There are a bunch of movies on the docket this week as we cycle out of the summer and into the fall season. There is some interesting stuff coming along, with teens running mazes, families sitting extended shiva, walking among tombstones and Kevin Smith doing some weird stuff.
Just remember, I'm not reviewing these movies, but rather predicting where they'll end up on the Tomatometer. Let's take a look at what This Rotten Week has to offer.
Rotten Watch Prediction
See what I’m talking about in the trailer for The Maze Runner,
The Maze Runner is adapted from the novel by James Dashner. Basically, dude wakes up in a world surrounded by a maze. Lots of crazy stuff goes down. A girl shows up. Everyone runs around a lot. More crazy maze stuff happens. Guy falls in love with the girl (I’m assuming). There’s a bit of a power struggle somewhere. More maze running. You get the drill.
Young adult novel adaptations are all the rage, with those authors just clamoring over each other to create the next Hunger Games, Twilight, etc. The Maze Runner very much feels like the movie studios are just grabbing for the everything under the sun and adapting it hoping to hit gold. Probably is a bit of an overstatement, but I don’t think by much.
Directed by Wes Ball (a number of credits, but this is his first time helming a major film), The Maze Runner has been met with early mixed reactions among critics. Some see it as a worthy addition to the late teen movie world while others weren’t so psyched. I think as the week goes on we see it trend slightly negative with more critics finding the faults beyond a cool premise and some tight action scenes. And if you wake up in a world surrounded by teenagers and mazes, just stay in the elevator. You’ll be better off.
Rotten Watch Prediction
So here’s the deal with movies like this. On the surface it seems like a total home run. You have a fantastic cast, which I will now describe the way my wife did when she was talking about this movie: "It has so many people! Jason Bateman, that guy from Girls, Tina Fey, Tammy Taylor from Friday Night Lights, that one cute girl from that movie...oooh what’s the name of it? Oh nevermind, you know who I’m talking about, (I think she’s referring to Rose Byrne) and Kristen Bell’s husband from Punk’d." See what I mean? She rattled off a whole slew of people in one long, elaborate breath. Like it was nothing. And you’d think that meant a good movie coming. But I’m not so sure.
Count all the famous people in the trailer for This is Where I Leave You,
Movies that are cast driven like this can begin missing the forest for the trees. It’s difficult to get everyone the requisite screen time while also holding true to the story and the central plot arc. Simply stated: sometimes there’s just so much going on that it’s hard connecting with any one thing. That can be a problem.
The film’s adapted from Jonathan Trooper’s novel of the same name (and the same book I pick up almost every time in Barnes and Noble and promise I’ll read soon) and deals with a family forced to sit extended shiva together (grounded together is how they put it in the movie) on the last request of their deceased father. This is Where I Leave You looks like it has its moments and I’m betting tries like hell to hammer home a central message of "Our family might be crazy, but they’re the ones who love us the most."
Critics are mixed in early reviews. The general tone is "safe, boring, not terrible, nice cast, pretty forgettable." And that’s the problem with these kinds of films. Movies are more than just the players. We have to care about the problems (which have to be real) and the reason you get excited about a flick should be something more than the faces on the screen. I’m afraid that’s all there is for this film.
Rotten Watch Prediction
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Liam Neeson is playing a guy with a particular set of skills (the investigating and killing kind of skills) who’s been called on to find and take revenge on a group of dudes who’ve been up to no good. Yup, it’s all new to me as well. This might be an interesting career choice for the guy. Can’t wait to see where it goes for him. See this new role for Neeson in the trailer for A Walk Among the Tombstones,
All kidding aside, I love these roles for Neeson. They are right in his wheelhouse, which is why he keeps getting and taking them. Honestly, go for it Liam. I’d be happy if he just played this kind of character for the rest of his career. Which he just might do.
This latest is based on a novel by Lawrence Block and is directed by Scott Frank. Frank has primarily writing credits under his belt, including the Elmore Leonard adaptations Out of Sight (93%) and Get Shorty (86%), and made his directorial debut with the Joseph Gordon-Levitt led The Lookout (87%). The film looks ominous and dark, more of a mystery than Liam’s other forays into the revenge business. It appears a bit more psychological. And it’s a testament to Neeson’s skills in this acting arena that we aren’t shrugging our shoulders or letting out heavy sighs when we see he’s going to roll it back for another Taken-like film.
I don’t think A Walk Among the Tombstones will crush it with critics, as the story might be just a little too much "been there, done that." But I do think Neeson actually carries it to at least a respectable score. We know he has the skills.
Rotten Watch Prediction
The thought of a raving psycho with abundant resources and time wanting to turn me into an animal through the use of prosthetics, skin-grafting and good old-fashioned thread and needle is more than a little disturbing. That is, of course, unless the animal us a zebra. They’re unique looking. They stand out in a crowd. They can moonlight as a referee if need be. There are a lot of ways to go with being a zebra. See another guy who’s got animal conversions on the brain in the trailer for Tusk,
Unfortunately for Justin Long in this flick, the psycho wants to turn him into a walrus. There is a lot of downside there. A lot of downside. Tusk was born out of stories told on director Kevin Smith’s podcast and appear stylistically divergent from his early career work. That’s a trend that has been playing out over his last couple of movie, like Red State (54%) and Cop Out (14%), where he went in much different directions than his normal indie comedy bit . Not all of them good.
This latest looks like a comedy/ horror mash up, with Smith laying it on thick from both sides. His style has always been a little clunky (that’s not a knock, just trying to find the right way to describe it) that toes a fine line in terms of effectiveness. When it works, it is different and cult classic time. When it doesn’t, it gets bad real quick.
Early reviews are generally positive for Tusk, though not overwhelmingly so. Those who enjoyed it seem to take Smith at face value, understanding what he brings to the screen, but also his limitations. They don’t seem to fault him for the latter. But there are critics who do fault him, hard. Some reviews are downright mean. It’s this split that I think will see the score drop as the week goes on. Should have chosen a zebra Kevin. 100% for sure.
Which one of my predictions will end up being the closest?
Last week was not a great one for the Rotten Watch. One problem was that I put the wrong score in for Dolphin Tale 2 (Predicted: 39% Actual: 73%). This is totally my fault, but you can see that it was the same number I had for the movie below. Or at least I think this is what I did. I don’t know. I’ve never used the same prediction for two movies. I definitely didn’t think Dolphin Tale 2 would rate as high as the first one, but I don’t think I meant to put the score that low. Funny aside: the day after I wrote the write up for Dolphin Tale 2, Mrs. Rotten Week’s mom brought over the first for my daughter to watch. I ended up taking a look. Wasn’t bad. Anyway, my prediction was a total fail.
Meanwhile, I was on the right track for No Good Deed (Predicted: 39% Actual: 12%), but missed way high. I thought it looked like a retread of a million lone wolf hostage movies. And I was right. Even the great Idris Elba couldn’t save this thing. Critics hated it and I just wish I had gone as low as my writeup’s tone suggested.
Next time around it’s some boxtrolls and equalizing. It’s going to be a Rotten Week!