Matthew Lickona 11:30 a.m., July 1
The Fault in Our Stars
"We have a choice about how to tell sad stories," says 17-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley, adorable) at the outset. There is the Hollywood way to do it, of course. But, she says, "this is the truth. Sorry." She's not actually sorry, and notice is hereby served: this is very much the visual version of the wildly popular YA novel, complete with voiceover for the choice bits of narration that its legions of fans presumably couldn't live without. (If you're sure you'll never tire of Shailene Woodley in closeup, this may be your proving ground.) Certain elements translate onto the screen, especially the sense that teens live in a private, passionate world of their own, and must figure out life (and death) accordingly. Parents and caregivers, however well-meaning, can only hover at the border and hope. That goes double, perhaps, when the teen has cancer, and is crazy about an 18-year-old cancer survivor (Ansel Elgort, smirking) with one leg and little to do but love her. Certain other elements remain shackled to their source: the rhythm and pacing, the piling up of crises, the exhausting slide toward the inevitable, the weirdly unlikely ending. Points, at any rate, for the gutsy use of a visit to Anne Frank's Amsterdam attic. With Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe. 2014.