The DUFF & The Scorch Trials Movie Reviews 

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 😉 ) 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)

Sleeping With Strangers (1994) & Factotum (2005) Reviews

Tomorrow would’ve been Adrienne Shelly’s 50th birthday so I’m going to be posting reviews of some of her movies. Yesterday I began with her Hal Hartley films The Unbelievable Truth & Trust (reviews HERE) and tomorrow I’ll review her own film Waitress, which she wrote & directed and in which she also starred.

I explained yesterday why I’m reviewing Shelly’s films so I’m going to copy that explanation again here. I’ll just add that her independent films are very hard to get a hold of so today’s movies are unfortunately not very good & I’m sure she’s been in better ones. However, Sleeping With Strangers was a bit of fun and worth the watch as she has a big role & I’m definitely now a fan but she disappointingly only has an extremely small role in Factotum. Here’s what I said yesterday:

First of all, I’ll say a little bit about why I’ve chosen to devote a few days to Adrienne Shelly’s films. I became interested in checking out more of her work after watching the fantastic film Waitress, which she wrote & directed and in which she also starred. I watched Waitress while pregnant just like its main character (played by Keri Russell) and the movie just “spoke” to me in that special sort of way that I know only fellow diehard film lovers might understand. I’d seen her in nothing before & sadly didn’t even know her name until news of her murder just before the film’s release.

Anyway – I won’t go into Waitress now as I’ll be reviewing that on Friday but I so loved the movie & its mix of quirky characters (including Shelly’s role) that I wanted to see the films she’d starred in previously. Wow – they’re hard to get hold of! The one I’m most interested in (Sudden Manhattan, which she also wrote & directed) isn’t available. Of what I could get, I have to say that I liked Waitress far more than the films she only starred in. It’s sad to think of the other fantastic movies she could have made had she not been so cruelly taken from her family, her friends, and the filmmaking world.

Sleeping With Strangers (1994)

Directed by William T Bolson

Written by Joan Carr-Wiggin

Starring: Adrienne Shelly, Alastair Duncan, Kim Huffman, Shawn Thompson, Scott McNeil

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
A popular actress (Shelly) and a rock star (McNeil) come to a small Canadian town with two competing hotels next door to each other. The rock star is escorted into one of the hotels and the actress checks into the other. Daniel (Duncan), the owner of one of the two hotels, is trying to stay afloat. The other hotel owner, Mark (Thompson), is trying to steal away Daniel’s business and his fiancee (Huffman). The paparazzi arrives in town and makes everybody wonder, who is sleeping with whom?


*This is the only photo from this movie that I can find online

My Opinion:

I have to begin by saying: Who the HELL are those people on the movie poster??? You know you’re watching some low budget movie with no big names when they just stick some random people on the poster. That picture has nothing whatsoever to do with the movie – I’m assuming it was an “assignment” where they were given nothing more than the movie’s title & told to take a photo. Stupid. It’s not even the right number of people – the movie’s main characters are two women & three men. Even my DVD has a stupid cover – it’s a picture of two pairs of feet sticking out of a blanket. I prefer that, though, because at least you can almost pretend the feet belong to people who are ACTUALLY IN THE MOVIE.


*Why does Adrienne Shelly’s name have an extra E in some movie posters? I’m wondering if that’s an error or if she started out spelling it that way. Hmm… Yes, these are the little things that bother me in life.

Rant over! Okay – I just spent a paragraph bitching about the poster as I don’t have much to say about the actual movie. I guess it’s a romantic comedy, which is rarely my favorite type of film in the first place, but it’s not exactly the worst I’ve ever seen in this genre. I mean, at least Kate Hudson isn’t in it (or, you know – the 1994 annoying equivalent of Kate Hudson).


*As I said, this must officially be the most obscure movie I’ve reviewed as there are no photos from it online besides the one I used at the very start. So here’s the lovely Shelly on a DVD cover for The Unbelievable Truth…

I only watched this movie for Adrienne Shelly anyway & I’m glad I did as she has a very big role as a famous actress staying at an inn in a small village. Okay, maybe it’s because I’d say I’m a fan now but she’s the best thing about the movie. Her character isn’t really meant to be “liked” but you do warm to her & want nothing more than for her to hook up with the Scottish inn-owner (Alastair Duncan, who is clearly meant to be your favorite character & the one whose inn you want to stay in business). These two are good together & have a nice chemistry while the rest of the characters felt like a waste of time.


*There’s Alastair Duncan, apparently in a few episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Well, Kim Huffman was also good as Duncan’s cheating fiancĂŠ – she strikes me as a good actress who just hasn’t gone on to be in anything big. The other two male characters, though, were pointless. The other inn-owner had zero development (he was only there to add drama by being the competition & sleeping with the fiancĂŠe) and the rock star boyfriend of Shelly’s sctress was an embarrassment. He was all “Duuuude” and “Whoaaaa” – just a stereotypically sexist hard rocker with big hair. I mean, I love those dumb dudes sometimes (I adore Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure!) but it was just a bit too silly & the dumb comedy involving this character distracted from an otherwise simple story of some small town folks. There were some lesser characters, such as an old lady who lived at the inn & thought she was Queen, who could have been quite endearing if they’d been focused on a bit more. I often like quirky, small town dramedies (I’m thinking of things like Local Hero). If this movie had leaned more toward drama or actually had some good comedy, it would’ve been a much better film. Oh well. It wasn’t the worst movie ever & I’m glad Shelly had such a large role.

My Rating: 5.5/10

Factotum (2005)

Directed by Bent Hamer

Based on Factotum (1975) by Charles Bukowski

Starring: Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, Marisa Tomei, Adrienne Shelly, Fisher Stevens

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
This drama centers on Hank Chinaski, the fictional alter-ego of “Factotum” author Charles Bukowski, who wanders around Los Angeles, CA trying to live off jobs which don’t interfere with his primary interest, which is writing. Along the way, he fends off the distractions offered by women, drinking and gambling.

My Opinion:

This movie, unfortunately, was a huge waste of my time. Luckily, it was super cheap! Which is why I bought it since it had Shelly listed as an actress in it. Damn – I didn’t realize what an extremely small role it would be. But I also love Lili Taylor (Say Anything! Mystic Pizza!) so I figured “what the hell – it’s cheap & has two actresses I like”. Ugh. I can’t say I got any sort of enjoyment whatsoever out of this movie, which is quite rare. Even ones I absolutely HATE usually have a little something about them that I can appreciate. This was worse than those I hate – it was just a “So what?”.

This movie is based on the book Factotum by author Charles Bukowski & Matt Dillon plays Bukowski’s “fictional alter-ego”. I’ll readily admit that I’d never even heard of Bukowski before watching this movie then reading about it online. I’d say that this film was probably made solely for fans of his writing so, if you’re a fan, you might as well give this a go. If you aren’t, I honestly can’t recommend it. I found it utterly pointless & completely boring considering its main character is supposedly a somewhat controversial figure who doesn’t conform to social norms. Perhaps it would’ve been better in its original setting of the 1940s as in the book since his behavior doesn’t feel shocking in the movie’s 2005. It feels like there IS a story here but, for whatever reason, the movie fails to make it watchable. I’m assuming the book is more interesting as the author appears to have plenty of fans.

Everyone does a decent enough job with the material, however. The movie stars some big names and Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor & Marisa Tomei all give it their usual best. Dillon basically mopes around, writes a bit, jumps from job to job, and has loads of sex with Taylor. For a while, he has sex with Tomei instead. Tomei & a couple other women apparently hang out with a rich old dude just to have a place to stay & sometimes get rides on his yacht (and on him, you assume). Adrienne Shelly plays one of those women. I’m not sure if she even had a line…

I’m not against this sort of film, where you have an unsympathetic central character that most people won’t be able to relate to in any way. But there have been plenty of similar films which didn’t feel like such a huge waste. I don’t expect some Disney ending where everyone learns the error of their ways but I do expect to get a little something out of a film, whether it’s some sort of emotion or if it’s just plain entertainment. I’m thinking of things like Leaving Las Vegas or The Wolf Of Wall Street – both are excellent films with central characters who most people won’t be able to relate to but one film manages to be very emotionally draining while the other is sure as shit entertaining. I’m now curious to see the film Filth to compare – that one certainly looks more interesting than Factotum. I hate to end on a downer but, hey, it’s not like this is an Adrienne Shelly film & I’ll be finishing on a far more positive note when I review Waitress tomorrow. 🙂

My Rating: 4/10

See The Cast Of Say Anything Then And Now

20140418-091957 am.jpg

Yep – I LOVE Say Anything. I know I’m getting to be totally predictable and anyone who knows me & the age I am will have guessed that I love Say Anything. Like Jake Ryan, the sweet & perfect Lloyd Dobler also ruined boyfriends for me for life. The movie is now 25 years old (man I feel old!). Here are some “then & now” photos of the cast. You can see these and more here: ScreenCrush.

John Cusack

20140418-092600 am.jpg
Ione Skye (Donovan’s daughter! I love Donovan…)

20140418-092614 am.jpg
Lili Taylor

20140418-092622 am.jpg

(I’ve always loved Lili Taylor, especially in Say Anything. Loved seeing her in the actually-very-good-horror-movie The Conjuring! I reviewed that HERE).

The Conjuring (2013) Review

20130807-122526 PM.jpg
The Conjuring

Directed by James Wan

Starring:
Vera Farmiga
Patrick Wilson
Ron Livingston
Lili Taylor

Running time: 112 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

This “based on a true story” movie follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) as they investigate mysterious supernatural occurrences at the home of the Perron family (parents played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor).

20130807-123030 PM.jpg
My Opinion:

I really enjoyed this film. I rarely watch horror movies anymore as they seem to have turned into nothing but the torture porn variety that I can’t stand. Give me either a good old fashioned 70s & 80s slasher with cheesy special effects I can actually handle or a creepy old-school supernatural thriller. The Conjuring, I’m happy to say, comes pretty close to feeling like a genuine 70s supernatural thriller.

20130807-123303 PM.jpg
The Conjuring opens with the Warrens showing us a previous case they worked on where a doll had become possessed. Dolls freak me out. Dolls freak a lot of people out and the makers of The Conjuring clearly know this. They take as many horror movie cliches as they can and throw them all at us. But all horror movies do this anyway. The Conjuring at least manages to use every trick in the book in a few fairly original & effective ways. (To be honest, the doll was too over-the-top freaky. The music box was more subtle & far creepier… )

20130807-010014 PM.jpg
The Conjuring takes place in the 70s, which helps add to the overall creepiness. I’m a sucker for 70s films so that will have helped my enjoyment of this.The clothes! The cars! The 70s were so groovy! (From what I remember of the decade as I spent the latter part of it watching Sesame Street). So I really liked the look of the film. It’s no The Shining as far as the look and feel go (can anything really beat that one?!). But I appreciate the effort they put into making this feel more like a good old-school haunted house movie.

20130807-010038 PM.jpg
Did The Conjuring scare me? I know that’s the main question people seem to be asking. Well, I can’t really think of a movie that ever HAS scared me. There are some that give me the heebie jeebies a little bit. The one I just mentioned, The Shining, is probably the film I find the creepiest and comes the closest to “scaring” me. The Conjuring didn’t scare me, no, but had I seen it for the first time alone & in the middle of the night, I’m pretty sure I’d have slept with the lights on.

It’s fairly intense and that tired old “based on a true story” thing DOES seep into your brain whether you believe it or not – that’s why so many horror movies use that line. (I’ve not yet looked into the true story of the Warrens & Perron family so can’t comment on how true this film actually is). I was a little bit jumpy through the film but, as always, you know when the scares are coming. The film also shows us more of the “ghostly visitors” than I was expecting but I know they need to keep things balanced as the younger cinema goers expect that these days. I’ve always been someone who’s been more scared by the things we don’t actually see. However, I think The Conjuring strikes a decent balance at trying to keep the old-school supernatural horror fans like me and the current generation of fans happy.

20130807-010106 PM.jpg
The number one reason that I think makes this film stand out so much compared to other horror films of recent years, though, is this: The acting (particularly the two female leads). Too many current horror films are full of either horrible acting or completely unlikeable characters. I don’t want to watch a movie with either of these things – I don’t think the rules should be any different for the horror genre. Lili Taylor was the best thing about this film for me. She was genuinely believable as a loving mother who just wants to protect her five daughters. I know she’s been in plenty of things in more recent years but not much that I’ve seen so it was great seeing her in a big role in this – I’ve always especially loved her part in Say Anything. Vera Farmiga is also great in this although I kind of feel I’ve seen her play a similar role before. The bond the two woman share as they both have daughters was very good. The men are fine but really take a backseat to all the females in the film (Ron Livingston especially seems to have very little to do). Being a woman, I really liked seeing a film with such strong female leads. Even all six daughters in this film do an excellent job, which is great as there has been some especially bad child-acting in horror films.

20130807-010138 PM.jpg
Summary:

The Conjuring uses every trick in the book to scare us but at least uses those tricks in some fairly original & effective ways. The film has a good look & feel which will keep fans of old fashioned horror films happy but I think should also please a younger generation of fans who want something other than torture porn. But the thing that makes the film stand out the most in its genre is some great performances, especially those of the strong female leads. This film feels like a more grown-up horror film and will hopefully pave the way for similar films in this genre. I don’t think it’s the best “haunted house” film I’ve seen but it’s a refreshing return to an old formula that’s a step in the right direction in a generation now filled with some mind-numbingly bad and excessively gory so-called horror films.

My Rating: 7.5/10

20130807-010201 PM.jpg