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NEW YEAR'S EVE
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Hector Elizondo, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Seth Meyers, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Til Schweiger, Hilary Swank, Sofia Vergara
Director: Garry Marshall
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 118 Minutes
Release Date: May 1, 2012

Nothin' beats New York on New Year's Eve.”

Film **

Having somehow missed out on director Garry Marshall's 2010 star studded event, Valentine's Day...well, I now have another reason not to see it since his follow up film, New Year's Eve, basically follows the exact same formula. All it boils down to is this: cast a dozen or so noticeable stars, write each character arc as predictably as possible and use a holiday as a backdrop. One such movie already got the job done perfectly, and that movie was the extremely superior Love Actually.

I'd be lying if I said the movie didn't have a certain level of charm to it, but as you're watching this movie it's simply hard to ignore the fact that this is essentially a showcase of stars and nothing more. Without their presence, the movie would instantly become made-for-TV fodder. The same, I'm sure, could be said for Valentine's Day, the writer of which also penned the screenplay for this one, indicating that they're not even trying to hide the fact that this is a flat out retread.

In what I'm sure is going to shock you as far as plot lines go, the story centers around New York City on New Year's Eve as the hours tick away until the yearly ball drop. And during the coarse of the most insane day of the year for the Big Apple, we are subjected to multiple stories involving characters somehow tied to the festivities. Few of them are the slightest bit interesting.

Among them, we have Claire (Hilary Swank), a stage manager who is finding it nerve-wrecking to handle the Times Square ball drop. One of the headlining acts of the show, Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi), is more concerned with reconnecting with Laura (Katherine Heigl), a chef who left him a year ago when he proposed to her. And one of Jensen's backup singers, Elise (Lea Michele) is trapped in an apartment elevator with comic book artist Randy (Ashton Kutcher) who couldn't care less about the holiday.

Meanwhile, Randy's roommate, a bike messenger named Paul (Zac Efron), is all too eager to be front and center when the party goes down, but has no official access to the event. That all changes when he comes across Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer), who has two free tickets to the New Year's Eve party to hand over to him if he'll help her execute a list of resolutions. Elsewhere in the city, Paul's sister, Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker), is having to deal with the pressures of both keeping an eye on 15 year old daughter Hailey (Abigail Breslin) as she wants to attend the party unsupervised and with a potential boyfriend, and hitting Times Square herself to possibly meet up with a guy she met this time last year.

And while THAT'S going on, good natured single guy Sam (Josh Duhamel), just coming from a wedding, boards the family bus of the pastor to get to NYC to track down the one he let slip away one year prior. Soon-to-be parents Tess and Griffin (Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers) are competing against another expecting couple to deliver the first baby of the new year, which promises a lucrative prize. And at that very same hospital, nurse Aimee (Halle Berry) cares for Stan (Robert De Niro), who's dying from cancer and just wants to see the ball drop one last time.

What does make the movie able to tolerate, in addition to the ever-so-present charm, is the showcasing of both the build up to and the actual Times Square bash. You do feel like you are right there in the middle of the festivities, and that of course provides a genuinely upbeat feeling. And as far as the individual bits go, I did get some minor laughs from the scenes involving Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers as the couple try to win the baby competition, and I was left awestruck from a couple of musical numbers from the irresistible (and ravishingly beautiful) Lea Michele from Glee.

For a movie of this magnitude to fully work, it should be in the hands of a filmmaker who can really make something special out of such a large ensemble. Think of what an Altman, Paul Thomas Anderson or Richard Curtis would be able to do with this, and then we would have really had something here. Sure, it wouldn't be the light comedic tone that Garry Marshall is known for, but it would unquestionably be something far more special.

Video ***1/2

The Blu-ray presentation from Warner does bring the New York City setting to extreme, vivid life. This plays a pivotal role in the making-you-feel-like-you're-there element. Image detail is smooth and superb throughout, even though this is a movie that's not going for a groundbreaking look. All of the big named stars look fantastic, that's for sure (namely Halle Berry, Lea Michele and Sofia Vergara!). And as expected, the Times Square festivities appear nothing short of tremendous.

Audio ***

The DTS HD mix gets a big boost from the lively music played throughout the movie, which I wasn't expecting much of in this dialogue-oriented, star filled comedy. Spoken words are heard nice and clean, as expected, but when the music takes center stage (in particular, Lea Michele's solo number), you will pretty much be left speechless. And it goes without saying, the party finale is where this presentation stands out!

Features **1/2

Among the extras at hand here are a commentary track by director Garry Marshall, a few featurettes including “Jon Bon Jovi and Lea Michele Rock New Year's Eve”, which showcases the musical collaboration between the two. There's also “The Magic of Times Square”, which takes a look at the history and appeal of the famous holiday party setting, followed up by “New Year's Eve Secrets of the Stars”, in which members of the cast reveal their fondest holiday memories. Rounding out the extras are Deleted Scenes and a Gag Reel.

Summary:

Unless you're incredibly star-hungry, there's nothing really significant to get out of New Year's Eve. It's tolerable, momentarily charming and I ended up not loathing it as much as I thought I would. You're simply more better off enjoying a repeat viewing of Love Actually instead.

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