The Maze Runner – 2014

MV5BMjUyNTA3MTAyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTEyMTkyMjE@._V1_SX214_AL_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.

DirectedWes Ball

StarsDylan O’BrienKaya ScodelarioWill Poulter

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this, but surprisingly I did. Not having read any of the books before hand I’ll make sure to pick up the sequel, The Maze Runner Chapter II: The Scorch Trails.

The series written by James Dashner is aimed at a teenage market. Although age means nothing to anyone who enjoys delving into a unique adventure.

Its backdrop is yet another dystopian society (not unique), surely this is getting boring now? However, when you get into it, The Maze Runner develops itself into a winning formula for suspense and adventure.

Thomas (Dylan O’Brienhas no memory when he is freed from an elevator and thrust into the lush green surroundings called the Glade.

The Glade is flanked on each side by huge concrete walls which are part of an intricate maze. No one has been able to escape in over three years, and all the boys, called Gladers, live in harmony abiding to a simple set of rules.

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These rules are thrown into chaos as an inquisitive Thomas wonders about the possibility of escape. This leads to a split in the camp and friends soon start to turn on each other.

As the Gladers live a quiet life a small group called ‘runners’ sprint into the maze on a daily basis looking for a way out. Taking notes on each twist and turn, timing everything to the second.

The maze walls close at sundown leaving anyone not quick enough to get back trapped over night with the terrifying Grievers (you have to be paying attention as there is a name for almost everything).

It has a distinct Lord of the Flies feel to it. The main characters, many of whom are not well known, help to build a decent story. Thomas of course, Gally (Poulter) the questionable and aggressive brute. Alby (Aml Ameen) the leader and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) the non-judgemental voice of reason.

Visually it’s pretty decent, debutant director Wes Ball captures the excitement and drama in unusual surroundings. I was really drawn into the story with the burning intrigue to know why they are there, and who put them there.

Scenes inside the maze are solid, plenty of nifty CGI. Whether it’s fending off Grievers or running for a last closing gap in the wall, it does the job expected of an action adventure.

The closer the film edges to its conclusion (but not a conclusion to the bigger picture) a little more is revealed. The final act wobbles momentarily, encompassing a scene that was set up mid way through and offering no surprise whatsoever.

I thought it was one of the better teenage driven films to be adapted from a book. I’m not particularly a fan of The Hunger Games or Divergent but I imagine The Maze Runner has a lot more to give.

Visit the IMDb page for The Maze Runner

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Listen to the original motion picture soundtrack.

What did you think of the film, leave a comment and let us know.

The Imitation Game – 2014

MV5BNDkwNTEyMzkzNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTAwNzk3MjE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, helps crack the Enigma code during World War II.

DirectedMorten Tyldum

Stars:  Benedict CumberbatchKeira KnightleyMatthew Goode

The Imitation Game kicked off the start of the BFI London Film Festival last night and I was lucky enough to get the chance to see it.

It seems quite apt that a film depicting a man who helped to win WWII should feature in the city that was the centre of so much pain and heartache. Yet a place which triumphed when all seemed lost.

Alan Turing was a gifted mathematician out of Cambridge. A man with many theories about developing machines that would one day think quicker than a human brain.

Turing was part of a team working from Hut 8 in Bletchley Park. Their main objective, trying to crack the Enigma machine used by the Nazi’s to send secret coded messages.

While soldiers battled on the front line there was another group of heroes battling behind it. Turing wasn’t alone and was aided by some of Britain’s finest cryptologists, including one woman, Joan Clarke (Knightley).

Turing doesn’t make friends easily and refuses to join in any team camaraderie. He’s a strange fellow on the outside, but beneath the clean cut exterior lies a mind bursting with questions and almost an answer for everything.

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While the rest of the group raced against the clock to decipher messages by hand, Alan locked himself away building his machine. Knowing if he could get it to work they would have a better chance of cracking the codes faster.

Turing was under close scrutiny by Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) who disliked his arrogance and smugness. He was looking for any opportunity to fire him.

Luckily Turing had the backing of not only Churchill but Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong). Menzies was in charge of counter intelligence and oversaw the code breaking at Bletchley Park.

Ironically while Turing was trying to crack secrets he was harbouring one of his own. Turing was a homosexual a back story that is elaborated while he was at school, where he fell for one of this close friends.

Being homosexual was against the law during this period, and if he was found out it would have devastating consequences not just on him but the lives of millions he was trying to save.

Sadly after the war he was prosecuted and given chemical castration for his homosexuality. Events that lead to his eventual suicide.

Morten Tyldum marks his English language debut after the very successful Headhunters. But this is not your average tense thriller. It’s a period piece telling a story during one of history’s most revered eras.

The film is packed with a brilliant British supporting cast who are all top of their game. But it’s Cumberbatch’s portrayal that is going to win the most acclaim. A touching yet assured performance that will at the very least get him an Oscar nomination.

In 2013 the Queen gave Turing a posthumous pardon. It was nothing more than he deserved and his name forever etched into history as one of the great British heroes of the war.

Visit the IMDb page for The Imitation Game

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What did you think of the film, leave a comment and let us know.

Gone Girl – 2014

MV5BMTk0MDQ3MzAzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzU1NzE3MjE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.

DirectedDavid Fincher

StarsBen AffleckRosamund PikeNeil Patrick Harris

Based on the international best seller by Gillian Flynn Gone Girl is a well constructed and absorbing thriller by David Fincher.

The screenplay was written by Gillian Flynn herself and in the hands of Fincher this tense novel is given a simple and effective transition to the big screen.

Many who’ve read the book will know the gist story already. On their 5th wedding anniversary Nick Dunne (Affleck) comes home to find his wife Amy (Pike) missing, signs of a struggle present.

Calling in detectives it isn’t long before the eyes of suspicion fall on him and the small town he’s come home to, along with the media, turn on him.

It becomes clear however there is something much more devious under the surface of his marriage to Amy. A marriage that slowly unravels itself as an unhappy one.

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The film’s opening focusses on Nick and his relationship with Amy. Everything described through her diary entries and his first person account. They are a couple in love that soon turns sour.

Amy is glorified in the media as a celebrity. Her parents took her childhood upbringing and wrote a series of books called ‘Amazing Amy‘ thus casting an even darker shadow over Nick.

He seeks solace in his twin sister Margo Dunne (Carrie Coon) who becomes a shoulder to air his grievances. But she soon gets caught up in a tanglement of lies, deceit and revenge.

Nick is on the back foot desperately trying to prove his innocence that he didn’t kill his wife, as well as paint himself as a desperate and apologetic husband. It doesn’t wash and he has to call on the services of shit hot lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) to guide him through the shark infested waters of tabloid media.

The film then suddenly explodes with a mid point twist that you’d expect of any thriller closing out it’s final moments. That isn’t the case here, it only fuels the fire for a pulsating third act that delivers shock value. Amy Dunne might just be this year’s Catherine Tramell.

The supporting cast are brilliant. From Kim Dickens’s Detective Rhonda Boney to Neil Patrick Harris as a suave, rich and creepy ex-boyfriend everyone is able to deliver when it matters most.

Films like The Game, Zodiac and Se7en proved that Fincher is a master at developing scenes which could tease and test his audience. Gone Girl follows similar trends, whether they’re scenes shocking in nature (there are a few of those) or so dramatic we’re kept on tenterhooks.

It’s hard to imagine anything less from this director. Quite possibly one of the best in this genre and certainly back on form in 2o14.

On the outside Gone Girl feels like a main stream whodunit. But there is enough to keep us enthralled and hooked for the 149 minute duration. On the inside Fincher has meticulously crafted an engaging thriller that makes it hard for us to look away.

While the ending might not satisfy everyone, Gone Girl is a cool and calculated film that ultimately is the thriller of the year so far.

Visit the IMDb page for Gone Girl

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What did you think of the film, leave a comment and let us know.

Tokarev (Rage) – 2014

MV5BMTg1ODg4NjUzNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTU5NDc3MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_When the daughter of a reformed criminal is kidnapped, he rounds up his old crew and seeks his own brand of justice.

DirectedPaco Cabezas

Stars:  Nicolas CageRachel NicholsMax Ryan

Sometimes you wonder just what Nicolas Cage did in a previous life to deserve the recent run of form.

It’s not that he’s a particularly bad actor, he always seems to give his performances everything.

But for one reason or another the scripts he gets are below par with regurgitated story lines.

On paper Tokarev (original title Rage) should have been a neat little revenge thriller, but it derives itself from a Taken-esque atmosphere.

In other words, if your daughter gets kidnapped it’s free reign to go kill everyone in sight.

Cage plays Paul Maguire a respected business man with a dark past who has left his criminal habits behind him. When his daughter is kidnapped and then murdered that criminal past comes back to haunt him.

Reuniting Maguire with his crew he goes on a rampage to find out who was responsible and bring them to justice before Danny Glover’s tired looking cop can get to them first.

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Car chases, fist fights and gun battles are strewn throughout the run time but there is nothing to set it apart or make it unique in any way.

Cage’s character is a bit of an enigma, we don’t really have any idea who he is, albeit for a very brief flash back. Danny Glover ambles about  speaking gruffly without much else to do but interfere.

The ending is a kick in the balls, as an audience, to let us endure over ninety minutes for that pile of tosh it should be us with large amounts of rage!

I still believe that on his day Cage is as good an actor as anyone, but it takes one film out of ten for him to prove that.

View the trailer…

Visit the IMDb page for Tokarev

What did you think of the film leave a comment and let us know?

Under the Skin – 2013

MV5BMTU1MDEwMDg4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTk3NTcxMTE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_A mysterious woman seduces lonely men in the evening hours in Scotland. Events lead her to begin a process of self-discovery.

DirectedJonathan Glazer

Stars:  Scarlett JohanssonJeremy McWilliamsLynsey Taylor

I’d heard so much talk about Under the Skin that in the end there was no way I could avoid the film much longer.

Starring Scarlett Johansson Under the Skin opens with a surreal shot of what looks like a trip across the galaxy which then morphs into the creation of a human eye.

Johansson is an alien arriving in a small Scottish town where she drives around in a white van preying on single young men.

Luring them into a run down house they meet a rather sinister fate post seduction. As to what happens in there is mind bending.

What’s so intriguing about Under the Skin is the way in which it’s shot. Cameras on the inside of the van capture conversations between Johansson and her victims. We don’t know who is the genuine actor and who isn’t.

While not a distinctive sci-fi horror it does pose some harrowing scenes. The one on the beach will stick with me for some time, anyone who has kids will understand why.

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The dialogue is minimal and the haunting soundtrack is a subtle accompaniment. Johansson plays her part straight faced and without emotion which is highly commendable.

But the film isn’t all about an alien killing men. The more she interacts with humans the more she tries to tell herself she is one.

During one pivotal scene involving a disfigured man (Adam Pearson) she picks up, the pair engage in deep conversation. Conversation about prejudice and compassion.

Under the skin is either a masterclass in film making or something that completely misses the point. Either way it’s a unique approach to science fiction that I have not seen for some time.

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Visit the IMDB page for Under the Skin

What did you think of Under the Skin, leave a comment and let us know?