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REVIEW: The Last Song April 29, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Cinematics.
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Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth in "The Last Song"

Love her or hate her, Miley Cyrus looks like she’s here to stay. The teen star who shot to fame in her role as Hannah Montana has finally escaped from the bindings of her blonde alter ego by headlining this ‘serious’ attempt as an actress.

The Last Song is a film that doesn’t ask too much from the viewer. Considering the fact that it’s been conceived in the head of romance novelist Nicholas Sparks, there are certain expectations here. Two people from different ‘sides of the tracks’ will meet, probably one summer, fall in love, hit a few speed bumps along the way, and of course someone will have kicked the bucket by the time the credits roll.

This is fine by me. I accept the Nicholas Sparks tried and tested formula and even enjoy it a little bit sometimes. This could either be a reflection on my own pathetic love life, or perhaps I just enjoy seeing people fall in love and have terrible things happen to them.

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth in "The Last Song"The real question being posed by every critic, and indeed viewer, is whether Miley Cyrus can cut the mustard as a quote/unquote ‘serious’ actress. I’m inclined not to go too hard on the girl. Firstly, as I’ve said countless times, I like the girl. Secondly, she’s not actually too bad in Hannah Montana. Of course, the programme is a frothy teenage sitcom, but Miley has achieved fame all over the world not for her amazing acting chops, but for her likeability.

In The Last Song, there’s no question that she has some serious potential. Perhaps it’s not pure acting, and there really is a moping teen inside Miley just dying to get out, but she takes anything thrown at her in the film and plays it to the best of her ability. For her role as child prodigy Ronnie, Miley even learned classical piano. Although I was at times a bit dubious as to whether it was her hands that were actually playing the notes, if it was her, then she gets my praise.

Initially, there’s not much to like about her character Ronnie. She traipses into the island town of Tybee, Savannah, where she has been condemned to live with her father for the summer, wearing some ridiculous semi-emo gittup and giant black boots on a beach full of beautiful blondes and ripped hunks. From the moment Miley steps on the screen, it’s as if we’re being told THIS IS NOT HANNAH MONTANA. She’s edgy now, don’tcha know.

After a predictable run-in with her love-to-be, Will, played by her real life boyfriend Liam Hemsworth, the two fall in love, bonding over…turtle eggs. What could have been a ridiculous plot device (and it is, as Nicholas Sparks unashamedly admits, a plot device) actually becomes something semi-believable and will leave a few tears in the eyes of many.

Miley Cyrus and Greg Kinnear in "The Last Song"As the two fall in love, it becomes clear that all is not well with Ronnie’s father, played by the amiable and funny Greg Kinnear, and things start to get complicated. Unlike the other big Sparks adaptation of the year, Dear John, things actually build to a nice  conclusion that packs an emotional, if somewhat predictable punch.

Any guy who is dragged along with a girlfriend to see this is not going to have many positive things to say about it, but it’s undeniably an agreeable film. You’ll smile when the sea turtle eggs hatch, you’ll laugh at the antics of Ronnie’s father and brother, and you may even shed a tear towards the end.

If you hate yourself for it, that’s your problem, not Miley’s.

Sue Sylvester, We Love You April 14, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Muzak, Televisual.
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If you do one thing today, make sure it’s watching the hilarious Jane Lynch as Glee‘s Sue Sylvester doing her best Madonna impression (above) in her shot-for-shot remake of Madonna’s Vogue, which aired last night in the US. Next week’s Madonna-themed episode of Glee airs here next Wednesday on TV3 at 8pm, and will likely include a hefty chunk of this music video. Also featured are Amber Riley and Chris Colfer, Glee‘s Mercedes and Kurt, playing the role of Sue’s backing singers.

My personal highlight has to be Sue’s take on Madonna’s ‘rap’ near the end of the song, inserting her own name and a jibe at her nemesis from the show, Mr. Schuester.

What mood is my stereo in today? April 10, 2010

Posted by Paula in Muzak, Webshite.
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Every time I’ve used the Shuffle setting on my iPod lately, every third song has either been a) awful or b) a track from the Leaving Cert French Oral CD that I stupidly added to my iTunes in sixth year. An iTunes library spring clean will commence shortly but until then, I will be letting Stereomood choose my songs for me.

Stereomood is a free online radio site with hundreds of playlists, categorised by emotions and activities.  The playlist titles range from broad categories like ‘Optimistic’, ‘Sexy’  and ‘Melancholy’, to more specific ones like ‘Traffic Jam’, ‘Dinner With Friends’, ‘Driving Route 66’, ‘Foreplay’, and even ‘Feel Like Crying’. Hopefully you won’t be needing those last two playlists in quick succession, but  you never know.

The playlists are regularly updated (the songs are  taken from a large list of music blogs and tagged by mood), so that today’s ‘It’s Raining’ songs won’t be the same as tomorrow’s. The list of blogs checked is much smaller than on Hype Machine or similar, meaning some songs do crop up on more than one playlist (Sade seems to feature a bit more than is normal), but it’s still a great way of finding something new to listen to.

REVIEW: Remember Me March 31, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Cinematics.
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If there’s one thing that put me off Remember Me initially, it was that it starred Robert Pattinson in what seemed to be a run of the mill romantic drama – not exactly a million miles away from Twilight. But thanks to a multi-layered story and likeable characters, Remember Me shines as a character study that you won’t soon forget.

Robert Pattinson stars (and executive produces, you’ll note) as Tyler Hawkins, a 21 year old auditing classes and working in the book shop of NYU. Lost‘s Emilie de Ravin plays Ally Craig, a student at the same university. After Tyler is arrested by Ally’s father, Tyler’s roommate Aidan (Tate Ellington) encourages him to pursue Ally and dump her in revenge.

Rather predictably, the two hit it off after a series of dates. De Ravin and Pattinson are very convincing as a couple, and Pattinson seems a lot more comfortable here than when he plays his vampire alter-ego Edward Cullen. If you doubted his acting ability post-Twilight, his turn as chain-smoking, troubled Tyler should prove you wrong.

It’s nice, too, to see Emilie de Ravin in a role where she isn’t constantly screaming about her “baaaybee” or “Chaaahlie”. Her character’s quirks, like eating dessert before her main course or stopping herself in a ‘water fight’ scene from letting the whole thing become a cliché are likeable rather than irritating.

From the harrowing opening scene, it becomes clear that the film’s focus is not just on the couple’s relationship, but why they are the way they are. They both have daddy issues, Ally living with her overprotective, alcoholic single father (played by Chris Cooper), and Tyler with his father, a divorced distant and uncaring businessman (played by Pierce Brosnan). They’ve both also suffered major losses in their life, with Ally losing her mother as a child and Tyler’s brother having committed suicide years earlier.

Pierce Brosnan is a revelation here, with a Manhattan accent and doing everything in his power to make the audience hate him. At the same time, however, he lets us see some vulnerability in the character, and by the closing credits he’s completely three-dimensional. The showdown between Brosnan and Pattinson in a crowded boardroom is a particularly well-acted, memorable and extremely excruciating scene.

The rest of the cast are all more than capable in their roles, with Lena Olin as the Hawkins family matriarch, and Ruby Jerins, an Abigail-Breslin-in-the-making as Tyler’s younger sister Caroline. Tate Ellington perhaps is the one weak link, playing an annoying character with an extremely grating voice. The subplots of the Hawkins family dealing with the death of their oldest child six years earlier and Caroline’s exclusion from her peers at school get ample screen time and are extrmely compelling in themselves.

The final twist of the story will be seen by many as offensive and unnecessary, and on paper it definitely sounds like it. But in the context of the rest of the film, where characters deal with tragedy after tragedy, the ending underscores the theme of grief quite plainly and undeniably – memorably.

Remember Me hits cinemas this Friday

REVIEW: Dear John March 30, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Cinematics.
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There’s a metaphor that runs through Dear John about how soldiers in the US military are like coins. (Bear with me) They are churned out every day, and expected to be perfectly minted. The ones with imperfections are thrown away, but some, known as ‘mules’, get through and are circulated. While there’s lots to like about Dear John, you can’t help but feel that if The Notebook is a shiny penny, Dear John is a bit of a mule.

Tragic Nicholas Sparks love stories are ten-a-penny these days, so if you’re not a hopelessly romantic teenage girl who loved The Notebook, you can forgive yourself for not wetting yourself with excitement about the author’s latest adaptation, Dear John.

Of course, Dear John tells the story of two star-cross’d lovers, this time two teenagers who meet by the beach and, in the course of two weeks, fall in love. But, he’s only on leave from the military for those two weeks, so there’s tearful goodbyes and the end of their fortnight together. That’s all fine, as he’s only going for a year and they plan to write letters to each other the whole time. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t all go to plan, and after 9/11, the couple face a much longer separation.

The two leads, the always-charming Amanda Seyfried as Savannah Curtis and Channing Tatum as the eponymous John Tyree, have good chemistry and a believable connection in the film. Seyfried even picks up a guitar and sings at one point, recalling her turn in musical Mamma Mia! Tatum on the other hand, is someone I’ve always thought had quite a limited range, and playing the military guy doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for him. His scenes with his father, played by Richard Jenkins, however show that he can handle heavier material at a push.

There’s a few heavy-handed subplots going on through the film, such as Savannah’s interest in helping those with Autism, which results in a scene early on where Savannah suggests that John’s dad is suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. Despite this cringe-inducing scene, there are some heartbreaking moments in the film relating to John’s dad’s Asperger’s, and the backstory of how he and his father grew apart is well-played by Tatum and Richard Jenkins, who plays Mr. Tyree.

There are some typically sappy moments, like when John tells Savannah the moon is never bigger than her thumb no matter where she is, and where Savannah shows John a house she’s building for a family whose house got destroyed. Of course, the next day they’re working together on the site. Awww.

Ultimately, the film loses steam in the third act and things get a bit messy as unexpected relationships develop and everything gets a bit depressing. There’s a few war scenes thrown in that may keep any guys who are being dragged along by their girlfriends happy, but in the end, you won’t love this one unless you’re a die-hard Notebook fan.

Dear John hits cinemas on 16th April

iDreamed a Dream March 4, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Televisual, Webshite.
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For anyone not content with watching television on television, Hulu have launched their first exclusively-online series. The series, If I Can Dream, follows 5 people trying to break into the entertainment industry, and basically we get to watch them do it.

From this description, the series doesn’t sound too ground-breaking or even majorly interesting. The first episode of series introduces us to the five wannabes – Kara, Justin, Ben, Amanda and Giglianne. Kara, Ben and Amanda are aspiring actors, while Justin aims to be a musician and Giglianne a model. They’re all going to live together in a house in the Hollywood Hills in the hope of achieving some form of success.

As well as a weekly 25 minute programme broadcast exclusively on Hulu (notably it’s the first thing I’ve ever been able to watch on Hulu, with the rest of its content blocked for viewing in Ireland), you can watch the contestants live on IfICanDream.com. Predictably, this isn’t actually very interesting, like Big Brother Live only with even less engaging people involved. On the plus side, the production values are well up to broadcast television standard, and some form of television broadcast is expected at a future date.

The Justin of the show is none other than Miley Cyrus’s ex-boyfriend, a fact which is largely ignored bar one brief “I want to be known for my music and not because of Miley”.

Former Pop Idol judge Nicki Chapman even pops up for a bit, coordinating the contestants’ publicity trip around the world.

The first episode is only semi-interesting, with contestants that have less personality than you could possibly fathom. They’re all way too friendly to each other in the beginning, so hopefully things will heat up a bit in future instalments. Even worse, we can’t vote out the ones we hate. The producers claim, however, that if a contestant achieves significant success, they may leave the show and be replaced.

Watch the full first episode below, if only to see what web TV is really like.

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King of Minimalism March 2, 2010

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There seems to have been thousands of these popping up lately, but that doesn’t make them any less impressive. The latest batch of film posters to get a nifty minimalist artsy makeover is ten from Stephen King’s back catalogue of adaptations.

My favourite has to be the Carrie poster, featuring only the famous bucket, fresh after tipping a load of pig’s blood on the protagonist. For a minute I thought that the Shawshank Redemption poster had some sort of PC desktop icon on it, until I realised that it was actually the Rita Hayworth poster from the film with a hole behind it. A poster on a poster. How clever.

Click below to see some of the posters, created by Nick Tassone.


Through the Looking Glass March 2, 2010

Posted by Paula in Cinematics, Lit.
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Make and Deux were lucky enough to get preview tickets to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 3D last week. Sadly, Patrick arrived too late to actually attend the screening, and was left stranded and extremely hungover on O’Connell St. But that is another story. I was there and lived to tell the tale. And what a tale it is.

Even before we reach Wonderland (or Underland, which we learn is the correct name for the land that lies down the rabbit hole), Burton indulges his delight in all things skewed and technicolor, and creates a whole host of mad and maddening friends, neighbours and relations. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has aged 13 years since her first trip to Wonderland, and is now in danger of being married off to a snooty Lord of the Manor with a “delicate digestive system”. That is, of course, before she starts to chase after a certain white rabbit at her own engagement party.

The completely satirical version of a stiff-upper-lip English society in which Alice lives probably the closest Burton gets to staying faithful to Lewis Carroll’s original book and the inspriration behind it. The entire Wonderland story has been completely revamped, Burton-ised and loaded with CGI.


Will Sparks Fly? February 23, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Cinematics, Lit.
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Curiously, in the next few months there are not one but two Nicholas Sparks book adaptations on the way and inevitably, everyone’s going to be debating which was better.

The first, Dear John, stars Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum as a war-torn couple, separated by his decision to go fight for his country. Throughout his time abroad as a soldier, they exchange letters, which keep him going through his “increasingly dangerous missions” and blah blah blah while she sits at home and waits for him to return.

The other film is Sparks’ Miley Cyrus vehicle The Last Song. This film has a more chequered past, originally scheduled for release in January, but subsequently postponed until March 31st (at least in the US). The storyline even seems a bit less stimulating – Cyrus plays a mopey teen who goes to live with her dad for the summer, and falls in love with a guy on the beach.

Although Miley’s name attached to anything would normally seem like a safe bet, the film seems a to be skewing a little older than her usual demographic. The problem is, however, the type of people who loved The Notebook are likely to be put off by the presence of Miley Cyrus in the film. It doesn’t help either that Liam Hemsworth is a complete unknown, famous only for his real life attachment to the Hannah Montana star.

Although I’m never one to completely write Miley off, I’m going to wager that Dear John will fare much better at the box office (judging by its ticket sales to date, The Last Song has a lot to live up to), given that it panders almost shamelessly to The Notebook fans.

And if they had come out the same weekend, Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum of course would have had some sort of sabotage mission planned.

“If The Last Song was coming out the same weekend as Dear John, we’d have to collaborate on some sort of sabotage mission,” Seyfried told MTV.

“I’d burn it,” Tatum added. “I’d sabotage it somehow.”

Once they’re better than the god-awful Nights in Rodanthe, I’ll be happy.

Check out the trailers below and let the battle commence.

Dear John (out 16th April in Ireland)

The Last Song (out 30th April in Ireland)

Fairtrade Freebies February 23, 2010

Posted by Paula in Muzak.
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An old manager of mine, in one of the many part-time jobs I’ve had in this lifetime, claimed that reggae music increased customers’ desire to purchase. She piped it out constantly over the shop’s speakers. Since then, I’ve had an aversion to any kind of…shall we say…afro-beats.

Cadbury’s Big Swap Songs album, released as part of their 2010 Fairtrade campaign, is a collection of covers by Ghanian group The Big Ghana Band. And it’s definitely grown on me.

Paolo Nutini collaborated with The Big Ghana Band for the album’s opening song, a reggae’d up version of his new single, A Pencil Full of Lead. I think I like it better than the original. The album also features covers (some dodgy, but most quite good) of Girls Aloud, Goldfrapp and Elbow to name but a few. Big Swap Songs is available for download on the Cadbury’s site. It’s free (and legal…), so why wouldn’t you?