What do you do when you see two new movies a week apart and are two busy (and maybe a little too lazy) to write full-length reviews? You thank your lucky stars you started writing Duets. Got a couple of brand-spankin’ new ones coming your way, so let’s begin!
Synopsis: “A man believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by—he has to help her.” –www.imdb.com
The High Notes:
- Denzel Washington as leading man Robert McCall. Let’s face it—Washington is ridiculously charming in just about everything he does, so it’s easy to love him in pretty much all roles, including this one. He’s a tough, merciless badass to his foes and a sweet, patient mentor to his friends. Basically, he’s everything you’d want from a movie like this.
- Marton Csokas as Russian baddie Teddy (which, by the way, is the least intimidating name for a villain ever). He’s creepy, violent, and menacing. I’d say he’s a good match for our hero Denzel.
- The well-crafted fight scenes (particularly the one at the end, which I might describe as Home Alone for grown-ups). Robert has this thing with watches where he times almost everything he does. He’ll size up the situation, put the timer on, and go to work. The timer slows everything down for the audience, letting us get a play-by-play of each blow. It’s pretty cool.
The Low Notes:
- Chloë Grace Moretz as Teri, a young girl controlled by Russian gangsters. Moretz is necessarily bad—just miscast. She seems kind of awkward in this role. And she’s not utilized very much either. Altogether, I’d be surprised if she had more than 15 minutes of screen time in the whole film, which is kind of weird because what happens to her is what puts everything in motion.
- The length. This movie is over two hours, and it does not need to be. There are lots of drawn out or plain unnecessary scenes that could easily be cut.
- The ending. There is a final showdown that’s exciting, but after that things get kind of corny and a little too perfect. It’s predictable and a painfully obvious set-up for a sequel.
The Staccato Version: The Equalizer is a decent amount of fun. To steal a line from Rotten Tomatoes, it’s “more stylishly violent than meaningful,” yet what it does it does well. Sure, movies like this seem to be a dime a dozen lately, but with Washington as a likable leading man and a fair amount of cool action scenes, I’d say it’s a step above the usual stuff. Maybe, maybe worth a matinee ticket if you’re into this kind of movie. Otherwise, just rent it.
My Grade: B
The Maze Runner
Synopsis: “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.” –www.imdb.com
The High Notes:
- Dylan O’Brien as main character Thomas. I’d never seen O’Brien in anything prior to this, but a few of my friends had been singing his praises for a while thanks to Teen Wolf. After seeing him in action, I can see the hype. O’Brien is a solid actor with some great moments in this, playing the confused, terrified, vulnerable newbie just as well as he plays the strong, determined leader.
- The supporting characters. There are definitely some interesting ones in the bunch. My personal favorites were lighthearted Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), kind and fair leader Alby (Aml Ameen), and sweet little Chuck (Blake Cooper). They all play an important role in some way, and I liked seeing how they interact with Thomas.
- The plot. I found the concept of this really interesting—all these boys trapped at the center of a massive maze with no clue why they’re there and no memory of their lives beforehand. It’s a dark, engaging mystery, and it’s fun to see how it unfolds.
The Low Notes:
- All the echoes of The Hunger Games. I know since this is in the same genre as The Hunger Games, there are bound to be similarities, but there are moments that are just a little too similar, y’know?
- Teresa (Kaya Scodelario). I’m sure her character will eventually serve a purpose since this film undoubtedly sets up for a sequel (I believe there are three books in this series), but in this film she doesn’t really do much. She seems to be a female presence just for the sake of a female presence. Don’t get me wrong—I’m very girl power and all, but let’s actually do something with her, huh?
- Still being confused at the end of the film. By the time the credits rolled, I understood what was going on…but not really. I’m sure people who have read the book were freaking out with excitement, but the rest of us were kind of scratching our heads. It’s kind of a lot to take in, so I wish there were more of an explanation.
The Staccato Version: While it’s no Hunger Games (see me rave about Catching Fire here), The Maze Runner is still a pretty intriguing dystopian tale—intriguing enough that I’m actually kind of anxious to get my hands on the book. It’s a compelling mystery with plenty of action, a unique setting, and a strong cast of characters. If you like The Hunger Games and have a free afternoon, I’d say give it a shot.
My Grade: B+
P.S. So this has nothing to do with the two movies I just discussed, but as I am still geeking over this I thought I’d share: Yesterday I took to Twitter to rave about NOS4A2, an excellent book I recently read by Joe Hill (whose stuff is fantastic, in case you’ve never read any of it). I mentioned Hill (a.k.a. King–he’s actually Stephen King’s son) in the tweet, not thinking anything would come of it, when lo and behold, this happened:
HE RESPONDED TO MY TWEET. AND THEN HE RETWEETED ME. AHHHHH THIS IS AWESOME. OMG AHHHHHHH!!!!!
…The lesson to be learned here? Twitter is a magical place where sometimes, if you’re really, really lucky, awesome people will respond to you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to happy dancing. Have a good one, amigos!