A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

In comedy, romance on February 9, 2010 at 2:33 am

The new movie from Garry Marshall – the director of such classics as PRETTY WOMAN and THE PRINCESS DIARIES (?) – features just about any name in Hollywood at the moment. VALENTINE’S DAY, boasting a cast of Jessica Abel and Biel, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher….Wait, come back. It’s not as bad as it sounds. There’s also Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Hector Elizondo, Anne Hathaway and Jamie Foxx. Still not convinced?

Well, if you’re not in the market from a light, funny, and completely harmless romantic comedy, then there’s not much I can do for you. If you want to see a number of awkward situations of Anne Hathaway doing ridiculous accents as a phone sex-worker; a precocious 8 year old trying to woo an older woman; and a wonderful scene of both young and old Shirley MacLaine on-screen and expressing their love, then VALENTINE’S DAY might be for you.

I, personally, had quite a bit of fun at this movie. From the over-the-topness of the annoying Taylor’s (Swift and Lautner), to the heart-breakingness and comeuppance of the douchey character played by Patrick Dempsey; this movie had me laughing and empathizing with a number of it’s characters. Never did I actually feel like anything seriously bad would happen to any of them – especially after the nude guitar serenade – but it’s light-heartedness was a refreshing respite from the heavy R-rated fare we’ve had over the past months. (I haven’t seen, and probably never will watch DEAR JOHN, but it certainly didn’t look as fun as this movie was, so there’s where I stand on that.)

The performances in the movie are all over the place. The people who you expect to be not that great, hold to that; the people you expect to be good, are; and the people you haven’t ever seen before – Emma Roberts, and miscellaneous other actors – are pretty good too. The key standouts are Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper’s scenes on an airplane – where they spend the majority of the movie. Garner and her plot dealing with boyfriend (Dempsey), best-friend (Kutcher), and classroom student (Bryce Robinson, who might be familiar to people that watch FLASHFORWARD). Topher Grace and his relationship with Hathaway is also pretty fun. In fact, anytime Hathaway is on-screen; either by herself on her scooter, with her boss (Queen Latifah) or at dinner with Grace, is a pleasurable experience.

Overall, it’s not that memorable of a movie. But, for the relationships that we get invited to watch it’s a fun two hours. It’s nowhere near the quality of PRETTY WOMAN; but I don’t think it’s trying to be.

Now, as long as we are talking about Valentine’s Day. Here are some other movies, I’d recommend picking up to watch either alone or with a certain someone. Granted my sense of romance might be a little more skewed to the “not so happily ever after”, so that’s a warning.

HIGH FIDELITY is a movie all about inadequacies and break-up. Directed by Stephen Frears (THE QUEEN), inspired by the book by Nick Hornby, and starring it’s own little “all-star cast” (though at the time, most of the names were much less-well known) John Cusack, Jack Black, Lisa Bonet, Tim Robbins and the always lovely Joan Cusack; the movie follows Rob Gordon (John Cusack), who has recently broken up with his girlfriend. This leads to him thinking about his top five past relationship break-ups. Featuring lovely women as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lili Taylor, Rob finally comes to the conclusion that he’s a jerk-off that just needs to get off his high-horse.

His girlfriend, played by Iben Hjejle, does a great job as Laura and presents a well-drawn female character.  Jack Black and Todd Louiso play Rob’s lackeys at the Record store he owns. And the movie contains one of the best Marvin Gaye covers ever done by an over-weight white guy, in a band called “Sonic Death Monkey”.

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER I’ve talked about before. So, I’ll keep that one short. It’s a love story not about love; about the guy not getting the girl; and how a guy’s incapacity for seeing anything other than through his own eyes can doom a relationship.

Watch it. (The trailer should also be linked into that blog post, watch it there.)

Finally, a classic movie that I love dearly and much like these other selections are not about a perfect relationship. Or even close to the ideals of what most romantic comedies present to us as “LOVE”. THE APARTMENT, Billy Wilder’s look at infidelity, inadequacy (hmm, that again), and of course standing up to the bigger man – that also happens to be your boss. The movie, starring Jack Lemmon, Fred MacMurray, and once again, the icon Shirley MacLaine; circles around office punching bag, C.C. Baxter (Lemmon), who has found notoriety throughout his office as the go-to man if you need to spend an evening away from the wife and with…well someone who isn’t her. Baxter has a crush on elevator girl Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), and one night he finds out that she’s been seeing his boss, Mr. Sheldrake (MacMurray). Well, an incident arises that leaves Fran stuck in C.C.’s apartment and while hijinks does indeed ensue. It’s the relationship that develops between the two leads that is touching, realistic and some truly heart-breaking moments.

Now that’s how I’d spend my Valentine’s Day. No roses or chocolates required.

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