Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Safe Haven (Part 1)

"Who wants to watch a Nicholas Sparks movie about two pretty young white people overcoming the odds to fall in love while dealing with tragedies?  No, not the Notebook.  There's cancer in this one!  No, not A Walk To Remember.  No, not The Last Song.  No, not Dear John.  It's Safe Haven, okay?!  We're watching Safe Haven!"

I've been doing this movie review thing for around five months now, and I'm beginning to notice some trends among the awesome people who read by borderline incoherent ramblings. BY FAR my most popular reviews have been the ones of Young Adult Movies, but another review has surprisingly got me a good amount of feedback: Walk Of Shame.

That's rather out of place in my usual reviews about supernatural love triangles, video game movies, and films about CGI nonsense, so I thought I'd try it again. Today we're going to be taking a look at 2013's Safe Haven. Yes, Safe Haven, a NICHOLAS SPARKS movie.

Sadly I'm something of an expert on Sparks' movies. You see, back when I was still alive I used to actually go on dates so I've been subjected to almost all of them yet I find them FASCINATING. Almost all follow the exact same formula, because just like Michael Bay, Nicholas Sparks knows his audience to a capital boldfaced T.

Here's a handy bingo card I made so you can play along!

Is this movie going to be more of the same? Grab your box of tissues and get ready for some Emotionally Manipulative Tear Jerking, Nicholas Sparks-Style as it's time for A Ghoul Versus Safe Haven!

Our film opens with a panicked brunette woman, running for her life down the street with a plastic bag in her hand. Is she trying to run out of the movie? What have I got myself into if it's this bad the characters are already trying to escape it? She runs to a neighbour's house, pounding on the door and begging to be let in. An elderly woman answers the door, referring to her as Erin as she lets her inside. The tense and dramatic music REALLY makes me hope this turns out to be a slasher movie, because if there's one thing that could save ANY Nicholas Sparks movie it's an ax wielding psycho.

Jumping ahead we see the same woman, now a panicked blonde, continuing her attempt to get out of the movie, buying a ticket at the bus station and boarding it as police cars pull up outside. One of the cops stops the bus he's on, identifying himself as Boston PD. Ah no, it's not her bus but just a fake out. That's most DEFINITELY not cliched. Her bus pulls out of the station and down the street as she watches the cop search the wrong bus.

The bus drives across the state as the credits roll, finally ending up in a small coastal town in the South called Southport. Blondie gets out of the bus and looks around, noticing the very handsome Mr. Fergalicious himself, Josh Duhamel working at a convenience store. You probably know him best as his award winning and insanely memorable role as Captain Generic Army Guy in the Transformers movies.

Blondie spends the next day roaming around the town, as this movie is certainly not in a hurry to go anywhere. She ends up getting a job at a local diner as a waitress, although this raises a number of questions immediately. Small town or not, they're still going to want a social security number from her to do a background check. If she gives them a fake one they'll know right away, whereas if she gives them her real one wouldn't it come back she's a wanted criminal? I mean, I'm assuming she's a criminal given the police are after her. WHAT IS GOING ON IN THIS MOVIE?! Besides Josh Duhamel's dreamy eyes, of course?

This is all cut with footage of the cop back in Boston, Kevin, reviewing security footage of the bus station, seeing Blondie boarding the bus and making note of its destination to Atlanta. What are the odds he doesn't bother to check the stops it made along the way?

Back in Southport, Blondie rents or buys a small cabin. Okay seriously movie, we NEED some information here. How is she able to get a place with no social security number?! I could see if this was set in the 1950s, but this sure looks present day to me. That night Blondie has a nightmare of fighting with a man and getting stabbed, at least I think that's what we saw. The camera is held so close to the actors it's really hard to tell that was the intent, they could have been having 50 Shades Of Grey-style sex for all I know. And yes, you better DAMN SURE believe 50 Shades Of Grey's release date of Valentine's Day 2015 is circled on my calendar.

The next morning she heads to the convenience store to buy some goods, finding the cashier to be Mr. Fergie Ferg's young daughter Lexie. He also has a slightly older son named Josh who just kind of sulks in the background doing jack all. Blondie introduces herself as Katie just as Mr. Fergie Ferg enters the store, surprised that she's staying in the town and not passing through. He rings her out, obviously very taken with her young and attractive blondeness.

Katie returns home to find a brunette woman at her cabin trying to look through her windows, wondering what the hell is going on. The woman introduces herself as Jo, her nosy neighbour from across the way. Cut back to Boston, where Kevin is actually checking all the stops the bus made which legit surprised me. I thought after the whole Katie securing a life with no identity check whatsoever was going to set the tone for this movie.

The next day Katie returns to the store to order paint for her house, learning the handsome young man making googly eyes at her is named Alex. Alright, twenty minutes in and finally everyone has a name. NOW we're getting somewhere! On her way home she runs into Jo, who tags along and bores her (and us) with small talk.

At work Katie's boss Maggie tells her about Alex and how he lost his wife to cancer because OF COURSE he did. A Nicholas Sparks movie without cancer is like a George Romero movie without zombies. A few days later Katie's paint order comes in, Alex slyly offering to give her a ride home so she won't have to carry the heavy cans. Ah ha, this guy knows the score! The ride is pretty uneventful though as Katie brushes his flirting off, but Alex does mention he's a fan of the band Slayer which is just plain AWESOME.

A painting montage furthers the time as Katie spends more time hanging out with Jo while Alex wistfully pines for her. One night Katie has a Director's Cut version of the dream, as we see SHE was the one who did the stabbing. She gathers all the evidence into the bag she was carrying at the beginning of the film and runs out of the house as she wakes up to the sound of a car outside. She hides in fear as she hears footsteps outside of her house, but then they eventually get back into the car and drive away.

She finds a bicycle outside with a note in it, angrily marching it back to Alex's store. He admits he left it for her as a gesture of kindness, but she ain't having any of that and gives it back to him. I'm on her side with this one, he did cross some boundaries going to her house uninvited and trying to buy her favour with gifts.  But again, a Nicholas Sparks movie where the guy doesn't cross the line trying to get the girl isn't really a Nicholas Sparks movie.

Katie stomps back home to bitch about Alex to Jo, who foolishly dismisses Alex's actions as southern hospitality with no ulterior motive. Yeah right, and if you believe that I have this lovely bridge in North Dakota I'd LOVE to sell you. This does convince Katie though, who goes back to Alex to apologise but now it's his turn to be mad at her.

To resolve this relationship impasse, the film decides to have Josh accidentally knock himself out and fall into the water. Katie and Alex rush off to save him and just like that the seeds are sewn for the Greatest Romance In The History Of Romances... since the last Nicholas Sparks movie.  Just to remind us Kevin is still alive, the movie shows us a scene of him where he learn he's obsessed with arresting Katie for first degree murder and nothing's going to get in his way. He faxes out her mugshot across the country, where the police in Southport hang it up without even looking at it. Yeah, no way they're going to notice the picture just HAPPENS to look a lot like Katie when the plot demands it.

Katie ends up going to the beach with Alex and his family, as we learn Josh is not comfortable with his dad seeing Katie. Beach frolicking montages follow as our leads get to know each other, Katie skillfully deflecting all of Alex's questions about her past. This doesn't phase him due to her young and attractive blondeness.

Alex takes Katie out canoeing for some beautiful scenery porn because this is a Nicholas Sparks movie, but they end up getting rained on because this is STILL a Nicholas Sparks movie. These movies must be so quick to film since they just reuse the same script over and over again. They go to a diner for a strange scene where they end up slow dancing to a song on the jukebox while the ENTIRE STAFF of the diner vanishes into thin air. They're JUUUUUUUUST about to kiss when Alex's friend Rhett shows up to drive them home, for some reason. This is a really confusing bit. Rhett just happens to be a police officer, which I'm sure won't lead to him being the one to discover Katie's mugshot back at the station.

Rhett takes Katie home first, but Alex finally gets that kiss in that we've been waiting all film for. Unfortunately there's still an hour left to go, so I suggest you settle in because the rest of this could be one VERY long movie. After returning home, Alex goes to the shop and goes upstairs where his wife's old study is. He opens a drawer and looks at a huge stack of letters his wife left for their children on the important days of their lives, like their weddings and graduations because this is a Nicholas Sparks movie and there DAMN SURE better be letters from dead people in it!

Kevin, Master of Pace Breaking, shows up again as he enters Katie's old house to go over the murder scene again. He finds evidence that leads him to Katie's neighbour, the elderly woman we saw Katie run to at the start of the film. She tells the brash cop she won't talk to him until he gets a warrant.  More love montages follow, including a brief interlude where Jo tells Katie she knew Alex was using the bike to make a move which I have to give them some points for. Katie and Alex finally have sex, which means the dreaded second act breakup ain't that far away now.

And right on cue, here it is! At the police station with Rhett, Alex just happens to notice the mug shot photo of Katie. He tears it off the wall and rushes off, confronting Katie over it by calling her by her real name which confirms his worst fear. She tells him she was in an abusive relationship, but he doesn't know what to believe anymore. He tells her she should leave before Rhett figures out her true identity, and then walks out on her. I PROMISE YOU I had no idea they were going to break up after I typed up the previous paragraph, this movie ain't exactly trying to tell an original story here.

Things are going downhill for Kevin as well, as he gets suspended by the police chief (who sadly ISN'T an Angry Black Man) who takes his badge and gun away for breaking numerous rules in the investigation of Kat- eh, let's go with Erin now. Also because Kevin is a boozing drunk who drinks on the job constantly, using water bottles filled with vodka. Then the chief drops the bombshell: Erin is Kevin's WIFE. Whoa-oa-oa! There's a twist!

This triggers a flashback of Kevin coming home to Erin after a long day of work, all sweet until she confronts him over his raging alcoholism. He then turns into a TOTAL SCUMBAG PSYCHO and starts beating her, Erin stabbing him in the side with a kitchen knife to defend herself. She runs away instead of stabbing him to death until the knife breaks like she should have. And I think we're finally full circle now, although this does raise some more questions.

Kevin clearly did not recognize the woman despite the fact she was his neighbour directly across the street who was good friends with his wife. I suppose you could make the case he was constantly drunk to the point he wouldn't notice something like that, but you can't tell me just ONCE he wouldn't have noticed her talking to Erin. The script compounds this problem by having Kevin talk about Katie like she's a complete stranger and not his freaking WIFE.

Also we see after stabbing Kevin, Erin went directly from the woman's house, cut and dyed her hair, and went directly to the bus stop. Where'd she get all her money from then? She couldn't have been using a debit or credit card, because Kevin surely would have checked into that. Did the woman give her a huge stack of money, or does the diner in Southport pay like five thousand dollars an hour? I want a job there!

Erin rides home to pack her things up, Jo just happening to be there and trying to talk her out of it to no avail. Alex comes by to see her, but finds her house is now empty. He drives off to the ferry about to leave town, finding her there. He apologizes to her, listening as she tells him her story. She is about to leave when he (say it with me) tells her that he loves her and will protect her from Kevin.

There's our third act reconciliation, but there's still the little issue of over half an hour of movie time left. That must mean more Kevin scenes, as he breaks into the neighbour's house now that he's free of that pesky badge of his to do whatever the hell he wants. He finds a voice mail Erin left for the woman to let her know that she was safe, copying down the number to trace it. And with that he's off to Southport, bottle in hand.  DUN DUN DUUUUUN!

Click here for Part 2!