When he’s not creating some of the biggest movies of all time, James Cameron spends his days as a deep sea explorer; everyone needs a hobby, it’s just that his is interesting enough for National Geographic to follow him around while he does it.

Inspired as a kid by Jacques Cousteau and deep sea divers Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, Cameron has always had a desire to explore the deepest known place on the planet: Challenger Deep, in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench. So what does he do? He designs and builds his own brand new diving vessel – with the extensive input from his hand-picked team of experts, of course - as you do.

DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D is very much about this journey – the construction and testing of the sub (against a deadline to catch the best weather conditions in the region) takes up the entire first half of the film, so there’s less of a focus on the actual undersea exploration / weird and wonderful critters etc. than you might expect, but that’s certainly not to say the film is without drama, tension, and above all a marvellous sense of wonder at genuinely pioneering invention and exploration.

It’s shot in 3D, which works better for some parts of the film than others: anything underwater, big thumbs up; boardroom meetings not so much, and during some of the sit-down interviews it felt like the separation was cranked too high. While it's still essential to see this in 3D, try and get a seat towards the rear of the auditorium.

One of the film’s greatest assets is Cameron himself: as a storyteller he understands - just like Cousteau did - the importance of sharing the adventure, and his ability to verbalise everything not only as it is happening to him in real time, but in language we can understand, is crucial. It’s particularly cool, for example, to hear him referencing the exact point at which he goes deeper than Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) in THE ABYSS. He's also dropped in one of the greatest bits of product placement we're likely to see in a documentary for quite some time.

Kids will go crazy for it, and even the most jaded adults will be able to find 90 minutes of solace from this pretty depressing point in world history; DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D is a refreshing celebration of humankind’s ability to do still some things that are pure and good, and a demonstration of how we should be applying ourselves.

DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D is released August 8 in the US, and August 21 in Australia.


Like 99% of the 99%, South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho doesn’t like where the very recent, huge spike in the disparity between the world's rich and poor is heading. He’s found a vent for his anger in French graphic novel La Transperceneige, which has become SNOWPIERCER, his sledgehammer allegory for everything wrong with the age of the 1% and their staggering ideology of arrogance and self-entitlement.

Set in 2031, it’s 18 years since an attempt to quell climate change went horribly wrong and brought about a man-made ice age. The only life left on Earth is all aboard Snowpiercer, a huge train perpetually barreling along on a giant, world-spanning circuit of track (one lap per year). But even in these dire circumstances, humanity has fucked itself from the start – around 90% of the survivors are crammed into ghetto carriages at the rear, kept there by armed guards. Those at the front live in decadence and plenty, and their familiar sense of entitlement to it. The occassionally, the povs watch as one or two of their children is taken forward - to a better life? They can only hope. These disappearances are usually accompanied by a lecture from the propagandist Mason (Tilda Swinton), reinforcing just how lucky shit like them is to be on the train in the first place.

But among the oppressed masses are Curtis (Chris Evans), Edgar (Jamie Bell) and Gilliam (John Hurt). They have revolution on their minds, and it’s not long before they begin a long, bloody fight all the way to the front of Snowpiercer, to the engine room; they must reach and confront the train’s designer and engineer Wilford (Ed Harris), or the carnage will have been for nothing.

SNOWPIERCER is so broad-stroke it's satire, but it works. Also, it’s only sporadically funny; full credit to Australian critic Jason Di Rosso for spotting first that this is more SALO than BRAZIL (although there's considerably less rape and force-feeding of poo than the former, and Ondrej Nekvasil’s production train design, with each carriage different from the last, certainly echoes the latter). What moments of levity there are, come from the most unlikely places - Swinton nearly steals the show as Wilford’s propagandist Mason. As hilarious as she is bizarre, Swinton has chosen play this bureaucratic snake as a twisted, condescending, bitchy schoolmarm: think Thora Hird channeling Margaret Thatcher; a villain we can truly hate and at the same time piss ourselves laughing at. These moments are a light peppering, though - for the most part it's a grim and justifiably angry fight, yet an energetic, exciting and visceral one.

There are very few stray threads here, yet Chris Evans’ Curtis, becomes progressively more inconsistent as the film progresses, and come crunch time his motives are remain confusingly murky. Bong's scenario also excises religion from the equation altogether, which is either an oversight or a cheat. On a more superficial level, there’s a daft twist or two here and there, but nothing that can’t be easily covered by the film’s broad style; by and large, SNOWPIERCER is powered by a clever, precise script which answers every question you can throw at it.

Behind the camera, amongst the above mentioned amazing and inventive design work, there are some marvellous set pieces to be thrilled by. My only criticism is that we may have hit a new low in shaky-cam. I’m not against it in principle - it’s not a bad technique to adopt if they didn’t have the time/budget or space for clever choreography, but it’s appallingly applied here - simply wobbling the camera from side to side is a shitty shortcut. Where’s (BOURNE cinematographer) Oliver Wood and his crew when you need them?

But those niggles are trivial next to what has been achieved here. SNOWPIERCER is a rare beast: explosive action sci-fi with both a brain and a conscience. One of the best of 2014, see it on the biggest screen you can.

SNOWPIERCER is released June 25 in the US, and August 7 in Australia.


The end of the world is nigh. We’re informed via car radio that a meteor has already struck the northern Atlantic Ocean. The all consuming, life-destroying shockwave will reach Perth, Western Australia - the world’s most isolated city - in approximately twelve hours. Mass panic and chaos have already set in. Many have already chosen to kill themselves and their loved ones as painlessly as possible, while others indulge in various forms of debauchery and hedonism. In the latter category is twenty-something Jimmy (Nathan Phillips), who for reasons we'll never be sure of leaves his sensitive, level-headed bit on the side (Jessica De Gouw) at her beach house to join his shrewish girlfriend and get obliterated - in every sense of the word - at his best mate’s massive house party. But Jimmy doesn’t get far before he finds himself rescuing twelve year-old Rose (Angourie Rice) from the worst fate, and thereafter spending a good chunk of his valuable remaining time torn between doing right by the child and doing right by his kin; between blocking it all out and setting things straight before The End.

For his first film, writer/director Zak Hilditch has created slick and enjoyable, if somewhat familiar sci-fi. THESE FINAL HOURS looks the part and largely entertaining in its execution, but feels a little restrained in its ambition, and without anything new to add - like a showreel for a bigger, better next gig rather than a story that Hilditch just had to tell. This is most apparent in Jimmy, who makes for a rather pedestrian everyman, and not someone who makes for particularly scintillating company, despite Phillips' complete commitment to the role. More interesting (and proactive) is young Rose, who wants to convince Jimmy to get her back to her family, many miles out of the way.

While he never quite manages any great surprises overall, Hilditch does provide a string of exciting set pieces, tense moments, and striking, locally flavoured detail. Even if it doesn’t break any new ground in the ‘end of the world’ sub-genre, THESE FINAL HOURS is an enjoyable addition to it.

THESE FINAL HOURS is released July 31 in Australia.

Review: LUCY

We all wait for the next Luc Besson film that might be the equal of LEON, but it’s proven illusive for the last twenty years – especially the last five. His latest,  the sci-fi actioner LUCY, showed very promising signs of being ‘the one’. It isn't but there's still fun to be had.

Dippy American Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is tricked and forced into muling a new synthetic drug for Taipei gangsters (led by OLDBOY's Min-sik Choi on fine form), but after absorbing a massive amount of the compound into her bloodstream, she begins utilising more and more of her brain capacity, which in turn begins to unlock ever more superhuman abilities. At the same time as opening up a can of revenge-flavoured whup-ass on the baddies, she seeks out the help of Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) to help share the knowledge she is so rapidly accumulating.

But while LUCY isn’t that return to LEON form that we all hope for (basically, this just doesn't have the characters), it’s certainly not plumbing the depths of THE MESSENGER, either. In the moment, most of this ride is as highly entertaining as it is daft. Johansson, having a blast and continuing her barnstorming couple of years playing otherworldly characters (after UNDER THE SKIN and HER), easily holds the film together.

Besson meanwhile, holds down two of his three jobs behind the camera (writer/director/producer) very well. He's always been a solid action director with an excellent eye for framing (which is why this cut such a great trailer) and visual effects, but this undermined somewhat by his under-egged, unfocused screenplay. Case in point: a perfectly good ‘animal instinct’ motif in the first act is set-up perfectly well, then abandoned after twenty minutes, never to be referenced again - it needed to be either be maintained or excised altogether.

With a little more thought and care, LUCY could have been a great, long-remembered work of sci-fi. As it is, we have something that is great fun yet completely disposable; ironically, it's not exactly challenging in the ol' brain department.

LUCY is released July 25 in the US, July 31 in Australia, and August 21 in NZ and August 22 in the UK.


HERCULES on the big screen is pretty much one long tradition of fun. Often camp and cheesy at times, sure - but in the best way; many a movie lover’s childhood has been enriched by a pungent slice of Steve Reeves/young Arnold Schwarzenegger magic in there somewhere, and a continuation of the line is rarely a bad idea.

Better yet, the 2014 iteration of the Greek myth has Brett Ratner at its helm - whatever you think of the director-for-hire, fun is the one thing you'd think you could be assured of. But something, somewhere has gone slightly astray. Sure, the levity is partly there... a bit... but in worrying about the fromage factor, Ratner and/or Paramount keep steering back and forth between that lightness and a more po-faced, 300-esque tone, messing with the storytelling consistency to a highly noticeable degree.

Based on Steve Moore’s comic book variation of the tale, we're introduced to a younger Hercules (Dwayne Johnson – who else?), before he has completed his ‘twelve labours’, where it quickly establishes a great premise: the demi-god wasn’t such at all, just an exceptionally large human who yes, was very adept at combat, but who also cannily surrounded himself with a band of merry men (and one woman - an Amazon, naturally) who were equally good at fighting and - crucially - illusion, and more than happy to let themselves be written out of the myth in exchange for healthy, regular payment.

These compadres turn out to be not only of utmost importance to The Big Man, but to the movie itself, particularly a wise-cracking Rufus Sewell and vaguely mystic Ian McShane - they bring the fun, and are absolutely invaluable for it. They're aided a lively Reece Ritchie as Herc’s nephew – not a fighter, but an orator (ooer) in charge of the myth-making and storytelling. The gang is rounded out by the aforementioned arrow-slinging Amazon Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), and a berserker (Askell Hennie).

Herc and co. are summoned to the aid of King Cotys of Thrace (John Hurt also doing a lot of the movie’s heavy lifting), whose homeland is being marauded by Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann), so needs his few remaining subjects trained into fine soldiers. The mercenaries agree, and we’re set on an adventure about believing in yourself in the face of overwhelming odds, and forging your own myth by simple virtue of unrelenting self-belief.

Which is fine, but for frequent detours into the literal Greek tragedy of Hercules’ backstory. Either of these two moods would be fine apart, but Ratner is constantly trying to reconcile the tone, and never does the twain completely, or comfortably, meet.

Ironically for a movie about a confused child of two planes of existence, Paramount’s HERCULES wants the best of both worlds – to be light and jaunty like its predecessors while still carrying weighty backstory; to maintain that ‘family’ vibe of a JASON & THE ARGONAUTS while including some quite brutally realistic violence; to inhabit a world that is equal parts Christopher Nolan and Roland Emmerich – something which not even the might of Johnson can hold together for long.

Behind the camera it's also a mixed bag. Dante Spinotti’s cinematography looks great in daylight (and the use of many actual human extras in the battle scenes is to be commended), but the torch-lit interiors – at least with 3D glasses on – have that tedious, murky appearance, while Fernando Velázquez’s score, like so many of 2014’s big films, fails to make any kind of memorable impression, let alone raise the film.

What they have got right, of course, is the casting of Johnson in the role he was bound to get around to eventually. Following in the footsteps of Reeves and Schwarzenegger, the Samoan royal is such an obvious and perfect fit for the Hercules, the question was never one of him being worthy of it, but whether it would be worthy of him. Is it? Almost.

Review: SEX TAPE

SEX TAPE’s biggest asset is the great, highly relatable situation at its core: your average Joe & Josephine’s limited understanding of The Cloud. To this end, it has a very solid comic premise: happily married and with two kids, Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) in an effort to spice up their sex life decide to video themselves in all their drunken carnal glory, with a view to deleting it the next day. Of course this doesn’t happen, and after the video is automatically synched to the wireless wonder, the pair end up on a madcap, increasingly desperate journey to stop its seemingly inevitable spread into the public domain. So, a variation on the ‘one crazy night’ subgenre, then.

Re-uniting Segel and Diaz with their BAD TEACHER director Jake Kasdan has this time generated a decent smattering of laughs throughout, although mostly at its incidentals rather than overall hilarity – Annie’s disconcertingly wholesome prospective employer’s (Rob Lowe) penchant for having himself painted into Disney scenes, for example. But while a hefty sprinkling of these moments can carry the film so far, neither writers Segel, Nick Stoller and Kate Angelo nor Kasdan (who, it should always be added, also made the hugely underrated THE TV SET for HBO a few years back) ever manage to knit the episodes of the antics together into a cohesive whole; the script feels as briefly sketched-out as Jay and Annie’s production, burdening the cast to ‘bring it on the day’, and while they all have the talent to make it just-gigglesome-enough, no-one is exactly being stretched to deliver anything truly memorable.

Perhaps the strangest thing about SEX TAPE though, is that for all the ‘R-rated’ sell, it’s a strangely conservative experience on nearly every level. The biggest concern for the couple is that the video will prevent Annie’s ‘mommy blog’ from being purchased by a ‘family’ publishing company (who have already voiced concern at a recent post for even discussing sex, or rather the lack of it). Any rumpo in the film is of course kept very safe – even Little Segel, no stranger to the big screen, doesn’t get so much as a cameo. All of which leaves a strange dependence on swearing  (which is fine, but sadly not always funny in and of itself) to guarantee those red band trailers and an artificial ‘adults only’ feel, and this ultimately hinders more than it helps. A pity really, given the strong starting point.

SEX TAPE is released July 16 in Australia and NZ, July 18 in the US, and September 3 in the UK.


Prior to its release in 2011, the public’s hopes and expectations for RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES weren’t high. 20th Century Fox had already driven their biggest pre-STAR WARS franchise into the ground on two separate occasions. First time around it was more due to the law of diminishing returns than a lack of ideas – three of the four prequels (‘BENEATH’, ‘ESCAPE’ and ‘CONQUEST’) were interesting enough but hampered by a lack of development and budget, until 1973’s BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES was so utterly shithouse it buried the saga for nearly 30 years. And of course, the less said about Tim Burton’s 2001 ‘reimagining’ of the 1968 original (besides some great make-up effects), the better.

But against the odds, director Rupert Wyatt’s efforts were fruitful. RISE became one of the surprise hits - commercially and critically - of its year. All of this of course restored some pressure onto DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, the sequel to the prequel which reimagined the prequels to still tie into the original. 

Don’t worry if you haven’t, because it turns out you’re in very safe hands.

A decade has passed since the outbreak of “simian flu” at the end of the last movie, in which time ninety percent of the world’s population perished. For Caesar and his band of liberated, chemically smartened apes though, times have been pretty good. They have made a sturdy home in the Californian Redwoods where they have enjoyed peace and stability. They’ve not so much as seen a human in years, until a small group comes looking for a hydroelectric power station in the area. After a violent altercation and a tense stand-off, human leader Malcolm (Jason Clarke) manages - barely - to convince Caesar (Andy Serkis) of their peaceful intentions. The humans are allowed to leave in one piece, but are less surprised to still be alive than they are gobsmacked that Caesar can speak rudimentary English. Regardless, there is the sense that a delicate balance has just been upset; we just know that this is going to end in tears…

Wyatt walked from DAWN early on (his ‘creative differences’ with Fox apparently being over size and scope) replaced by journeyman director Matt Reeves, a remarkable craftsman who is as at home with the reportage shaky-cam of CLOVERFIELD (which like 1968’s ‘PLANET’ also enjoyed destroying the Statue of Liberty) as the stillness of LET ME IN – all things considered, we really couldn’t ask for a better replacement.

There's no two ways about it: DAWN’s visual effects are truly wondrous. Not a hair done badly, not an eyeball even slightly uncanny. When the film is done, you might also be considering the amount of rain, fire, and smoke effects also in any given action sequence, and properly appreciate that this is some next-level shit you’ve witnessed. But in the moment, Reeves is master enough to keep a lid on all of that, squashing down any potential showiness with a restraint worthy of David Fincher himself. The result is that never for a second do we not believe. We are free of that distraction, free to be sucked completely into the story, and allowed to completely accept Caesar - here elevated to the lead role - as a complex and wholly developed character.

Serkis has seized (no pun intended) this opportunity with both hands, and delivers his best role to date – yes, better (if not necessarily more enjoyable) than Gollum. The biggest achievement of DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is not only to make Caesar real, but to make him positively regal; at once a great king, wise politician, great military tactician, and doting family chimp. Anger, reticence, distrust, regret – Serkis (and his army of computer artists) can make those digital eyes say more with a look than most stars can with a monologue, and it deserves to begin being recognised (or at least stop being ignored) by awards.

This attention comes at the expense of the human cast, who are very much relegated to supporting players, and other than the always solid Clark’s Malcolm (a family man who, like Caesar, will learn that it is far easier for two estranged individuals to reach understanding than it is for them to broker peace between two societies) are making a lot from little screen time, especially Gary Oldman as the dangerously fearful Dreyfus. The apes meanwhile, with their simpler signing and occasionally verbal communication, get away with far more from their broadly brush-stoked characterisations.

In a way, DAWN holds true to the APES sequel/prequel tradition, in that it feels positively ‘mid-sized’ in comparison to other blockbusters of the moment. But that too comes as something of a breath of fresh air: for once, not everything is on the line - we’re not zipping improbably to various far-flung locations for the satisfaction of foreign box office; the story again never leaves San Francisco, although it hints that it eventually will (further aligning with Heston’s unforgettable end point on the other side of the continent, forever burned into our pop-consciousness). This isn’t your average knee-jerk, bigger-and-showier-than-the-last-one blockbuster sequel, but instead wisely plays out as a bridging chapter in a larger saga – a classy, mature move from all involved. But don’t let that give the impression that it’s all talk; the strong story is punctuated by several inventive and impeccably mounted action set pieces – keep your eyes peeled for a particularly dazzling CHILDREN OF MEN-inspired skirmish from the POV of an out-of-control tank.

Delivering as both a satisfying and accomplished episode in its own right and carefully building upon mythology of the series, DAWN is so close to being everything you could want from a film of its kind, and one of the best of 2014. The reputation of the saga has been wholly restored, and with Reeves, Jaffa and Silver all on board for the next instalment, hopes and expectations are once again high.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is released July 10 in Australia and New Zealand, July 11 in the USA, and July 17 in the UK.


When most Westerners hear ‘Bollywood’, they pretty much instantly think of its most famous genre, ‘Masala’ – you know, the one with the song and dance numbers, the technicolour costumes, the hammy acting, and a plot that manages to veer through every human emotion over its three hour-ish running time. THE LUNCHBOX, quite obviously, not from that genre. Nor is it though, as Western marketing would seem to be trying to selling it, some kind of bubbly, zany romantic comedy. It’s better.

For those who aren’t familiar, Mumbai’s ‘dabba’ (lunchbox) delivery system is something of a wonder of the modern world. Many people who work in Mumbai offices prefer to eat a hot, home-cooked meal for lunch, and are hesitant to go out and eat street food (if you think lunch rush is bad in London or Manhattan, imagine the same thing in Mumbai). In the late 1800’s, a strategy was conceived to have work-from-home housewives cook full, hot meals, which are then delivered in tiffin boxes by a network of delivery men. After lunch, every tiffin is recollected by the same ‘wala’ (translating as ‘man who carries’) who delivered it, and returned to the exact same kitchen from whence it came. This means that the same office worker eats food prepared by the same cook every day. This dabbawala system is incredibly efficient, and prides itself on never making a mistake. But what if it did?

Irrfan Khan (LIFE OF PI) is Saajan, a widowed accountant nearing retirement. He’s efficient, if somewhat gruff to all around him, but beneath the no-nonsense exterior, he’s a lonely guy. At the beginning of his final month at work, Saajan is delivered the wrong tiffin, and the food is amazing. It’s exceptional because it was made by Ila (Nimrat Kaur) for her husband, whom she suspects of straying and whose attention and affection she is trying to recapture. Sajaan sends a complimentary note back with the tiffin, and a correspondence begins.

What makes THE LUNCHBOX so appealing is its insistence to avoid the tweeness of, say a CHOCOLAT or a WAITRESS, and is perhaps closer to 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD or EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN than SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. First time writer/director Ritesh Batra has created a pleasingly restrained, low key romance with plenty of warmth and just enough levity, without piling on the contrivance. Khan is fantastic as the solitary senior being reawakened by his sense of taste, and learning to reconnect not only with Ila, but in several great scenes with his young work replacement, the slightly shifty but determined Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). It’s a straightfoward and inoffensive film (I mean that in a good way) that’s never too saccharine and doesn’t shortchange the audience. Quite delightful.


*Actual movie more high-energy than this still would suggest.

“An Irishman walks into a confessional” sounds like the set-up for a joke, but any semblance of fun soon dissipates from CALVARY’s opening scene. Inside, the anonymous parishioner confides in Father James (Brendan Gleeson) that, as a child, they were sexually abused by a priest. To punish the Church for this, they will kill Father James in seven days.

The clergyman –  wholly decent, intelligent and compassionate - takes this news with surprising stoicism, and as he spends the next week pondering his position he keeps the threat secret and continues to interact with the locals of his remote community. As he does so, writer/director John Michael McDonagh presents us with a microcosm of an Ireland simmering with fury at its sustained and repeated betrayal at the hands of its institutions – and not only the Church. In fact, the list of grievances (bankers for example, also rate highly) is so long that the Troubles barely get a look in. It's not all grim, grey and horizontal rain, though - there's a decent smattering of gallows humour thrown in.

This is only McDonagh’s second film, and once again he's cast the hugely powerful Gleeson as the uncommon just man amongst sinners and rogues (after THE GUARD's Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a rough-around-the-edges-but-good-really local cop). Both characters feel like they’re borrowed from westerns, but if Boyle is a warped update of John T. Chance from RIO BRAVO, then Father James finds himself in a vaguely similar predicament to HIGH NOON’s Will Kane (even if he is taking his presumed fate somewhat better).

While his direction might still be sparse and no-frills, McDonagh more than makes up for it with an astonishingly well-crafted screenplay, which switches from warmth and levity to angst and viciousness like it was tap dancing on a pin. Joining Gleeson are Kelly Reilly (EDEN LAKE) as James’ fragile daughter, Aiden Gillen (GAME OF THRONES) as the atheist doctor, Chris O’Dowd (THE SAPPHIRES) as the town's allegedly wife-beating sad-sack butcher, Dylan Moran (BLACK BOOKS) as the local landed douchebag, M. Emmett Walsh (BLOOD SIMPLE) as a crotchety reclusive author, and more, all on fine form and giving their all for McDonagh’s magnificent words.

This isn’t a film you need to know much about before you go in; once you're in front of it, everything is there for you, perfectly laid out, meticulously measured and expertly played out. It's a jaw-dropping piece of work, and definitely one you’ll be seeing on a lot of top ten lists come December - and beyond. When I spoke to him a few years ago, McDonagh mentioned that one of his great regrets was having his screenplay for NED KELLY (2003) mangled by the powers that be. At the rate he is becoming a master storyteller, the Australian film industry should probably be sending him a gift-wrapped copy of THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG with a note begging him to adapt it (not that he would necessarily be interested in returning to the subject, but it would be a nice gesture to send Australia's best unfilmed book his way). In the meantime, I can’t recommend CALVARY highly enough.

CALVARY is released April 11 in the UK, July 4 in Australia, and August 1 in the USA.


Faithfully adapted from John Green’s already hugely successful novel, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is the archetypal romantic drama skilfully repackaged for the huge and lucrative ‘young adult’ audience – mostly TWILIGHT fans who could do without all those dreamy boys being mythical creatures and fighting all the time. Shailene Woodley plays Hazel, a bright, introverted 16 year-old who has for most of her life dealt with thyroid cancer, and is already living years beyond anything her doctors predicted. Her well-meaning parents (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell) nudge her along to a support group, but the only thing there that keeps her awake is an interest in fellow survivor Gus (Ansel Elgort). They spark up a very close friendship, and when Hazel introduces Gus to her favourite book, he makes it his mission to get her face to face with its reclusive author.

Woodley gives a strong central performance, with Dern and Trammell offering fine support in real and rounded characters. Sadly (through no fault of his own) the same cannot be said for Elgort; Gus' problems are all on the page: he may have beaten cancer, but he has a terminal case of Manic Pixie Boy. Zany, whimsical, witty and spontaneous? Check. Unusually erudite despite showing no reason for being so? Check. Not existing in the story other than to conveniently serve the needs of the main character? Check. Similarly, Willem Dafoe (seemingly channeling David Mamet) is given a great set-up early on, only to have all of that good work undone by a monumentally preposterous third act contrivance.

These huge clunks in the script are more than enough to bring any good THE FAULT IN OUR STARS achieves crashing down to earth, especially given Hazel’s opening monologue promise that "this is the [non sugar-coated] truth” - it just makes doling out the usual cliches and manipulations which are otherwise part and parcel of the genre seem that little bit more cynical.

At one point Hazel references Cameron Crowe - and that’s probably fair, just not in the way Green or director Josh Boone intended: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is just a blow-your-head-off-amazing soundtrack away from being a mediocre Cameron Crowe film - think WE BOUGHT A ZOO with less animals, more paediatric illness and about the same level of lazy plotting.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is release June 5 in Australia and New Zealand, June 6 in the USA, and June 19 in the UK.