"The Lucky One"

Richard's Review: 1/2 star

Nicolas Sparks is to romance writing what Buckley's cough syrup is to a tickly throat. They both get the job done, but leave a sickly-sweet aftertaste.

"The Lucky One" sees Zac Efron play Logan, a Marine with three tours of duty in Iraq under his belt. After one deadly night raid in which several Marines are killed, he finds a photo of a beautiful woman with the words "stay safe" written on the back. The mystery woman becomes his guardian angel after a bomb explodes as he discovers the picture. Indeed, if he hadn't left his post to retrieve the photo Logan would have been killed. He tries in vain to find the owner of the photo. When he is transferred stateside his search takes him to North Carolina and to Beth (Taylor Schilling), the girl in the photo.

Sparks-isms abound in "The Lucky One." The pen behind stories like "Dear John" and "Nights in Rodanthe" gives us characters with soap opera names like Drake and Logan. There are people who say things like, "You should be kissed every day, every hour, every minute," and lovers making out in a shower.

Unfortunately, there isn't anything here as memorable as "The Notebook's" swan scene. Instead we're given a collection of starry-eyed Sparksian banalities strung together in place of a story.

That story, such that it is, is so slight and predictable that it has to be fleshed out with musical montages and scenes that develop the plot. These tricks simply reinforce what we already know about the characters.

We get it: Logan is troubled, but he likes dogs, reads philosophy and plays piano so he can't be a bad guy.

That's as deep as the character study gets in this romance. The good people are pure and virtuous; the bad people are corrupt and mean.

If watching good-looking people fall in love is enough for you, then spend your money on "The Lucky One." But I couldn't help but think that Efron was speaking to the audience when he says to Beth, "I know you deserve better than this."


Richard's Review: 2 stars

There is a cinematic truth that states that all baby animals are cute. This means that it is virtually impossible to dislike a movie that features an infant animal, no matter what the species, in a leading role. "Chimpanzee" amps up the cute factor with its baby primate star, Oscar. But is that enough to make a good movie?

The latest in the Disneynature Earth Day documentaries is the story of Oscar, an African chimpanzee born into a troop led by alpha-male Freddy. When a rival troop attacks Oscar's mother goes missing, leaving him orphaned. As the days and weeks pass Oscar, still too young to fend for himself, must find a mentor or he may not survive.

The cute factor is ramped way up in "Chimpanzee." Long scenes of Oscar trying to crack a nut with a rock are adorable, even if they start to feel like indulgent chimp home movies after a while.

The photography is spectacular, featuring a cool sequence of a spider weaving a web and beautiful, intimate images of the chimps that illustrate their intelligence and lifestyle.

The movie certainly has its heart in the right place. For every ticket sold Disneynature will donate money to co-producer Jane Goodall's Institute.

Unfortunately cute babies and good intentions do not always make a great movie. The main problem here isn't the photography, it's the footage and the narration. The footage -- shot on location over the course of three years by co-directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield in the tropical jungles of the Ivory Coast and Uganda -- is great looking. But the process of putting it to together has resulted in a film that feels padded and held together with lame narration.

"It's always good to add a little fibre to your diet," says narrator Tim Allen over a shot of a chimp eating a leaf. "How about a side salad?"

There are some nice movie moments -- shots of Oscar bonding with his mom are touching. A scene of Oscar's education in the fine art of ant lollipop making is also funny, but the rest of this film is simple nature photography. There is too little actual story to justify the 80 minute running time of this film.

Having said that, Oscar is a cutie and the film will benefit the chimps at the Jane Goodall Institute. It's just too bad you can't press the mute button on the narration.

"Think Like A Man"

Richard's Review: 3 stars

How do you turn a self-help book into a movie?

Well, instead of directly basing the story on comedian Steve Harvey's non-fiction bestseller "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment," this movie uses the book as a springboard.

The book appears alongside four women -- Mya (Meagan Good), Candace (Regina Hall), Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) and Kristen (Gabrielle Union)—who are using the self-help tome to better understand their men. These fellows include Zeke (Romany Malco), Michael (Terrence J), Dominic (Michael Ealy) and Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara). Of course, these boys figure out what's going on, pick up the book and get in on the game.

Despite playing a bit like an infomercial for Steve Harvey's book, "Think Like a Man" is funny and charming. It's a bit long, has too many overlapping stories and a predictable ending. But the cast fights to overcome the pigeonholes they're saddled with in this movie, such as the Mama's boy, the woman who is her own man, and so on.

The key player here is Kevin Hart, who serves as narrator and comic foil throughout the movie. He doesn't so much act as he does "deliver" his lines, but his over-the-top style livens things up.

"Think Like a Man" purports to be about modern relationships, but the battle of the sexes seems a bit old-fashioned here. Still, there are consistent laughs all the way through if you can look past the stereotypes.