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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.
Spooks: The Greater Good, the big-screen treatment of the long-running BBC television series, comes almost four years after the show’s exit from the small-screen. Known for its devastating twists, fans of the original show will be pleased with Bharat Nalluri’s commendable effort, although those who aren't familiar with it, might feel a little lost in the process and even a little underwhelmed with the end-result.
The adaptation sees Peter Firth reprise his role as the unflinching and emotionless MI5 chief, Sir. Harry Pearce, and the film opens with a long opening credits sequence showing Pearce taking the heat for the escape of a Middle Eastern Terrorist, Adem Qasim (Gabel) during a botched prison transfer from MI5 to the CIA. Taking full responsibility for the escape, he is soon forced to resign from service and, as a result, fakes his own suicide and goes rogue, which triggers an investigation. The man given the find out what happened to Harry is – dramatic pause – his former protégé, Will Holloway, ably played by Game of Thrones hunk, Kit Harrington.
Written by Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent, there’s a distinct sense of grittiness and realism that is often missing from similar productions across the pond in Hollywood. The tone is applied well to what is a heavy mix of traditional and modern elements of espionage films and the twists and turns are aplenty – perhaps a little too many to keep a steady track of. But the urgency behind each and every one of them can be felt throughout. Sadly, however, the film’s faults are of its own doing; produced on a relatively modest budget, it tries a little too hard to impress and it’s only when it tries to move things into the kind of grandeur and ambitious action set-pieces associated with its Hollywood peers that it falls a little short.
Firth, who has been playing the same role for the past ten years, is unsurprisingly convincing as the ex-MI5 Head of Intelligence Chief, though Harington doesn’t shake off his pretty-boy persona enough to be as affective. Visually, the film is a winner and the silvery-blue aesthetic it’s coated in perfectly communicates the murky winters of London and the aforementioned gritty tone. There’s a lot to commend in Spooks: The Greater Good, but at the end of the day it offers nothing new to the genre and it’s big-screen adaptation just needed to be more daring and step out of the confines of television.
If you can manage to wrap your head around the ridiculously far-fetched idea behind The Age of Adaline – a story of a woman who mysteriously stops aging at the age of twenty-nine and goes through periods of time as an ageless beauty – then you just might be able to find some joy and pleasure in watching Lee Toland Krieger’s handsomely-made but, seemingly formulaic romantic-fantasy feature.
The Age of Adaline tells the story of Adaline Bowman (Lively); a beautiful young woman born in the year 1908, who leads a pretty simple and uneventful life in San Francisco circa 1930. Life, as she knows it, soon changes, however, when Adaline has a near-death-experience in a terrifying car-accident; an incident which finds her mysteriously frozen in time and unable to age. Her bizarre condition soon becomes somewhat of an issue when, during the 1950’s, she becomes targeted by shady government officials, who are interested in having her head and body examined. With no other option lying before her, Adaline – in order to protect herself and her daughter, Flemming (Burstyn) from any possible harm - soon makes a run for it.
The story then fast-forwards to New Year’s Eve 2014 where we see Adaline living under a false name and her now grown-up daughter is pretending to be her grandmother (yes that happens). Things get complicated when she meets a handsome philanthropist, Ellis Jones (Huisman) who pretty quickly falls head-over-heals for the mysterious beauty. However, Adaline soon receives the shock of her life when she meets his dad, William (Ford) who is certain he knows Adaline from the time spent together in the 60’s.
Written by Salvador Paskowitz and J. Mills Goodloe, love – and the choices we make to either obtain it or run away from it – is the chosen topic of exploration, and while the movie – shot through a soft and whimsical lens - chooses to convey the story through a highly fanciful and bizarre fashion, the concept is still pretty inviting. However, the plot feels forced and you will have to work really hard to look past its mistakes. Luckily, though, the performances were not too damaging and both Lively – a surprising choice for the lead one must say – and Game of Thrones’ Huisman make for a charming and likable pairing while Ford turns in one of his most dramatic performances to date.
Buried somewhere deep underneath all of the ludicrousness and absurdity it chooses to bear on its relatively fragile shoulders, there seems to be a genuinely intriguing and worthwhile story waiting to be told with The Age of Adaline; it’s just unfortunate that it doesn’t seem to know how to tell it. Bizarre? Check. Terribly far-fetched? Check. Terrible? No. It’s acceptable and that’s not a bad way to be.