Crawl Movie Review

I fear that Haley (Kaya Scodelario) will have trouble running into her school’s mascot after the events that transpire in Crawl. She’s a college student attending the University of Florida and she gets the literal treatment to gator chomps. When a Category 5 Hurricane is poised to make landfall, Haley goes searching for searching for her dad Dave (Barry Pepper). Flashbacks show him pushing juvenile Haley hard in the sport of swimming. Their relationship is strained, though that nautical training sure comes in handy here.

When she finds him and their dog Sugar, he’s trapped in the old family home and there’s not one, but two alligators skulking around while the rain pounds away. The pair must use their survival skills to battle all the elements and try to turn their tormentors into boots or luggage (as the former California Governor said in the Arnold not so classic Eraser).

Crawl is short (87 minutes), unambitious, and straightforward. Those adjectives will apply to this review. It’s certainly watchable and clips right along. The gators look pretty menacing and the underwater camerawork is stellar. Director Alexandre Aja has covered this stuff before in Piranha 3D. This is primarily a two person show with Scodelario and Pepper, though you may find yourself rooting hardest for Sugar to pull through. His bark occasionally assists in avoiding the creatures bites.

Even with the brisk running time, the occasional callbacks to the father/daughter dynamic seems tacked on. After all, the exposition of Dave using coaching terms to get Haley to do the breaststroke isn’t exactly Quint recounting the events of the USS Indianapolis. And this Jaws knockoff is a standard and sometimes effective diversion.

**1/2 (out of four)

Crawl Box Office Prediction

Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper might be the two human headlining actors in Crawl, but it’s a bunch of murderous alligators that are the star attraction. The horror pic takes place after a hurricane with the reptiles terrorizing survivors. Alexandre Aja directs.

Coproduced by Sam Raimi, Crawl would love to bring in the kind of coin that recent shark tales have brought in over recent summers. 2016’s The Shallows made around $16 million for its start and the following year’s 47 Meters Down took in just over $11 million.

With a minor reported $17 million budget, Crawl appears set to be a profitable venture for distributor Paramount. I’ll say this manages to come close to its price tag in its first three days of release.

Crawl opening weekend prediction: $14.2 million

For my Stuber prediction, click here:

Oscar Watch: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

An eagerly anticipated premiere at the Sundance Film Festival occurred yesterday with the screening of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile. Set for release on Netflix this year, the true life crime thriller casts Zac Efron as notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. Joe Berlinger, who’s known primarily for documentaries (his sole fictional work is the maligned horror sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2) directs. The filmmaker also made an extensive documentary about Bundy that’s up on the aforementioned streaming service this weekend. Costars in Vile include Lily Collins, Kaya Scodelario, Jeffrey Donovan, Jim Parsons, and John Malkovich.

Early reviews are mixed and its Rotten Tomatoes score is presently at 67%. Yet critics seem to agree on one thing and that’s the terrific work of Efron in the lead. Some suggest it could be a career changing performance. I know that the concept of Efron nabbing an Oscar seems far-fetched. Yet if Netflix can put together a solid campaign and depending on how competition plays out in 2019, you never know. The company did prove in 2018 that they’re now a factor with the Academy (see multiple nominations for Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs).

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Maze Runner: The Death Cure Box Office Prediction

Concluding a trilogy started in 2014, Maze Runner: The Death Cure races into theaters next Friday. Based on the James Dashner series of YA books, the sci-fi action pic stars Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Nathalie Emmanuel, Giancarlo Esposito, Walton Goggins, Barry Pepper, and Patricia Clarkson. Wes Ball, who directed the first two installments, returns behind the camera. Reviews are so so thus far with a 40% Rotten Tomatoes score.

The reported $83 million production was originally scheduled for release in February 2017 until an injury suffered by star O’Brien on the set delayed production. The nearly two and a half-year lag time between sequels could be a hindrance to its potential.

In September 2014, the original Runner opened to $32 million with an eventual $102 million domestic haul. Sequel The Scorch Trials arrived one year later to diminishing returns – a $30 million debut and $81 million overall take. Enough of the fan base may stick around, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Death take in about 25% less out of the gate than its predecessor in 2015.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure opening weekend prediction: $22.8 million

The Maze Runner Movie Review

The Maze Runner is another film that can thank its existence to the YA… Hey, that’s the little kid from Love Actually!!! The one that played Liam Neeson’s son!! The kid that played the drums while his elementary school crush sang Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” and broke numerous airport protocols with the help of Mr. Bean so he could get a kiss on the cheek from her!! Yes, that was my honest first reaction during about the first 15 minutes of this movie as I saw actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster all grown up. Let it be known: I adore Love Actually and I’m not afraid to say it.

Where were we? Ahh yes. The Maze Runner indeed is another film, like Divergent, that can thank its existence to the recent YA boom made largely popular by the Hunger Games and their movie adaptations. This, too, is based on a popular series of novels by James Dashner and deals with teenagers put in perilous situations where they must learn to work together. We open with 16 year old Thomas (Dylan O’Brien, who was 22 when this was made) waking up in a strange land where he has no recollection of who he is or how he arrived there (and not like a blacked out college kid that drank too much the night before way). The large field he finds himself in has been dubbed The Glade by its inhabitants, who are all also young boys in the same predicament. Including Love Actually dude!! Thomas soon learns that he’s the latest arrival in a series of men that arrive like clockwork every month. They’re surrounded by an enormous maze and the field dwellers have spent considerable time attempting to figure out how to get out of it with no luck.

There are rules in the community. Only men tasked as “runners” are permitted to enter the maze for investigatory purposes. If you don’t make it out by a certain time of day, you’re a dead man and scrawled names on the maze wall serve as their memorial. Thomas is understandably confused but also intrigued and his tenacity to solve the maze riddle is not totally met with approval, especially from Gally played by Will Poulter (the dude who sang TLC’s “Waterfalls” in We’re the Millers). There’s also Alby (Ami Ameen), who’s the resident OG (Original Glader). And Chuck (Blake Cooper), Thomas’s portly sidekick who is basically the community’s Chunk from The Goonies. And then a girl shows up (Kaya Scodelario), who actually knows her name and also seems to know Thomas. She’s not given a whole lot to do and I’m assuming her role becomes more pronounced in the sequels. There’s also that kid from Love Actually!!

Once Thomas and his cohorts enter the maze after he jumps the line to become a Runner, we soon discover it might be the gigantic robot spider creatures (or Grievers) causing a good deal of the problems. These creatures (who frankly look quite CG) contribute to the action sequences, which are handled fairly well but are nothing special or new whatsoever.

Eventually Patricia Clarkson shows up to explain the plot and also because it’s a rule that at least one Oscar nominated actor appear in these pictures, a la Woody Harrelson and Kate Winslet. As far as acting is concerned, O’Brien gives a serviceable performance as our lead, but 16? I don’t think so. Poulter stands out a bit, proving he can play a jerk after only knowing him as a virginal sweetie from We’re the Millers. And Love Actually kid is just fine.

Ranking The Maze Runner among the first editions of these YA novel based adaptations is rather simple. It isn’t as good as The Hunger Games but it’s better than Divergent. The plot is somewhat ridiculous once we are apprised of it, but director Wes Ball moves things along and it’s mostly entertaining while it lasts (though it kind of loses steam as it goes along). It sets itself perfectly up for a sequel (which is currently #1 at the box office) and there’s just enough in this original that I’ll likely watch its follow up like I did this one. On the couch and less surprised at seeing that Love Actually drummer boy kid.

**1/2 (out of four)