Movie Review: The Scorch Trials: Running Nowhere

Movie Poster
Movie Poster

The Scorch Trials

Directed by Wes Ball

Released September 18th, 2015

Genre: Dystopian, Action, Adventure, Young Adult

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee

Synopsis

Transported to a remote fortified outpost, Thomas and his fellow teenage Gladers find themselves in trouble after uncovering a diabolical plot from the mysterious and powerful organization WCKD. With help from a new ally, the Gladers stage a daring escape into the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with dangerous obstacles and crawling with the virus-infected Cranks. The Gladers only hope may be to find the Right Hand, a group of resistance fighters who can help them battle WCKD.

IMDB Score: 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 62%

My Thoughts

I was super excited to watch the Scorch Trials this weekend it opens because I’d watched the Maze Runner last year and absolutely loved it. It had been a thrill ride from start to finish and I thought that the action/adventure was fascinating and ethereal. Naturally, I was highly anticipating the sequel, expecting it to be bigger and bolder than the last movie.

What I Liked

The cinematography was stellar. I felt like the entire movie fit an overall aesthetic of poignant desolation. The camera focus was sharp as knives and the silhouettes made on the desert landscape were outstandingly artsy. I got chills whenever more than one character turned their heads at the same time, because it was done with such synchronicity and meaning. I felt that the visuals were excellent and I was overall blown away by them.n It certainly had a darker atmosphere than the first movie.

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Game of Thrones’ own Nathalie Emmanuel played such a BAMF (bad ass mother fucker) character, Harriet, in the movie. She was fierce, audacious, and exuded impassioned leadership. It was a delight to watch her instill awe in Thomas’s group and commandeer an army. It was such a far cry from her more gentle character on GoT, and I really enjoyed it.

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My heart leaped with a multitude of intense emotion, from terror to despair to elation. I actually got teary eyed when that tragic event occurred, and I could feel my heart leaping out of my chest with a surge of horror as Thomas’s crew was attacked by zombies. I like movies that make me feel greatly, and The Scorch Trials did succeed in that way.

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Brenda was pretty boss! She was totally self-assured and plucky, and I like her impetus. Her cool demeanor intrigued me. I think that she held her own very well and was very daring and dauntless.

What I Didn’t Like

So. Much. Running. I feel like the whole movie was just about Thomas, Newt, Teresa, Minho, and the rest of the gang just running away from the “bad guys” and being chased and shot at and attacked. Running from WCKD, running from zombies (too many zombies!), running from what ever attacker was there. It became ingratiating. Like Thomas said “I’m tired of running.” I’m tired of you running too, Thomas.

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I didn’t feel like there was any real point to this movie. I left the movie theater not even sure if I knew if there was a plot to it. A lot of random crap just happened to Thomas et al and I didn’t understand the premise of it. The first movie very clearly showed that the objective was to find the way out of the maze, and the objective was reached by them leaving the maze at the end of the movie. It seemed like for the sequel, horrible stuff was just thrown at our heroes and we were left with more questions than answers. It was more a of an awkward in-between movie, and I hope the mystery will be truly solved in the third (and final) movie.

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I didn’t like how Newt didn’t talk that much in this movie. I adore the actor, Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Nanny McPhee, Phineas and Ferb, Game of Thrones) and I wanted his character to be more important in the Scorch Trials, like he was in the Maze Runner. He kind of faded to the wayside in this movie, even though he was still Thomas’s right hand man. Plus, I really love his British accent, so I sorely missed hearing it a lot in the movie. I have a soft spot for Newt, which the Scorch Trials didn’t really deliver on.

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Teresa was just kind of there. Her character didn’t add any value to the plot until the horrific twist at the end, which appeared to have come out of nowhere. She was more of just an accessory to Thomas.

Verdict

The Scorch Trials was very aesthetically pleasing and showcased brazen female characters. It was fun to watch three Game of Thrones actors in one movie (Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Sangster, and Aidan Gillen). I think it was really thrilling to watch and it kept me on the edge of my seat. I thought that was excellent direction by Wes Ball in terms of visuals. Yet, it seemed pointless and meaningless, and I was left dissatisfied and disappointed.

7.5/10

Thomas
Thomas

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Film Review: Far From the Madding Crowd: Endearing Feminist Romance

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I have a confession to make: I really, really, really love Period Dramas. There’s just something about history that I’m so transfixed by: the fashion, the scenery, the old customs. It’s enchanting to me.

When I heard about Far From the Madding Crowd, I was thrilled. It wasn’t just that it was a period drama. I was drawn to the heroine’s description as headstrong and independent. Bathsheba Everdene (played by the dainty Carey Mulligan) was a woman who could take care of herself in a society that dictates that women be taken care of. I couldn’t wait to watch that unfold onscreen, being a feminist and all.

Hollywood starlet Carey Mulligan during the filming of an adaptation of the novel Far from the Madding Crowd in Sherborne, Dorset. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 20, 2013. Some scenes from the adaptation of the classic Thomas Hardy novel are being filmed in part of the town which has been transformed to fit the Victorian setting of the film. Photo credit should read: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
Hollywood starlet Carey Mulligan during the filming of an adaptation of the novel Far from the Madding Crowd in Sherborne, Dorset. Photo credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

There was also the not one, not two, but THREE (yes, three!) love interests for one heroine. The hopeless romantic that I am, I was almost giddy with excitement.

So how did Far From the Madding Crowd fare?

I found the background music heavenly, enamored with the violin and piano sounds.

All the main characters were just so pretty and handsome. There was a lot of really good eye-candy with such a beautiful cast. All three love interests (played by Matthias Schoenartes, Tom Sturridge, and Michael Sheen) were exceptionally dashing, charming, and disarming in their own different ways.

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I was overjoyed to watch a feminist lead character. She was independent, the boss, owned property, and didn’t need “things” from a man to marry him. I admired her self-sufficiency and strength greatly.

The scenery was so gorgeous: rollicking hills, luscious green pastures, and tranquil bodies of water. Being an artsy person, I was really enchanted by the interior designs – artful with grandeur. I love really stately interior designs in my period dramas, and was blown away by the elegance in Far From the Madding Crowd.

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I was especially enamored with the moving romance at the center of the movie. It was long-lasting and touching with a beautiful ending of endearing passion and love. The sexual tension was drawn out for maximum effect. Bathsheba Everdene finally got with the one man who’d stuck with her through thick and thin. It was so sweet. The secondary romance was a tragic love pulling at my heartstrings, which hit me deep.

A particular quote stood out to me, spoken by Bathsheba, my feminist heroine: “It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language chiefly made by men to express theirs.” So thought provoking.

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I’d give Far From the Madding Crowd a 10/10. It is a magnificently directed film with a very aesthetically pleasing cinematography. I feel like it told a great love story and really enjoyed the feminist values. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who loves period dramas, strong female leads, and heartwarming romance.

Teaser Tuesday: Paper Towns by John Green

With the movie coming up, I figured that I would finally read Paper Towns by John Green.

It’s a coming of age book that serves to contrast the personalities of the anxious thinkers, like the protagonist Quentin Jacobsen, and the capricious doers, like his object of affection Margo Roth Spiegelman.

I’m about two-thirds through, and I’m really enjoying the mystery surrounding Margo’s disappearance and the various reactions from the different characters towards the enigma that is her character. I also noticed how John Green uses literature in the form of poetry by Walt Whitman as the backbone of his novel, similarly to the use of a made-up novel in The Fault in Our Stars.

Here’s a teaser, extracting an excerpt from a mini-speech by Margo that includes the title of the book itself:

“It’s a paper town. I mean, look at it, Q: look at all those cul-de-sacs, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm.”

What she’s talking about? Well, you’ll have to read Paper Towns to find out.

Sia: ‘Elastic Heart’ and ‘Big Girls Cry’

In Praise and Defense of Sia and Maddie

Grammy's 2015
Grammy’s 2015
Grammy's 2015 Closeup
Grammy’s 2015 Closeup

I am a huge fan of Sia and her videos. I made a blog post last year about her music video for her hit single, “Chandelier”. Since then, I’ve been an avid fan of Sia’s videos with Maddie. Maddie Ziegler is also a star on the reality TV show “Dance Moms” which I started watching after seeing how amazing dance moves in the “Chandelier” music video.

Sia’s music video for “Elastic Heart” was hit with ‘controversy’ when some narrow-minded people saw a little girl dancing with an older man and concluded that it was pedophilia. Of course, there’s no such thing as bad publicity and the views on the video sky rocketed. The comments flooded with people disgusted that it could ever be seen as pedophilia. Obviously it wasn’t. I saw nothing sexual at all in the video or the dance. Some people made the very good point that if anybody saw anything sexual in it, then THEY were the problem.

I saw the video as pure art. Maddie and Shia were absolutely enthralling together. They told the story of a battle between two selves: the capricious, childish, ‘free’, wild self and the grounded, adult, ‘restrained’, mindful self. The childish self teases the more adult self and it ends with the adult self being stuck in the mental ‘cage’ of inhibition while the childish self can escape the ‘cage’ and be free. It was deeply emotional and one of the most profound music videos I have ever seen. Utterly beautiful.

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Sia’s music video for “Big Girls Cry” took a drastic turn from her last two videos in that there was no dancing involved. Instead, Maddie delivered a heartfelt performance using just her face and her hands. It was breathtaking for me to watch the raw emotion pour out of her. My interpretation of it is that it tells a story of a young girl who wants so badly to say how she really feels inside but is kept muffled by society and has to restrain herself from spilling her feelings out. She masks herself using make up and tries to pretend like everything is okay. However, its killing her on the inside to not let her emotions out and eventually she bursts. I never cease to be amazed by Maddie’s talent and the video always moves me tears. Powerfully touching.

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I think that Maddie Ziegler coupled with Sia makes for a sizzling, electric pair. Sia’s masterful language and searing vocals combined with Maddie’s enrapturing talent and brilliant moves produce top class music videos. Their videos are a passionate trilogy. I’ll be sure to follow Maddie on Dance Moms and continue watching Sia’s videos.

And to anyone who has a problem with their videos: “Art is meant to disturb the comforted and comfort the disturbed.”

Book Review: White Like Me (Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son) by Tim Wise

white like me

White Like Me

Tim Wise

Published 2005

Amazon

Synopsis

With a new preface and updated chapters, White Like Me is one-part memoir, one-part polemical essay collection. It is a personal examination of the way in which racial privilege shapes the daily lives of white Americans in every realm: employment, education, housing, criminal justice, and elsewhere.

Using stories from his own life, Tim Wise demonstrates the ways in which racism not only burdens people of color, but also benefits, in relative terms, those who are “white like him.” He discusses how racial privilege can harm whites in the long run and make progressive social change less likely. He explores the ways in which whites can challenge their unjust privileges, and explains in clear and convincing language why it is in the best interest of whites themselves to do so. Using anecdotes instead of stale statistics, Wise weaves a narrative that is at once readable and yet scholarly, analytical and yet accessible.

My Thoughts

What a gem White Like Me is! I have become very socially conscious on matters of Race in America since August last year, with the infamous Ferguson incident, so I was very interested in what Tim Wise had to say. I actually got the book from my Theory of Knowledge teacher, who was giving out an extra copy he had bought. (Shout out to Michael LoStracco!)

In case you didn’t already know, Tim Wise is a white American who is working to educate people on race relations and combat racism in America. The essence of what he was saying in his book, White Like Me: racism still exists in America, there is such a thing as white privilege, the micro-aggressions blacks face daily, were all things that I already knew prior to reading about them in his book. Yet, it was still refreshing to read a white person saying all that, especially when it comes to white privilege.

He is very honest and candid, which really impressed me when I was reading. Too many times have whites been to plagued by white guilt rather than facing the truth. Not Tim Wise. He wrote the hard truth, and it made me ecstatic. He wrote about privilege, belonging, resistance, and collaboration, and I could only marvel at the infinite wisdom, self-awareness, and empathy pouring out of a white man when writing about an issue that never affects him (at least not negatively, something he never has to worry about in his life: race.

I wish I could meet Mr. Wise in real life and thank him for writing such a candid book on our so-called “post-racial society”. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It’s important to be educated on such delicate social topics as race in today’s world. In fact, it is essential in combatting the ignorance that still befalls many in America today when it comes to race.

Favorite Quotes

“What whites have rarely had to think about—because being the dominant group, we are so used to having our will done, with a little effort at least—is that maybe the point is not victory, however much we all wish to see justice attained and injustice routed. Maybe our redemption comes from the struggle itself. Maybe it is in the effort, the striving for equality and freedom that we become human.”
Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

“So, in “Melting Pot” the children (about a third of whom were kids of color) sang the line, “America was the new world and Europe was the old,” in one stroke eradicating the narratives of indigenous persons for whom America was hardly new, and any nonwhite kids whose old worlds had been in Africa or Asia, not Europe.”
Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

“Hardly any aspect of my life, from where I had lived to my education to my employment history to my friendships, had been free from the taint of racial inequity, from racism, from whiteness. My racial identity had shaped me from the womb forward. I had not been in control of my own narrative. It wasn’t just race that was a social construct. So was I.”
Tim Wise, White Like Me

“And in “Elbow Room” the cast sings the glories of westward expansion in the United States, which involved the murder of native peoples and the violent conquest of half of Mexico. Among the lines in the song is one that intones, “There were plenty of fights / To win land right / But the West was meant to be / It was our Manifest Destiny?” Let it suffice to say that happily belting out a tune in which one merrily praises genocide is always easier for those whose ancestors weren’t on the receiving end of the deal.”
Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son