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The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
I Really Really Enjoyed 'The Fault in Our Stars'
First off i must say that i have not yet read the book by John Green. I remember watching the trailer to this movie months ago and thinking that i wasn't completely sold on it.
However, i do know one thing. I do enjoy watching movies starring Shailene Woodley. She is a fantastic actress. I remember seeing her in 'The Spectacular Now' and thinking how great she was. I actually didn't care for that movie, but i did like her performance. She was believable.
'The Fault in Our Stars'... is a great movie. Once again i thoroughly enjoyed Shailene's performance. She just plays the role of the average girl in high school/college so well. She's beautiful, but it's not only her looks which carry such a movie. Her character(s) in these coming of age movies really shines because she gets it and does it (acting) very well.
I felt like this movie was divided into three acts. In the first act, i struggled a bit to find the characters believable, specially Augustus. I felt like his character was trying too hard. It wasn't until the second act when i realized the characters started to grow on me and i found the characters believable.
The third act in the movie is fantastic and really proved to be the strongest for all the characters involved. You really feel for these characters and you're thoroughly invested in their journey together.
The writing is fantastic. Now that i know how much i enjoyed the second and thirds acts, i'd like to revisit the movie again to enjoy it all over again. It could very well be that i didn't "get it" from the beginning because it may have had hints of a clichéd teenage coming of age movie with no substance.
This movie is different. There is plenty of substance. The focus is kept mainly on Hazel and Augustus' relationship. These two carry the movie without the need of a big supporting cast. Shailene's performance is fantastic. You really feel for her and her struggles. Specially if you've every known someone who's battled cancer at a young age, specially a teen in high school dealing with the pressures of friendship, fitting in, dating, sex... all of which come with peer pressure. Its all relatable.
By the time the third act shows up on the screen, i dare you not to shed a tear or a few. This movie really pulls at the heart strings and it does so wonderfully because of the fantastically written script (and book i presume). This movie (book) contains some great messages. Enjoy!
The Conjuring (2013)
The Conjuring is a great film!
I just came back from viewing The Conjuring. It is a fantastic horror movie. Here's why...
Director James Wan (along with his team of writers), are not afraid to take it back to basics. Back to a day when those things that go "bump" in the night actually scared you. The shadows. The unexplained noises in the dark. The creaky doors that open on their own. Objects that are moved or fall off the walls. All of which are elements of true horror movies.
It seems that these days the kids want senseless gore, blood and porn in horror movies. But to me, that's not true horror. James Wan & Co. decided to not "Hollywoodize" this film and let the story and events creep you out. I had friends watch it opening night with an audience that laughed, full of teens of course. To me, that's a big distraction to fully take in and appreciate the dialog, atmosphere, cinematography and soundtrack, all of which are genius. I always choose the late screenings to avoid the annoying texting teens and chatty Kathy's. And boy am i glad i did.
There are a handful of horror movie classics that have elements i love, such as the under lighting of people casting weird shadows in 'Rosemary's Baby'. Or the same lighting, but the sounds and creepy shadowy atmosphere of 'The Exorcist'. Or the little tricks Mr. Wan enjoys such as the Flashbulbs used by paranormal investigators. But most importantly, it's the lack of CG creatures, monsters, cheesy special effects.
Mr. Wan instead chooses great actors to execute great scripts. And in that process, the characters become believable, the story becomes believable... and it all becomes creepy to the nth degree. Filmmakers should take note and make movies like this... better horror movies where less is actually more. And that is what i love about this film. It kept me still in my seat with an uneasy feeling from the opening shot until the very end. Excellent writing and directing along with a great cast of excellent actors. I highly recommend this movie. After you watch it, and only after you watch it, i recommend looking up the real people involved and the story which inspired this film of true events.
***** 5 out of 5 Stars!!!!
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Dark Knight Rises (Spoiler Free Review)
The Dark Knight Rises (Spoiler Free Review)
Tonight i was amongst a lucky audience in West LA to see a Warner Bros. screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' (Thanks 97.1 AMP & KROQ-FM radio!). It's difficult to sum up this movie with few select choice words . but i will use one: Epic.
Thinking back a year+ ago when casting was announced, the villain, etc i had my suspicions and i was skeptical about the casting (outside of Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman.) I wasn't sure what Chris Nolan and brother were up to. Well, once the Warner Bros. logo came on screen and the movie started, all my skeptical thinking went away.
The movie starts off with an epic action sequence, introducing you to the villain and the pure evilness that he is. And for the remainder of the 164-minute runtime, you're left guessing as to the plot and what the direction the movie is going in. And this is a wonderful thing.
I'm glad that nothing plot related is given away in the various trailers released. This movie is very intelligent and well casted. Every character has a purpose and they delivered wonderfully. I had my doubts with casting Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle at first. But i knew that if anyone can force a great performance out of an actor, it's Director Christopher Nolan.
Never was i bored or felt like there was too much time wasted on any particular scene. The pace of the movie was perfect and there was so much to look at in every scene. The cinematography is spectacular! Many directors these days will cut corners and decide to make things CG and add explosions or people or wacky camera angles to spice up the movie. Most of what i watched tonight was REAL. Those were thousands of REAL extras. Those stunts were real (specially the opening scene). Some of those wide angled shots (probably for IMAX purpose) are awesome. There is no wasted space. There's so much to look at while watching this movie, and it's not even a sci-fi film! That is the true genius of Chris Nolan. He believes in old school filmmaking with actual stunts, extras and on location sets.
Every performance is awesome. For me, Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were the two standout roles as Bane and Officer John Blake. Both men were directed perfectly for their roles and brought great acting skills to their respective roles. There are some great moments in the movie that will make you want to cheer and clap, as our audience did multiple times, specially the ending.
And what a way to tie up the Dark Knight Trilogy. I couldn't think of a more fitting and more perfect ending. Sure many are speculating about certain characters and how the movie ends and whether there will be sequels or spin-offs, etc but take my advice .
Avoid the temptation to read any spoilers or watch any more clips than you may already have. Treat yourself to this great movie - spoiler free. If you have enjoyed Nolan's first two, 'Batman Begins' and 'The Dark Knight', you're going to love how it all comes together in this film.
My hats off to you Mr. Nolan! Go see it. See it in IMAX. See it Thrice!
The Avengers (2012)
LA Review of 'The Avengers' (No spoilers)
LA Review of 'The Avengers' (No spoilers)
I was lucky enough to attend the Marvel screening of 'The Avengers' on Saturday morning in Century City, CA. This was an unusual screening as movies of this caliber are not screened some three weeks before it's release date. Just minutes before the movie started, we were all surprised when writer/director Joss Whedon walked in with Kevin Feige to introduced their little "Justice League" movie. Not only did we all laugh, but some booed. lol. If that wasn't enough of a surprise, the soft spoken Whedon introduced on stage Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson) and Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill). Wow is she stunning in person! The audience gave them all a standing ovation with deafening cheers! (This explained why the secret service like security were searching, wanding everyone. No cameras, cell phones, nothing was allowed in.) What a nice surprise for an early Saturday morning screening.
I've never read comic books. This is a comic book movie. It was made for hardcore fans of comics, and I appreciate the care Joss Whedon gives to this movie. It was very entertaining to see Tony Stark (Iron Man), Thor, Dr. Bruce Banner (Hulk), Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), Agent Maria Hill, Agent Phil Coulson and Director Nick Fury all interact with one another.
Capt. Steve Rogers was fighting in WWII just yesterday. Having been recently awoken from his frozen sleep, he struggles to fit in our modern world with all this technology around us. The God of Thunder, Thor, is not from this world (realm) and doesn't understand modern technology on Earth as well. Dr. Bruce Banner has been on the run from the government, practicing medicine in third world countries. He hasn't been the Hulk in two years (What's his secret? ;). Tony Stark is still the same, playing with this high tech toys and inventing new technology. So how do you get them all to interact and play well together? Well, Director Joss Whedon is the secret to making it all work.
The highlight of the film for me is how Joss Whedon has all these characters interact. Deep character development was not needed for this film. (That is what the respective movies are for: Thor, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger) He does a great job of not forcing dialogue, and the interaction of the characters is much more organic than I would have ever anticipated. That is where Whedon deserves the most credit. He took what appears to be a very silly premise, with silly looking characters and made it completely work. Seeing as the Avengers comics date back to the 1960s, you can tell he not only did his homework, but he really cares deeply for the material, and his passion definitely shows on- screen.
The movie is vastly entertaining. The Action scenes are amazing and satisfying. Nobody is short changed when it comes to the fighting or action sequences. I felt as if there was not a single bad performance. A couple of dialogue lines seemed off, but once you remember who the character is, and why they talk the way they do (think of where they come from), it all makes sense. Each respective character is true and honest to itself. Each of the characters brought their personality (from their respective movie) to the table. It is by far the best Marvel movie to date.
So who was my personal favorite character from the movie? Dr. Bruce Banner (played by Mark Ruffalo) of course! He is by far the BEST Bruce Banner/Hulk since Bill Bixby. His intelligence (genius) is unparalleled (greater than Tony Stark's) and his compassion for human lives is what drives the good side of his character. As a kid growing up, he was my favorite Marvel super hero. I enjoyed watching Bill Bixby play medical doctor/physicist Dr. David Banner on television. I'd watch, terrified with my hands up to my face, as he transformed into the raging green hulk. Yet i was so fascinated with him being a scientist, helping those in need. When Mark Ruffalo was first announced to play Bruce Banner, i didn't know what to think of it. I knew that he's a good actor. All he needs is the right director to get the needed on-screen character out of him. I really hope they make an Incredible Hulk movie sequel starring Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner. Or at least, i vote for him to reprise his role in any sequel. He was a natural fit for this role.
Overall, the best thing about these characters is that they are not silly twenty-something terrible actors who were chosen for on-screen eye candy. They all do a fine job of bringing these characters to life and their chemistry together works great. Assembled, they are unstoppable. When i heard an Avengers movie was rumored to be in the works, i was ecstatic. The day has finally come. Go see it. Thrice. 10/10 Stars.