The Maze Runner

It’s The Hunger Games.  No, it’s Divergent.  No, it’s

The Maze Runner (C).  Yes, it is yet another young-adult movie about some weird future dystopia where the young adults must lead the way.  The set-ups are definitely getting more outlandish.  In this movie, a bunch of teenaged boys have had their memories erased and then been put in the middle of a giant maze with walls a hundred feet high.  Maybe two hundred.  The boys are reasonably safe in their giant clearing in the center of the maze, but anyone who goes into the maze and stays there after nightfall gets killed by some unseen terror.  Spooky, huh?  Anyhoo, the lost boys have avoided getting all Lord-of-the-Fliesy by having just a few strict rules, but then a newcomer named Thomas shows up and wants to start breaking them all in his quest to escape the maze.  Things could have really gotten interesting when the first and only girl in the tribe shows up soon after Thomas does, but by then the maze is getting all wonky, and the boys are more worried about surviving than vying for the new prom queen’s affections.  Patricia Clarkson (Easy A) has a couple of scenes as the mysterious power behind the maze.

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Easy A

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Easy A (D). I thought this movie had possibilities. First, it stars Emma Stone, who was likable in The House Bunny and Zombieland. Second, the trailers made it seem like an update of a literary classic (The Scarlet Letter), like Clueless was for Emma. Plus, it has a good supporting cast, including Amanda Bynes (Hairspray), Patricia Clarkson (Cairo Time), and Stanley Tucci (Julie & Julia). But it just wasn’t very good. The idea is that Stone is a bright but anonymous high-school student in small-town California. She lies to her best friend about having a date with a college guy, and then she lies more and says that she slept with him. A brainless Christian fundamentalist (played by a strangely puffy-looking Bynes) overhears the lie, and Stone is instantly branded a floozy. Eventually she plays up to her new role, scarlet A on her tarted-up clothes and all. It’s not very funny or otherwise entertaining, and it left me feeling vaguely annoyed. Skip it.

Cairo Time

A new review from The Movie Snob

Cairo Time (B-). This languid little movie is a Canadian-Irish-Egyptian production. Patricia Clarkson (Shutter Island) stars as Juliette Grant, an American woman who is supposed to meet her U.N.-employed husband Mark in Cairo for a long-awaited vacation. But Mark is detained in Gaza for an indeterminate period of time, so he has his old U.N. buddy Tareq (Alexander Siddig, The Nativity Story) pick Juliette up at the airport. Juliette has nothing but time on her hands, and she spends a decent amount of that time with Tareq. In an American movie, they’d be hooking up before the end of the first reel, but this movie is much more restrained. There’s plenty of interesting Egyptian scenery and colorful local culture to fill up the 90-minute running time, but despite the slow pace of the movie the characters are still a little underdeveloped. Still, it’s nice to see Siddig, who was Dr. Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine all those years, getting a juicy role to sink his teeth into.

Phoebe in Wonderland

A review from The Borg Queen

Phoebe in Wonderland: A-

I loved this film. I knew nothing about it when I downloaded it from my Netflix queue to my TV, except that I recognized some of the people in the movie. It centers on a 9-year old girl named Phoebe, played by Elle Fanning (Dakota Fanning’s younger sister). The Netflix description just says that a girl gets into trouble into school and gets a part in the play, Alice in Wonderland, upon which the characters begin to speak to her. While that is generally true, the story is so much more. This story is actually about a young girl onsetting with a mental illness. The film captures the torment and confusion the child faces during this transition period, the blame and guilt parents impose on themselves, and the problem of labeling someone with a disease. It also portrays the frustration, anger, and protective feelings siblings deal with when growing up with a mentally ill sibling. Once the movie began, I couldn’t stop watching. The caliber of acting in this film was superb. Elle did a phenomenal job and portrayed her character with emotion and honesty far beyond her years. There was one scene in particular with her mother where she begins to cry because she is so scared, confused, sorry, and a wealth of other emotions that you can’t help but feel like you want to jump into the TV to console her. The movie also stars Felicity Huffman (TV’s Desperate Housewives), Bill Pullman (Independence Day), Patricia Clarkson (TV’s Frazier), and Campbell Scott (Music and Lyrics). This is an inspirational and honest movie that presents this topic in an endearing, entertaining way.

All the King’s Men

Movie review from The Movie Snob

All the King’s Men (C). Although this movie is based on my very favorite novel, I steered clear based on the drubbing it took from the critics (and at the box office). But my cousin just read the book and cajoled me into seeing the film at the dollar theater. Thanks to my very low expectations (and the low price), I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but it still wasn’t very good. The story is a fictionalized account of the rise and fall of Louisiana demogogue Huey Long as seen through the eyes of one of his cronies, a disaffected journalist from a genteel background named Jack Burden. There were some casting errors; Jude Law (Genius) is too good-looking to play Jack, Kate Winslet (Finding Neverland) is all wrong as Jack’s childhood sweetheart Anne Stanton, and Patricia Clarkson (Cairo Time) is likewise wrong as political operative Sadie Burke. Sean Penn (The Interpreter) is not too bad as the Huey Long character, Willie Stark, but for some reason he delivers his political speeches as though he suffers from some serious neurological impairment, bobbing and ducking and weaving seemingly uncontrollably. Director Steven Zaillian (A Civil Action) tried to cram way too much of the book into the movie, so the action moves forward in a very jumpy fashion, leaving key events and motivations underexplained. Still, if you know the book well, you will be able to follow the movie easily and may even get some enjoyment out of it. Low expectations will also help.

Good Night, and ZZZZZZZZZZZZ

New DVD review from The Movie Snob

Good Night, and Good Luck (C). I finally got around to seeing this Academy Award nominee starring George Clooney and Patricia Clarkson the other night, and, to put it bluntly, I was disappointed. It should have been an exciting story: a band of fearless journalists takes on a tyrannical regime, even though they risk being arrested, tortured, shipped off to a gulag, or maybe just summarily shot. Oh wait, that was Stalin’s Russia. Well, in McCarthy’s Amerika maybe they didn’t risk getting shot or deported or even roughed up a little bit, but they might have gotten fired. Anyhow, I thought this movie had almost no dramatic tension, and even at 90 minutes felt padded with musical interludes and superfluous subplots. Skip it.

The Cooler; Peter Pan; The Station Agent

Reviews from the Movie Snob:

The Cooler. (C) The premise sounded promising. William H. Macy is a “cooler,” a guy whose luck is both bad and contagious. Thus, he is a gold mine for Alec Baldwin’s seedy Shangri-La casino, which he is proud to say is for the serious gamblers and not the “stroller crowd.” Unfortunately, the stroller crowd is where the money is, and Baldwin’s world is threatened by two developments: the owners of his casino want to modernize the Shangri-La to make it more profitable, and his cooler is suddenly red hot thanks to a new romance with a cocktail waitress played by Maria Bello. Baldwin’s character, a strange blend of sentimentality and sociopathy, reacts badly to all these developments. I didn’t find much to like about this movie. As a friend I saw it with remarked afterwards, he expected it to be more witty and less violent. I also deducted points for the frequent and gratuitous sex scenes. (Actually, I suppose the sex scenes were not entirely gratuitous, but there was way too much nudity going on.) But most of all, the movie didn’t make me want to suspend disbelief on the central premise, that Macy’s luck could turn from bad to good and back and forth so completely and so abruptly as the story unfolded. This Las Vegas fairy tale never made me believe in it.

Peter Pan (2003). (B-) I had never seen any other version of the story, stage or screen, so I can’t make any comparisons for you. I’ve read that this version is truer to the book than most of the others, and that this version departs from tradition and increases the dramatic tension by actually casting a boy as Peter instead of a girl. And this tension was the most effective part of the movie, as Peter’s defiant rejection of all “grown-up feelings” in order to stay a boy forever inevitably leads to his parting from Wendy, who loves childish adventures but is too wise to want to miss out on the adventure of growing up. The rest of the movie – the admittedly good special effects, the swordfights, the surprisingly malicious doings of Tinkerbell – left me pretty much unmoved. Still, the children who made up most of the audience seemed to enjoy it, or at least they didn’t get too restless as far as I noticed.

The Station Agent. (B+) I really liked this quiet little slice-of-life movie. Fin McBride is a taciturn and unfriendly middle-aged man who is a train enthusiast. He is also a dwarf. Through an unexpected twist, he comes to own an abandoned train depot in the tiny town of Newfoundland, New Jersey, and he wastes no time moving there, hoping to get away from people and be left alone. But it is not to be. First he meets Joe, a loud young man who runs a coffee-and-hot-dog truck that he parks near the depot every morning. Then he meets Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), a painter who is almost as withdrawn from the world as Fin is. The movie is basically the story of their friendship over several weeks or maybe months, as seen through Fin’s eyes. I really liked it.