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Film: Valentine's Day * *

(romance. Starring Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper and many, many more. Directed by Garry Marshall. cert 12A)

I'm thinking that around six years ago, screenwriter Katherine Fugate sat watching the Richard Curtis slushfest Love Actually and thought: "Hey, wouldn't it be a great idea to do something similar in America, only without all the hard-hitting serious stuff that those Brits love so much." Well folks, here we are with an ensemble movie so cringe-inducingly sentimental it makes Love Actually look like Robert Altman's Short Cuts.

Set in Los Angeles, on the most profitable day of the year for florists, the film is as cynical and exploitative as the commercialisation of the day itself, the producers were clearly aiming for every possible age demographic by including stars from across the eras, from Shirley Maclaine through to Julia Roberts and down to the likes of Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift from the Twilight generation.

Roughly six or seven plots intertwine, with only the Roberts and Bradley Cooper strand of two people sitting together on a long-haul flight, coming across as even vaguely believable, while the rest of the cast get to spout dialogue as clichéd and unimaginative as the tackiest greeting card. The acting is hokey and obvious, with some career-worst efforts from Jessica Alba, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx and Ashton Kutcher.

God help the poor bastards who'll be dragged to this at the weekend. I feel your pain already. HHIII

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief * * *

(fantasy. Starring Logan Lerman, Brandon T Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Catherine Keener, Uma Thurman. Directed by Chris Columbus. cert PG)

Hmmh, the first in a series of fantasy novels about children with special powers who are mentored at a special camp and have to do battle with the powerful supernatural forces? Oh, and directed by Chris Columbus you say?

The Percy Jackson series of novels by Rick Riordan is the latest attempt by Hollywood to fire up that old franchise voodoo, which made such a pretty penny for the Harry Potter people, and the results are entertaining without being earth- shattering. The twist with Lightning Thief is that the story revolves around the Greek gods and their attendant myths, with Percy (Logan Lerman) being the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) by a human mother (Catherine Keener) and having to embark on a quest to the Underworld to prevent the gods of Olympus going to war.

The sight of Pierce Brosnan as a centaur is hilarious while Steve Coogan gets to act the maggot as the lord of the Underworld and Sean Bean is suitably stentorian as Zeus. It's all harmless enough but feels a tad rushed, which may well have something to do with the fact that the bells-and-whistles remake of Clash of the Titans hits the cineplexes in March. HHHII - GB