A Castle For Christmas – review (Netflix)

The more mature reader will remember Brooke Shields as a youngster. Her beauty graced a film, considered a bit of a scandal at the time; The Blue Lagoon

Released in 1980, a long time before nudity was readily available online and when top-shelf magazines were still in every newsagent, Blue Lagoon was a film that brought the then young star notoriety but not much else. 

Shields has worked steadily through the decades, mostly in comedic projects as she has gotten older. Shields is probably best known to modern audiences for the sitcom, Suddenly Susan. These days, she mostly does television and voice work. 

A Castle For Christmas sees her returning to film. Playing opposite Cary Elwes, best known for The Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Men in Tights and, belatedly, Stranger Things, Shields plays Sophie Brown, a successful author. 

Sophie makes an appearance on The Drew Barrymore show – played by Barrymore – after her latest novel causes consternation amongst her fans. The show does not go well; Sophie has a meltdown on air. 

Sophie decides that she needs to get away. When she comes across a photo of her father as a boy in Scotland, she decides to go there. She flies to the small village of Dunbar. 

At the village inn, she meets Myles (Elwes). He is cleaning outside the inn. In the guest house, Sophie meets a few of the village characters. Maisie (Andi Osho), the inn’s proprietor, allocates her a room. 

Sophie is enamoured by the view of a castle from her bedroom. Maisie tells her it is Dun Dunbar castle. Sophie, chatting later, says her family used to work as the groundkeepers at Dun Dunbar castle. 

She visits the castle and sees Myles again. He gives her a tour but is irked when her curiosity gets the better of her. Back at the inn, Sophie learns the castle is for sale. 

She makes an offer and is surprised to find that Myles is the owner. He does not want to sell to her. His solicitor, Ian (John Stahl), tells him that he needs to sell. 

With foreclosure his only other option, Myles decides to accept Sophies offer. He has stipulations. The property will not exchange before Christmas; she must stay in the castle to prove she can maintain its upkeep. 

Sophie agrees. Unbeknownst to her, Myles plans to make her stay unbearable, hoping she changes her mind about the purchase. 

A Castle For Christmas is not very good. It is not terrible, just a bit dull. The script by Ally Carter and Kim Beyer-Johnson lacks the wit and sweetness one expects from a romcom. 

With the central pairing being mature, an unusual premise in romcoms, it is difficult not to compare it to similar fare. Unfortunately, it does not meet the level of the Winger/Crystal pairing in Forget Paris.

Though Shields and Elwes have enough chemistry to carry the film, Kristin Davis, who has made a bit of career of the role of mature rom-com queen in Christmas movies, has little to worry about from Shields. 

Elwes Scottish accent is…a challenge. It is not Dick Van Dyke masticating the English language bad, but it is a little off. The acting is fine, the actors making do with the weak material. 

Scotland is picturesque in a very American way. Directed by Mary Lambert, the film is as colourful as one would expect from a Christmas film, throwing some tartan to remind us we are in Scotland. 

There is a strange nod to the Princess Switch series, with Suanne Braun’s Mrs Donatelli and Mark Fleischmann’s Frank De Luca from the series checking into the inn. They are not seen again. 

At ninety-eight minutes long, A Castle For Christmas is not overly long. Regrettably, it does feel longer, the film lacking urgency and drive. The central premise is strong enough for a rom-com however, the script is just too poor. 

A Castle For Christmas is not unwatchable. It is weak and an underwhelming rom-com and Christmas film. Not one for the holiday list.

Father Christmas is Back – review

Brief synopsis: an uptight woman struggles to have a traditional Christmas with her extended family. As she strives to control all the circumstances of the festivities, another element rears its head; their estranged father.

Is it any good?: Father Christmas is Back is an utter turd of a film. A supposed comedy, the film is a painful, almost laugh-free watch.

That four people combined to write this worthless mess is a mystery that sharper minds than mine will ponder for years. 

Spoiler(ish) territory: Uptight Caroline Christmas-Hope (Nathalie Cox), is dressing the family Christmas tree. She wants Christmas to be perfect. As Caroline puts the finishing touches, she wobbles and falls. It is hilarious. No, it is not. 

Her husband, Peter (Kris Marshall), comes and picks her up off of the floor. She is frantic about having a perfect Christmas, her family en route to the home. Peter is more sanguine, sure that everything will be fine. 

As the highly-strung Caroline bleats on about wanting an exquisite Christmas, Peter listens patiently. It’s very amusing. Not really. She asks him to collect a bag of gifts from the bedroom. The gifts are for the local old peoples home. 

Get this; there are two bags of gifts! In identical bags! Haha! Anyhoo, Peter does not check the contents of the bags. No, why the heck would he do that? He radios his wife – they live in a mansion – and asks which bag. It’s the bag on the right. 

Yes, my friends, this is the expert setup for a joke, the pay-off of which comes towards the end. The hilarity continues. Caroline picks up her two sprogs, Daisey (Amelie Prescott) and her younger brother, Henry (Oliver Smith). 

They visit the old peoples home to drop off the gifts. Daisey is nervous because she is playing Mary in an upcoming nativity play. Luckily for her, one of the old dears, Jean (Ania Marson), has some experience of treading the boards. 

Jean tells Daisey that she played the lead role herself, adding that she slept with many people to get the part. A slightly embarrassed Caroline gathers her children and leaves. The laughs never stop. 

Returning home, she finds Peter has decorated the tree with toilet rolls and makeshift decorations. Caroline is horrified. The children love it. 

The next day, the sisters start to arrive. First is Joanna (Elizabeth Hurley), the cougar of the family. In her mid-forties but dressing as though she were in her twenties, Joanna has a new boyfriend, Felix (Ray Fearon) and the sisters’ mother, Elizabeth (Caroline Quentin) in tow. 

Next to arrive is Paulina (Naomi Frederick). Paulina is obsessed with The Beatles, sporting their famous hairstyle of the sixties. She is writing a thesis-cum-book on the band. My sides are hurting with all the chuckles. 

Watching proceedings from an adjacent property is John (John Cleese), uncle to the sisters. Vicky (Talulah Riley) is the last to arrive. She is a free spirit and the youngest. She is a bit of a slut. So there is that. 

John joins the family in the house. He has an ulterior motive, wanting to see Elizabeth. In the kitchen, the four sisters are chatting. Vicky tells them that she spent a couple of weeks with their father in America. 

The other sisters are shocked and a little miffed to hear that, much to her amusement. To the shock and bemusement of everyone, James (Kelsey Grammer), their father, turns up at the manor. Vicky invited him. He has brought his girlfriend, Jackie (April Bowlby). Elizabeth faints. 

The Christmas family muddle their way through…Christmas. A long-held family secret gets revealed. All is resolved. Yippee and Merry Christmas. The end. 

Final thoughts: Father Christmas is Back is wretched. It is not entirely down to the script. Maybe ninety-eight percent of it. Directed by Mick Davis and Phillippe Martinez, with a story by Martinez. The god-awful script is by Hannah Davis, David Conolly and Dylanne Corcoran. 

What makes the film even more painful, is that far better comedy writers – Caroline Quentin, John Cleese and Kathy Brand – are in the film. The acting is teak-like in the extreme, the assembled cast struggling to make the material work. 

Hurley, not blessed with natural acting ability, is poor. The woman is trying but she is out of her depth. Rolls Royce gets a good showing, one of their beautiful Wraith’s given much screen time. The best thing in the film.

The film is over-saturated, so colourful that even a rainbow would pale in comparison. A British film, there is a smattering of farce that does not work. There are far too many jokes that do not work in this film. 

The unfunny scenes are too numerous to list. That two comedy greats in Grammer and Cleese should find themselves in one such scene, – the ‘old blokes squaring up for a fight’ a classic! – is criminal. 

Father Christmas is Back – his surname is Christmas! Ho ho no. – is terrible. Truthfully, the trailer does not promise much. I expected the film to be bad. It under delivers spectacularly. 

At one-hundred-and-five minutes, it is not a long film. However, it is still too long for any right-minded, sober person to sit through. You have been warned.

The Princess Switch 3 – review

Brief synopsis: When a priceless jewelled attract gets stolen, a queen and princess decide to recruit the criminal doppelgänger cousin of the queen to help retrieve it. The artefact needs returning before the cardinal, who lent the artefact, finds out, causing an international incident.

Is it any good?: As inevitable as Noddy Holder and Mariah Carey getting airtime on streaming services and radios across the Christian world, in the run-up to Christmas, Vanessa Hudgens is easing into the same category, a Christmas rom-com of some description reliably releasing around the holidays. 

The Princess Switch 3 – Romancing the Star sees Hudgens reprise the multiple roles of queen, princess and cousin in the popular franchise. As is the case with many sequels, this one sees diminishing returns from a premise that has perhaps run its course. 

Spoiler(ish) territory: Queen Margaret (Vanessa Hudgens), along with her close friend and doppelgänger, Princess Stacy (also Hudgens), is hosting a Christmas festival in their home nation, Montenaro. 

Dignitaries from around the world are invited to the small principality for the festival. The Vatican has loaned a rare, jewelled artefact for the occasion; The Star of Peace. 

The jewel is stolen days before the festival. The queen must retrieve the item without the Vatican finding out about its loss. They need someone who knows the world of criminality. 

They recruit Fiona (Hudgens again), another doppelgänger and cousin to the queen. Fiona, serving community service for attempting to steal the monarchy, agrees to help get the item back. 

Fiona goes to see an old friend, Peter (Remy Hii), a former Interpol agent. Peter works out that a. hotel tycoon, Hunter Cunard (Will Kemp), had the gem stolen. A collector of rare items, Hunter had it stolen. 

Peter reasons, given Hunter’s connection, reporting the jewel stolen would only create more of a problem. They will have to steal the jewel back. They formulate a plan to attend the tycoon’s annual Christmas party. There they will steal back the gem. 

Peter has a soft spot for Fiona. It is something he has had since childhood, the two longtime acquaintances. Fiona does not have close relationships. Her memories of her mother, Bianca’s (Amanda Donohoe), abandonment around the holidays, acute. 

The theft is a three-person job. One of Fiona’s flunkies, Reggie (Ricky Norwood), gets injured. Queen Margaret must impersonate Fiona for the mission’s success.

The conditions of Fiona’s community service, Stacy finds impersonating the wayward cousin whilst she and the queen complete the theft. 

Final thoughts: The Princess Switch 3 – Romancing the Star is a harmless piece of fluff. Easily the weakest of the three films, it lacks the charm and humour of its predecessors. 

Hudgens is watchable as ever. Unusually, especially for Hudgens, an actor whose chemistry with a variety of male actors is one of her strengths, her chemistry with Hii’s Peter is non-existent. 

With Mike Rohl on directing duties again, Robin Bernheim and Megan Metzger are the writers, just as they were on the previous two instalments.

The script, this time around, does not have the same snap or humour of the previous films. Even the humour that should work is a little forced. The actors work gamely to try and make the story work, reprising their various roles admirably. 

The script, unfortunately, is just a little flat. The directing is competent, the film looks good. With a one-hundred-and-six minute runtime, the film bumps through at a good pace. There are a few lulls but nothing significant. 

The weak strand about abandonment around the holidays and the film being set around Christmas are the only things that make it a festive film. There are no surprises. What one expects to happen happens and it looks how it is meant to look. 

The Princess Switch 3 – Romancing the Star is an okay film if you enjoyed the previous two instalments. As a standalone film, it does not hold up. It is not worth an hour and forty minutes of one’s time.

Afterlife of the Party – review

Brief synopsis: In the run-up to her twenty-fifth birthday, a young woman dies. She wakes to find herself in limbo, neither in heaven or hell. 

She is told that she has unfinished business on Earth. She has five days to complete a list. The completion of the list will determine her fare. 

Is it any good?: Afterlife of the Party is a sweet and heartwarming film. With a nod to similar films, like Ghost, but more pertinently, Blithe Spirit, the brilliant Noel Coward film with a similar premise, remade multiple times, Afterlife of the Party brings an energy and sweetness that makes it a highly enjoyable watch. 

Spoiler territory: It is Cassie’s (Victoria Justice) twenty-fifth birthday in a few days and she is excited. Her best friend since childhood, Lisa (Midori Francis), who she lives with, arrives home from work. Carrie is a party-girl and is determined to kick off her birthday week in style. 

Lisa is focused on furthering her career, wants to stay in and have a quiet evening. Carrie wins, the two ladies leaving their apartment for a night out. 

As they leave, they meet their new neighbour, Max (Timothy Renouf). Lisa is immediately enamoured by him. Max is equally taken by Lisa. 

Carrie gently ribs her friend about the obvious attraction between the two, as they make their way to a club. Lisa deflects. She has no time for a relationship. 

Carrie tells her that she needs to have fun. They change the subject, a slightly embarrassed Carrie noting that her father, Howie (Adam Garcia), has posted on Instagram.

She feels awkward about him being in, what she feels, is a young space and how cloying he can be. Lisa thinks he is nice and just wants to be closer to his adult daughter. Carrie loves her father but is happy that they lead separate lives. 

They arrive at the club and similarly, party-loving peers, greet Carrie. She is the queen of the night. The partying begins. Carrie is drinking and dancing. Lisa is more reserved, conscious of working the next day. 

The group leave, going to another party at one of their houses. Lisa wants to go home and tries to persuade Carrie to go with her. The two women argue. Cassie tells her that they have probably outgrown one the friendship. Lisa goes home. 

A drunken Carrie staggers home in the early hours. She knocks on Lisa’s bedroom door but Lisa pretends not to hear her. Carrie goes to bed. In the morning, a still worse for wear Carrie stumbles into her bathroom. 

She slips whilst bracing on the sink. She grabs for the towel rail to steady herself but the rail breaks causing her to fall and hit her head on the toilet bowl. She dies. 

Carrie wakes up to find a woman watching videos of her life. Carrie sees images from her final night on Earth. She has no idea where she is.

The woman, noting she is awake, starts recounting the facts of Carrie’s life. She is dead. Val (Robyn Scott), is her temporary guardian angel. 

After getting over the notion of finding out she is dead, Carrie wants to know if she is in heaven. Or hell. Val tells her she is in a place they call the In-Between. 

She is there because she has unfinished business on Earth. She has to make things right with a select list of people who she left behind. That is the only way for her to be sure of getting into heaven. 

Val takes her to the first person on the list. It is her father. He is depressed, his home is a mess. How long has she been dead? A year. Carrie is shocked, she thought it had been a day. 

The next person on the list is Lisa. Carrie does not want to see her. Val tells her she has no choice. She is on the list. Who else is on the list? 

Val takes her to see Sofia (Gloria Garcia), her estranged mother. Carrie has not spoken to her since she was a child, her mother having left her father to bring her up alone. They return to the In-Between. Val tells her she has five days to clear the three names off the list. 

Carrie worries about how she is meant to do anything. Especially as no one can see or hear her. Only animals and children. After a quick wardrobe change, Val tells her that her mission begins immediately. Val sends her to Lisa’s apartment. 

Unable to communicate with Lisa, Carrie just follows her around. Lisa meets Max in the corridor. It has been a year and Carrie can see that their spark for one another is still present, even if the relationship has not advanced. 

She follows her as she goes to a new coffee shop. Lisa is very friendly with the owner, Emme (Myfanwy Waring). 

Carrie follows her to work and observes in frustration, Lisa’s lack of confidence as she is challenged by one of her colleagues, Raj (Kiroshan Naidoo), when an opportunity to work for a leading palaeontologist comes up. 

The interviews will be conducted that week, but Raj keeps up the mind games. Only one person will be picked. He is confident of it being him. 

Carrie goes to see Val. She laments the fact that her best friend does not seem to miss her or need her. Val tells herself that perhaps she should be thinking about their needs, rather than her own. She sends her back. 

Carrie is back in Lisa’s bedroom. Carrie tries speaking to Lisa again. Nothing happens, Lisa soundly asleep. She begins to hum, her humming waking Lisa. Carrie looks at Lisa. Lisa opens her eye to see Carrie appearing and screams. Carrie goes to see Val. 

Val checks an ancient book. It is possible to connect with a living person if you had a strong connection with them. They go to see Howie again. He has left Carrie’s bedroom as a shrine to her. He still cannot see her. 

Day two and Carrie returns to Lisa. Lisa is the only person who can see and hear her. 

Lisa tries to ignore, sure that she is no more than a figment of an overworked and stressed imagination. Carrie keeps on following her. Lisa goes to see Emme and tells her what is happening. 

Emme tells her she should take it as a compliment. Lisa just wants Carrie to leave her alone. Carrie’s persistence pays off. Lisa begins to interact with her, their friendship rekindling. 

They bond over the music of Carrie’s living crush, Koop (Spencer Sutherland). She asks Lisa what is she going to do about her year-long crush on the neighbour, Max. 

Lisa is reluctant to do anything. Carrie directs her to turn up the music. The loud music, gets Max knocking on her door. She invites him in but loses her nerve as the relationship seems to be going well. Max, a diffident individual himself, leaves. Lisa beats herself up about her ineptitude with relationships. 

Carrie decides to give them a push, arranging a sequence of events that pushes the two together. Max asks Lisa to join him on a visit to the set of Koop’s new video. She accepts the invite. 

Carrie decides to tackle her father next. She goes over to his home and arranges his space in the hope of pushing him back into his yoga practice. Howie, being a spiritual person, sees it as a sign from Carrie. 

She returns to Lisa, telling her about seeing both her father and mother. She does not know how and if she will be able to connect with her mother. 

Lisa returns home to get ready for her date with Max. Carrie helps her pick an outfit. It being a Koop video, Carrie accompanies Lisa and Max, not wanting to miss out on the opportunity of seeing him. 

Carrie tries to get close to Koop but is pulled back to the In-Between Place. Val reminds her that she only has three more days and Koop is not on the list. 

Lisa and Max get together. Lisa returns home and sees Carrie. The date was great. Carrie is overcome with sadness at all the things she will miss in her friend’s life. 

Lisa feels guilty about leaving Carrie alone the night they argued. Carrie does not know how she will deal with her mother. 

Lisa goes to see Sofia, acting as Carrie’s proxy. Sofia is wracked with guilt over her abandonment of Carrie. Sofia says she was too young and headstrong for her relationship with Howie. 

She was not ready to be a mother. Lisa, much to the chagrin of Cassie, asks Sofia what she would say if Cassie was there. 

Back at the apartment, Cassie rages at Lisa, angry that her life is over. They argue and Carrie leaves. Back in the In-Between place, Val tells her she can end her mission. All that she has done will be undone and she will go to hell. Cassie decides to continue. 

She goes to see her father. Much to her surprise, Sofia is there. She apologises for leaving him to bring up Cassie alone. Cassie witnesses them reconnecting. 

She forgives her mother. Sofia’s name fades from the list. Cassie goes to see Val again with an unusual request. She wants to add a name to the list. Emme, thinking that she would be good for her dad. 

Val agrees to the request. Cassie engineers a meeting between Howie and Emme. The next day is her last day. She goes to see Lisa. Lisa is still hesitating to put herself forward for the interview. 

Cassie gives her the confidence to sign up. Lisa has her interview and is successful, getting the much sought after position. 

Emme is having the first anniversary of the opening of her coffee shop. Howie arrives at the opening and meets Emme. The two click instantly.

Lisa and Max arrive at the opening. Lisa tells Carrie to meet her after the party. Later that evening, Lisa hosts a small gathering of Cassie’s family and friends, honouring her life on the anniversary of her death. 

Howie remembers a song he used to sing to Cassie when she was a child. Cassie sings along with him and becomes visible to him. She hugs him farewell. 

Cassie returns to Lisa’s apartment. She wants to find a jigsaw piece. They have a large puzzle of the Mona Lisa that is incomplete. 

Carrie has just missed her deadline and Val does not know if she will get into heaven. They return to the In-Between place to await the verdict. Val gets promoted and Cassie gets into heaven. 

An elevator is the way to heaven. Whilst in the elevator, Koop gets on. He was killed whilst performing at a charity relief gig. They both reach heaven, a beautiful garden. The end. 

Final thoughts: Afterlife of the Party is such a nice film. Written by Carrie Freedle and directed by Stephen Herek, the film flows through its one-hundred-and-nine-minute runtime. 

The chemistry between the two leads, Victoria Justice and Midori Francis as Carrie and Lisa respectively, works beautifully, their life-long friendship believable.

The rest of the cast ably support them but the central story of friendship and love is what makes this film such a good watch. Freedle’s script is clever and funny in parts, the characters driving the story rather than any outside McGuffin. 

Though the film does not feel overlong, it could have ended earlier, the Koop angle and emergence to the Eden-esque garden more of an indulgence than a necessity. That said, it does not detract from the film and is a minor gripe. 

Afterlife of the Party is a romcom without a central romance and that, in this case, is not a problem. A lovely film.

Red Notice – review

Brief synopsis: An art thief plans to steal a collection of three ancient, jewelled, eggs. He is tracked by a tenacious Interpol agent and an FBI behavioural specialist. 

He is not the only thief after the eggs. Another thief is tasked with retrieving the eggs by a Saudi billionaire. He wants to give them to his daughter as a wedding gift. 

Is it any good?: Red Notice is watchable and if you like any of the stars, you might even enjoy it. It is not a good film. It is a mishmash of Raiders of the Lost Ark, National Treasure and The Pink Panther but fails to reach even half the heights of those films.

At just under two hours, it is a little overlong. Red Notice is just okay. Throwing up no surprises whatsoever, Red Notice is a brain in neutral watch, that you put on in the background whilst doing something else.

Spoiler Territory: the film opens, telling us the story of three ornate jewelled eggs that were created for Cleopatra. The whereabouts of two of the eggs is known. One is in an art museum, the other in the hands of a dangerous arms dealer. The third eggs location is only known by one person, art thief, Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds).

Inspector Urvashi Das (Ritu Aryu) heads an Interpol unit that is after Nolan. She is being assisted by FBI agent, John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson).

One of the eggs, which is on display in a museum in Rome, is a target. They get to the museum and the egg is on display. John is sure that the egg is not real, pouring cola onto the exhibit. 

The egg dissolves when hit by the fizzy liquid. John sees Nolan in the room and gives chase, even as the museum security try to lockdown the room. 

Nolan is chased by multiple security personnel, managing to evade and injure many of them in the process. Like any episode of that eighties classic show, The A-Team, not one of them is seriously injured. 

This is a pattern in the film. Bullets fly, there are falls from great heights, explosions, crashes and fisticuffs. All result in minor injuries, not one death or incapacitation. 

Unsurprisingly, Nolan escapes, even with John in pursuit. John does manage to get a nice Porsche product placement in, the Taycan he commandeers being crashed into, moments after he gets into it. 

Nolan takes his booty to his Bali – there is a real Bond-esque desire to include as many locations as possible in this film – retreat. He is quickly apprehended by John and Das and her team. 

They arrest him and Das gives John the egg to look after. Nolan wants to know how they found him. A tip-off from the elusive thief, the Bishop.

John hands the egg to a masked female Interpol agent. The agent steals the egg unbeknownst to John. The next evening, Das comes and arrest John. Nobody knows him at the FBI. He gets sent to a prison in Russia. His roommate is Nolan. 

He tells Nolan that he was set up by the Bishop. He does not know why, especially as no one knows where the third egg is. Nolan gets John beat up by revealing he is a cop. 

The Bishop (Gal Gadot) comes to visit John and Nolan. She tells Nolan that she knows that he knows where the third egg is. She tells John, that she set him up. She is there to make a deal with Nolan. 

She will get them out if he tells her the location of the egg plus ten percent of her fee for the theft. Nolan rejects the deal. Later, John says they need to escape and capture the Bishop. The two bond over their similar upbringing and relationships with estranged fathers. 

They escape the prison. Bullets fly, rocket launchers are fired, explosions. No deaths. They need to head to a masquerade party being held by Soto Voce (Chris Diamantopoulos), the arms dealer. The party is in Spain. 

The Bishop breaks into the Interpol offices – yes she does – and sends Das a message, telling her that John and Nolan have escaped. 

Nolan explains the elaborate security system Soto employs. They need to avoid cameras. They also must get hold of an ever-changing passcode that can only be found in Soto’s phone. There is voice and facial recognition software, plus the heavily armed guards. They arrive in Valencia and go to the party. 

John sees The Bishop and goes after her. The two have some verbal sparring and dance before being interrupted on the dance floor by Soto. The Bishop is in partnership with Soto. John steals Soto’s mobile phone. Das is also at the party. Soto makes a speech at the party. 

John and Nolan take the opportunity to go and steal the egg. As they get to the egg, The Bishop is waiting for them. She tells them there was an easier way to get into the room. She fights and overcomes both men. Soto and his security come into the vault, alerted by the door having been opened. 

Soto ties up the two men under a bull ring. The Bishop joins him and tortures John to get information out of Nolan. She wants to know where the third egg is. Soto, impatient for the information, chokes John. Nolan tells them the egg is in Egypt. 

The Bishop drugs Soto and leaves with the egg. John and Nolan escape into the bull ring. John gets hit by the bull. Haha haha. He is okay. A-Team violence remember. Nolan lied to them. The egg is in Argentina. It was hidden in a vault that the Germans had during the war. They head to the Argentinian jungle. 

They find the vault. The Bishop finds them. Das has followed the Bishop. The Bishop, John and Nolan join forces to escape Das and her team. There is another product placement with a rare Mercedes making an appearance. 

They escape Das. John reveals his relationship with The Bishop. They are both the Bishop, working as a partnership. They take the egg and leave Nolan. 

They head to Cairo to deliver all three eggs to the billionaire. Das turns up at the wedding party and arrests the billionaire and his daughter for having Nazi loot. John and The Bishop escape again. A little while later, they are in Sardinia enjoying their life. 

Nolan interrupts their joy. He has told Das about their off-shore account and all their assets have been frozen. What does he want? There is another job that needs three thieves. The end. 

Final thoughts: Red Notice is a lazy star vehicle, written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber entirely around Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds popularity. 

Gal Gadot has enough star power and beauty not to be overshadowed by the two men, neither of whom are required to get out of second gear in their respective personas. 

Thurber’s script has a few gems, allowing Reynolds, especially, to bring his acerbic wit to proceedings. It is not as clever as he would like it to be and there are too many unnecessary scenes in the film. 

The constant changing of locations served no purpose except for increasing the use of studio green screen and editorial title cards. The film is competently directed and bumps along at a good pace. Unfortunately, the story is convoluted and takes too much inspiration from better films without bringing anything new. 

Rita Arya, outstanding in The Umbrella Academy, has little to do but scowl and collect her paycheque as the tenacious Das. Chris Diamantopoulos as Soto is such a waste of screen time, one can almost forget he was in the film and I’ve watched it twice!

Red Notice is a moderately amusing, overlong, action-comedy that is a little light on both counts. Watchable but not unmissable.

Love Hard – review

Brief synopsis: an LA writer of a popular dating column about her failed internet dating life, falls for a man from Lake Placid, NY, in the run-up to Christmas. She decides to surprise him with a surprise visit for the holidays only to find that she has been catfished. 

Is it any good?: if you enjoy a Christmas rom-com, you will love Love Hard. With a sparkling script and a modern story that both pokes fun whilst simultaneously showing deference to other rom-coms and Christmas films, Love Hard is a rom-com with heart and wit. Lovely. 

Spoiler territory: Natalie Bauer (Nina Dobrev) is an LA columnist who writes about her eventful dating adventures. Dating via an online dating app, Natalie is jaded about the dating scene and feels deflated by the chicanery of online dating profiles.

Kerry (Heather McMahan ), a work colleague and friend, explains to her that not only is she the commonality in all of her dates but her refusal to date outside of LA is restricting her options. Natalie’s pushy boss, Lee (Matty Finochio), wants to know when her next article will be ready. 

Natalie wants to get away from her miserable dating life and write something more wholesome. Lee is not entertaining that notion, telling her to keep writing what the readers want. He states everybody’s miserable. 

At home, Natalie puts up her Christmas tree and settles down in her apartment for another night of single-dom. 

She swipes through her dating app, dismissing a slew of unsuitable candidates. She comes across the profile of Josh. Handsome guy with an appealing bio. They begin exchanging messages. 

She tells Kerry about him and shows her his profile. Kerry is a little sceptical. The profile could be fake or the photos old. She should call him and get an up-to-date photo of him. Natalie is reluctant to call him, so Kerry grabs her phone and does it for her. Josh sends a current photo of himself that matches his profile. 

The message exchange romance continues with the two getting closer. Natalie laments the distance between them, with her living on the West coast and him on the East. 

He tells her he wishes they could spend Christmas together. Their messaging is interrupted by her boss. He wants her next story, when can he expect it? 

She tells him she thinks she might have met someone. Lee is not interested. He wants her to keep dating internet losers. 

Natalie tells him that she plans to fly across the country and meet up with the man for the first time. On hearing this, Lee, convinced that the meeting is a disaster in the making, gives it his blessing. 

Natalie flies to Lake Placid. The trip does not begin well, with her losing her luggage as soon as she gets there. She takes a taxi to Josh’s home. 

The taxi ride is eventful, with Natalie refusing the multitude of snacks offered to her by E-Rock (Fletcher Donovan), the driver. He offers her kiwi slices. She is highly allergic to kiwi, so politely declines. 

They arrive at Josh’s home. The house is covered in Christmas decorations. She nervously approaches the house. She is greeted by Josh’s stepmother, Barb (Rebecca Staab). 

Barb welcomes her into the home. Josh is not home but she can meet the rest of the family. Josh’s father, Bob (James Saito) and his grandmother, June (Takayo Fischer). 

Josh arrives home and Natalie meets him for the first time. Josh (Jimmy O Yang) looks very different from his photos. A shocked Natalie leaves the house, Josh following after her. 

They argue outside, him apologising for fooling her but questioning the fact she would decide to visit a person she has never met as a surprise. A furious Natalie leaves, going to the local bar. 

In the bar, Natalie sees the person who she thought was Josh. He is Tag (Darren Barnet) and is a popular guy in the town. 

Natalie calls Kerry and tells her that she has been catfished but the guy who she thought was Josh does live in Lake Placid. Kerry tells her to approach him. Natalie decides she is going to perform a karaoke song to impress Tag. 

She steals a couple of shots that a girl had ordered to give herself courage. Unfortunately, the shots have kiwi in them. Her face, unbeknownst to her, bloats, reacting to the kiwi. 

Josh, who had followed her to the bar, watches as she scares the bar’s patrons with her exuberant performance and bloated, Halloween face. Natalie catches a reflection of her face in a mirror and rushes out of the bar. 

Josh follows her out as her allergy causes her to pass out. He takes her to the local veterinary hospital, the doctor, Foye (Debbie Podowski), helps her. Allergy under control and conscious, Josh asks Natalie to pretend to be his girlfriend in the run-up to Christmas.

In exchange, he will help her get together with Tag. Natalie reluctantly agrees, the pressure of needing to submit an article reinforced by a message from Lee. 

After an awkward breakfast with the family, Natalie and Josh’s plan begins. He takes her to the local clothing store that his family runs. Tag is picking up an order there that morning. Josh tells her that Tag is a real outdoorsy person and loves climbing. 

He introduces Tag to Natalie, telling him that Natalie is his cousin on his stepmother’s side. Tag invites Natalie climbing. She agrees but later tells Josh that she cannot climb. 

Josh is confident that he can give her enough pointers to survive the date, even though Natalie is fearful of heights. 

Later that evening, Natalie sees a box of candles. She asks Josh about it. He, a little embarrassingly, tells her he makes candles with a masculine scent. It is his passion. Why doesn’t he start a business? 

Josh says his father would scoff at the notion and his brother would ridicule him. She did not know he had a brother. Josh’s brother arrives at the house to much fanfare. 

In the main house, Josh’s brother, Owen (Harry Shut Jr.) and his partner, Chelsea (Mikaela Hoover) have come for Christmas. Josh is brash and confident. He and Chelsea are surprised to see that not only does Josh have a girlfriend, but she is also attractive. 

The family and Natalie gather together to decorate the tree. The next day, Natalie and Josh meet Tag at the climbing centre. She goes into a panic when she sees the size of the climbing walls. Josh helps her through the ordeal. 

Tag, oblivious to Natalie’s panic, invites her out again. Natalie goes out with the family carol signing. Owen and Chelsea take centre stage, really showing off. Natalie and Josh momentarily take the spotlight with a reworked rendition of Baby It’s Cold Outside. Owen and Chelsea, decide to announce they are having a baby. 

Josh, taking advice that Natalie had given him about not letting Owen steal the spotlight, proposes to Natalie. Not wanting to embarrass him, she accepts. 

She calls Kerry to lament her situation but gets no valuable advice. The next day, Tag takes her bobsleighing. Natalie has to get high to get through the date, because of her fear of bobsleighing. 

In the evening, the family sit down to watch Love Actually, a film Natalie dislikes preferring another Christmas classic, Die Hard. 

Barb excitedly tells everybody that Natalie and Josh’s engagement announcement is going into the local newspaper the next day. The next morning, Josh and Natalie race around the town, stealing all the copies of the newspaper. 

Natalie checks out Josh’s original dating profile. It is a little off-putting, to say the least. She tells him that he needs to promote his strong points as opposed to creating a profile he thinks people want. 

Vegetarian Natalie has another date with Tag. It is at his family’s steakhouse restaurant. Josh challenges her, asking if she is prepared to lie even against her principals. 

Natalie takes umbrage, especially as the only reason she is there is because of his fake profile. Owen sees Natalie out with Tag. 

Natalie is surprised to find out that Tag does not celebrate Christmas. He thinks it is too commercial and a scam. He gives her a goodbye kiss. Natalie is not overly enamoured by the kiss. 

Natalie tries to talk to Josh about their disagreement the next morning. They are interrupted by June who wants them to come and tell an elderly group about online dating. 

After the meeting, June disappears down the road, Josh and Natalie hurrying after her, worried that she is getting lost. She disappears into the steakhouse. 

Josh and Natalie go into the steakhouse and are surprised to see the entire town are there to celebrate their engagement. The family have even invited her boss. 

Tag still does not know that Josh and Natalie are the engaged couple. He introduces his parents to Natalie, who remark on how he never introduces his girlfriends. 

Bob gets everybody’s attention, about to give a congratulatory speech. Natalie interrupts him and confesses to the relationship being a sham and pretending to like the same things as Tag to get with him. 

Back at the Lin house, Natalie has left. The family console Josh. Bob sees Josh’s candles and is happy to support his dream to be a candlemaker. Natalie is unable to get a flight home and stays in the town’s lodge house. After a heart to heart with her boss, Natalie writes her article. 

In the morning, she gets an alert from the dating app. It is Josh’s new profile. Natalie goes and sees Josh and re-enacts the title card sequence from Love Actually to show her love for Josh. They kiss. The end. 

Final thoughts: Directed by Hernan Jimenez and written by Daniel Mackay and Rebecca Ewing, Love Hard is a sweet, heartwarming rom-com. With Dobrev ably taking on the mantle of lovelorn wordsmith Natalie and a sparkling script that all the actors commit to, the story bumps along nicely. 

With Jimmy O Yang playing Josh and Darren Barnet as the movie-star-looks Tag, it is Yang’s Josh everyman that tickles the heartstrings and has you rooting for the romance. 

Shying away from the easy path of making Barnet’s Tag a bit of a cad or narcissist, Mackay and Ewing fashioned a story that feels more realistic, having the personalities be what attracts instead of just marrying up two beautiful people. 

Shum Jr’s Owen is put forward as a perfunctory villain but ultimately, he only cares about the wellbeing of his less confident brother. Like all good and classic romcoms, Love Hard is about the central protagonist finding out about themselves. In this regard, Love Hard hits all the right notes as well as being a feel-good Christmas film. Nice.

Just In Time

Brief synopsis: A self-improvement embracing book shop manager’s life is thrown into confusion when the daughter of the bookshop’s late owner turns up in the store and informs her that it is closing and all the staff will be let go. 

The woman is set on taking a trip to reevaluate her life but postpones the trip when her cousin asks her to look after her eleven-year-old daughter because she is going through a divorce. 

Is it any good?: A Nollywood film, Just In Time is a pleasant enough, made-for-television level, rom-com that is not too taxing or offensive. Not a great film, the story a bit too messy. The acting is good and engaging for a brain in neutral ninety-minute watch. 

Spoiler territory: Muthoni (Sarah Hassan) sits on her sofa listening to a life coach who is encouraging viewers of his videos to destroy their goals. A little while later, she is heading to work at the bookstore she manages. 

Elsewhere, Ashley (Stycie Waweru) is looking forward to her family holiday. Next door her mother, Nieri (Pierra Makena), is talking to her husband. They are getting divorced and she does not want to join him, with Ashley, for a holiday. He tries to coerce her into meeting up with him, telling her he has already purchased the tickets. 

Njeri tells him that they are not meeting up. Ashley comes into the room as her mother is ending the call. She hears the tail end of the conversation and asks if they are not going on holiday. Her mother tells her the trip is cancelled but lies about the reason, telling Ashley her father is on a work trip. 

Back at the bookstore, Muthoni is helping a customer and stops a young boy from stealing a book, shooing him out of the store. A moment later a woman calls to her, addressing her by her full name. She asks if she is the manager. Muthoni tells her she is. 

The woman introduces herself, Aditi (Eve D’Souza) and points to a man just behind her. He is an interior designer and is there to remodel the store. Aditi tells Muthoni that she is the daughter of the store owner. Muthoni offers her condolences, Aditi’s father having died. Aditi explains that she has returned to Nairobi to help her brothers get the family affairs in order. That includes the bookstore. 

They have decided to close the bookstore. Muthoni is to clear the store with immediate effect. The family are turning it into a spa. She tells Muthoni that she can have a position in the new set up because her father held her in high regard. Muthoni argues against closing the store but is told it is not up for debate. She declines the offer of a role in the spa. 

Muthoni breaks the bad news to her two-man staff. The next day, Muthoni is speaking to her brother, Brian (Kagwe Mungai), on a video call, bemoaning her lack of life progress as she approaches thirty. 

Brian suggests she come to Canada and start a new life. She does not think that is a good idea, she wants to stay in Nairobi. He asks her if she has spoken to their cousin, Njeri. The question irritates Muthoni as he knows they have not spoken in years. Brian ends the call.

The next morning, Muthoni is woken by a call from an event she signed up for, a workshop about empowering women. Muthoni asks if she can get a refund and is told she cannot. she attends the seminar. At there seminar, the talker tells how, when at her lowest point, she decided to take a holiday to Dubai. 

Muthoni returns home and looks to buy a ticket to Dubai. As she is about to book it, she gets a call from Njeri. The conversation is awkward, Muthoni mistakenly thinking Njeri has rung her out of pity, Brian had told her about the bookstore being closed. Njeri is not calling about her job. She needs her help. 

She tells her she is getting a divorce and needs her to look after Ashley for a couple of weeks. Muthoni wrestles with the notion of refusing her request over the next day. She is woken by her neighbour, Anthony (Blessing Lung’ Aho), ringing her doorbell. 

He has a friend coming to stay in his apartment but he is going away for work. He wants to leave the keys to his apartment with her for his friend, Kobena (Mawuli Gavor), to pick up. Muthoni is happy to help and takes the keys. 

Ashley is protesting her mother’s decision to leave her with a stranger. Njeri explains that she is her auntie. Ashley argues semantics but her mother tells her to go and have a shower. Muthoni goes into town to get her resumé printed. She leaves the keys to Anthony’s apartment in the printing store. 

Returning home, Muthoni meets her young cousin. Ashley is less than impressed by a smiling but total stranger, cousin. Muthoni runs through some house rules that she has typed up. Ashley tells her she can just give her the paper. She will read them. She wants to go to her room. Muthoni tells her that there is only one bedroom, they will have to share. 

The doorbell rings. Kobena has come to collect the keys that Anthony left. After making him show her identification, Muthoni leaves him on the doorstep as she goes to search for the keys. She realises that she has misplaced the keys. She allows Anthony to come into her apartment and wait whilst she tries to locate them. 

Searching her car, Muthoni remembers she went to the print store. In the apartment, a tired Kobena falls asleep on the sofa. Muthoni returns shortly to find him sleeping and shushes Ashley as she comes into the living room, indicating the sleeping Kobena. 

Hours later, Kobena is still sleeping. Ashley wants to wake him up but Muthoni feels it is her fault for not having had the keys. She sends Ashley to bed. Muthoni tries to gently wake him. She eventually wakes him by making a loud noise. 

An embarrassed Kobena apologises for having fallen asleep. She gives him the keys and he leaves. Muthoni goes to the bedroom and finds Ashley sprawled across the bed. After trying to move her and getting slapped by the sleeping child fro her troubles, Muthoni decamps to the live room sofa. 

The next morning, Muthoni tells Ashley that she can have the bed as she will take the sofa. Ashley asks about wifi and Muthoni wants to know why she needs wifi. She tells her it is for Netflix and that they use iPads at school. Muthoni rants that technology is what is ruining the world. Ashley points out that her pancakes are burning. 

Muthoni finishes cooking pancakes for breakfast. Ashley tells her she does not like them. Muthoni takes the pancakes to her new temporary neighbour, Kobena. She apologises for the mix-up. Returning to her apartment, she finds Ashley on her iPad watching a movie. She thought she was going to read a book? Ashley tells her she cannot as the wifi is so poor. 

Muthoni suggests they talk. She asks her what her purpose is. Ashley is perplexed. Muthoni asks the question differently; what is her favourite thing in the world? Ashley tells her, watching movies. Later, Ashley complains to her mother that it is boring and the wifi is too slow. 

Muthoni texts her brother for advice. He suggests taking her out and asking where she would like to go. She asks Ashley where she would like to go. Ashley wants to go to an ice cream parlour. The next day, as they get ready to go to the ice cream parlour, Kobena comes to talk to Muthoni and return the plate the pancakes were on. 

Ashley opens the door. Kobena smiles at her and asks for Muthoni, saying he has brought back the plate. Ashley does not smile back. She takes the plate and shuts the door in his face. Muthoni takes Ashley to the ice cream parlour. 

Muthoni gets a call from Kobena. He wants to buy lunch for her as a thank you for the pancakes. Muthoni says she is with her niece. Kobena tells her he will buy lunch for both of them. He comes and finds them in the city. Ashley is not happy to see him. Muthoni and Kobena chat, her asking him about his camera. 

Kobena tells her he is a photographer. Muthoni gets a call and leaves the table. Kobena begins to talk to Ashley but she stops him, telling him they do not have to chat. Muthoni’s call is from Aditi. She wants her to come to her home for a meeting the next day. Muthoni agrees but realises she will need someone to look after Ashley. 

Ashley argues against it but, even though they speak Swahili, Kobena realises that is the issue. He agrees to look after her. Later, in the evening, Ashley asks why Muthoni never visits them. Muthoni tells her it is complicated. Muthoni tells Ashley about her love of books and storytelling. She recounts a bedtime story to her. 

The next day, Muthoni waits for Aditi in her living room. Back at the apartment, Ashley is in the bedroom away from the Kobena. She comes into the living room to admonish him for the loudness of his music. He tries to make peace by offering to buy her pizza. Ashley thinks it is just a bribe so as he can look good to Muthoni. 

She softens a bit when he tells her she can pick where they order from. After lunch, the two play a game. If Kobena wins, Ashley has to do chores. If Ashley wins, he must read her a bedtime story. 

At Aditi’s, Muthoni is eventually seen. Aditi tells her that she is the secret buyer of the bookstore and wants to save it, even though her brothers want it closed. She wants to hear Muthoni’s ideas to keep the business going. 

Back in the apartment, Kobena has lost the game and has to read to Ashley. He does not like reading because he is dyslexic and tells Ashley so. He explains the affliction to her and tells her he has lived with it all his life. Ashley reads to him instead. 

Muthoni returns home to find Ashley sleeping on Kobena. He takes her to bed. Muthoni and Kobena chat about how difficult it was to get Ashley to warm to them. Muthoni tells him about Ashley’s parents’ situation. He invites them out on his photo tour. 

The three go out, Kobena working whilst the two women enjoy the safari. Back home, Muthoni is surprised by a visit from Njeri. They get into a disagreement when Njeri tells her that she is moving to Mombasa but lies to Ashley, telling her that they are going on holiday to Zanzibar. Njeri leaves with Ashley. 

Muthoni meets up with Kobena. She tells him about growing up with Njeri and how she disagreed with her relationship and did not think her future husband was a good man. Kobena tells her that he has to travel. He wants to go on a date with her before he leaves. 

Back home, Muthoni works on a children’s book idea for Aditi. The next day, Kobena waits for Muthoni at their appointed meeting place. Muthoni goes to see her cousin but sees her estranged husband instead. He tells her that they have left. He wants Muthoni to help him get them back. She refuses. Kobena is still waiting. Muthoni stands him up. 

Muthoni goes home and calls her brother. She tells him that she thinks her book idea will work. There is someone at her door. She opens the door and sees Ashley. Njeri is with her. Njeri asks her to join them on a trip. They are going to stay in Nairobi. The three go on a trip. 

Months later, they are preparing to celebrate Ashley’s twelfth birthday. Muthoni and Brian arrive at the house and find Njeri in the dining room. Muthoni asks where Ashley is, Njeri tells her she can find her in her bedroom. As Muthoni heads to the bedroom, Ashley appears from under the dining room table, where she had been hiding 

In the bedroom, Kobena is waiting. He asks her if she stopped thinking about him and tells her he always thinks about her. She also owes him a date. She tells him she was scared. They join the birthday party. The end. 

Final thoughts: Written and directed by Dolapo Adeleke, Just In Time is an okay romcom. Hassan, who also produced the film, is a likeable lead and her chemistry with Gavor’s Kobena is good. Young Waweru is great as the precocious Ashley and works well given the paucity of the role. 

The film is pleasant and the characters engaging but the story does not quite hold together. It is not a bad story but the central premise is somewhat fuzzy. It is difficult to know if the film is a rom-com or coming-of-age story predominantly, with neither given a fully fleshed out story. 

The book store angle is only in the film to lengthen the runtime and does not add anything to the film. The same can be said of the positive thinking aspects, the positive thinking coach only in the film for weak comic effect. 

At ninety-minutes long, Just In Time is the perfect length for a romcom. There is a delightful soundtrack and the film is well shot. Unfortunately, Adeleke’s inability to bring the romcom to the fore is the real weakness of the film. Not terrible but not good either.

Crazy About Her – review

Brief synopsis: a confident playboy, journalist meets a young woman whilst on a night out with friends. They have a wild night and he is smitten with her but does not know her name or anything about her. He finds out that she is in a mental institution and gets himself admitted to the same facility just to meet her again. 

Is it any good? Crazy About Her (Loco Por Ella – original Spanish title) is an enjoyable quirky romcom. With many similarities to 2019’s No Estoy Loco. Crazy About Her sees most of the central cast situated in a mental health institution. 

Moving at a good pace and with good acting from all on show, Crazy About Her is an amusing and touching rom-com. 

Spoiler territory: In a bar, Adri (Álvaro Cervantes) is telling Laura (Paula Malia), a friend and a struggling actress and Sergio (Eduardo Auntuña) how to get what they want in life. Sergio points out to him that his father gave him a job straight out of university. Adri is unfazed by their arguments. 

He tells them that he can pick up any woman in the bar if he wants to and challenges them to pick a target for him. They point to a blonde woman at the bar. Adri, bulletproof confidence in abundance, immediately heads towards the woman they pointed out. 

Halfway across the bar, a woman (Susana Abaitua) bumps into him. She apologises profusely, thinking she has caused him to spill his drink. Adri tells her that he does not have a drink. She offers to buy him one. He hesitates, looking at the blonde at the bar. She asks him if he was planning to hit on her. Adri tells her about his wager with his friends. 

The woman tells him that she has a similar wager with her friends, pointing to a table of women across the bar. She goes to the bar. She asks Adri if he wants to spend the night with her, no strings, just a night of fun. He is reluctant but when she challenges his bravery, he agrees. 

She takes him to a hotel and sees that there is a wedding in attendance. She decides to crash the wedding to get free food and drink. At the wedding, it is obvious that they are not meant to be there as they are the only white people in an all-black wedding. Unperturbed, the woman even dares to make a speech at the wedding. 

They party with the guest and later retire to a hotel suite to make love. The room is the bridal suite and they are caught by the shocked newlyweds. They make a quick exit. Outside of the hotel, the woman leaves Adri, driving off on the motorcycle they came on. She drops her jacket. 

The next day, Adri calls Laura. He tells her that he had the best night of his life but does not know anything about the woman he was with; not her name nor where she lives. He ends the call as he arrives for a meeting at work. The magazine editor, Andrés (Alberto San Juan) wants to hear some ideas. As Andrés dismisses and bullies the staff, he favours Adri, even telling another writer, Ana (Rocío León) to give her article to him. 

Adri begins to struggle with his existence, pining for the woman he had the fantastical night with. He tells Laura and Sergio about his woes. Laura tells him that he is in love. She asks him if he checked her jacket. Adri dismisses the notion; of course he checked her jacket.

Laura checks the jacket. She finds a name and address. The woman’s name is Carla. Adri heads to the address immediately. He finds out that the place is a mental institution. He glimpses a drugged up Carla and calls to her. She looks up and smiles at him. The staff throw him out. 

Laura takes Adri to see an old acting friend of hers, Rodri (Ferran Rañé), who is a doctor. He gets a certificate saying he is suffering from depression and other ailments. He tells Andrés that he going do an article on the psychiatric centre. 

Adri gets booked into the centre after meeting the centre director (Clara Segura). The doctor shows him around the facility and tells him the monthly rate. He can have one visitor and one phone call per month. He is roomed with a longtime resident, Saúl (Luis Zahera). 

As Saúl shows him around again, Adri asks about Carla. He finds her in a room painting with other residents. She does not recognise him. She is distressed when he explains who he is. She tells him that it was only meant to be one night. She does not want to see him. Adri, realising she is serious, tries to leave. 

He is stopped by the centre staff. He is told he can only be released by the director. He goes to see her again and tells her he was lying and that everything he told her was a lie. She does not believe him. He tells her to call the magazine. She calls the magazine and the disgruntled Ana picks up. She tells the doctor that Adri does not work there. Adri is forced to start.

Back in the room, he is sharing, Adri tells Saúl he needs to get out. He is told the only way to get out is to jump out of a three-storey window. Adri decides against it. He calls Laura and gets her to come and pose as a doctor to try and get him released. She fails. 

Adri sees Laura leaving. She tells him that he has to get his article in on that day or he will be fired. Adri dictates an article to her. Adri reluctantly moves around the centre, refusing to take medication whilst still protesting his right to be released. He is told that it is the other patients who decide when a is patient released.

As the days pass, Adri begins to fall into the routine, pretending to take the medication and avoiding Carla. Saúl tells him there is a way he can get out. He needs to get on with the other patients and he has a way to help him do it. He gives him a vial of tablets. 

Later that evening, Adri meets Saúl and is taken to a secret poker game between some of the patients. The tablets are currency. At the game are; Marta (Aixa Villagrán) a Tourette’s sufferer, Tina (Tell Aixendri) who believes she is royalty, Victor (Nil Cardoner), a germaphobe and Carla. 

Adri tries to sell the idea of them giving each other good scores so they can all get released. Carla tells him that some of them need to be there. Victor goes to the bathroom and Carla and Tina tease Marta for fancying him. Adri asks why does she not just tell him that she likes him. Marta thinks he is mad. Adri says if he helps her to asks Victor out, they must all vote for him in the next meeting. 

The next day, Saúl asks Adri to help him. He is to pretend to be a doctor. Saúl’s young daughter, Sara (Iris Vallés) comes to see him, brought by Saúl’s ex (Mireia Portas) and her new husband (Edu Gibert). They are not visiting for very long. Adri leaves them alone. 

He sees Carla talking to her parents (Jordi Bosch and Laura Conejero). She is distressed and wants to return to her room but her parents do not want to leave. Adri poses as a doctor once more and gets her away from them. 

Adri begins to work with Marta, helping her memorise a phrase so she can talk to Victor. Adri asks why she is in the centre if she only suffers from Tourette’s. Marta tells him that she also suffered from depression. The next day, he encourages her to go and speak to Victor. Marta loses her nerve on the first encounter and runs away. 

Carla, who along with the others has been watching, persuades her to go and have another try. Marta tells Victor that she likes him and he responds positively, the two of them getting together. Carla is enamoured by his feat and invites him to meet up with her later. Adri returns to his room to find a distressed Saúl.

Saúl has been told that his ex-wife’s husband does not want him to see Sara anymore, that it is dangerous. Later, Adri finds out from Carla why she is there. She tells him she is bipolar, her moods going from extreme depression to manic euphoria. She never knows when the moods will hit or how. 

She tells him that their relationship cannot work. Adri will not give up and tells her he is sure she can overcome her illness. Carla reiterates that they cannot carry on. Adri returns to his room and finds that Saúl has jumped out of the window and escaped the centre. He gets Carla to help him sneak out of the centre to go and look for Saúl. 

Carla steals a car and the two go looking for Saúl. Saúl has gone to find his daughter and they catch up with him limping along the road on his way to his ex-wife’s home. Carla tells him that they will do something to make him feel better. She has no idea what. Adri has an idea. 

They go to wreck the stepfather’s car. As they are destroying the car outside of the house, Saúl tells them that he does not think that he has a car. They leave and return to the centre. Adri has an opportunity to escape the centre but decides to stay. 

Carla takes Adri to her favourite spot in the centre, the roof. Adri is still convinced that Carla can overcome her illness if she really wants to. He tells her that he likes her the more he knows her. The two get together. Carla is happy. They spend a lot of time together and with the group. 

Adri has persuaded Carla that she does not need medication. Her mania starts to manifest. At one of their evening poker games, Carla does not show up. Adri goes looking for her and finds her on the roof, her mania raging out of control. Adri grabs her and tells the centre director. Carla gets sedated. 

The next day, Carla feels betrayed, especially as he encouraged her to stop taking her medication. Adri’s article comes out. The group shun him. Adri goes to the director who, realising he was telling the truth about lying, signs his release. She tells him that too many people think they know how to help the mentally ill. 

Saúl’s ex-wife brings Sara to see him. Adri bids him farewell. Adri writes another article for the magazine, countering his initial article. The group read it but Carla is offended by its sentiments and decides that they need to break out and confront him. Victor creates a diversion and the rest of the group steal a van. 

The director and Rosa (Maria Ribera) pursue them. The group manage to lose them. They get to the magazine headquarters and Carla confronts Adri. She wants to know if he is prepared to fight for their love. He tells her that he wants to be with her come what may. They get back together. The end. 

Final thoughts: Crazy About You is a lovely film with great performances from the whole cast. Written by Natalia Durán and Eric Navarro and directed by Dani de la Orden, Crazy About Her whizzes through its one-hundred-and-two minute runtime. 

Like the aforementioned No Estoy Loco, where this film really works is in the ensemble parts, with the other characters giving the film real heart. The fact that there is no easy route given to the central pairing is a nice touch, the film and writers embracing the fact that what is thought of as normal for the majority is not something that can be forced on everyone. 

By no means a perfect film, it still manages to be both emotive and amusing and engaging, whilst tackling a subject that many find difficult to talk about. Abaitua is riveting as the bipolar Carla, making it a little heartbreaking when she explained that it is something that she will always have to live with. 

Zahera’s Saúl is similarly touching with his issues preventing him from being with his young daughter. The film is competently lensed by Orden, the wedding scenes being particularly funny. Crazy About You is an enjoyable film and worth a look on a lazy Sunday.

Coming 2 America

Sequels have always been seen as an easy way to make money in Hollywood. Even before the seventies penchant for adding a number to the end of a title to denote it being a sequel, Hollywood and the wider film industry were producing sequels, rehashing and reusing the same characters of a successful story in another film. 

It is a rare thing, the sequel that is as good or better than the original, especially if the original film is regarded as a good film. The better sequels tend to be made shortly after the original. The Godfather two, one of cinemas most lauded sequels, was released two years after its predecessor. 

Rocky two came three years after its parent film and The Empire Strikes Back, named in the old style of sequels where the title did not just gain a numbered appendage, also came three years after a genre-defining Star Wars. 

Some sequels have worked with a larger gap between films. Terminator 2: Judgement Day was released seven years after its epic originator. However, the intervening years saw such technological advances in film that the sequel proved to be an impressive spectacle. Unfortunately, subsequent efforts in the series have seen not only diminishing returns but also a definite lessening in quality. 

In terms of genre, dramatic action films tend to be easier to make sequels or series of. The characters are set and the story tends to be good versus evil, a relatively easy premise to work with. The comedy genre is not, generally, a good genre for sequels, especially if the film is a hit or classic. 

Scary Movie was amusing but was followed by increasingly wretched sequels. Similarly, the Police Academy films stretched a silly idea to the point of punishment for the eyes and mind. Great comedies are even harder to make sequels of. The likes of Airplane, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Ghostbusters have all spawned underwhelming sequels.

That is not to say they were bad sequels or not funny, it is just that trying to recreate funny is a difficult skill. Thirty-three years on from its classic originator, Coming to America, stars Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, plus many of the original cast, reprised their roles to make a sequel, Coming 2 America. 

Like many fans of the original film, I was not thrilled to hear about a sequel to one of the most quotable comedies of my life. Coming to America is, rightly, thought of as a comedy classic and probably Eddie Murphy’s best film. Playing multiple roles, as does Hall, Murphy was at the height of his powers, having made his name on 48 hrs, Trading Places and two films in the Beverly Hills Cop series. 

Directed by John Landis, who was mostly known for directing Michael’s Jackson’s Thriller, even though he had directed many films before that including Animal House, Blues Brothers, Trading Places, starring Murphy, and An American Werewolf in London, the film that would get him the Thriller gig, Coming to America is gold. 

With a story by Murphy, Coming to America had an almost entirely black cast and was a comedy that contained very little of the comedy staples laid down in the previous decade’s blaxploitation era comedies. There was no hoes, no drugs, no thugs, no shucking and jiving, none of the expected staples of ‘black’ comedy. 

Set in the fictional land of Zamunda – think Wakanda without the technological advancements – Coming to America was a very different black comedy. Whereas before, Eddie had been the funny, wisecracking, black guy in a white world, in Coming to America he was still a funny black guy but he was displaced in a black world. 

Coming to America was a hit both domestically and worldwide, with the humour in the film still bearing up more than three decades on. So, what about the sequel? Unsurprisingly, it is not as good as the original. Many have quickly come out to deride it as being a poor, money-grabbing, unfunny effort. That is not true. 

Coming 2 America, whilst not been as funny as the original, is better than one could have hoped for with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Wesley Snipes’ General Izzi is a great addition and Leslie Jones as Mary Junson, mother of Murphy’s Akeem’s illegitimate son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), plays to her stereotype but it works well within the context of the film. 

The film keeps the laughs coming but still manages to fashion a pleasant story, romcom, in amongst the silliness. Fowler’s role as the would-be heir to Zamunda is a difficult role for any actor to undertake, especially as he was always going to be in Murphy’s shadow. Fowler bears the burden well, with the story split between him and Murphy’s Akeem. 

There are some clever nods to the original film with one particularly funny reprise coming from Vanessa Bell Calloway. The barbershop is back, even though all of the patrons of the shop were old men in the first film! And, for me, the return of Sexual Chocolate is a real boon. 

Like many sequels, Coming 2 America will always suffer when compared to its predecessor, the original being such an unknown quantity at the time but becoming a classic over time. If one can watch the film in isolation, something made easier by the fact that one does not need to have seen the first film to understand this one, it is an amusing comedy in its own right. 

With a one-hundred-and-eight minutes runtime, Coming 2 America is slightly over the rom-com standard ninety minutes but is about ten minutes shorter than its predecessor. The film moves at a good pace with the only dips being when the story strays into rom-com territory, though the dips are slight and do not detract from the comedy too much. 

It was always going to be a herculean task to match the magic of the first film or to even make a film that does not offend or alienate the rose-tinted vision of the original’s many fans. Coming 2 America just about manages it.