Review: We Are Your Friends

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DIR: Max Joseph • WRI: John Green • PRO: Tim Bevan, Liza Chasin, Eric Fellner • DOP: Brett Pawlak • ED: Terel Gibson • DES: Maya Sigel • MUS: Fat Segal • CAST: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Shiloh Fernandez, Jonny Weston

 

Tales of millennials (*shudder*) and their struggle for self-realisation seems to be the dominate narrative of many up-and-coming filmmakers, and may well be for the foreseeable future. In his feature-length directorial debut, Max Joseph (of MTV’s Catfish fame) examines the struggles of a very particular type of ‘youth’- namely, the ridiculously good-looking, LA type. Namely, the ‘young and naïve, but passionate, musician/actor/dancer trying to make it in the big bad entertainment industry’ type. In other words, we’ve seen this story a million times before.

To give Joseph some credit, the silver-haired director does manage to bring a distinct ‘2015ish’ flavour to the film. The problem, of course, with setting a story so firmly in a specific moment of time is that, in a year from now, everything in this film will seem dated. Or it could become a snapshot of a particular cultural era for the archives, but, nah, this film is much too lacking in depth for that.

Our protagonist, Cole (Zac Efron), is an aspiring DJ who spends his days lazing with friends and nights promoting a nightclub in the hope of earning some money and/or time in the DJ booth. Cole and company dream of stardom and raking in the big bucks but, with little real motivation, the group seems doomed to spend their rest of their lives living in their parent’s pool-houses. That is until a chance encounter leads Cole into the path of famed, but washed-out, DJ Paul Reed (Wes Bentley). Suddenly finding himself with a mentor, Cole hesitantly begins to take the first steps towards developing his own original sound. Things get complicated however when our headphone-wearing leading-man finds himself falling for Reed’s girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), …and we all know where it goes from there.

This is a vapid film that is aimed mostly at a teenage audience. It has a lot of problems, the main issues revolving around tone and pacing. Joseph’s style seems to shift from scene to scene, leaving the audience with a distinct lack of consistency. The commentary offered by the film on the music industry seems a little too simplified to be taken seriously. Also, for its 96-minute run, it at times seems arduously long. And yet… the film isn’t a complete disaster. For one, solid performances are turned out by all cast members. Their characters may be lacking in substance, but we do believe that they genuinely are that shallow- intentionally or not. For his part, Joseph does attempt to touch on heavier issues- such as drugs, relationships, and personal stagnation- but he’s just not quite there yet as a director to handle these concepts effectively. But at least he tries. There can be no doubt that effort was indeed put into this film, which is more than can be said for other works of this ilk. Throughout the film there are genuinely beautifully shot scenes, and the cinematography is gorgeous.

We Are Your Friends is a film very much of its time that wants to be taken seriously, but succeeds only in serving as a passing amusement. But if you are looking for just that, something to pass the time on an otherwise quiet Sunday evening, you could do far worse than this film.

Ellen Murray

16 (See IFCO for details)
95 minutes

We Are Your Friends is released 28th August 2015

We Are Your Friends – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: Bad Neighbours

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DIR: Nicholas Stoller  • WRIAndrew J. Cohen,  Brendan O’Brian PRO: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver • DOP: Brandon Trost • ED: Zene Baker • MUS: Michael Andrews • DES: Julie Berghoff • CAST: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco, Lisa Kudrow

 

Trading in America under the simpler (if misspelt) moniker of Neighbors, this sporadic scatological comedy has had ‘Bad’ grafted onto it’s title in this territory. Probably for fear we mistake it for a feature-length take on TV’s Ramsey Street and its soapy residents.

This venture is set in an American college town where human Fozzie Bear Seth Rogen has improbably settled down with Australian goddess Rose Byrne. (She probably was the first to alert the producers to the title clash in her homeland). For once employing her native accent on-screen, Byrne is a foul-mouth delight throughout and sets the comedic bar for the rest of the cast. Sadly the remainder of the ensemble treat the bar as something to limbo underneath rather than something to vault over.

Rogen is quickly becoming comedy Marmite. His habit of yukking it up at his own jokes seems to be a reflex that he can’t shed. But surely a director and editor working in tandem could literally cut it out. Or cut it down a bit at the very least. Anyhow, for reasons too simple to not outline, a university fraternity moves in beside the couple in their tranquil suburban neighbourhood. Initially, the pair displays an odd, yet understandable, impulse to not be regarded as old and unhip by the teen army on their doorstep.

However, despite sampling the frat’s hospitality to the full, the home owners quickly tire of the incessant raves and ragers next door. When they breach a pact not to call the police, the leaders of the frat (Zac Efron and James Franco) seem both wounded and wound up by the betrayal. Soon open war has been declared with the students investing immense time, expense and effort into ever more elaborate pranks. While Rogen and Byrne’s characters consider minting a brand new definition for the word ‘fratricide’.

Or at least that last paragraph suggests what the pitch for this film must have promised. In truth, the escalation of hostilities is handled poorly enough. It’s all a bit spluttering and unsure of itself. One recurring gag about redeployed air bags was given away entirely in the trailer and limps to an uninspired conclusion rather than a comic crescendo.

Elsewhere the entire project smacks of a feature that never had its script nailed down and wanted to allow room for the performers to find the ‘gold’ on the day. Naturally, actors must love the exploration and spontaneity allowed under this method of work but increasingly it strikes me that audiences are getting a bit short-changed in this process. For the most part, comedy should be tight as a drum. Not meandering and poking around in search of the joke. And it must be placing a huge onus on editors to retroactively re-align story and character within the flux of this framework.

And here it shows. For instance, Byrne’s best pal apparently begins a mildly inappropriate relationship with a male student but it is so absent in the story that a late reference to its’ importance is utterly lost. Overall, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is featured so rarely that his absence or presence here is redundant.

Still, American high-school movies have always possessed the ability to depict parties on an epic scale that can only make Irish filmmakers drool in envy. Most Irish house parties on screen usually consist of three extras doing laps around a lava lamp. However, even in the hedonistic stakes Bad Neighbours is a bit tame. Again, the sense that more explicit material will be added in future released versions is omnipresent. You can already see the ads for the DVD having ‘a too hot for cinema’ edit with an extra ten minutes restored.

As it stands, the film is far from a dead loss and there are some great one-liners strung across the film like islands in an archipelago. In the end though, Bad Neighbours isn’t bad enough. Or offensive enough. And personally, I’m a little offended by that.

James Phelan

16 (See IFCO for details)
96 mins

Bad Neighbours is released on 2nd May 2014

Bad Neighbours – Official Website

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Cinema Review: That Awkward Moment

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Dir/Wri: Tom Gormican  • Pro: Scott Aversano, Justin Nappi, Andrew O’Connor, Kevin Turen • DOP: Brandon Trost   ED: Shawn Paper, Greg Tillman • MUS: David Torn • DES: Ethan Tobman • CAST: Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Imogen Poots

 

‘So… where is this going?’

This question is what denotes That Awkward Moment in the initial stages of any intimate relationship between a man and a woman – according to our protagonist Jason. This is presumably because he can see exactly what’s coming once the conversation starts, and that he isn’t going to like what follows, which is the desire for a more complex and serious relationship. Ironically, that’s also one of the problems with That Awkward Moment. It doesn’t fully follow through on its initial promises, and where it ends up taking us is to an unsatisfying but somehow unsurprising conclusion.

Following three men in their mid-twenties, Jason (Efron), Daniel (Teller) and Mikey (Jordan), That Awkward Moment is an obvious genre experiment, aiming to combine the gross-out comedy of the bromance film (e.g., Superbad, 21 and Over) with the frank focus on friendship and bonding found in the female coming-of-age story, like Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants or Sex and the City. When Mikey gets divorced, his pals Jason and Daniel make a pact with him that the three will remain single together, maintain only the most casual of relationships with women, and instead focus on their friendship. As might be expected, this arrangement only serves to tempt fate. Unfolding among Daniel’s secret affair with Jason’s ex, Chelsea; Jason’s burgeoning feelings for a former one-night stand, Ellie; and Mikey’s attempts to win back his wife, are a slew of increasingly awkward moments involving various degrees of drunkenness, bodily exposure, and abject shame.

To give credit to first-time writer-director Tom Gormican, it’s clear that he’s trying to do something different with That Awkward Moment, in terms of genre-bending and complexity of character. Unfortunately, the muddled tone of the film doesn’t allow for this to be fully successful. While the moments of awkward humour can be just as effective as some of the film’s emotional or romantic set-pieces, the juxtaposition of both isn’t wholly effective. On paper, the jump from an emotional funeral scene to a frantic attempt at shower sex during a party might seem like a shock of humour, but on-screen, it’s rather unbalanced.

Similarly, Gormican obviously wishes to present his characters as more complex than the average comedy hero, just as in touch with their hearts and minds as with their genitals and base impulses. Yet despite the desire to imbue Jason, Daniel and Mikey with a broad spectrum of wants and needs, there’s something a little too shallow about the characterisation. This may be a problem with the structure, of trying to tell each of their three stories in one film, which is also trying to be two different films – the silly, male-oriented gross-out comedy and the silly, female-oriented romantic comedy. It’s ultimately a bit too ambitious a goal. (Ah, but Gormican’s reach should exceed its grasp, else what’s his next film for?)

It’s also hard to really root for any of the three, despite the best efforts of the young cast – particularly Teller, as Daniel, having wonderfully naturalistic delivery at times – with Jason a selfish ladies’ man, Mikey a workaholic pushover, and Daniel a crass, tactless adolescent. Forcing them to mature and compromise their faults in the name of love is a classic romantic comedy manoeuvre; though the incompatibility of homosocial male friendship with heterosexual love is a problematic message That Awkward Moment runs the risk of communicating with its coupled-up conclusions.

Although a few of the laughs land, particularly if you’re into comedy of social embarrassment (like Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office), and the frank honesty and intimacy the three leads cultivate and offer each other in conversation is something we should embrace in male protagonists, That Awkward Moment flounders in the in-between of the two genres it attempts to fuse.  It’s pretty apt that the best way to describe this mashup is as just a little bit awkward.

Stacy Grouden

15A (See IFCO for details)
94  mins
That Awkward Moment is released on 31st January 2014

That Awkward Moment – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Parkland

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DIR/WRI: Peter Landesman  PRO: Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Matt Jackson, Bill Paxton, Nigel Sinclair  DOP: Barry Ackroyd  ED: Markus Czyzewski, DES: Bruce Curtis, Leo Trombetta  MUS: James Newton Howard CAST: Zac Efron, Tom Welling, Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Giamatti

Parkland appears 50 years after President Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963. It takes its title from the hospital where both JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald were taken for treatment after they were shot. There are some points of interest, but they’re limited.

 

Writer-director Peter Landesman makes his feature film debut. His script draws on Vincent Bugliosi’s 2007 book Reclaiming History, which documents all aspects of the assassination and runs to over 1,600 pages (that’s 1.5 million words!). The book’s length reflects the array of material that has been published about JFK, ranging from conspiracy theories to eyewitness accounts. Its scope presents quite the challenge to a filmmaker: what can be said that hasn’t been said already? Oliver Stone dazzled audiences in 1991 with his three-hour epic JFK; those expecting a conspiratorial thriller in Parkland shouldn’t hold their breath.

 

Landesman’s short film plays more like a TV drama, drawing on generic detective and medical dramas. Comedian Ernie Kovacs quipped that 1950s television was a medium because it was neither rare nor well done. Landesman’s treatment unfortunately feels more like the latter. He avoids the conspiracy theories, eschews examining President Kennedy’s politics or his legacy, and focuses instead on the more “human interest” aspects: the medical response at the hospital, Abraham Zapruder’s famous 8 mm recording, the investigations commenced by the FBI and the Secret Service, and the reactions of Oswald’s mother and brother Robert.

 

Parkland attempts to inject some interest into events that are really sideshows. When the President died in the hospital, what happened next? A coffin was required, the priest administered the last rites, and there was some dispute between the federal and state agents as to whether an autopsy should be carried out in Dallas. How appealing viewers find these aspects will determine how much they enjoy the film. The period detail, sets and costumes are good, the production budget well spent, but the film still feels lacking when it ends.

 

Its point remains elusive. A dramatic presentation should have some insight into the human condition, people’s emotional involvement in events.  The film’s multi-narrative approach makes this difficult. It introduces myriad characters, rather like listing names for photographs in a book. The players often have little to do other than looked horrified or sad. There is no drama. The filmmakers look for it in the wrong places. Finding space in an aircraft for a coffin was hardly the day’s most pressing problem.

 

Where there is tension, the film misses the mark. It falls into shouty melodrama that lacks conviction. Jackie’s grief is sidelined: she disappears midway during the film. James Badge Dale, playing Robert Oswald, can’t convey his character’s conflict between love for his brother and the damage Oswald’s involvement brings on their family. His unaffected blue eyes fail to register any sign of torment. Celebrated actors contribute little: Billy Bob Thornton, as secret agent Forrest Sorrel, Jackie Weaver, as Oswald’s mother, and top-billed Zac Efron, as Dr Carrico, who treats President Kennedy, don’t make much of an impression in their small parts.

 

Paul Giamatti, playing Zapruder has fleeting good moments, but Landesman mishandles them. Poor integration of live action and archive footage jars early in the film , when Giamatti appears alone on-screen in what must have been a chaotic scene, 30 yards from the motorcade. Later, Landesman cuts pointlessly from different shots of Zapruder when he’s at home with his wife. The use of unconventional angles and jumpy cutting just serve as a pointless effort to give dull material some edge.

 

Zapruder’s story, that of the “world’s most famous home video”, might have resonated in an interesting way today, when ordinary people can easily record images of protests and political violence on their phones. The print media, Life magazine, the New York Times and others, hound Zapruder for use of the disturbing images he captured, and he struggles with his responsibility for such powerful pictures.The Kennedy assassination was a major media event, and Walter Cronkite’s and other broadcasters’ recurrent commentary, along with TV news footage, play a prominent role in the film, tying the various elements together. TV news came of age and demonstrated the medium’s capabilities, and the film reflects the shift.

 

There are worse films than Parkland, but its weak handling and glib dramatic interest make it unappealing as a cinematic attraction. It might make for a passable TV programme.

Disappointing.

John Moran

12A  (See IFCO for details)

93 mins

Parkland is released on 22nd November 2013

Parkland – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgPjt_BRLvY

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Cinema Review: Liberal Arts

DIR/WRI: Josh Radnor • PRO: Brice Dal Farra, Claude Dal Farra,  Jesse Hara, Lauren Munsch, Josh Radnor • DOP: Seamus Tierney • ED: Michael R. Miller • DES: Jade Healy • Cast: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Zac Efron

Kids, did I ever tell you about the time I realised John Radnor was more than just a TV actor?

The star of long-running sitcom How I Met Your Mother has rarely been seen in other productions in more than bit parts, and it was easy to assume his career could never go the distance of those of his co-stars, who have appeared in such crowd-pleasers as American Pie, The Avengers, The Muppets and the life of Neil Patrick Harris.

But the man who is almost inseparable in public perception from the ambitious and romantic Ted Mosby of HIMYM, has shown a similarly ambitious and romantic streak since he began moonlighting as a filmmaker. His writer/director debut Happythankyoumoreplease opened in 2010 to little fanfare, but Radnor’s attempt to expand from TV acting, while not extending his range as an actor beyond the shadow of Ted Mosby, was admirable. With his second feature, Liberal Arts, Radnor has made a more personal and borderline-adult film, and comparisons to a young Woody Allen, while somewhat premature, are not entirely unfounded.

Radnor (who also wrote, directed and co-produced) stars as Jesse, a 35-year-old admissions officer at a New York college, facing a crisis of faith in where his life is headed. Recently dumped and finding himself no more grown-up than he was when he graduated 13 years earlier, Jesse is in need of change that will not come. When his favourite college professor (a delightfully grumpy Richard Jenkins), who has few friends of his own, summons Jesse to his retirement do, Jesse is only too happy to get out of the city and revisit his small town alma mater.

Jesse feels both a prodigal son and strangely old and alien, and matters get confused when he finds himself drawn to plucky student Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), who is 16 years his junior. Their attraction to one another is evident from the get-go, but Jesse is more frightened of the emerging relationship than Zibby. Separated by distance, the pair continue a would-be courtship via snail mail, while both realising they have a lot of growing up to do.

Hardly groundbreaking, Radnor’s film still contains a gentle honesty and surprising amount of wit that elevates it above more standard indie fare. One sequence after Zibby sends Jesse a mix-tape of classical music sees Radnor walking the streets of New York to a personal soundtrack of Mozart and Vivaldi – it’s little new, but the juxtaposition creates a pleasing sensation. Radnor is short on new ideas, but he doesn’t lack inspiration, and is a champion recycler.

Jesse may be a close relative of Ted Mosby, but Radnor proves his trademark character can carry a feature-length film. Elizabeth Olsen, this year’s breakthrough actress, plays the innocent optimist exquisitely – she’s neither infantile nor manic pixie. It is evident both why Jesse would be drawn to her and why she is of little interest to boys her own age, a testament to her acting chops and Radnor’s writing. Richard Jenkins plays Richard Jenkins, which is never a bad thing, while Allison Janney has plenty of fun as a fierce, man-eating, queen-bitch English professor. The film is briefly and improbably stolen by Zac Efron, in an extended cameo as a spaced-out student of life, who takes on the role of a badly hatted spirit guide to Jesse. His appearances feature some of the film’s finest dialogue, and help energise some more sombre scenes.

While ostensibly a belated-coming-of-age drama, there’s no denying Liberal Arts is very funny. Awkwardly hanging out with college students nearly half his age, Jesse is asked when he graduated, and dismisses the question with a shrugged ‘The ’90s’. With deflating enthusiasm, the young women respond ‘We were born in the ’90s!’ One of the film’s finest scenes sees Jesse calculate the repercussions of his and Zibby’s age difference. As well as exposing some curious truths about age (and gender) gaps, the fact Jesse requires a calculator to perform basic mathematics highlights the day-to-day impracticality of his liberal arts education.

It may take the best bits of Manhattan and Annie Hall and produce a lesser beast, but Liberal Arts is a finely made and often touching film about nostalgia for more hopeful days. It looks like there may be a great career ahead of Radnor, even after he finally meets the mother of those children.

David Neary

Rated 12A
97mins

Liberal Arts is released on 5th October 2012

Liberal Arts – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Lorax

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.”

DIR: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda • WRI: Ken Daurio • PRO: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri • ED: Claire Dodgson, Steven Liu, Ken Schretzmann DES: Yarrow Cheney • Cast: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito, Ed Helms

Everybody loves Dr Seuss, right? The rhythm and rhyme-mastering children’s author is a legend unto himself, even if recent film adaptations of his fine works have been as much hit as miss. This latest adaptation, The Lorax, comes from the director of the witty and charming supervillain caper Despicable Me, Chris Renaud, who also worked on the last computer animated Seuss movie Horton Hears a Who!

Colourful, humorous and with an important if overly hammered-in moral at its centre, The Lorax is a guaranteed hit for young kids and will likely offend only the Grinchiest of adults. But it’s certainly not one of the best animated films of recent years, despite its charms.

The film opens in the town of Thneedville, a cheerful dystopia where everything is plastic, water is toxic and air is pay-per-breath, but everyone seems happy with it. With its futuristic engineering, Thneedville is a shining star amidst the barren landscape that surrounds it, a world after the last tree has been felled.

Determined to impress a girl whose dream is to see a real tree, 12-year-old Ted sneaks out of Thneedville into the grim wilderness beyond. Here he encounters the Once-ler, a mysterious figure who holds himself responsible for the state the world is in. The Once-ler begins to recount his tale of a time before fake plastic trees and bottled air. His story, which takes up at least half the movie, shows him as an ambitious youth, hoping to develop a revolutionary new product called a thneed, made from the nearby Seussian furry trees.

As soon as the young Once-ler chops a tree down, the Lorax appears, a magical moustached chicken nugget-shaped man who ‘speaks for the trees’. The Lorax pleads with the Once-ler (I can’t help but feel these names only work in Seuss’s particular writing style) to leave the trees be, and when that fails, he conspires with the local fauna to get rid of him. But in the end capitalism and greed win over. Can Ted make everything right again?

Very much a tale of two films, The Lorax intercuts between both with varying success. The flashbacks to the Looney Tunes-ish sparring between the Lorax and the Once-ler are far more entertaining than Ted’s efforts to win the girl and defeat the villainous Mr O’Hare, a tiny fat cat with a monopoly on oxygen. (Disappointingly it is never explained how O’Hare produces oxygen in a world without trees.)

The film’s central message, be nice to the trees, is a simple but pleasant one, and only the right wingingest of folk could disagree with it. It’s a shame however that for a film so opposed to artificiality, that it should feature such a plastic-looking animation style. Obviously Seuss’s drawings were always fantastical, but there’s no texture to the animation, and the real trees look as artificial as the inflatable ones in Thneedville. The look doesn’t match the tone.

And speaking of tone, an odd choice for the film was to insert a handful of music numbers, in the classic Disney style. Alas, none of these are very standout, and the dizzying visuals distract from the lyrics. One song, ‘How Bad Can I Be?’, features a few clever lines about the imagined moralities of capitalism, but also repeatedly insists on stretching out the word ‘bad’ to four syllables. Tim Rice, this ain’t.

Comedy is supplied mostly by supporting characters, especially the bears, birds and amphibious singing fish from the Once-ler’s flashbacks. Kids should be in stitches, and there are definitely one or two just-for-the-parents gags in there too. Voicework is largely fine, with Danny DeVito playing his classic grumpy but loveable role as the Lorax. The Hangover’s Ed Helms gets across the hopes and broken dreams of the Once-ler well, while Betty White has great fun in the recording booth voicing Ted’s excitable grandmother. Zac Efron however is an odd choice for Ted, given the High School Musical star’s character never sings. Also, voicing a 12-year-old with an adult voice makes one less concerned about the bottled air or what’s wrong with the water, and more worried about what hormones are in their food!

The Lorax is a sweet movie that is sadly less than the sum of its parts, mostly due to its cheap-looking animation (although 3D fans will be happy to know lots of stuff pokes out from the screen). But it’s short and its message is a nice one, so in the end it’s hard to feel anything other than a little bit smiley. Nothing wrong with a nice movie every now and again.

David Neary

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
86 mins

The Lorax is released on 20th July 2012

The Lorax – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Lucky One

Efron snaps neck of lover

DIR: Scott Hicks • WRI: Will Fetters • PRO: Denise Di Novi, Kevin McCormick • DOP: Alar Kivilo • ED: Scott Gray • DES: Barbara Ling • Cast: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Jay R. Ferguson

The Lucky One is the latest film adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel. To those not familiar with his work he has previously brought us the Notebook, A Walk to Remember and The Last Song. The world of Nicholas Sparks has a warm glow to it; it has warm friendly characters, beautiful scenery and romantic storylines. It is the definition of escapist cinema.

The Lucky One begins far from this world where we meet Logan Thibault (Zac Efron), a marine serving his third tour in the  Iraq war. He discovers a photo of a woman in the rubble of the battlefield which he holds on to. He believes that this photo brings him luck as he survives this terrible war when others do not. When Logan returns home he decides to try and find this woman in order to thank her for her silent protection. Walking from Colardo to North Carolina, Logan starts working in the dog training school this woman, Beth (Taylor Schilling) owns with her grandmother (Blythe Danner) and son (Riley Thomas Stewart) and finds himself immersing into their life while keeping his secret.

Zac Efron is still in the process of transistioning from a child star into a respected actor, in this film he tackles the serious issues of post-traumatic stress disorder and the effects of a modern war on the soldiers it leaves behind. Efron handles the subject matter well, we see the torture behind his eyes and his fragility with people. His story is about destiny and finding your own place in the world. The inevitable love affair between Logan and Beth bring us back to familiar Spark’s territory with the couple spending time in the breathtaking scenery of North Carolina’s countryside. They fall in love in the warmth and glow of the south with a gentle music soundtrack adding to their romance.

Praise has to be given to the director Scott Hicks, who has a background in photography, for creating this atmosphere. Taylor Schilling is adequate as Efron’s love interest, but his performance stands out from the crowd. Beth’s ex-husband (Jay R. Ferguson) creates the dramatic tension in the film with his edgy performance as the conflict to Logan and Beth’s romance. For fans of Spark’s work this is another enjoyable film to add to the collection, its leads lack the romantic chemistry of the stars of The Notebook, however Efron’s performance and a surprisingly dramatic ending make for a very enjoyable film.

Ailbhe O’ Reilly

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

The Lucky One is released on 4th May 2012

The Lucky One – Official Website

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Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud

Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud

DIR: Burr Steers WRI: Craig Pearce, Lewis Colick PRO: Michael Fottrell, Marc Platt DOP: Enrique Chediak ED: Padraic McKinley DES: Ida Random CAST: Zac Efron, Amanda Crew, Charlie Tahan

Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud had the potential to be a pretty interesting, dark story of mental illness and grief, but is unfortunately wrapped in the swaddling of a cheesy, majorly ‘Disneyfied’ disaster of a script. Charlie St Cloud (Efron) and his little brother Sam (Tahan) are best friends who are torn apart by a tragic car accident. Charlie survives, Sam doesn’t, but soon after his death Charlie starts to meet Sam’s ghost every evening at sunset to play baseball. Five years later, Charlie is working in the graveyard where Sam is buried and completely unable to move on with his life, foregoing a college scholarship in favour of hanging out with his dead brother.

The film is shot expertly and is remarkably easy on the eye. Shot around Vancouver, Canada, the idyllic seaside town is beautiful and evokes a sense of perfection, which gradually becomes a tragic trap in the second act. Director, Burr Steers keeps the story ticking along well and the rare moments of doom and gloom are affecting at times. However, the major problem with this film is in its outrageously sappy script. Think Nicolas Sparks crossed with The Ghost Whisperer and you’re halfway there. In fact, this film would be more comfortable on the Hallmark Channel than in the cinema. As the story twists and turns, you can stay on board to a certain extent given the fantastical concept but towards the end, the writers take things a little too far. I don’t know how the story ended in the book but the final twenty minutes of the film are inconceivably lame.

If this is Zac Efron’s way of trying to become a ‘serious actor’ he’s going to have to try harder. His acting is actually pretty good. As he proved in last year’s likeable Me & Orson Welles he has fantastic screen presence and is well able for the high drama and the tender moments. The camera loves him (and his wet/naked torso, which is highlighted at every opportunity, proving the ‘feminine gaze’ is alive and well). Unfortunately there is little to work with here as the script is so terrible that no actor could make it seem any less vomit-inducing.

Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is a supernatural drama that had the potential to be touching, but is far too soft for its own good. Any darkness in the story is usurped by the fairytale ending and the unwillingness of the filmmakers to take Efron’s fanbase out of their tween comfort zone.

Charlene Lydon

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud
is released on 8th October 2010

Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud Official Website

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