Valentine’s Marathon: The Choice (2016)

Next up in the Valentine’s Marathon is the annual Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation visit to stay on track and up to date with this. What started off as something that I thought would be torturous actually wasn’t as bad. A ton of you are going to disagree with me. I know already. Every year I post one of these, most people hate these Nicholas Sparks movie adaptations and would just like them to stop. While I can see where everyone is coming from, I actually don’t mind them at all, except for The Last Song…I really don’t like that one. But can you believe, The Choice is the 10th Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation? But from what I’ve read, this is the last movie adaptation.

Let’s check it out!

The Choice (2016)

The Choice

Director: Ross Katz

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Benjamin Walker, Maggie Grace, Alexandra Daddario, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Welling

Travis and Gabby first meet as neighbors in a small coastal town and wind up in a relationship that is tested by life’s most defining events. – IMDB

Nicholas Sparks movies have a formula. Its also this formula that really drives non-fans away from it, in my opinion. There’s always lovers who meet under less than desirable circumstances who find a way to be together then some disapproving factor drives them apart and then they somehow find the strength to reunite. Some times, they are able to be together and sometimes, other things will keep them apart (ex. sickness, death, bad timing, etc). You get my drift, right? Whenever I review one of these movies, I think its important to push away that formula. Think about the factors they put together from the characters to their chemistry (a big one for romance) and the supporting roles and what it does, maybe even the setting. The formula won’t change, we all know that and if it does, like the first time I saw a character survive the ordeal without some bittersweet twist, I was actually pleasantly surprised. So we’re going to do this for The Choice, okay? It sounds stupid to brush the story aside but that isn’t exactly what I’m doing, just you know glazing over the familiarity and looking more at how it carries itself.

The Choice

The Choice is not my favorite Nicholas Sparks adaptation. In fact, I don’t think A Walk to Remember has ever been beaten in my guilty pleasure romance movies. However, The Choice does also give us two very cute characters. There are some supporting characters that could’ve done with a little more development but still had its purpose. The setting itself is beautiful and the chemistry was done quite well. The story could have been delivered a little better and probably the run time could’ve been shorter as well to make it more compact. The Choice isn’t anything great to the movie adaptations however, there is one thing that I liked a lot about it other than the beautiful setting making me want to seek it all out for myself but our two main characters. There are very familiar mechanics they use, like setting up the story in a way that we’re at a certain point and then recounting the events and then getting to the present and continuing on from there to the conclusion. I can’t say its particularly useful to do it like this but its not a bad way for it to unfold.

The Choice

The Choice’s primary strength is its couple, Gabby and Travis played by Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker respectively. Like I mentioned before, it didn’t really hit it off for me right away but in the interaction that Gabby and Travis has in their bickering, they start to grow a little (for me at least). Teresa Palmer’s character seemed to work out better for me but then there’s always a question of judgement and passion. Nicholas Sparks likes to embrace the somewhat “forbidden” love type of thing. Our characters need to have courage and they need to feel some security. In this case, the point of most of the story is Travis’s character not fighting for something he loves and always taking the easy route even if it means heartbreak and being lonely. Up till that point, the story still kind of worked because the message worked for me. However, the third act diving into a dramatic twist somewhat seems a little forced. It does also talk about guilt and holding on and fighting and believing but in many ways, the way it unfolds seems a little manipulative, I guess. I can forgive most of it but just saying that it would objectively be in that area to evoke some sort of sentiment and its where we are tested on how deeply we feel for this couple (which for me, wasn’t a whole lot) whereas, the idea of what is going on about churning up the thoughts of whether to let someone go is probably the bigger question here that really gets emotional. Probably because I’ve been in a relatable situation that it hit me a little harder than it probably would.

The Choice

The Choice however does have some other familiar faces in the supporting role. We have Maggie Grace as Steph, the sister of Travis who really is his guiding light of logic. She sees more about Gabby and her impact on Travis and how he actually feels, just like a close friend would be normally. We have an ex-girlfriend (or something) played by Alexandra Daddario who really doesn’t ever build up to much but to eventually tell Travis something important that encourages him. Tom Wilkinson plays as Travis’s father who in the second half probably understands more about what he is going through than others would. Most of these supporting roles are there for their one moment that really builds a connection or enlightens our character. These characters are also usually expected in these adaptations.

Overall, The Choice works okay for me. Its not my favorite but it is also far from the worst one out of the ten Nicholas Sparks adaptations. The charming characters of Gabby and Travis may get me to revisit it eventually. There are however many moments where it does fall flat, even if you look past the formulaic plot. The supporting characters are weak and could probably be fleshed out more. The story itself drags much longer than it needs. The chemistry between the characters are a little rushed in the first place so never quite meet the potential even if there are some good moments there. There are issues with this one but I’m pretty forgiving on these adaptations so I can see things that can redeem it. However, its not going to work for people who has never quite enjoyed any of them. If thats the case, you might probably not want to start here.

Fantasia Festival 2016: Lights Out (2016)

The next movie in the Fantasia Festival Line-up before almost a week off before the next one is Lights Out. I haven’t been able to finish the trailer on this one and it hits a lot of my fears such as darkness. Its one I am excited, skeptical and incredibly nervous and frightened to go see. Lights Out is presented as a Montreal Special Screening and was a sold out show. It also presented me with one of the most engaging film watching experience. Please note the film watching and not film. It seemed to need that clarification on Twitter. Everyone screamed and laughed and emoted together. Maybe it will disturb a normal theatre experience but Fantasia is a different vibe because a ton of people there are film buffs if not horror film buffs which adds on to the fun.

Lights Out (2016) 

Lights Out

Director: David F. Sandberg

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, Billy Burke, Andi Osho, Alicia Vela-Bailey

When her little brother, Martin, experiences the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity that has an attachment to their mother, Sophie.-IMDB

Lights Out’s premise started with the director David F. Sandberg’s short film that is available on Vimeo that was submitted for a short film under three minutes. It is an atmospheric horror film that is short but introduces us to the concept of his spirit that dwells in the darkness. It appears as a shadow with elongated sharp fingers when the lights are out and disappears when the lights are on. Changing the setting but using the same actress as in his short film, this is how Sandberg chooses to start his full feature, Lights Out. However this time, the backstory is different. It highlights why this spirit follows this family as it breaks it up over and over again whether its driving the the mom to a deeper depression to the daughter moving out to the son not being able to sleep. Why is it here? What does it want? All these questions cast over Lights Out as it pans through its tight-knit and quick eight-one minutes run time.

Lights Out

 Lights Out is Sandberg’s debut full feature film. With the help of James Wan in the producer seat (among the many), there is a certain potential connected to it. However, if the Lights Out short was any indication, Sandberg is fully capable of crafting an effective horror and he does. Lights Out makes a lot of great moves. It builds a haunting atmosphere playing on the audience’s fear of the darkness. He is smart and utilises all sorts of different lighting whether they are on, off or flickering. The music sits in the background with only moments where it teases us. While it does suffer from some horror movie troupes like the usage of the scary basement or predictably expecting what to happen next, it never lingers on those moments but uses it to create the atmosphere from an initial jump scare to create uneasiness to make the next unexpected move a little more effective.  Part of this effectiveness does contribute with knowing how to keep the audience wondering about the spirit entity even if the atmosphere does build but it becomes rather overused in the short run time especially the first two-thirds of the movie before heading into the wildly intense final third. Not to mention whatever is haunting everyone is designed extremely well but you can see it in the trailer if that interests you or just go into this one fresh.

Lights Out

Lights Out is not perfect however. It is weighed down by a rather generic back story and some dialogue that felt laughably (sometimes awkwardly) out of place. It lingered between cringe-worthy, eye-rolling and laughing territory (and the Fantasia audience laughed a lot). Part of it makes us wonder if it was done deliberately to create a relaxed moment before amping up the intensity ten times more. Or it could most probably be lack of a better screenplay writer. Most of these dialogues are between our main character Rebecca (played by Teresa Palmer) and her boyfriend (played by Alexander DiPersia). Thankfully, there isn’t enough of these dialogues to make it unbearable to watch. It keeps the agenda of a horror thriller in the front and remembers to focus on finding the root of the problem.

Lights Out

 The cast here deserves some mention. They are convincingly good at their roles. Its not saying that they were in anything bad before. Teresa Palmer has Warm Blood and Maria Bello has more than we can count (most recently Prisoners). Before we talk about the main roles here, its good to address some of the smaller cameo roles starting from the opening scene, Lotta Losten which almost replays the original short but in a new setting. In that opening scene, Billy Burke also makes an appearance playing the father of the family we will learn about soon. This opening scene last for a good five minutes probably and sets up what to expect for the rest of Lights Out. Here’s where we get to see a distant daughter, Rebecca, played by Teresa Palmer who does a stand-up job and is a very brave character. Playing her boyfriend is Alexander DiPersia as Bret (as mentioned before) who is an adorable and fun character to add to the mix but also breaks out from the norm impressively. Its rare to call a horror movie boyfriend adorable but he has this incredibly likeable character with some really great scenes. However, the movie is raised above by the mom Sophie played by Maria Bello. She is able to highlight the breakdown and being teared apart by depression and of being mentally weakened.

Overall, Lights Out creates a great horror atmosphere. Sandberg does a lot right in creating this horror thriller with a great premise that plays on fear of darkness mixed with effects of depression. His creature and the design is done really well and manages to keep the audience guessing. The cast also delivers some good performances however the dialogue does hit some awkward and laughably out of place moments forcing in a generic back story. There are some tropes too but they are delivered effectively. Between a mixed bag of jump scares and atmospheric build-up in the feeling of dread, Lights Out delivers a solid horror performance that might leave you keeping your lights on for a while.

Warm Bodies (2013)

I’ve been raving about Warm Bodies since forever.  Probably even before all of you started talking about it, because well, it was filmed right outside my office building.  They closed off streets, warned us that if we heard gunshots or explosions, saw cows and goats, it was all good and safe.  Talk about a calming notice for a few days.  They may have piled on the streets with dirt and then put up boards and damaged cars, and after some research, they actually filmed in other parts of Old Montreal as well.  It makes this movie so much more exciting.  So much so that I went and picked up the book and reviewed it HERE. I liked the originality even if the concept was new and slightly bizarre.  Enough rambling…lets check out the movie!

warm bodies coverDirector: Jonathan Levine

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Dave Franco, Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry

R (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie who lives at the airport with other zombies.  When he goes out to feed with his fellow zombies, they run into a group of apocalypse survivors out from camp to help replenish supplies.  This group includes leader Perry (Dave Franco) and his girlfriend Julie (Teresa Palmer).  Unfortunately R kills Perry but becomes attracted to Julie and takes her back to his home to protect her.  Little did he know that something in her sparked a change in him and he started becoming more human.  Was there a cure to turn the undead back to living?

warm bodies julie and r

I’m going straight to saying that I liked how this movie was adapted.  One of the main reasons is because they chopped off the part that I found really off the charts weird in the book.  But, it still isn’t a perfect adaptation as having read the book, I felt like this was slightly choppy.  I read it a while back so the book is also a bit foggy in my mind and I don’t remember a lot of details but I couldn’t help but feel that the flow wasn’t great.  To me, it still worked fine.

warm bodies city

Normally, I don’t go talking about setting because thats not my forte unless it really peaks my interest. Well, I live in that beautiful city up there, minus the fake wall they put up as dividers.  As cool as it was that it was shot totally and completely in Montreal, in my opinion.  That is my city right there, I live there.  So, when the movie ended with that shot and I was feeling a bit uneasy and started thinking, so, this is what my city would be like if there was a zombie apocalypse.  You know, at least make changes to the scene.  I’m staring at Montreal, probably viewed from Mont-Royal.  Just makes things a little awkward.  So at home and yet, not really…

warm bodies john malkovich julie

Moving along because most of you won’t feel that way about it as you don’t live in Montreal.  I haven’t had much knowledge of the two main characters.  Nicholas Hoult is completely  a new face to me.  Looking at IMDB, he was in Clash of the Titans but I don’t remember anything from that piece of garbage. I rarely feel so strongly for a movie so I don’t want to think about that.  Nicholas Hoult is pretty good as R.  It fits how I pictured R would be.  Very zombified and slowly going human.  Teresa Palmer is rather new to me also.  I’ve seen her before in I Am Number Four and I actually was impressed with her in that, not so much certain elements of the movie but just her.  In this one, I loved her as Julie.  She was pretty sassy and fun, pretty awesome all around. However, the character that I really thought was pretty hilarious was R’s friend, M, played by Rob Corddry.  There is really just one big name here (at least to me) and that’s John Malkovich as Julie’s father who also leads the army protecting the survivors.  In the trailers, he made me feel like he could be irritating but he actually was awesome.  I don’t even know why I doubted it. 🙂

warm bodies boneys

I felt like there should be a little mention on our baddies here.  Nope, not our reviving corpse but instead, its these fellas here, known as Boneys.  Those undead that has been in that state for too long and just can’t turn back.  They sense the living and sense threat to their being what they are.  There were moments, I have to admit they were a bit chilling and creepy.  This movie is categorized as horror but I’d say its more comedy and romance so it wasn’t a huge dose of it.  Nothing too intense, which is good also 🙂

Thats really all I have to say.  I was looking forward to checking this out to begin with but I also had some reservations.  I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.  The romance was cute, the story was adapted not flawless but relatively good, the cast put life into the characters and it was a nice time.  Its nothing like my favorite movie or anything but I’d gladly sit through it again eventually. Its a new take on the zombie apocalypse so I’d recommend it.  Give it a shot 🙂 It might turn into a pleasant surprise. I mean, my boyfriend’s dad was the one who encouraged us to watch it (much to my surprise)!