Chuck Koplinski: Band's charm likely to win new fans in 'This is Us'
Not sure if I should confess this or not, but the earworm that is One Direction's "You Don't Know You're Beautiful" is among the nearly 2,000 songs on my iPod.
Occasionally, for some unknown reason, that snappy pop ditty starts rattling around in my head, and before you know it, my thumb is furiously working the selection wheel, flying down the list of songs until I find it and hit play. Is it good music? Hardly, but as pop songs go, its serves its purpose as a three-minute diversion, and before you know it, my feet are tapping, and I'm singing softly to myself.
(Well, that wasn't so bad, but my confession concerning my affinity for rival boy band Big Time Rush will have to wait for another time.)
So, I wasn't exactly dreading having to sit through "One Direction: This is Us," the documentary that follows the band on its massive 2012 world tour, giving us a behind-the-scenes look at what makes these boys tick.
Truth be told, I had a good time with it. Not only are the songs serviceable as pop fare ("Live While We're Young" will find a spot on my iPod), but the film doesn't come off as too much of a marketing tool in service of the group's continued push toward world domination.
Credit director Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me") for that as he devotes more screen time to the singers' off-stage life than their performances, allowing us to get to know these five young men and grounding the movie in the process.
One of the more interesting things about the film is the way it shows how modern celebrities are created by recounting how quickly the band became a worldwide brand.
Having auditioned individually for the British talent show "The X-Factor," Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson didn't make it to the final round of the competition but were thrown together by producer Simon Cowell to form a boy band to compete during the next season of that show. They failed to win that contest as well but struck such a nerve with the young female audience, who took to various social media networks to spread the gospel of One Direction, that before they had even cut and released their first single, they were a known commodity with a solid fan base.
To be sure, there's no shortage of interest in the young men as we see thousands upon thousands of teenage girls giving their vocal chords a good workout whenever they catch a glimpse of the boys. At one point, they foolishly decide to take a walk while in Amsterdam and are forced to hole up in a Nike shop after they're spotted, and word spreads like wildfire via Twitter.
Perhaps the oddest sight in the film is seeing director Martin Scorsese, daughter in tow, visit them backstage before their first show at Madison Square Garden — and compliment them on their work. That's media saturation for you.
What's refreshing is that these young men come off as genuine, well-meaning lads who are not only stunned by their meteoric rise but are aware enough to realize how lucky they are and that this won't last forever.
Payne and Styles both worry that the focus on their stage personae has been so overwhelming that their true identities will always be overlooked, while you can tell that Horan is appreciating his parents and home more than ever, now that he has been away.
If anything, I was left feeling a bit concerned about these boys. They've already announced a 2014 stadium tour, and one can't help but be worried that despite their nurturing parents and smart management team that a constant life on the road may lead to an early burnout for them, the tragic results of which we've seen time and again.
After all, we witness Malik buying his single mother a house. Who wouldn't want to see a young man like that stay safe?
'One Direction: This is Us' (3 stars out of 4)
Cast: Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and thousands of screaming teenage girls.
Directed by Morgan Spurlock; produced by Simon Cowell, Adam Milano, Spurlock and Ben Winston.
A Sony Pictures release. 92 minutes. Rated PG (mild language) At AMC Village Mall 6 and Savoy 16.
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"Mortal Instruments" nothing but leftovers. (2 stars) I'm pretty sure that had "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" been released 15 years ago, it would have caused quite a sensation.
After all, it features a young heroine who discovers something about her parents and herself that she never knew, takes place in a world unseen by normal human beings that's inhabited by supernatural beings and involves a quest in which the protagonist travels to a strange land where she discovers she has her own extra-special abilities.
Unfortunately, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and Katniss Everdeen have all gone down this same path in recent memory, so the trials and tribulations of Clary Frey (Lily Collins) come off as old news.
Like so many other literary series pitched to the 'tween crowd, Cassandra Clare's "Mortal Instruments" novels follow the tried-and-true formula of putting a young protagonist on a journey of self-discovery in a strange land. This story is as old as the hills, but it has been done to death in recent years by far too many authors quick to cash in on the Potter franchise's success.
This story is no different as Clary discovers she's a descendent of the Shadowhunters, a race of warriors who were created to battle demons. All of this comes to light after her mother (Lena Headey) is kidnapped, and she stumbles across Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), a fellow warrior who gives her the 411 on her past, her powers and her destiny.
Clary must combat warlocks, werewolves and vampires (oh, my!) as she travels through Downworld, an alternate version of New York City that should not be confused with the Lower East Side. Collins does a fine job as she conveys the right amount of anguish and angst throughout, though her most impressive skill may be the ability to dispatch evil beings while wearing hooker boots with 4-inch heels.
That her outfit is the source of a joke or two proves that screenwriter Jessica Postigo wasn't above trying to inject some humor into the story. However, the gags are far too few and far between to be effective, and when they do occur, they clash with the film's overly serious tone.
Director Harald Zwart, the esteemed auteur responsible for "Agent Cody Banks" and "The Pink Panther 2," does his level best to try and make all that's old seem new again but simply can't make this derivative material seem fresh.
I doubt that anyone could as this all comes off as "Underworld" lite, and once the story resorts to a "Star Wars" cliche (a pair of siblings who don't know they're related are walking around here!), you realize that there truly isn't an original element at play.
And that no amount of magic could have saved this tepid plate of leftovers.
"You're Next" fails to live up to hype. (1 star) Horror film aficionados have been falling all over themselves of late, heaping praise on director Adam Wingard, based mostly on his contributions to the anthology films "V/H/S," "V/H/S 2" and "The ABC's of Death."
Having seen his work, it became obvious the filmmaker is adept at creating an effectively eerie atmosphere and that his camerawork was inventive in the way it limits the audience's point of view, setting up some effective shocks.
However, the work on display in these three films was short, matters of pacing were mostly moot, and they dealt with a single situation rather than a multilayer plot.
His full-length feature "You're Next" was well received at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011 and has garnered mostly favorable reviews by those who have seen it, touting it as fresh and inventive.
Not sure what movie those folks saw (the film is currently certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with 77 percent favorable reviews), but the one I suffered through was nothing more than a collection of standard horror tropes wheeled out at a tepid pace with an amateurish cast.
An entry in the "Home Invasion" subgenre, the story takes place at an isolated estate that's the summer home of the Davisons who have gathered to celebrate the 35th wedding anniversary of patriarchs Paul and Aubrey (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton). They're joined by their son Crispian (AJ Bowen) and his Australian girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson); his jerk of a brother Drake (Joe Swanberg) and his ice cold lover Kelly (Wendy Glenn); the daughter of the clan Aimee (Amy Seimetz) and her filmmaker boyfriend Tariq (Ti West); and the baby of the family, Felix and his far-too-quiet partner Zee (Wendy Glenn).
As soon as they're all assembled in the grand dining room, mayhem ensues what with metal arrows flying through windows and catching guests in the head. The cliches are ponied out just as quickly as Wingard delivers cheap scares with characters jumping into tightly framed shots, and the many gruesome deaths are as bloody as they are predictable.
Erin is the only surprise up the director's sleeve as she turns the tables on the assailants, using skills she learned in a survivalist settlement at a young age. Vinson plays her smart and sexy, and she's the highlight as the actress creates the only realistic character in the film.
That Erin winds up being the only one we're pulling for comes as no surprise as she's the only one with a pulse.