Blu-ray Tuesday: ‘The Maze Runner’, ‘The Skeleton Twins’ & ‘This is Where I Leave You’

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Preston Barta // Editor

This week for home viewing, we’ve got Michael Bay crushing dreams again (TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES), another dystopian young adult novel adaptation (THE MAZE RUNNER), Woody Allen’s latest ‘wtf’ film (MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT), and a couple of dramedies about dysfunctional families (THE SKELTON TWINS, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU). But the only ones worth a damn are as follows:

THE MAZE RUNNER | 113 min. | Rated PG-13 | Director: Wes Ball | Stars: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper and Patricia Clarkson

Based on the best-selling young adult novel of the same name, THE MAZE RUNNER is the latest, and one of the largest adaptations to arrive in cinemas yet. Inevitably comparable to the likes of THE HUNGER GAMES and/or any other young adult adapted series, it’s in fairly good chances to be the next big franchise, and deservedly so.

Much like THE LORD OF THE FLIES or an episode of LOST, we are much a part of the journey as the characters are, as the film opens with a young man (Dylan O’Brien) waking up in an elevator that goes to the surface of an enclosed area (“the glade”) filled with 60 other teen boys. How did he get there? Why is he there? The answers will come, once they see a path out of the labyrinth that surrounds them.

As far as adaptations of young adult series go, THE MAZE RUNNER may be one of the finest first installments out of the gate. Director Wes Ball keeps things engaging and the pace at full tilt. So you should not walk away dissatisfied.

Our interview with Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter and Kaya Scodelario:

The Blu-ray Combo Pack extras will include:

  • 24-Page Prequel Comic Book
  • Deleted Scenes with Commentary from Wes Ball
  • Navigating The Maze: The Making of THE MAZE RUNNER – A Five Part Documentary that includes: The Maze is Born, Creating the World, Finding the Gang, The Movie Inside the Maze, and The Digital Details
  • The “Chuck Diaries”
  • Gag Reel
  • Visual Effects Reels
  • Ruin – Wes Ball Short Film in 2D and 3D with Commentary from Wes Ball
  • Audio Commentary by Wes Ball and T.S. Nowlin
  • Galleries

THE SKELETON TWINS | 93 min. | Rated R | Director: Craig Johnson | Stars: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Boyd Holbrook, Ty Burrell, Luke Wilson, Kathleen Rose Perkins and Joanna Gleason

It is difficult to make a movie that can go from laughter to the depths of anguish and remain entertaining or even believable, but THE SKELETON TWINS manages it very well. This is greatly due to the spark that is generated by the pairing of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig.

The film tells of two estranged twins (Wiig and Hader) who reunite to mend their relationship after coincidentally cheating death on the same day.

When you think about SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE veterans Hader (SUPERBAD) and Wiig (BRIDESMAIDS) teaming up for a movie, a realistic and hard-hitting drama seems far away from what you would expect. However, thankfully THE SKELETON TWINS is distant from their usual schtick, because it’s one of the finest films of the year.

Hader gives his best performance as a gay wannabe actor named Milo. Even though, Hader’s flamboyantly gay Stefon was a favorite on SNL, do not expect a stereotype with Milo. Hader makes Milo human and not a joke.

Wiig also showcases a first-rate performance as Milo’s twin, Maggie, who has stayed in the small town where they grew up. Maggie is a flawed character, and both her and Milo are scarred by their unsmiling childhood. But how they eventually come to depend on each other is a striking aspect, and one of the reasons why you should not miss this film. It’s movie therapy.

The Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack extras will include:

  • Gag Reel
  • Outtakes
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Craig Johnson
  • To Whom It May Concern: Making THE SKELETON TWINS featurette
  • Sweet Moves featurette
  • Audio Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Craig Johnson, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader
  • Audio Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Craig Johnson, Co-Writer Mark Heyman and
    Producer/Editor Jennifer Lee

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU | 103 min. | Rated R | Director: Shawn Levy | Stars: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant and Dax Shepard

An all-star cast is usually the harbinger of a doomed movie, but Shawn Levy’s film adaptation of Jonathan Tropper’s novel, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU is one of the few exceptions. While it is full of tropes and you know exactly where it is heading, the impressive cast and the storyline are just irresistible and lovely.

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU chronicles the foibles of the dysfunctional Altman family, forced to spend a week together following the death of the family patriarch.

Yeah, this film is hastily constructed and leaves us with questions about the family’s relationship with their deceased father. However, there are many points in the film that really hit home. For instance, in one great scene, Kathyrn Hahn, who play’s the wife of one of Altman sibilings (Corey Stoll), is frustrated that she cannot have a child with her husband. She’s been desperately trying everything that she can, and you can see that it is taking a toll on her. But in the scene, she apologizes for sneaking down to the basement to fool around with her husband’s brother (Jason Bateman), who she used to date, due to her inability to get pregnant. But Bateman’s character explains how much easier it is to have a baby than to find a love as strong as the one she has. It is moments such as this that really rise above the film’s contrived scenes.

There are so many takeaways and bits throughout this movie that it is tough to be cynical, like most critics have been towards this movie. Like THE FAMILY STONE or HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, you need movies like this, as they warm your heart and remind you just how important family is, as well as your time with them.

The Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack extras will include:

  • The Gospel According To Rabbi Boner
  • Points Of Departure
  • Deleted Scene
  • The Narrative Voice
About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.