Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

For the last year or so, all I’ve heard is people raving about this book.  As you might expect, this set me up to believe this book was going to be amazing.  I know I need to start some sort of mental clearing prior to doing pretty much anything because no matter what, stories seem to be regurgitated in one form or another and this is no exception.  In a nutshell, think Nicholas Sparks.  That pretty much sums up this book, and yet it doesn’t.  There may be SPOILERS ahead, so read at your own risk.

Written from the first-person point-of-view, John Green weaves a bleak story of a girl with cancer who meets a boy who has lost a leg to cancer.  The two hit it off and become friends and a little more.  Hazel, our main character, is surrounded by a strong family base and a few friends, one who loses his eyes while she and her boyfriend Augustus get to know one another.  The story continues with the two lovebirds getting closer and closer, though Hazel, realising her own mortality, tries to keep Gus at arm’s length.  In an attempt to get her attention and prove they can be together, he uses his one ‘wish’ as a cancer kid and flies them to see her favourite author in Amsterdam.  The trip doesn’t end quite as they had hoped it would, but the two do rekindle their romance.  It is after that they escalate their intimacy that he tells her his cancer has returned.  The last third of the book follows Hazel’s realization that it isn’t her mortality that she should have been worried about, but his.  In classic Sparks’ stories, this too ends with her lover dying and she alone and heartbroken.

Despite my earlier proclaimed disappointment, I enjoyed the story.  It was written well and the circumstances for the characters make you automatically compelled to root for them and feel Hazel’s loss that much more.  Where I struggled was with something somewhat trivial, perhaps, the dialogue.  I’m sorry, I wanted to be blown away by this book, I did, but please, tell me, if you’ve read it, what kids in their mid-teens talk like that?  It was like Dawson’s Creek, but somehow more annoying.  I challenge you to, instead of picking up the entire book, open it and just start reading, read a scene between Hazel and Gus and tell me you’re not put off by it.  The trouble is, I was unable to suspend any disbelief reading this book.  I think this is a good beach book, but that is the best I can say about it.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Movie Review: Noah

When I first heard about this movie, I was not sure what to expect.  I loved The Fountain and The Black Swan was very affecting and memorable.  I try not to bet against directors I like and I like Darren Aronofsky.  The way he interprets things and tells stories has a way of pulling the viewer in and not making it seem like a chore to do so.  There are far too many Academy Award calibre movies that I despise because it feels put on.  It feels like they want us to be as pretentions as the actors, producers and directors are.  It is overbearing and makes me uninterested.

The story of this movie is based on the biblical story of Noah and the Ark.  Aronofsky takes quite a few liberties in an attempt to make the story more relevant, perhaps.  I don’t know my scripture as well as I should, but the basic idea being that Noah has a vision and is told by God to make an Ark and bring two of every animal.  Any other details about the task I don’t know.

If you don’t want to be SPOILED for the movie, you might want to jump to the last paragraph-ish.  Instead of sticking to the original story, Aronofsky makes quite a few changes.  If memory serves, I read that the character Ila, played by Emma Watson, was invented for the movie.  There is also an addition of ‘The Watchers,’ who are fallen angels that have been cursed to live on earth, banished from Heaven.  The representation of this is basically Ents, but made of rock.  Once I made that connexion, I was pretty much no longer in any kind of mind set to believe or even enjoy the movie.

The story continues to take a tight left turn here as the made-up-character is part of the solution for the New World, but for some reason Crowe’s hero is convinced that all humanity must be cleansed from the earth, and thus turns into a bit of a madman, promising to kill everyone on the Ark.  Considering these people are trapped on this vessel for forty days and he tells them this on day one, I thought, come on now, people, you should have had at least three plans of escape.  Once the made-up-character who can’t get prego, gets prego, things get yet more unbelievable. 

Let me be clear, Russell Crowe is as good as actor as you know he is.  He brings every actor around him up several notches.  I don’t know too much about Jennifer Connelly, but the rest of the main cast, Logan Lerman and Emma Watson, them I’ve seen, a lot.  Both of them, when in scenes with Crowe, were amazing, better than I’d ever seen them.  Watson, to her credit, has never, as far as I know, done a role like this and to see that departure was impressive, having said that, without Crowe, the scenes didn’t resonate, but, lucky for her, he was in basically all of her scenes.

While the movie was visually stunning, and I did see it in IMAX, the story grew heavier and heavier as the story went on.  Much like the trend with superhero movies with too many villains, this too had far more going on than needed and it showed.  I found myself detached and trying to force myself to connect to this amazing cast.

I’m not trying to be negative or tell you not to see the movie.  The trouble for me, as is often the case, is expectations.  When I see an Aronofsky movie, I expect a story that will resonate with me long after I’ve seen it.  Almost as soon as I got out of the theatre, my mind was directed towards lunch.  The movie felt like it was too long and too heavy and while I will always respect someone like Aronofsky, I can’t bring myself to say I enjoyed the movie in the least.  If I want to see a big-budget movie, I know where to go.  There’s a Sly Stallone movie out now.  This movie seemed to be enamoured with itself from beginning to end and it almost seemed like a celebration of excess.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Movie Review: Muppets Most Wanted

I’ve always loved the Muppets.  When we were kids, my sister and I would watch the Muppet show.  We may not have ever understood all the jokes or why everything was hilarious, but Jim Henson made some of the most compelling characters with old clothes and ping pong balls.  In this, according to Bunson Honeydew pointed out, seventh sequel and on the heels of the last Muppet movie, the group is convinced by Ricky Gervais to do a world tour. 

What happens next is a cohesive story, for the most part.  The thing that struck me the most was that I never felt all that invested in the story.  In the last one, Walter, the newest Muppet, wanted to join the Muppets and bring them out of retirement.  In this instalment, the story is very different and somehow didn’t get me all that interested.  It almost felt like a disjointed episode of The Muppet Show, except with one story-line that just seemed, well, done. 

I would never, ever, tell anyone not to see a Muppet movie.  If you have kids, this is a must see.  If you’re an adult that grew up with the Muppets, you might want to go early so you only spend a little to see something that is a caricature of what used to be amazing.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Movie Review: Mr. Peabody and Sherman

I’m a fan of animated movies.  I think they’re fun, and if done right, they can engage on all levels.  I don’t have a favourite between Dreamworks, Pixar or Disney, to me they all can be both good and bad.  Lately, I’ve loved the Despicable series.  Those movies have a little something of everything.  In this movie, brought to you by Dreamworks, the studio pulls from a known commodity, a sub-series of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

I can honestly say I didn’t remember anything about the original, so as I watched the movie, I assumed they were being true to the series.  After seeing the movie, I can’t bring myself to care enough to even look it up online.  The animation was decent, but it wasn’t any more impressive than anything else you might see nowadays.  I understand that most people who saw it in 3D raved about it.  If a movie is only good in 3D, then there is something wrong with the picture.

The story was not coherent from beginning to end.  The idea was that Mr. Peabody, a brilliant dog, has adopted a boy who he found abandoned and the boy is just now going to school, at age seven.  That alone had me questioning what was going on in the story.  Once he gets there, he shows off how much he knows and some other girl gets jealous and the two get into a fight and Sherman bites her.  Of course this isn’t okay and the parents get involved.  Mr. Peabody decides to try to smooth things over by inviting the girl and her parents over and the story gets more bloated from there.

For kids, this movie is probably perfect.  It doesn’t have to make sense and there’s a dog wearing glasses.  Done. For adults expecting a throwback to when you watched this as a child, like me, you might be wondering what the deuce is going on.  From the first interaction between Mr. Peabody and Sherman I was turned off.  I am usually okay with kids, especially in animated movies, but this kid, Sherman, was exceptionally annoying.  And when you meet the girl who he bites, it doesn’t get better.  Almost all of the characters are caricatures of anything and everything and it was tedious.  I could not wait for the movie to be over.