Based on the popular romantic novel by John Green, The Fault in Our Stars is another story about a pair of star-crossed lovers who care immensely for each other but couldn't be together due to their unfortunate circumstances. I believe for those who have never read the book or watched the trailer would assume that this film to be those weepy, sappy melodramatic mess, right? Well, not exactly.
Surprisingly, the film is a heartwarming and touching love story wrapped in exceedingly witty dialogue and memorable one liners, successfully preventing itself from making its way into melodramatic territory. The comedy and romance is well-balanced. The film is also slightly mature and wise in its content and character perspectives: What is oblivion? Is there any meaning or purpose in life? Can we truly outlast death by being remembered by everyone in the world? What should we actually seek in our short life?
The main female lead, Hazel, who suffered through cancer most of her life, doesn't anticipate much from her life, as her days are numbered. Out of nowhere, here comes Augustus, a surprisingly charming cancer survivor who's seemingly optimistic about his future. Augustus's charming smile and his relentless devotion of love for Hazel captured her heart. They're both equally smart and the on-screen chemistry between Shailene (Hazel) and Ansel (Augustus) made their instant connection believeable.
Shailene and Ansel both provide convincing performances as a couple. The romance was subtle, feels honest and realistic for the audience to emotionally invested in them. Their affection for each other deepens as the film progresses and it's heartbreaking to see that this relationship doesn't last. (I don't think I'm spoiling it, as we all know what we signed up for even before watching it). The film doesn't overly exploit the romance drama that's usually comes with the chronic disease, which is commendable. Rather than making it the typical depressing melodramatic tearjerker, the film has a bittersweet ending with surprising depth and meaning about life.
The eulogies written by the leads for each other is thought-provoking and heartfelt at the same time. I have a few gripes about the film though...I would appreciate if the film adds more scenes about their cancer sufferings. Cancer is not a joke. The film seemingly gives an impression to the general audience that stage 4 cancer sufferers can still live and converse normally like many others without the repetitive time-consuming treatments, dealing with severe side effects from drugs or countless hospitalization. The film does feel draggy a bit in some parts as well. Overall, despite some shortcomings, The Fault in Our Stars is still undeniably a decent romantic drama comedy that's well worth your time and money.
After the 2011 sci-fi action drama hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which is a reboot of the Planet of the Apes series, the story continues further in the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This film is not just an epic story that's about the conflict between humans and apes, but it's also a gripping and emotional story that strongly reflects on our society and civilization as a whole.
The first act of the film is simply remarkable. 10 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes where Caesar freed the evolved apes, we get to see how the apes form a colony. They established a society, much like us, but living in peace and harmony. They went on hunting together and communicate with each other mostly with their hands (sign language and sounds). On the other hand, humans are almost completely wiped out by the ALZ-113 virus spread (Simian flu) and become a minority. But, everything starts to change, conflicts start to arise when the humans accidentally found the apes during a small expedition to start up an old hydroelectric dam to re-power the city with lights.
The film shows how the two different cultures (man and ape) gradually clash...how a series of small acts of violence, betrayal of trust or personal acts of aggression can incite a catastrophic war in which neither side truly "wins". Rather than spoonfeeding the audience with heavy expositions, the film lets the characters draw you into the story, slowly in each moment until you begin to see the real world parallels that exist throughout the history of mankind.
The CGI with motion capture in this film is superb and top-notch. The motion capture actors (Andy Serkis as Caesar, Toby Kebbell as Koba, Karin Konoval as Maurice, Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes, Doc Shaw as Ash, Terry Notary as Rocket) did a fantastic performance and managed to imbue the apes with various emotions: anger, fear, happiness, regret, heartbreak, sadness, frustration, hatred, love, etc. All of the apes look real and lifelike that you think of them as characters with distinctive personalities. These apes live, breathe, think and feel, just like us.
Each main character in the film has strong, understandable reasoning for what they're doing. They all try to protect their own people, in their own way. Caesar, the wise ape leader who desires peace for his people, constantly tries to show strength in his leadership in order to achieve it. On the other hand, Malcolm, the human lead, tries to understand the apes, work out their differences without discrimination, in hopes that peace can be maintained as well. Koba, the film's antagonist, much like Caesar, is different compared with the rest of the apes...He has seen the worst side of humanity (unlike Caesar, who has seen the best side of humanity). Dreyfus, the human leader (his shout "They're animals!") and many of his peers show their discrimination and contempt for the apes due to their own personal reasons.
The film tries to show different character perspectives from both sides, their own fears. The truth is no matter how hard both sides trying to justify it, they are both wrong. They believe what they're doing is ultimately right...for the safety of their own people. Despite their best intentions, these people and apes can be easily corrupted when they have a gun placed in their hands. It also shows how fear and hatred can lead anyone do the wrong things...how dictatorships are born, which echoes our actual history. It's a cynical depiction of nature of men through apes. It eerily shows the horrors of our society that exist even today.
Throughout the film, Caesar constantly shows the best of humanity, but sadly his family of apes end up with the worst parts of human nature. By the end of the film, you can feel Caesar's regret, sadness and heartbreak...which is both moving and thought-provoking at the same time. In short, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is truly a cinematic masterpiece. It's a sequel with a strong purpose and socio-political message. This film reminds us why we go to the movies. It's certainly one of the best films of the year! Two thumbs-up! Very highly recommended.
The Transformers film franchise, which started in 2007, was always highly criticized for its chaotic, messy plot, over-the-top bad acting, the tasteless, offensive and crude humour, cheesy and cliché ridden dialogues, features blatant product placement for many companies and overly long screen time for every instalment. But, why people are still flocking to cinemas to watch them? It is simply because Michael Bay always managed to leave the audience wowed each time with realistic and life-like CGI robots, big action sequences with explosions, beautiful scenery, stylish luxury sports cars and sexy hot stars.
The film takes place 5 years after the events of Dark of the Moon, start fresh by telling a new story with the Yaegers replacing the Witwickys, which got caught up in the battle between man and machine when Cade bought a rundown trailer truck, unaware that it's actually Optimus Prime himself. This puts him and his family right in the path of ruthless corrupted CIA agents, who seeks to destroy all Transformers and eliminate anyone who's involved with them. Many of the Autobots or Decepticons who remained on Earth are either hunted down and killed or forced into hiding.
The film takes a serious approach, darker tone compared with the previous trilogy. The story centers around the Yeagers' father-daughter relationship, which is slightly refreshing and better compared with the unrealistic relationships between Witwicky and his two exceptionally hot girlfriends. For this film, Michael Bay finally managed to clear up the film's visuals with better action choreography. The slow-motion action sequences actually help the audience to follow what is happening on screen and who's fighting who. This makes the action sequences more enjoyable for a wider audience. Not to mention, Bay also reduces and removes many of the stupid, offensive, racist jokes that the previous trilogy had.
Another noticeable improvement which never been done in the previous films: developing distinctive personalities for the robot characters by giving them more screen time to interact with each other. This time, Bumblebee shares his screen time with the newly-introduced Autobots (Hound, Drift and Crosshairs) for the audience to really get to know them, instead of big hunks of metal clanging against each other. The film has lesser military combats and focusing more on the robot action. There are more interesting character dynamics between them than before, especially Optimus. Optimus is more compelling than previous films, showing his anger and disappointment towards the humans for their betrayal. He is losing faith in humanity and questions his ideals.
As usual, the visual effects by ILM are absolutely stunning and groundbreaking. The CGI effects actually manage to bring these non-existent mechanical beings to life. The details of the Autobot transformation remains impressive and convincingly realistic. The film still managed to put me in awe at how lifelike these robots are on screen, despite the fact that it's 7 years after the first Transformers film. It is truly a sight to behold when Optimus rides the fire-breathing Grimlock to war after he swiftly convinces the Dinobot leader to assist his cause. Once again, ILM has proved that they are the best in the visual effects industry.
Mark Wahlberg has proved himself that he's a better actor and a better lead than Shia LaBeouf. Mark actually involves himself in the action sequences, never overacts, runs and screams "Optimus!!" or "Bee!!" like Shia in the previous trilogy. Stanley Tucci is also better as the tech corp KSI founder Joshua Joyce compared with the annoying stupid Agent Simmons (John Turturro) or Leo Spitz (Ramón Rodríguez) in past films. Kelsey Grammer is perfectly cast as the villainous CIA black-ops head, Attinger as well. Unfortunately, Nicola Peltz's character as Cade's daughter and Jack Reynor's character as her boyfriend falls flat though, with Reynor giving the worst performance among the cast.
Despite the numerous improvements, the film still suffers from numerous plot logic issues, unnecessary cheesy dialogues and scenes, overdone jokes that failed miserably and lots of annoying blatant product placement advertisements to reduce the film's budget. The film also feels overly long with its 157 minutes of running time (excluding film credits). Dinobots are the main attraction for this film, but sadly there's not a lot of screen time for them at all. It would be interesting to see more of them in robot mode, speaking and interact with other characters in the film. The film also ends abruptly with many questions left unanswered in the end, which opens for another sequel again.
Overall, this is not a great film by any means, so do not expect deep, meaningful story lines which this film does not have. However, this one actually have its heart at the right place this time compared with the previous two sequels. Age of Extinction is the film that Transformers should have been a long time ago. In my opinion, it's the best Transformers film so far. A blockbuster entertainment.
(To note, I always have a love/hate relationship with the Transformers film series. I hate them because of the messy, flawed story, over-the-top bad acting, distasteful, stupid, offensive and crude jokes, cheesy and cliché ridden dialogues, lack of character development for the robots. Because of these issues, I cannot give them a high rating. But, I also love them because of the realistic, lifelike CGI robot designs and some of the awesome action sequences. These are my guilty pleasure films.)
For comparisons, here are my ratings for the previous films:
First Transformers: 6/10 Revenge of the Fallen: 4.5/10 Dark of the Moon: 6.5/10
Riding on the success of Ted, Seth MacFarlane returns to direct, write, produce a Western romantic comedy film, in which he is also the main lead as well. While I was immensely entertained by his previous film about a grown man who has to deal with a foul-mouthed, beer-drinking, obsessive talking teddy bear, it's a shame the same couldn't be said this time around. This has to be one of the most unfunny and overexplained 'comedy' film that's filled with so many unnecessary and overextended scenes I have seen for quite some time.
The story is rather simple: A film that sets in the West around the year of 1882 with a cowardly, pessimistic shepherd who gets dumped by his long-time girlfriend because he's too much of a wuss, later on meets and falls in love with a beautiful, mysterious, hot new badass woman in town, who also teaches him how to use a gun and find the courage to become a man up to win the girl of his dreams.
The film suffers from a huge problem: It features a lot random crude jokes that just aren't funny at all. Seriously, I don't find it particularly funny (but utterly shocked, not in a good way) when a guy gets crushed with ice or when a guy suddenly gets pierced by a rampaging bull out of nowhere. Is sheep peeing at your face or finding sheepshit or horseshit under your pillow in the morning look funny to you? Do we really need to repeatedly see a virgin guy keeps on asking her prostitute girlfriend to have sex with him? Do we really need to listen to a guy who keeps on explaining and show that he does not belong in the West?
During plot development, the film also seems to completely forgets to keep the audience laugh or feel entertained. It's so serious or got caught up in explaining the plot details that they failed to include any witty or slapstical dialogues/scenes. The film has so many weird, out-of-place cameo appearances from many actors: Ryan Reynolds, Ewan McGregor, Jamie Foxx, Bill Maher and Christopher Lloyd (what the hell? seriously?) which doesn't fit in the film at all. It just keeps you wondering the whole time why those scenes are even included in the film. The film also features an unnecessary, out-of-place dream sequence brought on by the American Indian drugs that adds nothing much to the story.
Furthermore, Seth MacFarlane's gives a weird acting performance that doesn't seem natural...his character just doesn't have that defining personality for the audience to root for. The film's only saving grace is the romance between the leads. Charlize Theron does share a decent chemistry with Seth MacFarlane in the film that carries the film through the end. Their relationship is properly developed and fleshed out.
While it's not the worst film ever, it's an extremely disappointing film despite its hidden potential. Some might find this film funny and enjoyable, but for me, it's a huge letdown.
After recent flops like Grown Ups 2, That's My Boy or Jack and Jill, I'm not actually looking forward to watch Sandler's new romantic comedy film, Blended. His previous films were awful, annoying and dumb. But I was surprised. Blended turned out to be a fun, entertaining, exciting, happy and relaxing film for family, friends or even couples to enjoy.
Once again, Sandler pairs himself with Barrymore after 50 First Dates or The Wedding Singer. The story is about a widowed dad of three girls, who's still trying to move on after the loss of his beloved wife and a divorced mother of two boys, who's still trying to cope with her divorce with a cheating, irresponsible husband, swore not to see each other again after a disastrous blind date. However, they both ended up together in a trip to a luxurious African resort with a jungle safari. Their holiday 'just happens' to be during the resort's annual 'familymoon' event, which is aimed for building romantic opportunities for grown-ups while keeping their kids occupied.
Before saying anything further, I believe that we all know how the story goes and how it's going to end. This is another one of those clearly formulaic plots in the romantic comedy genre. Then why we should watch this, you ask? Because I think there's always something comforting about watching these formulaic romantic comedies. It's not the destination, but the journey that matters in the end.
The film starts by taking time to let the audience learn to get to know the characters well, by showing their own personal issues. It touches on the emotional core of the characters and makes the characters relatable through the bond they share in the film. Sandler and Barrymore are a likeable, charming couple which convinces the audience to be emotionally invested in them. It is immensely appealing and engaging to see how their relationship eventually develops and trust each other, relate to each other's kids and solve their kids' personal issues.
As usual with many Sandler films, the crude humour still present and certainly capable of generating a few laughs here and there with its jokes and occasional silliness. Terry Crews (the black muscle guy who just loves to move his muscle pecs) steals the show as the leading lounge singer at the African resort. The African holiday resort in this film is simply fantastic as well. While I do agree it's not one of the greatest film ever made, but it certainly succeeds as a simple, enjoyable, fun romantic comedy that's filled with sweet heartwarming moments.