Train to Busan 4K UHD Review: High Stakes on a Train

I never saw Train to Busan in a theater. I caught it on streaming in HD but perhaps I missed something. Well Go USA’s 4K edition of Train to Busan is the visceral experience for which the film is legendary. 

Before the train itself, you’ll see desolate quarantine zones with bright orange hazmat jerseys. The characters begin in a mundane office with black shirts and white ties. The light blue uniforms of the train staff pop. 

When you see the infected, the makeup and their chowing down on the passengers is as gruesome as you could hope for in 4K. The picture really holds up when the train goes through tunnels. 

The sound mix creates an enveloping environment too. You’ll hear the train chugging in the background,, panicked passengers clamoring all around and the compartment doors opening and shutting. Definitely worth the upgrade for Busan fans and first timers will have a maximum experience. 

OVERLORD Blu-ray Review

OVERLORD Blu-ray Review

Overlord Blu-ray Review

The Movie


On the eve of D-Day, American paratroopers drop behind enemy lines to penetrate the walls of a fortified church and destroy a radio transmitter. As the soldiers approach their target, they soon begin to realize that there’s more going on in the Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. Making their way to an underground lab, the outnumbered men stumble upon a sinister experiment that forces them into a vicious battle against an army of the undead.

Directed By: Julius Avery

Written By: Billy Ray & Mark L. Smith

Starring: Jovan Adepo (Boyce), Wyatt Russell (Ford), Mathilde Ollivier (Chloe), Pilou Asbaek (Wafner), John Magaro (Tibbet), Iain De Caestecker (Chase), Jacob Anderson (Dawson), Dominic Applewhite (Rosenfeld), Gianny Taufer (Paul), Joseph Quinn (Grunauer), Bokeem Woodbine (Rensin), and more.

Genre: Action, Adventure, & Horror

Rating: R

Runtime: Approx. 109 Minutes

Blu-ray Details


  • English: Dolby Atmos
  • English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
  • French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Polish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
  • Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Russian: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)


  • Codec: HEVC / H.265
  • Resolution: Upscaled 4K (2160p)
  • HDR: Dolby Vision + HDR10
  • Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
  • Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Korean, Malay, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Swedish, Thai, & Turkish

Special Features

  • Brothers in Arms
  • Death Above
  • Death Below

My Thoughts

I give the Overlord Blu-ray a B+.

I really enjoyed this film.  It had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.   I loved how it was a zombie film but it was a unique one with a twist. It was something straight out of the Wolfenstein video game.

There are many things I liked about this film.  As stated above, I loved how it was a zombie film that was unique with an added twist.  It reminded me of Wolfenstein 3D, a video game I use to play as a kid. For the first half of the film, you’re wondering why the Nazi’s are doing experiments and for what.  It does make sense once the reason is revealed.  These aren’t the zombies from The Walking Dead.  These are ones I wouldn’t want to come face to face with.

I really liked the main character, Boyce (Jovan Adepo).  He was an underdog you could relate to that gained strength and confidence in himself throughout the film.  He may have not been a leader but once in the midst of war, he took the lead and did what he believed was right.

Another character I loved was Ford (Wyatt Russell).  He is a born leader.  I liked how he carried himself and did what he needed to do to survive.  He was fearless in some ways and a great soldier. I think the team would have not gotten as far as they did without him.

Another thing I really liked about this film is that it took place during WWII. One of the things I loved learning about in History was the World Wars and I have a fascination for WWII Planes. This film drew me in right away as it opens up to cargo plans carrying paratroopers to their jump point.

Overall, this film is a fun ride.  I enjoyed every minute of it!

Catch Overlord out on 4k Ultra HD, Blu-ray, & Digital February 12th!

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter Blu-ray Review

I only ever saw the first two Resident Evils in theaters. I’ve seen the last three sequels on Blu-ray. The theatrical timing in January is just bad for me. So I’m glad to conclude my Blu-ray tradition with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Although we’ll see. Nothing guarantees another installment like declaring one “final.” (see Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday)

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter has a gorgeous, sharp Blu-ray. The exotic locations in the prologue under the cable car shine, but don’t get used to them. The burnt out Washington, D.C. apocalypse and return to Raccoon City are full of detailed wreckage. Dark corridors are pitch black like HD can achieve.

The reliance on shakycam is unfortunate. I’d thought we left that behind with Resident Evil: Apocalypse. It looks like there are some cool new creatures we don’t get a clear glimpse of. Fortunately I was forewarned and at least I don’t have to endure it in 3D. My heart goes out to theatrical viewers.

It’s still pretty entertaining who Alice encounters in her final journey. There’s a Raiders of the Lost Ark gag with a zombie horde, balletic wire gun fu, flaming catapults, a giant turbine, elaborate trap doors. It’s pretty nonstop so if one bit is too shaky there’s something else coming soon.

Retaliation Mode adds about a half hour to the film. Fortunately it’s not branching so you can just fast forward to the parts where Jovovich and director Paul W.S. Anderson talk. They cover the whole franchise as well as scene specific sequences and an alternate scripted ending they never shot.

That’s basically a 30 minute retrospective on the whole series. Three other brief extras on the film and one on the new animated movie do the job too. They feel like a big thank you to the fans. Of course there’ll be another movie. I mean, come on.

Franchise Fred Game Review – Call of Duty Black Ops 3 on PS4

I know Call of Duty Black Ops III must be a great game because I suck at it. Actually, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I’ve been picking up the different skills and abilities fairly well. It’s just there are so many, it always feels like I’ve got more to learn. blackops3

It adds a lot of layers to the premium first person shooter game. Cool abilities like hijacking drones and turrets give you a bit of a driving and shooting rail game. There are so many things to learn, I don’t think I can remember everything in my repertoire, but so far the game is good at telling me what I need when. Parkour wall running is fairly evident when there’s a gap, and I enjoy the up close take downs, and the cyber attacks destroying robots.

I also have to learn what each weapon does. Just because it looks cool doesn’t mean it fires well, and there’s one that needs to be reloaded bullet by bullet. Not ideal for a firefight, but it’s powerful.

Black Ops III is such a smooth experience, the only limitations seem to be my own acumen or investment in the game. It’s so immersive with all sorts of weather effects. One mission is like being in a Roland Emmerich movie.

blackops3bI’m relieved that I’m not stuck in any one space for too long. I think my longest frustration was an hour, but with enough repetition I can always seem to find good cover and a strategic firing spot. There are also alternative campaigns o switch to if I need a break, which I’ll get to below.

I wish the cover system were a tad more specific. I’ve played games that give you cover with a specific button, and that locks you into a secure spot. I seem to do okay just ducking behind things, but I would feel safer if I weren’t possibly sticking out behind a vehicle. That’s the Call of Duty engine though, and again, it’s served me just fine despite my personal preference.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 - Zombies

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 – Zombies

It’s cool that it comes with a zombie game too. While I find the Black Ops III zombies a little more manageable than the onslaught of Left 4 Dead, it is frustrating that every time you die, it takes so long to restart the game. You’re midway into the second cut scene before you have the option to skip, because that’s how long it takes to load. You can buy respawns in game but one isn’t enough. See above about me sucking at this.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Zombies environment

Call of Duty: Black Ops III – Zombies environment

Still, the noirish ‘40s environment is beautiful and I can appreciate running around it looking for a good hiding place to snipe zombies. The Nightmares mission seems like a more continuous zombie game with save points.

Like many of my game reviews, Call of Duty Black Ops III is a work in progress. I will discover more every time I play it, but for now I can tell this is the greatest evolution of the series so far.

Cooties Exclusive: Leigh Whannell with Q&A Video

Cooties opened in theaters and VOD over the weekend. I moderated a Q&A after a Friday night show at the Arclight Hollywood theater. You can watch the video of the Q&A with Elijah Wood, Leigh Whannell, Ian Brennan, producers and some of the child actors here.

I also got to interview Whannell one on one, because it’s tradition. We’ve spoken for every film he’s written since 2004’s Saw. Cooties is a full on comedy, as tainted chicken nuggets turn all the kids at an elementary school into murderous zombies, and the teachers have to defend themselves. Whannell also stars as sex ed teacher who helps provide some medical context for the outbreak. Cooties is now in theaters and on VOD.

Nerd Report: You didn’t think I’d let you release Cooties without talking to me, did you?

Leigh Whannell: I know, I was waiting. I was looking at my watch and being like, “When is Fred going to call?” It’s a tradition for you to talk to me. That’s awesome, man. Thank you.

Nerd Report: Since I’m Franchise Fred, could Cooties be the start of your third franchise?

Leigh Whannell: I don’t know. I would love it if it was just because I would love to spend more time with that cast. I really, really enjoyed myself. It was like a summer camp, the film. We were all together all the time and it was super funny, but I just don’t know. Cooties was one of those films where I haven’t heard too many expectations. When you come out with Insidious 2 or something or even the first Insidious film, you get all these e-mails about what they’re predicting it will do and this and that. I haven’t seen any of that with Cooties so I’m really curious as to how the film will resonate and how many people will see it.

Nerd Report: Story-wise, the disease could certainly spread to new places.

Leigh Whannell: Oh yeah, for sure. I think if you had to do a sequel, it should just be like Mad Max version of Cooties with little encampments of adults barricaded themselves in, these kids running around the wasteland. It writes itself.

wk-cooties0918-2Nerd Report: Was the tone tricky, being fun and funny while killing kids?

Leigh Whannell: A little bit, but yet when I was acting in the film, I really didn’t worry too much about the trickiness of that tone. I figured I’d just concentrate on the comedy and then the horror would take care of itself. The situation is kind of horrific so I guess you could say if I picked one of the genres, I picked comedy as far as the tone. It actually felt fairly effortless.

Nerd Report: Are you dealing with a certain taboo, “the sacred children?”

Leigh Whannell: Yeah, I think we are. There’ve been horror films featuring children before so it didn’t feel like totally fresh ground in terms of that taboo breaking. We definitely had to keep in mind that kids were our villains, and there are moments in the film that I think are uncomfortable when the adults are defending themselves from the kids. But that’s what we wanted this film to be. We wanted it to be a little bit uncomfortable. We wanted it to be pushing the envelope a little bit. I’m really happy with how it turned out. I’m so grateful that the audiences that have seen it have responded to it.

Nerd Report: Are we seeing your full on comic sensibilities in Cooties?

Leigh Whannell: Yes, definitely, and especially with acting. Yeah, there’s moments of humor in Insidious and Saw but this is the first one where it’s just all out balls out. I loved working with Ian Brennan on the script. He’s such a funny guy and he’s such a great dialogue writer for comedy. Then in the performance I had a lot of fun. I’ve never been able to just act in a straight up comedy before and I just enjoyed it so much. I remember I had a really good year that year because I shot Insidious 2 and then The Mule and then Cooties all back to back and it was so fun.

Nerd Report: Where did the “Quiet please” running joke come from? Was it in the script or something you came up with once you were acting?

Leigh Whannell: That was in the script. A lot of the stuff you see is all in the script. There was a bit of improv’ing here and there. I’d say 90% of the film was all in the script, including tha, “Rebekkah, quiet please.” It’s amazing to see it work in a theater. When you sit down to write something, it’s a pretty amazing experience to witness people laughing at it a year or two later.

Nerd Report: Where did the idea come from that Doug is hearing people talking when they’re not?

Leigh Whannell: We both just wanted Doug to be a strange person. We wanted him to be a guy who wasn’t good at existing in the modern world and just was struggling to communicate with fellow human beings so I think that really came out of us thinking, “What’s the most awkward thing he could say at this point.”

Nerd Report: Do you have somewhat different threats the kids can provide because they’re  small and can fit in different places and do different things?

Leigh Whannell: Yeah, I think so. The great thing about kids is that there’s so much to exploit. When you’re writing the film, you’re constantly looking for something new. What’s the new angle on this thing? So if you’re writing a scene where a zombie walks into the room and tries to rip someone’s head off, you don’t want to write the straight up been there, done that version of that scene. You want to write the unique version of that scene. So when you have little kids as zombies, there’s just so many facets to kids you can exploit. We had scenes with them riding tricycles around after the teachers and attacking them with toys or using their eyeballs to play marbles. We tried to exploit the childlike insanity of the kid zombies. That was one of the most fun parts of the script was coming up with ways that kids would be disgusting.

CTS_007685.CR2Nerd Report: Do the teachers represent a microcosm of the adult world with each of their personalities?

Leigh Whannell: Yeah, definitely. We definitely wanted them to be that symbol of different personalities and not just to do with schools. I’m an Australian who’s been living in the U.S. for 10 years and in some ways I saw Cooties as my comment on America. All that’s great and all that’s scary about it. You’ve got the ultra-conservative character. Just these outsized personalities and the way they relate to each other, they were symbolic in that way. We wanted to make them human as well but I loved that each of the characters represent a facet of middle American culture. Different personalities that I find intruding on public life. If you watch Fox News or whatever 24 hour cable news station, you see these personalities. You can’t believe they’re real. Reality TV is the same. I’ll be watching a reality TV show that’s just a horror show but it’s presented as real life, like, “This is a real family.” I just wanted to tap into the excess of that and the craziness of that with Ian.

Nerd Report: If it makes you feel any better, reality TV is actually coached and at some points scripted, so they are encouraged to act that way. 

Leigh Whannell: I do have a friend who works in reality TV who tells me exactly that. He’s like, “They’ll stop and say, ‘Why don’t you say this?’” It’s basically scripted drama where they don’t have to pay a team of writers.

Nerd Report: So what does Doug represent in the adult world of America?

Leigh Whannell: For me, in the adult world, he symbolizes the guy who just has trouble relating to other adults, the potential serial killer. That’s who he is to me. He’s like Jeffrey Dahmer before he started killing. I even wanted the Jeffrey Dahmer haircut, somebody who you think is just awkwardly innocent but actually is keeping everybody’s skull in his freezer.

Nerd Report: It doesn’t seem to bother Doug though. He seems pretty comfortable.

Leigh Whannell: Yeah, I think he wants to fit in with other people but I really do feel like deep down inside, there’s a serial killer lurking that could come out at any time. Which certainly made it interesting to play to think of him in that way. He’s a guy who’s allowed to teach at an elementary school even though he doesn’t have basic communication skills. I just had fun with that. When you’re playing a character like that that doesn’t play by the rules in terms of social interaction, you’ve just got carte blanche to be as weird and as stupid as you want, which suits me fine. I loved playing that.

Nerd Report: Are you still writing a role for yourself in every script, or could Cooties be the last one?

Leigh Whannell: I don’t know. It really depends on the script. With the Insidious films, it’s a given that Specs and Tucker will turn up, but I don’t think so. Especially now that I’ve directed, I think that I would love to direct a film that I didn’t act in. I’d love to put all my eggs in the directing basket and just really concentrate on it because I had so much fun directing Insidious 3. I just really want to do it again.

file_608157_cooties-movie-trailerNerd Report: I always tell you what I love about your films isn’t the horror, it’s the morality of Saw and the spirituality of Insidious. So did Cooties allow you to explore some new themes?

Leigh Whannell: Both horror and comedy allow you to address political themes and subtext stuff in a really great way, more so than other genres. So when you combine the two, you’re having double the fun. With Cooties, I loved being able to talk about school lunches and how disgusting they are and how badly teachers are treated in schools and how crazy kids are today. They’re eating Ritalin and Prozac and all these adult drugs and they’re staring at their phones all day. The world is changing and so I loved commenting on all that stuff in the film.

Nerd Report: What’s up next for you?

Leigh Whannell: I really don’t know. I wish I knew the answer to that question. I feel like I had all these scripts floating around in the ether and they suddenly all got made at once. So now I’ve go nothing left. I need to create it from scratch. I am working on a sci-fi movie that I’ve been working on for a couple years. Maybe if that gets made, I’ll direct it.

Nerd Report: You’ve always told me you had other scripts that weren’t horror. Were Cooties and The Mule the comedy and the drama?

Leigh Whannell: Yeah, that was The Mule and Cooties and this sci-fi movie. There’s actually one film that I don’t know if it will ever get made, a kids movie. It was optioned by a company that makes animated films and that fell through. I’ve always wanted to see that come to life. That’s the one film I’ve got that I wish would happen one day.

Nerd Report: I’d love to see the Leigh Whannell kids movie. 

Leigh Whannell: If nobody will make it as a film, I want to write it as a book. I’ll do that just to see it come to life in some form. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a film. It’s a story, so stories take many forms and I don’t mind if it’s a book.

Nerd Report: Has Jason Blum asked you for Insidious 4?

Leigh Whannell: He’s just started talking about it so we’ll have to see. I’m suspecting that you’ll probably hear something about that soon. I’m assuming that Jason’s very interested in doing an Insidious 4.

Nerd Report: Every once in a while we hear about either a Saw VIII or a Saw reboot. Whichever form it takes, would you be involved somehow?

Leigh Whannell: I don’t know. I’m sure they would want me to be involved. I just don’t know that I would want to. I think that I had to say goodbye to that. I love the Saw franchise. I’m so grateful to it. The first Saw movie is still one of the most special times of my life, making it and seeing it get released. I think it’s the end of an era. I don’t think I’ve got anything more to contribute to the Saw universe. It’d be much better if someone else that was a fan took up the mantle and went on with it, but who knows? If Lionsgate called me tomorrow and pitched me a great story idea that blew my mind, I might be like, “You know what? I’ll get involved.” It’s all just hypothetical at the moment.

Nerd Report: Did you ever have a chance to meet Wes Craven when you got into Hollywood 10 years ago?

Leigh Whannell: I actually met him in Australia. Years ago I was working on a television show in Australia as a film reviewer. I would interview people that came to town and I got to interview Wes Craven. He was so nice and so gracious. He’s got this very professorial air to him. Just because he makes horror films doesn’t mean he’s jumping up and down in a dog collar and a black Evil Dead T-shirt talking about how much he loves on screen kills. He was a very dignified restrained guy who loves talking about what horror actually means, the subtext of it and the themes of it. I so enjoyed meeting him. He had just made Scream. He was a hero of mine so I was really sad to hear of his passing. I went to a dinner the other night to celebrate his life with a lot of other horror directors. There were so many people whose films I grew up watching at this dinner, everyone from Stuart Gordon to Don Coscarelli to new directors like Ti West.

Nerd Report: Can we see that interview you did online? Does it still exist?

Leigh Whannell: You know, I don’t know. YouTube is the magical gatekeeper to so many of these videos. Maybe Google “Leigh Whannell Wes Craven interview” and see if anything pops up. I do remember I interviewed him at a cafe in Melbourne that was horror themed. I actually think it might’ve been called The Horror Cafe. You would walk in and there was a skeleton above the bar that would, every hour on the hour, put on a little show. It was all dark in there and there were crystal balls and vampire stuff and coffins. I interviewed him upstairs in this library that was a scary library. It was such a fun place, I wish that that place had never shut down and I’m very mad about it.

Scorch Trials Exclusive: Wes Ball on The Middle Chapter and The Death Cure

I conclude my week of coverage of The Maze Runner sequel The Scorch Trials with an interview with director Wes Ball. The Maze Runner was his first movie after work in graphics, and he’ll be making the whole trilogy, concluding with The Death Cure.

After escaping the maze, the Gladers thought they were safe, but when they end up in a WICKED facility, they stage another escape. Now they have to navigate the scorch, the post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, where they meet new groups of survivors to help them battle WICKED. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is in theaters now.

Nerd Report: When are you going to bring the Maze Runner cast to Belgium to meet your biggest fan?

Wes Ball: I hope one day.

Nerd Report: You know I mean Margot, right?

Wes Ball: Totally, Margot. She’s awesome too. I think I follow her even.

Nerd Report: I think she’s doing more for your films than all of Fox publicity.

Wes Ball: I think you’re right, actually. She is great. She’s actually a lovely girl too.

Nerd Report: Yes, I’ve become friends with her too online. So was doing The Scorch Trials more daunting than doing The Maze Runner, because you not only have the fans of the book now but also the fans of your first movie?

Wes Ball: That’s the truth of it. It was more challenging on all levels to be honest. It was bigger. We want to honor the fans and what they’re expecting but also 2/3 of our audience now is now movie fans, not book fans. So we have to basically make sure it’s a good movie too, so yeah, it was a challenge at times. It was a race. We had a lot less time this time too, so hopefully fans will still like it though.

Nerd Report: How is that, you break into feature directing and going into The Maze Runner you know it could already be your first three films?

Wes Ball: I didn’t think about it that way, for sure. I actually didn’t even know if I was going to do the second one for a while, but the thought of letting someone else take the reigns, I got jealous so I couldn’t let it happen. Working with the actors again, the same cast and everything, it was an easy choice .

Nerd Report: You’re actually a rarity, because a lot of the franchises lose their original director, probably because they need to go so quickly.

Wes Ball: Right, exactly. That was a choice. I didn’t exactly have a lot of other movies waiting to be made anyway. I had to make that choice before the first movie came out. When the first movie came out in September, I was already in Albuquerque shooting basically. Maybe there was a little bit of that self-preservation thing too, like, “I’ve got to have my next job.” It was worth it. I think it’s going to be cool to stick with it and it be all one consistent look and vision to it anyway. That’ll be cool. Not many directors can say they’ve done a trilogy.

MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS Thomas (Dylan O’Brien, center) surveys his new environment, along with Ponytail (Jenny Gabrielle) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar). Photo credit:  Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP TM and © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien, center) surveys his new environment, along with Ponytail (Jenny Gabrielle) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar).
Photo credit: Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP
TM and © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

Nerd Report: Was Scorch Trials harder to adapt than Maze Runner?

Wes Ball: It was, actually. It really was. We don’t make changes lightly. I said it before about the first movie, but the first book is pretty straightforward to a movie. Unfortunately, the second book didn’t. Especially being the middle chapter of a three part series. I think James [Dashner] would even admit that he wrote the second book a lot quicker than the first one. He didn’t have as much time on it, so our approach really became taking the next two books, the rest of his saga, of his stories, and figuring out what the two movies were in that. And that basically meant that we had to take some stuff from the third book and use it in the second movie, and vice versa. So it was a little different. It was a little difficult this time. It’s not going to be as close as the first one was to the first book, but at the same time we have James there with us. He’s aware of all the choices and he’s always super supportive of what we need to do to make a good movie. Hopefully fans will go in with an open mind and be excited to see a new interpretation of the story they fell in love with. We always say it’s the same ingredients but a different recipe.

Nerd Report: But that means if one of their favorite scenes is missing, there’s a chance you’re saving it for the third movie?

Wes Ball: That’s right. They’re going to see a lot of their favorite scenes in the movie, that’s for sure. They might be slightly rearranged or done slightly differently, but almost all of our stuff is always inspired from the books and always taken out of the spirit of the books. But there are definitely some things in the movie that I know fans are waiting for, I know exactly what they want. I couldn’t fit them in this movie and I’ve got to save them for the next one. They’ll just have to wait and see.

Nerd Report: Did having only one screenwriter, T.S. Nowlin, make it a more focused adaptation than The Maze Runner?

Wes Ball: Yeah, that was my buddy, T.S. We went to school together basically and he came on and helped me. He was the last writer on the first movie and then we just continued on from there and we have a great relationship. It’s easy to work together. It just makes sense. We didn’t need a lot of writers on this. We didn’t have time for a lot of writers on this so it was really just about us hashing it out constantly every day, trying to make the best movie we could.

Nerd Report: Which monsters were harder to realize, the grievers or the cranks?

Wes Ball: Probably the cranks really. They’re probably equally hard. In the cranks, at least we had real bodies. We had real things that we could be shooting. The grievers were completely imaginary, completely digital but yet, we do have some full CG cranks in the movie too where the actors were basically acting against nothing. So yeah, they’re both kind of equally challenging to be honest. Our goal was to try to do something a little different. And let’s face it, it’s basically a zombie, but we try to do something a little different than just what zombies were. We still got different shades and stages of this kind of infection that takes over the human form. We’ve still got more we want to show in the next one too, so that’ll be fun to continue to play with this virus and what it does to the people.

Nerd Report: Which monster do you personally find scarier?

Wes Ball: The cranks for sure.

MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS (left to right) Aris (Jacob Lofland), Winston (Alex Flores) and Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), make their way through the Scorch. Photo credit:  Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP TM and © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

(left to right) Aris (Jacob Lofland), Winston (Alex Flores) and Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), make their way through the Scorch.
Photo credit: Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP
TM and © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

Nerd Report: Which were your favorite moments from the Scorch Trials book that you couldn’t wait to show fans on screen?

Wes Ball: Interesting. Let’s see. The lightning storm was pretty fun. That was a scene that would never show up in the movie if it hadn’t been created in the book there. I think Jorge’s lair is really fun. That’s pretty close to the books, meeting these characters in this abandoned building. That turned out to be really fun, a little different but it’s pretty close. I think the travel through the scorch itself was something that was really important to me, this journey through this wasteland and all the different facets and tones that that required. That was a lot of fun. There’s a lot of really cool stuff in the movie that is either pretty damn close to the book, or totally different than the book but it works really well.

Nerd Report: I sort of wanted them to go into each of those burnt out buildings and see what was left in there. Did you imagine what was inside all of them? 

Wes Ball: They do in one of the buildings. They go into one of those buildings, what’s left of whatever’s in that building. That’s true, there’s another thing too where they happen to be leaning over a little bit. They go inside that one too.

Nerd Report: Which scenes did you anticipate would be the most difficult in The Scorch Trials, and did they turn out to be?

Wes Ball: Yeah, some of the most difficult scenes were the big set pieces. I set a goal for myself in this one to have more than two and a half minute scenes of sequences. In the last movie, all the resources we had, all we could really afford were some two and a half minute sequences of action. In this movie, we got to really let it unfold and let the scene evolve and be this nice, cool, seven, eight minute tense sequence. So a lot of those sequences became the really difficult ones, and they were difficult. On a VFX level, on a physical level, just shooting it logistically. I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with just directing the quiet, intimate scenes so I wasn’t too worried about those, but just topping ourselves on the action and adventure part of it was definitely a challenge.

Nerd Report: What do you think will be the most difficult thing to realize in The Death Cure?

Wes Ball: Oh, the emotional conclusion. That’s going to be difficult. That’s going to be the hardest thing and that’s what we’ve been building to. This here is just the middle chapter. We think the characters have a good arc and you understand where they end up in the very last scene of the movie, but it’s going to be now about tying up all those loose ends and really building to that idea that this is the end. This is it. That’s going to be a lot of fun.

Nerd Report: Are there any technical things in The Death Cure that you think might push you beyond The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials?

Wes Ball: Oh yes. Logistically and my goal is to absolutely top ourselves in terms of scale again. We’ll have a little bit more money again, hopefully. It’s going to be bigger. It’s going to be better. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be very different though too, just like this movie is different from the first one. It’s going to be a very different color palette, a very different kind of terrain they’re involved in this time with the city. It’s going to be a different engine this time. The first movie was all about mystery and intrigue and claustrophobia. The Scorch Trials is about vast expanse and this kind of momentum and adrenaline of being chased across this landscape. The next one is going to be about infiltration and sneaking around. It’s going to be fun.

Nerd Report: Was there ever any pressure to do The Death Cure Part 1 and Part 2?

Wes Ball: Not that I know of. Maybe I spoke out of turn a long time ago. I said for me, three is the magic number: beginning, middle, end. Not beginning, middle, end, end. Maybe I spoke out of turn but they knew pretty quickly where I came down on it. No one’s ever talked to me otherwise so my plan is still just to do one movie.

Nerd Report: What would be your weapon of choice for the zombie apocalypse?

Wes Ball: Oh, good question. I think I’d probably have a Thomas or a Dylan O’Brien next to me.

MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is about to make some major noise. Photo credit:  Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP TM and © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is about to make some major noise.
Photo credit: Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP
TM and © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

Nerd Report: That’s a great answer. Is The Maze Runner ultimately about kids rebelling against authority, which is what all kids are thinking about?

Wes Ball: Yeah, totally. That’s basically what these stories are. I think it’s why the young people relate to it so well. At the same time, I didn’t try to make this as a YA movie. In fact, I told them my personal goal in this movie was to transcend that YA stigma, that label that we keep getting because I didn’t make that. I just made a movie with young people in it. Hopefully people will watch it on that level and discover that or at least know that it’s not one of those teen movies. It’s young people making very adult, very mature choices and no dealing with teen issues.

Nerd Report: Besides visual effects, were there a lot more physical pyrotechnics on The Scorch Trials?

Wes Ball: Yeah, there were. There’s a lot more in this actually. I think you see in the trailers too, we got to do some big ‘splosions. Whenever WICKED comes around, something big happens.

Franchise Fred Review: The Scorch Trials Has Sequelitis, Shuckfaces

Franchise Fred approves of the basic sequelization of The Maze Runner. It’s a real out of the frying pan, into the fryer situation where the rescue turns out to be worse than being stuck in the maze. An introduction to other survivors suggests other mazes we never got to see. The scorch is a bigger, scarier wasteland than the maze, and a few new characters join our regulars. That’s all from the book. The Scorch Trials is also a technically better movie, but that elevates it from a disappointment to pleasantly mediocre.

MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS Thomas (Dylan O’Brien, center) surveys his new environment, along with Ponytail (Jenny Gabrielle) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar). Photo credit:  Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP TM and © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien, center) surveys his new environment, along with Ponytail (Jenny Gabrielle) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar).
Photo credit: Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP
TM and © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

The Scorch Trials has much more forward momentum. Where The Maze Runner was treading water between maze set pieces, Scorch begins with an escape and progresses through the wasteland. It’s got a Mad Max quality of visiting different eccentric communities along the way. Don’t worry, I’m not comparing it to Mad Max, just maybe one of the ‘80s Mad Max knockoffs.

The Maze Runner lost the scope of the maze by looking like obvious green screen barely interacting with the foreground actors. The Scorch Trials looks like mostly real locations. I mean, at least they found real rock quarries to double for the survival camps and debris-strewn rubble. That’s a real tunnel, not a green screen tunnel. Even if there are set extensions, they’re based on real sets.

The Grievers in The Maze Runner did not look good, and they were supposed to be the scariest things you’ve ever seen, but at least it was the idea of something different. The monsters in Scorch Trials are literally zombies, and the fast running modern kind. I mean, if you want to do your own zombie franchise, I guess that’s a little better than making Dawn of the Dead fan fiction.  

When the young fans start watching more movies, they’ll recognize all the things The Scorch Trials rips off. There’s that thing where you think the bad guy shot someone but really someone else shot the bad guy. Not one of the main bad guys though, just an underling. It’s one of those movies where half the dialogue is characters yelling “Go, go, go!” or “Gotta move” or my favorite, “Whoa whoa whoa!” They completely rip off the glass trailer scene from The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It’s got a fun zombie twist, but it’s still the same scene.

For as long as the movie is, a lot of it is redundant. There’s a scene where Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) fills Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) and the others in on what he discovered. However, we already saw him discover it. We don’t need to hear this again. That’s the part you can skip over. Have Thomas say, “You won’t believe what I saw.” Cut to, Teresa says, “Wow, I can’t believe all that happened.”

MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is about to make some major noise. Photo credit:  Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP TM and © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is about to make some major noise.
Photo credit: Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP
TM and © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

I can’t quite get a grip on what the values of this franchise are. Thomas seems like a good character. Give Thomas a rule, he’ll find a way around it. The supporting cast is terribly underserved, which is an unintentional sequel trope too. Ultimately it’s just kids shooting guns. I’m not automatically against that, but it’s not very inventive. They’re reduced to copying the things done in other franchises and when they’re painted into a corner, have a shooting match.

Story problems are likely the source material, though I won’t discount the adaptation process. The technical execution of the film is improved, but only up to the level of the standard Hollywood movie. There’s nothing visionary about it, but fans of the book can look forward to seeing a superior representation of it on screen.