In the tradition of author John Green (who wrote the novel Paper Towns, plus The Fault In Our Stars, the soon-to-be-adapted Looking For Alaska, An Abundance Of Katherines, and more), Paper Towns centers on a preternaturally wise, hip, gorgeous teenage girl with a secret. This time, that girl is Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne), the beautiful-but-tortured neighbor of protagonist Quentin (Nat Wolff). Quentin has been in love with Margo for his entire life, projecting all manner of fantasies onto her, and one night, she finally looks his way, albeit to ask him for help pranking her ex-boyfriend and shitty friends. Then she disappears, and Quentin and his pals embark on a cross-country road trip to find her. (But also, inevitably, themselves.)
Depends on how you feel about John Green. Is he a YA visionary, gifted with a linguistic mainline to the hearts and souls of America’s youth? Or is he a manipulative, melodramatic hack with an exploitative streak and a penchant for killing off his characters? You decide. It’s significant, though, that last year’s film adaptation of The Fault In Our Stars was surprisingly good and well-reviewed, and screenwriters Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter are back for Paper Towns. Perhaps, for better or for worse (again, depending on your feelings about Green), the film will transcend its source material.
On the publicity circuit, Green has been stressing that that Paper Towns is very different from its cancer-rife predecessor, Fault In Our Stars. And also from all other Hollywood movies. “Hollywood is so used to franchises,” he told USA Today. “But this is not a series. It’s an unrelated story that’s beautiful and funny, and has a big heart.” Nobody’s seen Paper Towns yet, so there isn’t much early word, outside of Green’s. If you need a better sense of the magnitude of this movie, just ask the nearest teenagers whether they’re excited to see it, then run away quickly, or risk shattered eardrums.
Paper Towns marks the big-screen debut of English supermodel Cara Delevingne, much-beloved by Instagrammers and Burberry purveyors alike. It’s hard to judge her acting prowess by the film’s first trailer alone, but her American accent is solid and promising, as is her conveyed sense of suburban ennui. Will she successfully make the transition from runway sensation to fictional runaway? Probably—either way, she’s already set to star in a handful of upcoming films, including Suicide Squad, Kids In Love, The Face Of An Angel, and Pan.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 5.2
It should perhaps be noted that none of The Dissolve’s writers are young adults anymore. We’re old-ass adults who largely enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars, but are less consistent in our feelings about John Green in general.
An alien civilization has gotten hold of a cache of classic arcade videogames that Reagan shot into space during the 1980s. The aliens misinterpret them as war plans and develop weaponized technologies based on the likes of Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong. The president contacts his boyhood best friend, a former joystick master, to assemble a crack team to beat the 8-bit assault.
Not too rosy. For some, the mere sight of Adam Sandler’s face is enough to provoke blind rage after his recent string of unspeakably bad movies. Kevin James might as well be Adam Sandler on a budget. For added blandness, Chris Columbus takes the director’s chair. Josh Gad is a fine performer, though, and Peter Dinklage has a mullet! Mullet Peter Dinklage, right?
The first trailer didn’t foretell either an egregious, Jack And Jill-caliber disaster or a sleeper hit. The comedy is plain and flavorless, from Sandler’s feeble gotcha to James’ nonsensical assumption that a gigantic glowing barrel wouldn’t hurt that bad. Michelle Monaghan’s near-absence from the trailer suggests her character may be relegated to inconsequential-wife territory.
Cast and crew notwithstanding, it’s a clever concept. Nostalgia is a potent force, and there’s a certain charm in watching a giant Pac-Man gobble through street-parked cars like white dots. The translation of videogame mechanics to a real-world setting opens up a lot of potential. How much of it the film will capitalize on has yet to be seen.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 3.5
This was the month’s big ratings divider, with individual scores as high as 7.8 and as low as half a point. Here’s betting, though, that the ratings would have been much closer together given this same premise, but with Chris Columbus and Adam Sandler nowhere near the property.
In this boxing melodrama, a hotshot fighter played by Jake Gyllenhaal announces his retirement right around the time his beloved wife, who was begging him to retire, is killed. The pugilist’s life rapidly begins falling apart, and the only thing that might turn it around is a trainer played by Forest Whitaker.
Antoine Fuqua helped Denzel Washington get an Academy Award and proved to the world that Ethan Hawke could act with Training Day. His filmography has gotten a lot spottier since then, but it’s encouraging that the story is from Sons Of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, who certainly knows his way around a sleazy story. Sutter also co-wrote the script with Richard Wenk.
Much, if not all of the early word centers on Gyllenhaal’s physical transformation. He looks brutal and, rippling with muscles, utterly unlike the skeletal creep he played so memorably in last year’s Nightcrawler.
How much of Sutter’s personality will make it into the film? Because we’re way more excited about a boxing film from a guy with a personality like Sutter, instead of Fuqua, who isn’t a bad filmmaker so much as a dependable journeyman.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 6.8
Collectively, we’re inclined to be optimistic about this one. Then again, we might just be afraid of Gyllenhaal. Have you seen the guns on that guy?