Friday, October 17, 2014

The Fault In Our Stars - 10 stars out of 10

The Fault in Our Stars - 10 stars out of 10

“The Fault in Our Stars” is the best love story of the year.  It is unlike any other, placing endearing characters into an inevitable tragedy.  But these characters do not fade into oblivion; instead, they are preserved through the lasting impression that makes their audience value each day of life a little bit more.  The hopeless perspective of these characters offers a poignant view of life and the power of love to bring joy to the saddest moments of life.  They are well written as Hazel Grace shows perseverance through the will to keep living and Augustus becomes the selfless support that puts love ahead of pain.  The dialogue feels natural, the comic relief is effective but doesn't get in the way of the deep emotional moments, and the story has some impacting twists.  While the script and characters are well-written, the acting is what makes this story so three-dimensional.  It feels like real life and will have you questioning whether it is fact or fiction.  Shailene Woodley is going to be the next big thing in Hollywood.  While she has become popular among teenagers through roles in “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and “Divergent,” she showed her true acting chops in “The Descendents” and has established her ability to portray intense moments of emotion and pain with the role of Hazel.  She reminds me a lot of Jennifer Lawrence, who had a breakthrough with “Winter’s Bone,” gained the teen following with “The Hunger Games,” and won an Oscar with “Silver Linings Playbook” at the age of 22.  Ansel Elgort doesn't get a chance to show his emotions with the same extremity, but he plays Augustus very well.  But the most impressive acting actually comes from Laura Dern.  I would have not expected a supporting role to have such an impact but she is incredible.  I would nominate her for an Academy Award for the emotion that she brings to Hazel Grace’s mother.  I think that she struck a particular chord with me because I could immediately empathize with her character.  My emotional attachment to the film began when she made me see Hazel as my own daughter.  Willem Dafoe is another unexpected surprise.  We hate him so much, but that’s what makes his performance so good.  The film does have a sex scene and a few brief moments of strong language, but it is all done tastefully.  I really liked the artistic approach to displaying the texting conversations on the screen and the eulogy sequence is magic.  “The Fault in Our Stars” is the love story that will become the symbol of a generation, like “A Walk to Remember” before it, and “Dirty Dancing” before that.

[Pictured: Amazing chemistry.  Simply amazing.]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Croupier - 6 stars out of 10

Croupier - 6 stars out of 10

“Croupier” is an atmospheric piece that captures the reality of casino life.  While there is nothing mind-blowing about the plot, the film shines through the interior monologues that expose the dark emotions of its characters.  Clive Owen’s unique voice is perfect for these monologues.  It isn’t his best film, but I can see how he gained notoriety in the film world with this performance.  The setting is different than most gambling movies.  We aren’t used to seeing casinos without the glam and lights of Vegas, but it focuses the attention on this character being sucked into the underworld of casinos.  I was excited to see that this film had a heist in it but was disappointed that we didn’t get to see any of the details; instead, the heist is just an event that happens without much pomp and circumstance.  There is a minor twist at the end that is executed without much surprise, but that is not surprising since the focus of this film is not the plot.  If I’m going to watch “Croupier” again,” it will be for the atmosphere and not for the gambling.

[Pictured: Clive Owen's internal monologues steal the show.]

Monday, October 13, 2014

Crocodile Dundee - 6 stars out of 10

Crocodile Dundee - 6 stars out of 10

“Crocodile Dundee” is an iconic 80’s film that isn’t anything special but still manages to be irresistible to every audience.  I think it is the fact that Paul Hogan’s titular character is so cool that you can’t help but like him.  His outback grit is perfectly contrasted by his big city naïvety, and he never does anything that would give us reason dislike him.  Films like “George of the Jungle” and “Jungle 2 Jungle” have mimicked this concept with good-hearted, naïve natives, but the rough edges of Mick Dundee help him to be realistic in an uncomfortable situation instead of comically clueless.  The setting also sets this film apart from most other films, exploring the tribes and creatures of the Outback and then transporting a piece of the Outback into our own backyard.  The film definitely has some cheesy 80’s moments, but Hogan’s chemistry with Linda Kozlowski, funny interactions with girls on the “corner,” and the great one-liner below make this a classic.

[Pictured: "That's not a knife.  THAT'S a knife!"]