The DUFF & The Scorch Trials Movie ReviewsΒ 

Welcome to my “Young Adult Movie Adaptation Review Special“! I read one of these books (the movie was awful) and didn’t read the other book (the movie was surprisingly fun). Let’s see which was which…

The DUFF (2015)

Directed by Ari Sandel

Based on The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Starring: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Nick Eversman, Skyler Samuels, Bianca A. Santos

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A high school senior instigates a social pecking order revolution after finding out that she has been labeled the DUFF – Designated Ugly Fat Friend – by her prettier, more popular counterparts.

My Opinion:

Even at my advanced age, I still enjoy a good teen comedy. Obviously, nothing will ever compare to my 80’s John Hughes classics but there have been a couple post-1989 ones that haven’t been too bad (Clueless, American Pie, etc). But the majority are bad and full of hateful teens (like in stuff such as Project X and, sadly, Dope – a movie I was hoping to love). However, The DUFF is easily one of the better ones I’ve seen from this genre in a long time & I really enjoyed it.

Mae Whitman (the voice of Tinker Bell in all those Tinker Bell movies! You’ll know them well if you have a daughter πŸ˜‰ ) plays the DUFF, aka the “Designated Ugly Fat Friend”. I liked her in the fantastic The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and she’s a lot of fun in this & totally relatable as a “real world girl”. I hate saying that as it sounds so rude but, yeah – unlike the girls in all other Hollywood movies, she looks like a normal person. Hollywood movie girls are too ridiculously attractive and it sets a bad example (especially in teen movies).

Whitman’s two best friends in this are of the unrealistic ridiculously attractive variety but I suppose they were trying to make her look less attractive in comparison. But, anyway! That’s not entirely relevant as this movie isn’t really trying to make as big of a statement on superficiality as I was expecting. Whitman’s character is, at first, entirely content with how she looks & dresses – she only changes when someone calls her a “DUFF”. So I guess the main message is more about how we treat people but there’s a bit of a moral about accepting yourself the way you are.

Anyway… Forget I said all that! This isn’t some annoying teen movie that thinks it has an important message or something – it’s just a lighthearted comedy & actually quite funny compared to a lot of current teen flicks. The humor is a tad on the raunchy side (fine by me) so this is probably aimed more at the mid to late-teen age range. Although certainly not at the same level as something like Heathers (nothing is!), The DUFF is smart & sassy like a lot of the 80’s teen classics. Hopefully more teen movies go in the same direction as this one since I’ll probably still be watching this genre when I’m 90.

My Rating: 7/10

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)

Directed by Wes Ball

Based on The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Ki Hong Lee, Barry Pepper, Lili Taylor, Patricia Clarkson

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot of The Scorch Trials takes place immediately after the previous installment, with Thomas (O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers battling the powerful World Catastrophe Killzone Department (W.C.K.D., or WICKED), while facing the perils of the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with dangerous obstacles.

My Opinion:

WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL?!?!?! I’m so damn confused by this movie! I’ve read The Maze Runner trilogy (I did a recap & review of the final book HERE last week) and, although I have some major issues with it and it often annoyed the hell out of me, I thought it was a decent enough story overall. I read the books after seeing the first film, which I found quite enjoyable (much more enjoyable than the books, actually). So I finally watched The Scorch Trials after finishing the books. IT BARELY EVEN RESEMBLES THE BOOK!!! ??? Why ???

I would assume that books can be quite hard to adapt into films, especially long books that must be reduced to a roughly two-hour running time. The Scorch Trials isn’t a long book, however. Plus, the first movie was faithful to the book so it’s even more confusing that they’ve decided to take things in such a different direction in the sequel. I’m not overly bothered about a 100% faithful adaptation as I know things sometimes need slight changing or need to be left out due to running time. As long as there are no major changes that completely mess with the storyline, characters’ intentions/personalities, or the overall themes, I’m fine with them.

Well, The Scorch Trials has major changes. No, wait – that’s not exactly right as you can’t even really call them changes… It has completely new stuff added in. It’s so drastically different that it feels like the screenwriter(s) didn’t even read the book & instead based the story on its back cover synopsis or on some weird ass “Chinese whispers” version of the story.

You know what? I don’t care. I’m not going to waste my time reviewing this. It lost my interest after it started going so completely off the rails that I went & did other things around the house while it kept playing in the background. I’m not sure what the hell was going on. After this movie, I’m not going to bother with the next one since I sure as shit can’t be bothered to re-watch this one to figure out what the hell was going on. BAH! What a stupid waste of time. Either be faithful to a book or, if that fails, don’t follow it AT ALL & just steal the name (like World War Z). At least I knew beforehand with that one that they ignored the book….

My Rating: 4.5/10 (Not lower than that since I guess I still like the characters and think Dylan O’Brien & Thomas Brodie-Sangster are good in these films)

Money Monster (2016) Review

Money Monster (2016)

Directed by Jodie Foster

Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito, Caitriona Balfe

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film stars George Clooney as Lee Gates, a TV personality who advises his audience on commerce and Wall Street, and who is forcefully interrogated by Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), a grief-stricken bankrupt viewer who lost his money after a previous tip.

My Opinion:

I chose to go to this movie in this way: “Eeny meeny miny… Oh, Money Monster has a much shorter running time than X-Men: Apocalypse or The Nice Guys so let’s just watch that one”. Money Monster is a decent enough film but it’s one of those that you know most people won’t bother to make a trip to the cinema to see. It’s a home-watcher. I enjoyed it even though it’s a bit formulaic & predictable but, hell, most movies are. If you like any of its stars or want to see a Jodie Foster film (I thought she’d directed far more movies than she actually has!), you’d probably like this one just fine.

This movie (its basic plot, at least) reminded me a lot of Man On A Ledge & I did keep thinking of that movie thoughout this one. I remember really looking forward to that film as it had a great concept but it ended up being a stupid, silly mess. Luckily, Money Monster is much better than Man On A Ledge so don’t worry about my comparison! It has much better writing & acting plus situations that aren’t as ridiculously far fetched.

Unfortunately, it does fall apart at the end after a pretty promising start. It’s one of those films where the “surprise” of what’s “really going on” isn’t a surprise in the slightest, which was a little disappointing as I wanted it to be something more than just “Oh, that’s it? Well that was obvious from the start”. I think it also fails to get its message across (if it even has a message?). I suppose the message of sorts is just about how big business/money always screws over the little guy but we all know that’s a fact of life anyway. This movie could’ve provided a good commentary on that but instead just turns into a pretty straightforward good guy vs bad guy hostage drama. I’d have to say that at least The Big Short made this same sort of point in a much more effective way & had a message (I actually hated that movie, though. Snoozefest!). Money Monster takes the path of “entertaining movie” more than “thought-provoking drama”. But there’s of course nothing wrong with a movie being entertaining – I just wish Money Monster had dug a bit deeper to be a little something more.

A quick mention of the film’s stars: Clooney’s role has his name written ALL over it – I would imagine he was the exact person they had in mind for the role even as it was being written. So, yeah, that works but his performance can’t help but feel a bit phoned-in because of it. I’d have to say that Julia Roberts actually does a better job here (and that’s being said by someone who really isn’t one of her fans). This is the perfect sort of role for her these days, though, and I’d even possibly go so far as to say she’s the best one in this. I know there’s been a lot of positive buzz around Jack O’Connell after Starred Up & ’71 (both of which I’ve not seen) and he’s decent enough in this but I think that his character lets him down as the movie fails to make him as sympathetic as I think it had intended.   Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito & especially Caitriona Balfe all did a good job and some of the smaller characters were pretty well-written and provided tiny bits of comic relief, even down to the cameraman who has to stay to film the whole thing while George Clooney has a bomb strapped to him.

I’d recommend Money Monster to anyone who thinks they’d enjoy it. As long as you don’t expect anything too deep, you’ll probably like it okay. I think it has slipped under the radar, which is kind of a shame as there aren’t a whole lot of similar films currently being made. I think Jodie Foster did a decent job with this one & should do more directing.

My Rating: 7/10

The Jungle Book (2016) Review

The Jungle Book (2016)

Directed by Jon Favreau

Based on The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Starring: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Neel Sethi

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Jungle Book stars and introduces Neel Sethi as Mowgli, an orphaned human boy who, guided by his animal guardians, sets out on a journey of self-discovery while evading the threatening Shere Khan.

My Opinion:

(FYI – I’ve never read the book so can’t make any comparisons to it)

I actually wasn’t all that bothered about watching this one when I saw the trailer. I of course love Disney’s 1967 The Jungle Book. Who doesn’t?! It’s one of my top ten animated Disney movies (I did rank every single one I’ve ever seen HERE in the early days of my blog – I really need to update that list). And it’s one of the absolute best for songs (two of them made my list of My Top Ten Disney Songs. I love making Disney lists).

Anyway! I’m a big fan of the Disney classics and just didn’t really see the necessity (ha) of making this “live action” version. However, it’s pretty good. It could never replace the animated classic for me and I’m mighty pissed off that this new version has a higher IMDB rating than the 1967 film but, oh well – it’s an enjoyable film & its child star (Neel Sethi) does a really great job.

First of all, the CGI in this is spectacular. You have to remind yourself that Sethi was actually acting alone during these scenes – they just look so real. So you have to give the kid extra credit for that! A few bits didn’t look quite right but, overall, I’d have to say that nothing really threw me out of the movie the way that bad CGI can sometimes. Well, nothing as far as the “look” of the film threw me out of it… Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the voice acting.

Of all the animals, I especially loved Bagheera. He looked amazing and, just as importantly, he was voiced very professionally by Ben Kingsley. By saying that I mean this: you don’t go “WOW – that’s Ben Kingsley!” the second you hear Bagheera talk. In fact, we didn’t know until the end credits who actually voiced that character and that’s the way it SHOULD be if Disney wish to make their films timeless classics. I’d say the same for Lupita Nyong’o’s Raksha as well. Raksha was probably my second favorite animal character and I again think a big part of that was down to the fact that I wasn’t picturing the real-life voice actor the entire time.

I went to see this with extended family & seemed to enjoy it more than anyone else in the group. I’m glad I didn’t review it right away, though, as I liked it a little less the more I thought about it (I saw it a week & a half ago). My hubby was especially not a fan. He’s always pooping on my enjoyment of things! I’m pretty damn picky on movies but, believe me, he’s far worse. I do see his point, though, as his biggest complaint is that this movie felt like “The Bill Murray Show”.

I doubt there’s anyone out there who doesn’t love Baloo from the 1967 The Jungle Book. I suppose it’s a difficult job to voice such a beloved character but Bill Murray voices him in that typical Bill Murray way of his: he voices Baloo as Bill Murray. I guess that’s good if you absolutely love him and go to this wanting to see a Bill Murray movie but that’s not what I personally want from any Disney film. I don’t want to picture the actors. I want to get lost in the world created by the movie which, in this case, really did look pretty fantastic. But then Baloo came along acting all Bill Murray-like. And I also adore King Louie from the 1967 film (I actually prefer I Wan’na Be Like You to The Bare Necessities and love that part of the film). But who voices King Louie? Christopher Walken! Are there many voices more identifiable than his?! He did actually tone things down a bit in this but I still couldn’t help but picture King Louie with a gun to his head & talking about sticking a watch up his ass. 

My Daughter’s Opinion: I was surprised that she didn’t seem to like this one very much. Her first comment afterwards was “How long was that? It felt like it was on for aaaaaaages!” so that’s clearly not a good sign (it’s 1 hour 46 minutes, FYI). So I asked her how she liked it compared to the other movies she’s gone to this year & she said it’s last after Kung Fu Panda 3, Zootropolis, Pan & Goosebumps. Man, she’s harsh. But I’m not too upset – this hopefully means she’ll always prefer the superior 1967 film. πŸ™‚

Summary:

If you pretend the 1967 film doesn’t exist, this is a very enjoyable family Disney film that looks absolutely amazing. A really good semi-live-action Disney film… (but not fully live action – it’s honestly so impressive that I keep thinking of it only as live action). The problem, though, is that the animated classic does exist so it’s impossible to not compare the two – especially as they’re so similar and this one does contain the two main songs from the animated film, which I was happy to hear yet at the same time wasn’t sure that they worked in this version. Plus they were sung by Murray & Walken and I’ve already said how I disliked their voices in this. Oh, actually – Scarlett Johansson was equally annoying as Kaa. That bit really didn’t work for me at all.

The other problem, and not everyone will care about this, is that you wouldn’t exactly want to have this one on if a two-year-old is in the room so it’s not as “entire family” friendly as the animated film. It looks far too real and many scenes are very intense for anyone really young.

Mainly, though, I’m just disappointed that they ruined the chance to make this yet another timeless Disney classic simply because they wanted to stick some big names in it. I expect that from other studios, such as DreamWorks, but not from Disney or Pixar. Okay – I’m not saying my two favorite (now joined) studios never use big names because, yes, they always do. But they usually first make sure that those voices suit the characters whereas this time it felt like they hired the actors without any thought as to if they were appropriate. It’s a shame as I think this would be pretty fantastic without those famous voice distractions. But, either way, it’s still not the animated classic so I don’t care too much anyway as that’s the one I’ll continue to watch for years. Interestingly, both my daughter and husband preferred Maleficent as well as the live-action Cinderella. Hmm. I’m not yet sure how I’d rank the three of them but I’ve given them all the exact same rating.

My Rating: 7/10

Oh! Oh! The baby wolves were adorable. Forgot to mention that. πŸ™‚