The Fault in Our Stars

A new review from The Movie Snob.

The Fault in Our Stars (B). As previously recorded in these virtual pages, I liked the bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) decently well. Now I have finally gotten around to seeing the movie version, and I thought it was a pretty good weepy. Our heroine is Hazel (Shailene Woodley, The Descendants), a teenager who has temporarily fought off cancer but has to tote oxygen around with her everywhere to compensate for her weakened lungs. Against her wishes she goes to a cancer support group, where she meets a tall, charming cancer survivor named Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort, Divergent). Love is in the air, made all the more precious by Hazel’s fragile health and the omnipresent danger of relapse. The two stars made for a believable romance, and I thought Laura Dern (Blue Velvet) turned in nice supporting work as Hazel’s fearful mother. There weren’t too many clunky moments, although the subplot about the author of Hazel’s favorite book felt a little tacked-on. Still and all, not a bad movie if you’re in the mood for a tear-jerker.

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Divergent – a second opinion

A second opinion from The Movie Snob.

Divergent  (D).  It seems to me that the young-heroine-opposes-hideous-dystopia genre is getting stale in a hurry.  (For The Borg Queen’s recent review of this film, with complete plot summary, click here.)  In my humble opinion, this film is too long (2 hours, 19 minutes), the action sequences are too lame, and the arbitrary rules governing this particular futureworld are just too goofy to go along with.  Shailene Woodley, who I thought was very good in The Descendants and perfectly adequate in The Spectacular Now, doesn’t distinguish herself in the leading role of Katniss, er, I mean Tris, future leader of the rebellion.  (Interestingly, the film also features Miles Teller, who played Woodley’s boyfriend in The Spectacular Now, and Ansel Elgort (Carrie), who will play her boyfriend in the upcoming The Fault In Our Stars.)  Kate Winslet (Titanic) channels her inner Jodie Foster (Elysium) as the head baddie.  Anyhow, almost the entire movie is consumed with Tris’s training as she becomes a member of the Dauntless faction.  It’s just not that interesting.  Skip it.

Divergent

The Borg Queen fires all phasers at a new release.

Divergent – C+

This movie failed to turn me into a fan of the latest young-adult-book-turned-to-movie craze.  It is yet another teen romance in the context of a post-apocalyptic Earth.  Rather than being divided into 12 (or 13) “districts,” though, the people are divided into 5 “factions” and live within the crumbles of what used to be Chicago (partially rebuilt and partially left in ruin) surrounded by a mysterious large fence.  When the teens reach a certain age, they undergo some kind of testing that is supposed to tell them what “faction” they are predisposed to (selflessness, peacefulness, honesty, bravery, intelligence), and then the next day they have to choose which faction to live in, and cut ties with their family if they are in a different faction.  The purpose of this segregation is supposedly to put people in their “place” in order to prevent another uprising.  The story focuses upon Tris (Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now), born in the Abnegation faction.  The Abnegation (selfless) faction apparently is the faction that governs all 5 factions, and Tris’s father is one of the leaders.  When Tris undergoes the testing, it reveals that she is “divergent,” meaning she doesn’t fit squarely within any one particular faction – something that supposedly would make her difficult to “control” and a threat to their “everyone knows their place” society.  So, she must lie about her test results to keep her “divergent” result a secret.  On choosing day, Tris breaks away from her family and chooses a different faction, Dauntless (brave), which provides the “police” of the society.  There, she encounters Four (Theo James, Underworld: Awakening), who is responsible for training the new members/recruits . . . and the typical teen romance develops with Tris.  Kate Winslet (Little Children) plays Jeanine, the leader of the Erudite (intelligent) faction, which tries to overthrow the Abnegation faction.  Overall, the acting in this movie was great, the special effects were great, and the story kept my interest.  But at the same time, the story didn’t make any sense to me.  Dividing people into the 5 factions based on personality traits (as they exist in mid-adolescence) that all people would seem to possess without a significant amount of variance made no sense to me.  And they didn’t explain, at least not well, why Erudite wanted to overthrow Abnegation – especially when Jeanine is portrayed as someone who highly values a lack of uprising, yet is initiating an uprising herself.  This is probably a movie you might enjoy more if you have read the books and already know the story.  I left the movie feeling confused and disappointed.

The Fault in Our Stars (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green (2012).  This is a fairly recent “#1 New York Times Bestseller” according to the cover, so you may have already heard of it.  It’s about two teenagers, brought together by cancer.  Or, more precisely, by a cancer support group.  Gus is 17, I think, and he has apparently overcome his cancer, although it cost him one of his legs.  Hazel, the first-person narrator, is 16 and has terminal lung cancer, momentarily arrested by a new drug.  So the phrase “star-crossed lovers” does come to mind.  I thought it was a pretty good book, although the main characters just didn’t quite ring entirely true to me for some reason.  Not surprisingly, a movie version is apparently being produced right now, starring It Girl Shailene Woodley (The Spectacular Now) as Hazel.

The Spectacular Now

A new review from the desk of The Movie Snob.

The Spectacular Now  (B+).  This independent flick has been getting good buzz for its authentic take on how teenagers really live nowadays, and I thought it really was quite good.  Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole) plays Sutter Keely, a high school senior whose happy-go-lucky persona and live-for-now philosophy semi-conceal a serious drinking problem.  After one of his benders, he wakes up lying in the front yard of a classmate, Aimee (Shailene Woodley, The Descendants), and she helps him look for his missing car.  Aimee is not part of Sutter’s social network, but she is sweet and pretty, and he is on the rebound, so they gradually become an item, and the movie goes on from there.  I thought the movie seemed fairly realistic in addressing Sutter’s alcoholism and his lingering issues from the fact that his dad walked out on his family when Sutter was a small child.  Interestingly, director James Ponsoldt’s last movie was Smashed, about a young married couple’s struggle with alcoholism (and Smashed star Mary Elizabeth Winstead turns up in this movie as Sutter’s older sister).  Good performances by the young stars, and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Margot at the Wedding) turns in nice supporting work as Sutter’s put-upon mom.  I’d probably have given the movie a higher grade, but I was a little disturbed by the movie’s cavalier attitude towards teenaged sex, which unlike drinking is presented as a positive and consequence-free sort of thing.  Even so, I thought it was a pretty good movie.