Review: The Fault in Our Stars

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Director: Josh Boone (Stuck In Love)
Screenplay: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Webe, John Green (book)
Producer: Brendan Prost
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 125 min.


Cancer sucks and generally speaking, movies about cancer suck. They’re saccharin and overtly manipulative of emotions and show you beautiful people dying and those around them suffering and in the end there’s a moment of happiness when you remember the dead soul who so deeply touched the life/lives of the central characters in the short time they knew the sickly person. The Fault in Our Stars is exactly that movie. The only difference here is that this features such charismatic performances that it doesn’t feel like emotional manipulation but more like some sort of catharsis.

Emerging writing superstars Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber are starting to corner the market on touching teen dramas starring Shailene Woodley. Last year they were behind the script for the much loved The Spectacular Now and here they are again adapting from John Green’s best selling novel about cancer kinds falling in love. Hazel (Woodley) is really sick and Gus (Ansel Elgort) is in remission. The pair meet at support group and immediately strike up a friendship that later develops into romance before tragedy strikes. After all, you can’t have a movie about cancer without some sort of tragedy (because having cancer isn’t tragedy enough).

The thing is that in the case of The Fault in Our Stars, the tragedy and emotion that goes with it works. Part of it is the fact that Green’s novel has a streak of bluntness running through it. It’s not all good moments and bad moments but a mix of the two, comedy hand-in-hand with tragedy, and Hazel and Gus tackle life with a sarcasm and sense of mortality that is refreshing. They talk about death, about what comes after (if anything) about the limitless living one can do in our limited time on earth and rather than feel sorry for the sick kids, I couldn’t help but think about what I’m doing with my life. Nothing like seeing young people suffer and possibly die to make you consider if you’ve done enough with your 30 years on earth.

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Review: Night Moves

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When purchasing a used boat for an act of extreme vandalism, the young activist, quips that she chose the one named “Night Moves” because it was better in her mind than “Sea Breeze” or “Heart’s Ease.” I tend to pay attention to the names of boats and films because they are usually chosen with care. This is double-so when that happens to be the name of the film. Part of me wants Kelly Reichardt’s choice of names to be based on the Gene Hackman noir from 1975 (directed by Arthur Penn), which does indeed feature a sinking boat, among other things, along with a healthy dose of paranoia and confusion and stylish ineffectuality.  It’s a better boat name than The Conversation, but I digress. Reichardt has become a marquee name on the festival circuit with her last three films, Old Joy, Wendy & Lucy and Meek’s Cutoff.  All three are decidedly different animals story-wise, but all deal with being lost in a way, and are told with an in-camera intimacy that has made her one of the more interesting American auteur filmmakers.  

Dena (Dakota Fanning) and Ross (Jesse Eisenberg) both work at jobs outside the mainstream.  She helps maintain a ‘wellness spa’ that has old ladies dipping in hot pools while soothing music is piped in.  He works on a co-operative farm that puts local organic vegetables into the hands of local Oregon folks who probably are proponents of the local food movement.  Eschewing the feel-good brand of activism in making earnest documentaries as when they watch the earnest footage shown by a cute young girl at a local meeting. The credits reveal that the film within the film was shot by Reichard’s onetime producer Larry Fessenden which I find cheeky considering his own eco-horror films. Anyway, Dena and Ross have bigger, far more hands on plans of direct activism. They buy the eponymous boat and hook up with the rather shifty Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard at his most Sarsgaard-ian) who can turn 500 pounds of fertilizer into a bomb, for which the Night Moves is the delivery vessel.   

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Super Ticket Episode 3 – New Levels of Thin

The rare collision of Cinecast and Mamo! seems to happen when Kaiju come to town, and this time is no different. Welcome to the third Rowthree Super Ticket, in which Matt, Matt, Matt, Kurt and Andrew discuss big old Godzilla in the context of the 2014 blockbuster model. When will the doctorate thesis on how mega-sized movies gleefully destroy cities be written? What would the HBO version of a monster catastrophe look like? Will the already green-lit sequel feature Godzilla in a back-to-college comedy? Where does Aaron Taylor Johnson rank on the Sam Worthington to Ryan Reynolds index? All these questions and more are answered herein.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


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Trailer for Chris Nolan’s Interstellar

The full trailer for realist science fiction Blockbuster Interstellar not only does a great job of explaining Murphy’s Law, but it also brings Matthew McConaughey full circle to his big role in Robert Zemeckis’ Contact. The visuals looks just right here, the emotion hits the significant notes for the genre, and 21st century dreams and fears seem to be realized simultaneously.

I simply can’t wait for November, folks.

Cinecast Episode 352 – This is What Happens with Progress

 
Though the power of the RowThree fell silent for a couple of days, Andrew and Kurt refused to give in. Andrew talks Locke. Kurt talks some Orson Welles, some Wickerman and some Nuclear Power on this weeks Watch List. Kurt’s 11 year old son Willem joins for a discussion the best performance of Schwarzenegger’s career. And Westeros is in chaos, as always.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 


 

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A very Magnificent Red Band Trailer for Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-Ho’s post-apocalyptic ‘society on a train’ action movie based on the French Graphic Novel (“Transperceneige”) has been released in pretty much every market except for USA/Canada at this point. There is even a uber-complete Blu-Ray in France if you have 40 Euros to spare. It is getting a proper (un-cut, original South Korean version) release at the end of June here in North America, and the powers that be have made, by far the most elegant, accurate and enticing trailer for the film that I’ve seen in any language or territory.

This is how you market a high-concept film folks, offer the big images, but do so in a clear, concise and well articulated fashion. And it certainly helps to have Tilda Swinton doing the talking. (“Precisely 74% of you shall die.”)

Mamo #355: Too Much Whiskey And Not Enough Prep

Summer kicks off with a not-so-Amazing Spider-Man (2), and the Matts (without having seen the film, mind you) are here to tell you what’s gone wrong. It’s Mamo! (SPOILER WARNING FOR ASM2)

To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo355.mp3

Hot Docs 2014: Love and Terror on The Howling Plains of Nowhere Review

Hot Docs 2014

In a sparse corner of Nebraska, as far as possible from the state’s cities of Lincoln and Omaha sits the high-elevation prairie town of Chadron, population 5600. The town, described as ‘politely hanging on’ after peaking somewhere in the 19th century is host to the State College and was the hometown of NFL wide receiver Don Beebe, but is now quite remarkable for its motley collection of characters unearthed and endeared by author Poe Ballantine (himself one of those characters) in his memoir-slash-true-crime novel, “Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere: A Memoir.”

It has been adapted, wrangled, and condensed into documentary form by Dave Janetta in the same tattered, rascally spirit as the book – equal parts pragmatism and poetry. Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere is morbid, hilarious and whipsmart film-making that belies strained budget and open-ended narrative. It will never look as good as The Imposter or offer the closure of The Thin Blue Line, but its humour is mighty. The Chadron Record’s ‘Police Beat’ newspaper column which features heavily here (more on that in a minute) alone is a treasure of treasures.

In deep dark winter of 2006, the college’s resident PhD theoretical mathematics professor, Steven Haataja, withdrew $100 from the local cash machine and bought a large bag of charcoal from the Safeway before trundling off onto the wilderness in sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures. The townsfolk and the local police are baffled that the introverted professor, who appeared to be settling into the community just fine, left just before the end of the semester without offering any closure to his occupation, family, or colleagues. Chadron has always been a town of transience, a way-station for drifters (or footballers) to Denver or Omaha or any other American city, so someone up and leaving for greener pastures was a common enough event and an eccentric exit from a nebbish math professor was chalked up as just that. Already a source of gossip and amateur sleuthing, when Haataja’s corpse was found in the spring by a rancher on his property a few miles from campus, in copse of trees bound with electrical cords and burned right down to the bones, it becomes the towns biggest mystery.

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