This Is Where I Leave You is uncomfortable, yet enjoyable

Title: This Is Where I Leave You

Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda

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Plot: A deeply divided family is forced under one roof to remember the life of their father by “sitting Shiva” in the spirit of Jewish tradition.

Why See It: I don’t remember what I expected when I sat down to watch this movie in the theatre. I certainly wasn’t expecting a Jewish funeral dramedy. Nevertheless, that is what I watched. This is not a perfect movie. It is messy, occasionally cliché and often crosses a line with its humor.  None of this prevented me from enjoying it.

If any one thing struck me about This Is Where I Leave You it was the excellent performances offered up by nearly all of the cast. Bateman, in particular, shines as Judd Ultman but I found something to like in all of the performances. Without giving anything away, the fact that I both empathized with and liked these caricatures of people is quite astounding. Still, as the movie stretched on into the evening I found myself feeling a bit frustrated. I am not a director and I don’t claim any such talent but this film really should have been shorter. The outlandish dysfunction of the Ultman’s begins to wear thin after a while in terms of both entertainment value and believability. As they ramp up the dysfunction, the film’s sentimentality felt less and less earned. Thankfully, the proceedings ended on a strong note that I dwelled on far longer than any sloppiness in the film’s second half.

This may not be the best film of the year but it doesn’t have to be. The film’s dramatic and comedic notes complement each other far more often then they clash and the cast is engaging far more often than ridiculous. Is this film uncomfortable? Most definitely. Thankfully, I was in the mood for some discomfort.

Rating: ★★★★☆

The Maze Runner nails action scenes, falls short on emotion

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Title: The Maze Runner

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario and Will Poulter

Plot: After Thomas (O’Brien) and Teresa (Scodelario) wake up in a stone maze with no idea how they got there, they are forced to work together with other teenagers trapped in the maze to survive and ultimately escape the walls that confine them.

Why see it: The Maze Runner fails to disprove the old adage about movies made from books, but shines in its own right nonetheless. Though the acting is spotty and the scriptwriting is sometimes cheesy, the movie retains all the edge-of-your-seat action of the novel and really brings its setting to life. The Maze Runner does suffer from choppy pacing and shallow characterization, however, due to the novel’s adaptation to the shorter movie format. This makes emotional attachment to the characters difficult, but the film still manages to be an engaging experience nonetheless due to its excellent set and sound design. Although the book is once again better than the movie, The Maze Runner is still worth a look.

Rating: ★★★★☆