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A Fault in Our Stars: Star Crossed Heroics

By Sandra Olmsted     

By definition, a weepie should make the audience’s eyes leak a lot, but sometimes the filmmakers go too far, and audience only gets red eyes and a runny nose with barely a hankie in sight. Eliciting a few sniffles and tears during a few crucial scenes equals moving drama, but wrenching a full blown bawl by making every scene about bilking the audience for tears results in a bad weepie. As a subset of the dramatic film, the best weepies offer the madding need for a hankie and those elusive other emotions. Director Josh Boone masters the form in A Fault in Our Stars.

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Edge of Tomorrow: Perfect Formula for Block Buster Fun

By Sandra Olmsted

A formula to create a blockbuster film has long been desired by Hollywood, and director Doug Liman and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, working from Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s manga novel All You Need Is Kill, may have stumbled onto one here.

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A Million Ways to Die in the West: Wasted Potential and Disappointment

By Sandra Olmstead

About the only thing “western” about this travesty of a movie is that it was beautifully shot in Monument Valley by cinematographer Michael Barrett; however, it would be nigh impossible to make Monument Valley look bad. Given the rest of this movie’s problems, it’s surprising that this iconic landscape, made famous by director John Ford in Stagecoach, looks good.

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Maleficent: Truly Fairy’s Tale

By Sandra Olmsted

In this compelling tale, Maleficent, actually a beautiful young fairy with strong wings that allow her the freedom and joy of flight, has her heart broken by a human, Stefan. Then and only then, Maleficent’s good and kind heart turns dark, and even those who love her are afraid of her. Maleficent, the film, chronicles the tale of two countries which dwell side by side but could not be more different. Ruled by a king, the human kingdom thrives on ambition, greed, and war while the magically country has no need of a ruler because they trust each other and joy and kindness reign until Maleficent’s darkened heart twists the magic to evil and revenge. In Maleficent, director Robert Stromberg and screenwriter Linda Woolverton weave a tale worthy of the Brothers Grimm and ponder whether a heart so broken can ever mend.

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Blended: Family Fun from 2 Always Good Together Actors

By Sandra Olmsted

Blended, the first of the truly family films for the summer, delightfully deals with the problems of adults raising children on their own, and Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, together again in this family-friendly comedy with more than a few dramatic undertones, have great chemistry and comic timing.

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Belle: An Austen-esque True Story of Race, Class, and Gender

By Sandra Olmsted

Director Amma Asante successfully makes the big leap from TV series to feature films with Belle, which is based on a true story. Belle, played exquisitely by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is the illegitimate daughter of an enslaved African woman and Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode), a British Navel Officer, who brings young Belle (Lauren Julien-Box) to his family to raise in England when her mother dies. Although having a mixed race child and family member scandalizes their society, the gruff but kindhearted Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), England’s Lord Chief Justice, and the equally kindhearted but practical Lady Mary Murray (Emily Watson) immediately like young Belle, and while raising her with their other illegitimate young niece, Elizabeth Murray (Cara Jenkins as a child and Sarah Gadon as an adult) find ways to cope with the challenges of preparing Belle for the world she will live in as the “mulatto”  lady with the privilege of class and the complication of race in a segregated society with a slave trade economy.

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