Nicholas Sparks

“Just keep your hands on my face in the rain.” To say that movies that started their lives as Nicholas Sparks novels have a well-established style when it comes to their content and aesthetics would be maybe about the biggest understatement of the year. Take two impossibly attractive young people, add some tragic reason they can’t be together, cut it with a love that will conquer all, and pretty much you’ve got the formula—so long as your drama is occurring in an idyllic, rural setting. It gets to the point where every time a new Nicholas Sparks movie starts getting advertised, people can tell that’s exactly what they’re looking at from the first few seconds of the first trailer, and their responses are downright Pavlovian. Not into the Nicholas Sparks thing? Bet you let out an involuntary groan. Love everything the man does? Then it’s the same deal, but with a squeal. Chances are, if you or someone you love is one of the aforementioned squealers, then you’re going to be watching at least one of those movies tonight, seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing for the groaners though, because Bryce Dallas Howard and Funny or Die have teamed up to make a mock trailer that spoofs the whole Nicholas Sparks thing, so now when you’re sitting through Safe Haven for the hundredth time you can think back to just how spot-on they got all of the parody and smirk smugly to […]

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Nicholas Sparks Evil

Nicholas Sparks is really good at killing people. No one is safe in his books and the movies made from them. In fact, if you’ve gotten close to any of the characters, it’s a fair chance that they will develop a terminal illness, reveal that they’ve been hiding a terminal illness or be struck with a terminal disease called drowning. Sparks is an angry god, and he shuffles off mortal coils aplenty in order to pretend that he writes Greek tragedy and tug despotically at heartstrings. The murdering mastermind has struck again with Safe Haven, capitalizing on the fact that people love crying violently at movies on Valentine’s Day, and like many have done before with Freddy, Jason and Leatherface, it seems only appropriate that we tally up all the bodies lying at Sparks’ feet. Maybe someone can even make a memorial video set to Sarah McLachlan or something. As expected, Spoilers for all Sparks movies abound.

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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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The latest cinematic adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks romance novel, The Lucky One is a messy, tone-deaf, and laughable movie outing, an embarrassment to director Scott Hicks (Shine, The Boys Are Back), a black mark against Zac Efron‘s attempts at becoming a romantic lead, and an unsurprising continuation of Sparks’s ceaseless attack on what passes for a love story these days. Let’s put it this way – The Lucky One is so dismal, so off-kilter, so nonsensical that even the ever-ready charms of Zac Efron cannot redeem it in the slightest. At its heart, the film hinges on one of Sparks’s most ludicrous conceits yet – Marine Logan Thibault (Efron, more bulked up than ever, yet still unable to even resemble a professional solider)  is “rescued” by a picture of an unknown woman during his third tour of Iraq, a laminated picture of a pretty girl that catches his eye and pulls him away from a structure that blows up right behind him. If he hadn’t gone for the picture, he would be dead – the girl in the photograph saved him. At least, that’s what Logan thinks and what The Lucky One rests on. Convinced he owes some debt to the girl in the picture, Logan embarks on a quest to find her once he returns to the States.

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Over Under - Large

Today is Valentine’s Day, and a big part of what that entails is time spent thinking about the one you adore. And, for me, it means thinking about romantic movies. So what has happened is I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on my current mancrush Ryan Gosling, what films he’s done that explore the concepts of love and romance, and how I feel about each of them. And surprise, surprise, a column idea sprung forth. Today I’ll be looking at The Notebook, a film that a lot of people respond to very strongly, a film that most every girl you know loves, and a film that’s an instant panty dropper when thrown into casual conversations with hormonal coeds. Also, I’ll be looking at Lars and the Real Girl, a movie that’s well regarded among the people that have seen it, but that was too strange for many moviegoers to take a chance on, or for any mainstream award shows to champion. And also, it’s a movie that can mean instant death if you try to explain it to a girl in a bar.

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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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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr damns the gods with reviews of Clash of the Titans, The Last Song and Why Did I Get Married Too?

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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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Walt Disney Pictures has released the first trailer for The Last Song, an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel starring Miley Cyrus, Kelly Preston and Greg Kinnear. And I don’t know about you, but I’m just happy to see young Miley finally in a movie where Billy Ray Cyrus doesn’t also play her fictional father.

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Diane Lane and Richard Gere in Night in Rodanthe

Due to the way he was affected by his screening of Nights in Rodanthe, Cole Abaius has decided to forego the standard review format. Instead, he will review the film in the form of an open letter to the filmmakers.

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It appears that Miley Cyrus is looking to grow up and get into the movie business, but it doesn’t appear that she’s ready to do it without her Disney handlers just yet.

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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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