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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

(more…)

Will Sparks Fly? February 23, 2010

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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)

Vampire Weekend Make a Racquet February 19, 2010

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Not only have Vampire Weekend decided to release my favourite song from new album Contra, Giving Up the Gun as their second single, but its accompanying video is the best thing I’ve seen all week. Everyone’s dressed in tennis gear and some ginger girl comes out and starts playing against a load of random opponents.

First up is Wu-Tang Clan member RZA as a line judge, swiftly followed by Joe Jonas and Jake Gyllenhaal, who each play the girl and are both beaten. Jake Gyllenhaal even brings a naggin on to the court with him.

Lil Jon even shows up near the end as the girl’s tennis coach. Along the way she also takes on a giant woman, two helmeted people, a samurai and herself. And also herself three times. Then she pours a load of milk over herself.

Ezra Koenig, the band’s lead singer shed some light on the bizarre video in an interview with Spinner magazine:

“I was stressed out one night worrying about the video and an image popped into my head of our friend Jenny (who’s also in the ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ video) playing tennis against a samurai. It grew from there,” Koenig tells Spinner.

“We always thought RZA would be perfect. We’d been in touch with Lil Jon since the first album. He heard the reference on ‘Oxford Comma’ and sent us some cases of Crunk Juice. Joe Jonas and Jake Gyllenhaal were both excellent — lot of improvisation and some surprisingly powerful serves.”

“‘Giving Up the Gun’ just means turning your back on aggression and selfishness,” Koenig explains of the song’s concept. “The heroine of the video isn’t an amazing tennis player, but she has heart. She stays calm despite the unfairness of it all.”

Ah sure, no one said it had to make sense. Watch it below.

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Avril in Wonderland February 18, 2010

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As excitement for the brand spanking new Alice in Wonderland 3D live action spectacular builds to a fever pitch, Avril Lavigne drops the video for her song from the soundtrack, Alice.

Although the song also has the task of launching one of the film’s soundtracks, Almost Alice, it’s also Avril Lavigne’s chance to prove herself after the relative failure of her last album and tour. The Best Damn Album and Tour they weren’t. It’s hard to gauge what Tim Burton was thinking, or indeed smoking, when he plonked the most important piece of the soundtrack in the Canadian sk8er girl’s hands.

Visually, the video is gorgeous, with Avril prancing around wonderland with freaky blue eyes, seemingly playing the role of Alice. She sits at the table with Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter for nearly a minute of the song, perhaps placed there so some dimwit could say “I can’t believe they got Johnny Depp to appear in an Avril Lavigne video!”

That aside, the movie scenes are mostly spliced in quite well, until the part when she opens a random door and they bung a load of clips in to take up some of the running time.

The song itself is a bit of a grower. The first time I heard it I thought it was god-awful, but it becomes more listenable over time. Lavigne’s vocal completely overpowers the song, with a so-so verse contrasted by an actually-quite-catchy-and-good chorus.

I shudder to think of Lavigne performing this live, because unless you’re into shout-singing that chorus is not going to be pretty. Check out the video below.

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How to Knock Off Entourage? February 15, 2010

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How to Make it in America aired its first episode last night on HBO in the US. Having been touted as a New York-set Entourage-alike, the show certainly lived up to this comparison in its first half hour on the air.

America swaps L.A. for New York and instead of a group of guys trying to make it in the entertainment industry, it’s two guys trying to make it in the fashion industry. At least – that’s what the promos say. After watching the first episode though, I’m not really fascinated by its insights into the fashion industry at any level. Yes, they buy some stolen leather jackets off the back of a truck and attempt to sell them – but for the most part I felt like this was all in the name of making a quick buck, rather than trying to scale their thievery into some sort of thriving career.

Unsurprisingly, it’s from the same team who produced Entourage. I would have expected them to try out something new this time round, rather than produce something to keep Entourage fans interested. Alas, no luck.

The cast does an acceptable job with the material, although Bryan Greenberg as Ben continues to slightly annoy me. Maybe it’s because he played Peyton’s boyfriend in One Tree Hill way back when. His best friend Cam, played by Victor Rasuk is nothing special either, and once again feels like an Entourage import. The ladies don’t fare too much better either. Shannyn Sossamon pops up as the duo’s friend Gingy, and she’s fine but her character has little to do. Always-bland Lake Bell plays Ben’s ex in a storyline that we’ve seen thousands of times before. Samaire Armstrong guest stars and let’s just say she’s become exponentially more annoying since her days as Anna on The O.C. Kid Cudi also randomly stars in the show, but only briefly appears in the first episode.

Criticisms aside, the series shows a lot of potential, and I think the characters will become more likeable as we get to know them and as the show’s focus tightens a bit. Judging by the trailer alone, things look to get much more interesting in forthcoming episodes. Basically, it needs to justify its existence and step out of Entourage‘s shadow. It’s nicely shot, with some hipster photography thrown in every now and again and during the opening credits.

Check out the trailer below.