The Last Song Movie Review: Miley Cyrus Makes Dramatic Debut In Nicholas Sparks Melodrama

The Last Song opens with a pouty Miley Cyrus looking underwhelmed at the prospect of spending the summer with her beleaguered father, and it's a somber prospect for the viewer, as well. Miley's effervescent screen presence in 2009's Hannah Montana The Movie is nowhere to be found at the onset of her latest film, the Nicholas Sparks adaptation of his own melodrama novel. Miley is wistful, whiny, and flat out mean, something fans of her Disney Channel show might find alien. Well, it's her first crack at a serious role, a "more mature" part designed to provide at least some distance between her famous small screen persona and her new endeavor of becoming a serious actress.

For the most part, it works…at least for Miley's performance. She has just enough to keep her character Ronnie interesting and engaging, and her natural charisma serves her well even as her inexperience as an actress becomes obvious. It's a solid debut for her; not a star making turn by any means, but also not the embarrassment some were probably hoping for. OK, with that out of the way…

The Plot of The Last Song

Ronnie Miller and her little brother Jonah (effectively played by Bobby Coleman) are spending the summer with dear old dad Steve (Greg Kinnear). Along the way, Ronnie makes a friend, some enemies, and a potential suitor in the form of local rich boy Will Blakelee (hunky Matthew Modine lookalike Liam Hemsworth). During a summer of roller coaster-like ups and downs, Ronnie and Will become closer. However, being a Nicholas Sparks screenplay, the other shoe inevitably drops and tragedy strikes…which may just bring everyone closer.

It's a predictable tearjerker, complete with just about every stock character from these types of films, including the mean and conniving ex-girlfriend and the boyfriend's uppity, judgmental mother. What makes everything kind of work, to the extent that it does, is Greg Kinnear's excellent portrayal of Steve.

Greg Kinnear Shines

It will probably come as no surprise to fans of cinema that Greg Kinnear's performance is worthwhile; after all, he generally turns in good to great roles. What may be surprising (or perplexing) is his presence in this film to begin with. It seems like an odd choice for such a fine actor at this stage in his career.

But no matter. Kinnear flexes his acting muscle as far as the limited screenplay will allow, …

Free Music Concerts for July in the Greater Pasadena, California Area

The Pasadena Playhouse District kicked off its free summer concert series last night with a terrific performance by the Dave Hamm trio. The keyboard, bass and drums combo displayed tremendous enthusiasm and rapport in the numbers that they entertained the crowd with from 5pm to 7pm.

The 6th annual concert series is held in the Vroman's bookstore courtyard near the Laemelle Theater.

Here is a listing of free concerts in and around Pasadena during July:

Pasadena Playhouse District – Sunday evenings starting 5pm
Colorado Boulevard at El Molino

July 12 Vibraphonist Nick Mancini's Quartet

July 19 The Elliott Caine Quartet

July 26 The Leila Avila Group

Pasadena Levitt Pavilion – Wed through Sunday evenings until August 30
At Walnut and Ramond Street

Every Wednesday at 7pm is The Children's Hour

South Pasadena – Sunday evenings starting at 5pm

Garfield Park on Mission Street east of Fair Oaks

July 19 Swing, Inc.

Arcadia – Thursday evenings starting at 6:30pm
City Hall Lawn, 240 West Huntington Drive

July 9 Hodads – Beach Tunes

July 16 Howlin' Blues Boogie Band

July 23 Rockit Scientists – Tribute to Baby Boomers

July 30 Silverados – Country

La Canada Flintridge – Sundays starting 6pm
Memorial Park, 1301 Foothill Blvd.

July 12 Wake the Bard, Traditional Celtic

July 19 Pacific Coast Highway – Soft Rock

July 26 Brian Lynn Jones & the Misfit Cowboys – Country

Monrovia – Sunday evenings starting 6:30
Recreation Park at Shamrock and Lemon

July 12 Doo Wah Riders

July 19 Moondance – Swing, Jazz, Big Band

July 26 The Answer – Classic Pop

Sierra Madre – Sunday evenings starting at 6pm
Memorial Park on Sierra Madre Boulevard

July 12 Elvis – Classic Rock and Roll

July 19 The Surfin Safaris – Beach Music

July 26 LA Bluecasters – Rhythm and Blues

Temple City – Wednesdays starting at 7pm
Temple City Park, 9701 Las Tunas Drive

July 8 Suave the Band – Swing, Blues and Oldies

July 15 The Surfing Safaris – Beach Party Music

July 22 Nitro Express – Country Rock

July 29 Cold Duck – 70s / Top 40

All concerts are free and the locations are all within a 25-minute drive or less of downtown Pasadena. Coffee shops and restaurants are near each place as well to dine before or after.

The summer concert series held in each city shows the commitment to the arts that exists across the …

How to Take Great Pictures with Digital Photography ?

Although digital photography is actually a lot simpler than the old-fashioned film photography, many people are intimidated by it. The cameras are so small and have buttons and screens and look high-tech. It can frighten anyone without a firm grasp of technology.

Benefits of digital photography

The biggest advantage of digital photography over film is that you can see the results instantly, erase and try again right away. With film, you would have to wait at least an hour with the fastest developer in order to see the pictures you took. Digital cameras are far more cost effective in this manner.

The other great thing about digital photography is that it is already formatted for the computer. No more scanning countless pictures or getting copies made to send to Gramma in Japan! Now you can just upload the pictures from the camera, attach them to an email and your distant friends and family can see the new photos, just minutes old.

Tips for taking great photos

With digital photography, it is far easier to make sure you took a great photo. With memory cards that hold up to 800 photos, you can be sure you took the one that you wanted. But in case you don't want to spend all day clicking away, here are some ideas to make sure your photos turn out the first time.

– Use natural lighting. Digital photography works best without the flash. The more natural light there is, the less grainy the photos will be. Sunlight will add harsh shadows, so the ideal light is on a cloudy day. If taking shots indoors, try placing the subject near a large window, or open a door to let in more outdoor light.

– Bright colors look great in digital photography. Since the camera tends to dim things down a bit, brighter colors keep things lively. If you are at all handy with the computer, you can adjust the colors a little afterwards in Photoshop or a similar photo editing program.

– Keep the camera at least three to four feet away. Most digital cameras were never meant for extreme close-ups. If you want to get a closer crop, use the zoom while standing at an appropriate distance and edit the photo later on the computer. Digital photography has the advantage of being easily changeable once the photo has been taken.

– Switch angles. By taking …

Better Than Take-Out: Chinese Food at Home

Getting take-out is great when you need to get dinner on the table in a pinch, but often times, the ingredients used can carry excess fat and calories. Making your own "take-out" substitutes at home is a wonderful way to control both the quality of ingredients as well as the fat and calorie count.

Chinese is one of my favorite types of take-out and after fiddling around with some recipes; I've developed my own for creating the perfect Chinese style dishes right at home.

For an appetizer try a Chinese Scallion Pizza. For the pizza, combine 2 cups bread flour, 1.4 tsp. baking powder, 2 teaspoons of oil and a pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl. Next, bring a cup of water to boil, and then add the flour mixture, stirring with a spoon until it's cool enough to knead with your hands. Knead until dough is well combined and then transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise for about an hour. Next, divide the dough into 12 sections, rolling each section into a ball, and then flattening into a 1/8-inch thick circle. After making all the circles, brush them with oil, then sprinkle with coarse sea salt and sprinkle with chopped scallions. Then, simple coil the roll-up dough and then flatten it with your palm, this will distribute the scallions well. To cook, heat a skillet with oil and pan-fry each cake for at least 7 to 10 minutes, serving hot.

Lo Mein is another easy at home dish. Cook eight ounces of pasta (spaghetti or linguine are good choices) according to package directions, drain and put back in the pot to keep warm. Add about a cup of chopped celery, bell peppers, mushrooms, snow peas, sliced carrot, and about a pound of bean sprouts. Next, you'll just need to whip up a sauce by heating about 1 cup of soy sauce in a saucepan with about ¼ cup chicken stock and 1 tablespoon dry white wine. Allow to heat while mixing about one tablespoon cornstarch with one tablespoon water, then add cornstarch mixture to the heated sauce, increasing the heat and allowing the sauce to thicken. Pour over veggies and pasta and serve. You can double the sauce recipe if you prefer more sauce with your noodles.

For the main dish, it doesn't get easier than Sesame Chicken with plain …

Planning 101 for a Theme Family Holiday

Going on a vacation should be fun for any family, but only when all family members are happy with the vacation spot. Just taking off on a vacation with a family without proper planning will not result in an enjoyable holiday for any of the family members no matter the amount of money spent.

To avoid disappointment, this year, why not try a theme holiday. There is a host of such vacations that you can elect to go to which should provide all family members with something to enjoy. You can make this year's vacation the one all of you will keep in mind and talk about for many years to come.

First off, research all vacation themes available and then sit down with the family. List all the pros and cons of each vacation spot and finally agree on the spot that suits all of you the best. Budgetary considerations should form a central part of the discussions. There is no point in picking a vacation you can't afford.

Book the vacation many days well ahead of the vacation time. This ensures that you will get all the facilities you need, like good camping grounds, accommodation, and boat and car rentals. You may also benefit from discounts given for booking early.

Without doubt Disney World in Florida wins as the most attractive family destination. There is entertainment galore for all family members. You can reduce the costs by purchasing day passes which give discounts to Disney World. Some of the passes will permit you to visit the studios at Universal and Epcot Center without wasting time queuing to buy tickets when you get there.

Another destination to consider is Washington DC. There many historic sites to see like museums, monuments, etc. You can also spend your time in theaters, relaxing in coffee shops or enjoying all forms of art found in the many galleries. You will get entertainment day or night. Take a camera or video recorder for the spectacular sites you will enjoy.

Hershey Park in Pennsylvania is another place not to pass up. You can include it in your itinerary when visiting Washington DC.

Unless the family is hot on skiing, try visiting the southern parts of the US, like San Diego, Los Angeles, etc. during the winter months. You will be assured of a warm vacation away from the cold of the north. You now have …