The Maze Runner

Stan Winston Nod in The Maze Runner

There are a lot of big questions left unanswered by The Maze Runner. But it’s the kind of movie where you can’t expect complete clarification and closure, because the continued mystery is what keeps audiences interested in returning for future episodes. I say episodes rather than sequels since that’s more like what they are. The Maze Runner ends with a cliffhanger, and for the sake of the story it’s a good thing the movie opened well over the weekend. In response, Fox announced yesterday that the adaptation to the second book in the series, “The Scorch Trials,” is already on track for a theatrical release one year from now, on September 18, 2015. While I don’t expect to learn everything I’m dying to know at that time — there’s at least one other sequel installment (“The Death Cure“) and a prequel (“The Kill Order“) that will fill all the gaps — I do hope to have a few things explained. Obviously, I could just read the books. But the point is that I’m approaching this story as a movie watcher, not someone who has to read every book turned into a movie. And even if I were, the movie versions should stand on their own. I look forward to a movie sequel as continuation of the movie I’ve seen, not a cross-media succession. As far as I can tell, The Maze Runner (like most adaptations) leaves out a number of things from the book anyway. So the mediums aren’t compatible. Therefore, we […]

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Son of Rambow 01

As one of the more enjoyable YA adaptations and one that skews male in its appeal, The Maze Runner could be a crossover hit this weekend. To be a part of the crowd, you’ll want to go see the story of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), a guy who wakes up en route to a mysterious courtyard that will be his new home until he can escape the surrounding labyrinth. And afterward, as you try to figure out all the questions you have about the plot and which might be answered in the sequel (and maybe prequel), you’ll want to go through this week’s list of movies to watch, each of them relevant to Wes Ball‘s adaptation of the James Dashner book. First, though, you should also check out Ball’s previous films, all of them shorts. I shared his Student Academy Award winner, A Work in Progress, the other day. In the past we’ve posted his bigger breakthrough, an action sequence and proof of concept for a feature version of itself titled Ruin. There is a look to the latter that clearly helped the filmmaker (who also did effects work for Mike Mills’s Beginners) get the gig directing The Maze Runner. And maybe the rest of the series? That reminds me, this week’s recommendations come with a spoiler warning for their tie-in. Don’t read about the selections’ relevance until you’ve seen the new movie or you don’t care about spoilers.

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The Maze Runner Last One

Two things struck me while watching The Maze Runner. One is that director Wes Ball definitely nailed his pitch to make “Lord of the Flies meets Lost.” The second is that there are a number of English actors in this movie who speak with an American accent for no discernible reason. This wouldn’t be so weird except that there is one English actor, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who got to keep his. Well, not exactly his, because he purposefully changed his dialect slightly for the role, but he still got to be the sole English actor on screen who actually sounds English. Except for the one noticeable and unfortunate moment when English actress Kaya Scodelario accidentally lets her American accent slip. That’s when the whole thing started to bother me, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. The only members of the Maze Runner cast I knew to be English beforehand are Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter — who does a pretty great job with his speech, I’ll point out. I wasn’t familiar with Scodelario, yet as soon as I heard her mess up, I could tell she wasn’t from the U.S. either. And that immediately took me out of the movie, at least for a brief period. Following the screening, I couldn’t help but look up the rest of the players. One of the other major characters, Alby, is also played by a Brit — Aml Ameen. I believe that’s it (not all the young actors have birthplaces listed on IMDb or […]

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A Work in Progress

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. Let me start by admitting to a slightly misleading headline. Wes Ball is not an Oscar winner. He has no statuette from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. What he does have is a Bronze Medal with a picture of the Oscar statuette on it. That’s right, he’s a third-place winner at the Student Academy Awards. But don’t let the “student” part of this prize, which like the professional Oscars are given by AMPAS, make it any less significant. A lot of great filmmakers have started their careers with this honor, including Robert Zemeckis, Spike Lee, Shane Acker, Jaco Van Dormael, Cary Fukunaga and John Lasseter (twice!). Also, Bob Saget. Provided that The Maze Runner is any good, we can add Ball to the list. He won the medal in 2003 for his seven-minute film A Work in Progress, made the year before as his BFA thesis while at Florida State University. It was honored in the animation category, though it features both computer animation and live-action, the former being used to illustrate a story being told in the real world of the latter by a little girl. The plot is familiar, basic children’s book stuff. A lonely bear goes off in search of friends, which he attempts to make by mimicking different animals. Eric Carle, better known for “The Hungry Caterpillar,” wrote a similar story back […]

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YA Adaptations

There’s little question that Hollywood’s “adapt anything YA!” attitude has helped shepherd a new line of strong (or, at least, pretend strong, as is the case with Twilight’s Bella Swan, a bell I will ring until the day I die) young female heroines into the pop cultural consciousness. The Hunger Games has the sharp-shooting Katniss Everdeen (who will soon incite a revolution in the next two films based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling three-book series), while Divergent has the fear-blasting Tris Prior (who will, hey, look at that!, also soon incite a revolution in the nest three films based on Veronica Roths’s bestselling three-book series). Even less popular film franchises, like Vampire Academy, The Mortal Instruments, and The Host are female-led endeavors that may include some cool (read: hot) male counterparts to help their kickass ladies where needed, though they are quite firmly dedicated to portraying ladies in charge. Yet, now it appears that boys are inching their way back into the YA game – not by way of wizardry or godly genetics, but by traveling the same path that the girls have already trailblazed: the gritty one.

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The Maze Runner Movie

Hey, look! It’s a YA movie! Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland! Where a special/chosen boy and girl arrive on the scene in order to save the day! How unusual. And, yes, that picture from the movie makes it feel a lot like the second coming of “Lord of the Flies.” On the other hand, this trailer for The Maze Runner has a lot going for it. At least as a question mark pulsing with action.

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Will Smith

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news column that’s returning after a small vacation. There’s lots of stuff to catch up with, involving many of the most exciting actors working today, so let’s get started. There’s just no time to waste. There’s some good news and some bad news regarding the casting of that movie about con artists Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have been putting together, called Focus. The good news is that they may have finally found a leading man to replace Ben Affleck, who dropped out of the film to focus on other things. Variety is reporting that, of all people, mega-celebrity Will Smith is currently in negotiations to star in the film. The bad news is, given his advanced age, Smith’s potential casting has led to Kristen Stewart seeing the writing on the wall and dropping out as the film’s female lead. When Will Smith becomes involved in a project, it tends to become the Will Smith Show, so we’ll have to wait and see what he has in mind as far as leading ladies goes.

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Sally Hawkins

What is Casting Couch? It’s starting off the week right with a new round of casting announcements. Read on to find out which project is going to unite the dream team of Ellen Burstyn and Luis Guzman. Godzilla has found another puny human to knock over a building onto. Deadline is reporting that Happy Go Lucky star Sally Hawkins has just been hired to take what is being described as the last lead role in Gareth Edwards’ currently-filming Godzilla. Though Hawkins has become something of a big name in the indie world over the last decade or so, this will be her first role in a blockbuster film that utilizes big action and effects work and whatnot, so it should be interesting to see if she’s one of those actors who transitions well into doing larger scale work, or if she’s one of those actors who looks disengaged and out of place whenever they’re involved in something with a big studio label on it. You know, like James Franco.

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