It’s the ultimate weekend for date movies, but which films are you going to love – and which ones will you want to break up with before the night is over?
On the slate: About Last Night, Endless Love and Winter’s Tale, among others.
Here’s what to see and what to skip at the movies this weekend, lovebirds.
About Last Night
Though far from perfect, the best of this week’s ’80s movie updates (alongside RoboCop and Endless Love) justifies its existence by offering Valentine’s Day viewers an outrageously funny, thoroughly engaging pair of onscreen lovers. Unfortunately, they’re not the stars.
Instead of Rob Lowe and Demi Moore as the couple trying to ignite a relationship from the spark of a one-night stand, Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant step in as Danny and Debbie. They’re nice folks – and every inch as bland and boring as their sloppy-drunk best friends, Joan (Regina Hall) and Bernie (Kevin Hart) say they are. So I say go where the party is and hang with the booze hounds.
Hart and Hall are so sharply funny together, they might want to think about remarketing themselves as a comedy duo. As Bernie and Joan, they’re a horny, modern take on Fred and Ethel Mertz, a couple of salty-tongued Bickersons who can’t keep their hands off each other, as their rapid-fire insults come in like cluster bombs and land with better aim. They also can’t keep their noses out of their friends’ business. But it’s hard to blame them, given that Danny and Debbie seem so intent on screwing things up.
While Lowe and Moore had a palpable sexiness, Ealy and Bryant don’t gin up much excitement. The small fire of their initial attraction morphs into the warm glow of a 40-watt bulb after a few months of living together. That ought to make them more like old shoes, comfortable in their burgeoning romance, but instead leads to contrived fights that don’t make sense in the moment and look downright artificial in hindsight. With so little passion on the line, it’s tough for a viewer to care whether these two break up, make up or move to Des Moines – particularly when Bernie and Joan feloniously steal every moment of every scene they’re in.
None of that is particularly Ealy or Bryant’s fault – they just happen to be at the center of an everything bagel in which Hart and Hall are, well, everything. That doesn’t make for a particularly balanced, faithful remake, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had for us in the (not-so) cheap seats.
Flip a Coin on These
Do-gooder Detroit police officer Alex Murphy (The Killing‘s Joel Kinnaman) is back. But other than some fancy new CGI, and Samuel L. Jackson barking at the audience as a guns-and-glory TV blowhard, I can’t see much reason for his resurrection.
The broad outlines of the story remain: After Murphy is nearly assassinated by a well-connected criminal, his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) consigns his body to drone manufacturer OmniCorp to become the first crime-fighting man-bot. (What else is she going to do with a head, a pair of lungs and a disconnected hand?) At first, Murphy’s personality and soul are still intact, but OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) has a plan to eliminate that little inconvenience and make his company billions in the process.
The problem is that RoboCop never colors outside those broad outlines, delivering a moderately engaging existential drama/action hybrid, while making heavy-handed pronouncements about trading liberty for security. Gary Oldman is fine as Dr. Norton, Murphy’s morally conflicted physician/engineer, while Kinnaman is a perfectly capable Murphy, hampered as he is by a physically constricting role. Certainly Jackson gets in some nice moments as the host of a slanted TV “news” show, scheming to put the war machines in charge. But given the film’s lack of a creative spark, they may not be enough.
Easily the week’s most frustrating film, Winter’s Tale starts off as sweeping date-night romance, but ends up a cheesy misfire. In early 19th-century New York, thief Peter (Colin Farrell) falls for dying heiress Beverly (Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Brown Findlay), even as he’s on the run from crime boss Pearly (Russell Crowe). The couple could not be sweeter, and their attraction feels genuine, if hasty. Only just as we’re getting nice and invested in this pair, the film drops the romance entirely, focusing instead on a little girl in serious peril. I hate to be the curmudgeon who tells a cute, endangered kid to “scram,” but her plot line is such a buzzkill that it nearly scuttles the entire film – and I’m doing it a solid by saying “nearly.” It’s such a shame because Farrell and Findlay are worth a few swoons. If only the film had stopped there, the love it saved could’ve been its own.
A sappy teen romance gets a second look in this update to Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 drama. Alex Pettyfer stars as working-class kid David, hiding a bit of a past from cute, quiet Jade (Gabriella Wilde), the rich girl with whom he strikes up a relationship after high-school graduation. He’s truly, madly, deeply in love with her, while she has no discernible personality, but gosh darn it, these crazy kids want to make it work! Unfortunately, she has a laughably malevolent dad (Bruce Greenwood) who’s desperate to keep them apart. Endless Love doesn’t even try to avoid the clichés of its genre, repackaging pat infatuation as epic romance. If it comes down to this or staying home on Valentine’s Day, you know what to do.