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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.
Many were concerned that Disney’s revisit to the story of Jungle Book would find it hard to be as fun or as magical as the original. Luckily, however, with an excellent voice cast and an impressive array of visuals, The Jungle Book is something of a technical marvel which manages to retain the heart and the essence of the story’s long-established roots.
Mowgli (Sethi) is a young boy - a.k.a ‘man-cub’ - who was found abandoned in the Indian jungle by a panther named Bagheera (voiced brilliantly by Kingsley) when he was only a toddler. Brought up by a wolf pack - led by leader Akela (Esposito) - Mowgli has been accepted as one of the jungle’s own.
However, there’s one member of the jungle who’s not so keen on having a human living in their midst; vicious Bengal tiger, Shere Khan (the absolutely magnificent Edris Elba), worries that the boy will soon grow into a ruthless man who will bring nothing but destruction and devastation to them all. Coming to the conclusion that it’s in everyone’s best interest if he leaves, Mowgli embarks on a journey through the jungle where he meets and quickly befriends a friendly bear named Baloo (the always excellent Bill Murray) who convinces the young boy to stay, as he finds himself returning home to face Khan.
Infusing the story with plenty of heart and an incredible sense of visual grandeur, director Jon Favreau and writer Justin Marks pull together elements from both the Disney’s 1967 animated adaptation and Rudyard Kipling’s original collection of stories to great effect. In addition, there are refreshingly darker, less happy-go-lucky moments throughout the film, with Elba’s chief antagonist, Khan, being astonishingly affective as the villain of the piece, while Johansson’s Kaa is just as hair-raising.
The brilliant voice performances, which give their gorgeously rendered and astonishingly real-looking CGI-generated characters plenty of personality, charm and wit, is definitely one of the strongest aspects of the story, with Elba and Murray coming out on top as the most scene-stealing of the bunch. Sethi is equally wonderful as the young Mowgli, filling his character with plenty of genuine childlike wonder, while Walken is absolutely superb as the singing Gigantopithecus, King Louie.
Wonderfully told and gorgeous to look at, The Jungle Book is not only a marvellous technical achievement in filmmaking, but a commendable and surprising achievement in storytelling.
Pretty Woman director, Garry Marshall, returns to the big screen with the star-studded but helplessly formulaic ensemble comedy that is Mother’s Day; a mindless and unintelligent onscreen debacle which ends up delivering its uninvolving and forced storylines with a heavy-handed serving of cheep and cheesy sentimentality.
Meet Sandy (Aniston); a happily divorced housewife and mother of two whose ex-husband Henry (Olyphant) suddenly announces his marriage to young bombshell Tina (Pretty Little Liars’ Shay Mitchell). Her friend, Jesse (Hudson), is married to Russell (Mandvi); a man of Indian origin whom she has a son with but, hasn’t yet told her parents - Flo (Martindale) and Earl (Pine) - whose Texan roots and conservative nature doesn't sit well with their union. Her sister Gabi (Chalke), meanwhile, is in the same boat, with her marriage to Max (Esposito) – who happens to be a woman – also something that might not go down very well .
Meanwhile, Bradley (Sudeikis) - a widower whose marine wife (Jennifer Garner in an excruciatingly syrupy karaoke singing cameo) was recently killed in combat - is trying his best raising their two daughters, who are at the gates of puberty.Then there’s Kristin (Robertson); a young mom who is not sure whether she can commit to the father of her child, Zack (Whitehall), and finally, there’s Julia Roberts – and her wig - in the role of Miranda; a multi-million dollar shopping network mogul who's seemingly been shoe-horned into the plot.
Although Garry Marshall’s recent, similar efforts with Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve have been almost unanimously panned by critics, one must say that even though they’re far from what you might call award-winning cinematic achievements, there’s always a comforting sense of predictability and familiarity.
Mother’s Day, however, overworks its interconnecting plot whilst trying to juggle far too many characters at the same time, without so much as pausing for affect. The jokes are painfully weak and sometimes even quite offensive, while all of the conflicts – if you can even call them that – are resolved far too easily to matter.
The only performance worth mentioning is that of Aniston, who manages to sustain a level of charm and likability for most of the story, whilst Roberts’ Ana Wintour-type wig remains as one of the film’s biggest highlights in a what-the-hell-was-she-thinking kind of way.
Sappy, disengaging, unrewarding and ultimately lifeless, Mother’s Day takes the occasion-based ensemble rom-com idea into territories that it may never recover from. Who knows what day they’ll tie into a film next – Halloween? Easter? How about Martin Luther King Day? Enough’s enough.