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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.
It should come as no surprise that Nicholas Cage has once again found himself in a bit of a career-move pickle; starring in yet another poorly crafted and ultimately absurd feature film as he takes on the horror genre.
Whilst working on securing a tenure, literature professor, Mike Lawford (Cage) has been spending a lot of nights away from home, much to the dislike and frustration of his wife, Kirsten (Callies), and their seven-year-old son, Charlie (Fulton), who, as most boys do at this sensitive age, is craving for his father’s attention. After one too many disappointments, Mike is hoping to make up for the lost time by taking Charlie to a nearby Halloween street carnival, where Charlie begins to act strangely, asking his father to “pay the ghost” before disappearing.
One year later, a now divorced Mike is still on the hunt for Charlie and urges Detective Reynolds (Bent) to keep the investigation open and as another Halloween approaches, Mike begins to experience strange apparitions – including large birds flying overhead and strange figures in the mist.
Directed by Uli Edel and written by Dan Kay – who has adapted the story from a novella by Tim Lebbon - there is very little in the story’s core that distinguishes it from other, similarly-fashioned ghost tales of revenge such as The Woman in Black or Dead Silence. There’s no heart, no oomph no passion and very little narrative suspense or anything that resembles tension hiding underneath its already-cracked surface.
Talking about cracked, Cage – an Oscar-winning actor, lest we forget – is surprisingly straight-faced here, with an exception of a few seriously funny wide-eyed moments of disbelief that will have you roaring with laughter rather than empathising with his distraught.
Although riddle with issues, the biggest of which are originality and overall execution of what is decent source material, Pay the Ghost is not as a complete time-waster as some of the actor’s previous films. But it’s still not smart or crafty enough to do much to regenerate and restore the actor’s already tarnished flailing career.
Based on 2009 Oscar-winning Argentine film titled, El Secreto de sus Ojos, Billy Ray’s Hollywood adaptation of the original looked promising from the get-go thanks to its first-class cast. Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor are a formidable team and the plot – at least on paper – has enough gravitas to it to produce something solid. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work out that way.
As the man behind the screenplay to 2013’s Captain Phillips, Ray also penned the adaptation and opens proceedings in 2002 with FBI Agent, Ray Caston (Ejiofor), working together with friend and partner Jess Cobb (Roberts) in LA’s counter-terrorism taskforce one year after the events of 9/11. Together with Deputy DA Claire Sloan (Kidman) the task force is busy investigating an L.A-based mosque, looking for any possible criminal activity.
Everything soon changes when, during one of their surveillance routines, Raymond and Jess discover a murder victim near the mosque which turns out to be Jess’ teenage daughter. Thirteen years later, no one has been convicted of the murder, pushing Ray to take matters into his own hands after stumbling on new leads.
Jumping back and forth between 2002 and 2015, Secret in Their Eyes worksin terms of mood and setting; a film noir-like backdrop effectively conveys the grim topics. However, even though the film manages the moving timelines with a great deal of efficiency, there’s a formulaic and unimaginative approach to the basics of the plot which strips it of having any real impact. In addition, one too many subplots - including a romantic entanglement between Kidman and Ejiofor which never really sells - are introduced and instead of focusing on the working relationship and the bond between Ejiofor - a commendable lead - and Roberts - who is captivating as the grieving mother but, criminally underused - the film seemingly lends its focus on more trivial details.
Interesting but never as captivating as its synopsis suggests, Secret in Their Eyes is a decent dramatic thriller, but falls well short of the original – but then what remake ever does?