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  1. Hugh Lang: The FAA placed ten pilots in simulators, recreated the events. Every pilot killed everybody on board! You were the only one who could do it!

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The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars

1 day ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"No, your story Hazel-Grace".

It can be difficult to separate when a film is trying to make an organic connection with the audience and when its just trying to force it. This is a problem particularly when dealing with things such as aids or in this case cancer. How can the writer, director make sure a genuine scene doesn't come as as token and needy. To this end 'The Fault In Our Stars' is a mixed bag.

I'm aware I'm not the target audience, not even close. But I don't think my opinion carries any less weight. 'The Fault In Our Stars' follows the lives of two teenage 'Hazel' (Shailene Woodley) and 'Gus' (Ansel Elgort) who meet in a cancer support group and develop a deep and loving relationship. As the film opens and I hear a monologue by 'Hazel' how this story isn't like a film and it's not a fairytale, I admit, I scoffed. One of my pet peeves in films is when they pull "This story isn't a fairytale like most films" crap or the "based on a true story" crap that's suppose to give something more weight (which is bull). Surprisingly so the firs half of the film lived up to the billing I was pleasantly surprised the cancer wasn't used as exploitation or to raise the stakes when things get dull and overall the two felt like real people.

However, the second half really took a nose dive and amped up the use of it, as well as amping up the quirky love aspect. Naturally leaving me disappointed, I liked that the cancer thing wasn't an issue, wasn't a focus as such and that it was about just these two people. But then they flip it around and it becomes almost all about that. There were some great scenes in the alter half particularly the Anne Frank museum and in Van Houten's house (Willem Dafoe). Things become very...fairytale like. Despite this the writing is very grounded and seems to have understanding of teenagers more than most do.

I' not a teenager, I can't claim to understand this fully nor could even when I was one myself. Even so, I can tell when something feels right and when it feels like exploitation for emotion and as I said is a mixed bag. The first half is an excellent, build of the characters feelings and makes their big problem seemingly non-existent while they're together. But the 2nd half wipes this and it then becomes a fairly-tale the one thing it 'supposedly' isn't. Occasionally it made me laugh, sad and smile and that's enough for me with this genre.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

4 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"Apes do not want war!"

Iv'e waited a long while for a blockbuster film with a heart and a well told story. This is naturally a rare thing as blockbusters are 90% of the time fluff, fun films - 'Avengers', 'Iron Man 3', 'Godzila'. While these films are great they aren't exactly full of story nuance. But every now and then one comes a long with the smarts to match its brawn and this time it is 'Dawn of The Planet Of The Apes'.

The previous films 'Rise' was good but felt like and was set up for the future sequels. Not unlike 'How To Train Your Dragon' did for its sequel 'Rise' is vital to this films success. Several years have passed passed since the events of 'Rise' and the human race is being killed of slowly by the deadly 'Simian Flu' (resulting from I would imagine was the man coughing in 'Rise'). There are only pockets of humans thanks to immunities. Meanwhile the apes are thriving in the forest and presume the humans have all but died off. Thinks take a turn when a small group of humans come in contact with the apes and things gradually start to escalate.

First of all I have to say this is one of the best paced movies Iv'e ever seen. It builds things to burn in the background, while keeping things fairly steady and to naturally grow into the inevitable fire-fight. There's also no real villain as such, when you take into account the reasons for these characters. Both sides have mirrors of each other. Both refusing to accept they far similar in race than they realise. 'Koba' (Toby Kebbell) the ape who suffered at the hands of the humans through years of tests, is out for himself and himself alone. The same can be said of 'Dreyfus' (Gary Oldman) in some manor (but not to the same extent). While 'Ceaser' (Andy Serkis) and 'Malcolm' (Jason Clarke) call for calm and reason. Both have the advantage however of seeing the good in the other race, something 'Koba' has never seen nor is willing to listen too. Both are ultimately driven by fear, fear of what the other is going to or capable of.

If it does have a weakness it's the human characters, they aren't bad but some aspect are just added in, in an attempt to add more gravity to the situation. On the other hand the apes are well developed and interesting characters. It is a little unbalanced in that regard but then again the apes are more of the focus.

This is how to do a sequel, build upon a good foundation. Inject more of a meaningful story with greater consequences for the inevitable third film. The action set-pieces and the story aren't hampered don't get in the way of the other. Rarely do special effects, characters and story coincide so well. The blockbuster of the year, no doubt. Excellent script great director, fantastic acting and a set-up for another film that for it to top would have to be phenomenal.

Begin Again

Begin Again

10 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"Whatever he's saying about me is a lie".

I like a film with a strong central soundtrack running through it. One that's been composed for the film from the ground up. A good soundtrack can go along way to making a particular scene more enjoyable or memorable. Of course there are great soundtracks in crappy films but it's always a positive no matter the case. Thankfully this falls into the former.

'Begin Again' is about 'Dan' (Mark Ruffalo) is a severely struggling music producer and 'Gretta' (Keira Knightley) talented singer song-writer. Two people who meet by chance while they're at the bottom of a barrel in there lives and end up keeping each other together - and moving forward. Despite the problems the characters go through it is by an large a happy film. An it really showcases it with them recording the music outside. At first they rub up against each other their respective abrasive personalities. But notice a similarity between each other yet it never forces a romantic relationship - something a lesser or simpler film would have done. That was something worrying me as I went along, whether it would descend into a clichéd ending. Thankfully it didn't, however, the ending was a little odd and abrupt for my liking.

There was a danger of clichés here and there but it quite swiftly shuts them down. The characters may have aspects that some would argue are clichéd but none of these aspects fall into that category - because they aren't thinly veiled over the to of them. Their passion and love of music shines through and it's evident they're keeping each other together for the day when they can finally stand-up on their own. This is partly thanks to great performances from the two leads and the rest of the cast. It would have been nice to see a greater look at the music and the influence it has on them as well as examining their relationship a bit more. It would have benefited from being just a little bit longer.

The strength of this film lies in the strength of the lead characters and the actors performances. They just feel real and aren't written into a corner with the problems they tackle. There isn't a blatant cliché in sight from anyone and manages to effectively build their happiness up without it feeling unnatural. But it doesn't come without its problems, the ending is a fairly big problem for me and I don't feel the music was as central the film as it should have been. Even so it's a still film, with enough funny lines and is certainly well acted.



12 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"It's ok, I did't know...I'm fine with your lifestyle choice".

Well I think now we can safely say 'Melissa McCarthy' has become pigeon-holed, very much so. After the hit 'Bridesmaids' she is now the 'wacky, stupid unhinged' character. And in the latest incarnation of that character she is now 'Tammy'. A crazy....well you know the score by now. It's always disappointing when this happens - usually. but in this case 'Melissa' herself and her husband have wrote her into this one, this time.

'Tammy' (Melissa McCarthy) has one hell of a bad day, she gets fired for being late again and then to top things off comes home to a cheating husband. So she decides to get as far away from the town as possible. Only she has to bring her grandma 'Pearl' (Susan Sarandon) - since she has a car and money leaving her no choice. I don't know what's more disappointing that 'Melissa' is acknowledging it more or that this film seemed like a decent watch based on the trailer. It's another case of the film showcasing its funniest scene in the trailer. There are other moments that elicit a chuckle here or there.

It's a case of another tepid comedy that has bundles of energy and effort but just doesn't/can't come through. Effort can only take you so far before the weakness of a script shines through. And there is the problem here. The story feels a bit detached and ridiculous on some levels, but on others believable. They just doesn't gel well together. It's also a film full of tropes 'Pearl' is a pill popping drunk and probable sexual deviant. 'Melissa' lacks any self-confidence by masking it with being very very forward. Some of the times despite the tropes they're deployed well. But these occasions are too rare and highlight the other times more so. Once things et on the road and there is an encounter with 'Bobby' (Mark Duplass) we know exactly to a T where this is going.

I was actually enjoying it somewhat up and till that point and to be honest some time after. But the romance between was a bit of a turd in the punch bowl only it then fell into the water supply and ruined everything else. There are will they won't they moments that come off as weak ploys for plot extension. A complete change in personality for 'Melissa' to make his view on her not like everyone else is a little weird. 'Pearl' giving a speech about how she acknowledged her own drinking problem but doing nothing but drink is a hollow moment. The bonding occasionally manages to be a highlight showing some similarities between the two road trip buddies.

The best moment is in the trailer and there really tells you all you need to know. it's not a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed there are parts that I really enjoyed, even some that were genuinely quite funny. But the direction it goes in and the erratic way it treat personalities while occasionally trying to keep them grounded is an issue. It tries to rumble up a slow romance and one that is believable but it doesn't work. A problem that is entirely on the characters - maybe if Tammy was toned down it would have worked. There are plenty of worst ways to spend your time in the cinema but if that's all your bar is I worry for you. Wanna purely kill some time? yep give a go otherwise a miss.

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Intel Hollywood Star Program (July 2012 - December 2012)
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