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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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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

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.

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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.

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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)

The Little Multi-National Corporation That Could February 22, 2010

Posted by Paula in Cinematics.
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The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and the Beast… I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that anyone reading this who is under the age of 30 owned at least one of these on video (and still does, even if they don’t own an actual VHS player anymore). Disney’s streak of classics from 1988 onwards defined the childhoods of millions.

But what came before 1988? Well, not very much really. There was a huge lull in the number of Disney animations released post-The Rescuers (1977) and pre-Roger Rabbit (1988). And unless you are an extremely dedicated Disney fan, you would be forgiven for not remembering such live-action classics as The Cat From Outer Space (1978) and The Journey of Natty Gan (1985).

Waking Sleeping Beauty is the story of Disney’s efforts to drag itself out of the doldrums, and of the stellar work done by animators like John Lasseter and Tim Burton from the mid-1980s onwards. The documentary is currently doing the festival circuit in the US, and begins its limited theatrical release on March 26. Fingers crossed it makes it to this side of the Atlantic.

Avril in Wonderland February 18, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Cinematics, Muzak.
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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.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Hollywood Infected Your Vain February 3, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Cinematics, Trashion.
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Vanity Fair have unveiled their annual Hollywood photoshoot, featuring nine of the film industry’s brightest up and coming female stars (click above for larger version).

The talent selected, from left to right: Abbie Cornish (Bright Star, Candy), Kristen Stewart (Twilight, The Runaways), Carey Mulligan (An Education, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!, Jennifer’s Body), Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Frost/Nixon), Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Defiance), Emma Stone (Superbad, Zombieland), Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler, Across the Universe) and Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, Twilight).

The girls were photographed by Annie Liebovitz (no surprises there), who has been doing the annual shoot for the past sixteen years.

The editorial has been criticised for being all-white, which is certainly true. Forgive me for saying it, but I don’t think it would do Precious‘s Gabourey Sidibe any good to be plonked in the middle of the fold-out amongst nine other thin white girls.

Even in the magazine’s first Hollywood cover, in 1995, there was one non-white face in the form of Angela Bassett. And everyone had a lot less on.

Behind the scenes at the 2010 shoot, below.

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[Images: Vanity Fair, Oh No They Didn’t!]

There’s a wand waiting for ME? January 29, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Cinematics, Lit.
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If I wasn’t already excited enough about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, set to launch this spring at Universal Studios Orlando, I certainly am now.

The theme park’s marketing team have wisely recruited the film franchise’s cast members to talk up Ollivander’s Wand Shop (see below), which will be situated in Hogsmeade Village (not Diagon Alley like in the books…)

It’s a bit gimmicky to hear Emma Watson tell us our “wand is waiting for us”, and Michael Gambon is clearly taking the piss for the entire thing, but nonetheless, colour me excited.

Thierry Coup, Universal Creative’s vice president of creative development and head of the project, explains the wand selection process:

“The questions that will be asked from the wand keeper to the wizard are very individual, very tailored to each person based on their birth date and other questions which will determine the kind of wood and kind of narrow down the choices of wands.

One of [the effects could be], as you’re asked to wave the wand, [if it’s not the right one], may be wilting flowers. As you’re asked to water the flowers actually is the reverse effect may happen. Lightening, thunder, we have a whole series of effects. We want enough variety so everyone gets a very unique, individual experience.”

Although there’s no official launch date for the park yet, I’m keeping a close eye on flights to Florida so I can be first in line for my custom wand.

[via MTV.com]