Thursday, February 18, 2010

Valentine's Day * *

Starring Julia Roberts, Ashton Kutcher, Taylor Swift, Taylor Lautner, Shirley MacLaine, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Patrick Dempsey, Jessica Alba, Queen Latifah, Bradley Cooper, Emma Roberts, Jamie Foxx

Rated PG-13

Directed By Gary Marshall

Written by Katherine Fugate

* *

For a film that will attract audiences solely with its A-list cast, “Valentine’s Day” delivers easy-to-follow plotlines and even a few twists at the end. The remainder is fairly predictable and sweet, but without much depth.

The cast includes everyone from Shirley MacLaine to McDreamy to Julia Roberts to Taylor Lautner, and that may be where “Valentine’s Day” hits the jackpot: with stars of all ages. Audiences young and old can find a plotline to relate to, as well as some silly and wacky ones to make them laugh.

The best storylines involve demure Julia Roberts and beguiling Bradley Cooper, plane passengers each heading for someone special. The younger actors, Emma Roberts, Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner, as well as Carter Jenkins, play two high school couples whose Valentine’s Day mishaps and banter provide for the funniest scenes. Ashton Kutcher is quite believable as an endearing, sometimes sickeningly romantic florist shop owner.

Director Gary Marshall is no rookie to the genre of feel-good romantic comedies. He also directed films such as “Pretty Woman,” “The Princess Diaries,” and “The Other Sister.” While the film has a happy ending,it doesn’t leave the audience with any great revelations or Valentine’s Day quandaries. Almost every character finds love, except for two. Neither seem incredibly happy. Where are the single girls and guys living it up and content with being alone on Valentine’s Day?

“Valentine’s Day” is like a box of chocolates, pretty to look at, delicious at first bite (and second and third), but what’s left behind is a belly-ache and an unsatisfied feeling that's hard to place.

* *

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Avatar * * * * *

Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez, Joel Moore

Rated PG-13

Directed by James Cameron

Written by James Cameron

Premiere Of 20th Century Fox's "Avatar" - Arrivals

Escape to Pandora, where wondrous creatures and lush plant life exist, all lit from within by the web of energy that unites each organism. The Na‘vi people of planet Pandora have a profound connection to nature, worlds apart from the futuristic technology and weaponry of Earthlings. The Na‘vi way of life is simpler and yet more complex biologically than humans can imagine. James Cameron’s masterpiece is as captivating as it is immensely creative.

U.S. Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is sent to take on the job his dead twin brother was trained to fulfill: direct the body of an “avatar” modeled after the Na‘vi peoples. Unlike his brother though, Sully is confined to a wheelchair and he relishes the freedom of his avatar body immediately. At first his mission is to learn the secrets of the “savages,” and convince them to leave their land. The military corporation based in Pandora plans to tear apart that land, for directly beneath it lies a mineral worth millions of dollars. As Sully adjusts to his avatar body, he comes to understand the nature of the Na'vi way of life. He falls in love with their world, with their spirituality, with their connection to all living things…and with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the daughter of the tribe leader. Sully questions his own reality as his purpose in life takes on new meaning.

Stepping into the world of Avatar is equivocal to bathing in cool waters on a hot day. Experiencing the connection, love and strength within the Na‘vi people is a balm to the raw monotony of everyday life, where commercialism rules and spiritually and a deeper connection to nature often seem all but lost. A kind of virtual reality with the most engaging characters and an incandescent backdrop, “Avatar” is an astounding peek into the nature of our ways and the future of film.