Feb 14, 2014

A Look at Alternative Cinema Released on Valentine's Day Through History

Valentine's Day is a day of love and romance spread across the world in order to make you feel special. Like most other holidays, it is also a time when the holidays churn out films based around the titular holiday. Some will attempt to make you feel sweet inside while a newer subgenre plans to tear apart the constructs with titles as explicit as I Hate Valentine's Day. However, despite a holiday that is seeing more romance being churned out in 2014, the holiday has had its share of black sheep. Films that don't deal with romance, or at least not in the traditional manner. These are films that have opened on February 14 and will likely not be the first choices when you pop on a film.
The toughest part about making this list is the one rule: the film had to be released on February 14 and no day outside of that. This becomes increasingly problematic when considering that the options expand to some very bizarre titles that would have made the list far more interesting. When compiling this list, I stuck with the rule strictly, if just to help commemorate the oddballs who are celebrating an anniversary this year. While it means that you'll barely miss out on Funny Face (Feb. 13) and films like Taxi Driver (Feb. 8). So as you bunker down to see Endless Love or Winter's Tale, or rent one of the many films from Netflix, remember to blow out some candles for these films that chose to throw caution to the wind and not care what you feel about lovey dovey things.

Left to right: Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

PLOT: 
A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.

This is easily the most notorious film to ever open on Valentine's Day. Besides introducing Hannibal Lector character into the realm of pop culture overload, it still holds up. It is scary, perverse, and helped to popularize serial killer culture. Having also won Best Picture at the Oscars, it is an unexpected gem that withstands the test of time with vivacious amounts of energy and the direction puts many horror films to shame. If you are not creeped out even a little bit, then you may need to see therapy right away.



Bela Lugosi
Dracula (1931)

PLOT:
The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.

It launched one of Universal's most iconic horror icons and set the precedent for what vampires would look like and behave for the following 83 (and counting) years. He is tortured and turns into a bat. Most of all, it created Bela Lugosi as one of history's most iconic character actors. It is an undisputed classic and while it may have not aged as well as his counterpart Frankenstein, Lugosi's performance alone is worth giving this film a chance just to see the evolution of one of the most bankable monsters of today.



Left to right: Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey
Wayne's World (1992)

PLOT:
Two slacker friends try to promote their public-access cable show.

One of the most iconic comedies of the 90's that introduced a steamroll of one-liners and repurposed Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" into one of the most iconic car scenes in history. Evolving from a Saturday Night Live sketch, it still manages to appeal to audiences while also being one of SNL's only successful transitions to the big screen. Even if the sequel isn't as great, the energy and ambition captured the 90's perfectly and helped to popularize the increasing interest in cynical and meta humor.



Ben Affleck
Daredevil (2003)

PLOT:
A man blinded by toxic waste which also enhanced his remaining senses fights crime as an acrobatic martial arts superhero.

When it was announced that Ben Affleck was scheduled to play Batman in an upcoming superhero film, the internet immediately groaned. It largely is because of Daredevil: a film in an era before Marvel films were considered to be more than popcorn films. It ranks among the least favorite of the comic book films and with some defenders suggesting to check out the director's cut, it is a film that everyone hates yet nobody seems to remember. With Daredevil due for a reboot, there's a chance that the character will regain popularity. For the time being, we have this lackluster film that even spawned a spin-off with the equally lackluster Elektra.



Chevy Chase
Vegas Vacation (1997)

PLOT:
In the fourth outing for the vacation franchise, the Griswolds have to survive Vegas fever when they go to Las Vegas for a fun family vacation.

A black mark on the 90's film scene and the surefire killer of a beloved comedy franchise. With Chevy Chase in the midst of a career downward spiral, this film attempted to follow the Griswold family to Las Vegas for more hi-jinks, but ended up being as stale as Chase's career. Even if there hasn't been another Chase-lead film, there have been several revivals via commercials to keep the family alive. There's some worry on the horizon, with Ed Helms potentially starring in a reboot of the series. Even if that film takes off, majority of people will not care to notice that any film was made outside of the National Lampoon banner and ended with Christmas Vacation.



Bruce Willis
A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

PLOT:
John McClane travels to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son, Jack, only to discover that Jack is a CIA operative working undercover, causing the father and son to team up against underworld forces.

It has been a rough road for the Die Hard franchise in the past decade. While it seemed like a funny marketing gimmick at the time, the choice to open an action film on a romantic holiday somehow fared worse than its competition. People kept talking about it, but only in the sense that nobody liked it and left many to speculate how much longer Bruce Willis will continue to sleepwalk through films before finally giving up and retiring for good.

Hayden Christensen
Jumper (2008)

PLOT:
A teenager with teleportation abilities must suddenly finds himself in the middle of an ancient war between those like him and their sworn annihilators.

This forgettable sci-fi film was an attempt to launch Hayden Christensen's career after playing Anakin Skywalker in two Star Wars films. While he still shows up in movies from time to time, his career hasn't had a success story as big as that franchise. At best, this is a film that is a must-see only for Christensen completionists.

Chuck Norris
The Delta Force (1986)

PLOT:
A 707 aircraft jetliner on its way from Athens to Rome and then to New York City is hijacked by Lebanese terrorists. The terrorists demand that the pilot take them to Beirut. What the terrorists don't realize is that an elite team of commandoes led by Major McCoy (Norris) and by Colonel Alexander (Marvin) as been called into service to eliminate all terrorists on the jetliner and who's involved in the hijacking and try to retake the plane before the terrorists kill all the hostages.

It was the 80's and it starred Chuck Norris at the height of his popularity. It is only expected that he would star in a airplane hijacking film. However, the kick is that Lee Marvin would be the villain. Having made his success in westerns decades earlier, that juxtaposition alone seems baffling.



Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)

PLOT:
A small group of people come to an island to relax but soon find themselves trapped on the island with a murderer in their midst.

An Italian horror film from director Mario Bava. I know nothing about this film, but knowing the genre it is in, expect this to be the most graphic, violent film on the list. At very least, consult the above image for a better idea of what you're getting into.

Knights of the City (1986)

PLOT:
A street gang that is also a rap group tries to get a record contract.


It was the 80's, so that is way before the dramatic versions of gangs and rappers that we know in film today were made. This could be nothing but a little bizarre and fun. Also, they probably have a really hoaky soundtrack.

Freddie Highmore
The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

PLOT:
Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate with their mother, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures.

It isn't too farfetched to see a kid's movie get some love early in the year, especially one for a potential franchise. There isn't any sequel in the works and it is somehow overlooked compared to other family series such as The Chronicles of Narnia. It still has plenty of fun moments, but it isn't likely to receive a revival anytime soon.

Step Up 2: The Streets (2008)

PLOT:
Romantic sparks occur between two dance students from different backgrounds at the Maryland School of the Arts.


This is technically as close to a romantic movie as this list will get. The first word in the plot alone suggests this. However, it does have an amazing third act dance scene that takes place in the rain. Like The Fast and The Furious franchise, this is one that unexpectedly churns out more and more films. However, none have compared in reception to the impressively high recognition for this sequel whose subtitle is as egregiously strange as the idea of a dance film being any bit of successful.

Fighting Pilot (1935)

PLOT:
An inventor develops a new type of aircraft. A crooked businessman attempts to buy it but the inventor refuses to sell it to him, whereupon the rejected businessman and his henchmen steals the plane and its blueprints. The plane's test pilot, who is the boyfriend of the inventor's daughter, and his sidekick set out to get the plane, and the plans, back.

One of the earliest entries on this list. Based on reviews, it is serviceable for the era, but doesn't hold up compared to other titles, including Dracula. However, with early examples of aviation presented in the film, it does serve some historical significance for how aircraft have been filmed.

The Bohemian Girl (1936)

PLOT:
A band of Gypsies are camped outside the walls of Count Arnheim's palace. Oliver's wife kidnaps the Count's daughter Arline, then leaves the child and runs off with her lover, Devilshoof. Not knowing her true identity, Oliver, with the help of "Uncle" Stanley, raises the girl as his own. Years later, Arline, still unaware of her noble birth, is caught trespassing on the Count's grounds and is thrown into the dungeon. Meanwhile, Stanley and Oliver pass the time playing "fingers" and bumblingly ply their trade picking pockets. Finally, just when Oliver needs his help to rescue Arline, Stanley gets drunk while siphoning wine into bottles.

Surprisingly, the only comedy troupe who transferred from vaudeville to the big screen to make it onto this list. There is probably a lot of familiar hi-jinks from its iconic duo who, as the plot suggests, has a lot going on. Having not seen it, I can only assume it has plenty of hilarious moments that are familiar to their craft.

Left to right: Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel
Safe Haven (2013)

PLOT:
A young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.

It isn't so much that it is a Nicholas Sparks film, which makes it one of the more obvious selections on this list. There is definitely a romance at the center of the film. However, upon its release, there was plenty of controversy surrounding its twist ending, which is really crazy and may overshadow any quality that the film and its already panned reviews does have.


TRIVIA!
When did these "Valentine's Day" films come out?

A Bollywood film called February 14. - June 22

The Garry Marshall film Valentine's Day - February 12

Horror remake and 3D cash cow My Bloody Valentine - January 16

Left to right: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams
The most adult look at romance's twilight years Blue Valentine - December 29

HIDDEN GEM

While there are many great films that have been released on Valentine's Day, there are those that get overlooked for whatever reason. This is a selection that I feel is underrated while also being one of the most appropriately released films on the list.

Left to right: Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant
Music and Lyrics (2007)

PLOT:
A washed up singer is given a couple days to compose a chart-topping hit for an aspiring teen sensation. Though he's never written a decent lyric in his life, he sparks with an offbeat younger woman with a flair for words.

It may be light and fluffy, but it is one of those few ingenious romantic comedies from the 00's that worked. It was during a period where Drew Barrymore could play the cute, ditzy girl and pull it off effectively. It may not take the biggest punches nor give the greatest impression, but it does leave a warm feeling inside and makes the numerous jokes about song writing some credibility. It is goofy fun in sincere ways that most Valentine Day movies aren't usually.


Hope that you enjoy your holiday and feel free to share your thoughts on great Valentine Day movies, whether they stick to today's date or not.

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