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Romance movies for a romantic evening

Valentine’s Day, the holiday of sappy love and emotional enrichment, may begin with heart-shaped chocolate boxes, romantic dinners, and whatever sensual activities follow, but ends with another favorite tradition: Hollywood entertainment.

The highly anticipated “50 Shades of Gray” releases Feb 13, drawing a lot of attention to the theatre. For those wanting to spend more time personally in their living room, better options come from Netflix or DVD. Here are six selections to make this Valentine’s Day a special one.

The 2004 film “The Notebook” is perhaps the best example of the archetypical romance film format of love at first sight followed by a heated relationship, an even more heated break-up, then a rain-soaked reunion climax. Based off Nicholas Spark’s novel of the same name, the film stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as a couple who falls in love during the 1940s. Before you write this off as a clichéd pick for a Valentine’s film, consider the emotional impact on the audience, especially when viewed on this holiday.

 “500 Days of Summer” is a love story about the impact failed relationships have on young souls. Told in a nonlinear fashion over 500 days, the film follows Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel (named Summer in the film) through their relationship. Both characters carry conflicting ideas on the nature of “true love” which serves as the emotional impetus for their relationship and the audience’s connection to the film. I recommend this movie for its honest take on relationships and their conflicts. It gives a strong representation of love and the trouble it may cause.

The 1998 Best Picture winner, “Shakespeare in Love,” serves as a lesson in both literature and in romance, with many themes and plotlines taken directly from the Bard. In this movie, William Shakespeare as he casts a play becomes smitten with an auditioning actor who turns out to be a woman in disguise. Influenced by works such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” this film is my favorite of the six for its accurate portrayal of 1800s England and its intimate love story.

Where “Shakespeare in Love” gives viewers an idea of romance in the Victorian Era, “Her” hypothesizes on modern love. The 2013 film, which won director/writer Spike Jonze a Best Original Screenplay award, follows Joaquin Phoenix through his pseudo-relationship with a computer operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson. It is a touching film, brought together by great performances and direction. For a Valentine’s Day film, “Her” gives a metaphorical take on 21st century dating, as well as commentary on the effect of new technology on human relationships.

Typically, romance films are aimed at females, leaving men groaning at the prospect of sitting through two hours of over-sensualized plots. A fast-paced action plot, however, can coexist in a romantic film. Both “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” give viewers a love story against a backdrop of comic-book mayhem. Both films are similar in their set-up, following an unlikely hero who falls for a girl then must defeat an evil force to be with her.  The action is stylized enough to keep viewers invested, with enough romance to keep the holiday theme intact.