The Lost City (2022)

The Lost City
Director: Aaron Nee, Adam Nee
Writer: Oren Uziel, Dana Fox, Adam Nee, Aaron Nee
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Brad Pitt, Oscar Nuñez, Patti Harrison, Bowen Yang
Seen on: 24.4.2022

Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is a very successful romance novelist whose heroine Angela is an archaeologist – like Loretta herself. But since the death of her husband, Loretta has been unable to write. And so her latest novel ends in an awkward place for Angela and her love interest Dash. The planned book tour is off to a bad start then, especially since Loretta’s agent Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) invited cover model Alan (Channing Tatum) along. At least on a visual level, he is the embodiment of Dash. But Loretta absolutely loathes him. A feeling that is not reciprocated. And when Loretta gets taken by billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) for her archaeological expertise, it is Alan who sets out to rescue her, however inept his efforts are.

The Lost City is excellent fun, a great fusion of romance and adventure that pays hommage to both genres but not without some humorous irreverence. I had a great time with it.

The film psoter showing the main characters of the film in a collage in front of a volcano and jungle and an explosion.
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Maurice (1987)

Director: James Ivory
Writer: Kit Hesketh-Harvey, James Ivory
Based on: E. M. Forster‘s novel
Cast: James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves, Denholm Elliott, Simon Callow, Billie Whitelaw, Barry Foster, Judy Parfitt, Phoebe Nicholls, Patrick Godfrey, Mark Tandy, Ben Kingsley, Kitty Aldridge, Helena Michell, Catherine Rabett
Seen on: 22.4.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, classism

Maurice (James Wilby) meets Clive (Hugh Grant) at Cambridge University where they connect over philosophy and music. Their friendship quickly deepens and when Clive confesses his love for Maurice, Maurice is thrown at first but finally able to admit his love for Clive as well. Only that Clive wants to keep sex out of their relationship, especially since homosexuality is still forbidden in the UK. Trapped between (internalized) denial and a longing for happiness, Maurice and Clive have to make some important decisions.

Maurice is a beautifully crafted film that – given the time it is set in – I thought would be much sadder. Instead it is a powerful and very romantic call to live your truth.

The film poster showing Maurice (James Wilby) leaning over Clive (Hugh Grant) who is turning his face away.
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Cyrano (2021)

Director: Joe Wright
Writer: Erica Schmidt
Based on: Edmond Rostand‘s play
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn, Monica Dolan, Bashir Salahuddin, Joshua James, Anjana Vasan, Ruth Sheen, Glen Hansard, Mark Benton, Richard McCabe, Peter Wight
Seen on: 15.3.2022
[Here’s my review of the stage adaptation.]

Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) is a poet and soldier, known for being short, and his hot temper that earns him a certain respect and fear. Cyrano is very much in love with Roxane (Haley Bennett) with whom he connects over their shared love of poetry. But he has never told her, fearing that she couldn’t possibly love him because of his looks. When she tells him that she is in love with the newly arrived soldier Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and asks him for help, he is reluctant. But when he learns that Christian also loves Roxane, but has trouble with words, he suggests that he could help him find the right ones to court her.

Cyrano is a bit of a mixed bag of beans. Some parts of it work very well, others not so much. I enjoyed it, but it just can’t keep up with the stage version I only saw recently.

The film poster showing a big close-up of Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) looking into the distance, with Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr. ) and Roxanne (Haley Bennett) holding each other in a smaller image beneath him.
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The Royal Treatment (2022)

The Royal Treatment
Director: Rick Jacobson
Writer: Holly Hester
Cast: Laura Marano, Mena Massoud, Cameron Rhodes, Amanda Billing, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Grace Bentley-Tsibuah, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Sonia Gray
Seen on: 26.1.2022

Izzy (Laura Marano) runs a salon in New York together with her mother (Amanda Billing) and her grandmother (Elizabeth Hawthorne). She practically knows everyone in the neighborhood and is happiest when she can help, although money is always tight. One day, Izzy gets called to cut Prince Thomas’ (Mena Massoud) hair who is in New York for his engagement party. It was a mix-up regarding hair salons, but Izzy will not let the chance pass. When she meets Thomas, things are quite electric. And just maybe they can offer each other what they need and have been lacking so far.

The Royal Treatment is one hell of a confused film that doesn’t really satisfy the romantic itch for me. It just doesn’t come together.

The film psoter showing Prince Thomas (Mena Massoud) and Izzy (Laura Marano) smiling, each in front of their home backgrounds: a castle for Thomas, New York for Izzy.
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Holidate (2020)

Director: John Whitesell
Writer: Tiffany Paulsen
Cast: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, Kristin Chenoweth, Frances Fisher, Andrew Bachelor, Jessica Capshaw, Manish Dayal, Alex Moffat, Cynthy Wu, Jake Manley, Julien Marlon Samani, Nicola Peltz
Seen on: 2.1.2022

After a brutal break-up, Sloane (Emma Roberts) is alone for Christmas, a fact that her family will never let her forget, trying to set her up anyway they can. When Sloane’s more free-spirited aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth) suggest that she should just get herself a holidate, a guy to keep her company during the holiday parties, to escape the hassle, Sloane is hesitant at first. But then she meets Jackson (Luke Bracey) who is equally fed up with dating around the holidays. They agree to try holidating for New Year’s, and since it works out rather well, they agree to continue until they have something better. But maybe there is nothing better for them than each other.

Holidate is a cute film with a few good moments, but both Sloane and Jackson remained a little too bland to make the film really memorable.

The film poster showing Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) with uncertain faical expressions standing next to a Christmas tree.
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Single All the Way (2021)

Single All the Way
Director: Michael Mayer
Writer: Chad Hodge
Cast: Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers, Luke Macfarlane, Barry Bostwick, Jennifer Robertson, Madison Brydges, Alexandra Beaton, Jennifer Coolidge, Kathy Najimy
Seen on: 15.12.2021

Peter (Michael Urie) and Nick (Philemon Chambers) have been best friends forever. So when things don’t work out with Peter’s boyfriend just before Christmas, Peter asks Nick to pretend to be his date for the holidays with his family. Nick happily visits Peter’s family, but declines the subterfuge. So instead Peter gets set up on a date with his mother’s (Kathy Najimy) fitness instructor James (Luke Macfarlane). But other members of Peter’s family are certain that he should be with Nick for real. And maybe Nick thinks so, too.

Single All the Way is the cute, fun Christmas romance you’re looking for. It gets the tone just right to be utterly sweet without being saccharine, and has charm coming out of its ears.

The film poster showing Lisa (Jennifer Robertson), Aunt Sandy (Jennifer Coolidge), Nick (Philemon Chambers), Peter (Michael Urie) and Carole (Kathy Najimy) in separate images, a bow wrapped around them.
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Ali & Ava (2021)

Ali & Ava
Director: Clio Barnard
Writer: Clio Barnard
Cast: Adeel Akhtar, Claire Rushbrook, Ellora Torchia, Shaun Thomas, Natalie Gavin, Mona Goodwin, Krupa Pattani, Vinny Dhillon, Tasha Connor
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2021

Content Note: mention of domestic violence, racism

Ava (Claire Rushbrook) is a classroom assistant. Her own children are more or less grown up, though her son Callum (Shaun Thomas) still partly lives with her together with his girlfriend and their baby. Meanwhile Ali (Adeel Akhtar) is a property manager and a fixture of his community, repairing stuff and helping out whereever he can, although his private life is in shambles. His wife Runa (Ellora Torchia) broke up with him, but still lives with him and he doesn’t want his family to know that they’re separated. When Ali picks up the child of one of his tenants from school, he meets Ava – and the two connect instantly. But what are they and their families supposed to think about this connection?

Ali & Ava is a cute, emotional and wonderfully energetic film that gives us two characters as rarely seen on film as they are easily rooted for. It left me smiling from ear to ear.

The film poster showing Ali (Adeel Akhtar) and Ava (Claire Rushbrook) smiling at each other.
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He’s All That (2021)

He’s All That
Director: Mark Waters
Writer: R. Lee Fleming Jr.
Remake of/Sequel to: She’s All That
Cast: Addison Rae, Tanner Buchanan, Madison Pettis, Rachael Leigh Cook, Matthew Lillard, Peyton Meyer, Isabella Crovetti, Annie Jacob, Myra Molloy, Kourtney Kardashian, Vanessa Dubasso, Romel De Silva, Heather Ann Gottlieb
Seen on: 9.10.2021

Padgett (Addison Rae) is a popular influencer with her make-over videos that give her some additional income as she goes through high school. But after her very messy break-up is not only caught on camera, but streamed live to her entier following, Padgett has to prove that she still got it, so she won’t lose her sponsor (Kourtney Kardashian). When her best friend Alden (Madison Pettis) suggests a bet, Padgett takes it: she is sure that she can make the school dork over into the prom king. The dork in question is Cameron (Tanner Buchanan), who is abrasive, cynical and not in the least interested in popularity. But Padgett doesn’t give up easily.

He’s All That is okay in much the same way that She’s All That is: neither of the two films are exactly great, both are a little too formulaic but with clever flourishes. Still, it won’t be a film that I’ll be revisiting, I think.

The film poster showing Padgett (Addison Rae) leaning against Cameron (Tanner Buchanan).
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Re-Watch: She’s All That (1999)

She’s All That
Director: Robert Iscove
Writer: R. Lee Fleming Jr.
Cast: Freddie Prinze Jr., Rachael Leigh Cook, Matthew Lillard, Paul Walker, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Kevin Pollak, Anna Paquin, Kieran Culkin, Elden Henson, Usher, Lil’ Kim, Gabrielle Union, Dulé Hill, Tamara Mello, Clea DuVall, Tim Matheson
Seen on: 8.10.2021

Zack (Freddy Prinze Jr.) is the star of his high school. He is gorgeous, athletic and rich, he has a beautiful girlfriend in Taylor (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe). He should be set to finish High School on a high as prom king with Taylor as prom queen at his side. But when school starts, he is unceremoniously dumped by her for reality TV star Brock Hudson (Matthew Lillard). Zack’s best friend Dean (Paul Walker) is ready to pour salt into Zack’s wound, so in an effort to reassert himself, Zack agrees to a bet with Dean: He can take any girl in school and make her prom queen. Dean chooses Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook) for the challenge: disheveled, outspoken and artistic, she seems like the perfect challenge for Zack. But as Zack starts to woo her, and Laney slowly gives into his wooing, he soon finds that there is more to her than just a bet.

I know that I saw She’s All That at some point, but I’ve only had a vague recollection of it. Unfortunately, re-watching it didn’t prove it to be some kind of 90s high school romance winner, but rather a pretty lackluster affair.

The film poster showing Zack (Freddy Prinze Jr.) and Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook) smiling.
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First Date (2021)

First Date
Director: Manuel Crosby, Darren Knapp
Writer: Manuel Crosby, Darren Knapp
Cast: Tyson Brown, Shelby Duclos, Jesse Janzen, Nicole Berry, Samuel Ademola, Ryan Quinn Adams, Angela Barber, Dave Reimer, Scott E. Noble
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2021

Mike (Tyson Brown) has had a crush on Kelsey (Shelby Duclos) approximately forever, but he never dared to ask her out. With a llittle pressure from his best friend, he finally calls her at least – and Kelsey actually asks him out. Mike’s joy quickly deflates when he realizes that he can’t have his parents’ car, and how can he take her out without a car? Enter Plan B: Mike needs to buy a car, quickly and very cheaply. The internet provides and Mike finds Dennis (Scott E. Noble) who sells him an old car in rather bad shape. And with the car, Mike buys a whole lot of problems that turns this date night into a night to remember indeed.

First Date is a fun, entertaining film that works mostly because Mike and Kelsey work so very well. I really enjoyed it.

The film poster showing a rose, a car and a gun with plus signs between them, adding up to a kissing couple. Everything looks like its a neon light in different colors.
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