any geek proud, Birdman will delight every movie goer. With some of the best original cinematography I’ve seen since District 9, this movie is an instant favorite of yours truly as it shares a very human perspective on the effects of stardom, fame, the fallibility of man and the road to redemption, no matter how awkward or unorthodox that everyone of us can relate to. Gripping, gritty and unpretentious, Birdman with delight anyone with half a brain and full love of experiencing the human condition. For that, Birdman hatches a solid nine (9) Busted Blocks and I cross my fingers at the hopes of more films like this in the near future.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Birdman: A great film with superb acting and plenty of material to have you discussing it into the wee hours of the night, this film is profound as it is entertaining and delivers seven (7) feathery delusional blocks to take us soaring.

Birdman: 8 / 10 Busted Blocks

Thursday, November 13, 2014

This Dracula Doesn’t Suck

The gritty vampire re-boot drives audiences batty in the surprisingly entertaining Dracula Untold. 

ON CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): For a character that bears no introduction, the re-imagined origin of the infamous Vlad the Impaler–more commonly known as Count Dracula–menaces his enemies and delights us, somehow, in this latest vamp en fuego film. All the story elements are in place to make for what could have been an epic origin tale. Keeping line with Dracula's mythos, the film takes place in Transylvania and spins the tale of a desperate Vlad eager to save his people from invading Turks while holed up in Castle Dracula. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): The story of Dracula has probably been one of the most told stories on the silver screen. We have certainly had our fair share of vampire films in recent years. For me it was refreshing to have this “untold” tale told. The attempt to incorporate history was well intentioned, if not at all accurate. With a little more effort and attention to historic detail, it would have been much more enjoyable, at least for me.

CASTING, DIRECTING & ACTING

AV: Director Gary Shore pulls no punches in this latest vampire epic with a story of ‘super-Drac’. Luke Evans plays  Transylvania’s original pain in the neck as an insanely handsome and brooding Vlad. To me, Ponty, there are only a couple of roles that even matter in this film. Other than Vlad, is the role of The Master Vampire played by Charles “Lord Tyrell” Dance. He is over-the-top ominous, creepy, frightening and oddly compelling as ‘Vampire Zero’. The only other role that has any (AHEM) tooth, is the role of the twisted Turk overlord, Mehmed, played by Dominic “Howard Stark” Cooper. While hardly in a league to stop the Prince of the Undead, Cooper’s portrayal is cardboard clone but that seems somehow strangely fitting. Thought’s P–Man? 

TP: The performance of Luke Evans carries this film Vader. He brings Vlad the Impaler to life in a way that diverges from what I expected. As the antagonist, Dominic Cooper had very little to do and the script did not allow much breathing room to expand his character. In fact, at just 90 minutes, there wasn’t too much that could be done except to focus on the progression of Dracula. The film moved along steadily and never really gave me time to ponder all the plot holes while it fed me candy.

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: Oh boy, were there ever visual effects in this movie, Pontificator! There were so many bats in this film, I thought the title character was Bruce Wayne (insert crickets here). Seriously, are there this many bats on Earth? Vlad is able to summon an obscene number of flying rodents in to–literally–crush his enemies. We aren’t talking a few hundred thousand here, folks, its millions and millions of the little flying rats. Drac not only turns into one himself, but apparently he can summon a seemingly endless number of them and the film does a beautiful job of portraying this onscreen. Other notable effects are the over-the-top but enjoyable combat scenes and effects in the cave are disturbingly authentic. Ponts? 

TP: IMAX is the preferred medium for…everything, and this film was visually pleasing. There was no new ground broken for special effects, but there were also no mistakes with them. The scenes with the sunlight searing vampire flesh looked genuine, the landscapes were enthralling, and the costuming was done well… if not entirely accurate historically.

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

AV: As the first installment of the Dracula trilogy and the vanguard (film) of Universal Studio’s new ‘monster cinematic universe’ (MCU), you can read more on that here , Dracula Untold shows promise in the visual effects department but lacks in quality storytelling. As part of this new universe of monsters, Dracula delivers a good-looking, empty-headed film devoid of character connectivity but still, strangely enough, holds promise for future installments. Many of the characters in this film are mis-cast or phone-in their often dopey, poorly-delivered or dodgy performances. Hopefully this less-than-spectacular opening salvo for this new MCU will help universal build on its new ‘universe’ the right way; with quality screenplays, a focus on meaningful writing and proper casting. 

TP: This film wasn’t the best film ever made, but it also was not the worst. I enjoyed it very much, but not because of the special effects and gore (or should I say lack of gore as it could have been much bloodier). What intrigued me most about the film was the story of Dracula being the “hero.” I have never seen him told in such a way, so the title of the film turned out to be very accurate to what it delivered. The characterization of Dracula as a family man willing to sacrifice his humanity to protect his family and people made him someone worth watching and made me actually care about his circumstances. This film turned a monster into a hero…and if that isn’t a story that has never been told before about Dracula, I don’t know what is.

ON SEQUELS

AV: This one’s in the bag already, oh Pontificatorious one. Universal is all-in with a three-Dracula film trilogy and that is just the start. With a whole phalanx of movies streaming at us filled with werewolves, mummies, Frankenstein’s Monster(s?) and the like, we will soon see theaters filled with more monsters than we can shake a pitchfork at. Lets hope for Universal’s sake, those theaters won’t be empty. 

TP: Usually the box office bottom line determines the future fate sequels, but it seems Universal is “all in” and the film certainly set itself up to continue the story… and the next chapter will most assuredly be very different than the first. 

RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates Dracula Untold: From its dopey name to the downright non-sensical story, Dracula Untold is bleeding opportunities (see what I did there?) trying to tell a good story with a lot of holes. If this new ‘universe’ is to move forward in the right direction, Universal has to do better. With sparks of promise in the performances of the two primary Vamps and strong visual effects, this Dracula reboot (now that its been told and stuff) has potential but still has a long, long way to go. Still, as entertaining as it is ridiculous, I grab my garlic and my holy cross and jam wooden stakes into the hearts of 6 busted blocks in the hopes that Dracula Untold will rise again, better than ever. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Dracula Untold: Love, sacrifice, revenge and hope are what carried this film for me. Yes, I loved the action. Yes I loved the effects. What got me most was the underlying theme of all the entirety of the film happening for a love so strong, it trumped the thirst for blood. With a story truly “untold” this film drained seven (7) busted and bloody blocks. 


Dracula Untold: 6.5 Busted Blocks


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Scatterbrained Maze Runner Entertains

The unexpectedly intelligent Maze Runner leaves audiences with more questions than answers.

CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): Holding surprisingly true to the book of the same name by James Dasher, the young-adult post apocalyptic tale is the opening salvo of a trilogy. My kids all read the book series so I was odd-man out at the theater but given their–often audible–reactions, it appears the film tracked fairly well with its audience. Was that your experience, Pontificator? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): The Maze Runner, like most books made into films, did not make the transition without some changes Vader. I’ll let avid readers of the books (your Sithling children) decide if they were minor to major ones (Ben being a runner, the look of the Grievers, no telepathy) but in the end, the film was not something totally unrecognizable from the book. It remains to be seen if future installments align more or diverge more, from the books they will be derived from.

CASTING, DIRECTING and ACTING

AV: With an entire squadron of fresh-faced up and comers, Maze Runner was rife with genuine, new pasty-faced, wide-eyed young Hollywood hopefuls. Director Wes “God I love Star Trek” Ball shared a cinematographic vision that is oddly gripping and carries the viewer through a very swiss-cheese storyline. Despite the many issues this film has–and believe me, there are many–the entertainment value is high. The story-pacing does well to move the shoddy screenplay forward. The acting is nothing to write home about, but their is magic here, and the cast feels engaged.

TP: Bring out your young up and coming actors, we have a teen movie to film! This is a great film to get some actors started as evidenced by there being no really big names in the film. Dylan O’Brien leads with help from Aml Ameen and Ki Hong Lee. All deliver good performances and the film flows well enough from the directing. My only issue was with the story, but I’ll get into that a little later.

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: I was expecting heavy-handed visual effects in Maze Runner, and by jove, P-Man, we got ‘em! The spider-like guardians (keepers) of the maze, imagined as some odd hybrid of monster and machine, was a well-handled visual effect. Watching the maze, shift and transform was an awesome spectacle. While not a particularly stunning visual effects film, the notable effects that were shown were quite well-handled.

TP: There were no breakthroughs in technology or new ground broken visually, but there were also no glaring mistakes (as far as I could see). The effects were good, heck, even great in those scenes where the landscape was the special effect. The film drew me in with a sense of being there, which helped given my grievances with the actual plot. 

TAKING A DEEPER LOOK

AV: This movie doesn’t require a lot of brain power to absorb. What’s nice is the feeling that there is a bigger plan in place. Why are these kids here? Why are there no girls (until the very first shows up near the end)? Why go through all the trouble to look these young boys and men away and have them fight for their lives and slog it out for their salvation against the elements, weird wild animals, and each other? Leaving me with more questions than answers is fine. My issues with this film are the inconsistent acting quality, even from individual actors and the goofy premise to the story. However, the film’s end offers a nice twist (again, didn’t read the book so the end was a surprise). The end of film does leave audiences in a kind of WTH moment and also leaves an interesting door open for a sequel (or sequels). P-Tiff?

TP: I was very excited about this film seeing the previews, not so much after seeing the film O’Dark One. I just don’t get it. A solar event has killed half the population of the planet and ravaged the surface. A virus had popped up soon after killing even more. To combat the virus, teenagers are put into a plush, green, thriving arena to be tested to engineer a cure for the virus? What? Um…why not just take them to a lab and test them biochemically? Obviously they have advanced technology to engineer the Grievers, a mesh of biology and technology. How is dumping these children into a maze, exposing them to dangerous conditions, even killing some of them, advancing the cure for the virus? Visually, the film was fun…intellectually, it made no sense. 

SEQUELS

AV: Its always odd to me when films come out with the intention of being the first of a trilogy, rather than being a solid film all its own. Maze Runner has been out for nigh on 5 weeks as of this blog post and has raked in just shy of $95 million. With a (reported) production budget of $34 million, that makes this a marginally profitable film with promise for a sequel. The real question to ask is, ‘would you see another installment of this film?” Yes, Ponty, yes I would.


TP: There are two more books in the trilogy, so I expect that as long as box office bottom line is viable (and its “just” according to the numbers), we will see those books on the silver screen. Hopefully the story improves.

RATE IT!


ARTH VADER Rates The Maze Runner: If you find yourself in need of overly trite teenage melodrama filled with man-boy actors trying to make sense of a non-sensical world–and let’s face it, who isn’t–then Maze Runner is for you. I can’t lie, I did enjoy this movie. Even with a cumbersome plot and lofty screenplay you can still have a good time. Engaging, if not brainless, Maze Runner earns six (6) busted, if not puzzling blocks.

THE PONTIFICATOR Rates The Maze Runner: The film was fun to watch visually, but the constant questions nagging me and the less-than-fulfilling answers that followed tainted this film for me. The story just doesn’t make sense and that says a lot for someone like me that often suspends logic and belief for the sake of entertainment. Leaving the maze was just the beginning, and this film only found six (6) busted blocks on the way to the exit.

Maze Runner:  6 / 10 Busted Blocks