Vintage Video: Valentine’s Day must see movies

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First Posted: 2/6/2015

If you’re looking for a good movie or two to watch this Valentine’s Day, we have a dozen recommendations guaranteed to get you in a romantic mood.

You won’t find any tried-and-true classics like “Casablanca,” “Annie Hall” or “The Way We Were” on the list. The selections below are either newly released winners or movies that qualify as hidden gems.

So, cuddle up with your sweetie and get ready to laugh, cry and swoon your way through Valentine’s Day.

THE BEST OF ME (2014, Fox, PG13, $30) Sometimes it’s fun to be swept away by one of Nicholas Sparks’ sudsy concoctions. In the latest Sparks adaptation, Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden star as high-school sweethearts who meet at an old friend’s funeral two decades after they split up. Like “The Notebook,” the film weaves together a present-day story with flashbacks from the couple’s (Liana Liberato, Luke Bracey) falling-in-love years. The ending is a shameless pile-up of plot: there’s car accidents, murders, letters from dead loved ones. But until them “The Best of Me” manages to push all the right buttons.

REMAKE REWIND: THE END OF THE AFFAIR (1955-1999, Mill Creek, R, $10) Here’s a nifty budget-priced package which offers both versions of Graham Greene’s semi-autobiographical World War II-era drama about a writer who falls hard for the wife of a diplomat. When she abruptly calls off their illicit love match, he seeks out a detective to figure out why she cut him loose. In the original, the lovers are played by Deborah Kerr and Van Johnson while in the remake, Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes do the honors. Both versions deliver romance, heartbreak and spiritual uplift. Think “Brief Encounter” with a mystical twist.

IN YOUR EYES (2014, Anchor Bay, unrated, $23) Written and produced by Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”), this romance carries a sweet, supernatural kick. Zoe Kazan stars as a New Hampshire housewife who suddenly discovers she can communicate telepathically with a New Mexico ex-convict (Michael Stahl-David). Soon, the unlikely pair is sharing a long-distance relationship like no other. It goes on a wee bit too long but “In Your Eyes” is worth seeing for its nifty performances and one-of-kind love story.

RETURN TO ME (2000, Olive, PG, $25) Yes, the premise smacks of high-concept hooey. David Duchovny plays a widower who falls in love with the woman (Minnie Driver) whose life was saved in a transplant operation involving his late wife’s (Joely Richardson) heart. Ignore that silly scenario and “Return To Me” becomes a sweet-natured romance about two bruised souls. Co-writer/director Bonnie Hunt wisely allows sadness to seep into the cracks while also managing to surround the central couple with an array of zesty friends and family members.

LOVE IS STRANGE (2014, Sony, R, $30) Don’t miss this lovely dramedy from Ira Sachs about a gay couple (John Lithgow, Alfred Molina) who are forced to sell their apartment and separate for the first time in 39 years. Lithgow goes to live with his family (Marisa Tomei, Charlie Tahan) while Molina bunks with a pair of cops (Cheyenne Jackson, Manny Perez.) Occasionally laugh-out loud funny but also surprisingly delicate, “Love Is Strange” addresses issues of income inequality and prejudice but, at its heart, is a romance about a couple whose bond stands the test of time.

SEVENTH HEAVEN (1937, Fox, unrated, $20) A remake of the silent film classic starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, this slushy but still-potent romance finds James Stewart playing against type as a swaggering street cleaner who befriends a street waif (Simone Simon.) Rather than allowing the young woman to be arrested, Stewart hauls her back to his barren one-room Paris apartment where they quickly fall head over heels. After Stewart is drafted to fight in World War I, “Seventh Heaven” loses some of its sparkle but, until then, it beautifully captures the joys and agonies of young love.

THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS (1983, Warner Archive, R, $20) One of Carl Reiner and Steve Martin’s best collaborations starts off as a spoof of “mad scientist” movies with Martin as Dr. Hfuhruhurr, a revolutionary brain surgeon. But the film starts cooking after the good doctor falls in love with Ann (voiced by Sissy Spacek), a live brain housed in a jar. The pair’s telepathic connection makes Hfuhruhurr forget about his gold-digging wife Dolores (Kathleen Turner), until he decides Dolores’ body might be a good place to stash Ann’s brain. It’s sweet, soulful lunacy.

TWO NIGHT STAND (2014, E1, R, $20) A blizzard plays matchmaker for a pair (Analeigh Tipton, Miles Teller) who hook up for what they imagine will be a one-night stand. But come morning, the winter storm makes it impossible for the couple to escape so they’re forced to get to know each other. The movie relies on the charms of Tipton and Teller, who pass the chemistry test with flying colors. The dialogue is a little too proud of its own hipness. But that small quibble aside, “Two Night Stand” will make you long for a little snowed-in time with your sweetie.

HIGH TENSION (1936, Fox, unrated, $20) Pioneering auteur Allan Dwan (1922’s “Robin Hood”) brings plenty of snap, crackle and pop to this unique romantic comedy about a rollicking deep-sea diver (Brian Donlevy) and his relationship with a feisty journalist (Glenda Farrell.) The diving scenes are surprisingly well-staged for the ’30s and the wild-card chemistry between Donlevy and Farrell leaves you hungry for more. “High Tension” is fast-paced, unpretentious fun.

WHAT IF (2014, Sony, PG-13, $30) In this unofficial update of “When Harry Met Sally…,” Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) strikes sparks with Chantry (Zoe Kazan) but instead of fanning the flames, they cool it and attempt to be just friends. The premise isn’t exactly fresh but the execution is. Director Michael Dowse (“Goon”), working from a smart script by Elan Mastai, strikes a lovely balance between the snappy and the soulful. When even a movie’s jokes define the characters, it’s definitely worth checking out.

THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942, Criterion, unrated, $30) Screwball comedies don’t come any screwier – or more hilarious – than this masterpiece from Preston Sturges. Claudette Colbert stars as a Park Ave. firecracker who leaves her broke husband (Joel McCrea) behind for a Florida get-a-way. There’s a parade of eccentrics enlivening every scene from the Wienie King (Robert Dudley), who pays Colbert’s rent because he likes the way she looks, to John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee) and his sister the Princess (Mary Astor), who never tire of spreading their wealth around.