The Best of Me

Death is a staple of Nicholas Sparks romances, and that’s as true as ever in his latest movie adaptation The Best of Me. This time, the Grim Reaper conveniently provides an excuse to bring two high school sweethearts back together.

Rich girl Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) and wrong-side-of-the-tracks boy Dawson (James Marsden) haven’t seen each other in twenty years when they reunite at the funeral of a mutual friend. Sparks fly, but lots of obstacles stand in their way because there would be no movie otherwise. Hit the jump to watch the first The Best of Me trailer.

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When Paul Walker passed away late last year, he was at a very busy point in his career. His Hours was on the verge of opening, he’d already wrapped Brick Mansions, and he was in the middle of shooting Fast & Furious 7. He also had a few more projects lined up beyond that. One, Agent 47, went to Homeland star Rupert Friend yesterday. Now another, The Best of Me, could be taken over by James Marsden.

Michael Hoffman (most recently of the Coens-scripted Gambit) is directing the romance, based on a novel of the same title by Nicholas Sparks. Michelle Monaghan is set to co-star. Hit the jump for more details on the project.

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Hercules will be battling some formidable foes at the box office. The Brett Ratner-directed, Dwayne Johnson-starring epic has just moved up two weeks on the calendar, from August 8, 2014 to July 25, 2014. While there are currently no other releases scheduled for that new date, the film will be up against the second weeks of The Hobbit: There and Back Again and X-Men: Days of Future Past, both due out July 18. [THR]

After the jump, read about new release dates for Will Gluck and Quvenzhané Wallis’ Annie, Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson’s Turkeys, and the next Nicholas Sparks adaptation.

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Hit the jump for a mixed bag of small screen odds and ends, including:

  • See more pics of Mad Mikkelsen in Hannibal
  • NBC announces some other midseason premieres
  • Sandy has not delayed Louis CK‘s SNL appearance
  • Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Renner will host SNL
  • The Gallaghers are Shameless as ever in the new teaser
  • Did you know Ben Affleck almost directed Homeland?
  • Now Nicholas Sparks is getting into the TV game
  • FX’s Wilfred gets renewed, switches showrunners
  • FNL‘s Peter Berg is developing a Greek god drama

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The Nicholas Sparks drama is practically a subgenre unto itself at this point, with its own set of tropes and traditions. Lasse Hallström‘s Safe Haven sticks mostly with the formula, featuring a blandly attractive pair (Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough as Alex and Katie),a picturesque waterside setting, and of course, a grand, swooning romance threatened by a big, tragic secret.

But Safe Haven veers slightly by introducing what appears to be a thriller element to the tale. Katie’s clearly on the run from something, though the trailer tries not to give away just what she’s hiding from. Also, no one seems to be dying of cancer, or really even sick at all. That counts as a change of pace, right? Unless that’s what Sparks wants us to think, and that’s the big twist… In any case, watch the video after the jump.

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Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe aren’t the only former Harry Potter stars getting their post-Hogwarts careers on. After the jump, Rupert Grint and Tom Felton find new roles, along with Chloe Grace Moretz and Keira Knightley in this mostly British edition of Casting Bits.

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It’s been about five years now since Zac Efron became a household name thanks to High School Musical, and for the last few of those he’s been attempting to branch out with more serious, grown-up roles. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had much luck in that department so far. Though Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles received favorable reviews, it failed to draw much of an audience, and the schmaltzy Charlie St. Cloud didn’t do him any favors. I haven’t seen Garry Marshall’s New Year’s Eve yet, but it’s probably safe to guess that won’t do much to boost Efron’s career, either.

Next year’s looking a little more auspicious for the former Disney star, with Josh Radnor’s Liberal Arts, Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy, and the Dr. Seuss adaptation The Lorax all lined up — but first, he’s got one more crappy-looking drama to get out of his system. Based on a novel by (but of course) Nicholas Sparks, The Lucky One sees Efron starring as a Marine who comes across a photo of a beautiful stranger (Taylor Schilling) during a tour in Iraq. When he returns to the States, he sets about trying to find her and woo her.

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It’d be an exaggeration to say that Rachel McAdams owes her career to Nicholas Sparks, but only somewhat. Along with Mean Girls, it was her starring turn in The Notebook that really established her as an in-demand young actress. So perhaps it’s out of gratitude that she’s returned to Sparks territory for The Vow, another predictably weepy romance penned by the bestselling author.

There’s no such excuse for fellow Sparks veteran Channing Tatum‘s decision to join her, seeing as he was doing just fine before he starred in last year’s Dear John, and has been doing even better ever since. Then again, getting paid millions to sing along to Meat Loaf and make out with McAdams is probably its own reward.

Directed by Michael Sucsy, The Vow follows a devoted husband (Tatum) as he attempts to woo his wife (McAdams) back when a coma wipes out the last five years of her memories — including the entirety of their courtship. More details after the jump.

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