I actually started my watch list a few weeks ago so my apologies for the delay. This month seemed to be adaptation packed with 5 out of 7 of the films being novels first.
1. The Maze Runner 4/5
There seems to be a button that people press when talking/writing about a film that was based on a popular or successful novel or series of books, they assume that all the stories are same. Before The Hunger Games, everything was being called 'the new Twilight', now everything is just 'the new Hunger Games'. Well, Divergent is just a plain, far less interesting version of those two franchises combined. The trend that the lead in a YA (Young Adult) adaptation is a female teen, usually set in a dystopian world and has to fight for survival, but The Maze Runner isn't. The lead or at least main character is male and he isn't so much fighting for his life, but simply trying to remember how he ended up in the maze. Simple set up, Thomas, arrives in the Maze, where there at least 40 others, just like him, trapped, living day to day on supplies that mysteriously arrive each month. A society over 2 years (3 years in the film, no reason for this slight change) has formed, everyone is in a group. Thomas immediately feels drawn to the Runners, they map the maze looking for a way out. Everything seems to change since he arrived, along with the arrival, hold it, of a girl. Its an excellent vision of the book. It took a while for me to get into the book but I'm so glad I did, its brilliant. Although most characters in the book didn't quite get a good glance on screen, the film was close. Also, you didn't need to read the book (no matter how good) to understand what was happening. A science fiction, mystery conspiracy, action drama that just happens to be adapted from a YA series. Ok, the film does tick some of those stereotypical boxes but only by the end when the next film is set up. But its a really good film, so by then, it doesn't matter. Unlike Divergent.
2. This Is Where I Leave You 3/5
This film, based on a novel of the same by Jonathan Tropper, hasn't been receiving very good reviews which is strange for the cast and content. Four siblings return home after their father's death and are forced to sit shiver by their crazy mother (Jane Fonda) as it was their father's dying wish. Of course there are dramas, heartbreak, hilarious scenes involving a hospital visit where everyone gets involved but I have to agree with some of what has been said. I really enjoyed it (Tina Fey is present, automatically loved her character) but the family, felt like they needed more explaining, more back story than a few comments here and there. It actually felt like the beginning of a TV I would definitely watch.
3. Gone Girl 4/5
I had been waiting for ages to see this film. Yes, it was one of those. And I was not disappointed. From the best selling novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, is the story about a marriage. Nick and Amy's marriage begins like a fairytale only to end up like reality horror show. When Amy disappears, Nick is left to deal with the devastating consequences, resulting in him being accused of her murder. Questions are posed, if there is no body, how can this be a murder? Also, did he actually commit the crime? This film, story, plot is beyond brilliant. I am a big fan of David Fincher and he creates such a brilliant view of this marriage. Hi specialty seems to be crime related films, not always traditional, like his adaptation of 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'. The approach in that film was by a victim and a journalists. In this film, its the husband and too an extent, his sister as well. The leads, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike were perfectly cast. Affleck impressed even more. I'm worried now, with all this goodwill he's slowly created over the years will be destroyed by his Batman outing but you never know, Christian Bale is still respected. Back to Gone Girl. The film is a mix of a crime thriller and domestic tale and has a few horrific shots that are shocking at first glance but actually express the characters inner psycho. Those who have seen the film can probably guess the scene I mean. A brilliant film and it lives up to the hype.
4. In Secret 3/5
I thought this would have had a bigger impact on the box office than it did. It barely made a sound over here in UK. It definitely felt like his film was released 'in secret'. A passionate of betrayal all wrapped up in period costumes and set in France with American and English actors. Described as an erotic thriller, based on the novel Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola, Thérèse (Elizabeth Olsen) is sent live with her aunt (Jessica Lange) and sick cousin (Tom Felton) where she treated like an object and pet. They aren't cruel but they are demanding to the point you want to slap them both. After being forced to marry her sick cousin, they move to Paris where they meet Laurent (Oscar Issac). She begins an affair with him and from there things turn sour, for everyone. Slightly predictable, up until the last quarter. But I won't give anything away.
5. Stretch 3/5
Smokin' Aces was brilliant. An obscure yet simple storyline filled with guns, blood and violence, what's not to like? I saw the trailer for Stretch and thought the same thing, except with just one main character who, even though, isn't that great a guy, you still want him to get that $6,000 to pay off his gambling debts by midnight, among other challenges he faces. Patrick Wilson is the limo driver/wannabe actor who used to be a gambler, drinker and drug taker, then he met his dream girl who left him for a rich famous guy. He's threatened by his bookie that he needs to pay his large debt by midnight and as fate would have it, he ends up driving around a filthy rich eccentric billionaire who gives large tips. Things don't always go smoothly though. A great action film with dark humour and crazy characters you're glad you've never met.
6. How I Live Now 2/5
I had planned on reading the book first when I read about the storyline. I read the first few pages and deemed it 'too young adult' for me to read. No swear words, no vivid descriptions, just words like 'monster in law' to describe a step mother. That book went back from whence it came, the charity shop. When the film came out I was going to see it at the cinema, so glad I didn't. It is serious subject, a third world war, bombs hitting London, people arrested and raped by the enemy. But nothing is clearly defined. The story is told through the eyes of an American teen who at falls in love with the idilic English countryside but when war arrives, everything is destroyed. Her mission is get back home but again, details are thin. What is going on? Who is attacking who? Why did the army split up a family? When did the war end? The film ends on a happy note but the 2 dimensional characters were never people you strongly cared about anyway.
7. 22 Jump Street 3/5
I loved the first film, as did many others. I was so happy at the thought of a sequel but this film felt like it was laking something very important from the start. The joke that this was going to be exactly the same as the previous film became tiresome and the added 'brand new' office made it feel the film was given an unnecessary upgrade. This, always happens. The first is brilliant and slightly low on money or 'set dressing' then the money from the success is used to made everything 'bigger' and less appealing. Channing Tatum was on top comedic form but Jonah Hill acted like the fat girl who lost weight and gained a mean nasty personality. After those 'girl' issues are put aside and Tatum's annoying 'bro-ship' is stopped, things get a whole lot better. Its a shame this was all too near the ending.