A shirtless Gerard Butler and another bad romantic comedy

by Jase Howell

A paycheck. That is about the only explanation that can be given for why a film like "Playing for Keeps" is made.

A pretty talented cast is involved in this completely forgettable film, and the only reason I can possibly see that they were here is they needed paychecks. I suppose all actors - all people, for that matter - need to get paid, but this is a case where it is just so frankly blatant. Nobody involved in this film could have possibly read the script and said, "Oh wow I have got to be a part of this film."

The premise for this completely unoriginal gem starts with George (Gerard Butler), or "King George" as he is nicknamed by the soccer announcers who cover his team during the prime of his career. In the opening scenes we see George as an almost David Beckham-like character, a true idol. But alas, all careers end and George's ending finds him years later in Virginia, near his ex-wife, Stacie (Jessica Biel), and son, Lewis (Noah Lomax). Although, Stacie has a fiance, there is little doubt why George, the once great soccer star, is there. Quite frankly, there is no doubt where this grossly predictable story is going or how it will end - and this is evident only 10 minutes into the film.

But I digress. George is revered and known world-wide, but apparently has limited work options when the film finds him. It's difficult to tell why exactly, he is after all a legend; and he looks like, well, Gerard Butler, and we all know how sexy he is. It is hard to believe he wouldn't get any kind offers to be a coach or involved in management after his career, but never mind, that would ruin the set-up


by Jay Bobbin

(NOTICE: Ratings for each film begin with a 'star' rating - one star meaning 'poor,' four meaning 'excellent' - followed by the Motion Picture Association of America rating, and then by a family-viewing guide, the key for which appears below.)

STARTING THIS WEEK: "TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE": Clint Eastwood had said "Gran Torino'' would be his last project as an actor, but he returned to the screen in this wellperformed drama as a baseball scout who's nearing the end of his career. In what likely is his last trip to find new talent for the game, he's reluctantly given a traveling companion ... his longestranged daughter (Amy Adams), a lawyer who realizes this may be her last chance to find common ground with her father. Justin Timberlake plays another scout they cross paths with, in a cast that also includes Matthew Lillard and John Goodman. DVD extra: "making-of'' documentary. *** (PG-13: AS, P) (Also on Bluray and Movies on Demand)

"TOTAL RECALL": A remake of the still-very-serviceable Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi adventure is questionable, though this version has all the bells and whistles in special-effects terms. Colin Farrell assumes Schwarzenegger's earlier role, a working man of the future who comes to suspect someone else's memory has been implanted in him. His hunt to uncover the truth soon turns dangerous. The cast also includes Kate Beckinsale - wife of the film's director, Len Wiseman - as well as Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy. DVD extras: two "makingof'' documentaries; outtakes. ** (PG-13 and unrated versions: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and Movies on Demand)

"PREMIUM RUSH": Being a bike messenger can be dangerous work, as the character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Inception'') finds in this fastpaced action tale from director and co-writer David Koepp. The deliveryman's latest parcel contains something a corrupt cop (Michael Shannon, "Boardwalk Empire'') desperately wants, sparking a relentless, well-filmed chase across Manhattan. DVD extras: two "making-of'' documentaries. *** (PG-13: P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and Movies on Demand)

"ARBITRAGE": A showcase for Richard Gere, writer-director Nicholas Jarecki's drama casts the actor as a tycoon anxious to sell off his holdings before his questionable business ethics are exposed. As the process takes unexpected and unwelcome turns, a police detective (Tim Roth) stays doggedly on his trail. Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling play Gere's unsuspecting wife and daughter. DVD extras: two "making-of" documentaries; audio commentary by Jarecki; deleted scenes. *** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and Movies on Demand)

"RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION": As long as the action movies in this video-gameinspired franchise keep coming, Milla Jovovich never has to worry if she'll work again. She again plays Alice, the heroine fighting the sinister Umbrella Corporation in a futuristic world devastated by a zombie-generated virus. This time, her foes try to eliminate her by converting a friend (Sienna Guillory) into an enemy just as clever and physically adept. Another actress who's not exactly a wallflower, Michelle Rodriguez ("Lost," "The Fast and the Furious"), also appears. DVD extras: "making-of'' documentary; audio commentary by cast and crew; outtakes. *** (R: P, GV) (Also on Blu-ray and Movies on Demand)

"DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS": A summer can be very long for a youngster who has no real plans ... and a father who wants him to have some. Such is the plight of young hero Greg, again played by Zachary Gordon, in the third of the family-friendly comedies based on the books by Jeff Kinney. Dad (fellow returnee Steve Zahn) is intent on getting his video-game-loving son out of the house and active. Greg's admiration of a young country club employee (Peyton List) may give him a good alibi. DVD extras: theatrical trailer; audio commentary by director David Bowers; deleted scenes; outtakes; "Class Clown" short subject. *** (PG: AS) (Also on Blu-ray and Movies on Demand)

COMING SOON: "THE WORDS" (Dec. 24): Bradley Cooper plays a creatively stalled writer who finds another author's manuscript, then claims it as his own; Dennis Quaid also stars. (PG-13: AS, P)

"LOOPER" (Dec. 31): A veteran assassin (Bruce Willis) is sent back into the past, where he becomes the target of his younger self (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). (R: AS, P, V)

"HIT & RUN" (Jan. 8): A protected witness (Dax Shepard, also the writer and co-director here) emerges from hiding to drive his girlfriend (Kristen Bell) to a job interview. (R: AS, N, P, V)

"HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET" (Jan. 8): A divorcee and her daughter (Elisabeth Shue, Jennifer Lawrence) move to a neighborhood where a dual murder occurred years before. (PG-13: AS, P, V)

"THE POSSESSION" (Jan. 15): Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Dean Morgan play the parents of a youngster (Natasha Calis) who falls prey to an evil spirit. (PG-13: AS, V)

"TO ROME WITH LOVE" (Jan. 15): Woody Allen's comedy focuses on several love stories in Italy with Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz and Allen himself in the cast. (R: AS, P)

FAMILY-VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence.

Broaden Your Horizons

This week

Be the best you can be luncheon

Guided Imagery will be featured at a luncheon program on Tuesday, Jan. 8, from noon to 2 p.m., at The Center, 12700 Southwest Highway, Palos Park.

Certified Guided Imagery Practitioner Carole Wilson will discuss the purpose and practice of guided imagery and then invite participants to experience it, taking the group on a guided journey of deep relaxation and deliberately-directed daydreaming, which promises to be a great way to start the new year with new intentions.

The luncheon begins at noon, costs $16 and requires advance reservations. Call The Center at 361-3650.

Spirituality series

A new DVD spirituality discussion will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 6:30 p.m., and on Thursday, Jan. 20, at 10 a.m., at The Center, 12700 Southwest Highway, Palos Park.

Led by Chris Hopkins, the DVD series explores themes in Biblical scriptures as described by Richard Rohr, ofm. Hopkins welcomes new participants to The Center's spirituality programs at any time.

Cost for the 10-week series is $50. Pre-registration is required. Call 361-3650.


Children and teen art classes

New six-week sessions of Children and Teen Art Classes will begin at The Log Cabin Center for the Arts on Saturday morning, Jan. 12, at 9 and 10:30 a.m. The Log Cabin Art Center is a part of The Center at 12700 Southwest Highway in Palos Park.

Art instructors Heather Young and Sarah Heflin teach the children to use a variety of artistic media and techniques, including drawing, painting, papermaking, papier-m

Music of the season at Bridge Teen Center

Teen Ashleigh Ashton sang a variety of Christmas songs during an Orland Park Area Chamber of Commerce business after hours event hosted by The Bridge Teen Center last month.

The Bridge Teen Center is an innovative grassroots nonprofit community center that was designed around the interests and needs of teens in the suburbs. The center's mission is to provide free programs during after-school and unsupervised hours, where students can develop mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually in a safe environment.

The Bridge Teen Center is at 15555 S. 71st Court in Orland Park. For information on becoming a member of the Orland Park Area Chamber of Commerce, call 349-2072, or visit its website at

Top DVD Rentals

  1. Men in Black III, Sony Pictures, PG-13
  2. The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros., PG-13
  3. The Amazing Spider-Man, Sony Pictures, PG-13
  4. Madagascar 3, Paramount Pictures, PG
  5. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer, 20th Century Fox, R
  6. The Expendables 2, Lionsgate, R
  7. The Bourne Legacy, Universal Pictures, PG-13
  8. Ted, Universal Pictures, R
  9. Resident Evil: Retribution, Screen Gems/Sony Pictures, R
  10. Brave, Walt Disney Pictures, PG