Film Friday: ‘Dear John’ and ‘From Paris With Love’

by W. Andrew Powell

Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried in Dear John

Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried in Dear John

New this week in theatres, Channing Tatum play Amanda Seyfried long-distance lovers in the romantic drama, Dear John; John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers team up as CIA operatives in the action film, From Paris With Love; and Steve Buscemi stars in the comedy Saint John of Las Vegas.

Dear John
Starring: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas
Director: Lasse Hallstrom

Director Lasse Hallstrom, who brought us films like The Cider House Rules and Chocolat, delivers the adaptation of Nicolas Sparks’ novel about a young couple, brought together by chance, but separated by war.

Channing Tatum stars as John, a soldier on temporary leave when he meets Savannah, played by Amanda Seyfried, a lovely college girl who immediately captures his heart. Spending two weeks together, the two fall in love, but are quickly torn apart when John’s leave takes him back to the turmoil of war. Over the course of his tour of duty, the two share their lives through letters, but invariably when he can be with Savannah again, a looming second tour is on the horizon.

Written by screenwriter Jamie Lindon, who previously penned We Are Marshall, Dear John is a romantic drama that is happy to flaunt its two leads as it cranks up the sappy tension.

While I would personally expect it to be no worse than The Notebook, which was also written by Sparks and received fairly average reviews, the overall consensus among critics is that Dear John is a bomb of a movie.

“It’s as pretty as a Carolina Coast postcard,” wrote Roger Moore for the Orlando Sentinel, “as warm as a New England beach in February and as romantic as a Valentine’s Day TV dinner for one.”

While Brian Lowry of Variety commented, “Mostly, the movie provides ample opportunity to admire Channing Tatum’s broad shoulders and Amanda Seyfried’s incandescent smile, but the narrative device that keeps them connected while geographically apart doesn’t work especially well onscreen.”

From Paris With Love
Starring: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Director: Pierre Morel

With a title reminiscent of a 1950s-era love story, From Paris With Love is the latest action movie from writer and producer Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel, who previously created Taken. Besson is perhaps best known, however, for writing the Transporter films, which is more along the lines of what you can expect from this film.

Set in Paris, Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as James, a personal aide to the U.S. ambassador in France who basically has it all, including a beautiful girlfriend. Secretly though, James is a CIA operative who wants to become a real agent some day, and when an opportunity presents itself, he jumps at the chance.

Unfortunately for James, that opportunity includes his first partner, the wisecracking loose cannon Charlie, played by a scenery-chewing John Travolta.

Working together as they try to avert a terrorist attack, the duo embark on a city-wide shooting spree while they hunt for a crime ring that has its sights set on James. That gives the wanna-be agent at least one good reason for sticking next to Charlie throughout the course of a wild, trigger-happy forty-eight hours. They just have to find some way of working together as the green operative tries to prove himself next to his crazy partner.

Compared to Taken or The Transporter, From Paris With Love is frankly not getting inspiring reviews. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote, “From Paris With Love is a ‘fun trash’ movie that’s more trash than fun.”

David Edelstein of New York Magazine wrote much more positively about the film. “Morel will inevitably be compared to John Woo, whom he trounces,” Edelstein wrote. “[Morel] has fewer mannerisms and a keener eye; his fastest, most kinetic shots flow together like frames in a flipbook.”

Saint John of Las Vegas
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Romany Malco, Sarah Silverman, Peter Dinklage
Director: Hue Rhodes

And in Hue Rhodes’ first feature-length comedy, Saint John of Las Vegas, Steve Buscemi plays a gambling-addicted insurance investigator sent back to Las Vegas, despite his best efforts to stay away.

Buschemi is a great actor, and has been in some great films, but this certainly does not look like one of them. Across the board, the critics are coming out against Saint John of Las Vegas, which has barely earned any positive reviews.

“The oft-used ploy of forcing an odd couple into a car and sending them off to uncharted territory is trotted out yet again here, but to minimal comic or emotional effect,” Gary Goldstein wrote for the Los Angeles Times.

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