The Knight Before Christmas (Netflix) – review

Brief Synopsis: When high school science teacher, Brooke, hits a man whilst driving through a snowstorm, she feels compelled to look after the man, Sir Cole, because she thinks the accident has caused a brain trauma that has him believing he is a medieval knight from the fourteenth century.

Is It Any Good?The Knight Before Christmas, scoring a paltry 5.6 on IMDB, is on first glance a pretty weak effort if one goes by the trailer. In truth, the film is elevated by the performances and a quirky premise.

Spoiler territory: In fourteenth-century Norwich, England, Sir Cole Lyons (Josh Whitehouse) and his brother, Sir Geoffrey (Harry Jarvis), are preparing for the annual Christmas hawking trial. The brothers hatch a plan to capture the hawk, one going west and the other heading east, their plan to flank the bird and meet in the middle.

In modern-day Ohio, high school science teacher, Brooke Winters (Vanessa Hudgens), is talking to Paige (Shanice Johnson) about her disappointing grades. Paige tells her that her boyfriend broke up with her. Brooke tells her that the fairytale of a shiny knight is exactly that, a fairytale. She tells Paige not to let this break-up mess up her grades. Brooke gets a call from her sister, Madison (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who needs her to pick up her daughter as she is busy at work. Brooke tells her it will be no problem.

Back in Norwich, Sir Cole has ventured into the woods. He meets an old woman, an Old Crone (Ella Kenion), who he goes to help. She asks about his brother, saying he is to be knighted the coming Christmas. Sir Cole acknowledges this fact. The Old Crone tells him that he has a different quest, one that will take him to a faraway land.

Sir Cole thinks that the Old Crone is confused by the cold weather. She gives him a shimmering amulet telling him that he has to complete his quest by Christmas Eve or he will not become a knight. The Old Crone disappears. Shortly afterwards, Sir Cole disappears also. His horse returns to the castle where Sir Geoffrey wonders why his brother has not returned.

Sir Cole appears in a Christmas fair in present-day Ohio. He looks around in wonder at the modern fair. Elsewhere, Brooke is with her niece, Claire (Isabelle Franca), enjoying the fair. As Sir Cole walks about the fair and is surprised to be accosted by a group of young women who want to take a selfie with him. Brooke takes Claire to visit Santa.

She is perturbed to see her ex-boyfriend, James (Neil Babcock) walking around the fair with his new girlfriend, Kaelynn (Olivia Gudaniec). A wandering Sir Cole mistakes Ms Santa for the Old Crone. He apologises and walks away. As he is distracted by an aeroplane, Brooke walks into him, spilling hot chocolate on his armour. Brooke is mortified, apologising profusely. Sir Cole, having tasted the hot chocolate, wants to know what it is.

Claire’s mother turns up at the fair and her and Brooke go to meet her. The weather is getting worse, a snow storm coming. Brooke drives in the storm, her visibility vastly impaired. She does not see Sir Cole wander into the path of her car and hits him.

She gets out of the car to see if he is alright. Sir Cole, clad in armour, is unharmed. He asks Brooke where he is. She tells him that he is in Ohio. The local policeman, Officer Stevens (Arnold Pinnock), comes and sees Brooke with Sir Cole. Brooke tells him what happened and says she thinks he might have hit his head.

Officer Stevens takes Sir Cole to the hospital, Brooke follows them. At the hospital, Sir Cole is physically fine, completely unharmed. Officer Stevens tells Brooke that he believes he is a fourteenth-century knight. Brooke insists on taking Sir Cole with her until he regains his memory, even as Officer Stevens protest.

Back at Brooke’s house, she suggests he change into more modern attire, giving him clothing left by her ex. As Brooke speaks to her sister on the phone, Sir Cole lights a fire outside, looking to kill an animal for his dinner. Brooke intervenes and takes him to a diner.

After eating and returning home, Sir Cole continues to be wowed by modern technology. Sir Cole stay up all night, watching television and studying modern language. He invites Brooke to watch television with him. They fall asleep watching television. Sir Cole sees the Old Crone in a dream and asks about his quest, still unsure as to what it is. The Old Crone tells him to open his heart.

The next day they prepare to decorate the house for Christmas. Brooke tells Sir Cole about the passing of her mother. She talks to him about his time, saying that time travel is not possible. He says that because she cannot comprehend it does not mean it does not exist.

Sir Cole takes Brooke’s car and goes in search of his quest. Having abandoned the vehicle, Brooke finds a slightly despondent Sir Cole later in the day. He is no closer to discovering his quest. Brooke shows Sir Cole England on a live stream. Madison and Claire come to visit. Claire wants to become a knight and asks Sir Cole to teach her how to fight. Madison does not think it is a good idea. Sir Cole assures her that any swordplay would only be with sticks.

Madison tells Brooke that Sir Cole seems to be the perfect mate except for the fact that he believes he is from the fourteenth century. Madison and Claire go home. Brooke’s neighbour, Allyson (Mimi Gianopulos), having seen Sir Cole a few days before, comes to invite him to come Christmas carolling with her and her friends. Sir Cole, seeing how uncomfortable it makes Brooke, politely declines.

Madison is looking after hard working dad-of-four children, David’s (Jean-Michel Le Gal) offspring. David is off to help with the charity preparations. Brooke tells Sir Cole about the annual Christmas dinner charity that her parents used to run and how she has carried on the tradition since her mother’s death.

They go to help with the preparations and Brooke tells Sir Cole about David’s situation, how his wife died and he has four young children that he supports by doing two jobs. He insists on volunteering for the Christmas feast to set a good example to his children.

It is one day before Christmas Eve and Brooke takes Sir Cole to the supermarket to pick some bits for the Christmas dinner. Sir Cole, who takes it upon himself to sample the bread, is not impressed by its taste and tells Brooke he will bake the bread.

Claire asks her mum if she and Lily, one of David’s children and her best friend, can go and play in the snow. Madison, though a little worried about the snowstorm, is swayed by the girls pleading. Brooke and Sir Cole get closer as he bakes bread. Their baking is interrupted by a phone call from Madison. She cannot find Claire and Lily.

Brooke and Sir Cole go to help her look for them. Sir Cole, used to tracking in the fourteenth century, tracks the girls to a nearby lake. He rescues Claire from the surface of a frozen lake. With the girls safely home, Officer Stevens thanks Sir Cole for his assistance. In a private conversation, he tells Brooke that he is not sure that supporting Sir Cole’s delusion is the best course of action.

Later, Brooke tells Sir Cole that after his heroic act, surely he is worthy of becoming a knight. Sir Cole is not so sure. Sir Cole and Brooke are about to kiss but are interrupted once again when Madison’s husband, Evan (Scott Yamamura), returns from his business trip. Brooke and Sir Cole go to the Christmas market.

Whilst at the market, they see Eileen (Jayne Eastwood). As they converse with her, a pickpocket (Ryan Clarke) steals her purse but is quickly apprehended by Sir Cole. Officer Stevens comes and takes the pickpocket away, once again indebted to Sir Cole. Sir Cole is not sure he has the wherewithal to be a knight. Brooke gives him a pep talk.

It is Christmas Eve and Brooke and Sir Cole are getting ready to go to the Christmas charity dinner. They go to the dinner. At the dinner, the town has gotten together and had a whip-round for David and his family. David is overwhelmed by the support. Sir Cole puts on his knights’ garb and poses for pictures at the party.

Allyson approaches Sir Cole with mistletoe but realising he obviously has feelings for Brooke, says he should save the mistletoe for somebody he cares about. Sir Cole kisses Brooke. His amulet begins to glow. He and Brooke go back to the spot that he appeared. He bids Brooke farewell and disappears.

A heartbroken Brooke walks back home, encountering Paige on the way. Paige tells her that her ex wants to get back together but because of what Brooke told her, about true love not being real, she is focusing on her career. Brooke tells Paige she was wrong to tell her that. A melancholy Brooke returns home missing Sir Cole.

Back in the fourteenth century, Sir Cole returns to the castle. He tells his brother that he is in love but wishes to be present for his knighting ceremony. Geoffrey tells him he must go to his love. Back in the present, it is Christmas Day and Madison and Evan are surprised when Claire excitedly reveals a puppy under the tree.

Brooke comes over to the house. Madison asks about Sir Cole but Brooke tells her she does not think she will see him again. Back in Norwich, Sir Cole is searching in the forest for the Old Crone. She appears and he begs her to send him back to the future. She grants his wish. Back in Ohio, Claire is asking where Sir Cole is. As the adults try to awkwardly explain his absence, he appears with his horse. Sir Cole tells Brooke that she was his quest. They kiss. They get on his horse and ride off. The end.

The Knight Before Christmas is an enjoyable piece of festive fluff. Written by Cara J. Russell and directed by Monika Mitchell, it bumps along nicely, with the performances allowing for the suspension of belief. Josh Whitehouse is especially good as the displaced Sir Cole.

Vanessa Hudgens has become a modern-day Meg Ryan, working well opposite multiple leading men in Christmas or anytime rom-coms and somehow, like the erstwhile Ryan, managing to generate chemistry with all of them. The supporting players are able enough helping the central story and showing enough incredulity to stop the watching audience from scoffing.

At ninety-two minutes long The Knight Before Christmas is the perfect length for a rom-com. The story is quirky and original enough to be engaging even if the script is a bit heavy-handed in places.

Unlike the best Christmas films, there is no true antagonist in The Knight Before Christmas making the central premise of finding love across the centuries the main focus, not that it matters much but it might have made the film a little more challenging.

The Knight Before Christmas is an inoffensive and pleasant viewing experience and no worse than any of the many festive, made-for-television efforts that seem to be available at this time of year. Worth a look.

Holiday In The Wild (Netflix) – review

Brief Synopsis: Lady-who-lunches Kate’s life is thrown a curveball when, after her son, Luke, leaves for college, her husband, Drew, of over twenty years, tells her he is leaving her. Kate, who had planned for them to go on a second honeymoon on Safari in Africa, finds herself alone on the wild continent.

In Africa, she meets elephant conservationist and all-round handyman, Derek.

Is It Any Good?:

Holiday In The Wild is an inoffensive, rom-com by the numbers. Starring Kristin Davis and Rob Lowe, it looks at love blossoming between a more mature couple, a second chance for both. There is also a loose Christmas connection, hence the title.

Spoiler Territory:

It is August and Kate (Kristin Davis) has arranged for a photographer to take a Christmas family photo with her husband, Drew (Colin Moss), and soon to be going to college son, Luke (John Owen Lowe).

Drew does not see the importance of getting the photo done, especially as it is August. Kate explains that it is the last time they will probably ever do it as Luke is going to college the next day. They quickly finish with the photo and Drew leaves for work.

Later that day, Kate is out to lunch with a couple of friends, Trish (Thandi Puren) and Tabitha (Renate Stuurman). She ponders her impending empty nest and floats the notion of returning to the workforce. Trish questions her asking why she would want to return to work. Kate says what else would she do? Her two friends chuckle. She would lunch.

Luke leaves for college the next day. After he has left, Kate tells Drew that she has arranged a second honeymoon for them both to Africa. Drew tells her he is not in love with her anymore and is leaving her. He moves out immediately.

Committed to her African trip, Kate gets on the plane and goes to Zambia. She is picked up at the airport and taken to the resort where the suite she booked and every element of the holiday reminds her that she is no longer part of a marriage.

Whilst out to dinner alone, she meets Derek (Rob Lowe). He sees her sitting alone and guesses she is from New York. He notes the name tag on the table and asks her where her husband is. Kate tries to deflect the question but then unloads her stresses on a slightly surprised Derek, telling him that her husband left her and she is on holiday on her own and that she will probably be getting divorced in a couple of weeks. Kate leaves the restaurant.

The next day, Kate goes to meet the pilot of a small plane to take her on safari. The pilot is Derek. They begin the flight. Derek sees something as he is flying and lands there plane mid-flight. He tells Kate to wait as he leaves the plane. She immediately follows after him as he disappears into the bush.

They come across an adult elephant that has had its tusk removed and its child. Derek, who is also an elephant conservationist, gets Kate to help him capture the baby elephant. Derek calls for some help and men come from the elephant shelter. He tells Kate that he will get her to the lodge to continue her safari. Kate wants to go with the elephant. Jonathan (Fezile Mpela), leader of the shelter, allows her to go with the elephant.

Kate, who had been a vet before she got married, helps with the elephant at the shelter. Jonathan explains the mission of the shelter and Kate is inspired by the place and decides to stay. Jonathan tells her she can take the tent at the end. She goes into the wrong tent, ending up in Derek’s quarters. He tells her that her tent is on the other side. As she leaves, she meets Leslie (Hayley Owen). Leslie is going to Derek’s tent.

Derek and Kate spend a lot of time together. Kate gets attached to the baby elephant, that they name Manu, they rescued. The next day the Manu gets up, well on the road to recovery. Kate uses her veterinary experience to help out around the shelter whilst she is there.

As her return date approaches, Derek decides to take Kate on the safari she missed as a thank you for all her help. They get talking and Kate finds out that Derek had a wife but she died. Kate cooks dinner for the camp, thanking them for their hospitality. She goes back to Derek’s tent with him. As she and Derek go to kiss they are interrupted by Leslie, who does not hide her displeasure at seeing Kate. Kate leaves the tent.

Derek goes after her, wanting to explain Leslie’s presence but Kate gives him short shrift, telling him that he only looks for things that amuse him and keep him happy. Derek leaves her to her thoughts. The next morning Kate, having decided to return home to America, goes to see Manu. She decides to extend her stay.

Three months later and the camp is getting ready for Christmas. The people who work at the camp await the arrival of their families. Johnathan, realising that Kate is alone for Christmas, tells her that he considers her part of his family.

Derek brings the mail from the mainland and abroad. Kate has bought a coffee machine and receives divorce papers from her husband. Later that night, Manu, along with another elephant, escapes the camp. Derek says that they will look in the morning. Kate’s fretting causes him to have a change of heart and they go to look for him.

After a few hours, Derek stops. He tells Kate they need to sleep and will continue looking in the morning. They are woken by an adult elephant. Derek recognises the elephant from the reserve.

They return to the reserve. Derek is called away, needing to go and pick someone up. Kate helps Jonathan’s wife, Aliyah (Faniswas Yisa), cook a Christmas lunch. Aliyah tells Kate that goat stew is the way to a man’s heart, alluding to Derek. A flustered Kate denies wanting anything to do with Derek.

Jonathan comes into the kitchen and tells Kate that Derek needs to see her at the airport. Kate rushes to the airport. Luke is there to surprise her, his dad having bought him the flight ticket. They all go to the Christmas lunch. Jonathan says to Derek that it is good to see him let someone get close to him, noting his affection for Kate. Derek is convinced Kate is going to leave.

Kate and Luke talk about her relationship with his father. He tells her he is surprised they stayed together for so long. Kate sees Derek a bit later. Derek is painting but does not let her see the painting. They speak briefly and she bids him goodnight. Derek uncovers the canvas. It is a sketch of Kate.

Luke tells his mother that he dropping out of college to concentrate on music. Kate tries to tell him not to but he explains to her that he does not want to wait twenty years to follow his dreams, alluding to her happiness there in Africa. The next day Luke goes home. Derek goes to see Kate later that night. She has decided to return to America. They kiss and Derek returns to his tent.

Back in his tent, Leslie has uncovered the canvas with Kate’s drawing on it as Derek comes in. Derek tells Leslie that they are over. She tells him that her family, who funds the reserve, are going to stop the funding. Kate flies back to America.

Derek tries to get funding for the reserve. Kate takes a veterinary post back in the States. She persuades her ex to fund a music scholarship for Luke. Kate calls Jonathan to find out how the reserve is going. He tells her about the financial woes of the reserve.

Kate uses her connections to raise funds for the reserves. She receives a painting from Derek. She keeps working at the veterinary clinic. Realising that the clinic only tries to make money, she returns to Africa and surprises Derek. They return Manu to the wild. The end.

Holiday In The Wild is a gentle rom-com, set in Africa with western world Christmas sensibilities. With Lowe and Davis taking the central roles as the romantic couple, the film shows an older, more mature, romance blossoming.

The acting is good without being outstanding and the story is perfunctory rather than inspired. Lowe does not stray far from is roughish, smiling, couldn’t-careless persona of many an easy paying job over the years and Davis is Charlotte displaced and aged up.

That is not to say Holiday In The Wild is unwatchable. It is just pleasant, though not overly so. One does not really care about any of the characters in the film. The elephants are quite nice though.

Written by Neil and Tippi Dobrofsky and directed by Ernie Barbarash, Holiday In The Wild is a rom-com by numbers with a bit of animal welfare thrown in for good measure. The directing is unremarkable, barely taking advantage of the African landscape.

Holiday In The Wild is an okay film that has very little to do with Christmas except for being set over that holiday period. Only watch if you feel compelled to see every Christmas release in 2019.

Someone Great (Netflix)

First published on April 20th on

Gina Rodriguez, the self-proclaimed voice of Latina women, is in another Netflix film. Full disclosure; ever since Rodriguez decided that she was going to throw black women under the bus, to advance the cause of Latina women, I’ve have gone right off of her.
Before she went all ‘yo también’ for Latina women, I was all in on Jane the Virgin, the show that made her a global star. It is a brilliantly written show, with excellent story arcs and outstanding performances from the entire cast, it a show that, deservedly, has garnered many awards over its four-season run.
Now in its fifth and final season, its star, Rodriguez, has been busy working on projects for life after Jane. Whilst in the midst of promoting her various projects and, controversially, during a round table discussion with other prominent actors, Rodriguez has beat the drum for Latina actors at the expense of other women of colour.
That she wanted pay parity, for Latina women, was admirable and would have been widely praised had she not done so at the expense of others. As a black person who is a huge fan of a lot of Latin shows, the comments from Rodriguez were disappointing. I would be lying to say that they do not skew how I now view Rodriguez.
That being said, I thought I would watch Someone Great starring Rodriguez as Jenny Young – not a particularly Latin-American name – LaKeith Stanfield, better known from the brilliant Get Out, as Nate Davis, Brittany Snow – all of the Pitch Perfect movies – as Blair Helms, and DeWanda Wise – lead on another Netflix show, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, as Erin Kennedy.
Jenny, Blair and Erin are best friends since college. Nate and Jenny are a couple and love one another passionately. Jenny is an aspiring music journalist and gets offered her dream job across the other side of the country. They had been together nine years when Nate breaks up with her, in part because of the impending move for the job, one week before she is due to move. Jenny is devastated.
She calls her two friends, wanting to have one last big party at the Neon Classic, the same party she met Nate at nine years before. Having shared so much history together, everywhere Jenny goes she sees or hears something that reminds her of Nate.
The Neon Classic is a big deal and to get tickets they have to go through Matt, an old crush of Jenny’s whose rejection in college pushed her towards Nate. Unbeknown to Jenny and Erin, Blair is sleeping with Matt. They think she is with Will, even though it is evident that she is not into him.
Erin is struggling to commit to her lesbian relationship with Cynthia (Michelle Buteau), having been hurt in the past by a girl who was experimenting with her own sexuality. The changes happening in all their lives, as they approach their thirties, has the women panicking about their futures and the impact it will have on their relationships.
Written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Someone Great is the author’s first feature. At thirty-one years old, Robinson is right in the demographic of a generation at the forefront of inclusivity. This is reflected in the film with black, white, Latin, gay – male and female – represented.
Whilst this is a beautiful thing to see, it is not something that is entirely believable, especially in a country so notably divided as America, not only when it comes to race, but also politically. The central story – Jenny’s heartache and eventual acceptance of life’s changes – is a good one and, for the most part, told in an engaging way.
Even given my own reservations and prejudices, there is no denying that Rodriguez is a fantastic actor. At no point did I think ‘that’s Jane!’ Or have thoughts of her misguided utterances. The central relationship between Rodriguez’s Jenny and Stanfield’s Nate is believable at every juncture, making anyone who has lived through the pain of a breakup nod knowingly.
The story arc with Snow’s Blair and Wise’s Erin are not as well rounded, especially Blair’s. I realise being straight and heterosexual is passé and has been reflected ever since the invention of film, but I felt her two scenes with Will and lustful hook up with Matt seemed a bit of a cop-out.
Erin’s confession as to why she found it difficult to voice her true feelings was a great scene. Unfortunately, that is all it was, one scene. The rest of her story was of her bravado and sassiness. The film, as a whole, is okay with outstanding scenes. Robinson, who has done some acting herself, really allows the actors to work and it shows.
Even, as I mentioned earlier, the central friendship does not seem especially realistic, such is the commitment of the actors to the roles, it works perfectly and, in spite of yourself, you believe they are friends. The acting is, across the board, great. Even the minor characters put in good performances.
Something, that I think is a bit of an influence from the MCU films, is a trend to inject comedy into every story. While I do love a laugh as much as the next person, not every story naturally lends itself to comedy. There are amusing moments in this film – Rosario Dawson’s brilliant cameo as Nate’s cousin Hannah stood out – the central premise of the story does not invite comedy.
The elements that have been used as comedy crutches in many cinematic stories – getting messed up, going to a club – seem a little forced in this insistence. There is even a horribly awkward scene with the always flamboyant RuPaul, as a high-end drug supplier/friend called Hype. I can only assume that scene was shoehorned in because somebody knew RuPaul or he knew somebody.
Someone Great is by no means a terrible film and at just over ninety minutes, it is not long either. It just does not commit as much as it should or could have to the central premise. A film that should have been, perhaps, a bittersweet comedy, comes over as Sex in the City for the millennial generation. Watch if you really have nothing else on and like good acting or Gina.

The Perfect Romance – review (Netflix)

     Oh my lord. A true contender for the worst film on Netflix. Alien Warfare is terrible and currently holds the title, in my opinion, of the worst film on Netflix. Peelers is a worthy challenger, a film that somehow managed to make nudity boring. However, five minutes into My Perfect Romance, shitty background music and amateurish editorial split screens aplenty, I am thinking that Alien Warfare may lose its crown. 

    Vivian Blair (Kimberly-Sue Murray) is a tech developer for Robinson Tech. When Ms Robinson (Morgan Fairchild) tells her son Wes (Christopher Russell), CEO of the tech company, that the company is falling and if he does not turn it around she may have to reconsider his position, Wes realises he needs to find a solution.

   In a board meeting to find a new product, Wes and the board members, are pitched a load of poorly thought out ideas by Derek (Andy Yu). In desperation, Derek tells the board about Vivian’s idea for a dating algorithms. Wes wants to hear the pitch for her app from Vivian. The board like the idea and Wes decides to go with it.

   Vivian does not like Wes and finds him chauvinistic and condescending. Wes’ brother, Ben (Adrian Spencer) gets him a spot on a morning talk show. Wes decides to take Vivian onto the show with him. Whilst on the show, they launch the app and Wes says he’s confident of its success, so much so that he volunteers himself and Vivian to be the first users. The host, Ted Reynolds (Joseph Cannata) invites them to come back with their perfect partner on Valentine’s day. They agree. 

   Vivian, with the help of her two closest co-workers, Justine (Zarrin Darnell-Martin) and George (Josh Dean), puts her details into the app. Wes, who does not believe in dating apps and is quite the ladies man, does not sign up. Vivian suffers a collection of poor dates and, due to her television appearance, is filmed on many of the dates. 

   Vivian and Wes’ love/hate relationship continues. Wes asks Vivian to attend his brother’s wedding as his plus one. With a little coercion from Wes’ PA, Adele (Lauren Holly), Vivian agrees to go to the wedding. Whilst at the wedding, George contacts Wes and tells him the app is failing. He is then contacted by his mother. She is not happy. The app is performing very badly and pictures of Vivian and Wes are on the internet. 

   Wes does not tell Vivian that the app is tanking. He kisses her instead and they leave the wedding. When they are alone, Wes tells her that the app is failing. Vivian is furious and leaves him on his own. Wes goes back to the office and is told some home truths by Adele. She tells him to pursue Vivian. He enlists the help of George and Justine.

    When they go back onto the morning show, Ted asks if they have found a match. Vivian says she has not had any joy. Wes confesses to not having put his details into the app until the night before. He says he has found a match. It is Vivian, she is his perfect match and he loves her. This all happens live on television and the app begins to flourish again. Wes tells her he loves her and asks Vivian to be his Valentine. The end. 

    Lord above this film is bad. This shows how hard it is for women over forty to find good roles in Hollywood. How Lauren Holly ended up in this is anybody’s guess. Morgan Fairchild, a legendary beauty in the eighties, is wasted in this film, having to fill in the blanks for an underwritten character. 

    Fairchild is not the only actor working uphill in this debacle. The script, by Stella Bagwell, who wrote the book that the film is based on, and Amanda McNiece is poor and makes the actors look bad. Only Holly, who seems to have ignored the script and ad-libbed, is passable. Everyone else spouts unfunny, unnatural sounding words. 

   As if the woeful script is not bad enough, the directing is not much better. Directed by Justin G Dyck – probably should change his name – there is a horrible and unnecessary obsession with split-screen that adds nothing to the film. Camera angles and shot selection is lazy and boring. The set design, however, is very good, with good costume design for the lead characters. 

     At ninety-one minutes, My Perfect Romance is a standard rom-com length, with the lacklustre script making it feel longer. Jodie Sweetin, who plays Michelle, Vivian’s sister, and Rhys Wyn Trenhaile, who plays her husband Riley, have no place in the film. Except for the addition of the pointless split screen, they add nothing of value to the story. 

    The central pairing of Russell’s Wes and Murray’s Vivian works in terms of chemistry, even in the very forced premise of the film. Rom-com’s, by their very nature, require a suspension of belief and for the audience to embrace the possibility of everlasting love. The Perfect Romance is too poorly executed to pull the audience in and take it on a romantic journey.

    So, is The Perfect Romance bad enough to knock Alien Warfare off of the top spot? Not quite. Truth be told, it does not even get on the podium for worse film, but that is only because of the actors and the set design. It is still a credible runner-up for the bad film awards. The Perfect Romance is far from perfect. Avoid.

When We First Met – review (Netflix)

    Is there a person that one is supposed to meet? Most of us have, at some time, been besotted with or liked the wrong person. That is life. Still, there is a train of thought that says we are destined to meet certain people and certain people are destined to be together. 

    Destiny, the right people getting together, and accepting hard love truths is the premise of Netflix’s When We First Met, a delightfully romantic, time travel, comedy. 

    Noah (Adam Devine) is at his good friend Avery’s (Alexandra Daddario) and he is miserable. She is making her speech, recalling three years before when she met Ethan (Robbie Amell). As she tells her story, Noah recalls his own meeting with her. It was also three years before, one day before she met Ethan. 

   Noah drinks too much at the party and ends up needing to be taken home. Carrie (Shelly Hennig), Avery’s best friend, offers to drive him home. Noah has her take him to the jazz bar he works at instead, where his best friend, Max (Andrew Bachelor) is waiting. 

    Carrie leaves Noah with Max. Max puts Noah in a photo booth while he goes to the bathroom. Noah decides to take some photos. He wakes up three years before, on the day he met Avery. Noah is the only person who knows he has time travelled. He decides to change the outcome but meets Carrie first and she puts a spanner in the works. 

    When he wakes up again, everything has changed and the women attack him when he goes over to see Avery. He returns to his apartment and realises that the photo booth is what transported him back. He returns to the booth and is sent back again. 

   He enlists the help of Max to try and meet Avery this time around. It seems like everything goes to plan when he wakes up with her in the bed next to him. It turns out that after they got together, they were just a booty call to each other. He is also a total slacker. 

   He tells Carrie he wants to be with Avery and loves her. Carrie tells him that Avery wants the perfect life. Noah goes back to the booth and resets again. This time it seems like he gets exactly what he wants. He is a high-powered executive at the firm where Max works, much to Max’s disgust. 

       Ethan turns up at Avery and Noah’s engagement party and is crushed that he missed out on getting together with Avery. He tells Noah that Avery told him that she wishes things had been different. Noah realises that Avery does not love him. He talks to Carrie again and goes back in time to meet Ethan and introduce him to Avery. 

    He has the best night with Carrie and realises that he should be with her. He wakes up and though Avery and Ethan are together, Carrie got back together with her ex. Noah is crushed and goes to reset, but the photo booth is gone replaced by a new booth.

     He gets drunk in the new photo booth and Avery and Ethan come looking for him. Avery tells him she bought him the photo booth. He goes home and jumps back again, this time not trying to change anything. When he returns to the present again everything is how it was. He does not get drunk and strikes up a conversation with Carrie. They get together. The end. 

    When We First Met is an enjoyable and funny rom-com. Adam Devine, best known for his role as Bumper in Pitch Perfect, is brilliant as the lovelorn Noah. He is so likeable that even as he bumbles along, you root for him to win. 

    The casting is so good in the film. When Daddario’s Avery puts Noah in the friend zone, it’s awkward but not unexpected. Amell’s model handsome, chiselled, Ethan is the sort of man who gives other men a complex. The Ethan and Avery couple is so perfect, nobody would want to hang out with them! They are just too nice. 

    Shelly Hennig as Carrie is great, her expressive eyes doing all the work, the script an able assistant. Speaking of the script, by John Whittington, it is sparkling. There are comedic gems in this script that are laugh out loud funny. A quick peruse of his IMDB profile shows that he is a bit of a comedy genius, having scripted not one, but two of the lego movies.

    Direction by Ari Sandel is brisk and keeps the pace up in a film that, by its very nature, is repetitive. The time travel trope is a well used and popular device in films. It could easily have failed miserably in this film, but Whittington’s script, the great directing and performances make When We First Met a real joy to watch. An easy one hundred minutes to waste. Delightful. 



The Perfect Date – review (Netflix)

   Maybe I’m getting softer as I age. Films seem to have more of an emotional impact on me of late. Not that I was some soulless, hard-hearted, individual before, but I definitely do get much more of the feels when watching a film these days. 

    It could be that I’ve been overwhelmed with the sheer volume of films, shows and content I watch and am now having some sort of a breakdown. I mean, aside from a couple of god-awful horror films, a truly mediocre actioner and a couple of good and excellent series, I have been, of late, watching a lot of rom-coms.

   Admittedly, I do enjoy a rom-com. One I reviewed recently was even in my demographic, The Lovers. Generally, though, rom-com’s tend to look at young love or, as is the case with Netflix’s The Perfect Date, teenage love. 

    Brooks Rattigan (Noah Centineo) lives with his father, Charlie (Matt Walsh) his parents having divorced and his mother going off and marrying a wealthy man and having a new family. Brooks works in the local Sub sandwich restaurant with his best friend, Murph (Odiseas Georgiadis), hoping to save enough money to go to the college of his dreams, Yale.

    As he and Murph discuss how he is going to raise enough money to go to Yale, Reece (Zak Steiner), a rich kid who goes to the same school as them comes into the restaurant, bemoaning the fact that his father wants to pay him to take his cousin to the prom. 

   Spotting an opportunity, Brooks offers to take the cousin out. Reece takes him up on the offer. Brooks goes to the Lieberman’s house to pick up Reece’s cousin, Celia (Laura Marano). Celia, knowing her cousin paid for Brooks to take her out, is initially obnoxious. Brooks manages to win her over. She suggests, jokingly, that he rents himself out as a partner. 

   Brooks mulls the idea over. He asks Murph, who is a computer and tech wiz, to create an app for him. Business immediately takes off for him. He and Celia become friends with most people believing them to be a couple. 

   Celia likes Franklin (Blaine Kern III), a vinyl music-loving, street graffiti artist, who seems, at first glance more of a fit for her. Brooks helps her get with him. Brooks also has a crush. He wants to get together with Shelby Pace (Camila Méndes), a beautiful rich girl. Brooks and Celia hatch a plan for a public breakup.

   Celia, Brooks, and Murph go out. Celia likes Brooks more than she realises. Brooks has her firmly in the friend-zone, meticulously planning the breakup for a party they are going to. 

    The plan works perfectly for Brooks, with Shelby falling for him after seeing the breakup. Celia is not so into Franklin. She is also wounded when Brooks’ goes too far when doing their fake breakup. At another party Brooks, no longer in contact with Celia, takes Shelby to the party. At the party one of his ex-clients recognises him and he is forced to confess to Shelby. 

    Shelby dumps him for lying. Brooks writes a letter to Celia, belatedly realising that he really misses her. She reads it and forgives. They get together. The end. 

    The Perfect Date is a rom-com, coming-of-age film that is an easy ninety minutes entertainment. The central pairing of Centineo and Marano works really well, the chemistry between them strong enough for you to believe they could get together.

   The story is light and just about plausible within the rules of romantic comedy. The Perfect Date does not have laugh-out-loud moments. It is more of an amusing story rather a rollicking, situations for laughs comedy. 

   That is not to say it is not humorous, it is. It just leans more into the sweetness than the comedy.  There is no great mystery or surprises in the film. Every element in this pretty formulaic rom-com happens as you would expect it to. 

    Unlike other teen set, coming-of-age comedies, The Perfect Date doesn’t embrace the mean kid ethos overly. Zak Steiner’s Reece is arrogant and mildly condescending, but he does not view Centineo’s Brooks as anything more than one of the many students who, unlike him, does not come from money. Mendes’ Shelby is little more than eye candy, her involvement barely taking up fifteen minutes screen time. 

   These are minor gripes as overall, The Perfect Date is an enjoyable film that does and shows exactly what you expect. Nice.