On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 24, 2018


As it goes with these adaptations of popular dystopian YA franchises it is best to know from which perspective a particular review is coming and how passionate the (re)viewer is about the source material they have just witnessed adapted for the big screen. Warning: I have not read James Dashner's version of the "chosen one" narrative so, for me, The Maze Runner series sits somewhere comfortably in between the gold standard that is The Hunger Games and the deplorable Divergent series that couldn't even muster enough fandom for Lionsgate to follow all the way through on it (I guess the first one was fine). Maze Runner is nestled comfortably in between these two opposite ends of the spectrum though, because it is more or less a different take on the exact same story Divergent tried to pull, but done in a more enthusiastic manner (which is saying something as these Maze sequels have lacked the energy of that initial flick) as well as being much less convoluted with the main detractor being they have failed to create anywhere near the emotional investment on the part of the audience in these characters; sorry, Tommy, Teresa, and Brenda, but you are no Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. That said-there are A LOT of characters in these movies as tends to be the case in each of the examples cited thus far and by virtue of this requirement there is ample opportunity for solid talent to enlist themselves as part of a guaranteed series of jobs and to that point it is nice to see the likes of Barry Pepper, Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson, Aidan Gillen, and Walton Goggins in supporting roles where they are hamming it up the best each of them can even if at least three of them are playing the same type of ringleader role. To this end and to the end that I'm thankful 20th Century Fox decided against splitting this finale into two movies Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a well-made and well-executed action thriller that is more or less comprised of the same sequence of events again and again until our gang of ragtag heroes reaches the last standing city and faces the bad guys down once and for all. That may be a bit harsh as there are shades of honor on both sides of the line that make things more complicated than one might expect from such a film and there is a clear theme of loyalty that screenwriter T.S. Nowlin and franchise director Wes Ball have never strayed from, but much like WCKD, the evil corporate enemy in these movies, The Death Cure delays the inevitable conclusion we all know is coming due to our genre conditioning just a little too long. Full review here. C-

There are opening scenes and then there is the opening scene to Hostiles. Why do people treat one another the way we have for all of history? This is the question the opening sequence within director Scott Cooper's (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace) latest brutally forces us to ponder. The United States, since its inception in 1776, has only not been in conflict with itself or another country for a total of eighteen years. Why are we like this? What is it in our human nature that allows us to always be at odds with others and their inclinations? It's a fascinating and broad mentality to deconstruct, but dammit if Cooper doesn't try his darndest in what is itself a seeming deconstruction of the classic American Western. Maybe it's the fact I haven't seen as many classic Westerns as I should in order to be able to understand where Hostiles goes wrong in its breaking down of the mythos of the old west, but for what it's worth, Cooper's film feels pure in its intent to accurately portray this time period and the dynamics that existed in as honest a fashion as possible-no matter how gruesome and no matter who comes out looking worse. This opening sequence then, which I won't go into detail about here, is an immediate and gut-wrenching reminder of the fact hate is often one in the same no matter where it comes from, but is often not seen as hate from the perspective from which it comes. In Hostiles, Cooper examines all the complexities of war and the purpose of the meanings behind words like honor and courage while stripping them down to not so much the definitions we've come to immediately relate to such words, but more the intent behind them. It's a rather simple suggestion, a simple consensus to come to even, but as history has shown us there is typically a lot of bloodshed and a lot of lives lost in the process of trying to come to such a consensus. And so, Cooper communicates these simple, but resounding themes through a straightforward story that is executed with the scope of that grand American Western. Channeling this idea that somewhere along the lines of history we found war to be the most effective tool of persuasion into a narrative that is able to say much more with the implications of the events it documents rather than serving as an excuse for an adrenaline rush via the shootouts or misplaced pride in whatever side you might genetically fall, but more in being and understanding the value of life and how much of it has been lost over what comes down to little more than inconsequential details. Full review here. B-

Admirable is a word one might use to describe Den of Thieves. One can feel the ambition of writer/director Christian Gudegast (in his directorial debut) seeping through his extravagant and admittedly enthralling screenplay that intends to put a million things in motion only to be utilized as ideas around the repercussions of the movie's main throughline. Both a crime drama and heist film, Den of Thieves does what it sets out to do well even if Gerard Butler looks like he’s about to have a heart attack at any given moment and poses no real threat to Pablo Schreiber's more imposing and charismatic Merrimen who leads the titular thieves in what is a more labored and methodical plot than one might initially give such a movie as Den of Thieves credit for. This is the kind of movie where expectations work in favor of the final product as all of the promotional material for this thing would point to it being nothing more than a direct-to-Redbox dumpster fire, but when it turns out to be something even slightly resembling a thoughtful, weighty, and often times thrilling action/drama Den of Thieves rises to be a satisfying if not slightly indulgent trip to the cinema. O'Shea Jackson Jr. is definitely a movie star, though. C

The newspaper Brendan Gleeson reads in prison is called "The Hard Times". That's how adorable Paddington 2 is. B+