FILM REVIEWS: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Legend

I’ve had quite a varied week of films, so I thought I’d do a whip around: three reviews in one!

Let’s start with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. From the outset I thought I’d probably be crying in this one a lot. Not going to lie, I do enjoy a good tear-jerker: I’m the kind of person who won’t cry very easily in real life, but freely in an emotional scene of a movie. Well, Me and Earl… didn’t turn out to be quite what I expected – I only got teary once – but it was an example of a filmmaker taking some risks and doing things a little differently than what the viewer might expect from the genre the film sits in.

Greg (Thomas Mann) and Earl (RJ Cyler) are best friends (though they call each other ‘colleagues’) who have been making films since they were children. One of their classmates, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), is diagnosed with Leukemia, and at Greg’s mother’s behest, he spends time with her. Little do they both realise how strong their bond will become, to the point where Greg’s goal becomes to make a film solely for Rachel. Eventually this becomes the focal point of the film, after building up the awkward but charming manner in which Greg and Rachel grow to become friends.

I particularly enjoyed the film’s tendency to employ long takes in scenes between Greg and Rachel, with the performances between the two having such a kooky, natural warmth that it was easy to stay engaged. Molly Shannon as Denise Kushner, Rachel’s mum, brought an unexpected comedy to the film, further adding to Greg’s wonderfully awkward interactions with the people around him.

Olivia Cooke should certainly be an actress to watch in the coming few years. Her performance as Rachel was neither too far-blown or too relaxed. The film’s focus on Rachel’s friendship with Earl rather than her physical battle was an uplifting reminder of how much friendship can mean in those times when life doesn’t seem to make sense.

RATING: 4/5 ****

Onto The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. I haven’t read the books in this series, but I did thoroughly enjoy the first film. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for this installment.

I think the thing about a trilogy of films is that the second film has a really tough deal. The first film sets everything up, gets us engrossed in the character’s lives, stories and complications. The third and final film gets us to the peak of the complications: the approach to the innermost cave and the hero’s battle to overcome adversity. However, the second installment is really just a whole lot of filler: the line between point A (film one) and point B (film three.) It generally involves lots of walking, lots of travelling, and ends in an awkward place where you’re left not feeling very satisfied after the past two hours you spent sat in the cinema.

When I look back at it, there wasn’t a whole lot of memorable events in The Scorch Trials. The introduction of zombie-like characters seemed rather uninspired: I was here to see a young-adult sci-fi rather than a bad horror film. Again, I haven’t read the books, but if these characters are indeed zombies in the book, I was left wishing the filmmakers had done more to make them look a little bit different from what we’ve seen a million times before.

Now, let’s address one of the big issues of the movie: Aidan Gillen’s accent. Gillen might be able to get away with a constantly-changing Irish-Northern-nondescript English accent as Petyr Baelish in Game of Thrones, but not so much in a film where he is clearly meant to be playing an American. He seemed to start out okay, but the further the film progressed, the lazier the accent work became, with Irish twangs abounding the end of every sentence. For a film with a multi-million dollar budget, you’d think they might’ve spent a few bucks on a voice coach. Come on now…

Unfortunately The Scorch Trials was a fairly unmemorable film which left me with more of a 3D-induced headache than excitement for the next film.

RATING: 2/5 **


And finally, onto Legend starring Tom Hardy. I wasn’t particularly optimistic that I would enjoy this film when I went into the cinema, but was hoping it would prove me wrong.

There were some lovely moments in the film, mostly featuring Emily Browning as Frances, Reggie Kray’s wife. Despite being able to see her demise from the outset, her performance was so gentle and delightful that you couldn’t help but want to root for her and see everything work itself out. Sadly, anyone who knows the story of the Krays knows this is not to be.

Scenes shot in the Kray’s nightclub were visually quite stunning, and the soundtrack by Carter Burwell provided a nice ambient support throughout. And, of course, there is Tom Hardy’s performance. Yes – he did do well to craft two very different characters, particularly the quirks of Ronnie Kray. There’s no doubt Hardy’s dual performance was strong, masterfully supported by a make-up team who do well to morph his features between the softness of Reggie and the bigger, brasher ones of Ronnie.

What I struggled with in the film was its lack of commitment to a particular direction. Did it want to tell the story of Reggie and Frances’ relationship breakdown? Did it want to show us the way the gang peaked only to inevitably fall apart? Was the key moment when the Kray brothers connected with Angelo Bruno, a member of a Philadelphia crime family? Every time I thought the film was hooking in to the real story it wanted to tell, the focus changed, which left me agitated and wondering where the film was going. Yes, I get that this is a biopic, and real-life events don’t necessarily work to a dramatic formula. However, it’s also just as impossible for a film to try and cover a bit of everything and keep its audience interested. At the end of the day, we want a story, one that travels somewhere: so had the filmmakers taken a particular element of the Kray tale and really focused in on it, I feel that the film would’ve been much more engaging overall.

RATING: 3/5 ***