One word comes to my mind when thinking of this movie, and that word is charming. Begin Again (originally known as Can A Song Save Your Life?) is the latest from John Carney of Once. Much like that film, Begin Again, while treading familiar ground, is an especially impacting film thanks to its stellar lead performances from Mark Ruffallo, and an effortless Keira Knightley. The film's commentary on the state of modern music favoring production values over what a song's lyrics actually have to say (further punctuated by the casting of Adam Levine) is very well explored, and the songs from Gregg Alexander are simply gorgeous.
**** / *****
What is Adam Sandler doing?! Another one of the catastrophes released in May, this overlong, uninspired comedy is the worst of Sandler's and Barrymore's collaborations, failing to generate laughs either to how ill-conceived the jokes are, or simply how mean-spirited (especially when directed at Sandler's character's eldest daughter). It's fitting that the movie's only clever gag has to be milked a second time. It is the worst summer film I've seen this year. Consider yourself lucky, Godzilla...
*1/2 / *****
The Fault in Our Stars:
Some have labeled this film based on John Green's book as manipulative. I say... They're not far off. I guess I'm a little more optimistic for this film, but yeah, it does walk a very inconsistent line between naturalism and sugar-coating, though it thankfully tends to avoid shameless exploitation. That said, the one thing holding this movie together is Shailene Woodley. She is effortlessly natural and commanding in her performance, cutting right to the bone with genuine feeling, and making this movie more watchable than it has any right to be.
*** / *****
Even though this movie misses the mark, this movie is what Ender's Game would have been if it *almost* got it right. The film's concepts and world building are very fascinating, the film is given some refreshing and laid-back pacing, and veterans Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep are terrific as always. However, the film falls apart with its unengaging lead character, confused and shoddy writing, and though I admire the relaxed pacing, this film has little actual conflict or tension. It's essentially a 90 minute trailer that leads to nothing. Add it to the growing pile of mediocre young adult novel adaptations.
**1/2 / *****