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In the wake of The Fault in Our Stars' ride to the top of the box office on a wave of tears, there's been a great deal of debate about YA novels and their film adaptations. While the genre has many defenders, both young and old, some critics believe that anyone out of their teen years should abandon YA novels in favor of more mature, intellectually stimulating, and therefore more rewarding books. Still, as anyone who went to see the hit tearjerker can attest, moviegoers of all ages turned out for The Fault in Our Stars, since everyone, no matter how young or how old, loves a good cry. Just like everyone who enjoys a fun, exciting action movie went to see the first two installments of The Hunger Games, which broke box office records. And both adults and children filled out theaters to watch Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort fight a corrupt government in Divergent.
The films seems to be enjoyed by a wide, varied audience, so why should the books that they're based on be restricted to only middle schoolers? They're just as dark, just as complex, and just as entertaining, if not more so, than their big screen counterparts. Yes, these books and films are being targeted at a younger audience, but that doesn't mean that you have to be a certain age to find meaning and depth in these stories. Luckily, the trend of YA franchise adaptations doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon, with four major blockbusters due out before the rest of the year. That's not to mention the countless novels that have either been optioned by studios or are currently in the middle of casting and filming. All of these stories have plenty to keep an all-ages audience entertained, so we broke down the biggest YA releases of the year in order to make a case for why you should take a chance on them, both at the box office and at the book store.
The Fault in Our Stars What It’s About: When cancer-stricken Hazel Grace Lancaster is forced by her mother to attend a support group for other survivors, she meets the charming Augustus Waters, and after bodning over their favorite book and their illness, the two embark on a slightly twisted teenage love story. Who’s In It: Shailene Woodley as Hazel, Ansel Elgort as Gus, Nat Wolff as Isaac, Laura Dern as Hazel’s mom and Willam Dafoe as Peter Van Houten. Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): Though sometimes the pretension of the main characters can rub people the wrong way, it’s a genuinely touching love story that feels realistic, rather than simply being a series of rom com clichés. Hazel and Gus’ relationship really is all about the small moments, and they’ll win you over and warm your heart… before they shatter it into a million pieces. Our Thoughts on the Film: Since The Fault in Our Stars did so well at the box office, we’re hoping it can help usher in a new generation of realistic, down-to-earth teen movies. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good fantasy adventure or dystopian future as much as the next person, but normal teenagers, without powers and without an oppressive government to overthrow can be just as moving and compelling.
The Giver Opens: August 15 What It’s About: Jonas lives in a futuristic utopian society that makes everyone equal through “Sameness,” which also eradicates emotions and color from their lives. However, when he starts his job as the Receiver of Memories, he gets a glimpse at the way the world used to be – messy, emotional, colorful, tragic and hopeful – and starts to question the world that he has always called home. Unfortunately, questioning is the one thing the government doesn’t want people to do. Who’s In It: Brenton Thwaites as Jonas, Jeff Bridges as The Giver, Meryl Streep as Chief Elder, and Taylor Swift as Rosemary. Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): It encourages people to question their surroundings, to search for more, to not be content with accepting the status quo just because that’s the way things are, which is an important message not just for children, but for adults as well. The Giver also argues that even though life can be difficult and heartbreaking, we wouldn’t truly be living without experiencing those things. Plus, the ending still gets people of all ages riled up more than a decade later, which means it must be worth checking out. Our Hopes/Worries for the Movie: We’re pretty wary about this one, from what we’ve seen in the trailers. It looks like they’ve finally caught onto the fact that the lack of color is important to fans, but we’re still worried that the film has had some unnecessary action added to it in order to make it fit in better with the current slew of dystopian teen movies. Still, it has Streep and Bridges in the cast, so it’s got be good, right?
If I Stay Opens: August 22 What It’s About: After a car accident puts her in a coma, Mia has an out-of-body experience where she can hear and see everything that’s going on around her. After learning about the death of her family, she must decide whether to go with them, or stay in a world full of tragedy. Who’s In It: Chloe Grace Moretz as Mia and Jamie Blackley as Adam. Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): Everyone loves a good, cathartic cry, and this is just the book to cause one. But it’s also a story about the choices we make and how they affect our lives, as well as one about persevering through heartache and loss. Our Hopes/Fears for the Movie: The trailer seems to focus more on Mia’s romance with Adam than on her love for music and her relationship with the family, both of which are just as crucial to the story. While their relationship is a major part of what makes If I Stay so great, we don’t want it to dwarf all of the other great aspects of Mia’s story.
20th Century Fox Film
The Maze Runner Opens: September 19What It’s About: Thomas wakes up in a place called The Glade with no memory of anything other than his name. As he tries to recall his past life, he learns about the society of boys that has been established there, and about the Maze that might be their only hope of escape. Nobody has ever survived a night in the Maze, but Thomas thinks that nighttime might be their only opportunity out, as more and more kids start dying. And then, one day, a girl arrives at The Glade, claiming to know Thomas… Who’s In It: Dylan O’Brien as Thomas, Kaya Scodelario as Theresa, Will Poulter as Gally and Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt. Why It’s Worth Reading (At Any Age): If you’re looking for a fun, exciting adventure with a slowly unravelling mystery at its center, The Maze Runner is the book for you. It’s a quick read, but an enjoyable one, and all of the characters at The Glade are funny, frustrating and compelling. Our Hopes/Fears For the Movie: The film will succeed or fail on its version of the Maze and the Grievers that inhabit it, as both are such a key part of the story. They’ll need to be genuinely terrifying in order for the story to have any weight, but the Grievers are a tricky creature to adapt. However, we’re looking forward to a different take on the dystopian genre, and The Maze Runner should make for a fun fall popcorn movie.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Opens: November 21 What It’s About: After defeating the Quarter Quell, Katniss Everdeen becomes the eluctant face of the revolution to overthrow the Capitol and free the citizens of Panem. Who’s In It: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland and Julianne Moore. Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): Though it’s the least popular installment in the Hunger Games trilogy, it still has everything you loved from the first books: action, excitmement, high emotional stakes, a strong heroine, and compelling, flawed characters. Our Hopes/Fears for the Film: Mostly, we’re just concerned with how and where the film will be split in two, as choosing that point of separation is always difficult. We’re also hoping that a third (and fourth) record-breaking opening will finally convince studios to make more female-fronted action films. Clearly, there’s an audience for them.
Insurgent Opens: March 20, 2015 What It’s About: Tris and Four must continue to fight against a powerful alliance that will tear the city apart, and could lead most of the population to their deaths. Who’s In It: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Kate Winslet, and Octavia Spencer. Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): Because you read or watched the first installment in the Divergent series and you’re dying to know what happens next. Our Hopes/ Fears for the Film: Look, Hollywood, it’s a second successful female-led blockbuster franchise. Is that enough to help change your mind?
20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
Warning: Spoilers for The Fault in Our Stars to follow!
Even if you know nothing else about The Fault in Our Stars, you’re probably aware of the fact that it is going to make you cry. The book will make you cry, the film — which opens June 6 — will make you cry, the music videos for the soundtrack will make you cry, and if you’re a particularly dedicated fan, even the word “Okay” can make you shed a tear or two. But lest you think that The Fault in Our Stars contains nothing but moments perfectly calibrated to leave you a sobbing mess on a movie theater floor, there are several moments in the film that won’t make you misty-eyed.
Seven of them, to be exact. And it is precisely those small reprieves from the two-hour roller coaster of devastation that will help you make it through The Fault in Our Stars in one piece. Just when you think you can't physically cry any more, these tiny segments of happiness will come along and bolster your spirits before, giving you the strength you need to make it to the end of Hazel and Gus' love story. Because we want you to be able to savor those fleeting moments of joy when they come around, we've rounded them all up so that you'll be able to recognize the perfect time to blow your nose and wipe your eyes when it comes along.
The Opening Scenes, with Hazel Moping Around the House Wait, stay with us! It sounds like it would be terribly depressing to watch a teenage girl with cancer lie on the couch and watch television, but it is actually one of the few non-life ruining scenes in the film. In fact, Laura Dern’s relentlessly up-beat demeanor actually makes it pretty funny.
Anything with Mike Birbiglia Any time you see Mike Birbiglia, a.k.a. Patrick, the obliviously uncool support group leader onscreen, you should savor those moments. He only gets three scenes (and an acoustic ditty about Jesus), but they’re the most traditionally comedic moments in the whole movie. So, enjoy the laughs while they’re coming, because the second Hazel and Gus make eye contact, it’s all over.
Hazel Waiting for Gus to Call After the initial meet-cute, but before they fall completely in love, there’s a small sequence in which Hazel waits impatiently for Gus to text her. Cherish these moments, and the quiet, hopeful look on Shailene Woodley’s face. Cherish the way she lights up when he finally does text. Cherish the way your heart is warmed, but your eyes remain clear – this is the last time this will happen.
Isaac Handling His Breakup by Breaking Things Sure, you’re going to want to focus on Hazel and Gus flirting in the foreground of this scene, but you should really be focusing on Isaac (Nat Wolff) smashing trophies behind them. Revel in the hilarity that the juxtaposition of these two scenes causes and remember the awkwardness of helping your friend though a breakup. Isaac and Monica are the only relationship in this movie that won’t shatter your heart, so appreciate that.
Gus Gets a Reply from Pete Van Houten Depending on how emotional you are or how well you know the book, this might make you tear up a little bit, but hold strong. This is a happy scene, a moment of triumph and celebration. From here it’s nothing but heartbreak and bawling into a bucket of popcorn the size of your head. Choose this moment to save your tears.
Hazel, Gus, and Isaac Egg Monica’s House This is it: the last moment of joy left in this film. By now, you’ve probably experienced the first wave of tears, so really take a moment to revel in the happiness that three teenagers throwing eggs at a car can bring you. Feel the thrill of watching Isaac avenge his broken heart. Every single scene after this will leave you devastated, so allow this fleeting scene of exhilaration to bolster you through the last act of this movie. Trust us, when it’s all done, you’ll look back on this moment fondly, and then you’ll probably cry with nostalgia.
See, it's not all completely gut-wrenching and heartbreaking!
The organizers of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival have released the full list of films they're planning to screen during the Sept. 5 - 15 fete. It's a decidedly more down to earth list of titles than appeared at Cannes in May but may boast even more Oscar contenders: films like August: Osage County, The Fifth Estate, Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and one very special new film from Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises. Here are five takeaways we had from this year's TIFF lineup, and below that, you'll find a list of select titles from the lineup for which we're especially excited.
1. Character is King — Deeply felt character studies dominate the lineup this year rather than movies driven more by visual flash. Some are more or less traditional biopics like Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, Bill Condon's The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave. Ron Howard's Rush emphasizes the clash of personalities between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) as much as it does the races. And Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, perhaps the biggest visual spectacle on the TIFF lineup, is notable for being a portrait of a female astronaut (Bullock) and her struggle to survive after an accident while also dealing with her lingering emotional distress following the death of her daughter. Toronto this year is truly an actor's market. Even more so because...
2. A Bunch of Actors Are Trying Their Hand at Directing — Jason Bateman is making his feature-film directing debut with the spelling bee revenge comedy Bad Words, while James Franco is following up his (pretty much unwatched) Hart Crane and Sal Mineo biopics with his adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Child of God. And of course Joseph Gordon-Levitt will unspool his directorial debut, Don Jon, which is also the first time we've seen him with a gelled-up pompadour.
3. Cory Monteith Is Well Represented – The late Glee star has not one but two films at TIFF, Gia Milani's All the Wrong Reasons and Josh C. Waller's McCanick, both of which will make their world premiere at the fest.
4. This is the Place for Smaller, More Personal Films — While Cannes can still celebrate movies that might not otherwise find an audience (like Abdellatif Kechiche's Palme d'Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color, also at TIFF), Toronto goes all-in for small films. Just this past May Cannes got showy movies from big, flashy directors like Roman Polanski, the Coen Brothers, Baz Luhrmann, Nicolas Winding Refn, Stephen Soderbergh, and Takashi Miike. But this year Toronto will draw Steve McQueen, Kelly Reichardt, Stephen Frears, Jason Reitman, and Alex Gibney, often the makers of quieter, more introspective films — films that may not even have found a distributor yet. That's ultimately why...
5. Toronto Is More Important Than Cannes — Actor and Lars von Trier repertory member Jean-Marc Barr once told me, "Cannes is now like the G8 summit." It's pretty corporate and not as essential these days for films really looking for a distributor. Looked at another way, Palme d'Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color still doesn't have a North American distributor. However, Toronto is the perfect laboratory for testing out films with a North American audience — if Franco's Child of God doesn't get a distributor after TIFF, it might not get one at all. You can also see Toronto as the first stop on the Oscar circuit. If there's a groundswell of support for Sandra Bullock for Best Actress consideration for Gravity, it'll be because buzz was first generated among potential Oscar voters at Toronto, not Cannes.
Here are some of the most notable films appearing TIFF 2013. What are you looking forward to?
The Fifth Estate Bill Condon, USA (World Premiere) OPENING NIGHT
Life of Crime Daniel Schecter, USA (World Premiere) CLOSING NIGHT
August: Osage County John Wells, USA (World Premiere)
Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom Peter Chadwick (World Premiere)
Rush Ron Howard, United Kingdom/Germany (International Premiere)
All the Wrong Reasons Gia Milani, Canada (World Premiere)
The Armstrong Lie Alex Gibney, USA (North American Premiere)
Bad Words Jason Bateman, USA (World Premiere)
Blue Is The Warmest Color Abdellatif Kechiche, France (North American Premiere)
Child of God James Franco, USA (North American Premiere)
Dallas Buyers Club Jean-Marc Vallée, USA (World Premiere)
Don Jon Joseph Gordon-Levitt, USA (Canadian Premiere)
Gravity Alfonso Cuarón, USA/United Kingdom (North American Premiere)
Labor Day Jason Reitman, USA (World Premiere)
McCanick Josh C. Waller, USA (World Premiere)
Night Moves Kelly Reichardt, USA (North American Premiere)
Only Lovers Left Alive Jim Jarmusch, USA (North American Premiere)
Philomena Stephen Frears, United Kingdom (North American Premiere)
12 Years a Slave Steve McQueen, USA (World Premiere)
The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu) Hayao Miyazaki, Japan (North American Premiere)
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More: Brad Pitt Good, Michael Fassbender Evil in ’12 Years a Slave’ ‘Gravity’ Trailer Will Make You Glad You Never Went to Space Camp ‘August: Osage County’ Trailer Has Streep and Roberts Compete in a Drawl-Off
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.