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Tomorrow, When the War Began: Unrealistic War Drama
This is ultimately a war film, but the story doesn’t subscribe to the same traditional elements of the genre. Rather than focusing on the battle and the politics of war on a grander scale, it looks at it from a civilian’s point of view. While the characters are numerous, the attempt to cover a broad cross section of personalities often ends up in a portrayal of clichéd stereotypes.
A film that relies so heavily on a character-driven plot, naturally also relies on the performance of its actors. Unfortunately, the young cast fails to deliver, and the film as a whole lacks the drama and action that you’d expect from a subject matter like this one.
The brief and infrequent action scenes stand out as impressive and entertaining, but at times border on the ridiculous. In one scene for example, heavily armed military vehicles are pursuing two girls in a truck, and are powerless to apprehend it.
Tomorrow, When the War Began is an overall weak production that lacks realism, intensity, and features a distinctively average cast. The green light has been given to produce the sequel, which is based on the second novel in the Tomorrow series, with the third part also being considered. Picking up where this film finishes, the sequel will hopefully develop the series into a better watch.
Despite the fact that so few sequels have ever topped, or even matched, the original, How to Train Your Dragon 2 – the sequel to the 2010 hit and the middle chapter of the three-part trilogy – proves otherwise.
Written and directed by Dean DeBlois, the story is set five years after the events of the first film; the Vikings of Berk are now sharing their skies with their winged-friends and Hiccup (Baruchel) has patched things up with father, Berk’s powerful leader, Stoic (Butler).
Now that Red Death has been defeated, the island is relatively peaceful, but Hiccup – now a fully grown man – is about to face a new set of challenges as his father prepares to pass the torch down to his only heir. However, Hiccup prefers to spend most of his time exploring the uncharted lands beyond the island with his now-girlfriend, Astrid (Ferrera), and his pet-dragon, Toothless, a.k.a Night Fury.
Soon, they come across Eret (Harrington); a dragon thief looking to poach anything he can get his hands on to sell to Drago (Honsou) – a ruthless figure looking to build an army of dragons and assume power over the entire kingdom. After successfully escaping Eret, they end up finding a dragon sanctuary controlled by Valka (Blanchett); a mysterious woman who holds a deep understanding of dragons and the only person who might be able to help Hiccup – and the Vikings of Berk – fight off Drago’s rising threat.
In order to make a worthy sequel, one must first make sure that the story is worth revisiting; the first movie was a big hit so it was only natural that a sequel would follow – one of the basic rules of Hollywood. Moving the story into a new direction and building on its already established premise is the next key to its success.
The setup is much bigger this time and the well thought-out narrative ends up serving as a coming-of-age story – as opposed to an underdog tale of a boy and his pet-dragon – which now follows a young man who is forced to leave the naivety of his adolescence behind and move into the troubling waters of manhood. There are a lot more dragons to play with too and the skies over Berk are livelier and feistier than ever; the animation is refined and engaging and there is never a dull moment.
Baruchel is once again loveable as the hesitant hero and as his tenacious father, Butler – still sporting a strong Scottish accent – is as efficient as ever. However, it’s the addition of Blanchett that adds weight to a story that not only entertains, but also offers a few life lessons on the importance of family, integrity and courage.
Adapted from John Green’s 2012 bestselling novel of the same name, The Fault in our Stars - a formulaic but engagingly honest story of star-crossed lovers brought together by a mutual pain - will sadden, enrich and perhaps even comfort, many of those who come across its path.
The story is centred on the sixteen year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Woodley); a girl who has been battling with terminal thyroid cancer since the age of thirteen. After being one of the few to respond to an experimental drug treatment, her condition is now stable, though the side effects have weakened her lungs and she is now constantly attached to a portable oxygen tank.
Hazel has pretty much accepted the fact that her days are numbered but her parents, Frannie (Dern) and Michael (Trammell), are increasingly concerned for her emotional well-being and urge her to join a cancer support group for young cancer patients like herself; not wanting to stress her parents any further, Hazel soon agrees to go.
It’s there that she first meets Augustus Waters (Elgort); an optimistic osteosarcoma survivor who lost part of his leg due to the illness. He is now living cancer-free and only comes to the meetings to support his best-bud, Isaac (Wolff). Instantly intrigued by each other, Hazel and Augustus strike up a flirty friendship but Hazel - someone who views herself as a grenade and is set on protecting those around her from the blast when that day eventually comes - is reluctant to let Augustus in. But as their relationship slowly begins to inch towards romance, she soon sees that she really doesn’t have much say in the matter.
Woodley is absolutely enigmatic as the story’s cancer-stricken heroine and ends up infusing a great amount of likeability and authenticity into the role of a young girl asked to face her destiny much too soon, while Elgort shines as the witty and the incredibly charming young man who refuses to let the cruelty of life dampen his spirits.
The Fault in Our Stars is only the second feature-film for director Josh Boone – see 2012’s Stuck in Love - however, he executes the tricky adaptation like a veteran. Scripted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Webert, the gravity of the material is handled wonderfully and there is a heavy dose of sincerity, humour and most important of all, heart, injected into the story’s sombre themes.
On the downside, its teenage-romance premise does get a little too cutesy in parts and the subplot, which involves a trip to Amsterdam, feels a little underdeveloped. Nevertheless, it’s the easy chemistry between its protagonists and its earnest approach makes The Fault in Our Stars a success and an ultimate real tear-jerker that won’t leave a dry eye in the house.