Paper Towns (Cert 12, 109 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Drama/Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £27.99 or on-demand from various streaming services)
Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Halston Sage, Jaz Sinclair, Griffin Freeman.
Florida high school student Quentin Jacobsen (Nat Wolff) has been madly in love with neighbour Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne) since she moved into the house across the street.
He has never mustered the courage to declare his true feelings, to the chagrin of best friends Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith).
Out of the blue, Margo knocks on Quentin’s bedroom window and asks him to help her wreak revenge on her cheating jock boyfriend (Griffin Freeman).
The covert night-time mission is a success but the next morning, Margo vanishes without trace and her parents assume she has run away again.
Quentin knows that Margo leaves secret markers when she goes walkabout, so he follows a treasure hunt of cryptic clues to track her down.
Based on the book by John Green, who also penned the superior teen weepie The Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns is a bittersweet coming of age story that deals with themes of alienation and sexual awakening from the perspective of peer pressured teenagers, whose existence hinges on finding a date for the end of year prom.
Director Jake Schreier sensitively and earnestly navigates these turbulent waters, eliciting solid performances from the young cast. Delevingne is a puckish, cynical foil to Wolff’s naivete, and Abrams and Smith banter effectively as the comic relief.
Young hearts run free throughout to a soundtrack of indie pop and rock, including Vampire Weekend and Twin Shadow. Schreier’s film sometimes lacks momentum and is missing a big emotional crescendo.
However, there’s a refreshing refusal to succumb to sentimentality when the going gets tough.
Fantastic Four (Cert 12)
Starring: Miles Teller, Michael B Jordan, Kate Mara, Toby Kebbell, Jamie Bell, Reg E Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson.
Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is an inquisitive student from Oyster Bay, New York, who creates a “cymatic matter shuttle” with best friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) that transports objects between two realms.
Dr Franklin Storm (Reg E Cathey), Dean of the Baxter Institute, offers Reed a scholarship to realise his dream of inter-dimensional travel as part of a privately funded team that includes Storm’s adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), hot-headed son Johnny (Michael B Jordan) and computer scientist Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell).
Disaster strikes during the first teleportation and Victor is lost, presumed dead. The survivors recuperate with “aggressively abnormal conditions” at a classified facility known as Area 57. When Victor returns to our world as megalomaniacal super-villain Dr Doom, Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben must pool their new abilities to avert catastrophe.
Fantastic Four attempts to reboot the Marvel Comics franchise with a hip, young cast but Josh Trank’s picture achieves similarly depressing results to the vapid 2005 blockbuster starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis.
The three scriptwriters don’t possess the powers of brevity or wit, daubing characters in broad strokes in between high-volume, low-thrills action set pieces.
There is an absence of jeopardy, even when Dr Doom conjures a black hole to bring about mankind’s downfall. Hampered by an undernourished screenplay, the good-looking ensemble cast struggles to be seen and heard above the digitally-generated din.
The only thing remotely ‘fantastic’ about Trank’s film is that he has limited our suffering to 100 minutes.