4.24.2015

Ageless Adaline

Once upon a time, a potentially decent film was ruined by way too much voice-over narration. Actually that's just one of the many flaws in the beautiful to look at, but ultimately hollow The Age of Adaline. Blake Lively stars in the role of the titular Adaline, a woman who through unusual circumstances loses the ability to age. Stuck forever at the age of 29, she's cursed to live an empty life constantly in her prime. Endless years of looking like a flawless blonde bombshell with a fabulous wardrobe would probably get old for anyone. Woe is her.

The premise isn't actually a bad one, had the writers explored more of the complexities that such a life would present. Don't worry though, they don't want to focus on anything difficult. In fact, if you're worried that the plot may be too complex, do not fear! The entire exposition is pretty much a giant montage slapped together with an incredibly obnoxious narrator. Once he disappears, the film tries to recover by showing us the occasional glimpses into the decades that made her the woman she is. Unfortunately, those moments of insight are few and far between and Adaline remains intentionally mysterious to the audience. Instead of fleshing out her character, the screenwriters instead devote their time to a time-bending Nicholas Sparks type romance that couldn't be blander.

It is made clear to everyone watching the film that Adaline is irresistible, so we as an audience can see why her love interest pursues her. But on her side, Adaline's attraction to her longtime bearded stalker/admirer is truly perplexing. What does a woman with the mentality of a 107-year-old see in a doofus in his 30's? And that's not even getting into the weird dynamic she discovers in the last third of the film. Common sense would dictate that both of these characters would stay far away from each other if they were in their right minds. I did enjoy a couple of their scenes though, specifically where they show each other the hidden gems of San Francisco. If either of those places are real, I need to pay them a visit sometime.

The biggest problem I had with the film though is Adaline herself. I'm not sure whether to attribute that to Blake Lively's aloof performance, the material she was given, or a combination of the two. But whatever the case may be, this larger than life character rang false to me. Certain character traits reminded me of things Bill Murray's character Phil Connor mastered after being trapped in the same day for years in Groundhog Day. In that film, he had no consequences because there was no tomorrow. Age of Adaline would have you believe the same, but they give her almost superhuman powers to prove how clever her extra time has made her (when really, for the most part, she's only living a slightly longer lifespan than regular humans and is still trying to lead a normal life). Too much in this movie just didn't make sense, well beyond the narrator's explanations anyway. The worst offender of those explanations is the last one that ensures the audience understands the film's not so subtle ending.

On the bright side, Blake got to showcase some exquisite clothes. Also having Harrison Ford turn up late in the game (along with his younger counterpart) helped.  If this film gives nothing else to society, maybe it can at the very least be a good resume reel for Anthony Ingruber. If Lucasfilm is needing a young Han Solo or Indiana Jones for any type of reboot Chris Pratt needs to look out! This guy both looks and sounds exactly like a young Harrison. I honestly thought when he first came on screen they were dubbing him and using Harrison's voice. Oh and Ellen Burstyn is good too in the role of Adaline's aging daughter. The scenes focusing on their dynamic are probably the best scenes in the film.

Spoiler (highlight to read) And who in their right mind would give up young Harrison... yet be cool to settle with his less cute son years later?? (/end spoiler)

Overall The Age of Adaline is too concerned with spoon feeding its audience to be anything other than average. EMILY RATING: 5.5/10

4.13.2015

Oh, the Melodrama!

Remember how I told you I'd be "hate watching" movies all month? This post is basically that x10. You see, last Friday the man who might be single-handedly responsible for destroying the romance movie genre had yet another one of his novels adapted and released as a motion picture. The man in question is named Nicholas Sparks, who I've written about before (and almost always appears on my Worst List each year) is a man that somehow found a way to sell the same story with the exact same formula over and over and over. His latest is called The Longest Ride and unfortunately I was bored and desperate enough to go see it this past weekend (seriously NOTHING is out). It was a pretty standard Sparks outing boosted by the leading man being played by a BEAUTIFUL male specimen...who happens to be the son of Clint Eastwood. He plays opposite a poor man's Jennifer Lawrence and the two find sweet, predictable, generic love. This led me to ponder a ranking of these mediocre atrocities from WORST to...LEAST BAD. That's right, I'm not even numbering these because putting high numbers next to these terrible movies just feels wrong. Whilst doing my research, I decided to celebrate the cliches in a Bingo game that you can feel free to print off at the bottom of the post and play while watching any of the movies (I tried with Message in a Bottle, which prior to this post was the one I had never seen.and got 19/25 squares marked off!). For your benefit, I also included a ranking of the male lead's hotness...on a scale of 1-5, as well as the corniest line, and the most Sparksian moment (be forewarned...those usually include spoilers.)

THE WORST:

The Last Song

Miley Cyrus' attempt at being a romantic heroine has to be the worst attempt so far in a Sparks movie. I've said it before, but I'll say it again...watching this is almost another adaptation of Beauty and the Beast...with the title roles going to Hemsworth as Beauty, and Cyrus as the Beast. She's a scraggly, unpleasant mess in this movie and it's unclear why hunky Hemsworth would be smitten with her after practically ten minutes. Even worse was the fact that reality ended up echoing this fiction!
Male lead's hunkiness factor: 5. Liam Hemsworth has got it going on in this movie.
Corniest line: "I did not come here for some stupid summer romance with some stupid local boy that has done this with a thousand other girls...I don't want to be your next girl in your little parade of girls!" This line was so eloquently spoken by Miley.
Most Sparksian moment: When you realize what the title means.


Nights in Rodanthe

I barely remember this one and didn't have the constitution to watch it again. All I recall is, of course, what makes it Sparksesque: the beach...and the tragedy.
Male lead's hunkiness factor: 2. Sorry, Richard Gere has never really done it for me.
Corniest line: “While I sleep, I dream of you, and when I wake, I long to hold in my arms. If anything, our time apart has only made me more certain that I want to spend my nights by your side, and my days with your heart.”
Most Sparksian moment: One word: mudslide.


The Lucky One

This may be the worst offender of all in how ridiculous the obstacle is in this film. Something that would legitimately be talked about in the very first conversation between the two characters is kept hidden until the very most manipulative moment. And then...the best Sparks death of them all.
Male lead's hunkiness factor: 4. There's something a little weird to me about ogling Zac Efron. Still I can't deny his attractiveness here. However...the fact that his leading actress seemed so much older made his boyishness a little creepy.
Corniest line: "You should be kissed every day, every hour, every minute." Ain't nobody got time for that!!!
Most Sparksian moment: Death by treehouse!

The Best of Me

Wonderfully described HERE as "essentially Frankenstein's monster of recycled Sparks parts." I couldn't sum up my feelings any better...but the fact that it is so generic makes it a little more middle of the pack for me.
Male lead's hunkiness factor:  James Marsden 4, Fake young James Marsden: 2. I definitely have a thing for James Marsden... but the other actor playing the younger version??? There is no way ON EARTH he would ever grow up (or rather down since he's taller) to be James.
Corniest line: "You want me to fall back in love with you? How do I do that if I haven't ever stopped?"
Most Sparksian moment: Learning James Marsden became the latest victim of the "Return to Me" syndrome.

Dear John

While the obstacle in The Lucky one is idiotic... this one is just nonsensical. Sure, a war keeps them apart, but also really some stupid choices by our leading lady that we're supposed to deem as a beautiful sacrifice.
Male lead's hunkiness factor: 3. Channing Tatum, though hot, is the perfect definition of what Seinfeld refers to as a "mimbo," or a male bimbo. Sure he's hot, but is anything going on upstairs??
Corniest line: "Two weeks together, that's all it took, two weeks for me to fall in love with you."
Most Sparksian moment: That time Amanda Seyfried didn't realize she could have just become a caretaker and instead decided to marry her older, fatherly neighbor to fulfill the same role.

Safe Haven

Two movies are practically honorary Sparks films: The Vow & Charlie St. Cloud. This movie consists of Sparks basically incorporating their ideas and embracing some of the more wacky ideas that the latter represents. It's ridiculous stupid...but kind of makes it more memorable.
Male lead's hunkiness factor: 5. I can't really complain about Tad Hamilton...I mean Josh Duhamel.
Corniest line: "You don't understand Alex, he IS the police!!" Yeah...your husband makes up the entire police force in the whole country.
Most Sparskian moment: Ghost mom gives her approval. Oy.

The Longest Ride

Once again, Sparks does his "two love stories in one" thing...and never does it feel more out of place here. The whole thing feels really hodge-podgy til the end but basically benefits from the fact that Scott Eastwood is unbearably hot. Well, in this girl's opinion at least.
Male lead's hunkiness factor: 5. He may be the most beautiful of them all.
Corniest line: "It's 8 seconds... that girl could be the rest of your life." Or you could break up with her next week. Maybe you should just try to live either way?
Most Sparksian moment: Oops you saw me taking off my clothes for a shower! My bad!

Message in a Bottle

This only gets so high (or less worse) because it was the first and seems way more fresh than the others. But... it's also really quiet and kind of boring. It's not quite so outrageous in its melodrama and I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Male lead's hunkiness factor: 2. Kevin Costner is a fine gent...if I were 30 years older I might be really into him (not that I can't appreciate the looks of an older gentleman every now and then, but there really wasn't anything to swoon over here).
Corniest line: "I don't want to lose you!" "Then don't."
Most Sparksian moment: Tossup between the argument in the rain and the final message in a bottle.

The Notebook

This is the film responsible for all of the mania. Man, I hate this movie for what it has done...but I can't deny it is one of the better ones on Sparks' roster. However, that's mostly because the quality of the rest are pretty low. That said, I must admit the two leads have great chemistry...even if the film is totally manipulative.
Male lead's hunkiness factor: 4. This may be blasphemy to Sparks fans for not giving him a full 5, but honestly I find Gosling MUCH more attractive in his subsequent projects. Plus in the early years he always struck me as kinda scrawny. But with the beard, I get it...
Corniest line: "If you're a bird, I'm a bird!!"
Most Sparksian moment: The makeout scene in the rain to rule all them all (well...the Sparks ones that is.)

LEAST WORST: 

A Walk to Remember

Maybe there's some teen nostalgia biasing me in this, but it just always strikes me as the most tolerable of the lot by a long shot.
Male lead's hunkiness factor: 3. Shane West may have been hot stuff in his day, but with all the subsequent Sparks hunks he's pretty forgettable.
Corniest line: "You have to promise not to fall in love with me." Who says that??
Most Sparksian moment: Begging his estranged father to save the woman he loves.

Don't believe me that they're all the same? Play this Bingo card I made below on any of these films and I guarantee you'll mark off at least 10 boxes.



For more shuffled Bingo boards click HERE. And if that's not enough Sparks for you, I found this article was pretty funny and has a great quiz in the end.

ARE YOU WATCHING A NICHOLAS SPARKS MOVIE? THIS GUIDE CAN HELP


4.10.2015

Second Chances: Avatar

Oh man, guys. This month is practically barren for movies that I'm actually interested in seeing. So how the heck am I gonna spend this month with nothing to look forward to?? Doing what I do best apparently... being a hater. To be more precise,  I've decided to embark upon a grand experiment... an experiment to see if I'm capable of giving movies second chances that I firmly hate.  I came up with this idea one winter morning whilst reading an article someone posted on twitter about one particular movie I've enjoyed ranting on in the past: Avatar. The reviewer remarked how odd he found it that the biggest money making movie of all time hasn't managed to really make a mark on the landscape of pop culture, so he decided to revisit it and see if it holds up. After his viewing, he believed it did. I remained unconvinced. And yet... I wondered to myself if I really would hate it as much now that there's not this cloud of hype surrounding it anymore. Perhaps I could finally find some redeeming qualities that I had hitherto missed during my days of being a hater if I just tried again. So I had to go into this with as open of a mind as I could, but with a mind so stubborn, it was not an easy task. Thankfully, I was not alone: my two best friends agreed to go on not only this journey... but a whole other list of films we all agreed upon (or at least two-thirds of us) hating to see if they were worthy of second chances. For the remainder of this month until movie season begins, you will experience these once hated films through our eyes with our opinions both before & after the viewing. So we start with the film that inspired it all... Avatar.

BEFORE THE VIEWING:

My own opinion: Avatar was a movie that seduced people by its pleasing visuals and fun movie watching experience. It holds nothing of substance and rips off a billion other better movies. I often found that if a guy I liked loved this movie, it was one of many signs that it was NOT gonna work out. However... it's been a good five years since I've seen it, maybe I'll feel differently now.

Courtney's experience with Avatar: "I have seen 5 minutes and was very turned off by something about their hair I can't remember... However I do remember the writing in that 5 minutes was just atrocious like other James Cameron movies. This movie came out while I was on my mission, but I heard about it constantly... so I experienced the Avatar mania second hand. When I got home I heard it was awful so I decided not to bother. I only watched the 5 min because it was on tv. I also remember thinking "Isn't an avatar your picture on like forums? So it has something to do with that?" No one talks about it so I feel like it can't hold up well."

Amelia's thoughts on Avatar: "What Avatar Is: visually interesting, high grossing, worshipped by the masses.
What Avatar is not: complex, interesting writing, worth creating a new disease, helping me believe in love, making me believe in future children of America, not worthy of creating a sequel

What James Cameron is not: a cinema Demi-God, working on the only sequel that matters: Dark Angel"


Musings DURING the viewing:

My own: Most of my musings consisted of talking about how much I freaking loved Sam Worthington's hair when it gets long. "Oh, what I'd give to run my fingers through that beautiful luscious hair of his. " "His hair is so freaking hot I'm losing it." "THAT HAIR THOUGH!" 
Courtney:  "When does this take place?? It's the future and he doesn't know how to video blog??? This font for the subtitles is HORRIBLE. They still know how to golf though. Haha they look so weird!! Hey wait she speaks perfect English now??? Also why do they have gauged ears?? Hey when did he get a mowhawk?" 
Amelia: "They're not dressing them for their body type! To make sure you aren't anti feminist include Michelle Rodriguez. Why is smoking still a thing in the future? Courtney this is James Cameron he wrote the greatest romance of all time I think he knows what he's doing" 
Collective all: Unobtanium?? Bahahaha!

Yes Amelia, she probably SHOULD go on What Not to Wear.

THE "AFTER" REVIEW

My own review: In the beginning I was really trying to go with it, and the setup really isn't bad! It is kind of an exciting world to behold and the premise is fun! But... the magic wears off fast. The pacing of this film is dreadful and when the battle ceaselessly rages on I felt as though I was begging the heavens for it to be over. And I'm sorry... the design of the aliens are just too weird for me. Maybe I could have really gotten into this movie if they looked different. I just never could take them seriously. That and the cardboard cutout villains are completely inexcusable for me in a film. Give me depth in my characters please! Especially the villains! This guy was practically twirling his mustache left and right. All in all, I'd say this is James Cameron's worst film.

Amelia's review "Basically my opinion on Avatar remains the same. It makes great strides in visual effects but doesn't offer anything overly compelling in the writing and story department. I'm not saying never see it. But I am saying see it in theaters with Imax 3d and don't expect a lot of rewatch value."

Courtney's review "This was my first time actually seeing Avatar. I didn't like it at all and am confused by the fact that it was such a hit."

And up next.... I revisit my most hated film of last year to see if I can find anything redeeming about MALEFICENT.