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First comes love, then comes action

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BIG RELEASES: Endless Love, Winter's Tale (Feb. 14)

BIG PICTURE: Yes, RoboCop is the big action release this week, but in honour of Valentine's Day, why don't we focus on the two date movies? First up? Endless Love. It's Romeo and Juliet meets Dirty Dancing meets... Endless Love (Yup, we're now re-making romantic dramas from 1981 starring a teenage Brooke Shields!). Po' boy David (Alex Pettyfer) woos Jade (Gabriella Wilde), the innocent, privileged daughter of a powerful family. The film is billed as every father's worst nightmare. Suddenly, their beautiful, bookish daughter is wearing short skirts, sexting, making out in the back of pickup trucks, making out in a bikini in muddy-watered creeks, having sex in front of a fire place and -- worst of all -- making out against bookshelves in a library! Sacrilege! THOSE. ARE. FOR. LEARNING! Making matters worse is David's shady criminal past. (If I know my teen star-crossed lovers, this can't end well. But in the meantime kids, by all means, lock lips.) As for Winter's Tale, this movie has everything -- if by everything, you mean Russell Crowe playing an Irish gangster/demon named Pearly, who happens to wear cool bowler hats, and Colin Farrell playing Peter, a charming thief protected by a guardian angel that happens to be a white horse (named Athansor). Confused? There's more. Peter falls in love with the gifted Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) while attempting to loot her New York home. "What's the best thing you've ever stolen?" the mystical redhead asks. "I'm beginning to think I haven't stolen it yet," he responds. Swoon. Turns out, Beverly is dying and Peter gives her life meaning. When Peter is pushed off a bridge to his death, he re-emerges decades later with amnesia. Near as I can tell, this movie is all about demons, angels, enchantment, miracles and Farrell saying things to make women's hearts melt. Example: "Is it possible to love someone so completely they simply can't die."

FORECAST: Both of these films will make your own romantic life seem empty and dull by comparison (at least for those of you not being wooed by a magical bandit or lusted over by a hunky modern-day Romeo) But, hey, we can't all have eternal love or a magical horse. That's what Hollywood is for.

HONOURABLE MENTION: RoboCop (Feb. 12). Joel Kinnamen is Detective Alex Murphy, a Detroit police officer critically injured and turned into the titular Robocop in this franchise reboot. This is a marked improvement on actor Peter Weller in the original. The original RoboCop had the emotional range of a Roomba; Kinnamen delivered an Emmy-worthy performance on AMC's The Killing. In this update, RoboCop's visor also retracts so you can actually see his face. Michael Keaton plays the Dr. Frankenstein behind RoboCop, as the CEO of the sinister corporation that literally turns a kindhearted cop into a killing machine. Samuel L. Jackson has a supporting role as an over-the-top, militant anchorman who declares things such as "This is the future of American justice." Good luck America.


BIG EVENT: House of Cards (Feb. 14, Netflix)

BIG PICTURE: In this award-winning political drama's second season, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) has manipulated his way into the vice presidency, but his newfound position of authority is threatened by the dark deeds that put him there. Underwood is capable of anything: bribery, theft, blackmail, murder -- as long as the end justifies the means. Meanwhile, his plotting wife Claire (the brilliant Robin Wright, who earned a Golden Globe for the role), shares in her nefarious husband's new spotlight. The two of them are like Hillary and Bill Clinton, if the Clintons' political mentors were the Macbeths, Machiavelli, Michael Corleone and Lucifer. But the sharks are circling Underwood this year. Investigative reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), who used to be Frank's mistress, is intent on uncovering the twisted truth. New obstacles emerge in the form of returning characters President Walker (Michael Gill) and billionaire fundraiser Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney). House of Cards was always designated for a two-year run, but unexpectedly renewed for a third season recently. This means the sky's the limits for Underwood. With the extra screen time, don't doubt that the presidency is within his reach.

FORECAST: The beauty of Netflix? You can download and watch the whole season in one day. Who needs mushy, mediocre Valentine's Day movies? I know one guy who will be watching House of Cards. Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I'm sure he takes notes when Underwood makes observations like "The road to power is paved with hypocrisy and casualties" and "For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy."


BIG RELEASE ON FEB. 11: Sam Roberts Band (Lo-Fantasy)

BIG PICTURE: O Canada! Just in time for the Olympics comes a major Canadian release. Sam Roberts has proved two things over the years: He can grow a hell of a beard and he's one of the country's most consistent songwriters. Traditionally known for their pop-rock, the album veers into uncharted territory in places. The house beats and techno grooves on Lo-Fantasy feel welcome on a dance floor - not traditional stomping ground for Roberts. This week, Sam Roberts Band is also one of five homegrown artists who will debut a new Olympics-inspired song during CBC's Olympic coverage. Roberts' Broken Teeth will air on Sat., Feb. 15. It can only be an ode to our beloved Canadian hockey players (or a tribute to RoboCop's crime-fighting tactics).

FORECAST: Sam Roberts Band's Lo-Fantasy is best played loud.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Jay Malinowski & The Deadcoast (Martel). Bedouin Soundclash's front man releases a highly personal concept album. Enjoy 18 songs divided by two coasts: The Pacific and The Atlantic. The album is inspired by the intriguing life of his grandfather and sailor, Charles Martel, and Malinowski's own introspective journey exploring his roots.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 9, 2014 ??65525

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