By Shane Sellar
The Maze Runner
The key to running a maze without getting lost is to leave a trail of Gatorade behind.
However, sports drinks are hard to come by in this sci-fi movie.
Waking in an agrestic setting surrounded by teenage boys, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) struggles to remember who he is.
Initially bullied by the leader’s (Aml Ameen) muscle (Will Poulter), Thomas aligns himself with Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), second in command, and starts piecing things together.
He also begins training as a runner in hopes of entering the monolithic maze in which Thomas believes their freedom lies.
But the first female (Kaya Scodelario) introduced into their boys club could doom them all.
Conceptually dark, as well as thematically, this adaptation of the popular dystopian YA novel offers up an intriguing and perplexing premise, supplemented by strong talent and creature design.
Incidentally, at the heart of every all-male society is a mountain of unwashed underwear.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The best thing about turtles is that they leave eggs in the sand for you to cook up on the beach after surfing.
Unfortunately the ova in this action movie were deposited in the sewer.
Raised underground by a mutated rat (Tony Shalhoub) with ninjutsu training, four equally mutated turtles (Johnny Knoxville, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Noel Fisher) grow up to protect New York City from the Foot Clan, and its leader: The Shredder.
Meanwhile, newshound April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and her cameraman (Will Arnett) are keen on exposing the vigilantes.
But doing so uncovers a forgotten link between her, her father’s secret mutagen, and her new subterranean friends.
Marred by poor character designs, terrible vocal talent and unwarranted deviations from the mythos, this live-action/computer-animated version of the underground comic fails to connect with new or even established fans.
Incidentally, when a disgraced ninja-turtle commits seppuku, it means turtle soup for dinner.
The Skeleton Twins
The upside to having a sibling is that you don’t have to wear your parent’s hand-me-downs.
However, the siblings in this drama are now adults who can buy their own clothes.
Moments before attempting suicide, Maggie (Kristen Wiig) is alerted to her brother Milo’s (Bill Hader) suicide attempt.
Reunited after a decade, she invites him to stay with her and her husband (Luke Wilson) while he recovers.
On the mend, Milo confronts an old flame (Ty Burrell) that took advantage of him as a teen.
Meanwhile, Maggie continues to sleep with strangers as a means of coping with her father’s death when her and Milo were kids.
A dysfunctional family drama with a serious sarcastic streak, The Skeleton Twins utilizes the comedic talents of both leads to bring life to these despondent characters.
However, if you’re both going to kill yourselves, why not make it a murder/suicide?
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guarding the galaxy means having to protect all of the universe’s star constellations – even the lame ones like The Poop Deck.
However, the galactic protectors in this sci-fi movie are too busy fleeing foes to stargaze.
An orphaned earthling (Chris Pratt) spirited away by aliens grows up to lead a band of rogues (Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel) on a quest to prevent a zealot (Lee Pace) from destroying a populated planet.
Elsewhere, Thanos (Josh Brolin) continues to collect the omnipotent infinity gems for his nefarious endgame.
Expanding the Marvel Universe with oddball but endearing characters, eye-popping action and heartwarming antics, this adaptation of one of Marvel’s lesser-known books is an amazing cinematic achievement.
Funnier than any modern comedy, this space opera utilizes the laughs to cover up its darker themes of loss, betrayal and extremism.
However, if aliens existed they would’ve enslaved us by now.
Dolphin Tale 2
Now what’s the point of recouping an injured dolphin if it’s just going to end up in a can of tuna?
Unfortunately, the aquatic rehab centre in this drama doesn’t see it that way.
When the USDA threatens to remove the tailless Winter from the Clearwater Aquarium if she isn’t paired with another dolphin in 30 days, Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) and Dr. Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.) attempt to acclimate a new dolphin into Winter’s tank.
But when Winter’s stump startles the newbie, the team must cast a prosthetic tail in order to retain her.
Inspired by the clinic that treated the real Winter, this sequel is essentially a retelling of the first with tacked on secondary stories involving assorted injured animals.
While Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman reprise their roles, the teens from the first are replaced with bad look-alikes.
What’s more, who knew dolphins were so shallow?
When the Game Stands Tall
Christian football teams tend to rely to heavily on Hail Mary passes to win.
Fortunately, the coach in this drama knows some other plays.
The 151-game winning streak of the De La Salle Spartans ends when the senior players graduate high school and a new team is assembled.
Unfazed by this defeat, Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) continues to rally the green team through biblical parables and volunteer work with army amputees.
As the team regains their Ws, a fanatical father (Clancy Brown) threatens the moral integrity of coach’s star running back (Alexander Ludwig).
Despite the overt and abundant religious references, this real-life sports drama does feature some hard-hitting action on the field.
Drawing parallels from other high school football melodramas, WTGST uses that framework in conjunction with the Lord’s message to amass an enjoyable indoctrination.
Mind you, in religious football the winning team dumps the Gatorade on the crucifix.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The ironic thing about an ape planet is it’ll eventually evolve into a human planet.
Mind you, there are humans in this sci-fi film – and that’s an issue.
When a pandemic wipes out San Francisco, a small contingent of survivors (Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo) heads into the forest in hopes of activating a power generator.
Standing in their way, however, is the talking ape Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his simian army.
While the groups strike an accord, treachery on both sides results in war within the protected walls of the human citadel.
The follow-up to the 2011 re-imagining of the landmark original, Dawn maintains the themes of its inspiration, while bringing more depth to the human/ape dynamic.
The impeccable special effects also help elevate this sequel to higher level of story telling.
Incidentally, you don’t want to know what warring apes fling from their catapults.
The Hundred-Foot Journey
The hardest part of owning an Indian restaurant is convincing patrons you don’t serve venison jerky and bannock.
Thankfully, the diners in this dramedy know what culture curry belongs to.
When political turmoil uproots the Kadam family from India and deposits them in the French countryside, Papa (Om Puri) decides to open an Indian restaurant with his son Hassan (Manish Dayal) at the helm.
Standing in their way, however, is Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), the proprietor of the Michelin Star restaurant a hundred feet away who’ll stop at nothing to sabotage their menu.
But the family, especially Hassan, is desperate to prove to her his spicy cuisine is as relevant as escargot.
Unfocused and too familiar, this Spielberg/Oprah-produced adaptation of the novel panders to every emotion imaginable with little effect.
The same applies to the obvious romances between the warring restaurants.
Besides, if you just put La in front of dishes like Aloo gobi it sounds French.
As Above, So Below
If French literature has taught us anything, it’s that oddities occupy Paris’s opera houses and bell towers.
So it makes sense the film crew in this horror movie would find something strange under the city.
Hell-bent on finding the philosopher’s stone located in the catacombs beneath Paris, Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), her cameraman (Edwin Hodge), her translator (Ben Feldman), her guide (François Civil) and his friends head into the bowels of the earth.
It’s not long until the group begins to hear and see peculiar things happening around them.
Even more off-putting is the fact that these occurrences relate back to their individual lives.
The deeper they descend the more delirious they become and the direr their situation gets.
While the ending isn’t as groundbreaking as anticipated, the overall journey through the claustrophobic corridors is a haunting and heart-stopping endeavour.
However, there’s only one thing beneath Parisians…and it’s every other country.
The upside to a society without feelings is no one gets upset when you cut them off in traffic.
However, as this sci-fi film points out, no road rage also means there’s no empathy.
Raised in a post-apocalyptic world where emotions are outlawed and occupations are assigned, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is selected as the Receiver of Memory.
In order to obtain the recollections of the amnesic populace, Jonas must glean the knowledge from the previous vessel, the Giver (Jeff Bridges).
But the pair’s tutorials are scrutinized by The Chief Elder (Meryl Streep), who suspects Jonas may flee their Utopia for the mysteries beyond its boarders.
Deriving more inspiration from modern dystopian movies than the young-adult novel it’s based on, The Giver’s weighty tale of repression is not entirely lost but a lot less impactful.
Furthermore, as the Receiver of Memory you have to recall where everyone left their car keys.
The Expendables 3
The upside to hiring elderly mercenaries is you can retrieve your money from them afterwards through a phone scam.
Thankfully, the codgers in this action movie aren’t offering their PINs to strangers.
When a former Expendable (Mel Gibson) resurfaces as an arms dealer, Barney (Sylvester Stallone) recruits a green team (Ronda Rousey, Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz) to take him down.
But when they’re taken hostage, Barney must rely on old (Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li) and new (Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas) members to assist in their rescue.
The third instalment in the all-star series, #3 waters down its already bloated roaster with well-known veterans and unknown newcomers.
With older members under-utilized and new members unestablished, this final chapter relies solely on explosions and poorly-conceived one-liners to engage.
Incidentally, the biggest difference between old and new action heroes is that today’s are mostly computer-generated.
He’s a Table Scrapbooker. He’s the…