Lasse Hallstrom

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I walked into Safe Haven last night prepared to turn my nose up at the overly romantic Nicholas Sparks-isms and to expect a lot of people to fall victim to cancer. I had seen a few of the other movies based on Sparks’ books, so I had an idea of what was about to befall me. Once the movie started, however, I was a little ashamed of myself, because I really started to enjoy it. I giggled like a schoolgirl when hottie supreme Josh Duhamel wooed Julianne Hough. I even caught myself smiling alone in the dark as Duhamel’s character proved himself to be the greatest single father time and time again to his two adorable children. I shouldn’t be ashamed of myself, right? Director Lasse Hallström once directed What’s Eating Gilbert Grape! This Safe Haven love fest did soon give way to my initial expectations. About halfway through there’s an incredibly stupid “twist,” and the film culminates with another “twist” so insane that it out-insanes every other Sparks joint I’ve seen. I involuntarily blurted out “Jesus Christ!” quite loudly in the theater as it went down. The romantic plot is very well executed and the two leads have chemistry to burn – Hallström helps create some very palpable connections between the characters. It’s just everything else that is pretty… god-awful.

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Do you live in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia or San Francisco? If not, do you mind driving to them for a Lasse Hallström movie? If so, pack up some beef jerky, energy drinks and the What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? soundtrack because you’re in for the wildest road trip of your life. And when you get to one of those cities, we’ll get you into a free advanced screening of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Hallström’s new flick starring Ewan MacGregor and Emily Blunt which tells the story of a fishing expert charged with bringing the sport of fly fishing to the desert by a Sheik. What do you have to do? Email me with a subject heading “I Want to Go Salmon Fishing” and give me your name and the city you’ll be in on Tuesday (3/6) or Thursday (3/8) in or around the evening time. First come, first served. Plus, you can bring a +1. A spouse, a girlfriend or boyfriend, a family member, maybe a stranger you meet on the subway and fall deeply in love with because of us and this movie? Or, if you’re planning on attending the San Francisco screening, maybe a giant naked woman who just stomped on your car. That’s up to you! By that, we mean we’re not liable for any damage done to your car when the giant naked woman is overwhelmed with emotion by the movie.  

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Director Lasse Hallström’s newest picture, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, is about an eccentric sheik who loves fishing so much he’s willing to pay obscene amounts of money to create a permanent river in the deserts of Yemen, stocked with salmon. It then becomes up to his legal council to find a fisheries expert who can make it happen. And here we have the set-up for a really boring movie. Except, watching the trailer, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen doesn’t seem boring at all. Most of that probably has to do with the fact that the legal council and the fisheries expert are played by Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor, two actors with more charm in their fingernails than most people have in their whole bodies. I kind of have big crushes on both of them, so watching McGregor play nervous and proper, and Blunt playing blunt and driven, and seeing the two of them turn banter into romance…well, it all just seems to be too cute for words. Add in Kristin Scott Thomas as a sassy newspaper woman with shady motives, and this may be a movie with too much charm for its own good.

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There is no better phrase to describe Nicholas Sparks‘s writing than “safe haven.” He’s found a structure that requires only that he shove in new character names and weaknesses, come up with some horrific tragedy to slam on the brakes near the end, and collect the checks. Strangely enough, director Lasse Hallström may have found his pattern as well, as Deadline Daytona is reporting that the veteran might sign on to direct the next appropriately titled Sparks adaptations. Safe Haven is the story of a young lady who doesn’t want to make friends, but then makes friends while stuffing her terrible secret deep, deep down. I haven’t read the book, but it’s shoe money that the secret comes out. And that a character we’ve grown to care about is diagnosed with Instant Death Disease with only 5 minutes left in the movie. Hallström broken his Sparks cherry with Dear John, and with his work on Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, it seems like he might be switching between curious storytelling and cookie-cutter, made-for-money Sparksian non-challenges. On the other hand, he’s no stranger to romances (like Chocolat), and it’ll be worthwhile if he can find a romantic sponsor for his other films. As long as it doesn’t get in the way of him making those other films (he’s signed on for a Danish crime drama called The Hypnotist for 2012 release), then what harm could it do?

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A free-wheeling photographer finally wants to settle down with a Swedish pixie dream girl, and even thought neither of them might be ready for the responsibility, they get pregnant. Over the course of nine months, the full spectrum of relationship drama plays out as well as the back stories for the major characters, culminating in the birth of the young human being these two have brought into the world.

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Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, and Kristin Scott Thomas will be joining him on the expedition.

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Dear John never strikes the right balance between a Nicholas Sparks movie and a Lasse Hallström movie.

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Amanda Seyfried signs on to Dear John

Before you get too excited about the title, please note that this news has nothing to do with Mamma Mia! hottie Amanda Seyfried playing a hooker.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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