Soderbergh says farewell and romance is in the air!

Steven Soderbergh says he's retiring, which is a shame for film fans.

After a 24-year career of making full-length theatrical feature films in (and way outside of) Hollywood, the Oscar-winning director says he wants to focus on other projects such as painting or Broadway or TV, to escape the "tyranny of narrative."

It's too bad the director of modern genre classics like "Out of Sight" and "Traffic" is going out on such a mixed note. His new thriller "Side Effects" starts out as a plaintive examination of depression and an indictment of the big pharma industry. Rooney Mara plays an unstable woman who is prescribed a new drug after a suicide attempt following her insider-trading husband's (Channing Tatum) release from jail. Her doctor (Jude Law) is being paid to test the new drug on patients, which is apparently — pardon the pun — regular practice.

But when everything goes haywire, "Side Effects" becomes a whole different beast. All of the careful and effective character buildup gives way to the kind of twisty plot machinations that stretch credulity even as they keep the audience guessing. Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, who also penned Soderbergh's strange agri-business comedy "The Informant!" and last year's chilling and layered "Contagion," keeps things in check for a while as the characters' motives come to the surface, but struggles late in the game as more is revealed.

"Side Effects" sports two very strong performances from Law and Mara, and Soderbergh's direction is lean and efficient. If only the final act were as muscular and sure-footed as the rest of the movie.

Even though it profiles one very specific artistic subculture, "A Late Quartet", playing at Liberty Hall, celebrates the all unique qualities that make creative collaboration such an exciting thing. In this case, the complicated personal relationships of a storied New York City-based classical string quartet explode when one of its members receives some life-changing news.

Reflective performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, and Mark Ivanir help the movie explore what it truly means to dedicate yourself to artistic excellence. The most fascinating part of this downbeat drama is looking at all the sacrifices that each member of the quartet has made to reach the zenith of their craft. Of course, these decisions don't come without consequences, and it only takes one disruption for the carefully structured framework to come crashing down.

There may be some overly melodramatic notes hit along the way, but the sober and thoughtful performances from its four lead actors keep "A Late Quartet" from getting too out of hand.

There are two great movie-related Valentine's Day events happening in and around Lawrence for those that are inclined to spend either a romantic evening out or a kitschy rock 'n' roll party night!

At 8 p.m. Thursday, Liberty Hall is teaming up with KJHK for a celebration of His Purple Majesty on the big screen, as they show the 1984 semi-autobiographical Prince movie "Purple Rain," complete with a photo booth and a full-on karaoke fest on the big stage following the movie. Besides featuring a ton of Prince's best 1980s material, "Purple Rain" also features rousing performances (and some cringe-worthy acting) from rival Morris Day and his band, The Time.

There's enough smoldering sexuality and proto-emo angst from Prince to fill two movies, and for the guys, well, there's Apollonia. As ridiculous and overheated as "Purple Rain" may seem these days, it was a bonafide B-movie hit back in 1984, and it established Prince's bad-boy cred, while connecting with a whole lot of teenagers who would soon be adding all kinds of paisley and frilly lace to their wardrobes.

On the more traditional side of things, the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet in Kansas City is showing one of the best romantic comedies of all time and having a romantic, four-course meal paired with delicious wines for all the sweethearts in the house who prefer the classics.

This is a major meal, prepared by the Alamo's own gourmet chef, and the Oscar-winning 1934 romantic screwball comedy "It Happened One Night," starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, will be showing on the big screen. With this film, director Frank Capra created (for better or worse) the template for which all rom-coms would use from there on out. Gable and Colbert have charm to spare, and even though the tropes in "It Happened One Night" are well-worn and have been mishandled poorly by every by-the-book chick flick of the last 15 years, it still isn't enough to keep this, the first "big five" Oscar winner ever, from working like gangbusters. It starts at 7 p.m., and tickets are $65.


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