Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

It’s like Big!   But GIRLY!

13 Going on 30

13 Going on 30 isn’t a favorite of mine, but I can easily see how it could be a guilty pleasure.    It’s a fluffy morality tale about getting everything you thought you wanted and realizing it wasn’t worth it.

13 year old Jenna Rink is desperate to fit in with the cool girls at school.   Her friend Matty is kind and good to her, but Jenna spurns him and a gift he spent ages making her in favor of impressing the cool girls.   After an accident with some “wishing dust”, Jenna wakes up to discover she’s thirty years old and a successful magazine editor at her favorite teenage girl magazine, Poise.

What follows is a serious of slapstick and eighties jokes, since Jenna still acts as if she’s thirteen and is thrilled that she can drink pina coladas legally.   She helps liven up the failing magazine while learning that before her thirteen year old self was magically transplanted into the future, grown up Jenna Rink was really a very nasty person. 

Her best friend (the lovely and wonderful Judy Greer) is cynical, sharp tongued and mean to the hilt.   Jenna wonders what happened to Matty, so she tracks him down and discovers he’s engaged and they’re no longer friends.

13 Going On 30 rests on Jennifer Garner’s wide-eyed charm, which gets her through most of the movie.    The whole shebang gets trying toward the end because sitting through an hour plus of learning about how vile Adult Jenna was and how equally vile the best friend is gets tiring and depressing.   

I never got the Mark Ruffalo love until I saw this movie because he plays a brokenhearted guy who’s willing to still be friends with Jenna, even if she kicked him around something major.   

More than anything, 13 Going on 30 is a lesson wrapped up in the trappings of adult people doing the Thriller dance at parties and quoting Pat Benatar.   It’s more than a little cheesy given that it’s lecturing a bit on the values of family and friends over material things and status.   Of course Jenna gets to go back through the magic of wishing dust to her thirteen year old self and correct  her future self’s mistakes.    It slightly irritates me that of all the realizations that Jenna comes to – that her nice apartment and job are not worth the backbiting and bitchery she’s engaged in, that her adult self ignoring her parents is horrific to her – that it is a dude that makes her wish she could take it all back.

Garner, Ruffalo and Greer are really the best parts of the movie, but it’s also a treat to watch for the multiple ’80’s references (although you can fast forward through a creepy scene where Garner has a sleepover with “other” 13 year olds).  

It’s a little too fluffy and sugary for my taste; I appreciate fully the fact that someone could find this a guilty pleasure, but I’d rather watch Johnny Mnemonic.   (Could that be coming up next?!)

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I’ve reviewed Love Actually before (see here) but I went back and watched it again for Reader’s Choice.

Set a few weeks before Christmas and leading up to the big day itself, the movie examines the lives and loves of several groups of people, from family to friends and romantic relationships.  It’s a tricky thing to do, since Love, Actually  packs a lot of storylines into one little movie, but the film pulls it out quite well.

There are many things I don’t like about the movie – Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, that obnoxious “Colin Goes To America To Have Sex With Girls In Wisconsin” interlude – but since this is Reader’s Choice – Guilty Pleasures, I might as well own up to the cheesy fun in the movie.

Part of what I think makes the movie a secret pleasure is how obvious it is that the movie is so damn emotionally manipulative in many ways.   There are the rare stories (Laura Linney’s storyline and Alan Rickman/Emma Thompson’s storyline) that are the exception, but more often than not, the woven tales of Love Actually are little more than sentimental pieces designed not even to tug but wrench on your heartstrings. 

I guess that it’s helpful that Love, Actually has one hell of a cast.

Bill Nighy is practically perfection as Billy Mack, a washed up, no-filter rock star who basically begs and grovels for the public to give him a number one hit at Christmas.   The only faulty thing about his storyline is the weird bromance with his manager tacked on at the end, but that can easily be forgiven.

And Alan Rickman as the emotionally cheating husband and Emma Thompson as the crushed wife are wonderful.   I think it’s because it injects a healthy dose of reality into what is otherwise a rose-colored view of love, especially when you count the cornier aspects like the cue card admission of love and Colin Firth learning Portugese and yes, Liam Neeson encouraging his stepson to go crazy nuts overboard for a fellow classmate.  

Likewise, Laura Linney’s storyline about sacrificing one love for another kind is equally sad and sweet.   Linney, Rickman, Thompson and Nighy carry a lot of the movie on their shoulders, because Colin Firth and Hugh Grant are too busy playing Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.  

There are some filler stories; while the stories about the porn actor stand-ins is oddly endearing, it’s forgettable and boring.   Liam Neeson’s storyline about a widower raising his lovestruck stepson is sweet but ultimately kind of creepy and strange if you think about it really hard.    And the woman Rickman’s supposed to be emotionally cheating with is so devoid of emotion that you can’t help but wonder what Alan Rickman sees in her.   She attempts to pull off a slow, smoldering seduction.   It comes out more like someone with slight brain damage being flirty.

Even with all the cheesy and mediocre stuff packed in and the previously mentioned abysmal Colin Goes To America storyline, Love, Actually is a romantic comedy that I enjoy quite a bit.  Between the random cameos (ahoy, Billy Bob Thornton as the President, and hello there, Rowan Atkinson) and the fine juggling the director does to interweave the stories together as well as one could expect, the scenery chewing and actual good work of the aforementioned actors is a joy to watch.   And truth be told, most of us feel a little sentimental around Christmas.   Love, Actually asks some suspension of disbelief from the viewer, but hey, why not … it’s Christmas.

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God, this thing wears thin fast.

Just My Luck involves Ashley (Lindsay Lohan), a fashionable Manhattan career girl who has everything go her way and Jake, a guy who does something involving music and who seems to be perenially cursed with awful luck.   When the two inadvertently cross paths at a masquerade party and kiss, they switch luck .  This leads Ashley to take up a desperate hunt for Jake as she gets fired, goes to prison, and  nearly electrocutes herself in the few short hours after they switch luck.

The concept of “luck-switching” is boring enough, but to stretch it out for hours is maddening.   I swear that the word “luck” has to be repeated enough time for it to be drilled into your brain with a Pavlovian response indicating pain.   Not only is it boring and tedious, but the general overall feel of the film doesn’t even feel romantic – and it’s supposed to be a romantic comedy, for goodness sakes.

Lindsay Lohan does not do her best here.   She’s mechanical and robotic at times, something which is odd considering the fact that she ought to be holding her own and then some.   Given the subject matter, this is Lohan’s previous bread-and-butter; a family-friendly comedy with a bit of romance and quirk.  In some regards, this is charted, simple territory for her. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Freaky Friday were similar roles in Lohan’s repertoire.   The performance she gave in Mean Girls indicates she’s far better than what she gives here, which is supposed to be a lucky but unappreciative career girl who learns the true meaning of being grateful for what you have.   Lohan, however, can’t even sell you that Ashley is appreciative for her luck, let alone capable of giving it all up for twoo-wuv.

Let’s hope Chris Pine isn’t as instantly forgettable in Star Trek as he is here.

There are some “what-if” premises that just can’t be stretched into a feature length movie without being exhausting and full of mediocrity and tedium for the viewer.   Just My Luck started out as one of those premises.

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Throw Pretty Woman and My Best Friend’s Wedding into a blender and what do you get?


I’ll put it as succinctly as I can.   Kat is a successful woman who’s only missing one thing in her life – a relationship.   After being jilted by her fiancé years earlier, she’s remained single.  A phone call from her sister in London only complicates things for Kat.   Her sister is getting married and Kat’s ex, Jeffrey, will be the best man.   Desperate to show up looking successful, happy and most definitely not-single, Kat hires a charming male escort after reading an article about “paying for a date”.   It only costs her a pittance.   $6,000 is a small price to pay to appear as you wish to be, right?

If you have seen Pretty Woman, if you have seen My Best Friend’s Wedding, then you know right where this movie is going.   You can predict all the plot points, you can predict all the conflict.   All of the romance movie clichés are out in full-force, as Kat’s got the annoying, spoiled sister and the brash best friend who says obnoxious things in such a charming fashion.   Kat’s ex, Jeffrey, is a complete scumbag and the male escort played by Dermot Mulroney?   Well, he’s just a do-right kind of guy, don’t you know.

I probably have the least amount of room to complain about predictability or genre clichés, given my love of bad horror and action films, but at least things vary from time to time.   This one is just more worn out than old carpet.

I would say it’s a shame, but that’s only because I have lots of residual love for Debra Messing from Will & Grace, but I think Debra Messing’s made up her mind to just play Grace Adler for a really long time.   The character of Kat is nothing more than a more depressed version of Grace… which I’ve seen variants of for seven seasons.   On Will & Grace.  This time, there’s no Megan Mullaly to liven up the set when Grace gets a little annoying.

By the end of this fairly predictable piece of “romance”, you mostly wish everyone would just shut up and stop whining.   An easily resolved conflict does not make for two hours of a good movie and the tiresome aspects of everyone else in the movie make you long for one of the martinis that are constantly being served up and around the wedding party.

And really, ladies, does anyone find Dermot Mulroney attractive?   I don’t.   I’d rather tongue-kiss Hugh Grant any day of the week and we all know how I feel about Hugh Grant.   It’s not that Mulroney’s bad looking, he’s just slightly above average, like an insurance salesman who’s aged well.   I have a hard time buying him as a suave male escort.

Well, I have a hard time buying the whole movie; especially when I could’ve told you how it would end after the first ten minutes.

Pass me a martini, will you?

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If you want a movie as dull as a box of rusty razorblades, then Glitter is definitely your ticket.    Talk about a snoozefest…

A struggling singer – Mariah Carey – was abandoned by her single, lounge singer mother at a young age and since then, she’s been struggling for professional acclaim and the ability to find her mom.  A promoter comes along and offers Billie, the young singer, and her two friends a job in a group.  It really turns out to be that Billie is the real singer while another girl, Sylk, gets all the credit for the vocals.  A DJ spots her as the real singer and from there, Billie’s career takes off, but can she survive choices between friends and careers?   And what, pray tell, will Billie do when the promoter comes back for his chunk of the pie, putting her on-the-rocks relationship with the DJ in peril?

If you’re already bored senseless, then imagine stretching out that overworn plot into a two hour movie.    Here’s a shocker:  Mariah Carey in my opinion isn’t as awful as everyone made her out to be.   She’s barely passable as an actress but I have to say, I’ve seen a lot worse in the past few months.   What’s really sickening about this one is the performance of the supporting cast.   See Terrence Howard before he was all well-known, cheesing it up as a sleazy promoter.   See Da Brat, she of The Surreal Life and rap fame, playing one of Mariah Carey’s best buds in what may be the most annoying yet bland portrayals I’ve ever seen of the best friend/hanger on.

More than anything, Glitter refuses to deviate from the clichés of movies before it, nor does it offer up anything spectacularly original or interesting.   Two hours of Maria Carey trying to make her celluloid mark isn’t very interesting at all.   I’ve had more fun during dental procedures.

Worse yet, Glitter is set in the ’80’s in a period of dance-pop and New York clubs, something which is decidedly not easy on the eyes.   Two words:   camel. toe.   It’s not pretty and it’s not any easier to look at in spandex, stretch polyester or some sort of silver-y outfit that looks vaguely space age.   (You could probably cover the space station with the material from that outfit).   It doesn’t bring on any warm feelings of nostalgia to see people running around in hot pink and hats with the brims flipped up; it adds another layer of cringe to an already sad, vapid movie.

The ending of Glitter is indicative of the whole movie:   the now-famous, successful daughter shows up in a limo and spangly formal dress to meet her long-lost mother who has turned into Suzy Homemaker out in the country.   Trite, boring, and uninteresting, it’s amazing the few theatergoers who braved Glitter made it out of the theater without leaving copious amounts of vomit in their respective wakes.

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I don’t think I can give this one a fair review.


Let’s just get it out of the way.   The plot of Clueless is Emma.   They’re based on the same story.   If you haven’t seen Clueless then … I’m horrified and you need to go rent it, watch it, whatever, right now.   (Clueless is the better of the two.  “And may I remind you, it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty?”)   Emma is obsessed with matchmaking and her attempts to match up all her friends lead to disastrous results.

First of all, I’m deeply troubled by the fact that the movie poster seems to screw up both Toni Collette and Ewan McGregor’s names (seriously, do you proofread much, people?), but in the interest of transparency I feel that I should at least note that I abhor these sorts of movies.

One would think that I would be  a huge fan of pretty English people in fancy dresses with romantic problems, but I’m certainly not.   And while it may go against a lot of popular opinions, I am no fan of Jane Austen.   I find her outstandingly boring and I’ve never been huge on “romance” anyways, so I find most Austen film adaptations like Pride and Prejudice and others to be little more than an irritation or a cure for insomnia.   I can understand how others find them entertaining, but I do get tired of the constant waxing poetic about these adaptations of films by Austen and how adorably adorable and cute they are, primarily because it’s just variations on the same theme for me, personally.

Strike one.

Also, I find Gwyneth Paltrow insufferable.   Nine times out of ten, I’d prefer chewing on broken glass to watching Paltrow smug her way through a movie.   She always looks so distinctly pleased with herself.   Whatever she’s doing in a movie is always with a thin undercoating of derision and disdain.   Paltrow’s one of those people that I think very few folks fall in the middle with regards to their personality; I believe most people either really love Paltrow or really don’t care for her.  I personally can’t stand to watch her act because it’s always apparent that it’s Gwyneth Paltrow playing someone else.   The only exception I can readily offer up is her portrayal of Margot Tenenbaum, which I actually really like and will always give her a pass for it.

Not here, though.   It’s so distinctly Paltrow – so smug, so upper crust, so self-absorbed.   I get really tired of watching her because the moment you begin to buy her as a character, there is some smirk or eyebrow raise that reminds you you’re watching Gwyneth Paltrow.

A random aside:   I always imagined her and Daniel Day-Lewis getting together and having lots of smug-faced babies together because they are pretty much the epitome of the Smug, Dedicated To Their Craft kind of actor.   They both seem to be people who prattle on endlessly about the  high art of acting and preach on to the little folks about what they believe to be true.

I was so disappointed when Paltrow married that dude from Coldplay, mainly because he seems somewhat boring and at least if she had run off and married Daniel Day-Lewis, that would have at least made me laugh.   Daniel Day-Lewis has always struck me as the kind of guy that would quit acting to open his own haberdashery, proffering all sorts of statements about how creative and artistic and organic being a haberdasher was, only to promptly quit and go back to acting six months later.

But, alas, this did not happen.


This has nothing to do with Emma, but as you can see, this man loves hats.

Anyways, where was I?


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Family members used to say to me when I was a kid, “If you keep rolling your eyes like that, your eyes are going to roll right out of your head.” And my mother, bless her, would tell me, “Your face is gonna stick like that if you’re not careful,” when I was in awful, sour moods.

Momma, assorted family members: My eyes didn’t roll out of my head and my face didn’t stick like that, and I think P.S. I Love You is the scientific test to see if either of those statements are actually true.

This movie is so bad it has to be given the full, awful treatment. What can I say? The suffering – I’m passing it on. Think of it as paying it forward, just with badness. Strap in, grab your booze, because I’m going through this one every arduous bit.

We start out in medias res (how’s that for a fancy term, eh?) with Holly and Gerry, a married couple living in NYC who are having a huge fight. Holly’s mad that Gerry told her mother that they wanted to wait to have children, which she equates with Gerry telling her that this means she doesn’t want to have children. From this ensues the most manic, nonsensical fight I’ve seen on film in a while. It’s a lot of What Holly Thinks Gerry Says and Gerry just standing there, bewildered and defending himself, while his wife throws shit at him and has a Life Crisis.

This is where I firmly hopped on the “I HATE YOU, P.S. I Love You,” train, for two reasons: One, I loathe this sort of thing, where the woman rants and raves about things that make no sense while the husband has to calm her down, and two, because she pretty much gets away with throwing shit at her husband’s head. If you’re trying to make me like Holly, this isn’t the way. If you reversed their roles, no one would ever think Gerry throwing things at Holly was remotely acceptable, but since she’s a woman and she just threw a Marc Jacobs shoe at him, that’s okay.


Then they kiss and make up and Gerry says, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” – cue me, screaming at my televison, “FOR WHAT? MARRYING A CRAZY BEEYOTCH?” – and they go to sleep, with words of love and giggling. So, I’m already reaching for the whiskey bottle that doesn’t exist.

Also, I have a really hard time buying Gerard Butler as a devoted husband. Gerard Butler always looks to me like the drunk guy at the end of the bar with the cute accent. He’s the guy that you know is a lot of fun, but only in that he’s fun from the hours of 9 p.m. to last call o’clock and that he’s a miserable wretch for the rest of the day. So seeing him as Husband of the Year is kind of weird to me, in the sense that I keep thinking, “Don’t you have somewhere to go to pickle your liver or something?”

Moving forward.

We land in the present time, where we’re at a bar. And while we’re at it, let’s cue up the Irish Stereotype Counter right about now.


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How ironic that the girl who doesn’t care much for romantic comedies would actually like what is billed as “the ultimate romantic comedy”.    It’s also the ultimate palate cleanser for when you’ve overdosed on a certain horror series.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking.   I know you think I only like this because a certain actor is in it, and you’re wrong!   All wrong!    I mean, sure, that helps…but come on.   There’s more to it than that!

It’s the overlapping story of a whole bunch of folks living in London and their various stories involving love set around Christmas time.   Cue the “awwww”s right about now.    There’s the Prime Minister and his secretary; his sister and her husband; a man who has lost his wife to cancer and his stepson, who is in love; stand-ins on an adult film; a jilted writer and his housekeeper, neither of whom speak each other’s languages; a past-his-prime rock star and his manager; two office workers with problems of their own; a happy couple with a friend who loves the bride thrown into the mix, and so on and so forth.   All stories flow in and out of each other surprisingly well.   Some are very well done and others are just…so typically Hollywood romantic that I can’t get quite involved in them.

Love Actually has its problems.   Like all romantic comedies, at some point I find myself spacing a bit.  What makes me like Love Actually is the variety.   Even though the idea of 8 million people having their own stories shoved into one movie gets very overloaded very quickly, the variety is really, really nice, especially because I can fast-forward past the ones I don’t care for.

I’ve never pinned down exactly why I don’t like romantic comedies, but I think part of it is that things like this don’t particularly appeal to me as “romantic” or make me sigh, in the slightest.

My version of a romantic comedy would never get made, because it would involve that man (maybe, he could always be recast) holding a copy of Die Hard and Die Hard II and no silly sign.   My standards:  they are low…I think.

It’s the less syrup-y stuff that gets me.   Like Bill Nighy as the aging rocker who insults everyone and everything live – on the radio, on TV, in his videos.   Or Emma Thompson, as Alan Rickman’s poor, put-upon wife.


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Somewhere, J.D.‘s laughing at me, I feel fairly sure.

Okay, I get the premise of this film.   Princess Raccoon is actually a raccoon spirit trapped in a human body who falls in love with a human prince with typically dramatic results.   It’s a fairy tale!

It’s got singing and dancing and huge musical numbers.   It feels a lot like a lot of film productions of The Nutcracker do where it seems to be shot on a theater set.   But mostly…my head hurts.

My head hurts from the talking golden frog and the weird raccoon masks.  My head hurts because of the weird scenes in which the Prince and Princess go sailing down a stream that’s straight out of a Japanese watercolor.   My head hurts because that was an awful lot of pretty costuming and scenery to jam into my brain in a very short time period.

My brain can’t quite churn through it all.   I liked the story, but it feels like the plot takes a distinct back seat to whatever the director can shove into the movie like golden raccoon traps and an enormous palace full of singing guards and simpering handmaidens.   The costumes are to die for.   The makeup’s exquisite and Zhang Ziyi is awesome in this (I can see why J.D. loves her so).

I really, thoroughly enjoyed it.   It was out of my comfort zone, but in a great way.   The problem is, I’m not quite sure to put into words exactly what Princess Raccoon is because I’m not quite sure there’s been anything in my memory, at least, that can even serve as a reference point for this movie.

It feels odd that a movie should leave me stricken and at a complete loss for words, but Princess Raccoon managed to do just that.   It’s…almost indescribable.

It’s pretty, but it felt like such a mind-bender.    It’s the cinematic equivalent of having a double shot of warm sake with a peyote chaser.   It’s a bizarrely beautiful movie.    In its oddity, there’s a lot of awesomeness there.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to lie down and take a few aspirin.   I have a feeling this movie’s going to give me some fairly weird dreams.

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Barefoot in the Park tells the story of two people who get married who are vastly different – one is a free spirit while the other is straight-laced as can be – who try and make their marriage work as best they can while still coming to an understanding of what marriage involves as well as a better understanding of the other spouse.  Living in a fifth-floor apartment in Manhattan which has the world’s longest flights of stairs and that’s practically falling down around their ears with some very eccentric neighbors certainly doesn’t help the situation they find themselves in.

It’s by Neil Simon, who I’m not an enormous fan of, but I re-rented this because, well, I liked it the first time I saw it.   By now, I don’t think it should be an enormous surprise to anyone that I’m not an extreme fan of romantic comedies (I think the only “romantic” movie I own is probably Hope Floats, unless you woke up with a concussion this morning and view Predator as being “romantic”).   But I like this movie.

I still like it, even watching it ten or so years later.   The direction’s good; Robert Redford is (a) smoking hot and (b) fantastically fantastic in this.   All of the supporting cast are wonderful, especially one of the in-laws.   The film’s good.   It’s got a great ending.   I’d rewatch it…except…

Jane Fonda.

It’s like some sort of switch flipped in my brain somewhere along the way in between viewings and I didn’t notice.   What caused this?  Maybe I got sick of Jane Fonda.   Maybe I had a traumatic head injury.   Maybe I was abducted by aliens.    I’m going to go with the whole “abducted by aliens” thing, because maybe then I could at least get a book deal out of it.   But Jane Fonda makes me grit my teeth all the way through this movie.  As Corie, Redford’s wife, she plays her role in a very perky, overexcited fashion.   Not that the character of Corie’s not written to be flighty and a little neurotic, because she is.   Fonda, however, plays her as so exuberant and excitable that it makes me start developing that twitch in the corner of my eye that I can’t stop.

Really, the movie’s worth it to see just for Robert Redford.   He takes what could’ve been a very bland character and even in his humdrum normalcy gives it a lot of life and a lot more depth than I think somebody else would have.   And it’s good to see this one for the supporting cast.

Just make sure you bring your mouthguard for Fonda.   God.

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