Valentine’s Day Special: Ten Favorite Romantic Movies

Welcome to Love Week at All Eyes on Screen! Each day I’ll have a post about something that I love. Valentine’s Day is here, so I’ll be listing off my top ten favorite romantic movies that I love.

But first, I must ask, Why are they called “romantic comedies”?  Many of them are not funny, and there’s certainly plenty of comedies that are low on the romance.

Wikipedia defines a romantic comedy as the following:

a film that includes “light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as that true love is able to surmount most obstacles.”

Even as a chick, that definition rubs me the wrong way. There’s something annoying about the idea that everything can go wrong, but “true love” will make it all go away. It’s not that I don’t believe in true love or its power to overcome difficult times. But it seems to painted in such a pretty way that we always see that physical infatuation, that two-month period in the relationship filled with butterflies and roses. Great film rides off drama. Drama’s a natural ingredient that must be placed in film in order get the protagonist from point A to point B. And such is the job of all storytelling, regardless of the format or channel.

Perhaps the genre “romantic comedy” receives the great beating in film today. Maybe it’s the lack of good drama that drags it down. We have all of these unrealistic situations occurring, such as the film Life as We Know It (2010). Really? A romantic plot born from a couple dying and willing the care of their child to two complete strangers who dislike each other? (Sorry – I’m not much of a Katherine Heigl fan, all.)

Yes, some romantic films work well in a more dreamy-like state, such as 13 Going on 30. But perhaps that success lies in that the movie doesn’t attempt to take itself seriously like Life as We Know It. Romantic films like My Best Friend’s Wedding set the bar for more realistic romantic flicks. Or maybe the idea of an ending that didn’t end happily became more accepted because we deem happy endings as unrealistic.

Regardless, there’s not a more popular genre to receive low scores from critics than romantic comedies. Speaking for myself, I don’t care to watch romantic films for their critical acclaim; I’ll admit wholeheartedly that I watch them for that feel-good feeling, even if they have (multiple) fluff moments.

Honorable Mention: A Walk to Remember (2002)

This movie almost made my top 1o list. Mandy Moore and Shane West are probably each credited most for this film. Neither have made as successful films since, although West stepped it up when he joined the main cast of the TV show remake, Nikita. Moore also has upcoming television plans. Regardless, this film is typical Nicholas Sparks crap. And I enjoyed it. It’s almost painful to admit since I abhor Nicholas Sparks’s obsession with pairing characters together and then ripping them apart for unrequited love, death, mean relatives, war, the list goes on and on. I did love Mandy Moore in this film, though. She has a great singing voice and gets to showcase some of her vocal talents on screen as well as on the soundtrack.

10. The Wedding Singer (1998)

The Wedding Singer is one of my favorite Adam Sandler films. He’s absolutely hilarious, especially in some of his older movies like The Longest Yard (2005), Mr. Deeds (2002), and Happy Gilmore (1996), but I think he hits his stride in this film. He helms this obnoxious humor while still earning some sympathy from viewers. He and Drew Barrymore work great against one another, although I much prefer The Wedding Singer over their second attempt 50 First Dates (2004). This scene is one of my favorites; the Billy Idol character really adds to the humor of it all.

9. The Wedding Date (2005)

The majority of critiques on The Wedding Date is negative. I know, I know. I would call The Wedding Date a guilty pleasure, but I guess it doesn’t add up much to the idea of “guilty pleasure” when people are calling Jersey Shore and all shows Kardashian “guilty pleasures.” Why do I like this film? It’s hard to say. I guess I just love Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney together in it. I like that it takes place in London, and I love the score by Blake Neely. Not to mention, Michael Buble and Maroon 5 make up much of the film’s soundtrack. If you’re a fan of this movie, you might want to check out the new TV show Smash, starring both of The Wedding Date‘s Debra Messing and Jack Davenport.

8. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Kate Hudson is hysterical in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey are another one of those duos that play great against one another, although their second attempt Fool’s Gold (2008), fades in comparison. Hudson puts McConaughey through hell, and it’s only fitting for us to watch him suffer. The video is one of the funniest scenes in the film.

“You killed our love fern!”

7. (500) Days of Summer (2009)

Many people do not consider (500) Days of Summer to be romantic, but it just happens to be one of my favorite romantic movies. Yes, I know it follows the same pattern as My Best Friend’s Wedding, which I’ll get to soon. But Marc Webb’s creation is wholly original and altogether enjoyable and romantic in many scenes. I love his storytelling method in the film, and one of my favorite scenes is of Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt walking through IKEA, as well as the dance sequence to the tune of Hall and Oates I included. The scene I’m most moved by though is one of the scenes near the end, when Gordon-Levitt gives a little speech about love in the middle of a work meeting. He’s clearly lovesick and brings a hint of irony about how as greeting card writers, they tell people’s loved ones that they love them for them. And what is the specialty in that when you can tell a person yourself how you feel?

6.  My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

The first time I saw My Best Friend’s Wedding, I had no idea that Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney would not end up together. In fact, I was stunned to see Cameron Diaz whisk Mulroney away at the end. I love the idea that two people, who happen to be best friends, made plans to someday marry if they never found another person. And then off goes Mulroney and finds the youngest, most naive girl to fill the shows Roberts decided that she should have filled instead. She hatches a plan to steal the soon-to-be groom, and it makes sense. They have this brilliant chemistry, and of course they ought to end up together. But they don’t; such is life. The end leaves a bittersweet taste in your mouth, because the fight is finally over, despite her losing it. I love the use of Union Station and the old Comiskey Park (home of the White Sox, yo!)  in this film. It’s nice to see some Chicago scenery be taken advantage of! Check out the video for what I think is one of the best scenes in a romantic movie.

5. It’s Complicated (2009)

On Christmas Day in 2009, a few friends and I planned to see the first Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes. We were pumped until we found out that it was sold out and that we had to settle for It’s Complicated, the rom com starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin. The unfortunate affair turned out to be a fantastic film after all. It’s Complicated is proof that Meryl Streep is capable of playing normal, every day people. There are so many hilarious scenes in this film, that it’s one of the few rightly dubbed “romantic comedy.” From Steve Martin and his divorce tapes, to John Krasinski playing the lovable son-in-law, It’s Complicated has become one of my favorite go-to romantic movies.

4. You’ve Got Mail (1998)

You’ve God Mail is a classic romantic movie in most people’s books, and it’s definitely one in mine. It’s one of three films that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star in together, and they do so with a perfect connection. It brings me back to the time when AOL was the big thing around the Internet, and we had to listen and wait for the dial connection before we could use AIM or send an email. It’s the recycled story of two people who hate each other, and later learn to like one another as they start to learn and understand more. Meg Ryan has done her share of these films, and Hanks really isn’t a stranger to the genre either. The end scene is pitch perfect. Enjoy it!

3. Notting Hill (1999)

Notting Hill is another romantic movie with Julia Roberts that I love, and my first one including Hugh Grant that makes the list. I really like both in the genre, although I’m of the belief that both made their best romantic films in the 90s or early 2000s as opposed to more recent times. I love this film. It’s completely a dream gone reality, bringing everyman Hugh Grant into the movie star sphere of Julia Roberts, where an unlikely connection is formed. She experiences time around his humble friends and family, while he starts to wonder if she’s stringing him along or truly into him. She brings her world into his when she says the famous line, “I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

2. 13 Going on 30 (2004)

Jennifer Garner seems to be more accepted acting in rom coms these days, and one of her best ones I think is 13 Going on 30. She bears all the youthful innocence necessary for her character, and the very underrated Mark Ruffalo does a nice job playing opposite her. It’s also pretty hilarious to watch Andy Serkis actually play a human on screen, much less his giddy character in this movie. The film does a nice job of putting life in perspective. Although must of us probably won’t have our futures defined by the friends we had in high school, we will have memories of that time that will stay long with us. It also does a nice job of showing us that who we pick as friends often influences our behavior and changes us in the future. Overall, 13 Going on 30 fits the description of being light-hearted and sweet. Oh well.

1. Never Been Kissed (1999)

Never Been Kissed is my favorite romantic movie. It’s about a dork who returns to high school on an undercover assignment to find out about today’s teenagers. Drew Barrymore blossoms at this geeky character who desperately seeks to fit in. I haven’t seen another movie similar enough that showcases a character quite like the one Barrymore creates in Never Been Kissed. My favorite scene is when she tells her story via voice over. It’s a great way to wrap up the film. I included the final scene of the film because it’s all I could find on YouTube. It’s also one of my favorite film kisses.

OK, your turnWhat is your favorite romantic movie? Or what is one of your favorite scenes from a romantic movie? Don’t be shy . . . 

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Sherlock Holmes 2: All Looks, No Depth

A Game of Shadows reminds me of the pretty girl in the room that every guy wants to meet. She’s hot, she’s confident, she’s available. And then a guy meets her, and within about 10 minutes, he realizes why no guy is wasting his time talking to her: she’s all looks and no substance.

In a nutshell, that’s the best way I can describe the second installment of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

What Was Good

  • This film was visually appealing in so many ways. My biggest comparison of it was last year’s TRON: Legacy that came out right around the same time. The story line lacked, the writing was weak, but it was pretty to look at. One of the very first scenes in the film where Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) fights off four guys at once was incredible. At one point in the scene, the camera made a complete 360 degree turn. It was visually dazzling. The other memorable scene, visually, was the run through the forest. The slow motion action, the fight sequences, the explosion–by far, one of the most stylistic scenes of the movie. I had thoughts go back to when I had seen 300, but I found myself more enthralled with the visuals and special effects in Game of Shadows than I did in 300 or in the previous Sherlock Holmes installment.
  • Robert Downey Jr. Need I say more? Although I’m of the strong opinion that there are far better British actors out there to portray the famous criminal investigator, RDJ has a special magnetism to crowds of people. He’s funny, he has great facial remarks, and he knows how to make people laugh without blinking. He talks fast, moves fast, and looks good all the while doing so. Although he makes a far better Iron Man than Holmes, he knows how to attract a crowd and then hold its attention.
  • The bromance between RDJ and Jude Law. No one can deny the hilarious chemistry between Holmes and his partner in crime-solving, Dr. Watson. Although Watson is practically forced to accept his sidekick role, he keeps Holmes alive and works as a pretty good support system when needed, be it shooting at people, shooting him with adrenaline, or completing part of a mission. And at the end of the day, there’s this unspoken care for one another.
  • Perhaps one of my favorite parts of this movie were the fight scenes. Not only were they visually appealing, but they were also fun and interesting. The choreography, the narration preceding what RDJ was about to throw down on the villains, and then Professor Moriarty’s interruption in that final narration–all captured and edited well.
  • The ending stayed true to the story. While the movie franchise is utterly miscast, poorly written, and held together by a storyline that is both confusing and disjointed, the ending proved to be a rare part of the movie, with both Sherlock Holmes and the professor falling to their deaths. This is how Arthur Conan Doyle wrote it. And yes, Holmes does come back to life. This is the only scene I would applaud Ritchie for forming.

What Was Bad

  • I’m very disappointed to admit that the soundtrack was a letdown. Hans Zimmer is one of my favorite film composers today, but this soundtrack didn’t do it for me. While it held onto some of the same themes as the first film, it failed to go anywhere beyond that. It was all over the place, and it lacked the build up and the originality of the first soundtrack.
  • The writing is probably the most obvious problem with the film. Difficult to follow, with random things happening, and no one understanding why. Lots of running, fighting, shooting, and overall craziness, but not much point to them. Or is there a point, and we just don’t know it because it’s just bad storytelling? I’m going to have to hand this baton to the screenwriters, Michele and Kieran Mulroney. While the first movie lacked the spunk, thrill, and overall enjoyment that the second offered, Game of Shadows failed to explain itself and decided that looking pretty was a far bigger priority than making much sense or explaining itself.
  • Although the cast really brought it together for this second film, it added great actors, but misused the supporting cast in practically every way. Stephen Fry, who played Holmes’s brother, was funny and added a nice element to the movie. So what’s the problem? In the Sherlock Holmes books, Holmes does have a brother–a twin brother. While this may seem like a nit-picky dislike, the fact that RDJ and Fry share literally no level of similarity in look is just a poor choice. With today’s CGI capabilities, why not use RDJ for his twin? Noomi Rapace, another great addition to the cast, was also poorly used. While she did the best she could with the material, she really had nothing to do except function as an onlooker. This is disappointing when you have such a great physical actress on set. The choice for a better villain was then utilized, bringing Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) into the story. Harris, portraying an intimidating foe to the much-loved Sherlock Holmes, was great. What wasn’t great is that Moriarty rarely, if ever, talks in the stories. Someone is always playing messenger for him. This is just another big, purposefully-made mistake–we lose the ability to be surprised or taken aback when the villain is constantly showing himself when mystery could have been played well here.
  • Guy Ritchie’s direction is the biggest issue to blame, bad writing taking second place. While he likes making visual beauty on screen, it seems that he wasn’t interested in creating a Sherlock Holmes franchise that is much like Sherlock Holmes in the least. From the onset of poor casting choices, to forcing the stories to be more of summer popcorn flicks with big explosions and witty dialogue than anything much like is true to the story of Sherlock Holmes, Ritchie’s misguided attempts at making a good Sherlock Holmes has proven itself to be a failure once again.
  • As much as I appreciated the ending, as Richard Roeper mentioned in his review, Ritchie decided he rather have the audience leave on a happy note than leave anything to mystery by ending the movie with the return of Sherlock Holmes. As funny as it was, Ritchie blew a great opportunity to leave viewers in the dark and be able to present a great surprise in the next film while leaving everyone in suspense. It’s ironic, seeing that viewers felt completely lost during the movie, but had all suspense removed at the end.