Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt Kick-Off the Summer Movie Season with a Big, Fun, and Funny Action-Packed Adventure that Fully Delivers on its Promises.


Luca Guadagnino Attaches his Latest Exploration of Sexuality, Desire, and Relationship Dynamics to Tennis in this Flashy Zendaya Vehicle.


Alex Garland's Highly-Anticipated Film Upends Mainstream Expectations by Existing more as an Exploration of "Why" than a Blunt Explanation of "How".


Writer/Director/Star Dev Patel Draws From Numerous Sources of Inspiration for his Electric and Exceptionally Executed Debut.


Denis Villeneuve's Grand and Gorgeous Epic is as Insightful about Sincerity and Strategy as it is Engaging on the Broad Levels of a Big-Budget Studio Blockbuster.


Earth to Echo is a critic-proof film. The real question will not be of how much critics sway potential audiences into seeing this film or not, but the reaction of the children and pre-teens in the audience who will either latch onto or dismiss it. Being a few days removed from the film I still can't decide if this is something that will catch on or not, but unfortunately I lean towards the latter. Save for a few of the more visually impressive moments I don't remember much about the film. In a film that is banking on the nostalgia of parents and the innocent mentality of their children this is a film that should be nothing short of a memorable experience, but in a market saturated by science fiction stories and an audience that finds no "out of this world" value or surprise in alien invasion stories you need something different than E.T. The problem is we've all seen the story before and no one cares if you've decided to update it by conveying the narrative through more current technology and by adapting the "found-footage" style that itself is beginning to go out of style. Earth to Echo can be interesting for its look at the way in which kids of today communicate more efficiently (but not necessarily better or less awkwardly) and how smart phones, Face Time, Go Pro Cameras and video chat have enabled them to capture the events of a night such as this documents, but the fact it is more relevant than something like Super 8 doesn't mean we get to know the characters better or invest in them and it most definitely isn't an excuse to re-hash a story we've seen countless times before without adding anything new. The film does have a few character moments, I will give it that, because it isn't completely devoid of innovation. The friendships being pushed to the limits here create some drama for the audience to connect with, but it isn't nearly as compelling as it should be given the child actors (mainly Teo Halm as Alex who is given the more emotional baggage) aren't all that convincing. Regardless of if I am too out of touch with adolescent culture to know if this will connect with them or not (I hope I'm not, I called Despicable Me right out of the gate) or if I've seen one too many movies recycle this same catalyst to precipitate the events that occur this all just feels too tired to be worthy of consideration.

Favorite Films of 2014 So Far...

There have been plenty of solid films come out this year already and we are only halfway through it. I say solid, but in no way does that mean many have been exceptional. It's funny really because in terms of quality this has been one of the better summer movie seasons in recent history. From the straight up, brisk nature of Neighbors to the full on-lampooning of sequels in 22 Jump Street this summers comedies have delivered while both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past have proved to be fine diversions in the super hero genre that seem to be breaking away from the formula that has become standard in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (here's lookin' at you, Thor). We've of course had smaller films that I have garnered a good appreciation for including Jon Favreau's return to small-scale movie-making in Chef and Nicolas Cage's return to actual acting in Joe, but the real surprise has been the typical (Godzilla, Edge of Tomorrow) and atypical (The Fault in Our Stars) summer fare that has really made this year a breeze so far. The two major animated releases have both come extremely close to that exceptional mark as The LEGO Movie is downright hilarious and has a unique take on what could have been a giant commercial while How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a beautifully realized continuation of Hiccup and Toothless' story that deserves to be seen on the big screen. I rather enjoyed Noah as well and look forward to re-visiting that film when it hits home video much in the way I enjoyed Snowpiercer which I saw and reviewed yesterday and you can read about here. Don't get me wrong there have still been plenty of mediocre to less than stellar films this year both in mainstream and arthouse releases (Pompeii and Under the Skin could crawl away and die for all I care), but the following five films are what struck me as either fascinating, substantial or flat-out awesome as I left the theater. Hit the jump to check out my top 5 of 2014 so far...


What Snowpiercer has to its advantage more than most standard action or post-apocalyptic films these days are its interesting ideas. From the opening moments of the film where the audience is exposed to a flurry of exposition placing us in a world where man has attempted to control nature and in return has damned our earth to a frozen eternity I was hooked. The only survivors being locked within a speeding train, built and engineered to last forever, traveling the same course over and over again, completing the circle around the globe once a year. We learn of the passengers at the back of the train, those who are treated on a sub-human level and the few within the beaten and battered group that are planning a resistance, a revolution. This may instinctively conjure up comparisons to Elysium wherein the rich and poor are so distinctively separated that it seems convenient for the film to be interpreted as some type of propaganda, but director Joon-ho Bong never allows his film to slip into this kind of piece. Instead the throughline of Snowpiercer remains an unrelenting and unforgiving journey from one end of this locomotive to the other wherein our protagonist Curtis (Chris Evans) not only discovers the layers and the societal structures of those who live ahead of him, but how easily they have forgotten what is taking place not three cars away. Where many a post-apocalyptic film will maintain the focus on how society has come to work in the wake of failing and in turn sacrificing character development both this and The Rover prove that it is the actions and mentalities of the characters you create that define the rules of the world and not the mounds of exposition you have them spurting so that we understand those rules. Snowpiercer wastes little time explaining things, it trusts its audience and it gives only a brief amount of set-up before diving into the narrative that Curtis, his second in command Edgar (Jamie Bell) and their wise old leader, Gilliam (John Hurt), are setting in motion to push forward. What follows is a layered and engrossing series of obstacles that avoids feeling like a video game by creating these characters and dynamics between them to where we can't help but become invested.

First Trailer for FURY

I have to admit I am a little underwhelmed by this first trailer for David Ayer's Fury. Ayer's second release of the year after the disappointing Sabotage in March is easily one of my most anticipated films of the year. I highly doubt the film will turn out to be that way given Pitt has become the kind of actor very choosy of his projects and only investing his time and talent in projects he considers worthwhile and transcendent of cinema, but if a trailer is meant to elicit interest from people who aren't familiar with the project all this spot has going for it is the star power. Yes, Pitt is in it and it is a war movie and we are served that premise throughout while also getting highlights of Pitt's crew that includes Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman (Perks of Being A Wallflower, Noah), Michael Pena (Crash, End of Watch) and Jon Bernthal (Walking Dead, Wolf of Wall Street). The cast is strong and while Sabotage wasn't all it could have been Ayer's previous writing and directing effort, End of Watch, was one of my favorite films of 2012 and that being on his resume alone means I will reserve judgement on this WWII tank film. While the trailer overall tries to do too much in divulging one too many plot points it does wash us over with the gorgeous photography from cinematographer Roman Vasyanov (End of Watch, Charlie Countryman) . I worry only about the story as this is from an original screenplay by Ayer in that it might fall into convention, but again Pitt and his impressive supporting cast clearly had enough faith to sign on and so my excitement level will remain high until Fury opens on November 14th.


You can tell a lot about a persons intelligence level by what they laugh at. There is a lot of laughing to be had in Obvious Child that springs from the inherent comedic mentality of star Jenny Slate, but as the conclusion draws near and the agenda becomes more clear the laughing becomes less and less. I find this interesting because while the film wants to deal with the issue of abortion in a way that doesn't place judgement on its protagonist it also very much alludes to the fact she is still in an adolescent frame of mind. How are we to accept her decisions as well thought-out or mature if she herself doesn't want to be an adult yet? This could of course resort to questions about why she is casually throwing her vagina around as well, but we won't get into that here. That Slate and her writer/director Gillian Robespierre can't really approach the topics of motherhood or how far along the baby is when it is aborted show they are just as afraid to get into the thick of the fight as those right-wing faith-based films are to admit that all atheists aren't bad people. As a kind of epilogue to this review I *guess* I should comment on where I stand when it comes to the issue of abortion because that will undoubtedly influence the reaction you have to this film. I'd consider myself a fairly liberal guy. I don't have anything against same-sex marriage, as a Catholic I'm not even going to force the age old argument of why contraception is wrong down your throat, but when it comes to abortion I can't get behind the idea that it is okay and that is what Obvious Child wants you to believe, that it is okay. I understand that in some scenarios it might be the only option or even necessary which is to say in cases of rape, where the mothers health is at risk, or incest. Under the set of circumstances this film presents though they are striving so hard to come at things from the opposite perspective and to deliver a pro-choice message that not only do things get away from the appealing character interactions of the first half of the film, but diminish this huge decision in a person's life to a simplicity I wish weren't based in so much fact.

New Trailer and Posters for TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

Being a child of the late-80's/early 90's I loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and everything their faces were plastered on. As I was only six when the third live action film came out in 1993 I even loved that time-traveling adventure to ancient Japan or "Turtles in Time" as it is now referred. It has been unfortunate it's taken this long to bring the heroes in a half shell back to the big screen as I wasn't a fan of the 2007 animated film, but that was likely because I'd grown up and matured and didn't want my childhood heroes reverted to cheap animation. It seemed at first like the ball would never start rolling on this re-boot or that Michael Bay (who is producing) would piss so many people off it would be dead from the get-go. Prospects now at least looks somewhat promising as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello have clearly been ushered into the age of super hero films with an edge. Director Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans) has given the turtles new and updated looks that classify them in a more-grounded kind of reality, but with giant, mutated turtles, talking rats and men in transformers costumes you can only get so "real" and I hope they keep that in mind. It also doesn't bode well that the story seems to be lifted straight out of The Amazing Spider-Man re-boot with April (Megan Fox) playing a pivotal role. I understand my tastes have matured and that this film is going to be aimed at new, younger fans of TMNT, but I'm hoping it will be as equally pleasing on both a nostalgic level and a B-movie summer actioner which the trailer seems to balance well in terms of seriousness, comedy and action set pieces. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also stars William Fichtner, Will Arnett, Abby Elliot, Whoopi Goldberg, features the voices of Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub and opens on August 8th.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 24, 2014


History is made up of moments better than our current situations or so nostalgia makes it seem. This obviously isn't always true and more times than not you will feel the same way about the given moment in ten years as you feel about ten years ago now. Time and perspective can cause both more insightful thinking of what once was while also romanticizing it to a point it becomes nothing like the reality of what actually occurred. This is all to say that much of what we see take place on screen in Jersey Boys feels a little more appealing than it might have actually been for those who lived it. There is a moment near the end of the film where Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) is talking into the camera as he reminisces about the best moments of being a part of his musical group, The Four Seasons, and how it came before the group hit it big when they sung acapella under street lamps. There is no doubt some truth to this sentiment, but were these really the best times in that moment when they were happening or did they become cherished memories with the frame of reference time helped lend? How much have these memories been idealized? In that actual point in their lives those four guys wanted nothing more than to get out from under the street lamps and get onto bigger stages with the only lights being the ones that hold their names. Per the usual, once that level of success is achieved there is always someone who can't deal with all that fame brings. It is even written into the tag line that time does funny things to memories in that, "Everybody remembers it how they need to," and with each of The Four Seasons giving us versions of certain moments we can only assume this compilation of recollections is as close to the truth we will get, no matter how heightened it might be. The question is, as with every film, why should we care? Jersey Boys had the unique opportunity to bring to the screen a story we've seen a million times before in a fashion that might seem more arbitrary and authentic to audiences than say the standard music biopic like Ray or Walk the Line. The musical turned movie was going to tell an interesting story of a certain national treasures rise to fame all while keeping the emphasis and the highlights of the production on the music, the one thing that is the reason for being a star, but never gets the attention it deserves in these kinds of movies. So yes, there are plenty of attributes here one could care about but as the credits begin to roll you feel more indifferent than you do starstruck.


The definition of rover is a person who spends their time wandering. This interesting, edgy, somewhat vague word that has garnered several interpretations is used here to define a wandering, drifting society. There is one man in particular with whom writer/director David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) is taken with in this transient existence and it is through this hardened and disconnected perspective we come to know the world ten years after it has seemingly collapsed. Everything about the world that Michôd has built through his imagery and his characters keep the outside world unclear and of little concern. This isn't a movie necessarily about anything as much as it is an analysis of what might happen were the structure we've always lived within to fall apart. All systems fail eventually, it is inevitable, but usually when something is perceived as failing it is because something better, more efficient has come along-it will have been superseded. This, unfortunately, is not the case in post-apocalyptic thrillers and while I am hesitant to use that genre classification at all I suppose it fits. The idea of society as we know it failing has always been an interesting idea because the reason something fails typically ties into the reason it was created in the first place. So, when we look at a world without any civilizing influences we begin to wonder what the point of it all was and why we allowed it to mean so much and determine such a portion of our lives, our happiness. Civility is cause for order and without either of them what we have is infrequent chaos and it is within one of these small pockets of havoc that Michôd introduces us to a protagonist, but not necessarily a hero, and sets us out on a journey with no urgent motivation. It isn't the trying to decode this incentive that pulls one into the film though, but instead the characters themselves and why they are who they are, how they have come to be this way and their own realizations of why they feel the need to take the actions they do. The Rover is an unnerving experience in many ways as it is slow, but never tedious. The actions that take place feel as random and authentic as the settings and physicality of the characters that the camera captures while all adding up to a beautifully depressing conclusion about what this life means to us and what our lives mean to others.

First Trailer for THE JUDGE

Director David Dobkin is entering uncharted territory with The Judge. The director whose claim to fame is Wedding Crashers and who has since gone on to make Fred Calus and The Change-Up is looking for something a little more enlightening, a little more artistic and just all-around more credible in his latest. The trailer for The Judge certainly speaks to each of these ambitions and if it didn't over-play the score that forces us to feel like this will me some triumphant championing of courage, family and love it might really hit home. The good news is that it does indeed look beautifully shot and there is some damn fine talent in front of the camera that will hopefully distract from this studio approved, seemingly contrived conventions towards which this trailer largely plays. Of course, this could all very well be slight misdirection as I'm sure Robert Downey Jr. isn't going to just sign up for anything in his free time away from playing Iron Man and so while the trailer makes this look more melodramatic than I expected I can't help but think the final product might be something a little deeper and more authentic with a very well-planned and beautifully constructed composition from Dobkin. All of that said, this tale of a broken father/son relationship and the strain time and distance (both figuratively and metaphorically) have put on them will land the focus and weight of this film squarely on the heads of Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. Both seem to be in fine form here and the dynamic between them looks to be reason enough to see the film. The Judge also stars Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Billy Bob Thornton, Dax Shepard, Melissa Leo, Leighton Meester, Ken Howard, David Krumholtz, Balthazar Getty, Denis O’Hare and opens in theaters on October 10th.


In the two years since the adaptation of Steve Harvey's best-selling book became a "surprise" box-office smash Kevin Hart has gone on to become one of the biggest box-office draws when it comes to comedies. The makers of Think Like A Man Too would have been remiss not to take advantage of that. Don't worry, they do and if you didn't know how big Hart was before you will after this. The pint-sized comedian goes so far as to get his own dancing in his underwear montage that lasts a good two minutes if not more. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this, I find Hart an appealing and funny guy even if his features haven't been anything special (though I enjoyed his About Last Night re-make much more than I expected). Last summer, the man had a successful stand-up movie run in theaters and any comedian with that kind of power has every right to flex his muscles any way he wants and headlining a summer comedy sequel isn't a bad way to go. While I didn't catch Think Like A Man in its initial theater run the buzz around it was enough to warrant a rental and though I don't remember much of what occurred in that first film the one thing that did pop up as reminiscent as I flipped through info about the sequel was the fun character dynamics that were created. If there was any need for a sequel it would be to further explore the developing relationships between these men and women and to use them as examples to spell out the lessons that I'm assuming Harvey speaks of in his book. Returning screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman make sure to imbue these little encouragements or lessons through Hart's narration, but it never melds in the way it should. It is almost as if the writers are attempting to say one thing while the actual movie is trying to be another. It isn't obvious that the movie has some kind of identity crisis, but it does become painfully apparent that there is little in the way of genuine emotion going on here. Each of the men are an archetype who play into these manufactured roles that lead to easily overcome obstacles that would never be as effortless were the film grounded in any kind of reality. Think Like A Man Too is a light comedy by nature though and so it plays everything safe, from the jokes to the conflict and thus the result is little more than a colorful distraction.

New Trailer for THE EXPENDABLES 3

The Expendables films have not necessarily been good ones, but they have at least been good fun. I enjoyed the first one well enough to go see the second and the second one is so outrageous it almost bursts through its ceiling, but does well enough to maintain what this franchise set its sights on from the get-go. These aren't movies looking for high praise or top-caliber acting chops, but instead they are a mash-up of nostalgia and primitive movie-making that become as much an experiment as an experience. An experiment because they have, to this point, avoided computerized weaponry and other high-tech gadgets for pure, meat-headed bliss and an experience of nostalgia because it is what we expect from the mind of Sylvester Stallone. With the script penned by two others besides Stallone and the director chair taken by newcomer to the series Patrick Hughes I can only hope the series isn't getting away from what made the original so appealing in its premise and execution. These films are supposed to transcend current Hollywood trends and be nothing more than pure 80's pulp, but in what has become an ever changing roster of aging and up and coming action stars the films have been more about the expanding universe than the central conceit. Director of part two Simon West knew his way around an old-school action movie, but the text alone in this new trailer along with the sleek sky-diving shots against blue-lit buildings suggests something much more modern in the Expendables future. I can only hope Stallone reminded Hughes of this series' roots and that they keep this frame of mind intact as it would be a shame to waste the additions of Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson on a lousy third (and possibly final) act. The Expendables 3 also stars Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz, Glen Powell and opens August 15.

ON DVD & Blu-Ray: June 17, 2014


With sequels these days there has come to be a feeling of such necessity that we have therefore come to experience many sequels complacent with simply re-hashing the original. 22 Jump Street is aware of this and especially in the genre of comedy. Most comedies, be it The Hangover, Rush Hour or The Nutty Professor are typically made with no greater ambition than making people laugh and maybe gaining a following once they hit home video, but I can't imagine any of them expected box office success resulting in a second chapter. This was apparent in each of the sequels to the aforementioned comedies, but the second chapter in this Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill collabo not only knows it is a college movie that pays homage to the kind of National Lampoon mainstays (as well as a barrage of other comedic references), but a sequel that subverts sequels. They realize the expectation that everything is supposed to be bigger, more expensive looking, and louder which is why they choose to open this one with a big, fast action sequence. While the heart of the film still deals with the on-going relationship between Hill's Schmidt and Tatum's Jenko the real story of the film is not the one in which these two repeat the same undercover work as last time, but instead how the film goes about commentating on the way studios operate these days and what happens when they run into road blocks and disagreements. In order to set-up the last act of the film our boys are confronted with the issue of having no money left in their police budget, which is to say they've spent it all on that opening chase sequence, upgraded sets and a bigger scope. Lucky for us the third act also helps the film break from the mold of the first film in which it was so eager to repeat so as to not venture outside the safety net of success. Returning directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The LEGO Movie) understand that everything is funnier the first time around and that the jokes aren't as sharp the second time. They understand audiences think they'll not only be looking for the same things, but wanting them. The truth is, despite the fact audiences think this way, they will leave the theater disappointed if that's what they're given because it wasn't more than they assumed it would be. In responding to these inherent wants and needs Lord and Miller have crafted a film that both meets initial expectations and then bursts through the traditional sequel curse by giving us what we didn't know we wanted until it was served up fresh.


Having re-watched the first installment of Hiccup and Toothless' adventures the night before venturing into the sequel I wondered how things might hold up. I remembered going into How to Train Your Dragon (HTTYD) with nothing in terms of expectations, but looking more for a care-free movie going experience. Clearly, what was found in the film that night was something much more substantial, something special that came completely out of left field and took me by surprise. HTTYD not only exuded a fun, adventure story but it developed relationships to the point of authenticity whether they were between Hiccup and his father, his friends or his dragon. In the four years since the release of the first film it feels only more and more good will have built up for it which built a mounting set of expectation for the sequel, one that would pick up in real time and have the glorious advantage of being summer 2014's animated record-setter. Besides a sequel to last years Planes from Disney that was intended for direct-to-DVD release anyway, Hiccup and Toothless have the season all to themselves and needless to say they take full advantage of it. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (HTTYD2) takes what we enjoyed about the first film and places things on a grander scale, but not because that's necessarily what sequels should do but because with their dragons the people of Berk have a much bigger world to explore. This idea of scope is introduced early when Hiccup skips out on a dragon racing competition and instead has taken Toothless out to explore in hopes of discovering new lands. Hiccup is putting together a map of what he discovers, essentially attempting to piece together the world he lives on. It is an admirable goal and one that shows how much the boy has grown since we last met him. Hiccup's consistent quest to push the envelope and discover the fascinating things around him has not subsided but the scale on which he pursues his inquisitiveness has only been heightened which helps to further define why he is such an interesting and worthy protagonist. He has grown into his lanky build and his just out of bed hairstyle is working much better for him these days, but while all seems well we know there can only be a sequel if trouble is brewing right around the corner. HTTYD2 does its best to make these consequences not feel like a necessity but more the natural progression of Hiccup's adventures and they do and we are all the better off for it.

First Trailer for THE INTERVIEW

The first trailer and poster for Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's directorial follow-up to This Is The End has made its way online and it is a bold premise to say the least. James Franco re-teams with Rogen as a talk show host and his producer who land an interview with Kim Jong-un and in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists they travel to North Korea where the CIA (in the form of Lizzy Caplan it seems) intercepts and recruits them with the intent of assassinating the supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Clearly this will go all kinds of wrong along the way, but the trailer makes this look like a truly broad and much bigger film than Rogen and Goldberg's first effort that they have handled well. I am always anxious to see what this group of funny guys venture into next and with Rogen and Goldberg behind both the script and camera I can't help but think this might be some kind of kindred spirit to Pineapple Express. What is almost more interesting about this project is how the studio will plan to market it from here on out and how the media will react and cover the film when it gets closer to the release date. The question of if Jong-un were to ever actually see this and naturally get offended are Rogen and Franco painting a big target on themselves and their countries head? The fact they don't seem to care makes this feel all the more fresh and downright ballsy. Regardless of these outside factors I am eager to see the artistic strides Rogen and Goldberg have made and if The Interview will be another hit for their new prime or a misstep just as things were getting good. The Interview also stars Randall Park and opens on October 10.

First Trailer for DUMB AND DUMBER TO

The Farrelly Brothers ran out of steam a long time ago commercially, but to be honest I've rather enjoyed their output as of late. The Heartbreak Kid and Hall Pass (not great by any means, but serviceable R-rated comedies that play up their premises) as well as The Three Stooges which feels like a movie everyone secretly liked, but no one wants to admit to were all fine if not cultural mainstays. In the wake of these consistent box office disappointments the brothers have retreated to their original feature smash and have crafted a twenty year-later sequel that looks to be as dumb and ridiculous as the original. Honestly, there was little hope that this being any good especially given the unreal expectations that time and nostalgia have built up. Jeff Daniels has since become a much serious actor while Jim Carrey hasn't had a genuine hit since Bruce Almighty over ten years ago (Yes Man more than returned on its budget, but it wasn't the Carrey resurgence most expected). The initial reaction to this first trailer though is surprisingly positive in that the two leads seem to be having a ton of fun with the opportunity to portray these two iconic characters again and are all in for whatever the Farrelly's asked of them. There are plenty of laughs throughout the trailer and I especially enjoyed how they basically say nothing has happened in the twenty years since the original besides Lloyd playing an elaborate prank on Harry. It strikes the perfect kind of balance that says we know where we're at in this point of the actors lives (both who are now in their 50's) and that this is going to be just as absurd as we would hope for. Dumb and Dumber To also stars Laurie Holden, Rob Riggle, Kathleen Turner, Rachel Melvin, Cam Neely, Brady Bluhm and opens November 14.


What makes The Fault in Our Stars such a massive yet precise story is that in its universal themes we find the story of young love. You can call young love universal as everyone's lives have no doubt been touched with some slight experience of it. To couple that young love with the less innocent, more universally crushing realities of knowing someone who suffers from the malady we call cancer make it all the more affecting. The Fault in Our Stars, a film based on a young adult novel that features a different kind of lead female heroine is not so much a story intent on making you cry, but at the very least intent on making you realize. As written by John Green we experience the trials and tribulations of being a teenager with cancer through the eyes of Hazel Grace Lancaster. Hazel Grace, as she is so lovingly and consistently referred to by the great star-crossed love of her life, is a highly articulate and intelligent young woman whose diagnosis (because to say battle or fight would be to label the situation as something it so clearly isn't in the way we typically think of those terms) has allowed her serious perspective for her age. For Hazel everything is about perspective and everything that consumes her life is a measure of leaving as little hurt as possible behind when, not if, she dies. This selflessness is admirable and we understand her reasoning despite the fact our natural tendencies are to make sure we leave some kind of legacy, but it is this string of thought, and this need to feel substantial that comes to form the backbone of the relationship that develops between Hazel and Augustus Waters. As a film, this story is still able to exist solely within the view of Hazel and how she appropriately approaches her world. As she tells her story there is never a sense of pretension or ingenuity that would strike one of expounding these ideas on others solely for the satisfaction of the attention it might receive. Hazel's ideas instead simply relay a story that meant a lot to her as Peter Van Houten and his novel, An Imperial Affliction, did for her. She doesn't need the acknowledgments or the congratulations to know she and her love story are appreciated. It is in the power that has come in the form of the real-world reaction to this material that we believe in Hazel Grace and that the tears she causes come from the most sincere of places.


There will come a day when Tom Cruise not only doesn't make action blockbusters like this, but when he won't be able to and when that day comes we will miss it. We won't miss these films strictly out of a sense of nostalgia, but because Cruise is the last of a dying breed; one of the only true movie stars left who, despite his image being tainted over the years, can demand the kind of budget and talent it takes to put together an original effort worth standing behind. He has displayed such influence throughout his career, spearheading projects like The Last Samurai that would have never been made on the scope they were without the involvement of Cruise. So, even though the artistic edges of his earlier work may have faded in the wake of his public life being more important than his acting ability he is still able to make movies he seems interested in, but that are more or less of a certain genre that has better odds of making a solid return than maybe a historical drama. With Edge of Tomorrow, or All You Need is Kill as it was originally, less-generically titled (interestingly enough, I don't remember seeing a title card) Cruise has again stepped into the world of science fiction as he seems to enjoy these kinds of worlds and the different rules in each of them he can explore. What makes Cruise the still magnetic force and pure movie star that he always will be though is how he digs into the motivations of the character and makes what could easily be looked down on as silly or nonsensical into a valid threat, a valid journey, a valid plan. To a certain degree audiences expect films of the sci-fi genre to feel gimmicky or sound corny yet here that is made all the more real, all the more immediate by not only the surprisingly rational dialogue, but by the fervor in which Cruise delivers it. Yes, Cruise is chief among his co-workers as a man who can still open a film and get people interested simply by having his name over the title. Still, what struck me more as I watched a nearly 52 year-old Cruise ride a motorcycle on the outskirts of some ravished city that highly referenced any number of Cruise films was that one day we will long to simply go to the movies and have the ability to watch a Tom Cruise blockbuster. Unfortunately, those kinds of opportunities will not always be here and so we should appreciate these occurrences especially when they are as entertaining and and thrilling as Edge of Tomorrow.