20th Century Fox via Everett Collection
There are certain songs that transport you back to movie scenes as soon as you hear them. Sometimes that makes you feel warm inside, sometimes it inspires you, and other times it gives you the willies. We're taking a look at the songs that we can't help but associate with the big screen, toucing on the greatest inspirational songs in films and the creepiest uses of pop songs in movies. Here, though, we take a look at the songs in movie scenes that touched our romantic hearts.
"Unchained Melody" in Ghost
"Oh, my love... My darling… I've hungered for your touch..." The song was a hit for The Righteous Brothers long before the movie was made, but ever since that opening line and Bobby Hatfield's falsetto can only mean one thing… Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and a pottery wheel.
"Must've Been Love" in Pretty Woman
Roxette's hit from the Julia Roberts film still calls to mind a tangle of red curls looking hopefully out of the back window of a limousine and a sadly dapper Richard Gere looking forlornly from his balcony.
"You Make My Dreams" in (500) Days of Summer
It wasn't the first time that Hall & Oates song was used in a movie, but just try playing it now without thinking about Joseph Gordon-Levitt happily dancing down the street after his hook-up with Zooey Deschanel.
"Can You Feel the Love Tonight" in The Lion King
Yes, it's a Disney movie, but it's also Elton John. The song is so linked to the image of lions falling in love that Sir Elton frequently plays the animated clip on screen when he sings it in concert.
"Falling Slowly" in Once
Even if it hadn't subsequently become the centerpiece of the Tony-winning Broadway musical version, the duet by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová in John Carney's movie would still be just as sweet.
"Iris" in City of Angels
The movie about Nicolas Cage's angel who falls in love with Meg Ryan's mortal would probably have faded from memory entirely if not for John Rzeznik's plaintive voice on The Goo Goo Dolls hit.
"When You Say Nothing at All" in Notting Hill
Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts climb over a fence to wander in an English garden. As they share a moment, Ronan Keating's version of the country song plays and suddenly they're the only two people in the world.
"(I've Had) The Time of My Life" in Dirty Dancing
When Jennifer Warren sang with Joe Cocker for An Officer and a Gentleman, only the instrumental version of their "Up Where We Belong" played over the climactic scene (similar to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic). In Dirty Dancing, however, Warren's duet with Bill Medley is front and center as Swayze pulls Jennifer Grey's Baby out of the corner.
"I Will Always Love You" in The Bodyguard
Regardless of what you think of her acting, Whitney Houston could sing. We're not sure that we would stop a plane to go kiss Kevin Costner, but we'll watch it all day if we can hear the song and Houston's amazing voice again.
"In Your Eyes" in Say Anything…
According to both parties, John Cusack lobbied director Cameron Crowe to have a Fishbone song playing as his lovesick Lloyd Dobler held his boombox aloft to get Ione Skye's attention. Thankfully, Crowe opted to keep the Peter Gabriel classic.
The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Oh. My. God.: Louis C.K. is back on TV! Don't get too excited — it's not his currently-on-hiatus FX hit Louie. Instead, the famed comedian will air a new stand-up special, entitled Louis C.K.: Oh My God. The special will debut on HBO on April 13th at 10PM, and will eventually be up for sale (cheaply) on his website. [Splitsider]
Fox Says Goodbye: Fox has officially finalized its plans for the end of the 2012-2013 television season. Some of the bigger names on the roster include American Idol, which will bow out on May 16, Glee (May 9), and New Girl (May 7). [E! Online]
Simon Cowell Continues Quest for World Domination: Apparently, the many failures of the US version of The X Factor are not enough to stop King Simon Cowell. The infamous Brit announced today that his company, Syco Entertainment, is joining forces with YouTube for an online show called “The You Generation" — which will search for the best talent in photography, cooking, visual art, and... wait for it... magic. Err, illusion. Quick, someone call GOB Bluth! [EW]
RELATED: ABC Sets 'Mistresses' Premiere Date
Alison Janney Gets Sexy Guest Gig: No, it's nothing like her role on Lost. Showtime has announced via release that Janney will be playing Margaret Scully, the wife of Beau Bridges’ University Provost Barton Scully, on 5 episodes of their new series Masters of Sex — a drama which focuses on the pioneers of the sexual revolution. [Showtime]
Family Feud: Former One Tree Hill-er Sophia Bush is returning to her drama roots after co-staring in the canceled CBS sitcom Partners. The actress will star in NBC's Hatfields & McCoys, about the infamous feuding families set in present-day Pittsburgh. Bush's Emma McCoy is her clan's eldest sibling and a successful doctor. Meanwhile, Rebecca De Mornay will headline the show as Mary Hatfield, the city's mayor and the matriarch of her powerful family. [Deadline/Deadline]
No more Ryan Shay?: Chatswin's lovable dumb jock might not be returning next year. Parker Young, who plays the fan favorite Suburgatory character, has landed a role in the military comedy Enlisted as one of three brothers working at an Army base in Florida. Geoff Stults plays his older bro. Although Suburgatory boss Emily Kapnek has said that Ryan will return after he heads off to college at the end of the current season, Young's pilot takes priority over his role on the ABC show so it's likely his return will be relegated to guest spots. [TVLine]
[Photo Credit: Eric Leibowitz/FX]
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America, you're doing it right! And proving so many wrong. Worry that the majority of TV audiences simply wanted to watch dancing C-list celebrities and Ashton Kutcher explaining why he got a haircut on Two and a Half Men (that's what happens on that show, right?) is starting to subside. It's now clear that if you build an understated, American epic, they will come.
According to Deadline, after breaking the record for the largest non-sports telecast in ad supported cable television history with a whopping 13.9 million viewers during its Memorial Day debut, History's Hatfields & McCoys miniseries broke its own record on May 30 with an even more whopping 14.3 million viewers during its third and final installment. No one saw the first ratings record coming, so the fact that the series not only maintained but gained viewers is a major boon for History, as is the fact that these numbers make Hatfields the highest rated cable miniseries since 1998.
To put these numbers in context (in case you've been scratching your head and wondering why we're so surprised that so many people parked their kiesters in from of the History Channel three nights in a row) other wonderfully understated TV dramas like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones rarely break the three or four million viewer mark. Yes, more than four times the usual audience of a pop culture phenomenon — or Madness, if you will — flipped their clickers to watch Bill Paxton and
The film follows the same tired action genre step by step. Ex-con and single dad O2 (Tyrese Gibson) is trying to go straight for the sake of his young son Junior. But when the kid is kidnapped in what seems to be a typical carjacking O2 has to pull out all the stops to get him back. Turns out O2 had some nefarious dealings with a gang overlord named Big Meat (The Game) who likes to hack off people’s body parts with a machete. And now Meat wants some payback taking for ransom the only thing O2 cares about in the entire world [sniffle]. So what’s a guy to do? Pit rival gang leaders against each other hook up with a beautiful street hustler (Meagan Good) rob safety deposit boxes and get caught in an extended car chase that’s what. "It's either all or nothing " realizes O2. Very prophetic. Waist Deep has got some great character names--Meat O2 Coco Lucky Junior. Too bad most of the performances can’t live up to them. Tyrese (Four Brothers) does try his best though as the hunky O2 making a convincing albeit a tad stiff attempt at playing a father who’s whole life is his son. Good (Roll Bounce) gets to wear tight sexy clothes and strut around as Coco O2’s accomplice and eventual love interest as they rob banks Bonnie and Clyde style. Larenz Tate (Crash) plays Lucky O2’s unreliable cousin who actually isn’t lucky at all caught between a rock and hard place. And then there’s Meat played by big-time rapper The Game in his feature debut. With a battered face and covered in tattoos The Game certainly looks like one mean badass wielding a mad machete. Thankfully he doesn’t have to do much more than that. Here’s a few words of advice to would-be actors who want to play effective bad guys: Less is more. It’s movies like these that really give South Central L.A. a bad rep—shoot-outs in the middle of the street in broad daylight the carjacks the depravity the sad stories of little kids getting shot. It’s not exactly a warm and fuzzy place. Of course actor-turned-director/co-writer Vondie Curtis-Hall (best known for his numerous TV guest spots) doesn’t want it to be showing the grit in all its glory and collecting a cast from the area who could lend some credibility to the surroundings. But Hall needs a few more lessons in how to craft a well-thought action movie. The script is hackneyed beyond the usual taking bits not only from Bonnie and Clyde but also Thelma and Louise Boyz N the Hood--and even a little Shawshank Redemption. Hall’s camerawork is also too frenetic at times almost dizzyingly so with unnecessary close ups and choppy sequences. That isn’t to say some of the gun play and car chases aren’t exciting enough. There just seems to be a lack of experience overall.