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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Hostiles & Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for another uninspiring pair of January releases: Hostiles and Maze Runner: The Death Cure.

Spoiler level here will be mild, but I'd hazard a guess, dear reader(s), that you won't much care either way.

First on the agenda: Hostiles.

Nearing retirement, an Army captain is coerced into one final official chore: escorting a dying Cheyenne Chief and his family back to their home.

Hostiles is is blessed with a great cast, intriguing characters, and a multi-layered story, so after seeing it I can only ask: How can it be SO bad?

We'll start with the obvious. Hostiles wants you to understand from the outset that it is a Very Serious Movie. As such, everything Very Serious about it is overdone to the point of being comical. The opening scene is brutal, yet its outcome is hilariously improbable. Christian Bale throws down two hours of his best Ennis Del Mar impersonation, mumbling and maintaining such a persistent scowl I'd be surprised if his face didn't stick that way. (Everyone's mother said it would, right?!) As characters suffer terrible losses, the camera lingers on their fabricated grief so long the faces become caricatures. There are many (many, many) panoramic shots of the parade of horses on their journey...across the plains, over the mountains, through the forest. WE GET IT, YOU'RE GOING SOMEPLACE! The film overuses every tired Cowboys-and-Indians trope to such a degree your brain will become convinced the picture hasn't just borrowed the overused cliches, but rather that you've seen this actual movie somewhere before. Hostiles tries to show each side of every situation as both the good and the bad guys, but--rather than weaving thoughtful complexities--it is contrived and impossible to believe that some of the characters could have gotten from Point A to Point B over the film's duration. Its messages are many and mixed; your moral compass won't know where to aim. Finally, and most egregiously, Hostiles is a criminal waste of the extraordinary Ben Foster, who doesn't have more than 15 minutes total screen time.

Hostiles runs 134 minutes and is rated R for "strong violence and language." (Trigger warning: Though it's not in the official MPAA warning, the film does allude to a rape that is not depicted onscreen.)

Its trailers made Hostiles seem a surefire awards darling, but, sadly, it's an exercise in frustration that will leave you wondering how it could fail so spectacularly with the tools at its disposal.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Hostiles gets three.

Up next, the final (?) installment in the Maze Runner series, The Death Cure.

The kids from the Maze aren't in the Maze anymore. Now it's like the Walking Dead, but younger and less sweaty.

Confession time: I can't remember much of anything about the first two Maze Runner movies. I don't remember how these people got out of the Maze, or how they got into the Maze in the first place, or if the Maze even has anything to do with where they find themselves in Installment #3. I didn't care enough to refresh before seeing the movie, and I definitely wasn't interested enough to try filling in the gaps after. That being said, thanks mostly to an engaging cast, I didn't hate The Death Cure. (I don't think I hated the middle one either, though I'm pretty sure I hated the first one. Nah...not worth looking THAT up, either.)

As any Young Adult series will tell you, when the world is falling apart, it's up to young heroes to save it. The Maze Runner series filmed quickly, compared with some other YA sets, yet it's hard not to feel the leads have aged out of their roles a bit. Still, Dylan O'Brien effectively sells it one last time, Thomas Brodie-Sangster is always a delight, and the older cast is more than capable. (Is there anything that can't be improved by the presence of Walton Goggins? I think not.) The film kicks off with an exciting sequence straight out of The A-Team, and from there it seldom lets up, a wise choice given its excessive length and lack of real substance. Effects are solid, tension is pretty amped up at times, and the picture does have a few small surprises up its grungy sleeve, tying things up in a satisfying, if predictable, bow at the end.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure clocks in at a bloated 141 minutes and is rated PG13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, and some thematic elements."

Maze Runner: The Death Cure doesn't reinvent the wheel, but, compared to some of January's other offerings, it doesn't seem so bad.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Maze Runner: The Death Cure gets four.

Fangirl points: Giancarlo Esposito! Aidan Gillen!

Until next time...

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