The Choice (2016)

 

Released: February 5, 2016. Directed by: Ross Katz. Starring: Benjamin Walker, Teresa Palmer, Alexandra Daddario. Runtime: 1hr, 51 min.

Life will give you many choices. It will give you the choice to see this film. Don’t.

The Choice opens with Benjamin Walker’s Travis talking about how life is full of choices – and he “has to make a big one,” while he’s on his speed boat on the lake in his North Carolina coastal town. He then goes to the hospital with a bouquet of flowers, wondering how Gabby (Teresa Palmer) is doing. Then, it says seven years later.

To me, this is a spoiler in itself. I thought this took me out of the movie experience – because when there was enough time for seven years to pass, I was expecting in the back of the mind for Gabby to go into the hospital.

I don’t mind when a film starts with a scene from the middle of the narrative. It works effectively for complex films like Memento.  But it most certainly doesn’t work for a film that is as simplistic and predictable as a sappy Nicholas Sparks feature.

I’m not sure if the screenwriter, Bryan Sipe, decided to open the film this way because it’s the way the novel opens – or if the editor just plopped it there – but it’s definitely my main complaint of the film.

The story itself is about Travis, a veterinarian, who doesn’t like anything that doesn’t come easy. He’s the type of guy who only has one chair looking onto the water, even though he’s been on and off with Monica (Alexandra Daddario) since high school.

The Choice1

Teresa Palmer and Tom Wilkinson in The Choice. (Source)

He then meets Gabby, a new neighbour who immediately bothers him. It’s a recurring line in the film – which is about how crappy the dialogue gets. Even though Gabby is seeing Ryan (Tom Welling), they start a relationship, which is challenged by life’s biggest tests.

The film has some funny moments and great cinematography (kudos, Alar Kivilo), but the screenplay is only sporadically entertaining. It is at least more charming than bland. At least it isn’t as totally bonkers as the ending from Safe Haven or as unrealistic as the opening of The Lucky One where Zac Efron found a pretty girl just from a picture almost immediately.

Ross Katz isn’t able to direct strong performances from a usually good Teresa Palmer, and Benjamin Walker is nothing memorable. Alexandra Daddario, Maggie Grace and Tom Wilkinson have good supporting performances. Tom Welling (Smallville) is there for a time, but Superman doesn’t seem to put the utmost effort into his performance.

The Choice2

Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker in The Choice. (Source)

I did find myself enjoying the film for the first hour. But I never found myself caring deeply for the characters. They were developed weakly with nothing more than a few qualities.

And the main “choice” of the film wasn’t introduced until around the 85-minute mark. It’s a whole new development that’s brought on by something that is truly ridiculous.

There’s a good emotional moment in the film’s last third, but the third act feels like it is much longer than it actually is. With these characters, I would have been fine with a 90-minute movie. It felt like it could have ended at a certain point – and I felt like I was nearly scot free with a short film.

But then the story line held me for what felt like an hour longer (probably about 30 minutes in real time). By that point, I was exhausted – no matter how lovely the film looked.

2 outta 5

 

 

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)

Hundred-Foot JourneyReleased: August 8, 2014. Directed by: Lasse Hallströme. Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal. Runtime: 122 min.

Lasse Hallströme helms another adaptation (his follow-up to the awfully silly “Safe Haven”), this time written by Steven Knight (“Eastern Promises”) and adapted from The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais; a novel about cooking, not walking.

It follows the Kadam family, who move to France from India to both start anew (especially after the main character’s mother dies) and escape local political violence. Hassan (Manish Dayal) is the main protagonist who has a passion for food. He and his family open up a traditional Indian restaurant next door to Madame Mallory’s (Helen Mirren) French cuisine restaurant that has received one out of a three possible Michelin stars from the annual Michelin Guidebook.

The one star is to say that “it is a very good restaurant in its category.” The film basically depicts the uptight Mallory wanting another Michelin star (which says the restaurant has “excellent cooking and is worth a detour”). She can’t get her hopes up too high for a third star, because as one character describes it – that is for “the Gods.”

Officially, the guidebook says that it has “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” This leads me to believe the film’s title has a dual meaning – saying that Mallory’s restaurant is worth the journey to eat at; and the main meaning is that the Kadam family opens their restaurant one-hundred feet away from hers. As if the struggles of opening an Indian restaurant in France were not difficult enough.

Mirren is good as Mallory, and it’s interesting to see her relax throughout the film. Also good is Om Puri as Hassan’s grandfather, whose stubborn nature brings humour to the lightly entertaining film – especially matched against Mallory’s stubborn nature. The stand-out is the young Manish Dayal who plays the passionate cook who doesn’t believe recipes necessarily have to stay the same.

This adds diversity when the film starts to merge Indian cuisine with traditional French cuisine. It also breaks barriers between the cultures, enabling lovely multiculturalism, always a welcome theme in Disney films. Also notable is the memorable Charlotte Le Bon as Hassan’s friend, and employee of Madame Mallory, Marguerite. When the two friends get too competitive, it interrupts the easy-going flow with troubling and frustrating conflict. There’s enough conflict without it, with the constant, but amusing, ways both restaurant owners attract customers. This sub-plot just isn’t enjoyable. At least it’s better than Meryl Streep’s Julia Child voice in “Julie & Julia.”

Score80/100

June 6-8 Box Office Predictions: ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ to top ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

The Fault in Our StarsEdge of TomorrowThere are two big new releases for the box office this weekend. One is Edge of Tomorrow, a sci-fi action vehicle starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. The other is a romantic drama The Fault in Our Stars, based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by John Green.

I’ll start with Edge of Tomorrow. With last year’s Oblivion, Cruise proved he can be a mild box office draw, expressed through the film’s solid $37 million debut. Personally, I think this premise looks more intriguing, and it looks like it has a fun sense of humour. I also love that electronic music in the background of the trailer. The tune got stuck in my head quickly. I think this film adds some appeal with comedic and dramatic actress Emily Blunt in her first attempt at the science fiction genre. What is more appealing is that this looks like an easier plot to follow than Source Code and even the sometimes baffling Oblivion. I see this making $32.8 million this weekend. The reason I’m not going up to $35 million is because last year’s Elysium showed that science fiction could muster disappointing numbers, as it only had an opening weekend of $29.8 million.

The Fault in Our Stars also looks good. It stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. To me, it looks like A Walk to Remember, hold the extreme cheesiness. Pre-ticket sales for this film suggest that it’s out-pacing The Vow and Safe Haven. Probably because of fans of the novel, and the star power of Woodley. I haven’t read the book, and I’m trying to decide if I want to before I see the film. I’m predicting this as the winner this weekend at $43 million.

Brief-ish Recap of 2013’s Movies So Far

2013 has been a decent year for movies, and it’s improving in both quality, and in regards of box office earnings. And I think it can only get better from here, at least in terms of quality. So far, I’ve seen 36 movies that have been released in 2013, and I’ve missed quite a few as well. Here is my post for the best and worst of 2013 so far. There is a top 10 list, and a bottom five list, and I will post my “Most anticipated movies of Second Half of the Year List” sooner than later. Here’s what I thought of what 2013 has had to offer so far…

The Best of the Year So Far

This is the End“, 2013’s Best Movie So Far & 2013’s Best Surprise

First, the top 10. I have listed the title and the original score in brackets. I’ve decided not to include little blurbs from each review, because that just might become tedious to read with so many titles. If you want to read my thoughts, click on the link to my review. (Note: You might notice that some scores are lower than others, but higher on the list – but that’s because they’ve grown on me since I’ve seen them, and are better than other movies in terms of quality.)

1. This is the End (91), 2. Monsters University (90), 3. 42 (90), 4. The Place Beyond the Pines (88), 5. Fast & Furious 6 (90), 6. Mud (86), 7. Evil Dead (88), 8. Pain & Gain (83), 9. Spring Breakers (75), 10. The Croods (83).

Here’s 11-15: 11. Star Trek Into Darkness (83), 12. The Great Gatsby (82), 13. Warm Bodies (80), 14. Now You See Me (80), 15. Iron Man 3 (80).

Here’s the rest of the movies I’ve seen, ranked from best to worst (in blocks of five, so it’s easier on the eyes): The Last Stand (80); World War Z (75)The Heat (75) Mama (78)20. Oz the Great and Powerful (75).

Epic (74)The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (73); Identity Thief (72); Olympus Has Fallen (70); 25. Snitch (71).

Oblivion (67); Gangster Squad (63)The Purge (57); Man of Steel (50)30. Admission (56), Safe Haven (54).

2013's Worst Movie So Far

Scary Movie 5“, 2013’s Worst Movie So Far (But I don’t think there will be a bigger shitfest this year). 

Here’s the List of Shame, the Bottom Five of the year: After Earth (40)Peeples (38); The Hangover Part III (25)Movie 43 (30); 36. Scary Movie 5 (0).

Here was my Top 12 Most Anticipated Movies of the First Half of the Year: 1. Monsters University; 2. The Place Beyond the Pines; 3. Identity Thief 4. Oz the Great and Powerful; 5. Gangster Squad; 6. 42; 7. Now You See Me; 8. Fast & Furious 6; 9. Man of Steel; 10. Oblivion11. The Purge: 12. Mud.

5 of my 12 most anticipated movies made the Top 10, and 6 made my top 15. “Oz the Great and Powerful” was only slightly satisfying. “Identity Thief”, and “Oblivion” were mildly disappointing. “Gangster Squad” was quite disappointing because it could have potentially been an Oscar contender, but it ended up not knowing if it wanted to be serious or just silly. It was a lightly entertaining gangster movie, apparently much like “The Untouchables”. I’d put “The Hangover Part III” in my Top 15 Anticipated of the First Half, so that is the biggest disappointment of the year because it just wasn’t funny. The third biggest disappointment would be “The Purge”, and the second would be “Man of Steel”.

"The Hangover Part III", 2013's Biggest Disappointment So Far

The Hangover Part III“, 2013’s Biggest Disappointment So Far

The best surprise of the year definitely has to be “This is the End”, even if I was quite excited for it. I knew it was going to be good, but not that good, and especially not movie of the year worthy. Out of the films I wasn’t anticipating at all, “World War Z” was probably the nicest surprise.

These are the movies I missed, but will be checking out. I’ve only included the ones I could envision myself either popping into the DVD player, watching online, or going out to the theater and watching: A Good Day to Die Hard, Aftershock, Antiviral, Before Midnight, Berberian Sound Studio, The Bling Ring, Byzantium, The Call, Dark Skies, Dead Man Down, The East, Frances Ha, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Ginger & Rosa, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Host, The Iceman, The Internship, The Kings of Summer, The Lords of Salem, Maniac, Much Ado About Nothing, Quartet, Room 237, The Sapphires, Side Effects, Song for Marion, Stand Up Guys, Stoker, To the Wonder, Trance, Upside Down, Upstream Color, Violet & Daisy, Welcome to the Punch, White House Down.

And finally, here are some statistics: 

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Average Score: 72.55

My Average Score: 69.22

IMDb Average Score: 66.05

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Average Score: 56.55

So there you have it… What’s your favourite movie of the year so far, and your least favourite? I won’t put a poll because there are just too many titles, so let me know in the comments!

Safe Haven (2013)

Safe Haven

Release Date: February 14, 2013

Director: Lasse Hallström

Stars: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders

Runtime: 115 min

A young woman, Katie (Julianne Hough), with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower, Alex (Josh Duhamel), forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.

Nicholas Sparks movies (A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, The Last Song) attract female audiences. For critics, the name might as well mean torture. For me, he’s really rather average, but he does have a money-making formula. His movies are usually the same old song: a predictable, schmaltzy, romance, a tragic story or two, some antagonist that might be getting in the way of the main couple’s happiness… You get the picture, right?

Safe Haven manages to have a few twists that border on downright silly and somewhat smart. This is certainly more enjoyable than The Lucky One. The romance part of it all is still as predictable and formulaic as ever. The word unpredictable and Nicholas Sparks go together like grape jelly and petroleum jelly… It just isn’t right. However, I do have to admire Sparks for writing a somewhat adequate mystery. There’s an occurring sub-plot during the movie’s first half where a police officer is on Katie’s tail for whatever reason. It distracts from the romance, but that is sometimes welcome; because the romance is rather bland. The sub-plot works into the plot with a good transition, but David Lyons’ police officer character becomes more and more ridiculous as it runs along.

Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel have an okay chemistry, even if their couple is hardly memorable. They sort-of just smile a lot and they do that awkward intertwining finger dance after sex. They aren’t the most memorable couple to come out of a Nicholas Sparks story, as someone could easily forget their names a few days to a week after initial viewing.

Josh Duhamel’s character is a widow and his kids are still coping with it. The daughter, Lexi, is doing better than the son, Josh, because she only remembers the memory of her, while Josh actually remembers her. He’s annoying, but the gal who plays the daughter is tolerable. Julianne Hough isn’t a terrible actress, but she’s probably a better dancer. I think she’ll improve with experience, with movies other than Rock of Ages and Footloose. She portrays decent emotions from time to time, but she’s often just sexy eye candy. Josh Duhamel is a lackluster presence. None of his roles have really been worthwhile enough to let him be a breakout star just yet. David Lyons’ character is silly, and Cobie Smulders’ character is there for support. She’s a fine presence, even if she feels randomly placed. The petite primary cast of six carries the movie well.

Sparks writes an adequate mystery. The prime romantic story is predictable and bland. The mystery doesn’t get a true chance to shine, because it is written as a sub-plot. It’s light on the mystery, hot and heavy on the romance. This has more sap than a maple tree, and it’s sure to give you cavities. Can one expect much else from Nicholas Sparks? This is a movie that might make you blubber like a little baby, but it also might not. The movie’s strongest aspect is the beautiful beach-town setting, and the mostly crystal clear cinematography. One of the twists is really rather dumb and groan-worthy. You’ll have to see this for yourself to form your opinion on the matter, though, because it could be seen as memorable, heart-warming and sweet; and others might view it as complete, laughable hokum. It really does make me want to poke fun at the movie more, because it is silly. The twist makes it stand out amongst the other Sparks adaptations. I see the twist as memorable, laughable hokum.

54/100

February 15-18 Box Office Predictions: A Good Day to Die Hard, Beautiful Creatures, Escape from Planet Earth, Safe Haven

The new releases

A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard

Safe Haven

Safe Haven

Escape from Planet Earth

Escape from Planet Earth

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures

The four big releases this weekend are A Good Day to Die Hard, Beautiful CreaturesEscape from Planet Earth and Safe Haven.

Films similar to A Good Day to Die Hard often open to an average gross of $27.1 million, and that’s stellar for action films. The first Die Hard opened to the sound of $600, 000 at 21 theaters (but it went onto gross $83 million, domestically); the second to an opening weekend of $21.7 million; the third to an opening of $22.1 million. The fourth one opened to a franchise best $33.3 million. I believe this will beat the fourth’s earning, because everyone has been dying to hear “Yippee Ki-Yay, Motherf*cker!” since McLane last said it in 1995. Apparently in 2007, the damn MPAA didn’t want him saying it. The Die Hard franchise has typically had a summer opening, but I don’t think this film’s February opening will have any sort of affect, especially on Family day weekend. Because nothing says ‘family’ better than terrorists and John McLane.

Those who are still feeling romantic post-Valentine’s Day might just be running out to see the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, Safe Haven. Is it just me, or does this look like it could pretty good? I think The Lucky One was seriously one of the worst films of last year, but I am a sucker for the charm of The Notebook, and this and Notebook share some similarities. This is the eighth adaptation of Sparks’ works, and there is a collected $17.8 million average opening. This one would look stellar if it opens between Message in a Bottle‘s $16.7 million and The Lucky One‘s $22.5 million opening. It’ll probably lean more toward The Lucky One, though. The popularity of Hough is at an average opening of $13.9 million, and Duhamel is at an average opening of $37.3 million (but that average is mostly thanks to the three Transformers flicks).

If the new Die Hard proves to be too much of an adrenaline rush, or Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven is too sappy, one might just choose this teen romance with a hint of dark witch secrets. While this won’t be the young adult heavyweight any of the Twilight flicks were, this might do nearly as well as Warm Bodies‘ $20.3 million opening. It isn’t getting a ton of love from the critics, and the leading woman (Alice Englert, in her film debut) and man (Alden Ehrenreich, in his wide release debut) don’t have much star power at all. However, the others included in the cast (Jeremy Irons, Emmy Rossum, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Thomas Mann) may attract a fine audience. This reminds me of last year’s Dark Shadows with its whole strange family vibe (that opened to $29.6 million) and the sort-of fantasy and atmosphere of The Spiderwick Chronicles (a film that opened to $19 million). Anyway, this is in solid shape if it opens between Red Riding Hood‘s $14 million and Water for Elephants‘ $16.8 million. It’ll probably do better than those, though.

This space adventure from the Weinstein Company sounds really lame to me, but visually appealing, and generally fun for the kids. While the Weinstein Company is a serious award-winning powerhouse, they haven’t fared well in the animation genre (they’ve given us the Hoodwinked films and that apparently god-awful Doogal). Though, kids still enjoy innocent old aliens in animation… But they don’t love them. Planet 51 opened to $12.2 million, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius opened to $13.8 million way back in 2001; Aliens in the Attic, $8 million; and Monsters vs. Aliens, $59.3 million. What I’m getting from that is, kids like to see both monsters and aliens in their movies. 2011’s family day weekend had Gnomeo and Juliet opening to $25 million. While this won’t gross anywhere near that, it will make most of its money on Monday; as this will be one of the only fairly popular, family-friendly films in theaters.

Here’s how I see the top 10:

TitlePrediction

1. A Good Day to Die Hard: $44, 500, 000
2. Identity Thief: $22, 400, 000
3. Safe Haven: $20, 000, 000
4. Beautiful Creatures: $18, 900, 000
5. Escape from Planet Earth: $14, 750, 000
6. Warm Bodies: $12, 500, 000
7. Side Effects: $8, 500, 000
8. Silver Linings Playbook: $7, 200, 000
9. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters: $4, 000, 000
10. Argo: $3, 500, 000

A Walk to Remember (2002)

A Walk to RememberA Walk to Remember

Release Date: January 25, 2002

Director: Adam Shankman

Stars: Shane West, Mandy Moore, Peter Coyote

Runtime: 101 min

Tagline: Find out who you are and do it on purpose.

In 1965, a romance novelist was born who would be known for his schmaltzy, predictable and usually mindless love stories that can sometimes express a certain charm and always make girls expect so much more from men. That man is Nicholas Sparks. In 1994, he wrote his debut novel, ‘The Notebook.’ Since then, he has became a household name. Especially in homes with teenage girls. Eight (including the upcoming 2013 film, Safe Haven) of his novels have been adapted into films, some of the best include The Notebook, Dear John and The Last Song. While most of the movies adapted from his works are incredibly lame, two stand out: The Notebook, and A Walk to Remember.

This film follows Landon Carter (Shane West), a high school senior who gets sentenced to do community service after he and a few buddies play a cruel initiation prank on a poor old sap who wants to be a part of their group. Landon soon lands his eyes on the beautiful daughter of the Reverend, Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore). While they soon fall in love, Landon must deal with his sudden plummet of popularity, and Jamie must deal with her over-bearing father and a secret she keeps from everyone.

No folks, she isn’t a man. That isn’t her secret. Her secret is fairly predictable, but it admittedly adds a surprising flair of emotion when it comes around the bend.

Like all other Sparks adaptations, this is still predictable and melodramatic, but it is one of the most bearable of his features. The two leads create a charming chemistry, and they make it bearable – and Moore is the pretty face that adds to its attraction. They are the best part of the feature, but the story is nothing new or anything you haven’t really seen before.

Landon must make a hard self-sacrifice of giving up his friends for the one he loves, and sacrifice his mega-popularity at the top of the high school food chain. And then, as expected, Jamie starts to change his heart for the better. Though, her secret makes her a little more reserved. These concepts are made new though, by the unexpected amount of heart and tenderness the film possesses.

All these redeeming qualities do not stop it from being predictable and melodramatic, however. These just merely make the experience bearable for anyone outside of its target audience. It’s fairly entertaining, and it’s a nice little mindless break from the real world. It also gives girls a fantasy world to live in for 101 minutes, and for that, it should be cherished by them. News flash: we men don’t have scripts written for us, not all of us know how to woo you with a fine ease. We’re not the figure you write about in all your diaries.

In a nutshell: A Walk to Remember is a fine feature for its target audience: teenage girls who want to believe most men are something they really aren’t; and for others, it’s only a little entertaining. It is made mostly bearable by Mandy Moore, but the story leaves something to be desired.

63/100