And you thought the Notebook was bad: Miley’s moronic movie

It’s always interesting to see how a child star will handle growing up. Some young stars go off the rails, like party girl Lindsey Lohan. Others take serious and difficult roles to prove just how far they have come.
Aside from the scandalous nude photo shoot a few years back, Miley Cyrus – singing sensation Hannah Montana to every pre-teen out there – seems to be handling the transition fairly well.

 The problem is, in new film The Last Song, it’s quite hard to shake off her cutesy TV persona and believe her in a grown-up love story. Every time she has a heartrending line to deliver, you half expect her to put on a blonde wig and burst into song.

 If you’re not already a big fan, or if cheesy teenage romances aren’t your thing, it’s probably one to give a miss.

Miley plays Ronnie, a sulky teenager shipped off for the summer to a small beach town with her divorced dad (Greg Kinnear) and irritating younger brother.

Ronnie is troubled, with a capital T, which we know because she stomps around with messy hair wearing lots of black, picking fights with her parents and even getting into trouble with the law.

 She barely graduated from high school and doesn’t seem to have any future prospects.

 A talented pianist, Ronnie hasn’t played a note since her parents’ messy break up a few years ago and barely speaks to her dad, who taught her to play as a child.

 Not that he’s in such good shape, having been blamed for a fire that destroyed the town church the previous year.

 It’s a recipe for the holiday from hell, especially as (dad) tries to get to know his estranged daughter by spying on her and cooking her meat even though she’s a vegetarian.

It takes a holiday romance with a local heartthrob Will (Liam Hemsworth) who has issues of his own, the rescue of some baby turtles and an unexpected tragedy to change Ronnie back from an ASBO-waiting-to-happen to the All American girl next door.

Co-written by Nicholas Sparks, the brains behind weepies like The Notebook and A Walk to Remember, The Last Song is as soppy and sugary as films get.

There are lots of shots of the beautiful scenery and the soundtrack has a great summery vibe. Watching the film makes you want to dash to your nearest airport for a beach holiday. But that’s also because you’ll want to get away from the cinema, and fast.

Most of The Last Song is far-fetched and ridiculous, from Ronnie’s first meeting with Will (when he hits her over the head with a volley ball and spills her milkshake all down her) to the crow-bar wielding lunatic who crashes his sisters wedding.

Not to forget Ronnie’s all-night stake out on the beach to ward off hungry racoons from eating the turtle eggs.

Watching her wielding a baseball bat and a big book for protection, you could be forgiven for thinking this was meant to be a comedy film, which one imagines is not what the director had in mind.

In fact, instead of tears during all the emotional scenes – and there are quite a few – you’ll be biting back laughter because of the wooden acting and awkward dialogue.

Will, who looks like a young Paul Walker, is as hammy as they get; a cardboard cut out might be more convincing.

 He’s great as the dumb athlete Ronnie meets, but not so believable as a braniac with family battles of his own.

The big ‘twist’ at the end won’t come as much of a surprise either.

But the real problem with the film isn’t with any of those things but with Miley’s character.

When the film starts Ronnie is the girl parents would lock their daughters away from – as her mum moans, all her friends have piercings.

Then suddenly she starts acting like she’s in a toothpaste advert, all big smiles, playing in the sea and chummy chats with her dad and brother.

In five minutes, we go from sulky, bratty nightmare to loved-up girly girl happy to have her initials carved into a tree and get dolled up in puffy pink dresses.

It’s like going for a loo break during Glee and watching Sue Sylvester morph into Katie Price, and it isn’t at all convincing.

Even Miley and Hannah aren’t that different, and they had two different hair colours to boot.

The actress gets plus points for looking the right age for the seventeen-year-old character she’s playing, but that’s about it.

The film might be a fairytale romance but by the end of it you won’t be feeling happily ever after – just fed up. 

That said, true Miley fans probably won’t mind.

Like the candyfloss films of similar Disney-ified stars like Hilary Duff or the Olsen Twins, this is one for pre-teen girls only.

 For everyone else, wait for the DVD. At least then it will be a quicker dash to the toilet when you start feeling queasy.

Gossip Girl recap: Dr. Estrangeloved

On last night’s Gossip Girl, Blair finally learnt that universal lesson: “The way to get over someone isn’t by hooking up with some random guy”. Meanwhile Jenny caused chaos, there was Danessa drama and we finally met the original Mr Van der Woodsen.

 Yes – after months of teasing, William VdW showed up in the form of an unidentifiable Baldwin brother. Turns out he’s not the philandering cad we thought – he’s a HERO.

 Seems Lily had some mystery cancer lurgy (not CeeCee – knew she looked too healthy to be ailing) and there was only ONE doctor in the universe who could help. Without telling her current husband, or children. As you do.

 Aside from the redhot hostility between Rufus and William (please, fight it out) the daddy angst was dull and predictable, with Serena moping about her abandonment issues. All a bit unconvincing, especially the part that daddy is a doctor.

 Because surely you have to be smart for that. And Serena has to have got get her stupidity from somewhere.

 Still, liked the 14-years-in-five minutes bonding session, where we learnt William was once caught in the civil war in the Congo.

When, asks S, prefaced I’m sure in her mind by ‘what’s the Congo, where is the Congo, and does my hair look pretty when I twirl it?

While Serena was giving Freud a field day with her emotional baggage, homewrecker Jenny was doing what she deoes best. In fairness, the plot to break up Serena and Nate was a Chuck patent (being single, he wants his old wingman back).

But despite her best turn in a leather Bratz doll dress, the scheming backfired. By the end she was ostracised from Nate’s apple pie world.

Downtown, her brother was doing some wrecking of his own. The genius-that-really isn’t has his ‘dreams crushed’ by the fancy-schmancy writing programme he applied for.

And obviously Vanessa, who kept her application secret from him, got in. Strange. Maybe they had trouble filling their whiny-girls-whose-hair-extentions-obscure-their-feminist-credentials quota this year.

Dan lies, barefaced. “If it wasn’t me I’m glad it was you,” he croaks. Except, clearly, he’s not and within hours he’s managed to have her almost lose the place.

Is Danessa no more? Is she being written out. Is there a Gossip Girl deity?

And it must be Tuesday, because Blair is throwing a party. Not content with feeding ducks with Dorota, she hosts a ‘rebound reception’.

When nobody shows up, she accuses Chuck of putting a ‘dating fatwa’ (amazing) on her. Which is preposterous, and therefore obviously exactly what he’s doing. But by episodes end, Chuck is off with assorted hussies and Blair is mourning her lost love. Dull.  Give her a new storyline, I say.

 Stellar episode, and now for some random observations.

 Firstly, waffles have actually become a recurring character on the show. Seriously. They are in it every week and nobody even eats carbs. They should get a mention in the opening credits. Or we could rename it Waffle Girls (suggestions in the comment box!)

Dorota was married before? Did we know that?

And Nate has schoolboy name labels in his shirts. Amazing. Enough said.

Which came first, the chicken or the Cam?

The cracks are beginning to show on the camapign trail in Britain.

Yet again, the divide between fiction and reality has been blurred, as the events of UK politics increasingly come to resemble an episode of the West Wing.

For the last few days, Conservative would-be PM David Cameron has been given a roasting by a new member of his entourage – a giant chicken.

Apart from giving rise to endless egg-cellent puns (especially after an unfortunate yolk-throwing incident earlier today), this is yet another campaign story where the fiction writers got their first.

The brains behind the West Wing, not content with having written Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency before he even dreamed it, also came up with the ‘look out, there’s a giant bird behind you’ storyline years ago.

The feathery fun starts when Josh Lyman, campaign manager for outsider Matt Santos, realises they can’t afford much publicity – so he commissions a costumed clucker to stalk Santos’ opponents. And that’s where the resemblance stops.

Cameron is not so much outsider as establishment, and thanks to friends like Cashcroft we know Conservative coffers are well stocked. Not forgetting that when Santos learns of the egg-centric tactics in play, he bans further chicken fun on grounds of juvenile campaigning.

Juvenile campaigning? In Britain? Never.



Meg Hillier warns women against Westminster career

Meg Hillier on the campaign trail (Photo: Hoxton Councillors)


Junior Home Office minister Meg Hillier is no longer encouraging women to enter politics. 

Hillier, elected Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch on an all-women shortlist in 2005, said she is no longer as enthusiastic about female parliamentarians as she was a few years ago.

“Now I am sounding a strong note of caution,” said Hillier, a former councillor who in 1998 became Islington’s youngest ever mayor. 

The mother-of-three added: “The new expenses system makes it very challenging for anyone with young children.” 

She said many of the candidates standing in 2010 had young families and would find life in Westminster hard, especially if their constituencies were not nearby. 

“I’m lucky to be an inner London MP and be able to go and see my children between votes.” 

Last April, Hillier took maternity leave following the birth of her third child. With David Cameron soon to become a father again, she advised that the prospective Prime Minister would have to very organised. 

“Being a working parent is challenging whatever you do,” she said. “It’s always hard juggling [work and childcare].” 

“I just have to have good childcare and have my children well trained,” said Hillier, adding that she sometimes finds herself up in the early hours baking for the school fair and that her kitchen floor is “never swept”. 

But she said she tries to follow fellow Hackney MP Diane Abbott’s example and make time for her children. “I try not to say no to things,” she said. 

As a busy working mother, she said she found the way Samantha Cameron and Sarah Brown were being used as campaign tools “a bit old fashioned”. 

“My husband wouldn’t do it for me and it would be interesting to see if the boot was on the other foot what would happen,” she said. 

This interview was originally conducted for the Hackney Post website.

Gossip Girl recap: the Unblairable lightness of being

With just a few episodes to go before the third series of Gossip Girl comes to an end, Josh Schwartz is sparing no emotions. This week Chuck and Blair came to a permanent (for now) end, while cracks began to show in Nate and Serena’s relationship. And of course, everyone’s favourite Polish maid got hitched.

 Yes, for the first time ever on a show centred around us versus them, the focus of the episode was ‘them’ as Dorota and Vanya got married. Rather less romantically, it was a rush job because Dorota’s family were coming from ‘the old country’ to the new world – and she hadn’t exactly told them she was preggers out of wedlock.

 Luckily, Chuck, desperate to prove to Blair that he wasn’t really a maniac who let his girlfriend prostitute herself out to his uncle, in order to save a hotel, stepped forwards and agreed to fund a wedding. Tomorrow.

 Which, basically, was an excuse for the Gossip Girl writers to throw in every politically incorrect, culturally offensive gag about Russians and Poles they could come up with. I’m no expert on Eastern European tradition, but I’m fairly sure a balloon game is not an ancient cultural practice there.  

 I’ve heard not many Americans own passports. Clearly the Gossip Girl staff don’t and have never been to Europe.

Cultural stereotyping? On Gossip Girl? Never.

 That said, it was actually a rather sweet wedding day, with Dorota all prettied up in wavy hair and a disingenuous white dress. Cyrus was positively kvelling at the happy couple, acting more as proud dad than capitalist employer. Absurdly, he wanted to give the newlyweds their own apartment, in Queens (generosity doesn’t stretch into Manhattan proper) which Eleanor Waldorf was not impressed with.

 “I was going to buy her a Vera Wang cake knife,” scoffs Eleanor, because “she’s just a maid, for goodness sake.” Quite. One should never blur the line between upstairs and downstairs.

 But then, as Blair has a meltdown of epic proportions, Eleanor sees just how positive a force Dorota is in her daughter’s life – and hands over the keys.

 Blair is upset because she’s finally cracked, admitting she and Chuck aren’t happy. Chuck takes all of three seconds to move on to a new conquest, while Blair – in the most improbable twist of the most improbable show on our screens ever – dances with Dan. Dan. She hates Dan. Hates him. HATES HIM.

 I’m really hoping the writers aren’t working towards a Blair-Dan relationship, because a) NO and b) my tired brain can’t take the messes up romantic tetrahedrons this show loves.

Trouble in paradise for Dumb and Dumber (Photo: Christopher Peterson)

 Elsewhere, trouble in paradise as dumb and dumber get caught in a web of deceit – a new development for a couple whom, as Chuck astutely observes, until now faced only the problem of “how shiny your hair is”.

 Serena is having secret liaisons with her ex Carter Baison – the show’s resident ‘we need a bad boy, stat’ character. Obviously, she’s hunting down daddy not actually cheating (yet) but with the stirring hands of Little J, Nate thinks she is.

 “Serena’s my sister and Nate’s my friend” insists Little J (methinks the crazy doth protest too much) to Eric, when he smells trouble.

 A fair point, except Serena’s also your brothers ex girlfriend, you are desperate to add benefits to your friendship with Nate, which may well be possible because his girlfriend is back with the ex who also dated her best friend, who also dated Nate…

 Ah, the tortured incestuous relationships of the Upper East Side.

 Later, Serena tells Jenny to pass on a message to Nate that she loves him. Yes, because you WOULD want the shameless hussy going after your man to play emotional courier. Smart move, blondie.

 But, oblivious to the demise of her romance, Serena hops on a plane to Palm Beach, where daddy has been spotted. But, shock horror, guess who opens the door (bearing in mind prior scenes of Rufus trying to track down his AWOL wife). No prizes, it’s Lily.

 Saving the best till last, this was a second week of Eric-heavy plot. Apartment boy and him have been texting, but as yet he’s got no confirmation of if he’s gay or not. Showing up at the wedding (sure, he’d OBVIOUSLY be invited) avec girlfriend is a clear indication, except it’s not, because he turns out to play for both teams.

 Recipe for disaster, but I’m glad Eric has a new love interest. His puppy dog eyes make you desperate for his happiness.

 Good episode – tragically I hear rumour there is a break next week, but I’m sure we will be back soon to hear all about Dorvanya’s honeymoon from hell, where they get stuck in Club Med because of the volcanic ash obliterating Europe.