Paul Greenwood's movie reviews - The Fault In Our Stars; 3 Days To Kill; Chinese Puzzle; Miss Violence

The Fault in Our Stars (12A, 126 mins)

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Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley are both first rate as teenage cancer victims who fall in love
Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley are both first rate as teenage cancer victims who fall in love

The Fault in Our Stars (12A, 126 mins)

Director: Josh Boone

4 stars

The latest big book-to-screen adaptation arrives in cinemas with high expectations, given the love for the novel on which it's based, the young-adult sensation by John Green.

The Fault in Our Stars has been a tremendous hit in the States and it's not hard to see why, lapped up by an audience starved of genuine emotion and the chance for a good cry who too often have to put up with the artificial manipulations of the next Nicholas Sparks effort.

Shailene Woodley, on a roll this year as the star of Divergent, plays Hazel, a 17 year old cancer sufferer.

She attends support groups in amongst the constant rounds of medication and examinations, and has to go everywhere with an oxygen tank since her lungs are unable to function on their own.

It's at one of these support groups that she meets Gus (Ansel Elgort, who also appeared in Divergent as Woodley's brother).

He's a mildly rebellious type who has already lost a leg to cancer but is in remission and a friendship blossoms between them at a steady and rewarding pace.

It's a big subject matter but life goes on, so we spend time with them as they do a lot of everyday stuff.

Obviously it's a teen romance, but holds off on this aspect as long as possible to focus on their friendship.

Hazel is smart and as independent as she can be, and Gus is sweet and sparky, and Woodley and Elgort are both first rate.

They do rather talk in that movie-character way that no one in real life ever does, but they're engaging nonetheless.

There's plenty of talk about cancer, with absolutely no skirting around it even though it's also treated with an irreverent approach as is often the case with stories about terminal illness.

A major subplot sees Hazel and Gus bonding over a book, which results in their taking a trip to Amsterdam to meet its author.

A big plus here is that her parents (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell) want her to go too, they're not all protective and precious like you often see in this type of thing.

There's mileage in their relationship too, so even though they're as terrified as Hazel is, they just want what's best for her, but no-one is a saint and it's not all sassy humour when the going gets tough.

The film's strongest card is that director Josh Boone gets the key scenes absolutely bang on, so that they have the desired emotional impact but don't invite accusations of mawkishness.

And though it can go on a bit, The Fault in Our Stars really does succeed at the job it sets out to do.

See it if you liked: Now Is Good, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 50/50

3 Days to Kill (12A, 117 mins)

Director: McG

2 stars

Kevin Costner is a long way from his early 90s position as the biggest movie star in the world, but it would seem he's had a glance at Liam Neeson reinventing himself as an action star at 60 and decided he fancied a slice of that.

The result is a rather standard Luc Besson-overseen Euro-effort with Costner as a veteran CIA agent who discovers he's got months to live and so takes on a hit job for another agent (Amber Heard in a series of ridiculous wigs) who may have an experimental drug that will prolong his life.

Too many distractions include Costner trying to spend more time with his teenage daughter, which actually morphs into the main story for most of the midsection, meaning spy shenanigans are at a minimum.

A grumpy Costner remains fairly watchable throughout, but all around him is lacklustre action and clunky attempts at patter.

See it if you liked: Taken, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, The Transporter

Chinese Puzzle (15, 117 mins)

Director: Cédric Klapisch

3 stars

Following on from Pot Luck and Russian Dolls, this third film in a trilogy not too dissimilar to the far superior Before Sunrise series reunites us with a group of friends and lovers as they approach 40.

The main cast all return with Romain Duris moving to New York to be near his kids after splitting with Kelly Reilly, and Audrey Tautou is in there as well in the kind of scenarios and interactions we see in a lot of romantic dramas.

Having previously spent time with these characters would probably be an advantage as they can take a while to warm to, as can the stylistic quirks of director Cédric Klapisch.

Too much meandering in the early stages doesn't help either, but it builds towards a nice finale thanks to this complicated web of relationships finally meshing in a satisfying way.

See it if you liked: Pot Luck, Russian Dolls, 2 Days in New York

Miss Violence (18, 99 mins)

Director: Alexandros Avranas

4 stars

From Greece comes another of their characteristically clinical and austere dramas, one that lays bare the country's grim socio-economic reality under the guise of a chilling domestic setting.

But that doesn't mean there isn't a stomach-churning potency to the fall-out of whatever is going on behind the closed doors of a seemingly ordinary family which starts to unravel when a young girl kills herself on her 11th birthday.

So much more is implied than shown, but these are horrific implications as we delve into the everyday mistreatment and detachment at the hands of the family patriarch, and the cumulative power is quite something.

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