Reviews

Valentine's Day

According to Valentine's Day, young love turns into old love, all generations equally hopeful and ignorant.


Valentine's Day

Director: Garry Marshall
Cast: Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah
Rated: PG-13
Studio:
Year: 2010
US date: 2010-02-12 (General release)
UK date: 2010-02-12 (General release)
Website
Trailer

The sign over the bed Reed (Ashton Kutcher) shares with Morley (Jessica Alba) reads "Frolic Room." Alas, such infinite cuteness (who spent even a minute thinking up that set décor?) can't stave off the disaster of their relationship, made obvious as soon as he tries to loose her hand from under her pillow while she's still sleeping. Reed smiles as he realizes she's clutching her BlackBerry, but you know this means trouble in the RomCom Universe. Morley now has two options in Valentine's Day: submit or die.

Still, the film goes through frolicky motions. Reed gets down on his knee before his slumbering love object, proposes marriage with a gigantic diamond, and smiles uncontrollably when she agrees. Morley's part is harder to gauge: her eyes wide, head coiffed, and tan expensively even, she looks decidedly stunned -- and not in a good way. Reed, wrapped up in his own delighting, chooses not to notice, a sign that this is the way their relationship -- such as it is -- might have been going since its script-session inception.

The manifest wrongness of this couple -- not to mention Reed's manifest self-delusion -- reveals the film's so-called strategy. Each of the too-many couples here will have a revelation, including the couples who don't know they're couples in this first moment of the day. Over the next 20something hours, they will realize how wrong or how right their entanglements have been. Grindingly, the rightest one is the stuntiest, the high school romance embodied by the two Taylors, Swift and Lautner, who kiss and paw and kiss and paw for a TV reporter who half-grimaces as they act out: "Young love: full of promise, full of hope, but ignorant!"

It matters not that the reporter mocks them. Willy and Felicia are mocked whenever they pop up among this series of tableaux, repeatedly flaunting their godlike gorgeousness and astounding stupidity. Yes, the joke they embody is both old and unfunny, but so is every other bit in Garry Marshall's Love Extravaganza, from the secretly quixotic workaholic to the cheater who gets his to the gold-hearted sex worker to closeted gay man to the self-described black player (what decade is this again?). The movie lines up a series of character types, pretty people all, their predictable travails leading to a series of heartwarming clinches.

It doesn’t help that they sort of sometimes cross paths during their day in LA. Reed leaves his bedroom for work -- a flower-shop-cum-café -- where he chats with his best friend Julia (Jennifer Garner) and his best driver Alphonso (George Lopez). Then he takes delivery orders from adorable 10-year-old Edison (Bryce Robinson) as well as Julia's lover, the heart surgeon (sheesh!), Dr. Harrison Copeland (Patrick Dempsey). He learns something from each encounter, though it takes him the rest of the day to act on his lessons. Until then, he lives according to his self-admittedly cheesy credo: "It's Valentine's Day: you don't think, you just do."

Others circling near his flower shop follow suit. Overachiever Kara (Jessica Biel), Julia' other best friend, spends her on-screen minutes complaining about Valentine's Day, disappointed every time she checks the online RSVPs to her hate-the-holiday party (apparently no one is coming, which means that yet again, she is the only miserable solo on the planet Los Angeles). A sports publicist, she's drawn to sports reporter Kevin (Jamie Foxx), as they both conflate ambition and loneliness ("My closest relationship is with my BlackBerry," confesses Kevin, indicating that if his day goes another way, he's a ready partner for Morley).

Kara's day-job has her interacting, sort of, with Paula (Queen Latifah), agent to the cover-boy quarterback Sean Jackson (Eric Dane) who's been cut by his team and considering options. As these high-powered ladies scurry to set up the man's all-important press conference, they're briefly distracted by their lack of holiday-appropriate love opportunities. Kara indulges in sugar (yes, the cliché is that tired), Paula in domination. Apparently she has nothing better to do in her office than intimidate her new receptionist, Liz (Anne Hathaway), who is doing her best to juggle this gig and her other one, namely, phone sex.

Bad enough that Liz's workday is repeatedly interrupted by a client named Vladimir, but her efforts to look straight are further hampered by her new boyfriend, Jason (Topher Grace). She tumbles out of his bed and rushes to the office, cell-phone on her ear as she tries on accents ranging from Russian to Streetcar-Named-Desire. He's a mailroom worker and self-identified Midwestern rube, sure to be horrified when he learns the truth, and so she pretends her acrobatics in bed the previous night are inspired by her genuine affection for him (along with a likely insincere explanation: "I used to be a gymnast"). He believes it, until he doesn't.

This problem with the truth is apparently infectious, as most of the plots here are jumpstarted by secrets or lies. According to Valentine's Day, young love, however mocked, turns into old love, all generations equally hopeful and ignorant. Some non-disclosures are probably benevolent (Julia Roberts' Army captain doesn’t reveal why she's flying home for 28 hours just one day). Others are patently ridiculous (Reed doesn't want to spoil Julia's big day, and so puts off telling her what he knows about her completely doggish boyfriend). But in a movie about a holiday manufactured by Hallmark, you wouldn't expect the truth to out.

3

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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