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The Lucky One: Cheesy Chick Flick
We’ve all seen, at the very least, one Nicholas Sparks film which is enough to figure out the formula that has probably made him into a millionaire by now. While they’re usually super cheesy, they sweep you along in a torrent of emotion. You laugh, you cry, you swoon and you leave the cinema happy. But even with adjusted expectations, The Lucky One isn’t particularly entertaining.
The film is completely centred on the romance and so there’s absolutely nothing to distract from Zac Efron’s zombie-like state. Or from the film’s frightfully cheesy dialogue. Or from the fact that it packs a whole hoard of clichés into an hour and a half in a desperate plea to activate our tear ducts.
Efron plays Logan, a marine stationed in some Arab country (turns out to be Iraq) fighting the scary brown men. The morning after an ambush, he finds a picture of a blonde chick with the words ‘keep safe’ on the back. He carries the picture around with him everywhere, like a talisman, and lo and behold, he cheats death several times while a ton of people around him die. Traumatized, he returns to America with the aim of finding the girl in the picture and thanking her for being his guardian angel. He tracks her down, is unable to show her the picture or tell her why he’s there, takes a job near her and they soon fall in love. The blonde girl turns out to be a single mum by the name of Beth (Schilling) who has an abusive ex who keeps threatening to take their kid away from her and who doesn’t like the fact that she’s seeing Logan.
Out of the two leads, Taylor Schilling is definitely the least offensive, though Blythe Danner, as Beth’s grandmother, despite being the most watchable person on screen, was a rather head scratching piece of casting. Beth’s mother would be understandable but grandmother? Either she’s found the fountain of youth or Beth looks far older than she actually is. Schilling’s character fluctuates between brave, selfless mother and helpless female, both of which only require her to stand around looking pretty which isn’t exactly difficult for someone who looks like Katy Perry’s blonde twin. All in all, she’s pleasantly bland. Efron on the other hand looks like a buff, tanned corpse. His character is supposed to be grieving for all the friends he lost on duty but what we get from Efron is a complete lack of emotion. When he’s not showing off just how nice he is by playing with Beth’s kid, he’s standing around blank faced, looking stiff. Resembling a teenager isn’t helping his cause much either.
The lack of tension is what really does the film in though. The Notebook had a sense of urgency about it. You genuinely rooted for the couple to be together even though they weren’t necessarily pleasant characters. Part of that was Amy McAdams and Ryan Gosling’s chemistry which Efron and Schilling lack but on the other hand there was an actual obstacle keeping them apart. In The Lucky One, their troubles are more hiccups than roadblocks.
This film is really only recommended for die hard Nicholas Sparks fans or people who don’t mind staring at beautiful actors, sun drenched scenery and a gaggle of adorable dogs in lieu of a decent story. Stay away if you’re prone to incessant eye rolling.
Sinking the already-shaky horror-genre deeper into further oblivion, Ouija – based on a popular spirit-summoning board-game from the 1890’s – is, unfortunately, nothing to get excited about.
Written and directed by Stiles White – along with the penning support of Juliet Snowden – the story is centred on best friends, Laine (Cooke) and Debbie (Henning), who, ever since they were young girls, loved to indulge in a childish and seemingly harmless play using the Ouija board.
Several years later, however, Laine is shocked to learn that Debbie has killed herself and even more surprised to learn that – after visiting her home – that there is evidence of Debbie playing with the Ouija board all by herself; a big no-no in the world of spirits and magic. In order to get to resolve the mystery surrounding her death, Laine calls upon the help of her sister, Sarah (Coto), friend, Trevor, (Kagasoff) and Debbie’s boyfriend, Pete (Smith), to play with the Ouija board and summon Debbie’s spirit.
However, things turn upside down when they accidentally end up summoning an evil spirit who, unlike Debbie, wishes to spread harm upon the group. Now, Laine, who brought everyone into this mess in the first place, needs to find a way to shut the portal - between earth and the life beyond - before it’s too late.
Although the idea of turning a popular board-game into a movie doesn’t sound all that ridiculous and the material seems generally interesting, there just isn’t enough imagination or character in Ouija to make it worthwhile. Lacking depth and character, the film relies a little bit too much on the jump-scare tactic and the lack of suspense and tension only adds to its weak attempt to create a frightening horror experience.
Adding salt to the wound, the characters are just as weak thanks to the poorly-scripted material. Cooke leads the way as the only character of note and the relatively new face won’t have harmed her future prospects. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, simply don’t register and ultimately fail to convey a single genuine emotion.
Ouija is tedious, unimaginative and seemingly uninterested in elaborating and expanding on its own source material.
Written and directed by David Ayer, Fury may come across as just another WWII story that has been told many times before, but there’s more to it than it meets the eye.
Set in April of 1945, the story centres on the final days of the war, just as the Allies and their forces have pushed the Germans back into their own land for one last fight. Having just returned to base from a long, drawn-out battle, Sgt. Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Pitt) and his loyal ‘Sherman’ tank crew, including Boyd Swan (LaBeouf), Grady Travis (Bernthal) and Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Pena), are mourn the death of their buddy, Red.
However, they're soon presented with his replacement in the form of Norman Ellison (Lerman); a young and a naïve clerk, who’s only been in the army for eight weeks and has never set foot on a battlefield, let alone operated heavy artillery. Naturally, the Sherman boys aren’t very keen on welcoming the fresh-faced soldier onboard.
Nevertheless, they all soon head onto the battleground to fight what is left of the Nazi forces and Norman’s inexperience, naivety and general apprehension of blood and war is soon put to the ultimate test.
There are over two hundred WWII Hollywood-made movies and although the genre has produced some truly memorable films over the years, the majority have failed to add anything new.
Enter David Ayer – the director and writer behind gems such as Training Day and End of Watch – who manages, ever so subtlety, to inject the story with plenty of essence. Extremely violent and grey, Fury – told mainly from within the confinement of a military tank – is explosive and full of anger – hence the title – however, it’s more peaceful and quieter moments that speak the loudest and the harshness of war and loss is felt throughout.
The onscreen chemistry between the loyal band of brothers keeps the film interesting. Pitt offers an engaging performance as a hard-worn sergeant, while LeBeouf, Bernthal and Pena round off the impressive cast with solid performances.
Similarly, Lerman, better known for his role in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, delivers the naivety and innocence of youth that the role demanded with aplomb.
While many will consider Fury to be of little significance in the large scope of war period dramas, it's very much the case that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. You won't see anything new here, but the film's heart and soul is largely owed to its central characters and a director who knows how to tell a story.