Select Offenders will be reviewing this summer’s crop of Hollywood tentpole films with a scientifically tested set of criteria that was vetted, nurtured, dissected and regurgitated through the pop-culture gadflies who have nothing better to do than annoy other productive people in the YOMYOMF office. So, we channeled their nitpicks of the incessant reboots, remakes and rehashes that are part and parcel with Hollywood summer movies into this ongoing summer blog series called the SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER SHOWDOWN. You can read previous roundtable reviews, which are all archived here.
Since we’re a little late in the game (we’re already heading into July), we’re going to play catch-up this week with a series of blogs about the films that have been released already. In this edition, we discuss THE FAULT IN OUR STARS or as the fans refer to it, TFIOS! Wait, or is it #TFIOS?
BTW, this roundtable review is chock full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!1. Remake, Reboot or Recycled?: David: Adapted from a book by Josh Green, who is also a big time YouTuber. The usual saying, “The book is better.” does not apply here! Yes, I read it! So, be a man and see this in the theater. Shailene Woodley as Hazel is so good with her co-star Angel Elgort as Augustus, that even with these teens using words that only Shakespeare would use, I found it handled very well by these young actors. And Laura Dern is still hot! These two lovers have such wonderful chemistry and irresistible charm that it rivals DiCaprio and Danes legendary romance. And Laura Dern is still hot! One of the rare movie experiences that the visual medium excelled my expectations from the book. Now excuse me while I read FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. And Laura Dern is still hot! Anderson: OK we get it, Dern is a MILF. Were you turned on when she ran into her daughter’s room, in just a towel, David? And I think the dude’s name is Ansel Elgort, not Angel (or An-hell, if you were going for the Spanish pronunciation). Were you thinking his portrayal of Augustus was “angelic?” I liked the film too, probably not as much as you. but I thought it was well made, a little manipulative in parts (scenes segueing to indie light rock montages) but Woodley and Elgort were so damn charismatic. This is definitely a seminal romantic movie for millenials and a product of YouTube in a way. I see the DNA of the Vlogbrothers, but also “nice guy” and “nerdtastic” antecedents from the likes of WongFu Productions and Geek and Sundry respectively. I do like that TFIOS fanbase are more literate, and would go for a book like this or another book that was also adapted into a major motion picture, THE SPECTACULAR NOW (If you haven’t watched this film, you have to. It’s one of the best films of 2013). Hazel’s family was a little too “movie pretty”, if you ask me (Dern as the mom and TRUE BLOOD’s Sam Tramell as the dad). I thought Augustus’ parents were more real looking, because they were middle-aged and looked kind of weird (did the dad bleach his hair platinum blonde?). 2. Asian Sidekick? David: If Waldo was Asian, then he’s hiding very well in this pic. Anderson: In the cancer support group, there was an Asian girl. 3. Explanasian or “Let Them Fight”: David: I guess the cancer explanatory in Shailene’s character was the biggest sequence. It was necessary and well done. Anderson: It actually did a good job of explaning the “journey” of a cancer patient. There are scenes of her in and out of hospitals, taking medications, and sitting at home binge-watching THE X-FILES and BUFFY. Be still my beating heart. Where were you when I was in high school, Hazel Grace? 4. Ground Zero Metropolis or How much mass destruction?: David: Let’s destroy some trophies! But hey! Don’t ding the shelves man! Anderson: I guess the only destruction was the mass supplies of Keenex tissue paper during opening weekend. The other self destruction was Willem Dafoe’s drunken and reclusive JD Salinger-esque character, Van Houten, who plays Hazel’s favorite author. I actually thought the whole Amsterdam sequence was a little too weird, and Dafoe was kind of distracting. He was really laying on the jackass misanthrope way too much, and he just didn’t fit in this film, maybe because I compartmentalize him in Lars Von Trier movies where he whips his cock out every five minutes. Thankfully, he didn’t but Dafoe is too much of a weirdo to be in this film, in my opinion. It would be like Udo Kier popping up in that Strangers, again short by Wongfu. Plus, the visit to the Anne Frank house was a bit eye-rolling. I get it, and by design, it should work, where Hazel has to trek up the many stairs of the house, catching her breath as she makes it to each higher level, and she is somehow hearing the spirit of Anne Frank to give her encouragement. This scene was a little too precious for me. It just seemed like CANCER GIRL GAME OF DEATH. 5. Nolan or Schumacher? — Which kind of Batman is this movie, the gritty, grounded in reality Dark Knight or the nipples on rubber sculpted muscles, kind of gay Batman? David: Nolan got this one. But he would have made Shailene die. Anderson: Neither. It was BOY IN THE PLASTIC BUBBLE but stripped of its cheeseball sentimentality and then re-varnished with a postmodern knowingness, awareness, yet still being “sentimental” in that unironic way that if this film was done 10 years ago, would’ve been riddled with irony. It’s post-postmodern Joss Whedon, maybe? 6. Which character in the film could’ve been played by an Asian and who would be your casting choice? David: Zhang Ziyi and Leslie Cheung could play those parts very well, but not in a MY SASSY GIRL way (which I didn’t like). More like DAYS OF BEING WILD. Anderson: I don’t see the DAYS OF BEING WILD comparison. At all. TFIOS is devoid of any Christopher Doyle visual poetry or Wong Kar Wai’s obtuse storytelling. It’s pretty straightforward. But, the book and film has Asian tragic melodrama written all over it. It reminds me of the great Japanese TV dramas I used to watch in the late ‘90s. I also want to point out a great Japanese terminal illness young love film called MIDNIGHT SUN (タイヨウのうた), which I think is really good. Check out the trailer: Dude, even the title fonts are similar to TFIOS. If anyone is interested, the entire movie is on Youtube with English subtitles here. . 7. Banana rating: David: A 3.5 bananas out of 4 bananas. Would have been a 4 if it didn’t make me look like a slobbery mess at the end of the movie. Did I just say that? (Jumping in) @ThorHulkCritic: HULK WOULD SEE THIS FILM, BUT HULK HAS NO DATE. HULK NOT WANT TO SIT ALONE IN THEATER WATCHING MOVIE ABOUT THE RAVAGES OF CANCER, END UP CRYING LIKE PUNY CRYBABY. HULK SHED ENOUGH TEARS DURING END OF AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2. THAT REALLY EMBARRASSING. Anderson: Definitely 3 Bananas. It’s a solid film and the performances were tight that it made me forgive some of the clunkiness in the middle part of the film. Oh, and I did not cry in this film! I don’t know if I’m becoming more cynical? Either way, the girls sitting behind me were sniffling like it was a funeral. Mission accomplished, TFIOS!
About the contributors: Anderson Le (@ale808) Anderson is one of the founding Offenders of YOMYOMF and curates THE SHORT LIST. He is also the director of programming for theHawaii International Film Festival.
David C.P. Chan is a visual effects artist and a card carrying “gerd” (geek and nerd) combined. I quote movie lines at least 50 times a day and will school you at the game of Risk!
Dominic Mah (@dommah) is a writer, director, erratic blogger at dommah.com, and rock musical enthusiast. He tweets pop-culture critique as @thorhulkcritic. Pretty soon he will be premiering a new reality web show about karaoke bars at melancholyball.com.