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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: RJ Shearer

Paper Towns (2015)

These teenage girls need to stop acting so “mysterious”. Especially when you ask them for their number.

Since he was very young, Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (Nat Wolff) has been living across the street from Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne) – a childhood friend of sorts that he hasn’t kept in contact with much as they’ve gotten older. Not that he hasn’t wanted to, he just hasn’t tried to, as constantly mulling over the mystery of who she is and what she could be up to is better than any human interaction with her whatsoever. But one fateful night, Margo sneaks into Q’s room, takes him out on an adventure where they prank mean kids from their school, and basically, give Q the greatest night of his life. Sadness then ensues when, for some unexplained reason, Margo leaves without telling a single soul, leaving Q to wonder just what happened. Did she die? Or, did she just want to get away from the rest of the world that she knew because it became too much for her? Q thinks about it more and more, but he soon starts to see little clues that Margo may, or may not have left for him to see, which then leads him to set out on a road trip to find Margo, see what she’s been up to, and find out if they’re meant for one another like he believes they are.

Cause being cool, calm and collected just didn't suffice.....

Cause being cool, calm and collected just didn’t suffice…..

So yeah, if anybody remembers last summer, I wasn’t so hot with the Fault In Our Stars. While some would say that it was just another case of some angry, soulless, and unlovable person taking all of his years of disappointment and frustration out on a sweet movie about two kids with cancer falling in love with one another, others would say it’s just another case of some person not enjoying a movie for the sole fact that it’s annoying. And in case you couldn’t tell, I sided more with the latter, but I had my reasons, people!

Other than the fact that, you know, I am soulless, angry and unlovable, by choice.

With that film, it felt like the characters spoke in such a stilted and overly quirky manner, that it was almost as if John Green knew he was working with a conventional love story and needed to spice it up so much that he just made each and every character sound as if they learned a new phrase to coin because it makes them appear “cool”, or “hip”. Now, I know that he didn’t write that movie adaptation, nor did he write this one, but he still laid the groundwork enough to where it’s obviously clear that he thinks this is the way actual, real life teenagers talk, or at least, should.

Let’s hope they never do, because honestly, the first hour or so of Paper Towns is downright treacherous. Granted, the whole movie is no easy cakewalk either, but at least by the end, director Jake Schreier decides to throw some interesting tidbits of insight in there for good measure, Problem is, there’s a whole other hour-and-a-half where these boring, almost carbon-copy versions of teenage characters walk around, talk somewhat “cool”, and go on aimlessly with their rather uneventful days. Not saying that this isn’t how real-life teenagers go about their days normally, but when you’re making a movie, and you have a crummy script to work with, you need a little more than just a conventional teenager-types lulling around the hallways, as they wait around for the next plot-point to come hit them on their noggins.

And honestly, once the eventual road trip does get going, there’s still not much for this movie to offer. Every character feels as if they’ve been hashed-out of a whole slew of other, way better movies that have come before them, so that when they do get to the parts of the movie where they have to break down, open-up each other’s souls to one another, and show their true colors, it’s hard to feel anything. We’ve seen the dorky characters in these types of movies try so desperately to get the girl, just like we’ve seen the dorky characters try to hide the fact that their dorks to begin with.

It never gets old!

Cause just leaving a text or sticky-note just didn't suffice....

Cause just leaving a text or sticky-note just didn’t suffice….

Now, if there is something interesting that Paper Towns brings to the table for teenage romance dramedies that Fault didn’t really bother with, is that it takes a plot-conceit and finds a way to pick it apart in a way that’s thoughtful. With Margo, we get who is basically, another version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl; she acts on instinct, says odd things, capitalizes certain letters of a word, and leaves ridiculous tips of where it is that she may have ventured off to next. While this character already had me running for the exits as soon as she started going on about the whole “paper town metaphor”, thankfully, she’s not in it too much.

Which, in essence, is a bit of a shame because I feel, given more time to do so, Cara Delevingne could have stretched this character a bit more. While Delevingne herself basically has to play one-note, she does so in a charming way that makes me feel, had the script not been written as if it were ghost-written by wannabe hipsters who listen to the Dirty Projectors, that she could have gone to some interesting places with this character. But, for better and for worse, she’s cut out for most of the proceedings as she’s left in the background as everybody searches for her. The movie still finds a way to bring her back and discuss how her thoughtless actions actually have consequences, which is the only interesting food-for-thought I could find here, but eventually, it’s all just left in the dust.

Along the way of the road trip, of course, these characters learn more about one another than they may have ever done before, but before long, it’s practically all uninteresting. Though Nat Wolff surprised the hell out of me with how deep, dark and willing he was able to go with his performance in Palo Alto, it seems like he’s taken a step back and playing someone who is far more boring and predictable; as if the movie would have gone on and been fine without him even bothering to show up for work. He tries as Q, but ultimately, he turns out be like everyone of a John Green-type: Awkward, but charming.

Something that, as someone who was a once a fellow teenager, doesn’t exist.

But dare to dream, kiddies!

Consensus: Like the Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns features overly cloying dialogue that’s not able to do much for the plot, or these characters, considering we’ve seen them done before and they haven’t much anything new to offer.

3.5 / 10

Cause a simple hand-shake or hug just didn't suffice....

Cause a simple hand-shake or hug just didn’t suffice….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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The Duff (2015)

Dang teenagers and their technology.

High school teenager Bianca Piper (Mae Whitman) is smart, quick-witted, is sure of herself, and also has a bunch of friends that love and support her. However, she soon realizes that maybe her social life isn’t all that great to begin with; sure, she has friends, but is she really as successful or as popular as them? Better yet, is she really all that pretty, either? Eventually, Bianca stumbles upon the realization that she is, sadly, a DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). This shakes Bianca to her core, so much so that she realizes it’s about time that she realizes it’s finally time for a change of pace where she can have more men look her way, more people talk about her with positive connotations, and more friends, as a result. This is when she enlists the help of her neighbor Wes (Robbie Amell) who is also using her as a way to ensure that he gets good enough grades in class so that he can pass, get those scholarships to the colleges he wants, and live his life, happily forever after. But somehow, through all of the hanging out they’re doing, Wes and Bianca soon realize that maybe what it is that they need, isn’t just to look pretty and be popular – maybe, just maybe, it’s to have someone special in your life?

Selfie, with her?

Selfie, with her?

Basically, take the premise to Not Another Teen Movie, make it serious, and wouldn’t you know it? You sort of have what the Duff is; while it is, at one point, insightful in exposing the true nature of young, impressionable, high school kids and their sometimes evil, maniacal ways of pushing people into stereotypes, regardless of whether they accept it or not. Then, on the other point, it’s also a movie that feels incredibly content with keeping things as simple and conventional as possible, without ever trying to change, or shake up the genre it seems to be playing around in.

To be honest, the Duff is a little bit of both, but it’s at least ten times better than a mega-serious Not Another Teen Movie.

What works in the Duff‘s favor is that it has a fresh voice to tell us all that we need to know about the current state of high school’s social life today, to ensure that everybody’s on the same page. While it’s only been a few years or so since I last stepped in a high school classroom, there’s still a certain feeling that even though most may stay the same about high school and all of the social politics that go into, the landscape may alter a bit to where there are more cliques than ever before. Through Bianca, we see, hear, and understand what it is that’s around her and it helps us to create a bubble around each one of these character’s lives and how they’ll affect her.

And this also helps out the fact that Bianca, the character herself, is actually pretty smart and funny. Some of that has to do with the fact that Mae Whitman (yes, her?) is charming in her own ways, but some of it also has to do with the fact that she’s actually an interesting character that feels lived-in and not just an archetype of what some writer’s would deem as “hip” or “cool”. Sure, she’s both of which, but she isn’t bragging about it, either; that’s just not her style. She’s much more subdued than that and it helps her character come off as more realistic than anything else.

Not to mention that, despite seeming like he’s way too old for high school, Robbie Amell and Whitman have something of a sexy bit of chemistry together. Though the pairing is, I must admit, odd to say the least, these two make it work somehow by showing that these two need one another. Sure, the ways we are shown this are hackneyed, corny and wildly predictable, at best, but there’s still some shed of truth to be found in these scenes.

Oh yeah, totally what high school jocks looked like in high school. Grey hair and all.

Oh yeah, totally what high school jocks looked like in high school. Grey hair and all.

Not too much, but just enough to keep me away from barfing out my lunch by all of the sappy teen romance.

Like I said, however, the Duff does feel like it gets a tad too predictable for its own tastes and while it can sometimes get away with its sarcastic smirk, it doesn’t always save the day. For instance, take the character of Bella Thorne, who plays the stereotypical bitch of the school who’s only concern is whom her boyfriend is of the week, whether or not she’s having a party later in the day, and if there are enough cameras around her following her every move. Despite Thorne trying here, it still seems like the kind of lame role that’s written for a sitcom; whereas instead of getting to see the deep shades beneath her exterior, we just see an annoying, villain of a girl. It’s quite bothersome actually and doesn’t do much to help the movie, except just ad needless conflict.

Then, of course, there’s the message of this movie, whatever it is that may be. See, a part of me wants to give the movie the benefit of the doubt and say that, in the end, the movie’s all about the triumph and the will of one woman’s journey to make herself feel better for who it is that she is, rather than what others see, there’s still another part of me that thinks the opposite. See, without saying much, Bianca changes herself up in a manner that makes her seem more appealing to those around and even though Whitman is already plenty fine to look at, the movie tries to make it seem like she needs to look and fit a certain way to get the guy, to get the friends, and ultimately, get the life they oh so crave and desire.

To me, that doesn’t sit well. Doesn’t matter if you’re talking to young high schoolers or senior citizens, it just feels oddly-placed is all, especially in a movie that seems so against selling out and being along with the crowd in the first place.

Then again, that’s high school for ya.

Consensus: The Duff‘s familiar premise and feel waters it down from being like other high school comedies released in the past few years, but still offers up enough charm and wit to make up for some of those problems.

5.5 / 10

Yup. Totally ugly and fat.......

Yup. Totally ugly and fat…….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz