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filmreview contemporary means of communication and social networking at their disposal. They presumably have e-mail, of course, but they choose to stay in touch via handwritten letters – the first of many nods to simpler times by director Lasse Hallström and screenwriter Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall). But major events gradually threaten the temporary tranquillity to which John and Savannah cling. A family friend (Henry Thomas) with an autistic son appeals to Savannah for assistance. John’s father (Richard Jenkins), a reclusive coin collector, suffers setbacks. And terrorists attack the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, prompting John to consider reenlisting alongside his Special Forces colleagues.

Dear John

Director: Lasse Hallström Starring: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, DJ Cotrona Scheduled release: 6 May Why do the lovers in Nicholas Sparks’ internationally acclaimed stories have such a hard time staying together? The bestselling peddler of heartbreaking Harlequin prose has used war, debilitating diseases and natural disasters as roadblocks to romance in novels like The Notebook, A Walk to Remember and Nights In Rodanthe. There are no hurricanes in Dear John, the latest tearjerker adapted from a Sparks book, but military conflicts and life-threatening illness do play a part in separating John (Channing Tatum) and Savannah (Amanda Seyfried). The star-crossed lovers meet while John – a soldier in the Army’s Special Forces – is home on leave. They enjoy a summer fling reminiscent of Danny and Sandy’s Grease getaway, but put their hearts on hold when Savannah returns to college and John ventures overseas for a year to complete his designated tour.

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Since the story is set in the early part of this decade, John and Savannah don’t have Twitter, Facebook, Skype and other

The Crazies Director: Breck Eisner Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Danielle Panabaker Scheduled release: 6 May Along with Wes Craven (Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes) and John Carpenter (Halloween, The Fog), George Romero has become a major source for potential horror film remakes. His seminal Night of the Living Dead has had several reboots, and Zack Snyder’s take on Dawn of the Dead converted many a defiant fright fan to the notion of updating supposedly classic creepshows. Now we have a redux of Romero’s post-Watergate action thriller The Crazies. But instead of focusing on government ineptitude and a timely “trust no one” message, Breck Eisner’s take is all tone and atmosphere, with very little dread to go around. It all begins when a local drunk goes nuts at a high-school baseball game. Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) is forced to kill him. A mere 24 hours later, everyone in Ogden Marsh is coming unglued. Fathers are setting their families on fire. Morticians are sewing up the eyes and mouths of the living. Dutton’s doctor wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell), figures it’s some kind of virus. After discovering a downed military plane in the town’s water supply, Dutton decides it’s some kind of biological weapon. When the army shows up in masks and hazmat suits, their worst fears are confirmed Searching for a way out of the town, they hit upon an unsettling truth. No one is supposed to make it out alive – not the crazy, and definitely not the sane. It’s a shame when the terror in the title makes the merest of cameo appearances in your proposed epic scarefest, but that’s exactly what happens in this update of The Crazies. Instead of focusing on the unhinged locals and their craven atrocities, or the inept military and their bumbling, bloody cover-up, the movie micromanages the narrative down to three people and their 90-minute story of BCMAGAZINE06MAY2010

The challenging emotional conflicts of the film’s second half resuscitate Dear John from its initial melodramatic coma of unconvincing puppy love that can be blamed on Sparks’ archetypal plotting and execution. Tatum and Seyfried don’t seem interested in the requisite thunderstorm smooches and fistfights with former flames, so why on earth should we invest in obstacles that don’t add up to much? But Dear John demands its characters make difficult choices as it develops, and it’s during these messy conflicts that the film’s heart – and the actors’ abilities – is revealed. The carefree couple from the film’s earliest scenes are long gone by its end. Life has forced them to mature, and the film benefits immensely from their individual growth. By the time we reach a pivotal moment explaining the meaning of a letter John wrote regarding the value of his father’s coin collection, Hallström’s film surprises with a worthy payoff. It’s worth noting, however, that the final scene of Dear John doesn’t fit – and there’s a reason. It was a last-minute reshoot, a poor attempt to deliver a happy ending. A spokesperson for the film was recently quoted as saying the new scene ‘leaves the audience with more possibility of what might happen’. It doesn’t. The truth of the matter is that in Hollywood, sadly, an honest but unhappy ending for romance is virtually impossible. Sean O’Connell attempted escape. Instead of a perilous pandemic of splatter proportions, we get a tiny group of characters moving from point A to point B, and the various unnecessary people they pick up/lose along the way. For this to work, you have to create really strong central characters or a wildly intriguing premise. The Crazies does neither and, because of that, everything here underwhelms. By the time the Duttons and Clank start turning on each other, we’ve given up on seeing anything remotely novel. Instead, the finale lurches in and provides the mandatory horror movie moments – false scares, unstoppable villains and a last act gasp for survival. Pacing is also a big problem here. Eisner spends so much time with the set-up that he can’t concentrate on delivering the shivers. Where’s the drama? Where’s the terror? Hell – where’s the blood? When an entire town turns murderous in a movie, you’d expect a little arterial spray. Sadly, this version of The Crazies keeps the blood volume well in check. George Romero believed he was making a more realistic variation on his previous end-of-the-world zombiethon. This update has more than enough mood – what it lacks, however, is menace. Bill Gibron


bc magazine 6 May 2010 - pg 44