One Day

August 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson
Directed by: Lone Scherfig (“An Education”)
Written by: David Nicholls (“When Did You Last See Your Father?”)

There are moments in every person’s life that set change in motion and help shape his or her personality and view on the world. These moments are often blindsiding, unpredictable, and happen when least expected. In the case of “One Day,” all of these events occur on the same date throughout a span of two decades.  Implausibility aside, “One Day” is a lumbering mess of a film that forces us to spend 20 years with characters we wouldn’t waste 20 minutes on.

Adapting his own book, author and screenwriter David Nicholls tells the story of a score-long friendship through the events of July 15th, or St. Swithin’s Day. After a botched sexual encounter, the awkward Emma (Anne Hathaway) and the confident Dexter (Jim Sturgess) vow to stay close friends. As Emma works odd jobs and settles with a painfully unfunny comedian named Ian (Rafe Spall), Dexter becomes the host of several awful TV shows and is universally disliked by audiences and eventually by Emma herself. Over time, their roles and fortunes slowly start to reverse and Dexter and Emma find themselves questioning if a relationship is the right thing to do, or if they are just meant to be friends.

Both of the lead characters in “One Day” are charmless people that are flat out annoying to be around. Hathaway, who offers a distractingly bad British accent, brings no charisma to the role of Emma. Part of the problem here is that Nicholls mistakes dry British wit for bitter griping. In glimpses of a scornful Emma working at a Tex-Mex restaurant, her sarcastic attempts at humor are not endearing (or funny), and she instead comes off as a complaining curmudgeon. Sturgess is convincing as the media-proclaimed “most annoying man on television,” which could either be a compliment or an insult. Dexter is not only introduced as selfish, narcissistic, and vain, but these off-putting characteristics are exacerbated by numerous substance addictions. As a result, audiences are presented with a pessimistic woman who is settling in life and a paper-thin, detestable party-boy. Somehow, we are expected to root for their happily ever after.

Since the frustrating narrative structure of the film checks in with Dexter and Emma on the same day every year, only snapshots of their lives are seen and as a result, much of the character development is happening off screen. Although events that serve as life-altering catalysts are shown, moviegoers only get to see the end product of incidents that happened at least one year prior, completely leaving out the work put in to get to that point. The structure also works against the film by only giving the viewer small chunks of screen time to let the relationship develop. It is hard to buy into this couple’s longing for each other when you only see small snippets of annual contact.

After beautifully crafting the thrice Academy Award-nominated 2009 film “An Education,” it is unfortunate that Danish director Lone Scherfig returned with such a shallow piece of melodrama. With its miscalculated humor and nonexistent charm, the years cannot go by fast enough as the underwhelming relationship between Emma and Dexter unfolds.

Legend of the Guardians

September 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Helen Mirren, Ryan Kwanten
Directed by: Zack Snyder (“Watchmen”)
Written by: John Orloff (“A Mighty Heart”) and Emil Stern (“The Life Before Her Eyes”)

The sharp visual style of director Zach Snyder transfers over surprisingly well into the animated genre in the filmmaker’s first attempt with “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” Not without its narrative flaws, “Guardians” is still a darkly-imagined technical wonder and a rare case in recent animated films where 3-D actually adds to the experience.

In “Guardians,” owl brothers Soren (Jim Sturgess) and Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) are kidnapped by a flock of evil owls led by their queen Nyra (Helen Mirren) who is eager to turn them into slave laborers. The brothers go their separate ways when Kludd finds honor in serving the queen, while Soren escapes to search for the mythical Guardians of Ga’Hoole, warrior owls who are the only answer to defeat Nyra and her army.

Adapted from the first three books in a series written by Kathryn Lasky, there are points in “Guardians” where the names of characters and locations can be a bit difficult to follow especially for the young demographic Warner Bros. is aiming for. It’s evident when the trailer mentions the film has the same producers as “Happy Feet” but doesn’t include Snyder’s past accomplishments: “Dawn of the Dead,” “300,” and “Watchmen.” Also, the soundtrack includes grating music by the band Owl City.

With “Guardians,” Snyder is still able to work with the elements of fantasy that were his calling card in his more graphic projects. Instead of zombies, Greek warriors, or superheroes, he is able to make these majestic birds come to life in the same way.

When the incredible attention to detail emerges is really when the film takes flight. Add to that a classy British voice cast to give life to all these beautifully-rendered birds and “Guardians” becomes an animation like none you’ve seen this year.

21

March 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth
Directed by: Robert Luketic (“Legally Blonde”)
Written by: Peter Steinfeld (“Be Cool”), Allen Loeb (“Things We Lost in the Fire”)

It might be based on a true story, but somewhere in its two hours of drawn out card tricks and casino hopping, “21” gets so unrealistic and immature it busts.

This just might actually be how director Robert Luketic likes to work. He did the same with Reese Witherspoon in “Legally Blonde” and no one can forget the insanely childish and unfunny slapping scene between Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez in “Monster-in-Law.” Sure, we might believe that a sorority girl with no law experience could be accepted to Harvard or that an in-law could purposely destroy her son’s relationship out of spite for his detested fiancée, but Luketic always seems to cross the line into lunacy.

He does the same with “21.” Based on the book “Bringing Down the House,” “21” is the story of a group of six MIT geniuses who, with the expertise of their professor, learn how to count cards in blackjack and win millions on the weekends in Las Vegas with just enough time to get back for class Monday morning.

First, we meet the innocent Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess), a prospective Harvard Medical School student who has worked his entire life to reach the academic success that could possibly put him on the road to becoming a doctor. The problem is that Ben, despite his $8-an-hour job selling suits at a men’s retail store, cannot come up with the $300,000 tuition to the Ivy League without earning a very competitive scholarship that he probably won’t get.

When he is introduced to the world of counting cards, however, Ben, sees a “means to an end” of his financial situation. With the guidance of Professor Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey), he and his new friends, including the pretty Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), hone their blackjack skills, become “gambling” pros, and set off to Vegas with little to worry about except what they will order from room service in their high-roller suites.

Of course, where there’s money there’s power and when power begins to switch hands within the group, things become testy between Mickey and his minions. Along with the inner turmoil between team members, Cole Williams (Lawrence Fishburne), one of the casino’s security heads has become ever-so suspicious of Ben and his buddies because of the amount of money they are raking in during their weekly visits.

Devoid of any real exciting card playing moments or memorable scenes in Vegas (the girls on the team do stick their heads out of the limo’s moon roof at one point), “21” becomes predictable and cliché from the rise and fall of the main hero to the obvious plot twists and payoff.

Stick to pinochle with your granny on a Sunday afternoon. At least you might get some milk and cookies out of that deal.