'Maze Runner' races across screens for third outing


By Shirrel Rhoades
At the Movies

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Yes, this is the third and final installment of the “Maze Runner” trilogy -- that dystopian tale of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), an amnesiac boy who finds himself trapped in a maze with a group of other teens, forced to join forces with them in order to escape.

In this third outing, Thomas and the Gladers set out to find an antidote for a deadly disease known as the Flare. That’s why this third film in the series is titled “The Maze Runner: The Death Cure.”

As we learn, Thomas, Newt and Frypan are immune to this virus that has infected the world. They set out to rescue their friend Minho, who is being tested by the organization WCKD for a Flare cure. (By the way WCKD is a shortened form of World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department, or WICKED.)

While heading to Last City (WCKD’s headquarters), the guys are attacked by a hoard of Cranks, human zombies created by the Flare. Saved by Brenda and Jorge (you met them in the second film), they journey onward to the Last City, where they are captured by masked men during a protest outside the city walls.

Can these rebels get them inside the city? Can they get the serum that inoculates against the Flare? Or does the cure reside within Thomas himself?

While making the movie, Dylan O'Brien was hit by a car when filming a stunt and wound up in the hospital. His injuries were serious, including a facial fracture, concussion, and brain trauma.

Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura says Dylan “came close to dying” in the on-set crash. “It was more than disconcerting ... It was really scary.”

The production was shut down for months while he recuperated. Thus, the film’s release was shifted from last February to now.

“12 Strong” about real horse soldiers

“12 Strong” is subtitled “The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers.” The term “horse soldiers” does not refer to the cavalry you see in cowboy movies.

Set in Afghanistan just after 9/11, this film tells the story of a dozen CIA paramilitary officers and US Army Green Berets Operational Detachment Alpha 595 who join forces with the Afghan Northern Alliance to conduct unconventional warfare on the Taliban.

Not meant this way, but the “strong” in the title calls attention to the film’s star, muscular Chris Hemsworth. You’re used to seeing him as the super-strong superhero, Thor. Here, he’s cast as Captain Mitch Nelson, leader of the horse-born troops who undertake this secret incursion into the mountains of Afghanistan.

Their mission was to attack the Taliban-controlled city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a strategic outpost in the enemy’s supply line. They were outnumbered 40 to 1.

The horse soldiers team is comprised of Michael Shannon and Michael Peña along with a handful of lesser-known actors. Navid Negahban takes on the role of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the warlord who headed the Northern Alliance. And Elsa Pataky, Hemsworth’s real-life wife, plays his movie wife.

Chris Hemsworth’s character is based on Mark Nutsch, who was commander of ODA 595, one of the first two 12-man teams to arrive in Afghanistan.

Most of the Green Berets had never ridden before, yet they had to keep up with skilled Afghan horsemen.

“The guys did a phenomenal job learning how to ride that rugged terrain,” recalls Nutsch, who worked on a cattle ranch and rodeoed in college. He was a history buff, and had studied Civil War cavalry charges and tactics, but he never expected to ride horses into battle.

The Taliban had tanks and armored personnel carriers and antiaircraft guns left behind by the Soviets when they evacuated Afghanistan in the late ‘80s. But Nutsch’s men charged into battle armed with little more than AK-47s, machine guns, and grenades.

Today, a 16-foot bronze statue of a Special Forces soldier on horseback stands near Ground Zero in New York, honoring those first special operations teams.

Top Ten (plus two) movies for each month

As I hang my 2018 calendar (yes, I still use a paper one), I got to thinking about the months, and wondered about movies that refer to each of them. So with a little searching I’ve come up with 12 (not 10) movies that I liked -- January to December.

How many have you seen?

1. “The Two Faces of January” (2014) -- A Hitchcockian thriller about a con man (Viggo Mortensen), his wife (Kirsten Dunst), and a stranger (Oscar Isaac) who flee Athens when caught up in the death of a private detective.

2. “February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four” (2003) -- A documentary by Rebecca Cerese and Steven Channing about the civil rights protest in North Carolina that set off a wave of non-violent protests throughout the South. Modern history.

3. “The Ides of March” (2011) -- George Clooney directed and co-starred in this political intrigue where a staffer (Ryan Gosling) for a presidential candidate learns about dirty dealing. Politically savvy.

4. “Enchanted April” (1991) -- A romantic tale about a collection of older Londoners (Jim Broadbent, Joan Plowright, Alfred Molina, Miranda Richardson, et al.) falling under the calming spell of Italy in the Spring. Sigh.

5. “Seven Days in May” (1964) -- A cautionary tale about a US military leader (Burt Lancaster) plotting to overthrow the president (Fredric March). Scary to think about.

6. “June Bride” (1948) -- A journalist (Robert Monbtgomery) and an editor who is his former flame (Bette Davis) travel to Indiana to cover a “typical American” wedding in this war-between-the-sexes” comedy. You’ll laugh.

7. “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989) -- Oliver Stone gives us the biography of Ron Kovic (played by Tom Cruise), an anti-war protester paralyzed in the Vietnam War. Cruise proves he can act.

8. “August: Osage County” (2013) -- A family crisis brings the strong-willed women of the Weston family (Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, among them) together for another clash. Cat fight.

9. “Two Weeks in September” (1967) -- Forgotten passions surface when a married woman (Brigitte Bardot) meets an adventurous man. A naughty romance that showcases the French sex kitten.

10. “The Hunt for the Red October” (1990) -- In 1984 a Soviet submarine heads toward the USA. Is the sub’s captain (Sean Connery) defecting or attacking. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (a handsome young Alec Baldwin) must save the day. Edge of the seat.

11. “The November Man” (2014) -- An ex-CIA man (Pierce Brosnan) is pitted against his former pupil (Luke Bracy) in this thriller about taking down a Russian president-elect. Good action.

12. “December Boys” (2007) -- Four orphan boys (Daniel Radcliffe and others) go on a group vacation for their December birthdays. The journey will test their close friendship. Moving.

There you have it -- ten plus two movies based on the months of the year. I think I’ll rewatch one each month.