Apex Predators (Crawl, 2019)

Crawl_PosterHaley is somewhat estranged from her parents, but when her father is unresponsive to calls from her and her sister in the face of an impending hurricane, she drives into the storm to find him. When she finds him wounded in a crawlspace beneath the home, she discovers they are trapped by alligators. As water fills the crawl space they struggle to find a way out.

Director Alexandre Aja delivers a very tight thriller.  It is exciting and dramatic, rarely slowing down.  The performances from Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper are quite effective.  Their relationship feels real as a father and daughter whose relationship is strained by unspoken issues-but they still love each other.

Really, Crawl is a great B-Movie in the man vs nature vein. It has some good scares and keeps a brisk pace. I definitely recommend this for folks wanting a good thriller.

 

 

On the Run Pt 3 (The Death Cure, 2018)

Maze_Runner_Death_Cure_PosterIn an attempt to save Minho from WCKD, the film opens with a train heist.  We discover that WCKD has been searching for a Cure for the Flare, and this was the purpose of the Maze. In the minds of Ava Paige and her scientists, they are doing noble work, and if they must sacrifice some kids to save more people, it is worth that cost. The heist saves several kids, but not Minho.

When Thomas, Jorge, Brenda, Newt and Frypan decide to go on a secret mission to break Minho out of WCKD headquarters, they find that WCKD is actually at the center of a massive walled city. With help from an old ally they make their way into the city and WCKD headquarters.

The Death Cure got delayed due to a pretty bad accident involving star Dylan O’Brien during filming. But the end result is a pretty exciting film.  It is practically one long prison break type of film, with the heroes trying to save their friend and end WCKD.

Game of Throne’s Aidan Gillen (introduced in the Scorch Trials) makes a good heavy whose motives are not at all altruistic. Walton Goggins has brief but memorable role as a rebel leader dreaming of taking down the city. A couple characters get nice redemptive arcs and a few meet tragic ends.

The action is pretty non-stop and makes for an exciting close to the story (thanks to the producers for not splitting the last book into a two parter).

I enjoyed this series quite a bit, and I think it was well served by having the same director and screenwriters for all three films. Considering that other than the Maze Runner films, Director Wes Ball has only directed a few short films. He shows himself pretty prepared for big action.

On the Run Pt 2 (The Scorch Trials, 2015)

Maze_Runner_Scorch_PosterAfter escaping the Maze, Thomas and his group of Gladers find themselves trying to escape the clutches of WCKD. They rush headlong into the Scorch…the world outside burned by the sun and filled with disease.

They come into contact with a group of freedom fighters who want to help get the uninfected kids to a safe zone and far away from WCKD. But they find that not all the Gladers can be trusted.

The Scorch Trials changes up their monsters.  The Infection (called the Flare) turns people into zombie like creatures that mindlessly attack and destroy anyone in their path.  The film builds a dramatic chase in which Thomas and freedom fighter Brenda try and escape these monsters. There is a great reveal in sewers and an exciting chase through a broken down skyscraper.

I really liked the new characters.  Brenda and Jorge seem sketchy at first, seemingly just out for themselves, but prove themselves trustworthy. Alan Tudyk has a brief but memorable role as a rather scummy informant Jorge deals with.

The film ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, but also a note of hope.  The Scorch Trials is a good second act for the Maze Runner series.  It is exciting and has interesting characters.

On the Run Pt 1 (The Maze Runner, 2014)

Maze_Runner_PosterWelcome to a dystopian future where Katniss is chosen to be part of a competition to the…oh wait…sorry, welcome to a Dystopian future where society has been restructured into five groups based on certain ski-wait, wait…that was something else…

So, in a dystopian future, ravaged by disease and a scorched earth, a young man awakens to find himself in an elevator with no idea how he got there. He soon finds himself in a Lord of the Flies type of situation.  A culture built by young teens.  At the top of the hierarchy are the Runners.

Runners enter the maze each day in an attempt to map it out to find a way to freedom. The young man, Thomas, risks his life one day to help two runners and gets stuck in the maze overnight.  They manage to be the first to ever survive a night in the maze.

Once made a Runner, Thomas pushes for the group to try and find the way out more aggressively.  This results in divisions among the group.

Part of the slew of films that adapted young adult novels to have the next Hunger Games, the Maze Runner exploits the ever popular “Teens in a Terrible Future” plot that fuels an entire subset of young adult books. But while it has strong similarities, it also sets itself apart a bit.  Built in with a larger mystery (why are the kids in the maze? What is WCKD?) the film smartly keeps the viewer in Thomas’ shoes.  He has no memory of why he is there or what he did before and we learn everything as he does.

The effects are pretty good, with an interesting monster design for the Grievers (creatures that hunt in the maze). The Maze design is intriguing and the action sequences are exciting.

The performances are quite good (Will Poulter, who played Eustace in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, continues to impress me).

Is the Maze Runner awesome? No.  But it makes for a fairly entertaining sci-fi actioner.

 

Yo Ho Ho! Let’s Try This Again (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, 2017)

Pirates_of_Caribbean_Dead_Men_PosterDead Men Tell No Tales comes six years on the heels of On Stranger Tides, and returns to the territory of the first three films.  We meet a young boy named Henry.  He takes a boat out to sea, ties a rock to his ankle and leaps into the sea.  He is saved by the flying Dutchman.  This is Henry, the son of Will and Elizabeth Turner. He tells his father he thinks he knows a way to undo the curse his father is under.  However, Will sends Henry back.  Several years later, Henry is on the hunt for Jack Sparrow to help him find the Trident of Poseidon.

In his travels, he meets the Ghost Captain Salazar who wants him to give Jack Sparrow a message for him.  Salazar was cursed while trying to kill Sparrow and is now trapped as a ghost.

Henry does find Sparrow, and an accused witch who is also seeking the Trident.  She is not a witch, but rather a very scientifically inclined young woman named Carina.  It becomes a race against time as they search for the Trident, pursued by Salazar and the British.

As previously noted this film came out six years after On Stranger Tides and this film completely ignores the events of that fourth film.  This is not to say they did not happen, but rather they bear no impact and feature none of the characters specific to that film.  And they return things to the Turner family.

It feels like they anticipated this being a final film as it brings everything to a feeling of finality (in spite of a post credit scene that makes little sense in regards to the way the film ends).  The film is packed with numerous action and escape sequences.  There is a thrilling sequence involving ghost sharks.  And the introduction of Jack Sparrow in this film is memorable and entertaining.

It takes awhile to get going, though the film is thankfully only about two hours, making it a lot more fun and less bloated than some of the previous installments.  As always, the visuals are top notch.  Salazar and his crew are crack and missing limbs and parts of their heads.  There is a neat look where Salazar’s hair flows like he is underwater.

And the cast is quite good.  The returning cast each get moments to shine and Javier Bardem appears to have had a lot of fun in his role as the angry and determined Salazar.

While not quite at the heights of the original film, this is still a fairly fun outing.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑