Commentary

October 26, 2012

Fly Over: ‘The Woman in Black’, ‘The Master’

In stores:

‘The Fault in our Stars’

by Christine Tuler

John Green’s novel, “The Fault in Our Stars,” jumps briefly into the life of 16-year-old Hazel Green, a girl living with terminal cancer. Surprisingly, the main focus of the novel isn’t Hazel’s fight to live as she knows with 100 percent certainty that the cancer will eventually overtake her; instead, Green masterfully focuses the reader on Hazel’s discovery of what it means to be living.
Due to a clinical-trial drug, Hazel’s life continues each day as only a postponement of her death. Constantly strapped to an oxygen tank which she has nicknamed Philip, Hazel struggles each day to complete even simple, mundane physical tasks such as walking up a flight of stairs.
Hazel’s angst and sarcasm allow for an insightful and at times humorous look at cancer.
Urged by the prodding of her mother to find friends, Hazel begins attending a support group for teens with cancer.
Living up to her mother’s wish, she manages to capture the attention of newcomer to the group, handsome and lanky Augustus Waters.
As Augustus and Hazel spend more time together, Hazel finds herself becoming more and more smitten with Augustus.
Although she is excited at the prospect of experiencing true love, Hazel pushes Augustus away so as not to be, as she describes herself, the “ticking time bomb” that will leave him destroyed when she dies.
Much of the novel also centers around Hazel and Augustus’ quest to find out how Hazel’s favorite novel, “An Imperial Affliction,” would have ended had it not stopped in midsentence. Both characters contact the author separately, and it affects them in ways they could never have expected.
By far, Green’s characters vibrantly dispel what could otherwise be a dismal novel. Their rich and unique personalities ring true without feeling stereotypical or forced.
Hazel’s anger, confusion, sadness, joy and pain all constantly swirl throughout the novel creating a perfect fusion of emotions that is neither depressing nor unrealistic.
In addition to the outstanding characters, Green’s language makes the reader pause just to admire it. He describes simple things with surprising metaphors and detail that never seem to bog down the reading and allow for an enjoyable read.
“The Fault in Our Stars” is a perfectly balanced blend of emotions that it may well be called a workout for the soul.
I welcomed the catharsis and have already passed it along so that I might discuss it with a friend.
Mild language and an implied sex scene gear the novel toward more mature teenagers and adults.

 

…..and in theaters, ‘Here Comes the Boom’

by Macario Mora

I’ve often wondered how actors/comedians such as Kevin James continue to earn a living? He’s simply not funny – “Zoo Keeper,” anyone? So, it may come as no surprise that I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing “Here Comes the Boom.” Gladly, my pessimistic frown turned upside down when the film turned out to be rather heartfelt, kind of funny and sort of entertaining.
At first the film’s basic premise of a high school teacher turning toward mixed martial arts in an effort to save his school’s music program sounds absurd. A loser protagonist finding the wherewithal and courage to sacrifice for the benefit of others is a commonly used plot.
However, when you take into consideration that high school teachers turned MMA fighters often appear on UFC fight cards it becomes less ridiculous, albeit slightly. Rich Franklin, who taught high school math in Ohio, is the best example. He became the UFC middleweight champion in 2005 and is one of the promotion’s most recognizable athletes – he lost the title to reigning champ Anderson Silva a year later.
The movie is rather obvious, and it isn’t really difficult to see what’s coming next, but what really keeps this movie from being another Kevin James catastrophe are the loveable characters. Henry Winkler as inspirational but goofy music teacher Marty Streb is impossible not to love with his nerdy, old-man sweaters and unwavering optimism. Bas Rutten, a former UFC champion, MMA commentator and all around tough guy, does a great job as Niko – a foreigner trying to obtain his U.S. citizenship who becomes Scott Voss’ (James) trainer. And Selma Hayek as Bella Flores is her usual self – feisty and second to none in the beauty department.
Furthermore, James – a lifelong UFC fan – was able to bring realism to the screen by incorporating many famed fighters and trainers – even UFC commentator Joe Rogan.
No one will ever confuse this film as the sequel to “Warrior,” but it’s fun watching a movie about fighting that doesn’t have the Channing Tatums of the world trying to pull off the tough-guy act … stick to stripping, there, Tatum.
Mixed Martial Arts isn’t always as glamorous and as big a spectacle as it appears at a typical UFC event in Las Vegas filled with celebrity spectators, beautiful women and rich, 40-something meatheads. To get to that point, fighters often toil away fighting for meager wagers, sometimes free, in regional promotions that feel more like an underground fight club than a respectable athletic competition. Again, James’ true knowledge of the sport gives the film more credibility.
In summary, a loser teacher becomes inspired after the school becomes hit by financial hardships, and he decides to save the school’s special areas by becoming a fighter since he wrestled briefly in college. With the help of some high-profile trainers who took interest in his plight, James slowly becomes a capable fighter and finds himself in a UFC event facing a rather scary looking opponent. It’s an inspirational sports story that brings a slight smile to your face and leaves you feeling a bit happier when you leave the theater.
For your average film buff “Here Comes the Boom,” really isn’t worth spending the absurd amount of money for admission, but if you have children it’s certainly worth your time, or put it in your Netflix queue when it becomes available.
The film is rated PG for bouts of MMA sports violence, some rude humor and language.




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