The Fault in Our Stars

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Today was supposed to be my day with Tom. I was going to eat popcorn. He was going to die. I planned on getting blasted by 3-D. He was going to die. I was, finally, going to appear in public wearing my Cocktail shirt. And he. Was going. To die. Alas, it was not meant to be. The movie theater didn’t have a 3-D Edge of Tomorrow (crazy, I know). And I only see movies before noon. That left only two options. See DOFP for the fourth time — worth it just for the feels when Jean and Scott pop in — or watch The Fault in Our Stars with an estimated sixty female high school students. One thing’s for sure, tears were going to be shed.

Based on John Green’s best selling novel, The Fault in Our Stars centers around two teenagers who have the all too common misfortune of living with cancer. It’s a story we’ve all heard before, but one no less potent. I was intent on not crying during any point of the film. It was a bold task, this I know, but one I deemed possible. Let’s be honest here. If I can sit through A Walk to Remember without sobbing, this should be amateur hour. Oh yeah, that’s right. I cried uncontrollably at the end of the Mandy Moore classic.

There’s no excuse for letting my guard down back in 2002. I will, however, defend my emotions getting the best of me earlier today. You get the feeling right from the start that there won’t be a happy ending. Terminal cancer is terminal. The film’s acting could have been shoddy, the dialogue stiff, music grating. As it happened none of this was the case. But it wouldn’t have mattered. When you’re dealing with cancer, something every one is or will be affected by, you are going to strike a chord.

At the head of that chord is Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort). I usually cringe when people use the term “chemistry” between two actors. But in this case, there was something there. It piques my curiosity. Why were these two so good together? Did they hang out on the set all day? Before shooting even began? Are they dating in real life like Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone? Or maybe they’re just really good at what they do. I’ll be the first to admit how tacky the relationship between Jamie and Landon is in A Walk to Remember. Don’t get me wrong. I watch it every time it’s on TBS. Yet I won’t deny rolling my eyes at more than a few scenes. And honestly, not once during the two hours did I guffaw during this. Believe me, there were opportunities. But Woodley and Elgort were fantastic. I’ve yet to read the book, so I’m unaware of the accuracy of the casting, but man did I buy every second of what those two were selling.

Willem Dafoe pops up for a bit as Hazel’s favorite author. The character happens to be a huge asshole and Dafoe plays it well. Nat Wolff appears as Isaac, a friend of Gus’s who’s losing his sight to cancer. Much of the comedy comes from Isaac, despite all the laughs Gus received from the teenagers in my audience.

Some of the hardest scenes to watch included Laura Dern and Sam Trammell. They were Hazel’s parents in the film. As good as I believe Woodley and Elgort’s acting was, they weren’t the reason for my watery eyes. They just legitimized it when all the girls in my theater went “awwwwww” every fifteen minutes. No, it wasn’t them or their characters. The parents were what killed me.

The only thing worse than dying of cancer at 16 is being the parent of a kid who dies of cancer.

Hazel says this, or something of the sort, in the film. Maybe my feelings about the quote will change if, I should say when , I get cancer, but until then I’m in full support. Credit to Dern and Trammell. If it weren’t for them I’d be saying how I didn’t hate Hazel and Gus all that much and Willem Dafoe is awesome. With them I’m saying it’s a film worth watching.

This is a solid movie and a sad tale, but not as sad as it’ll be made out to be in the coming weeks. There’s hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands who die of cancer without meeting the love of their life. Most will die alone. There won’t be trips of a lifetime to Sweden. No losing virginities. Just the constant reminder of death slowly upon them. That, to me, is the ultimate sadness. That’s the story I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Because that’s sorrow and despair. And life. The Fault in Our Stars is a fine movie and I’ll be the first to admit I shed tears. But I’ve also cried during Sarah McLachlan’s SPCA commercial. They resonate with me no longer than someone saying “okay”. Okay.

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Festivus with Godzilla

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In the words of the great Frank Costanza, I’ve got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re going to hear about it. I say people, but I’m actually talking about a movie. I caught a Godzilla showing last Thursday, an hour before midnight. Knowing I had to wake up early for work the next day I still went to the screening. It’s Godzilla for goodness sake. As a boy raised by women, he was the male presence in my childhood. Well, him and Phil Harris. So it felt like an obligation to see this movie as soon as I could. *Sigh*. Let me make Frank proud and list my problems.

  • What the f*ck was up with Ken Watanabe?!

Seriously. Ken Watanabe has proven himself a capable actor. He’s been in some of my favorite films, hand picked by one of my favorite directors. He looked nauseous or sea sick throughout the whole film. Either that or he would just stare into the distance….even when he was on a submarine. It took me out of the film more times than I’d like to admit. The only worthwhile stare came when he dropped the “Let them fight” line. In a film with some atrocious acting (more on that soon) he was whatever the opposite of the “bees knees” is.

  • How dare you mishandle Bryan Cranston

Don’t read any further if you haven’t seen the film. It’s spoiler town. My gripe isn’t that they killed off Bryan Cranston’s character, but that they did it so soon. He was the only one the audience had a chance to connect with and you pulled his plug way too early. The two best (non-Godzilla) scenes in the film were when he lost his wife and when he was in the interrogation room. I had goosebumps twenty minutes into the film. Even worse, he was proven correct after all these years of being labeled as a conspiracy theorist, lunatic, whatever. I wanted so bad to see some sort of redemption. Then when you kill him off (perhaps directly from a Muto, not internal bleeding) the payoff would be so much better between him and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. You could have the whole “sorry I was obsessed with work and didn’t spend more time with you” father/son talk. For crying out loud when that army dude asks who Ken Watanabe needed, Watanabe pointed right at the injured Cranston. Man, was I pumped. Walter White working with Fake Ra’s Al Ghul. Next thing I know they’re zipping up his body bag. Ugh.

  • Not Aaron Taylor-Johnson or Elizabeth Olsen’s proudest moment

Elizabeth Olsen is so hot that I don’t care how useless she was in this film. She was there to scream and get wet in the rain. But ATJ was the bigger disappointment. Was it because he sounded exactly like Kick-Ass? What about his total lack of emotion in every scene, especially during his fathers death? Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge Aaron Taylor guy. Loved both Kick-Ass films and I didn’t hate him in Savages. Are they the only films I’ve watched that he’s in? Absolutely. Relevant? Most likely. I’ll admit he had to carry the bulk of the film considering Cranston’s death and the hoarding of Godzilla footage. Being the terrible writer that I am, I can only say he didn’t do it for me. It’s a bad sign that I would start dozing off whenever he came on screen (I’ll concede it was approaching 1 A.M.). When they make sequels I’m hopeful they use a new cast with each movie. Why would I want to follow his storyline into another film?

  • It’s the little things

So you have a nuclear bomb that makes the one from the 50’s look like a firecracker. It’s drifting to sea on a tug boat for five minutes. YET IT ONLY LEAVES A LITTLE BIT OF DUST ON A NAPPING GODZILLA. The Dark Knight Rises had a more believable nuclear explosion than this movie. Also, we have one guy who knows how to disable a bomb. Let’s throw him off this plane and hope we some how meet up. THEN, when we do get the bomb, we’ll let him out of our site so he can go burn the baby Mutos. I wasn’t buying the general’s belief that the monsters food source would be their demise. He should have listened to the only logical thing Watanabe said and let them fight. Clearly Godzilla just woke up to whoop some ass. He wasn’t purposely smashing buildings. He was just trying to get to those punk monsters and serve them justice. Sometimes I don’t understand the military.

 

Having said all of that, I absolutely loved this movie. I know, it’s hard to tell from all the bitching above, but I truly did. Gareth Edwards is the best at creating monsters. Godzilla looked…monstrous. He appeared to carry a swagger with him, like he knew he was the star of the film. The fight scenes (as few as there were) were worth the wait. We were able to see Godzilla use his two most iconic movies and he even did the “walk of fame” back into the sea at the end of the film. All of the things I pointed out above are miniscul problems that are fun to complain about with friends after viewing, but of no major consequence. Edwards nailed Godzilla. And that’s all that matters. Watanabe can stare for an hour straight in the sequel (I’m expecting it) but if we see another bodacious fight scene at the end it’ll all be worth it. This is the most I’ve ever complained about a film that I absolutely adored. Just forget I even said anything. And lets be honest, who wants to have the feats of strength with Godzilla?

Amazing, My Ass

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Am I taking crazy pills? Honestly. Was I the only person who took the red pill when it came to these movies? You would think I was criticizing Gandhi himself when I talk about my disappointment with Andrew Garfield. If I wasn’t an anonymous coward debating people on Reddit, there would be a good chance of receiving death threats.

Let me get some background information out of the way. I’m not a huge Spider Man fan. I’m not totally positive I spelled his name correctly just then. My knowledge of the character comes from three things:

  1. My best friend is a total SM fan boy.
  2. I loved all thr…two Sam Raimi adaptations
  3. As a youngin’ I watched the 1994 Spider-Man TV series

All I know after watching “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is that it’s not a great movie. It’s certainly not better than the first two Raimi adaptations. Just because Andrew Garfield is, in your opinion, a better “Spider-Man”, does not make these films watchable. Isn’t Peter Parker supposed to be a genius by the way? Tobey Maguire was at least believable in that aspect. In the movie I just saw, Peter was using Youtube to learn how electricity works. YOUTUBE. Not to mention he had to rely on Gwen Stacy to defeat Electro.

Ugh. Electro. Where to start? I’ll admit to disliking Jamie Foxx. “Django Unchained” would have been twice as good with Will Smith, Foxx stole the Academy Award from Dicaprio (and Cheadle to be fair) in 2005, and he starred in Stealth, one of the biggest disappointments in my life. But even I can’t fully blame him for the abomination that is Electro.

To start, he’s a rip off of The Riddler from Batman Forever. Not only that, I preferred Jim Carrey’s version! When Batman Forever does something better than your movie, you know you messed up. I actually understood the route they were trying to take with Electro. Max Dillon had mental health problems. And in today’s world this is a problem we face every day. I loved that a main villain is dealing with multiple social problems. The film just didn’t do the idea justice. I wish they would have focused more on the fact that Spider Man didn’t remember his name. THEN I could believe his turn as a heel. Max was convinced Spider-Man needed him. That’s what should have broke him. Finding out that he’s no different than any one else in Spider-Man’s eyes. Instead, it was jealousy towards the public’s love for Spider Man. That, and a cop shot a bullet at him. You can’t be angry that nobody notices you anymore when you’re being booed and shot at. Just because the Times Square TV’s aren’t on you doesn’t make you invisible.

But I can let that slide. What I cannot forigve, is the horrific dialogue he was given. Off the top of my head:

“Who are you?” “Don’t you know. I’m Electrooo” (This actually might have been the way Foxx delivered it. Sounded super cheesy)

“Let’s go catch a spider.” (Ugh)

“It’s my birthday. Time to light the candles.” (Really!?)

spider-man-2-electro

After seeing Never Nude Electro for most of the film we finally see him in his own suit. Where did it come from? How come it disappears when he does? How is it able to go into electrical units with him? I’m only bringing it up because “Man of Steel” got so much flack for not explaining more about Superman’s suit (deservedly so). I’m honestly too tired to go into the dubstep/heavy metal music that played when he first terrorized the city as Electro. I appreciate the attempt at a different type of villain, but they flat out missed.

It’s very difficult to establish something in one scene. It’s even more difficult to establish YEARS of friendship. Dane Dehaan has a bright future and I’ll enjoy seeing him throughout the future Spider-Man films. But give me Franco’s Harry Osborn any day. At least we had three films worth of best friendship to embrace. These are things you just can’t rush. You can’t expect me to connect with both of these characters based on….maybe twenty minutes of screen time? This is why television is jumping so far ahead of film. We get to witness multiple seasons of best friendship, parent/child relationships, boss/employee relations, etc. So when something big does happen the payoff is totally worth it.

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The Peter/Gwen relationship was the strongest part of the film (as it should be. The movie was practically a romantic comedy). The (SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) death scene was done very well. Two complaints involving their relationship. First, they forced her into trying to help Spider-Man save the day. Out of no where she decided to become a hero. When Electro first shows up in Times Square, Gwen is perfectly fine with standing around watching the action (so is every one apparently. More on this later). Once the third act kicks in, she becomes Super Gwen. It just felt like an easy way to set up the death scene. Secondly, after all the “break up because your not safe” stuff we’ve seen a million times, Gwen informs Peter she’s moving to London. This literally solves all his problems. I’m just sick of this trope. If you want the consequence to be her death than I need to see more from Peter. Standing at her grave as the four seasons pass doesn’t do it for me. In the comics (according to fan boy best friend) he goes wild with rage and starts beating up Norman. Why couldn’t we have seen that? Maybe it’s nitpicking but I didn’t have man tears flowing down my face as intended (and this coming from a guy who cries during EVERY movie).

Quick Ragings

  • Why wasn’t Peter more upset about Uncle Ben? He’s being haunted by Dennis Leary and crying over Richard Parker. UNCLE BEN IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN PETER PARKERS LIFE. Uncle Ben’s death was a vital part of Spider-Man all throughout the Raimi trilogy. This probably pissed me off the most.
  • Do people line up to watch shoot out’s in New York City? I’m sorry, but if a blue electrical monster was attacking, I’d be Usain Bolt. The same goes with Rhino. He’s spraying bullets and people are watching. Do New Yorkers live life on the edge? Seriously, it didn’t take any one else out of the film?
  • I didn’t mind only having Rhino in the beginning and end of the film. Rhino was never a huge villain, more of a thug. And clearly a set up to The Sinister Six film. That still doesn’t explain why you cast Paul Giamatti. He looked and sounded ridiculous.
  • Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t Peter Parker supposed to be nerdy. Andrew Garfield comes across as the most popular person in high school. Readers are supposed to identify with his self obsessions with rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness (from Wikipedia). I didn’t feel any of that. He felt more like the cool kid who sarcastically made fun of me. He made out with Gwen Stacy on his graduation stage! That’s bad ass. And yet Tobey Maguire was a terrible Spider-Man…alas.

 

I don’t enjoy coming across as this hater. There is no joy taken from this I promise you. But I feel the need to point out these things. Even if I’m wrong (and I’m sure I am more than once), at least I’m bringing it up instead of declaring these films untouchable. I’m not talking about critics. Clearly they agree with me. It’s the dude in the comic store who asked if I liked it (and did everything but spit in my face when I said “meh”). It’s for all the people who thought Norman Osborn looked silly with Goblin Disease. I love comic book movies. There are none I regret seeing (Michael Bay’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” replies: Challenge Accepted). But the one word I’ll never use to describe “ASM2” is amazing.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Saturday morning I woke up to one of the toughest decisions I’d have to make all year. Do I go see the highly anticipated Captain America sequel? Or do I follow my heart and see “Sabatoge”, another box office bomb starring my hero Arnold. I’ve been through thick and thin with the big man recently. Hell, I even saw “The Last Stand” on opening night (it’s on Netflix now. Worth a watch, but Johnny Knoxville is horrendous. And I love Knoxville). With betrayal omitting off me like my daily B.O, I saw the early Cap 2 screening.

First off, Captain America is my least favorite Marvel character. At least out of all the major ones. Quicksilver will probably be my new “most hated” after watching DOFP. I don’t have to wait until the movie comes out you say? There’s a terrible Hardees commercial he’s in already? Yep. He’s the worst. Anyways, the point is I’m not very patriotic. I feel the same way about religion and sports “fandom”. If I was born farther north I’d be yearning for a Captain Canada, farther south a Captain Mexico. Just because I grew up in Philadelphia means I HAVE to root for the Phillies? Even if the whole team raped a ten year old boy (akin to those in high positions in the Catholic church), you would have imbeciles from that city sticking up for their team out of loyalty. It’s asinine.

There were a few things from the movie that I couldn’t let go of. It was everything I hate about patriotism. That 1940s propaganda bull. Plus the casting of Agent Smith as Red Skull rubbed me the wrong way (he’s already been in enough iconic roles with the Matrix and LOTR. You couldn’t have found anyone else?). Young CGI’d Steve Rogers took me out of the film every time he came on screen. It angered me more people weren’t talking about that. He looked ridiculous. But I openly acknowledge these are my feelings on things other than the film itself. Another solid addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sure. But it in no way compares to The Winter Soldier.

Right off the bat I could tell the tone of this film was different. As a country we are having trouble trusting. Not being able to trust our government. Missiles aimed at any one of us at all times. Hacking in to our computers, phones, etc. I was on board from the get go. Cap’s trust in SHIELD starts to waver throughout the beginning of the movie and we begin to see it is not unfounded. There have been HYDRA plants all throughout SHIELD (including Gary Shandling, who has a scene that is laugh out loud funny. Unfortunately that was not its purpose) like a virus. Nick Fury is killed by the Winter Soldier himself and (no surprise) comes back near the end to reveal he faked his own death. The head of SHIELD is Pierce (Robert Redford) who quite clearly is the bad guy in this game. Anthony Mackie makes an awesome sidekick in Falcon. If you read his recent interviews about the role you know how enthusiastic he was about being cast as a superhero, and it shows. ScarJo is almost a co-lead in this film. She is great as usual, although she’s in that “too hot to watch” zone for me. It’s difficult for me to enjoy films she’s in because of how attractive I find her. It’s a curse. Lastly, we have Bucky himself (played by Sebastian Stan). You could say he did A LOT with a little. Most people have said that actually. I’m just reiterating it. He’s not on Loki’s level as a villain (and in the Marvel universe, who is?) but I immediately wanted to see more of him. Luckily for me, Stan recently signed a nine picture deal.

Technically this was the first summer blockbuster to come out. So that might be why I enjoyed it so much. But there were definitely other things. I’ll throw some Pros/Cons out there.

Pro – Fight Sequences

All credit given to the Russo brothers on this one. The fight sequences were phenomenal. You felt the force of Caps blows. I loved the scene where he’s running so hard that he bangs into a wall and the shield leaves a dent. Black Widow had the moves we’ve come to expect from a super spy. George St. Pierre makes a cameo in the beginning of the flick and has an awesome fight off with Evans. He had a few good moves, but was easily taken down by CA (Black Widow hindered Cap more than GSP). Quick note. I’m glad they showed him easily taking out the henchmen. This dude just wrecked hundred of aliens in The Avengers. You’re going to tell me some french martial art boat captain can beat up Captain America? I’m not buying it. Captain America should give a beat down to twenty people in an elevator. Even with one arm trapped to the wall by a magnet.

Con – Rewatchability

A few of you might disagree with me on this. The film is pretty long (136 minutes not counting after credit scenes). A while the pacing is great, there isn’t many reasons why I would go back to watch it. I thought the best scenes were with Bucky and they were few and far between. TWS just beat out a certain movie for Aprils biggest box office hit. That movie? Only one of the most re watchable summer blockbusters of all time. That’s right folks, FAST FIVE. I’ve watched F5 dozens of times. Why? Because I’m in awe during that train scene. Because the ground shakes every time during the second greatest handshake ever (Diesel picking Rock up. Obviously behind the one in Predator). And because…

Pro – Chris Evans becomes a leading man

You could argue he became this in The Avengers, but I still wasn’t buying it. I think Evans has greatly improved, not on his acting, but on his presence. I honestly don’t know how one improves that. It’s like how Mel Kiper talks about “upside”. We both just tend to throw these words around. But Evans really shines in this one (and he should. He’s the star of the film). By the time Avengers 2 comes out I’ll believe that he can go toe to toe with Robert Downey Jr (or Tony Stark).

Con – Cap and Black Widows relationship

I feel like I should be saying this for every Pro/Con, but hear me out. Yes. It was appreciated that they weren’t forced into another silly romantic relationship. First off, she has Hawkeye (if they ever want to use him again). And secondly, it would have made that scene with old Peggy Carter less meaningful. But the back and forth about her getting him a girlfriend or a date was grating. Why couldn’t their relationship be more like Legolas and Gimli from LOTR? She is clearly badass. I’d love to hear them arguing about who takes out more henchman. And you could still have the “I don’t trust you” storyline.

Pro – Post Credit Scenes

This should be a Pro for every Marvel film. But this may have been the best one yet. We finally get a glimpse of Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver. The REAL Quicksilver. They look menacing. And unstable. And I’m even more pumped for Avengers 2 than I was yesterday. I’m always curious as to if Whedon directs these himself. The Guardians of the Galaxy teaser at the end of Thor 2 definitely looked like someone else was behind the directors chair. But alas. Also we get to see one of the new villains for AV2 and what appears to be Loki’s mind control stick? Correct me if I’m wrong. Then the second (and usually plain dumb) scene featured Bucky visiting the museum to see his little WWII memorial. It probably could of just been put straight into the film, but it was nice to show Bucky realizing that Cap wasn’t lying to him. Perhaps he could….trust Steve Rogers. It wasn’t great but it was better than Thor 2’s second post credit scene.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a worthy two hours spent at the movies. I would go so far as to say it’s the BEST movie of the summer! Take that as you will.

1st. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

2nd. N/A

3rd. N/A