Valentine's duds 

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Valentine's Day coming up so it's all but inevitable that some sap will drip its way into your local movie theatre. Usually it's just some improbable, canned-sentiment romantic comedy like Adam Sandler's 50 First Dates, which is tolerable compared to The Vow, opening Friday in both the Whistler Village 8 and the Garibaldi 5 in Squamish.

The Vow is a lot like 50 First Dates in that a girl who can't remember anything gets re-wooed by a dude and it's all very romantic. Where The Vow really castrates however, is that it doesn't even have the decency to be rom-com, it's a romantic drama — all the cheese, none of the laughs or fart jokes.

Trying-hard-to-salvage-this-one-but-really-just-still-cashing-in-on-The Notebook Rachel McAdams plays the girl, a young bride who loses five years after a car crash-induced coma. Channing Tatum (Haywire, Dear John) is the hubby who has to redo a half-decade of romance. It claims to be based on a true story (which only makes me want to puke in my mouth that much more) but the thing about romance is, true or not, it sells.

But don't fall for it fellas. Chicks may love to watch movies about sensitive guys in summery, short-brimmed fedoras but when the chips fall they really just want someone to chop some firewood, hold a door open, man up and make a single confident decision about where to eat dinner. Either that or look like Channing Tatum.

Maybe it's just the chicks I hang around with (they're a bit older and seem extra thirsty) but everyone is all about Channing Tatum these days. His acting seems a bit distant to me (like Keanu Reeves in his Bill and Ted era) but as my one friend says, "He used to be a stripper so you know it's good sized." I'm pretty sure she means his career.

In the most transparent marketing gimmick ever, there is a "sneak peak" screening of This Means War on Tuesday, actual Valentine's Day. It's about two deadly CIA espionage hotshots who are also best friends. Nothing could ever come between such a strong and bonded male relationship. Nothing except... Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon!

Thanks to the Internet, both boys, played by Tom Hardy (Inception) and Chris Pine (Star Trek, Unstoppable), start dating Reese and rather than going for the screaming eagle they opt for some low-grade bickering leading to mediocre violence and one-upmanship. Did I mention Reese's hilarious best friend? Etc., etc.

Comparatively however, This Means War is the lesser of two evils. There are some laughs and every actor involved has punch and personality.

Director McG (Charlies Angels, Terminator Salvation) also takes a few swings at a comeback and while it isn't going to solve the mystery of the universe anytime soon, This Means War serves up some good laughs, first rate stars and a dude who gets shot in the nuts with a paintball gun. Not epic, but at least it's a rom-com.

Otherwise, both the 8 and the 5 are opening Safe House, a poorly scripted by-the-numbers action thriller about unlikely partners (CIA again) stuck in an Assault on Precinct 13-esque odd-couple picture. Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds do their best in Swedish director Daniel Espinosa's stateside debut but the sad fact is that the script for this one blows.

Download of the week is Planet Rock, a documentary tracing the history of hip hop coinciding with the rise of crack cocaine. Now that's romantic

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